Training or Spite

Parents are instructed by God to “train” their children. The whole process of child discipline is the same process as child training. Discipline and training are so intertwined that you cannot have one without the other.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Getting in Your Own Way

Some parental discipline is hardly training, but much more like anger, frustration and even spite toward the child. What is happening is that parents are getting in their own way. Instead of training their child the parent’s feelings and frustrations become more important than the good of the child. That’s when parents move from Training their child to Penalising the child for annoying the parent.

Here are some tell-tale statements from parents that let you know the parent is not thinking about “training” the child, but venting their own frustrations…….

“Get out of here. You make me sick.” “I’m sick of hearing your whining voice.” “I’ve had just about enough of you for one day.” “One more noise out of you and I’ll let you have it.” “Make yourself scarce!” “You just SO annoy me!” “Get to your room. I don’t want to see you.” “Get out of my way.” “I ought to give you a whipping.” “I’m going to feel so much better when I’ve given you a thrashing.” “You’ve pushed me too far this time!”

Train the Child

Godly discipline is for the good of the child. It is not to make the parent feel better. When parents deal with their child based on what will placate the parent’s upset state, those parents are not training their child, but taking out their frustrations on the child.

So let’s remind ourselves that Biblical discipline has the good of the child in mind at all times. The Rod and Reproof give wisdom. The Rod of Correction drives foolishness from the child’s heart. That’s why godly discipline, including smacking a child with a rod, is an expression of love to the child. Those who will not smack their child with a rod are described in the Bible as hating their child.

Godly discipline gives wisdom, removes foolishness and affirms the parent’s love to the child. It is all for the good of the child.

Correction not Anger

The Rod of Correction is not the Rod of Anger. The two are completely opposed. The rod of Correction drives foolishness from the child, but the rod of Anger simply does not work.

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15

“He that sows iniquity will reap vanity: and the rod of his anger will fail.” Proverbs 22:8

The Rod of Correction is for the Good of the Child, which trains the child’s heart and directs the child’s life. The Rod of Anger is used by parents for the good of the parent, venting anger, frustration, resentment and spite.

Spite

I have seen parents act in cruel spite toward their children. Such parents usually choose to banish their child, rather than smack the child. They also speak horrible words of rejection and cursing over the child. They make threats, lash out, bring fear into the heart of the child and leave emotional scars.

A planned discipline regime, using the rod of correction, where you smack the child, give explanation and give plenty of affirmation, is much better than the banishment which some parents think is more humane. Children feel secure when they know the parents will not lash out or respond in anger. They also feel loved when they are not rejected and sent away.

I encourage all parents to look to the Biblical pattern of child training and to clear their own hearts of things that lead to anger and spite.

The Big Stick is not the Big Stick

I love it when I see something in a completely new light. Mostly we don’t need to see “new” things, but to see the old things the way they really are. When our brains are told to interpret things one way or another we can be effectively brain-washed by that instruction. Somehow we overlook the evidence and keep interpreting it according to the definition or label we were told to apply to that thing.

Many of the things we “know” are only things we “believe”. We “believe” them to be true, and thus think we “know” them. But, alas, we are deluded, and are even blind to an accurate interpretation because of the pre-programmed beliefs.

Praise God, He sets us free from deception, because Jesus Christ is the “Truth”! Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life!”

“Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

Deceptive Labels

Education involves learning to put labels on things. The bigger our set of labels the better educated we are. We are able to discern between things when we have a large enough set of labels to enable us to put different things into different categories. Hoorah for labels!

But, if we are given the wrong label for something, then we have not been truly educated at all. In fact, we have been brain-washed, indoctrinated, deceived and denied insight into the truth.

Notice that socialist economists have influenced much of modern academia on economic themes. I expect that the labels a socialist mind conceived for economic processes put those processes in a different light to a Biblical economist, or a capitalist economist.

The label “prehistoric” is a philosophical statement in itself. Biblically speaking nothing is pre-historic, since the Bible record accounts for human history all the way back to day one. But the label “prehistoric” is deceptive and brainwashes the hearer into thinking that there must have been existence before the historical account began. Thus the term “prehistoric” embodies an attack on the Biblical record. It is a deceptive label.

Carrot and Stick

carrot and stick

Let me get toward my point. We have all heard mention of the two forms of motivation, the carrot and the stick. Carrots are positive inducements that prompt people to action. The stick represents negative inducements to action. A carrot might be a bonus for completing a task on time. A stick might be a punitive outcome if the task in not completed on time.

Management theory has addressed the competing tools of the carrot and the stick. And these labels have had a “reductionist” effect on human thinking.

Most people’s first thoughts about motivating themselves or others will orient toward either or both of the carrot and stick. These two categories tend to dominate and thus obliterate perception of alternative possibilities.

