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Steps to Discipline Children

By Dr. Don and Debbi Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
The discipline of our children should be loving and restoring, not frightening or condemning.

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Since we represent God’s discipline in our children’s lives, we should base our disciplinary methods on scriptural principles. In the 15th installment of a 20-part series on child discipline, Dr. Don Dunlap encourages parents to remind children that parents are responsible to God to discipline their children properly when they disobey and misbehave. He also discusses specific biblical guidelines for disciplining children.

Many years ago, Susannah Wesley, a Christian mother of ten children, wrote a noteworthy explanation of her convictions regarding child-discipline:

I insist upon conquering the child’s will early on. Self-will is the root of all sin and misery, so whatever cherishes this in children insures their after-wretchedness. Whatever checks and mortifies it, promotes their future happiness and piety. When we consider that religion is doing the will of God and not our own, the one grand impediment to our temporal and eternal happiness is this self-will. Thus, no indulgence of it can be trivial, no denial unprofitable.

Heaven or hell depends on this alone; so that the parent who studies to subdue self-will in his child, works together with God in the renewing and saving of a soul. The parent who indulges the child’s self-will does the devil’s work, makes religion impracticable, salvation unattainable, and does all that in him lies, to damn his child, soul and body, forever.

You have probably sung hymns that were written by Susannah Wesley’s sons.

Many of Susannah and Samuel Wesley’s children grew up to be among the greatest Christian leaders of their day. The testimonies of their lives and the work they accomplished while on earth have continued to impact people for Christ throughout the years that have ensued.


Susannah Wesley understood the serious and vital truth that God entrusts our children’s souls into our hands. When we fail to discipline them biblically their eternal destiny weighs in the balance.


God’s discipline is never frightening or condemning. He loves us and restores us.

God makes it clear in His Word that parents are the God-given authorities in the home. We should communicate this truth to our children from the time they are very young and they must never be confused about this fact.

God commands parents to discipline their children consistently and decisively, in the same way that He disciplines His disobedient sons and daughters. As representatives of God’s discipline in our children’s lives, we should base our disciplinary measures upon scriptural principles.

We should be careful not to embarrass or humiliate children when we discipline them.


One very important guideline when disciplining a child is to avoid embarrassing the child and having outside interference. We should get alone with the child whenever possible. Biblical discipline should be swift and sure.


It is an unloving practice to make a child wait for a prolonged period of time to receive the consequences of his or her disobedience. We must help the child clear his or her conscience before God and man, as soon as possible.

We will consider some of the practical implications of this principle in the next article.

Dr. Don Dunlap, a pioneer in the placement of Pastoral Counselors in the offices of Christian physicians, has conducted over twenty thousand appointments during his ministerial career. His counseling practice includes adults, children and families in crisis. Dr. Dunlap is committed to facilitating a network of telephone counselors. His goal is to provide help for the many people unwilling, or unable, to meet face to face with a competent counselor. For more articles by Dr. Dunlap go to Counseling and Advice on the Health Channel.

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