The making of a disciple requires discipline. According to the dictionary, discipline involves training and correction that produce proper conduct or action. (See the dictionary for a complete definition.)
God’s Word instructs us to love one another earnestly from the heart (1 Peter 1:22). If this verse applies at all, it surely applies to parents in their relations with their children. Parents who aspire to be the kind of persons described in the first two sections of this course will surely want to give their children tender, loving, sacrificial care. It is a simple matter to deal with children of any age if they are obedient and cooperative. The test comes when the parent must deal with stubbornness, defiance, rebellion, screaming, tantrums, resistance, and similar reactions. How is tender, loving care applied under such circumstances?
Is it a mark of love for your child when you insist that he do something he doesn’t want to do? Or do you think you demonstrate your love by giving in? How do you show your love for your children? Many people equate discipline, saying “no,” and punishment with a lack of love. They say that you are not loving when you punish your child. On the other hand, they say that you are loving when you let your children have their own way, when you indulge them.
Consider this verse:
“My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD
Or loathe His reproof,
For whom the LORD loves He reproves,
Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.”
It is also commonly held that love is always hugs and kisses. Some people feel that if they scoop their children up in their arms and give them a kiss and a hug, this always illustrates their love. Does it? Some people can be very annoyed with their children and still hold them in their arms.
What is love? Love is described in 1 Corinthians 13. (Note especially 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.)
You chasten your child, not because you lose your temper, but for the good of the child, for his own personal development. You take a long look at his life and discipline him so that in the end he will be a wholesome person (Proverbs 29:17).
What about spanking and other discipline?
“What do you think about spanking?” is a very common question anxiously asked by many parents. Spanking is often thought of as an unloving act. Inflicting physical pain is commonly considered cruelty.
The pre-school children of one father taught him the answer to this question. A nightly ritual with him was to lie on his back, get one of his children up on his feet, boost him through the air, to land on the couch. Once he put a child up on his feet and boosted him through the air, but the child missed the couch. He came crashing down on the floor. To the father’s surprise, the boy jumped up, eyes shining, and said, “Do it again, Daddy!” The other children added, “Do it to me, too.”
That father experimented a little that night. He deliberately threw the children on the floor. He said, “Hold out your hands,” and playfully spanked them. They enjoyed the physical pain and wanted more. A few days later, however, one of the children did something wrong. The father took that child’s hand and spanked it with less force than he had at playtime. The child cried as if his heart would break.
What was the difference between the two incidents? It was the emotional climate. A few nights before both father and child were in a good mood and they were having a good time. Now the mood was different. Physical pain does not necessarily mean punishment. Has your child ever come home proud of a black eye? “I got it playing football,” he explained, his chin up, his tone triumphant.
Some people think that if they never lay a hand on their child, they never punish him. However, we all know about the pain of sharp words. You wouldn’t throw a brick at anyone, but you might take aim with a well-chosen sentence and let it fly. Sometimes a mother can hurt a child as much with a certain tone of voice as she would if she struck him. You may have experienced the punishment of silence, sometimes called “the freeze.” All is quiet in the home, as though you were walking on eggs. You can almost hear them crackle. There is no physical violence. Such silence can be more painful than if you struck your child.
Punishment and physical pain need not be related. You can pick up your little baby, as some people do, and very kindly pat him. You mean, “I like you.” You walk up to a friend and slap him on the back, meaning, “I like you.” On the other hand, if you walk up to someone you don’t like and give him a little push, that means something else, doesn’t it?
Discipline and spanking are not necessarily related. One of the reasons so many people abhor spanking is because they are angry when they do it. The important thing about the act of using a paddle is not the child but the person using the paddle.
A paddle can be used in such a way that it means harm to the child (Proverbs 22:8). That same paddle, on the other hand, can be used in such a way that it means the making of the child. The spirit of the paddler makes the difference. (Study Proverbs 10:13; 13:24; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15,17.)