Other Possibilities

Many people do what they are asked to do and perform well, simply because that is their choice. They are not motivated by the carrot or the stick, but are simply doing what they have been programmed or trained to do.

Some people make a greater effort out of concern for others who they see under pressure. They pitch in out of social motivation, based on their sense of shared responsibility and their desire to see their friend aided in a difficult situation.

Some people simply love a challenge. They are motivated by realisation of a need and the definition of a clear challenge to overcome that need. The feeling of “We did it!” is all the reward they need.

The Big Stick

Biblical Parenting involves use of the “stick”. King Solomon instructed humanity thousands of years ago to train children by using words and physical discipline. The old English translation, the King James Bible, uses the word “rod of correction” to describe the stick that is used by parents to train their children.

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15

“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15

He that spares his rod hates his son: but he that loves him chastens him as required.” Proverbs 13:24

Punitive or Therapeutic?

Influenced by the “carrot and stick” labels, how should we interpret the use of the “rod of correction” by parents? It is seen as a punitive, negative reward. It is seen as the opposite of the more positive encouragement inducement or positive reward option.

In a “carrot and stick” world, use of the “rod of correction” is seen as the ugly choice. Caring, sensitive, compassionate, New Age parents think they can discard the cruel ancient wisdom of Solomon and embrace more advanced and enlightened methods of training their children. Such parents aim to use rewards, coaxing, mature negotiation and other alternatives to the offensive “hit the kid with a stick” option.

The “carrot” triumphs over the “stick” in today’s modern homes.

Back to the Book

The Bible was written long before the more modern discussions about the carrot and the stick. And Solomon’s wisdom needs to be seen for what it is, not what the labels have brainwashed us to think it says.

So, let’s go back to the book and see what is really being said about the “rod of correction”. Let me repeat a verse I quoted earlier…

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15

The use of the “rod of correction” is not punitive in this instruction. It is therapeutic! The rod of correction has a specific and vitally important function, and it has nothing to do with motivating a person to do what mummy tells him to do.

The “rod of correction” has a transformational impact on a child’s heart. It drives “foolishness” far from the child. If that foolishness is not driven away, by the use of the “rod of correction”, then the child will carry foolishness in his heart right through his adult life.

The Good of the Child

The “rod of correction” is for the good of the child. A parent who refuses to do this good to their child is described as hating their child.

He that spares his rod hates his son: but he that loves him chastens him as required.” Proverbs 13:24

The punitive “big stick” is for the good of the manager or the person who wants to get their project done or their will obeyed. The Big Stick is an aid to the teacher, boss, prison warden or similar role where a person in charge demands compliance.

That kind of big stick can lead to abuse and dominance of those under punishment. The “rod of correction” applied for the good of the child cannot be a tool of abuse. It is not an indulgence for the parent, but a blessing to the child.

Quoting Myself

In a recent article on Leadership, titled Leading With Authority, I made an aside about the use of force. I quote myself here….

“Note here that Biblical use of the “rod of correction” is not coercive. Parents are not told to use the rod to get action or obedience. They use the rod of correction only temporarily, in order to create a heart change in their child. Once “foolishness” has been driven from the child’s heart by the “rod of correction” (not the rod of abuse or anger) then the rod becomes redundant. So adult leaders who think they have a Biblical clearance for the use of force and threats are misguided.”

carrot-and-stickBack to the Stick

Parents need to go back to the stick. But the Big Stick is not the Big Stick! The “rod of correction” which godly parents use to train their child is not a “Big Stick” of threat and intimidation to coerce appropriate behaviour. If the stick is used as a “threat” then it is not being properly used.

The “rod of correction” is not of value because of its intimidation and the fear of its use, but by its application and its measured and appropriate use. Godly parents who wisely use the “rod of correction” to remove foolishness from their child can then get on with parenting their child without recourse to the Big Stick. They don’t need to threaten the child, or intimidate the child with the stick waved over the child’s head.

Those two concepts are foreign to each other and have created the kind of confusion that leads some authorities to seek to ban godly discipline. The Rod of Correction is not the Big Stick. It never was and was never meant to be.

It’s time for parents to go back to the “rod of correction”, for the sake of their children. Its application will only be temporary. It is not a punitive and intimidating “negative reinforcement” mechanism. It is a means of delivering the child from foolishness. Once that is done, the rod is put away and your effective parenting continues with those other Biblical training processes you have already been using as well.

Go to it!

Training the Heart of a Child

There is no doubt that the heart is the heart of the matter for each of us. This is what the Bible teaches and I have mentioned it elsewhere. The Bible teaches that the responses from the heart dictate the issues of each person’s life. If your heart responds with jealousy to others, for example, then jealousy becomes the main issue of your life. If your heart responds with pride then pride becomes the main issue of your life.

