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Better Than Behavior Modification!

By Dr. Don and Debbi Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
When we discipline our children we must remember that we represent God’s discipline to them.

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We read in 1 Timothy 3:16, 17 that God uses Scripture to teach us, reprove us, correct us and train us in righteousness. These four purposes for the inspired Word of God have direct application to the parenting process.


We must remember that our highest goal in disciplining our children is not simply to modify their behavior. Instead, we want our discipline to reflect the discipline of the Lord. Our desire is that ultimately, our children will be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” in God’s kingdom.


We reviewed purposes #1 and #2 in the previous article. In this article we continue to examine the final two purposes listed in 1 Timothy 3:16, 17.

3. Correction This process involves applying scriptural principles to specific life situations when a child disobeys, or when he or she violates or neglects God’s Laws or commands. We read a warning in Proverbs 10:17, “He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” We should find examples in the Bible that are related to the specific offense the child has committed. Then we should give the child some specific, practical steps that he or she must take in order to remedy his or her situation.

4. Training in Righteousness When we train our children in righteousness, we teach them to develop biblical disciplines so that they will grow consistently in the Christian life. We teach them the elements of scriptural prayer and we pray with them and for them daily. We ask them to pray aloud as soon as they are old enough to talk.

We teach them the principles of obedience, and we help them memorize scriptures that remind them that above all, they are to obey God, their Creator and Father. As they grow, we assist them in developing ministries of service to other people. We go with them and help them carry out these ministries.


We oversee their church involvement, remembering that God has charged parents, not church leaders, with the responsibility of the spiritual nurture of their children.


Then, when they reach adolescence, we begin to prepare them for the joys and demands of their future marriages and families. In Ephesians 4:22-24, the Apostle Paul offers parents great encouragement and guidance, as they seek to train their children:

You were taught…to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

We must urge our children to make any necessary sacrifices in order to live righteous and holy lives.

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 unable to meet face to face with a competent Bible-based counselor. For a complete library of Dr. Dunlap’s articles, indexed by topic, go to Family Counseling Ministries. You may also make an appointment for personal telephone counseling by clicking on Family Counseling Ministries. Family Counseling Ministries is a ministry Partner.

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