Part of discipleship is discipline. How are we to discipline our children? There are two types of discipline, one is formative, the other is corrective. One seeks to instruct the child in the direction they should go and form their character, the other seeks to correct the child and restore the child to the correct path. We will begin with formative discipline.
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.Genesis 2:16
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.Deuteronomy 6:4-9
God begins with formative discipline. He clearly tells Adam what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. He tells him the punishment he will receive should he cross the line. The boundaries are clearly formed, and Adam is given all that he needs to obey. The Ten Commandments and the rest of God’s Law are a good example of formative discipline. They set up the boundaries for us as human beings. They clearly define what happens when we cross the line. Like God, we as parents must teach our children what is expected of them. We must teach them to love God and keep His commandments. We must set up clearly defined boundaries and teach our children what will happen when they cross the boundaries. We must seek to give our children understanding as to why Go d has established these boundaries and why He punishes those who cross them.
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.Ephesians 6:4
As parents we can exasperate our children and drive them to frustration and anger. We can do this by failing to instruct our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We can become capricious tyrants who seem to flip flop from day to day on what is right and wrong. We must have consistent formative discipline so that our children will understand corrective discipline. When a child is punished and they do not know why they are punished, this will exasperate them.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6
God commands us to train up our children. The word for train signifies a continual effort to teach and catechize a child. It is the responsibility of the parents to instruct their child in the things of God. The phrase “the way he should go” refers to bending a bow and has a double meaning. For one, it refers to the particular bent of the child. We should not exasperate our children by pushing them beyond what they are capable, and we should teach in a manner that they are able to receive. Many parents fail their children by trying to force them in a mold that the child cannot fit into. Some children learn through reading; others through listening. We must take into account how God has uniquely gifted our child and train them accordingly. The second meaning ties directly into the last part of the verse. When you bend a bow and let the arrow fly, it will go the direction you pointed it. That is the meaning of the second part of the verse. We must point our children in the right direction before we let the arrow fly. This is formative discipline. If we fail in this formative discipline, our children will never fly true.