Wednesday, September 18, 2013

To spank or not to spank...

Here are some verses that have, only in recent years, been considered controversial:

Do not withhold discipline from a child;

    if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. 
If you strike him with the rod,

    you will save his soul from Sheol. (Proverbs 23:13-14)

In my father’s generation, this would have been phrased as “give him a whippin’ !” When I was growing up, this would have been phrased as The Message puts it:

Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones;

    a spanking won’t kill them.

A good spanking, in fact, might save them

    from something worse than death. 

First off, let’s note that these verses presume that the father, like our Father in Heaven, LOVES his child and wants the best for him. The Bible does not advocate here the beating or abuse of a child. The goal in mind of the father is to help his child to become more Christ-like.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? 

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

    nor be weary when reproved by him. 
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

    and chastises every son whom he receives.” 
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 
 ...For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-7,11)

I rarely spanked my girls [although I had to wash Emmy’s mouth out with soap a couple of times - she was a sassy little thing]. But when I did, it was just a quick swat on the bottom and always followed by much hugging and kissing and talking about consequences and forgiveness. The key for any kind of discipline is a cooling off period. Giving a child a time out allows her to save face and both of you time to calm down. Often the need for further discipline can be completely avoided this way.

Whatever discipline system parents choose, it needs to be consistent. The main idea of discipline is to build Christ-like character in our children and to demonstrate to children that all actions have consequences, both good and bad. Children need to understand the cause and effect relationship of their choices, so vain threats of punishment, or outrageous punishments that you have no desire to actually enforce, only confuse kids and undermine all authority in their lives. Therefore, choosing consequences must be carefully thought out and agreed upon by parents BEFORE discipline is needed, and follow-through is essential.

Years ago I had a parent of a student who emailed me the week before school got out wondering if his son could have some extra credit in spelling to avoid the “D” he had earned, because there was “a lot riding on it.” Really? I called the father and told him that we do not do extra credit in spelling, and that, even if we did, I would not want to allow his son to do it. His son had admitted to me all year long that he never studied for a spelling test, so why would I reward that? I was curious about what exactly was “riding on this.” Apparently, this father had told his son that if he didn’t make up that grade, he would not be allowed any video games the entire summer! Dad did NOT want to follow through on this one, because he did not want to entertain his son (the father worked out of his home).

I had to tell the father that he had, unfortunately chosen a rather unrealistic punishment, but he would nevertheless need to follow up on the threat in order to maintain credibility with his son. I suggested that, instead of watching video games, his son might take spelling tests all summer! :) I reminded him of the importance of selecting discipline, and that maybe he should have dealt with the poor spelling grades earlier in the year...

The goal of a parent is to raise a child who can successfully make his way in the world. You want your child to be able to socialize well, to be the one that other parents love to invite into their homes, and to one day sustain relationships and hold a job. I always tell parents, “Your job is to get rid of your child. If they cannot successfully move out by at least 22, we have a problem.” Ignoring obnoxious behaviors may be the “easy” way out in the short term, but in the long run it will ruin a kid and create much bigger problems later. Sometimes the “rod” of discipline is necessary and less painful for everyone involved!

If you are the parent or grandparent of a toddler, click here to listen to a great radio broadcast from Focus on the Family. After you get the page up, click on “Real-World Advice on Parenting Toddlers” and then for some exrta tips click on “Structure and Sharing.”   Happy disciplining!

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