October 2, 2023

Implementing the 4 Ds of Child Discipline

Implementing the 4 Ds of Child Discipline

Posted in Keystone Magazine Articles

Keeping Going When the Going Gets Tough — Part 4

by Craig and Barbara Smith

Implementing the 4 Ds of Child Discipline

We will find it really difficult to home educate/disciple our children if we do not have a system in place for disciplining/training them. In fact, to produce a disciple of Jesus Christ takes another disciple of Jesus Christ, one who has himself been disciplined and trained. That is, Christian discipline starts with us parents.

Tedd Tripp in Shepherding a Child’s Heart says that :

You must shepherd his (your child’s) thoughts, helping him to learn discernment and wisdom. This shepherding process is a richer interaction than telling your child what to do and think. It involves investing your life in your child in open and honest communication that unfolds the meaning and purpose of life. It is not simply direction, but direction in which there is self-disclosure and sharing. Values and spiritual vitality are not simply taught, but caught. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise becomes wise.” As a wise parent your objective is not simply to discuss, but to demonstrate the freshness and vitality of life lived in integrity toward God and our family. Parenting is shepherding the hearts of your children in the ways of God’s wisdom.

If you are to really help him, you must be concerned with the attitudes of heart that drive his behaviour. We demand changed behaviour and never address the heart that drives the behaviour. What must you do in correction and discipline? You must require proper behaviour. God’s law demands that. You cannot, however, be satisfied to leave the matter there. You must understand, and help your child to understand, how his straying heart has resulted in wrong behaviour. How did his heart stray to produce this behaviour? In what characteristic ways has his inability or refusal to know, trust and obey God resulted in actions and speech that are wrong?

Remember that Proverbs 4:23 instructs you that the heart is the fountain from which life flows. Your child’s heart determines how he responds to your parenting. Training and shepherding are going on whenever you are with your children. Whether waking, walking, talking or resting, you must be involved in helping your child to understand life, himself and his needs from a biblical perspective (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).Genesis 18 calls fathers to direct their children to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.

Then most importantly Tripp says, “Many parents lack a biblical view of discipline. They tend to think of discipline as revenge or getting even with the children for what they did. Hebrews 12 makes it clear that discipline is not punitive, but corrective. Hebrews 12 calls discipline a word of encouragement that addresses sons. It says discipline is a sign of God’s identification with us as our Father. God disciplines us for our good that we might share in His holiness. It says that while discipline is not pleasant, but painful, it yields a harvest of righteousness and peace. Rather than being something to balance love, it is the deepest expression of love.”

“What is the first rule for disciplining children? You must have more discipline than the child.” This quote came from Lou Priolo’s book The Heart of Anger. This is so true. In our home Craig and I use the 4 Ds of discipline to help us in this task. It helps us to be and to appear more disciplined because they are so easy to remember. Making up rule after rule on an ad hoc basis is useless: “If you bounce that ball in the house again, I’ll take it from you for a week.” “If you don’t turn that thing down, you won’t be allowed to have it on for a month.” Your children will remember every detail of every one of those rules made by you on the spot…..but will you? If you don’t back your threats up with action, you are teaching your children to both disregard your authority and to gamble with disobedience. The fallen nature of our children making sin attractive is bad enough without us adding the addictive gambling attraction of, “Can I get away with it this time or not?”

These 4 Ds are to help us identify heart issues of rebellion as opposed to maturity issues of clumsiness and mistakes. Rebellion is sinfulness or what is at times called foolishness, as in Proverbs 22:15: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” When this rebellious heart attitude, or foolishness, which the Bible tells me is part of my child’s makeup, manifests itself, this Scripture tells me it must be driven out with the rod of correction. We take that to mean a spanking, applying a stripe across the backside with a rod. Backside means buttocks, clothed not bared. It does not mean back, legs arms, torso or head. Rod means not your hand but something light and flexible which also doubles as a symbol of authority, like a septer.

