Effective Discipline

By Chuck Bartlett

Everyone needs moments of correction and rebuke throughout their lives. We need this in all of our relationships – parent to a child, a boss to an employee and even the church to a wayward member (I Cor. 5). When people do things that are wrong, there must be some kind of disciplinary action. If not, the problem will only get worse. Does the Bible give us any insight as to what would be effective disciple? The answer is yes. Let’s take a look at this important issue from a Biblical perspective.

Be angry and sin not

The brethren at Ephesus were warned about allowing their anger to cause them to sin (Eph. 4:26). When someone does something wrong, individuals will obviously be upset. However, we must use self-control or we could easily do or say something wrong too! When a rebuke is carried out with a lost temper, the person is just venting rather than trying to provide correction. There is a good reason why God’s people are to be slow to wrath (James 1:19).

Be consistent

Nothing destroys the effectiveness of discipline more than being inconsistent. Consider a parent who tells a child not to do something. The child does it and nothing is said. Then the child does it again and this time he is rebuked. And then another time it is overlooked. This does nothing more than create confusion and waste of time. Discipline must be done right away every time (Prov. 13:24).

Be unwavering

There is no sense in saying, “Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! I said, Stop! Okay fine, go ahead!” Such behavior teaches that obedience is optional. The guilty will try to justify their actions – that is what the guilty do. To exercise proper discipline, one has to be firm (Gal. 2:11).

Be certain

Discipline is necessary, but it must be justified. We can cause great harm if we rebuke an innocent person. Jesus warned about being angry with a brother without a cause (Matt. 5:22). Getting the facts is vital because wrongly punishing someone will only provoke them. Consider Paul’s warning to fathers not to provoke their children to wrath (Eph. 6:4). We need to be swift to hear and slow to speak for this very reason (James 1:19).

Be willing to enforce punishment

We can see how punishment works if we consider a parent who is applying all the principles discussed so far. For example, a father might tell his child, “Since you did what you were told not to, you will lose your cell phone privileges for two days.” The child says, “That’s not fair!” The dad calmly responds, “Do you want to go for 3 days?” The child then raises their voice again and says, “You have got to be kidding me!” Then the father calmly says, “That’s 3 days, do you want to go for 4?” By this time the child realizes they need to be quiet and accept the punishment before it gets worse. The father must now be firm – if he changes his mind and gives the phone back, nothing was accomplished. The goal is to change the bad behavior (Prov. 22:15).

Effective discipline is not fun and games. Neither giving nor receiving chastening enjoyable, but the end results will hopefully bear fruit (Heb. 12:11). It is totally unacceptable to say that we love someone too much to discipline them. The truth is, we show love by offering discipline as needed (Heb. 12:6).

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