The obligation for Christian parents to bring up their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” is stated clearly in the New Testament (Eph. 6:4). The Bible’s manual of practical instruction concerning discipline, however, is found in the Old Testament. It is the book of Proverbs.
The writers of the New Testament display an obvious dependence on this particular Old Testament book, especially when speaking of discipline. The writer of Hebrews, for example, quotes from Proverbs 3:11-12 when describing the discipline of the Lord, likening it to the discipline of the father who delights in his son. Jesus alludes to the same text when He says, “Those whom I love I reprove and discipline” (Rev. 3:19). Two of these New Testament texts bring to mind Proverbs 29:15 where we are told that “the rod and rebuke give wisdom”—something physical and something verbal. Jesus reverses the order in Revelation 3:19, putting the verbal first and the physical second, but in Ephesians 6:4 the order of physical then verbal is preserved—“the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This New Testament dependence on the book of Proverbs, combined with the fact that the New Testament contains little actual instruction concerning the hands-on aspects of raising children, makes it seem reasonable to look to the book of Proverbs as a prime source of sound and practical counsel.
- Use an effective implement. A paddle made of balsa wood will have little effect. The hand is usually not the best choice either. It is softer than a wooden paddle, and it does not match the biblical description of a “rod.” In my experience, a heavier wooden paddle of some sort is the best option.
- Remove protective padding. For example, blue jeans only serve to minimize the desired effect.
- Be sure the child holds still so that your blows are not indirect, inefficient, or deflected by flailinglimbs. Younger children who flail may require physical restraint by the parent giving the spanking, but the best practice is to train the child to hold still and submit voluntarily to the discipline. Promising (and delivering) extra swats for flailing is one good way to accomplish this.
- Pause between swats. Three swats given in rapid succession impress the mind of the child as one sustained but brief experience of pain, while a delay between swats (three or four seconds) makes each individual sensation of pain more unpleasant and significant.
- By your lack of corrective action, you will cause your child to lose some respect for his or her mother. It will appear to the child as though she has made too much of the disobedience. After all, you were not all that concerned about it when you came home, so your wife must have been overreacting (or so the child reasons). Your reluctance to discipline in situations like this actually makes life harder for your wife in the days to come, and can create a divided loyalty in your child’s heart.
- By being lenient when the child has been disobedient or rebellious for your wife, you gain a false affection from the child—one that is not tempered by respect. Just as true Christians have a reverent fear of the God they love, children should have a reverent fear of the father they love.
- When you fail to discipline (when necessary) upon your arrival at home, you miss the opportunity to teach your children about soberly anticipating Christ’s return. Jesus is clear in the New Testament that those who misbehave in His absence will be ashamed and will be treated severely upon His return. By teaching your children to fear your return if they have been disrespectful or disobedient in your absence, you teach them a valuable truth about Christ’s return.
- By attempting to love your children through lenience, you fail to demonstrate the love they truly need at that moment—the love displayed through the use of the rod (cf. Prov. 3:11-12; 13:24).
- By relying so heavily upon your wife’s discipline (whose spankings are probably less painful than yours), you deprive your child of some of the pain which the Bible says “scours away evil” (Prov. 20:30). In my experience, one of the most effective ways to instill in children a healthy respect of both parents is to let the children know that you work together on their discipline. This can be done, for example, by assuring the child that if he or she gets a “Mom” spanking while you are gone, a “Dad” spanking may be expected when you get home.
Christian Communicators Worldwide, Inc.
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