A key objective of parenting is shepherding our children’s hearts, not just controlling their behaviour. It is important, therefore, that any discipline should be used for training the heart of the child, driving the foolishness out so that it does not become a permanent fixture. The discipline is not to be used for our “convenience” as a quick way to shut them up or get our own back or unload our anger or frustration. In fact, if any of these things are the motivating factors of the “discipline”, whether that “discipline” be of a corporal nature or yelling or sarcasm or removing privileges, that “discipline” is not corrective, but retributive. It has jumped from the track of discipline onto the track of child abuse.

The 4 Ds of Discipline are:

1. Disobedience

2. Disrespect

3. Dishonesty

4. Destructiveness

Craig and I use the rod of correction — or call it Biblical chastisement, the discipline of spanking, corporal correction — when we see any of these four things in their behaviour. Now, dropping a dish so it breaks while setting the table and tossing a dish into the air so it breaks when you smash it with a baseball bat are both destructive: but one displays a heart attitude of destructiveness while the other is an accidental act of clumsiness. One needs a spanking to drive that lousy attitude out, the other may only need a bit of light verbal admonition to please be more careful, or not to carry so many dishes at once or whatever.

So consistent discipline “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” — Heb. 12:11. Inconsistent discipline breeds contempt for you and your authority: “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” — Ecclesiastes 9:11. No discipline is a disaster: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” — Proverbs 29:15. And so-called “discipline” motivated by anger, frustration and the like is just plain abuse: “For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” — James 1:20 and “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” — Proverbs 14:12.

The beauty of consistent discipline is that by doing some hard work now, it means a lot less work later on. There is no way that sending our children to school “because I can’t discipline them” will make it any easier. If we are not motivated enough to discipline our own child properly, how on earth can we rationally expect anyone else to be? We parents each need to get on top of the disciplining of our children ourselves.

I have gone for long periods where I focused on the discipline and not the home educating. At such times, whatever studies and work we get done is a blessing and a bonus! Even so, my main focus is always on the discipline, for if that is not right, no academics will be accomplished anyway. At the moment I am working on my son’s attitude and his tendency to be disrespectful. We (the children and I) learn verses like:

Philippians 2:14: “Do all things without grumbling or questioning.”

Proverbs 21:23: “He who keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”

Proverbs 22:15: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.”

Colossians 3:20: “Children, obey your parents in all things for this is well pleasing to the Lord.”

Psalm 141:3: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth, Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

So when Jeremiah has a bad attitude, I drop everything and deal with it. Sometimes it requires that I do this over and over in a single day. Getting on top of his attitude is more important than his times tables; i.e., if he never learns his times tables yet has a good attitude, I reckon that is better than him learning his times tables and having a bad attitude. But we aim to get on top of his attitude and master the times tables as well. I know: it is a pain and a hassle having to stop and deal with bad attitudes, disobedience, whining and complaining, getting their own ways, etc. But it is a hassle not dealing with them, too…..a much bigger and uglier hassle, one that only gets worse, if you ask me. Our younger children see all this, and are also being trained by it. However, I was concerned that Jeremiah was still needing to be spanked at 8.


Then I remembered Sharyn in Wanganui, a home schooling mother we had known for a long time, and thought that it was about time I gave her a ring. You see, Sharyn is associated with the Wanganui Allergy and Hyperactivity Awareness Association (Inc.). Maybe Jeremiah’s behaviour was food related. I talked with Sharyn for about 30 minutes, and at the end of our converstion she put Jeremiah on a very restrictive special diet. Actually it is an elimination diet. We took out of Jeremiah’s diet a lot of foods and other household products for a period of time and have since been testing these as we slowly try to introduce them back in one at a time over several days. We have found that nearly every time we introduce something new, Jeremiah has a bad reaction to it. So Sharyn’s strict diet seems right for him. The amazing thing to us is that whereas Jeremiah couldn’t seem to control his bahaviour before, he can control what he eats, and this actually helps control his behaviour! He actually polices it better than we do. He is in control, in a round about way, of his behaviour because he can control what he eats. Sharyn is happy for people who suspect their child’s behaviour could be food related to contact her at phone (06) 345-8393 or email cabri@xtra.co.nz.


