Proverbs 3:12 says, “The LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
If you’re like most dads, you hear that and take it as a reminder to make sure and discipline your children. God disciplines us, and we’re to follow his example by holding our children accountable for their actions and enforcing consequences for disobedience and rebellion—not simply because our children get on our nerves, but because we have a higher purpose—to train them to be godly people.
But don’t miss the other side of the equation in that proverb. Remember, it says, “God disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” In other words, we should make every effort to experience delight and build strong, positive relationships—that’s the part that gives balance. Effective fathering immerses those limits in an ocean of love.
Honestly, your efforts at discipline will probably fail if you haven’t built a strong relationship with your child. When it comes to changing a child’s behavior patterns, negative consequences work well only after you’ve established a consistent relationship of love and trust. When correcting a child’s behavior, positive reinforcement is even more likely than punishment. Negative consequences may be necessary at times, it’s usually preferable to begin most discipline issues with encouragement and validation before resorting to fear or threats.
So, dad, delight in your children! You may find that the rules and the issues of the day fall into place quite naturally.
If you haven’t already picked up on it, there are hundreds of ways to delight in your brood. Be thrilled the minute your daughter walks in the room. Ask your son to join you out in the driveway for a game of HORSE. Start a water balloon battle or take your child on a late-night trip for ice cream. Noogies. Pillow fights. Stare downs. Knock-knock jokes. Find a way to turn an everyday task into a crazy or fun time with your child—even if it gets a bit messy. Watch videos of when your child was a baby to help recapture some of the joy you felt as a father back then. Seek out and share Bible verses about joy and rejoicing.
Dad, be proactive about enjoying your kids—reveling in them and delighting in them.
This is adapted from a chapter in the book, It’s Great Being a Dad by Jay Payleitner, Brock Griffin and Carey Casey. You can order your copy right here.