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Spare The Rod?

We have all heard the term “spare the rod”. It comes from Proverbs 13:24

24 He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

While much of the book of Proverbs contains short two to four line bits of wisdom, chapter thirteen is a whole chapter dedicated to wisdom. It starts by telling us a wise son will listen to the voice of his father, and how the unwise will mock that instruction.   It goes on depicting several word pictures of how those who are wise fare well in life, and those who are unwise fare much worse.

Our family recently had an incident in which someone attempted to correct our children by inflicting physical pain. While the incident was addressed it made me think of this verse. This person’s goal was to change their behavior. The problem is that causing a child physical pain will probably just make the child avoid you. It won’t teach the true consequence of the behavior you want them to avoid. True discipline invokes trust, not fear. True discipline offers a construct a child will be able to use in adulthood.  

No one wants their children to be unwise. No parent gets a “my middleschooler failed algebra.” bumper sticker. We want our kids to succeed. When they do fail or act unwise we offer correction to guide them in the right direction. The goal of discipline is to help the child grow up wise. Discipline is not the same as punishment. Punishment confines and controls while disciplines guides and corrects.

The historical picture of Proverbs 13:24 is that of a shepherd keeping his sheep from harm. Shepherds don’t beat their sheep. A wounded sheep is of no use to the shepherd. Like children, sheep lack wisdom. They must have guidance to survive. Shepherds guide their sheep to green pastures. If one begins to stray, the shepherd uses the rod to bring the sheep back into the flock.

Parents don’t profit off of their children like a shepherd does his sheep. Parents want their kids to have good lives. They want their kids to prosper. Parents want their kids to grow up being able to provide for their family. We want them to learn as many of life’s lessons while they are in our care. My wife tells our boys, “if you don’t learn the lesson now the world will teach you when you are older, and it won’t be pleasant.” 

The moral of the story is this. You don’t need to hit your kids to teach them. You need to teach them what you already know by showing them what the outcome of their choices will be.  Sometimes we teach them by allowing natural consequences to run their course. Other times we have to craft consequences that suit the behavior. The latter is more difficult. It involves trial and error. What works with one child may not work with another. While I hate to leave it at that I’m out of words for this post. I think you get the idea, and I pray the rod you use leads your children to great wisdom.

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