I want to finish this article talking about another book that I am reading at the moment: Pain Free for Women: The Revolutionary Program for Ending Chronic Pain by Pete Egoscue with Roger Gittines, authors of Pain Free and Pain Free at Your PC. This book is not written from a Biblical World View, but it does have some wise insights. The authors say things like:

Children from five to twelve years old are supposed to be hyperactive. They are intended to be nearly non-stop motion machines…Step by step and hand over hand, children build mental capacity and competency as they move….Children in motion also experience an interplay between activities that require finer eye-hand coordination and those that call for gross locomotor skills…..If the child gets less than 90 minutes a day of energetic free play, then there’s not much chance that his musculo-sketetal system will remain functional. With 90 minutes or more — preferably more, and with the activity broken into morning, afternoon, and evening segments — children, even those who didn’t get enough crawling time as infants and toddlers, can develop and maintain full musculoskeletal system function.

We need to look at our children’s behaviour and determine if they are just being normal, active children, perhaps requiring a bit of coaching in self-control at appropriate times, or are they displaying in some of their hyper-activities a heart attitude that needs to be dealt with? Are they normal, active children just having fun, or are they being deliberately Disobedient, Disrespectful, Dishonest or Destructive? If they appear to be chronically rebellious, constantly displaying one of the 4 Ds, could it be rebellion made worse by food intolerances or allergies? Or now that we’ve got them sitting reasonably still, do we require them to be this peaceful and “good” for unreasonable lengths of time at the expense of their need for active motion?

The authors of Pain Free write:

Parents who feel frustrated by an unruly child and are genuinely concerned that the youngster is losing ground educationally and socially need to take a hard look at these so-called symptoms and ask questions. Among them:

1. How much energetic free play does the child get each day?

2. If left to choose his activities, does he run, jump, climb, crawl?

3. Does he sleep through the night?

4. Does he get enough sleep?

5. Does his hyperactivity follow sedentary periods?

6. Do his focus and attention span improve after a period of energetic activity?

7. Are you feeding him a diet high in salt, sugar, nitrates, caffeine, dyes and other chemicals?

8. How many hours of TV (or videos) does he watch each day?

9. How structured are his routine and his environment?

10. As a parent, how much time do you spend with him in energetic, unstrcutured play and interaction?

This line of inquiry has two purposes. The first is to determine whether the child is just trying to blow off steam and behave like a normal, active and functional six- to twelve-year-old in a modern motionless world. The second is to find out if the symptoms are caused by musculoskeletal system dysfunction rather than a disorder that requires drug therapy. I have to admit that there is a downside to functional children. They are a handful, two hands full. The world is their playground. The upside, however, is that they are healthy, strong, and smart.

We need to be training our children in the spiritual as well as the physical. I Timothy 4:8: “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

As we work on the spiritual training of our children, we also need to keep in mind the physical training. We need to think, “Is this physical behaviour from lack of exercise and motion, as a result of eating the wrong foods, or is it a heart issue?” Are one or more of the 4 Ds being displayed in this situation, or do we need to take something out of the child’s diet? Or do we simply need to go outside with our children, let off some steam and unwind with a good old game of tag or hide and seek? Whatever action you take, it’s probably best to get out and play that game of tag as well! Try it!

Some links for further reading on this:

Spanking vs Child Abuse http://www.FamilyIntegrity.org.nz/page/542923

Ban Smacking? http://www.FamilyIntegrity.org.nz/page/542923

The Christian Foundations of Corporal Correction http://www.FamilyIntegrity.org.nz/page/603567

From Keystone Magazine

March 2003, Vol. IX No. 3

P O Box 9064

Palmerston North

Phone: (06) 357-4399

Fax: (06) 357-4389

email: barbara@hef.org.nz

New Zealand and Australian contact: https://hef.org.nz

USA Contact:: http://www.preschoolersandpeace.com/wst_page5.html

UK contact: http://www.halfmoonbooks.net/keystonea.htm


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