Noah Webster said, "Children are
often ruined by a neglect of government in parents.”[i]
Scripture, parents are the governing authorities in family government.
The biblical examples for raising and disciplining children originate in
the Old Testament. Punishment to wayward children in the Old Testament
included firm words, applying the rod of correction, verbal rebuke
coupled with spitting in the face as a sign of abhorrence, the act of
disinheritance, and stoning as a form of public execution for
disobedience. The style and severity of discipline depended upon the
age of the child and the offense. Although parents may deputize
individuals to enact disciplinary measures, the ultimate responsibility
and accountability resides within the parental authority. Socrates once
said that if he could get to the highest hill in Athens, he would lift
his voice and ask the citizens why they were turning every stone to
scrape wealth together yet taking so little care of their children to
whom they must one day relinquish all.
recognized shirking away from risks, the desire not to rock the boat or
hurt people’s feelings, and the temptation to discard God’s law in the
name of love. Proverbs addresses the parental issue between sentimental
love and biblical love: "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let
not thy soul spare for his crying” (Prv 19:18).
Also in Proverbs,
God contrasted biblical hate against worldly love,
that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth
him betimes” (Prv 13:24).[ii]
The injunction to spank disobedient children verses the tendency to
shirk responsibility was also a topic among preachers over 250 years
ago. For example, an obstinate four-year-old boy challenged George
a man credited
with major revivals in early American history. Whitfield wrote the
following in his famous journal on Friday, March 31, 1738:
Upon this, I bid
the child kneel down before me, but he would not till I took hold of his
two feet and forced him down. I then bid him say the Lord's Prayer
(being informed by his mother he could say it if he would); but he
obstinately refused, till at last, after I had given him several blows,
he said his prayer as well as could be expected, and I gave him some
figs for a reward. And this same child, though not above four years of
age, came tonight on deck, and when the other children came to say their
prayers to my friend Habersham, he burst out into tears, and would not
go away till he had said his too. I mention this as a proof of the
necessity of early correction. Children are sensible of it sooner than
parents imagine. And if they would but have resolution to break their
wills thoroughly when young, the work of conversion would be much
easier, and they would not be so troubled with perverse children when
they are old.[iii]
Today, some parents endure feelings of fear
from the State over obeying God in disciplining their minors.
It is their fear that through obeying God in child rearing, the State
will take their child away. Such parents should be reminded of the
of Moses' parents: they hid Moses for three months and were not afraid
of the king's commandment: Hebrews 11:23 (Moses' parents exercised
prudence by not being overt about their disobedience to the king).
Parents can also learn from Jacob:
God taught Jacob
not to fear Esau
but to fear
God. Esau could be appeased, and his face seen without hurt. God must
be met with, and the crafty man must struggle with him. Jacob left
Peniel with a new name and a new walk. No longer was it the walk of
self-confident Jacob but the limp of humbled Israel who saw God face to
face and lived. Fear not the face of man, but learn to fear the face of
always operates within the confines of biblical law, but when God's Word
is cast aside, the resulting sentimentalism may masquerade as love or
compassion but is in fact rebellion. The parent ignoring
biblical teaching of applying correction [spanking or otherwise] ignores
not only the Scripture, but also the One that inspired the Scripture.
In effect, the parents
who rebel against biblical laws of God become idolatrous by idolizing
their feelings over God's Word. Such idolatry brought God's perpetual
judgment on the house of Eli the priest; and it would not be purged with
sacrifice nor offering for ever because he did not discipline his sons
when they made themselves to be vile (1
When parents lay down ground rules
and indicate that breaking those rules will cause punitive action, the
parents should then enforce discipline measures when the child breaks
the rules. When the rules have been broken, showing partiality or
softness will undermine the proper training of the child.
Proper training doesn't start or end with a spanking, though a spanking
may occur somewhere in the middle. As it is written, "and thou
shalt teach them [God's commands] diligently unto thy children, and
shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou
walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be
as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the
posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:79, cf. Deut
Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language
(Springfield, MA: George and Charles Merriam, 1854), p. 513.
Chasteneth him betimes: betimes means early. Do not
procrastinate with chastening, but let it be dispensed soon.
George Whitfield, George Whitfield’s Journals (Carlisle, PA:
Banner of Truth, 1989), p. 146.
Jim Elliot, The Journals of Jim Elliot (Old Tappan, NJ:
Fleming H. Revell Co., 1978), p. 17.