The point of discipline is to restore fellowship. Hebrews 12 teaches this: The Lord disciplines those whom He loves and chastens those who are His sons. No chastening seems pleasant at the time but painful, yet afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. God disciplines us so that we will share in His holiness.
And God’s discipline is the model for our familial discipline. If we understand parental authority rightly, it is only a ministry of God’s authority. Therefore, our task as parents is to accomplish the same goals that God has for His discipline. Discipline claims our children as our own, administers a momentary pain, in order to produce a lasting fruit of joyful obedience and fellowship.
Parents generally fail in one of two directions. We may call these two ditches: free-range parenting problems and industrial-Reformed parenting problems. Free-ranging parenting fails to provide teaching, correction, discipline, and does not require obedience of children. Industrial-Reformed parenting treats discipline like a formula of spankings and rules, and while this method may have a short term appearance of obedience, this surface level conformity is not at all the same thing as the lively fruit of fellowship and joyful obedience.
Failure to teach, correct, and discipline is a failure to love. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Prov. 13:24). But the goal is not mere conformity; the goal is joyful obedience and fellowship. And so this means that there must be a center of joyful obedience and fellowship in the home, not sterile machinery.
If there is no center of joyful fellowship, then there’s nothing for discipline to bring children back into. What is that center of joyful fellowship? It’s the fellowship of forgiveness. We are the forgiven. We obey joyfully because we’ve been forgiven much. And parents model this obedience when they joyfully discipline their children. Do you want your children to joyfully obey? Then show them how. Show them how in the way that you joyfully correct them.