Kids crave discipline

Our budding philosopher, still just a teenager, claimed with great authority, “Kids crave discipline.” I laughed so hard milk sprayed from my mouth. He, of all our children, seemed undisciplined; the dog sometimes ate his homework, he was often late for school, and I was forever hounding him to complete chores. On second thought, perhaps he knew exactly what he was talking about — kids crave discipline, or perhaps he was thinking kids need — long for — discipline. In this Sunday’s second reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we read of God’s use of discipline, “Endure your trials as ‘discipline’; God treats you as sons. For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline?” No one likes to endure trials nor seeks discipline, so what is the writer talking about?

According to the blog FOCUS 3, “The word ‘disciple’ comes from the Latin word discipulus meaning ‘student’. … A disciple is … a *studier*. The word ‘discipline’ is from the Latin word disciplina meaning ‘instruction and training.’ It’s derived from the root word discere — ‘to learn.’ Discipline is to study, learn, train, and apply a system of standards.” Christian discipline is never harsh but demands we learn from the Master and that we learn our lessons well — that each experience, good or bad, leads to spiritual growth. Our heavenly Father desires our discipline to conform us to Christ and to bring us deeper into God’s love.

The epistle writer continues, “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” It’s tough to under­go discipline, but we can never live as disciples until we learn our lessons. It takes discipline to wake up 10 minutes earlier in the morning to pray or to meditate on Scripture and learn of God’s ways throughout human history. It takes discipline to fast or confess. It takes discipline to respond to another in love and to see God in the person who is the “least” in our society — the prisoner, the immigrant, the drug addict, the adult spewing hatred.

Our son is correct that kids crave discipline because when disciplined in love, not anger nor shame, children learn their parents love them enough to teach them the important lessons of faith/life. Children crave control over their bodies, minds and souls. They grow in strength and holiness when we discipline children — in love — until they gain self-discipline.

As parents/grandparents, we name grace — God’s guiding presence — each time we lovingly correct our child’s bad behavior. We name grace when we read stories of the saints and their heroic virtue. We name grace each time we teach our children to take part in the family and community in a constructive, contributing way — bringing their gifts to others. We name grace when we teach lessons of God’s love by including others.

Our son, now grown, takes seriously his role in raising their three children. I see him disciplining — teaching — his children through correction, stories and life experiences. He was right, all those many years ago, “kids crave discipline.” Every human heart craves a living relationship with God and is satisfied only when we have learned our heavenly Father’s lessons. We crave Jesus and grow in our discipleship each time we receive him in the Eucharist. Now, that’s good news!

How has God disciplined you?

How does your parenting reflect God’s discipline?

Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To read more reflections or to connect with Mary Pedersen visit

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