How Would God Discipline My Kid?

Lately London’s been testing my worth as a disciplinarian. The results? Eh.

Sometimes I’m good. Sometimes I’m mean. Sometimes I’m too soft and she ignores me completely.

I’ve been trying to ask myself in each situation, “How would God love His child?”

At first I was convicted I wasn’t loving enough. That I needed more hugs, more tenderness. And that was true. I did need a little more compassion.

Then I thought of Uzzah and Ananias and Sapphira and I thought maybe the occasional spank out of nowhere was worth keeping in the discipline arsenal.

But mostly lately I’ve been struggling with how much to talk to her. When should I explain myself? When should I try to give her some perspective? When should I reason with her? And when should I just lay down the law?

I know. I know. She’s two. But she’s a smart two. And when I’m empathetic, I remember how I feel when punishments in my life go unexplained, when injustices can’t be argued against, when I need love and feel like I’m only finding judgment.

I don’t want London to feel that.

So I’m trying to figure out what God would do.

Phillip Yancey in Disappointment with God describes Israel as a toddler and the church as an adult suggesting that God’s differences in behavior between the Old and New Testaments reflect not so much a change in God as a difference in God’s expectations from His people. We treat toddlers differently than we treat adults.

Anyway, if Yancey’s model holds water, I’m in the OT phase of discipline. Which means, if I’ve got it right, lots of communication AND lots of discipline. Lots of showing up. 

Think God in the wilderness with Israel—appearing 24/7 in the fire and the cloud, living in the tabernacle, talking to Moses, giving lists upon lists of commands, motivating with fantastic promises, making the food appear magically, using spectacle to get their attention…

Sounds like parenting a toddler, right?

Anyway, when I thought about how often God repeats Himself to the Israelites, the patience He extends and then also how violently He sometimes punishes (I’m not recommending sending plagues on your two-year-olds), I found affirmation. 

Parenting is complicated. Especially when your kid isn’t particularly obedient. Even God has kids who act out. Sometimes He responds with compassion, sometimes with wisdom or explanation, and sometimes with punishment. 

So, I don’t have an easy answer for my discipline dilemmas, but I do have an answer. If I respond with swift, just punishment, that’s good. If I respond with a conversation about right and wrong or a reminder of the rules, that’s good. And if I respond with a much-needed (if undeserved) hug, well, that’s good too.