August 6, 2017

In this issue: Training Your Child by Morris Fraser

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by Morris Fraser

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

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24, KJV

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Proverbs 23:13 KJV (see also Proverbs 23:14, Proverbs 29:15)

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 KJV (see also Colossians 3:21)

The first verse above is the goal of raising children. The second and third are the methods. The fourth warns of poor discipline.

Raising a child is a difficult activity, especially for first-time parents. The natural love associated with parenthood often conflicts with responsibilities and duties necessary for good parenting. But as good parents gain experience, they will treat their children according to the precepts found in the fourth verse above.

Discussions about raising children often involve the issue of corporal punishment – paddling, spanking, hitting with an object such as a switch or a belt. A defense of corporal punishment often is made by appealing to an alleged scripture: “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. In fact, that sentence is not in the Bible. It comes from a 17th Century poet, Samuel Butler, who recast Proverbs 23:14 (“Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”) into simpler language.

The proverbs cited do not forbid hitting with a rod (or cane, or other implement), maintaining that a properly used implement would not kill the child. (That may not be an absolute, but it is a perceived normal result of a “caning”: it may hurt but it won’t kill.)

But the main thrust of Proverbs 23 is in verse 13, which teaches that a parent should not withhold correction from a child. “Correction” does not demand physical hitting, and that is the main point of a correct application of the teaching.

Discipline need not be physical if the proper attitude is consistently maintained by the parent. The child is ever watchful of his parents. The child knows what the mother is thinking when he overturns a glass of milk or refuses to clean up his toys at the first request. The child is learning to react to the parent’s determination, and if he finds out there is no retribution for disobedience, he feels he can continue to do as he wishes.

But if the mother gets across her attitude that toys must be picked up, or glasses of milk should be moved carefully, even if that attitude is put across by a raised eyebrow or a heavy sigh or even a spoken admonition to be careful, and if that attitude is the same each time misbehavior occurs, the child soon learns the correct way to act.

If a parent wants to make sure his child behaves properly, he should correct him, according to Proverbs. He may talk with the child, withhold privileges from the child or otherwise make it known that the child is misbehaving and needs to change his behavior. It is important that the parent understand that such action should be immediate.

How many have watched (and heard) a young child acting up in a public place, such as a restaurant? In many cases, the parent(s) ignore the behavior after a brief, half-hearted admonition to behave. Frequently, the child continues his misbehavior, and the parent(s) apparently decide to ignore the problem, hoping it will go away. It rarely does.

Onlookers can determine quickly at least one thing about those parents’ skill at parenting: They don’t discipline their children properly at home. Correct parenting demands that the first instance of misbehavior should be dealt with immediately. The child thinks he is acting in his own best interests (he likely is correct in that assumption, short term), but the parent should understand that the child’s perceived best interests at the moment are not the best actions in the long term. Parents should, and must, consider the long-term benefit of immediate correction. This falls in line with the proverbs covering such action.

(Personal note: It is my long-held belief that newlyweds should be required to spend at least one year training a young dog to be on its basic best behavior. Pet behaviorists almost always suggest that a dog must be corrected immediately when it misbehaves or it will forget what caused the discipline. If newlyweds can accomplish that, disciplining a more intelligent child should not be difficult. That may sound silly, but in theory it shows the need for proven ability to maintain proper discipline in a household.)

Those who believe that corporal punishment should never be used and who may not believe the Bible is the inspired word of God occasionally cite as an extreme example of physical punishment Exodus 21:15, 17, which state that a child who commits particular sins should be put to death. Note that adults are also children of their parents; these verses do not specify younger children. And the deeds noted (smiting and cursing the parent) are more in line with adult or young adult behavior.

Further, Deuteronomy 21:18-21 details how capital punishment should be handled. It is not meted out by the parent but by a duly convened court (elders of the city sitting at the gate).

The Old Testament cites no example of a younger child being executed for sassing his parents. It is more likely that adult behavior is the topic when discussing children who misbehave toward their parents. But even if we were to concede that a pre-teen may have been subject to execution under the Mosaic Law for disobeying his parents, we also must note that the Mosaic Law is no longer in effect and that the New Testament does not carry forward any such idea, the Mosaic Law having been done away (“nailed to the cross”, Colossians 2:14).

Parents are well-advised to prevent any sort of punishment of their children by raising them according to God’s precepts. Children being human and prone to error may make mistakes and even commit sins when they are grown, even though they were taught better as children. But the parents are charged to “train” them, not lord it over them all their lives.

The goal of parents should be raising their children properly and preparing them to be adults, sending them forth to repeat the process under which they learned. ~

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