Your Child’s Heart

While you may be concerned with your child’s behaviour and how well they will fit in with your hopes and dreams, the main issue and challenge you should attend to is to train the heart of your child.

You can create an academic or a sportsman out of your child. But their career is not the most important issue. You can teach them to be polite and to please your parents, making a good impression wherever they go, but that is not the most important issue.

You can even train them to be well behaved and compliant all the time, but that is not the most important issue.

Your child’s heart is the most important issue.

Discipline and the Human Heart

Some parents will instruct their child, hoping that understanding will cause them to make wise choices. Some parents will set high standards for their child in the hope that when they miss the mark they are still performing above others. Whatever approach the parent takes the most important matter is the heart, not the actual behaviour.

Three children can all do the right thing, but for different reasons. One child might come when the parent calls, because they hope to get some food. The next child comes, only because they are following their sibling. And the third may tag along because they don’t want to be left on their own. All three have come when the parent called, but none of them has any real strength of character or maturity in their heart.

A well trained heart results in a child doing the right thing for the right reasons in heart, even in the face of oppostion. When a child does what they do not wish to do, with a fear of God and desire to please Him, then their heart is in a much better place than others.

Games Don’t Help

Playing games with your child will not help your child’s heart. Placating the upset child will not help the child’s heart. Allowing the child to get away with doing wrong will not help the child’s heart.

What helps the child is reality. A word of reality is worth a day of game playing. Your child needs to be wise, knowing what God requires of them and doing it because they want to please God.

The fun games which can easily be resorted to rob the child of the chance to discipline their heart and do what is right as an act of worship to God.

The Rod of Correction Helps

According to the wisdom of King Solomon your child’s heart is contaminated with foolishness. The only antidote to foolishness in the heart of a child is the ‘rod of correction’, which is not the same thing as the ‘rod of anger’. When a parent loves his child he will discipline the child with the rod of correction and drive the innate foolishness out of the heart of the child. This is a vital part of training the heart of the child.

Any parent who neglects the use of the ‘rod of correction’ is ignoring the wisdom of God and will fail to remove the foolishness that is in their child’s heart.

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15

Biblical Wisdom Given to the Child

Children respond to reality very well. Rather than telling your child fancy illusory things, instruct them in God’s wisdom and truth. They need to know that they were created by God, for God’s glory. They need to know that God loves them and has a powerful plan for their life. They need to know about the devil and his devices. They need to know of God’s grace and His ability to restore those who have been damaged by their wrong choices.

Children can comprehend that there is a devil who wants to draw them away from God and that it is up to them to choose to trust God even when it is hard to do so. Children can comprehend that when people have chosen to do something that does not please God they become trapped in that sin and find it hard to break free again. They can understand temptation, discipline and the joy of being forgiven.

Don’t hold back Biblical wisdom from your child.

Lighten Up

I have to add this disclaimer, since I have met some pretty intense dads over the years. Some parents are too heavy in their discussion of spiritual realities. Children can feel completely smothered in the weight of spiritual intensity from their parents.

While I advocate spiritual wisdom being taught to the child I also advocate that the parents lighten up. Don’t bury your child in the intensity of the truths you are teaching them. Remember that God wins out in the end. There is no need for your child to want out of life, or to feel that everything will be one enormous burden. Be sure to celebrate God’s supremacy, Christ’s victory, our liberty and the Holy Spirit’s power.

When we have an accurate view of reality we will not be buried in intensity but dancing in anticipation. If your view of Biblical reality does not make you excited then you do not yet know the whole picture.

Turn the Light toward the Heart

When you are dealing with issues either in your child or impacting your child, be sure to open up the heart issues. Turn the spotlight onto the heart to reveal the heart issues in your child which relate to this issue.

When our children were being troubled by other children we would ask our sons, “What must be going on in the heart of that child that he must annoy you in order to be happy?” Our children quickly realised that these trouble children were in fact troubled children. Our children did not envy them nor wish to be like them.

You can also turn the spotlight onto your child’s heart. If they have been annoying one of their siblings you might ask them, “What makes you feel like you need to make your brother unhappy? Are you jealous of your brother?”

Your child is aware of their own heart. Your interrogation or investigation will resonate with their own perception and give them the emotional intelligence to be aware of their own heart.

Train the Human Heart

Once the child has a chance to see their own heart you are able to direct them to respond properly to the issues springing up in their heart.

As they learn to repent and forgive, their heart will be strengthened and they will move away from compromise to clarity and purity of response.

In all that you do as a parent, be sure to train the heart of your child.

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.