Posts Tagged ‘punishment’

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)

I recently read an article by Elizabeth Ester  about children who have been “chastised” to death after parents followed the “Biblical” child-training methods of Michael & Debi Pearl.

Elizabeth Ester states that she escaped from an abusive fundamentalist church after years of being influenced by its teachings. So she naturally writes from that prospective.

Whenever I read articles like this I am always reminded of the day the Lord taught me and my son a very important lesson about grace. When my son, Sean was very young he became angry with me when I told him it was time to come inside from playing with his friends.

After many warnings and threats from me Sean reluctantly agreed to come inside. Angrily storming inside, Sean swatted at my prized guitar I had leaning against a wall and then watched in horror as it fell to the floor, snapping off its neck. Staring at my mangled guitar on the floor and without looking up, I very slowly and quietly told Sean, “Go to your room; I’m gonna hurt you.”

After allowing myself several minutes to calm down, I went to Sean’s room to find him hysterically crying. (Knowing in his mind, I was about to end his life.) After calming him to an uncontrollable whimper, I asked him, “Sean do you know what judgment is?” He answered in that little kid whimper voice, when they try to stop crying and take short deep breaths between each word, “N-n-n-o.” I explained to him that judgment is getting what you deserve.

He immediately began sobbing uncontrollably all over again. (Now being perfectly convinced in his mind that he was about to die!) After calming him down once again I asked him, “Sean, do you know what grace is?” He again answered, “N-n-n-no.” I immediately picked him up and put him on my lap and hugged him and said, “THIS is grace.”

What does it really mean to “spare the rod, spoil the child”?

Although it’s not written in the Bible exactly that way, the phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” comes from Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”

The Lord uses discipline to reveal our sin to us. This is also how we, as parents, should reveal to our children how God expects us to live and our need for a Savior. When children do not realize the consequence of their sin, they will not understand that sin requires punishment. God provides a way to salvation and forgiveness through Jesus, but that means little to those who do not see their sin. Furthermore, correction shows us that we are accountable for our actions. Our natural pride blinds us to our need for a Savior, but discipline reveals the truth of our wretchedness. (Revelation 3:17)

Since salvation is the most important choice the child will ever make, it is imperative that parents are leading them to Christ, and discipline is critical to this process. Proverbs 23:13 says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” In the context of verses 13-18, “die” means spiritual death. Children who respect authority and feel sorrow for their sin are much more likely to ask Jesus to forgive them and be saved.

Some people don’t believe in any type of physical discipline such as spanking. Others, like Michael & Debbi Pearl and their followers allow the pendulum to swing the complete opposite direction and misinterpret Scripture’s definition of a rod.

The word “rod” mentioned in Proverbs indicates a thin stick or switch that can be used to give a small amount of physical pain with no lasting physical injury. It is intended to steer the heart of a child toward Jesus and forgiveness of sin. A child should never be bruised, injured, or cut by a physical correction. The Bible warns us that we should never abuse the power and authority we have over our children while they are young because it could provoke them to anger. (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21) Physical discipline should always be done in love and never in a moment of frustration. It is also just one part of discipline and should be used only when the child shows repeated intentional defiance to a clear limit.

God instructs us to discipline our children the same way He disciplines us. Hebrews 12:5-11 tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves to perfect their righteousness. God only disciplines His own, which proves that if we repent and surrender to Him, we are His beloved children. And we can say with David that the Lord’s rod comforts us in our time of trouble. (Psalm 23:4)

Finally, we know that no discipline feels good while it is happening, but afterwards the rewards are rich. (Hebrews 12:11) Godly character, fruit of the spirit, and peace are the rewards of God’s discipline. The same is true for our children who have learned from godly discipline, how to take responsibility for their actions. And they will grow up to be much happier people. (Proverbs 3:11-18)

Resources: Parenting Is Heart Work by Dr. Scott Turansky & Joanne Miller

Got Questions.org   – http://www.gotquestions.org/