I was asked to weigh in the other day amid a group of religious leaders on the issue of discipline. The concept up for discussion was the phrase “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Does it mean:
1. If you do not discipline your child you will spoil him/her.
2. Spoil the child with love so you can spare the rod.
The scripture that best suits this discussion is found in Proverbs 13:24
Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.
Because this is in Proverbs it is hard to find context as you would with other passages. Proverbs is written as wise statements to be taken on their own merit and value. With that said, this has two statements which relate to each other. Discipline is designed to be a loving, caring, guiding principle for raising our children. If we do not discipline our children the Bible is clear that it is as if we hated them. In the same vein, if we love our children we care enough to provide the necessary discipline.
When it comes to discipline I believe there are a few considerations to make.
1. Love – We should never discipline out of hate and anger. Especially if you choose to use physical discipline. I have chosen to use this with my children. The caution we must take as parents is to do so without the angry energy. Our patience runs thin. Our coping mechanism fail us too. However, if we punish from hate and anger then we are not helping our children see the love. This does not, however, mean it cannot hurt. While I do not use the phrase “This hurts me more than you”, I do tell them that while I do not like to punish them, I must because the boundaries must be established.
Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. Col 3:21
2. Redemption – The reason we use discipline is to achieve redemption. Because we love our children, we seek to keep them safe. The rules we establish are there to teach them where the line is of obedience/disobedience as well as reward/punishment. Both are of equal value. If nothing ever happens with regard to a child’s behavior then there is no development of respect for authority or understanding of boundaries. They will believe anything is OK because nothing was ever done to them. In essence, we discipline in order to bring them back into right standing with us and with the rules established. God established this process in Leviticus through blessing/cursing and the sacrificial system. Something had to be done with the sin in order to maintain a right relationship with God. Disciplining our children actually helps to express the Gospel and provide understanding later. If we never discipline, then another generation will grow up not understanding the need for Jesus.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 6:23
3. Relationship – Know your children well enough to understand the type of discipline to which they will respond. One child might need a swat on the behind. Another child will need a stern talk. Another child needs restrictions. Each child is different in their triggers. Additionally, as the child develops a different style might be necessary. There is no one style fits all rule about discipline. As parents, we must understand our children enough to know what works at the age/stage they are in life. Discipline out of the relationship you have.
In some ways to spank or not to spank is the question. However whether to discipline or not is a moot point. We must discipline. Howe we go about it is the real question. What have you found that works with your children?