Does it matter how our children are disciplined? Well, it certainly matters THAT they are… however that gets worked out. At some point, parent(s) must exercise authority through force of some means for discipline to be effective. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” Does that mean you must strike (spank or slap) your child for discipline to take place? Not necessarily. But let’s first remove some extremes.
It is not giving license to an abusive parent to say their child must be disciplined. We all know of horror stories of children being terrorized; physically, emotionally and even sexually assaulted by parents who are out of control and who should not be allowed access to children. However horrific those accounts are, we must be aware that they are extremes and not the norm. Most parents love and tenderly care for their children. And a loving, tender parent must sometimes take a hard stand that involves some degree of pressure exerted on the child. More on that in a moment.
It is not an appropriate stance to become a passive parent to avoid the appearance or fear of being accused of being an abuser. Many parents have allowed themselves to be terrorized by an undisciplined, out-of-control child and cower in fear from their child and do nothing to seek to control or direct them.
A number of years ago I was asked by a friend who worked in the Prosecuting Attorney’s office as a lawyer if something she had heard in court was true. She said that it had come up in a case involving a person accused of child abuse who had attended Fruit Cove that we instructed people to spank their children with a stick while making them recite Bible verses! I quickly assured her that we have not nor would we ever advocate that kind of treatment. She was relieved to hear that. I was horrified that we had been accused of that.
So believe me, I understand the risk any parent takes today who would dare advocate for or practice corporeal punishment with their children. But I will go on record and state that used properly and administered lovingly, it is a biblical directive for parents to follow with these caveats:
1. The child must be of an appropriate age to understand and learn from the punishment. It is one thing to swat the backside of a five year old who refuses to listen to you when you tell him not to run into the street. It is another thing to use a belt on a fifteen year old who came in late from a time out with friends. In the first case, the child is impressionable enough that even minimal contact will make an impact. In the latter case, you could not legally strike your adolescent with enough force to make a difference. The first case is proper, biblical discipline. The latter case is usually motivated more by anger and frustration than love and is abusive.
2. Remember in discipline that you are attacking a stubborn and rebellious will, not the child’s body. The only thing that should break during discipline is the child’s self-will and resistance to parental (translate ANY) authority.
3. The ultimate goal of any discipline, whether corporeal or grounding (etc), is to train them TOWARD godliness. We need to stop disciplining children just because of offenses committed and train them TOWARD attitude and behavioral changes in the future. That keeps our process about shaping their life the way God intends them to live instead of being about punishment.
Let me say again: loving discipline while hard, is one of the truest expressions of parental care for their children. To fail to see to this is to fail at an essential point of parenting… one from which your child may never recover.
FOR MEMORIZATION: For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:12
FOR REFLECTION: Think back on times in your life when you have been effectively disciplined. What were the ingredients of that experience that made it work? How is that reflected in how you should be disciplining your child today?