Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

Spare the rod spoil the child?

The term, “spare the rod, spoil the child” is not actually in the Bible. This phrase is taken out of context and a misinterpretation of Proverbs 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: But he who loves him chasteneth him betimes.” (KJV)

A better translation is:Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” (NLT)

In any translation, the intent is disciplining children in order to guide them in the way they should go. To put it simply, it is to instill in our children right from wrong. Much in the same way that shepherds use a staff to guide sheep who begin to splinter away from the flock back to safety, the rod of discipline can be used to keep our children safe from outside influences that will lead them down a dangerous and destructive path. 

The most common misinterpretation of this scripture views this as direction to physically punish children as the best—or only, form of discipline, and is the inspiration for other disciplinary tools like wooden spoons, switches or belts. Children never learn discipline from physical punishment—only fear.

There is a big difference between a rod—a physical object, and the rod, which is used metaphorically. In each scripture that describes disciplining a child, the rod is used, not a rod:

Proverbs 13:24 – “Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.”

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

Proverbs 23:13 – “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” 

There are many who were abused by one or both of their parents and they don’t even realize that they were abused. Some even brag about how they were beaten by their parent and how they were better for it. Sadly, they end up doing the same thing to their own children. 

It’s understandable for a parent to to become frustrated with a rebellious child, but when you allow that frustration turn to physical action against a child, your parenting will eventually render your efforts to raise godly, well adjusted children ineffective. 

Here’s why: The idea of punishment implies repaying someone with what he or she deserves. Physical punishment produces a child laden with guilt and determined to get out from under it, and raising kind, loving, well adjusted children are never the result. An effective parent has to learn the difference between punishment and discipline—and also learn the importance of grace.

God’s grace amid discipline

We love the gospel of grace when we come to God and our sins. None of us wants justice in the sense of God giving us what we deserve. But as much as we love God’s mercy when applied to us, we have a really hard time applying it to others—especially when the “other” is someone who can frustrate us as much as our children can. 

This is grace

I like to retell the story of how God used my son to explain grace to both of us. My son, Sean, who was around 9 or 10 at the time, was playing outside with friends when I told him it was time to come inside. After ignoring me for several minutes I again called him to come inside. After refusing to obey me a third time I yelled, “Sean! Get inside! Now!” He finally came inside in a huff, slamming the door and flailing his arms in anger. In doing so, he knocked over my guitar. (My prized possession) We both watched in horror as the neck of my guitar snapped as it hit the floor.

I looked angrily at my son and in a soft, but firm voice I said, “Go to your room, I’m gonna hurt you.” Flying up the stairs to his room, he was already blubbering, thinking I was going to kill him. Later, after I cooled down, I went up to my son’s room to find him hyperventilating from crying so hard. I said, “Sean, do you know what judgement is?” He answered between his breaths, “N-n-no.” I said, “Judgement is getting what you deserve.” At that moment he broke into his sobs again completely convinced that I was going to beat him. After calming him down once more I then asked him, “Sean, do you know what grace is?” He shook his head, no. I said this is grace. And I put him on my lap and just held him.

That is exactly what God does with us. Although we all deserve God’s judgement, if we trust in the saving power of Jesus, God has mercy on us, forgives us of our sins, and wraps His arms around us and loves us.

Effective discipline starts with us being healthy ourselves. If you had a rough childhood with questionable punishments, you hold the power to change the environment for your own children. You are in charge of them having a better upbringing than you had and a better future. 

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as reminders on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Teach them to your children, speaking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19) 

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath; instead, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)