Do you raise your children with humility? When was the last time you said “I am sorry” to your son or daughter when you sinned against them? Do you discipline them with anger, or with love? Let’s learn from the wise counsel of Ted Tripp regarding humble parenting.
Humility in Your Task
Understanding that you function as God’s agents can keep you sharply focused and humble as parents. It is sobering to realize that you correct your child by God’s command. You stand before him as God’s agent to show him his sin. Just as an ambassador is conscious of functioning in behalf of the country that has sent him, so the parent must be aware of the fact that he is God’s representative to the child. I know of no realization that will sober and humble the parent like this one.
On many occasions, I have had to seek the forgiveness of my children for my anger or sinful response. I have had to say, “Son, I sinned against you. I spoke in unholy anger. I said things I should not have said. I was wrong. God has given me a sacred task, and I have brought my unholy anger into this sacred mission. Please forgive me.”
Your focus can be sharpened by the realization that discipline is not you working on your agenda, venting your wrath toward your children; it is you coming as God’s representative, bringing the reproofs of life to your son or your daughter. You only muddy the waters when the bottom line in discipline is your displeasure over their behaviour, rather than God’s displeasure with rebellion against his ordained authority.
No Place for Anger
I have spoken to countless parents who genuinely thought their unholy anger had a legitimate place in correction and discipline. They reasoned that they could bring their children to a sober fear of disobeying if they showed anger. So discipline became the time when Mom or Dad manipulated their children through raw displays of anger. What the child learns is the fear of man, not the fear of God.
James 1 demonstrates the falsehood of the idea that parents should underscore correction with personal rage: My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19-20)
The Apostle James could not be more clear. The righteous life that God desires is never the product of uncontrolled anger. Unholy human anger may teach your children to fear you. They may even behave better, but it will not bring about biblical righteousness.
Any change in behaviour that is produced by such anger is not going to move your children toward God. It moves them away from God. It moves them in the direction of the idolatry of fearing man. No wonder James adds emphasis by saying, “Dear brothers, take note of this…”
If you correct and discipline your children because God mandates it, then you need not clutter up the task with your anger. Correction is not displaying your anger at their offenses; it is rather reminding them that their sinful behaviour offends God. It is bringing his censure of sin to these subjects of his realm. He is the King. They must obey.
Note: This is an excerpt from Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Wapwallopen, Pa.: Shepherd Press, 2005), 33-34.