Monday, January 16, 2012

Discipline and Children

Child discipline can be such a difficult topic . . . there are those who believe in spanking and those who do not. I think there are a great many who are just confused and not sure what the best "plan of action" is when it comes to child discipline. Certainly we all want our children and grandchildren to grow up as people who are able to show self-control and make wise decisions, but how do we best accomplish this. And what does the Bible teach about it?


I found an excellent article on this topic - I won't quote all of it here, but will provide the link and give a "condensed" version . . . this article presented three "interpretations" of child discipline/spanking and looked at three views of "the rod" mentioned in Proverbs.


The first interpretation held to the view the "rod" was a wooden stick used to strike a child and inflict pain. Basically they believe, "The purpose of a spanking is not to cause any lasting bodily harm, but to cause spiritual correction....Parents should not fear spanking will hurt or cause their children to die, although some scream loud enough it sounds that way. On the contrary, it is a kindness to a child, as they will respect authority, if it is done properly."


The second interpretation - which is the one I personally believe - says, "the Hebrew word "shebet" used throughout most of the Old Testament refers to God's authority. If you read the 'shebet' passages in Proverbs, you will see you can always substitute the word 'authority' for 'rod.' If 'rod' can be referring to God's authority or a nation's authority in some of these verses, then it is referring to a parent's authority as well. You cannot kill someone with your authority. You can be striking (beating) them with your authority by using your authority to discipline (teach, disciple, educate, instruct) and guide them. I hold to the figurative interpretation of this .....So many Christians have taken FIVE verses and hung a whole child rearing philosophy on them! Parents are told to use this as a primary form of punishment (what these experts refer to as discipline). Some use the words "punishment" and "discipline" interchangeably when they mean two entirely different things. These people are basing their theology on nothing more than the traditions of men!"


In explaining the second interpretation they quote Laurie Morgan who refers to Proverbs 22:15: "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." She writes: "Here, the rod is very clearly a metaphor for correction itself. It is very plain English, but many people still do not understand. Saying the 'rod OF correction' means it is correction -- being described to be like a rod -- which drives folly from the heart of a child. The 'rod of correction' is like the 'long arm of the law'. Is the law literally a long arm?? No. Is correction literally a rod? No." 


In addition, they quote Nancy Hastings Sehested, pastor of Prescott Memorial Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, -- a Southern Baptist congregation -- who when referring to Proverbs 13:24, said in a 1995 broadcast: "When you hear the word 'rod' from this passage, what do you think of? Perhaps a stick for beating and brutalizing, right? But what happens - what happens when we understand the rod in this Proverb is the same kind of rod and staff which comforts in Psalm 23? 'Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.' The rod and staff are the shepherd's tools for comforting the sheep. It is for caring and protecting, never for beating them to death. A good shepherd delights in his flock. The shepherd will go to whatever lengths necessary to provide the finest grazing, the rich pastures and cleanest water. The shepherd will do whatever is necessary to provide shelter from the storms and protection from enemies and diseases which sheep are susceptible to. Jesus said, 'I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep.' This Good Shepherd's rod and staff comfort the sheep. The rod is thrown out on a path to startle the sheep warning them they are in danger of wandering into an unsafe place. The shepherd uses the rod to drive off coyotes and wolves. Being stubborn creatures, sheep often get themselves into ridiculous dilemmas, like our children. Children are in need of shepherding like sheep so they don't stray off into paths which will hurt them or destroy them."


The third interpretation is one which says, "the rod is to inflict pain, but Proverbs is to be ignored". This view says, "Discipline is about instruction, not beatings. A child cannot listen to someone he/she is afraid of. Lessons cannot be integrated by one who is in shock from having been struck. What they learn is distrust, fear, and violence." They quote Grace Chou who studied the passages in Proverbs after receiving a suggestion from her mother to stop spanking her son. She writes: "I found the perfect example of grace-filled discipline in Jesus. [Author Rick] Creech notes, 'Some of the things of the Old Testament were done away with when the New Testament came into place. Take the adulterous woman in John 8:3-11 for example. The law of the Old Testament stated very clearly if anyone committed adultery, they should be put to death. But Jesus did not allow the men to put her to death. Instead Jesus said to the men, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Jesus did not change the moral principle which was in the law, because he still told the woman, "Go now and leave your life of sin." But Jesus did change the way the requirement of the law was enforced. Jesus did away with the harsh physical punishment, but he still upheld the moral standard.' I knew it was my job as a parent to do the same."


So . . . which "intrepretation" do you agree with? How do you view and approach child discipline?

4 comments:

  1. Well, simply look at the different generations around you. Both schools of thought have been around long enough to look around and see how each child has grown into an adult. And what kind of adult are they? In the generation without spankings, are there more drug addicts? Were there more suicides or suicide attempts? How many people who were spanked as a child(not abused by a drunken parent, simply swatted a few times on their sit-down.) are now in jail because of the crimes they committed? How many of them were never corrected? Where's that study?
    Personally I grew up in a 'spanking generation' and I think I turned out pretty good. I was rarely spanked, only when I did something so wrong, that a verbal correction wasn't enough to prevent me from doing it again. I love my parents, I'm well behaved, courteous, kind, loving and happy. Do I want my own children to grow-up and be good people like that? Yes, I do.

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  3. perhaps the key is as you said, you were "rarely spanked, only when (you) did something so wrong, a verbal correction wasn't enough" . . .

    I don't have a statistics for how many kids ended up making poor choices if they were not spanked, nor do I have statistics for how many kids ended up making poor choices if they were spanked. I think the key rests with parents in helping their children grow to know, love and walk with God. I'm not sure spanking is the thing which encourages this. I was spanked as a child and learned to make good choices, but I know people who were spanked and did not.

    It is a difficult topic - so much goes into it, such as how a child is spanked, when they are spanked, what kind of conversation precedes and follows spanking. Or what the options are if a child is not spanked. Is a child who is not spanked just allowed to run wild, or are other methods used to redirect a child and help them learn what God's word teaches about the things we should and should not do, say, etc.

    I'll be writing more about this topic in the coming month!

    Thank you for commenting and for sharing! :^)

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