Biblical Principles of Disciplining Children

Adam and Eve, the first parents according to the Bible, probably had to learn parenting by trial and error because of a lack of role models. Today’s parents have thousands of years of biblical wisdom to help them determine parenting principles for discipline, training and family relationships. The first definitive parenting guidelines were handed down to Moses from God in the 10 Commandments.


Exodus 20:12 commands children to honor their parents if they want to live a long life 1. The Hebrew word often translated as “honor” means to treat with courtesy, obedience and respect, according to “Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries.” The 10 Commandments are repeated in Deuteronomy 5 and in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, and parents are instructed to teach the commandments to their children 23. You should repeatedly explain the commandments at home, when you are out and about, ensuring that your children learn godly behavior.

Teach Wisdom

The Bible says that Solomon was the wisest king because he asked God for wisdom above all things. The book of Proverbs contains many of Solomon’s wise sayings, and many of them express wisdom a child should learn. Solomon writes that the purpose of Proverbs is to teach wisdom, discipline, good conduct, doing the right thing and give purpose to children and young people. You can use Proverbs to teach and discipline your child, looking for verses that start, “Listen, my child” or some other designation of instruction to the young. Start with Proverbs 1:8-9, which exhorts the child to listen to the wisdom and teachings of his father and mother.

Godly Examples

Your example is the best teaching method you have. Children imitate a parent’s example, according to Grace Stopani at Focus on the Family. In Ephesians 6:1-4, Paul repeats the fifth commandment and then addresses fathers 6. He warns fathers not to exasperate their children by the way they treat them. Instead, fathers are to love their children, live before them a godly and righteous life and instruct them as God directs. A father’s love and godly example means more than all the words said between a parent and a child. If you do not show your child how to live, your child likely will become angry with your hypocrisy and disregard what you say.

God's Example

In the Bible, you see God teaching his children, administering correction, sending messengers who can provide words of caution and exhortation, and providing reconciliation after correction. His example provides the ultimate role model for parents. You teach your young child by example and direct instruction, providing boundaries and limits that change as your child’s abilities, maturity and understanding change. You administer correction when necessary in ways that teach your child the natural consequences of misbehavior, such as losing privileges when the child demonstrates he can’t be trusted with them.

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