Show Them the Way
Show Them the Way
There are many passages in both the Old and New Testament that exhort and urge parents to discipline, educate, instruct and train their children in the ways of God:
- “I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord” (Genesis 18:19).
- “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
- “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
- “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
- “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
They Need Training
“It has been said that every individual is the conscious or unconscious follower of some influential philosopher. The belief that children have an intrinsically unsullied spirit, damaged only by culture and society, is derived in no small part from the eighteenth-century Genevan French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau… He claimed that nothing was so gentle and wonderful as man in his pre-civilized state… Furthermore, there is plenty of direct evidence that the horrors of human behavior cannot be so easily attributed to history or society” (12 Rules for Life An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B. Peterson, p. 120).
While children are born without sin (1 Corinthians 14:20), this does not mean that they are perfect or have a perfect inner guidance system. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). Such foolishness can manifest itself in arrogantly and naively thinking that they know better than their parents or that the rules do not apply to them. Children have great potential for good and evil, and because of this, if left to themselves they can go astray in all sorts of complex ways. Solomon noted this centuries ago, “But a child who gets his own way (in the context, a child without the benefit the parental rod and rebuke) brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). And Solomon is putting it mildly. He can also wreck havoc upon civilization in the process.
You are the Best One to Train Them
If we don’t train (discipline) our children, then society will. But the problem is that society doesn’t love them, and society has no real interest in mercy. “The judgmental and uncaring broader social world will mete out conflict and punishment far greater than that which would have been delivered by an awake parent. You can discipline your children, or you can turn that responsibility over to the harsh, uncaring judgmental world” (12 Rules, p. 134). “Nature and society will punish in a draconian manner whatever errors of childhood behavior remain uncorrected” (p. 141). To opt out of disciplining them is not only to fail to love them, but to love society as well. “You are leaving the dirty work to someone else, who will be much dirtier doing it” (p. 141). “Good understanding produces favor, but the way of the treacherous is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days” (Proverbs 19:20).
The Limited Window
“Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death” (Proverbs 19:18). In fact, in the next verse there is an example of an undisciplined adult, the angry man. “A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again” (19:19). The following is not Scripture, yet it should motivate us as parents: “If a child has not been taught to behave properly by the age of four, it will forever be difficult for him or her to make friends. The research literature is quite clear on this. This matters, because peers are the primary source of socialization after the age of four. Rejected children cease to develop… they fall further and further behind… Poorly socialized children have terrible lives” (12 Rules, p. 135).
The Importance of Taking the Time
This is really important. Winning the battles in parenting takes time and patience. “A patient adult can defeat a two-year-old, hard as that is to believe. As the saying goes, ‘Old age and treachery can always overcome youth and skill’. This is partly because time lasts forever, when you are two. Half an hour for me was a week for my son” (12 Rules, p. 127).
Spanking and the Cultural Push Back
Verse after verse in the Proverbs speaks not only of parental instruction but equally of “the rod” (Proverbs 22:15; 23:13-14). Yet modern parents are often terrified by the words “discipline” and “punish”, and especially the forbidden word, “spanking”.
- “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24).
One modern argument I have heard is that “Hitting children merely teaches them to hit”. Yet there are a number of things wrong with this theory:
- It is too simplistic. Magnitude matters. Rain drops hit and so does an Atomic Bomb. Magnitude and context matters.
- It is impossible to use the word “no” effectively in the absence of a real threat of punishment. “A woman can say no to a powerful, narcissistic man only because she has social norms, the law and the state backing her up… What no means, in the final analysis, is always ‘If you continue to do that, something you do not like will happen to you.’ Otherwise it means nothing” (12 Rules, p. 139).
- Generations of children were disciplined by loving parents in the past who grew up to be very kind people.
- God knew what He was talking about. “He who withholds his rod hates his son” (Proverbs 13:24).
Ancient Wisdom for Today
- Spanking is a very effective way to quickly get things back on the right path. Within a matter of minutes you can like your child again and they will like you.
- I have seen very progressive and liberal minded parents refrain from offering any discipline only to see them “punish” their children in other ways. A cold shoulder, withheld affection, cutting remarks etc… If you do not discipline, you will pay them back in some way.
- Without discipline you will end up struggling and fighting with your children for hours over bedtime, etc… ”No matter how good your intentions, or how sweet and tolerant your temperament, you will not maintain good relations with someone you fight with…” (12 Rules, p. 118). For example, if you are going round and round with a child about something like bedtime or eating for 45 minutes each day, then in a year’s time such as added up to fighting continually with them for days on end. It is impossible that resentment will not build. Spanking prevents the resentment and bitterness from building, in both the parent and the child.
Some Good Rules
- “Do not bite, hit or kick, except in self-defense.
- Do not torture or bully other children, so you don’t end up in jail.
- Eat in a civilized and thankful manner, so that people are happy to have you at their house, and pleased to feed you.
- Learn to share, so other kids play with you.
- Pay attention when spoken to by adults, so they don’t hate you and might therefore deign to teach you something.
- Go to sleep properly, and peaceably, so that your parents can have a private life and not resent your existence.
- Take care of your belongings, because you need to learn how and because you are lucky to have them.
- Be good company when something fun is happening, so that you are invited for the fun.
- Act so that other people are happy you are around, so that people will want you around.
- A child you knows these rules will be welcome everywhere” (The 12 Rules, p. 137).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017