Category Archives: Parenting

Punishment, Discipline and Grace

Thinking aloud here:

  • Discipline is different to punishment.
  • The goal of discipline is restoration and growth; the goal of punishment is retributive justice.
  • Therefore discipline, when exercised correctly, is always in the context of grace, regardless of how harsh it may appear to be.
  • It is grace because restoration of relationship is always the goal. Justice does not and can not take into account relationship, or it would not be just.
  • Discipline stops when a person is restored. Punishment only stops when justice has been served.
  • The God-given role of government is primarily that of retributive justice (and therefore ‘punishment’). There may be disciplinary and restorative elements built into a compassionate legal system, but justice must be its primary function. Cf. Romans 13:4.
  • God’s stance over his children is always grace, and therefore he does not punish us for the sins that Jesus has already paid for but disciplines us for our good. This is not in opposition to grace, but because of his grace. If God were to punish us, then there would be no possibility of restoration and he would simply ‘give us over’ to our sins and let us suffer their consequences (cf. Romans 1:18-32).
  • Part of God’s discipline for us may be for us bear the legal ramifications (i.e. punishment) of our actions (e.g. when we commit a crime), but as far as God is concerned, he is exercising grace in his relationship toward us, because he is seeking our repentance, restoration, and growth.
  • Church discipline and parental discipline are mirrored on God’s discipline. We don’t punish our church members or our children for the sake of justice, we discipline them out of love. This is grace. Cf. 2 Corinthians 2:5-11.
  • To ask: ‘How do I show grace in discipline?’ is the wrong question. To discipline is to show grace. Seeking a person’s restoration after an offence is always more than that person deserves.
  • Therefore parents and church leaders need to remember that the same hand that deals discipline is also simultaneously dealing grace. They are not in opposition to one another; and you do not undermine discipline by showing grace, nor undermine grace by exercising discipline.
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Stats on Single Mums in Australia

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I preached a sermon last Sunday on James 1:26-27, where pure and faultless religion consists of ‘looking after orphans and widows in their distress’. In the process of thinking about what were modern-day examples of vulnerable social groups in distress in our society, I came across this study done in 2008 by the Parenting Research Centre on single mothers:

  • 1 in 5 families with children under the age of 15 is headed by a single parent. 87% by single mothers.
  • Single mothers are providing 70% to 100% of their children’s care, with the majority responsible for 66% to 97% of the costs of raising their children.
  • 75% of single parents are raising children on incomes below $20,000.
  • Because of the challenges and isolation, they are twice as likely to experience depression as women who have partners.

Let me quote some more bits from their study:

Research highlights that the initial transition to becoming a single mother can be one of the most challenging periods for single mothers and their parenting. For many women, becoming a single mother is a time of tremendous upheaval and life-changing circumstances.


Most people find it harder to parent when they are feeling stressed and anxious. Day-to-day parenting, like coping with sleeplessness or their children’s behaviour, is the same for single mothers. The difference is that single mothers are on their own and usually can’t rely on the daily support of the other parent in providing time out from parenting, affirmation and support with decisions.


The transition to becoming a single mother can carry considerable personal and parenting stresses, such as moving house, changing jobs, changing work hours, having less money, taking on more domestic and child-care duties or losing neighbourhood or friendship supports. Single mothers also tell us that there are complexities in dealing with the legalities and paperwork required by their new status. And many single mothers whose relationships break down are escaping from violence (25% separating women victims of physical or sexual violence).

Our community (and might I add: our churches!) can sometimes be harsh and unsympathetic towards single mothers in their role as parents and providers, and single mothers tell us that stigma and discrimination are an additional burden for them and their children.


I couldn’t help but think that if Jesus were around in 21st century Australia rather than 1st century Palestine, one of the groups that he would have befriended would have been the single-mothers. Yet it made me sad that whereas single-mums would have been loved by Jesus and loved him in return, by and large they don’t love his church and aren’t ministered to effectively by his people.

What are your thoughts?
How does your church minister to single-parents and especially single-mothers?
What are the joys and successes, challenges and pitfalls? I’d love to hear them.

A Stay-at-Home Mum’s Testimony: God Changed My Heart

In preparation for my Mother’s Day sermon at church, I wrote to an old friend, who is a mum of two young ones (with another on the way), asking her why and how God changed her view of motherhood over the years. This is what she wrote. It’s a huge encouragement to me and I hope it is to you too:

I went to an all girls private school which was awesome, but unfortunately also shaped my thinking very much to be that women can achieve anything and be ‘so much more than just a mum’. So my life through high school, uni and working was very much anti-‘stay-at-home mum’. I honestly thought women who stayed at home had no ambition or probably only did it cause their husbands made them and they have no backbone to stand up for themselves because of their culture of personal situation. After getting married I still viewed kids pretty negatively. My biggest thing was that I thought kids would be a HUGE inconvenience (and they are!!!!) to travel and life.

 

My husband always wanted kids and so we really only started trying because biologically I thought we should when I turned 30. My plan was to have 2 kids and go straight back to work. I actually wanted twins to get it all out of the way in one go!!!! And I thought: I have no idea how to be a mum so why not leave it to people who are professionally trained to do so? At least in day care the kids are looked after by people who want to be there and people who are well trained to do so – much better than me who is totally unqualified for this job.

 

Thinking back now, I was so incredibly selfish and thoughtless in so many ways. 

 

When we fell pregnant, I read Psalm 128 and some other verses in the Bible which really confused me. I couldn’t understand why the bible and God saw children as a blessing and as a gift. To me I could only see them as a hassle. I tried to understand why God saw them as a blessing, but I just couldn’t. And so I came to realise that my view on kids must be so so wrong and so worldly and selfish if I couldn’t even fathom how they could be a blessing.

 

So I just prayed lots and lots. I prayed that God would change me and change my point of view. That he would help me see kids as a blessing. 

 

And all I can say is that He has. I really do now see kids as a HUGE blessing from God. They are so incredibly adorable and so precious. I just love my two kids so much and I can’t imagine how stupid I was to not want them!

 

The decision to stay home full time is a hard one though. I do it ‘coz I love being at home with my kids. I really do love it. It is so tiring and unrelenting most days. But they are so much fun and I just think that the time from now till they go to school is so short so I may as well be with them as much as I can. 

 

I don’t think being at home is the right decision for everyone. I can’t really explain why I do it. Also we are lucky enough that my husband earns really good money so I can afford not to work. And also cause I delayed having kids a few years I am at the stage in my career where I can find reasonable part-time work at good pay if I really want to. But also, I do think for me career as a priority and importance has just dropped away. It’s not that I don’t care about it but I think there is a season in life for everything: a season to advance your career, and a season for family. And right now the season for me is to look after the kids. 

 

That’s kinda all I can really say. Not sure if that is helpful and I do feel quite emotional about this (maybe that is the hormones though!!!!). I can’t give all my reasons for being at home full-time but I do believe that through prayer God has changed me. 

 

He has changed me from being someone who couldn’t fathom why kids could be a blessing, to being someone who now sees kids as a HUGE blessing and treasure from the Lord.