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5 Common Discipline Mistakes Every Parent Should Avoid

Shepherding our children, including discipline when needed, is an important job. Discipline from our Heavenly Father is proof of how He loves us. We need to discipline our children as well, but do we go about that task with a godly attitude? Here are 5 common discipline mistakes and how you can avoid them.

If I had known before we said yes, I never would have allowed my daughter to babysit that kid.

It wasn’t the kid’s fault; she was just along for the ride. Well, truth is, she thought she owned the entire theme park, but, again, it wasn’t her fault.

We learned later that evening that, after we dropped off our daughter and just before leaving the house, the mother turned to her and said, “Be sure you never say ‘no’ to our little monster.” 

Okay, she didn’t say ‘monster’ but she did say not to tell their child “no” and 1 + 1 does equal 2.

You already know how that evening went! We’ve all seen children where misguided parents create a child no one wants to be around. It may seem open and loving to refuse to inhibit the will of a child, but it’s against God’s design for children.

If you don’t discipline your kids, you don’t love them. That’s what the Bible says in Proverbs 13:24 – He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.  Even for adults, the Bible says the discipline we receive from the Father is proof of his love for us.

Hebrews 12:6 says, “ . . . For the Lord disciplines the one He loves and chastises every son whom he receives.”

According to the Bible, discipline is evidence that we love our kids  – not just any discipline, but godly, biblical discipline. Too often, the ‘godly, biblical’ part is absent from discipline. As Christian parents, when it comes to correcting our kids, sometimes we need a “gut-check.”

Godly, biblical . . . is that how you’d describe the discipline your kids live under?

Discipline is discipleship, or rather, an important aspect of discipleship. Are we shepherding their hearts to Christ in this God-given responsibility?

What goes on in your home when no one is looking? From a very young age, children discern the hypocrisy of discipline designed for public consumption compared to what they experience when no one else is around.

In the discipline of our kids – as in so many areas of life – who we are is what we do when no one is looking.

Ungodly discipline is every bit as destructive as being too lenient, perhaps even more so.

Here are 5 common ungodly patterns in discipline that every parent should avoid:

1)   Disciplining in anger

Anger, itself, doesn’t have to be a sin. The Bible instructs us to “be angry but don’t sin.” Let’s keep it real.  A large bike-handle scrape down the side of your new car after you told your kids not to bring the bikes into the garage is temperature-inducing. But, does it call for explosive anger? Most of the time, anger brings a long-term harvest of destruction.

Disciplining our child in anger is destructive and sinful. Venting in the moment might relieve some of the steam from the top of your head but far worse than scrapes on your car, you’ll leave a scar on your child’s heart. That’s not godly discipline and discipleship – that’s destruction. I would encourage you to take the long-term view. Your anger in discipline will incrementally close the heart of your child to you until, when the teen years arrive and they begin to feel their independence, they close you out of their lives completely.

2)   Disciplining because of pride

We’re prideful creatures, aren’t we? Our flesh just loves to be thought well of when it comes to our children. Wow, they are really great parents! What great kids! Who doesn’t love hearing that? Have you ever caught yourself correcting or disciplining your child because of what you thought others would think of what your child did? That’s pride talking, not godly discipleship.  Seek only God’s approval, not that of family, friends, or that stranger in the grocery store.

3)   Disciplining with continued condemnation after repentance

What your child did was really bad, so bad that you find yourself wanting him/her to feel the weight of it days after it was addressed and repented of.  Your child is still out of fellowship with you because you won’t let him/her back in – not until he/she does ‘penance’ for the sin. You want him/her to feel bad for what was done until some undisclosed future date.

God never does this to us, and it is sinful to do it to our children. When we repent before God, His forgiveness is immediate and complete. He instantly accepts us back into fellowship. Don’t treat your repentant children in a manner God would never treat you. This doesn’t mean there are no consequences for what was done, but fellowship should never be withheld from a repentant heart.

4)   Disciplining to get a certain behavior outcome rather than winning the heart of your child

As the adult, you have the power. You can “make” Johnny do what you want him to do but the old adage still holds true, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m still standing on the inside.”

We can too easily settle for compliant behavior rather than a yielded heart.

What seemed okay in the short run will only lead to rebellion over time. There are times when God asks us, as parents, to just do what He wants, without explanation. There are certainly times in parenting our children where this is appropriate, but, as a rule, we should seek to disciple through discipline to reach the heart of our child. So obedience isn’t merely compliance in the face of powerlessness, but a yielded heart desiring to be in fellowship with Dad and Mom.

5)   Disciplining without listening

Our children are distinct, unique individuals. They may be small, but they still need to be heard. Godly discipleship in discipline listens carefully to what the child is saying, gathering all the relevant information before meting out consequences. Listening and hearing the heart of a child can often shed further light on a situation that appeared one way, illuminating a different perspective.

Christian parents are called to love their children and one proof of your love for your kids is godly, biblical discipline. May God bless you as you seek to honor Him in this great privilege and responsibility of shepherding your child’s heart to Him.


A vital part of being great parents is the love you have for each other. The kids are watching! Don’t forget to take time for each other. Need some fresh ideas, Dad & Mom? Check out these new books, now in paperback too:

Keeping God's priorities at the center of your marriage.
Keeping God’s priorities at the center of your marriage. 







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  1. Thanks for this Mr. Matt. I struggle with # 5 for a long time. I did not come from a home where listening was someone parent do to children. Children were suppose to be see but not hear. However, I am learning to be very attentive to my children’s needs and listen to what they have to say, most times, before reacting.

    Peace to you.

  2. Can you reccomend any further reading on Godly discipline? Enjoyed the article, will be sharing with my husband. Thank you.

    1. To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl is excellent common sense blended with bible principles. Also, the On Becoming series by the Ezzos. From infancy to teen, there is a book for every stage. We put these principles to work when our son was very young. He is now a 17 year old godly young man with manners and respect. He is not perfect, but he obeys and has a good heart. We have a great relationship.

  3. Do you have any recommendations for reading on #4? I struggle with figuring out how to reach their hearts…how to have them behave because they want to as opposed to just behaving because they think they will be in trouble.

    1. I’ve heard shepherding a child’s heart is amazing. It’s on my reading list as well.

  4. Thank you for your post. My question is this, how do I dicipline in a Godly way? what are accetable punishments? I have a 4 1/2 year and a 1 /
    1/2 year old. Obviously theirs are different. But what and how should I dicipline on a Godly way?

  5. What do you do when you are trying your best to put this in to practice and your husband does just the opposite? I feel like I am fighting a losing battle. Yes, my husband claims to be a Christan, but he is not willing to follow what the Bible clearly states in raising his child. I have 3 teens that I have diligently raised Biblically, no, I do not claim to be perfect, but they know what is right and wrong and that there are consequenses of there wrong doing. They see how my husband is raising this child and it angers them greatly. He has also provoked my teens to anger and will not ever admit that he has done any wrong. Any quidance would be greatly appreciated. Please pray for me to stand firm in the Word of God and not let him drag me down. Thank you.

  6. Absolutely love it! Very informative! Much needed! I looked down at my phone and this article was on my screen! Thank you Jesus!

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