When disciplining me my parents never said, “This will hurt me more than it will hurt you.” I’m glad they didn’t. It would likely have sounded hollow, self-serving, and provoked disdain.
I understand what is meant by this not infrequent claim. We parents are usually sad to see our children unhappy, and especially to be the immediate cause of that unhappiness.
Is this claim truthful? Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of little Donnie, bemoaning the (disciplinary) loss of a favored toy or smarting on his back side. Mom, who inflicted the pain then claims to feel worse than he. Really? Can this be verified? Donnie has reason to consider that Mom might not have accurate judgment.
Is the claim humbly calming? Basically, this saying claims, “My pain is worse than your pain, kid.” Why throw a competition challenge onto an already conflicted relationship?
Who is the focus? “My pain is worse than…” This claim is self-focused. Since when is chastisement of a child about the feelings of the parent? Rather, the driving force must be obedience to God. “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
A child in need of discipline is in the tight grip of rebellion. His pride and stubbornness naturally lock arms against admitting wrong and against submission. He needs that parent focused on how to best help him see his fault and want to change. This is a critical moment when the parent should be thinking not about her own feelings but about how to help the child with the difficult process of repentance.
Give grace to the child with discipline done kindly.
Repentance is extremely difficult because it overtly opposes our nature. The purpose of discipline is to provide a grace that helps the child to surmount that difficulty, to help the child change. Chastisement is a God-given grace to children to help them repent.
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful” (Heb. 12:11). Do loving parents want their children to be unhappy? Of course not. But chastisement is not about the feelings of the parent. Discipline is a welding process that melds a teaching to the heart. Loving parents know that temporal unhappiness in the child can produce eternal good.
“Reproofs for discipline are the way of life” (Prov. 6:23). It is about loving the child enough to do what it takes to lead the child to eternal life. That means putting off self and doing what is best for the child no matter how uncomfortable it makes a parent. If discipline rescues a child’s soul from the grave, what does it matter how a parent feels (Prov. 23:13-14)?
Instead, express your sadness over the child’s offense against God and the other person. God’s view is infinitely more important than how a parents feels. Express your sadness that your child must suffer consequences for a short time. Affirm your love to him. Tell him that you look forward to his growth in wisdom through the situation.