The Bible calls it discipline, sometimes chastening. Society calls it hitting, spanking, and by its legal term, corporal punishment. As of Time 2014 tally, 43 countries have now declared child corporal punishment illegal. Worldwide, the debate goes on about the rightness of spanking one’s child.
Biblical Discipline is not about inflicting pain.
While biblical discipline may necessitate spanking, it is a temporary measure to instil discipline and learning. Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares his rod of discipline hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines diligently and punishes him early.” Proverbs 22:15 says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”
Spanking is needed when a child is too young to understand his wrongdoing and when no length of explanation will cause him to understand or remember that his act is wrong. Remember the saying, “No pain; no gain”? People learn more from painful experiences. Experiences and learning accompanied by pain have a more lasting impact and effect.
From the verses just quoted, we learn that discipline must be gentle. The goal is not to inflict pain but for the child to understand and refrain from his wrong behaviour. It goes without saying that as the child gets older, talk must always precede physical punishment. Once your child can be reasoned with, physical punishment may be suspended. Godly discipline will take fruit in due time and you may happily find your child at age 6 (or younger) easy to talk with about correct behaviour.
Biblical discipline is not about releasing anger.
Discipline is not hitting. Discipline is not verbal abuse. A parent should take no satisfaction from physical punishment and nagging or shaming of a child. That is not loving; that is revenge. Biblical discipline is about what’s best for your child, not what would appease you. The focus is not on how embarrassed or upset you are with the misbehaviour, the focus is on how your child will develop good values and habits.
Biblical discipline is not about having your way.
During the formative years, children are dependent on you for life and direction. They need to learn trustful obedience. As a child grows older, he begins to gain maturity. His mental, spiritual, social, and financial capacities get stronger. He must then gain the freedom to make decisions and to act independently. When it is about right or wrong, as parents you may intervene. But don’t discipline just because your advice was not followed. Don’t say, “I gave you this car and I’ll take it back if you don’t do what I say.” Remember, alternative actions are not necessarily wrong. Let children make poor choices and learn on their own.
Biblical Discipline is about clarity.
Biblical discipline does not hurt the innocent. It corrects the erring. Parents must establish a clear offence. Sometimes, we mistakenly discipline our child for an offence that somebody else committed.
Biblical discipline does not punish the unaware or ignorant. Children need to have a clear understanding of the offence. Take time to explain. Don’t lazily resort to “Just because I said so.” statements.
Biblical discipline deals with current offences. It does not rehash old ones. Physical or verbal discipline should be appropriate and sufficient for the offence presently committed. Don’t perform a monologue or nag your child over past wrongdoings.
Correction and rebuke is a blessing. Discipline can be beautiful if you do it right.
Scriptures say, “Blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal.” When God disciplines us, He blesses us with growth. When the discipline causes pain and wounding, God Himself brings healing. Let us learn from His example and start disciplining our children rightly. May we never leave a child broken and shattered. May we actively bring healing and growth. And may we always assure them of our unconditional love.