Raising ‘Fools’

I recall an occasion about 20 years ago when several grandmothers expressed their disapproval with me after a meeting. They were upset because I had dared to suggest that “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child”. I had said that every cute little baby is a ‘fool’ who needs to be properly trained in order to become free from that foolishness.

The grandmothers, in their 70’s and 80’s were convinced that babies were innocent and pure, but that when parents are angry toward them or smack them, the parents are teaching the children how to act badly.

The position of these older, church ladies was the direct opposite of the observation made by the “wisest man that ever lived”, King Solomon, 3,000 years ago (see Proverbs 22:15).

Solomon’s ancient wisdom has proven sound for 30 centuries, as a valuable part of the Bible. When Queen Victoria of England was asked, “What made the British Empire great?” she replied, “The Bible.” Yet last century western secular humanists vigorously promoted alternative views to the Biblical truth upon which whole empires were built.

Is Violence Learned?

The popularised idea is that children are born innocent and learn to harm others by parental use of discipline. Such a proposition is nonsense to anyone who takes note of how children behave. Parents see first-hand how children display selfish, wilful and hurtful behaviour, simply to get their own way, when there has been not modelling of such behaviour.

But even Governments have bought into the prevailing idea that children are innocent and neutral and only learn to hurt others through the use of parental discipline. An Australian website for the Government of the state of Victoria clearly states that government’s belief that children’s actions spring from parental discipline.

“Using physical punishment or inflicting pain on a child to stop them from misbehaving only teaches them that it is OK to solve problems with violence. Children learn how this is done from watching their parents use physical violence against them.”

This is the same nonsense which the angry Christian grandmothers came out with. So, why do I call it “nonsense”? It is nonsense because it contradicts what God tells us in the Bible. It is nonsense because it contradicts the observation of the wisest man that ever lived. It is nonsense because any observant person knows it to be false. And it is nonsense because secular research concludes that a child’s bad behaviour is inherently their own.

Aggressive Behaviour

As recently as this month Professor Richard Tremblay, Professor of paediatrics, psychiatry and psychology at the University of Montreal, Canada spoke to a Royal Society conference in London and effectively debunked what governments and little old ladies claim to be true. Professor Tremblay’s findings, as reported to the Royal Society and published by the BBC on October 15th, include such basic realities as, aggressive behaviour is natural in young children.

Professor Tremblay’s research indicates that aggression is natural and needs to be regulated, usually by the intervention of parents. A child’s aggressive tendencies need to come under their emotional control. Tremblay’s concern is that, if children do not gain that control they will grow to be aggressive adults.

Aggression is “rather a behaviour like crying, eating, grasping, throwing, and running, which young humans do when the physiological structure is in place.” But most youngsters learn to regulate these “natural” behaviours with age, experience, and brain maturity.

But what about the myth of the “holy child”? What about the idea that children don’t know anything about aggression until their parents smack them? If Professor Tremblay is right that children have an inherent tendency to act inappropriately, but need to be taught to behave properly, isn’t that somewhat reminiscent of “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child but the rod of correction drives it far from him”?

If Solomon is right, and I am confident that he is, then all the people who reject godly discipline for their children are Raising ‘Fools’.

Family Horizons recommends “PARENTING HORIZONS – Empowering Parents to Build Generations”. A fuller explanation of God’s wisdom for training children and removing foolishness from their hearts is given in that excellent book.

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  1. lynn says

    Good article Chris and children obviously need training to overcome their natural foolish ways. I think it is interesting to note that back in Biblical times a “child” was not considered such until they were five or six years old. (or beyond the age where reason can develop) The words used in the original manuscripts refer to younger children as sucklings or babies prior to that time. (and yes, they were breastfed till that age back then)

    With respect, I think it is misguided to think that chastising an infant or even a toddler who has not developed (nor is intellectually capable of developing) reasoning or cause and effect type learning can be trained by physical discipline.

    That was clearly never the Bible’s intention. If only parents could give the child that loving guidance when they are at an age to learn and remember, training would be more successful and less would be required.

    Parenting is hard work. Babies and toddlers need loving and gentle guidance and not physical discipline. Older children need both, consistently and with justice and mercy.

    Unless parents have accepted the Lord’s discipline in their own lives, they are hardly capable of assessing their children’s needs in this area. I implore all parents to carefully consider scripture regarding their own lives and hearts, and to always keep that in mind when applying discipline to their children. Children are a blessing and a reward, and when trained up appropriately they will require little discipline and they will be a delight to everyone who knows them.

    The opposite is true for parents who think their children are nicer than other peoples, who think others are too harsh, who think they can use psychological conditioning and pop psychology instead of the Word of God. They will reap what they sow and their children will bring them shame and their grandchildren will not know God. The stakes are high, discipline with love and justice while you can. Time is short.

    bless you Chris

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