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Principle 12: Biblical Correction

Scripture has much to offer in the way of the correction children need in their formative years and probably one of the hottest debated topics is the use of "spanking" or "paddling" your children.  I remember this debate quite well as a new parent, having been raised in a home where spanking was an acceptable means of discipline, but being surrounded with other new parents who thought "hitting" your child was just totally wrong.  I don't seek to settle the dilemma today as to "right" or "wrong" as it applies to spanking or paddling your children, but please hear me out as this lesson unfolds.  I think there is a principle being taught in the scripture which goes beyond the "means" of discipline used to correct the child to the "heart" behind any and all discipline rendered by a parent.  It is for the correction of behavior which will lead the child into harmful stuff if ignored - and when rendered with the heart and compassion of a loving parent, it should always be within the boundaries of what does not bring more "harm" to the child.  God's lessons are sometimes hard for me to learn, I don't know about you.  When I am not getting them, he sometimes has to resort to what brings me to a place of paying attention. A parent's discipline should only be as "significant" as will bring the child to the place they are paying close attention to what is said, embracing the correction required in their behavior.

Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones; a spanking won’t kill them.  A good spanking, in fact, might save them from something worse than death.  (Proverbs 23:13-14 MSG)

There are various forms of discipline - verbal (correction with words alone); separation (time outs); withholding a privilege (taking away something the child enjoys); and even spanking (the most controversial of all).  All discipline is for the intention of "correction" - even when it is a gentle guidance with words or a moment to just stop to think about one's behavior.  God does this all the time with us - gently dropping in a word of warning, or perhaps giving us a sense we are not on the right track and then asking us to stop long enough to get our bearings again.  The intent of this passage is not to "sanction" the use of a wooden spoon or spatula against the child's backside as much as it is the heart of the parent to not be "soft" on a child's rebellion. A parent needs to take an active role in correcting behavior which will afford the child opportunities for more harm if left "unchecked".

Proverbs 29:15 says:  The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (ESV)  The goal of any discipline is to bring learning - the cessation of the wrong behavior, coupled with the opportunity to embrace the right one, and hopefully the change in "will" that leads to the child doing the right thing in the future.  Hebrews 12:11 reminds us that discipline seems very unpleasant while we are going through it, but in the end, if we are "trained" by it, we will reap pleasant things in our lives. Whenever I told a lie as a child, my parents would seek to correct the desire to "cover up" my wrongdoing by telling that lie.  Why?  They knew my tendency to lie a little as a child to "cover up" my wrongdoing would result in me doing it more and more until telling untruths became the method I dealt with anything I found unpleasant in life.  I needed the lesson because it helped to sculpt my character.

Now, as to the topic of the "rod" or paddling.  I don't want to say it is either correct or incorrect, but if you thoroughly explore scripture, I think you will see there are instances where it is quite appropriate, but within boundaries. Those boundaries need to be recognized prior to any discipline - for ALL discipline should be done within these boundaries.  What are they?  Be sure the "punishment" fits the wrongdoing.  If you always resort to using the method of "paddling" your child as a means of discipline, I daresay the overuse of the "rod" may not be the best means of correction.  I remember my parents reserving a spanking for those things which really mattered.  A time out, or privilege restriction was warranted when I didn't do my chores, but when I back-talked and undermined my mother's authority, showing her grave disrespect, I might have found a couple whacks on the backside as a means of letting me know this behavior was just totally not tolerated.  Why?  I am commanded to honor my parents in scripture - it is expected behavior and there is absolutely no wiggle room with it.  The restricted privileges for undone chores meant that I not only had to do the chores later than I was supposed to be doing them, but then I lost something of my free time I enjoyed.  This connected the idea of being responsible for the things I was "put in charge of doing" with the idea of having free time when they were done.  The punishment fit the wrongdoing!

All discipline must be tempered in love - respecting the gifts of life and relationship we are entrusted with.  At no time does scripture support discipline being rendered in anger, or in a manner which frustrates the child and drives them further away or into their own rage.  There is enough in this life to drive us into wayward behavior without the rage of a parent being one of them.  In taking discipline seriously, correcting your own behavior first so you are ready to correct the behavior of your child second, you are assuming your responsibility well.  So, as the matter of discipline goes, it is not whether you spank, but that you tailor the discipline to "fit" the behavior and desired outcome.  Some things are just never acceptable; others just reveal lazy, childlike behavior.  Time outs, taking away privileges, and other creative means may correct the childlike behavior.  When it gets to rebellious and willful disrespect, the discipline might need to be a little more serious.  It is a balance between love and control - you must always discipline in love, remaining in full control of your emotions first, and seeking to connect the desired behavior with what it is you are correcting.  Just sayin!

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