In today’s culture of raising children by only positive reinforcement (everyone gets a trophy); how do we reconcile the discipline of a child and Biblical truth? As a parent, I like to go to the book of Proverbs; it’s known as wisdom literature. This wisdom is not only something that someone experienced (namely the writer), but it’s supposed to be applicational—meaning, it applies to life. When we read Proverbs, we should think about them as a father gifting his son or daughter with his experiences, knowledge, and understanding about all aspects of life. There is much to learn in life, especially parenting, and a wise person will heed the advice of an elder, and definitely one who has already experienced it. One of the most beloved Proverbs concerning love, faith, and trust is Proverbs 3. However, among the insight given to us is wisdom and discipline—these two go hand-in-hand. Let’s briefly look at parenting, discipline, and wisdom.
Assuredly, no one enjoys discipline, but godly discipline is good, pure, and holy. As the writer of Hebrews states, if God is disciplining you, He is treating you as a child of His (Hebrews 12:7). The Holy Spirit’s work in us propels us to repentance. It is a form of discipline and one that we should never neglect or reject. The reason we receive God’s discipline is because He loves us. Think about it…God’s wrath is not that He punishes us or sets up boundaries, but His wrath is when He allows us to do whatever we want to do. Discipline is love. Discipline is instruction.
As a parent, if I were to allow my child to play in traffic, someone would lock me up for neglect and child endangerment. How I respond to her playing in the middle of the traffic, after I save her, is wisdom–but it must reflect the sincerity of the danger along with my love for her. Likewise, if God didn’t love us, He would turn the other way and give us up to our desires and passions (Rom 1). So, if God corrects us then He loves us; be encouraged with these words:
“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:11-12
As well, we, who love our children, discipline them with the proper discernment. Some parents may choose spanking, some may choose time-out, some may choose another source. While I never condone beating a child, leaving scars (whether physical or emotional), or yelling and screaming, I do believe that there can be certain circumstances when a spanking, at a young age, can be effective–but I should clarify that the aim is not to inflict pain/harm, but to enforce boundaries. Spanking should always make you (the parent) have some kind of remorse, afterwards–that is normal, due to the love that you have for them. You never feel “satisfied.” But, let me state this, my father was more of a lecturer, even though we had a few spankings (and for me, the switch once!), but he would sit you down and try and reason with you for hours on end. I recall my older brother saying to me, “I wish he’d just beat me and get this over with?” But dad taught me the importance of spanking (I remember it well) and the importance of reasoning. When I became a parent, I was able to keep them both tethered together.