The bible is unambiguous about the requirement for parents to discipline their children. If we get uncomfortable about such teaching, then our issue really is with God the Father. His teaching is plain:
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.”
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”
“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”
There’s no way of getting around the issue. The world will say that if you discipline your son, you hate him. And God says that if you don’t discipline your son, you hate him. It is a good idea to side with the apostles on this one and say, “We must obey God rather than man.”
The underlying disdain for the rod is ultimately an underlying disdain for discipline and correction. Many have bought the lie that independence is freedom. If a child cannot do his own thing in his own way, the he is reckoned a slave. That is a pernicious lie. One that is the exact opposite of the truth. The whole gentle parenting movement is the one producing little slaves. In such a model, the kiddos are taught to say “Sir, yes sir” to their passions every time. The result of this kind of thing is death—Proverbs 5:23 “He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.”Proverbs 19:18 “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.” Along with death, comes stupidity: Proverbs 12:1 “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates reproof is stupid.”
With the general teaching set before us, there are some particulars to address.
First, the use of the rod is not punishment but training. The picture in your mind (and the child’s) must not be that of a vertical line with good on one side and bad on the other, “You crossed the line little man and now you’re going to suffer the punishment.” That’s not the right sentiment. Fathers are to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, not the nurture and admonition of the soul-sucking legalism. The child whom you discipline is with you, having God as Father, Christ as Sanctifier, and the little man is a partaker of the Holy Spirit as you are. You’re use of the rod must not smell of sulfur and condemnation. It is a model of the Good Shepherd’s rod that leads us down paths of righteousness.
Second, your use of the rod must be calm and measured. If you cannot discipline your emotions, then you have no business disciplining your child. The Bible, of course, tells you to discipline your child so you must get to disciplining your emotions. Circumstances will vary with age, sex, and other factors, but in the main it is wise to ask the child why you pulled them over. Have him acknowledge where he went wrong. Reassure him of love. Say how many swats will be administered to the hind parts. And ensure he is in fellowship with you afterward.
Third, move on with joy. There is no sulking after discipline. There are no grudges on the part of parent or child. Hebrews tells us that the Father disciplines those whom he loves. If we are left without discipline, we are bastards and not legitimate sons. So we move on thanking the Lord that he turns the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.
Fourth, keep the discipline private. Love covers a multitude of sins so don’t go storytelling or telegraphing your child’s encounter with the paddle. You may live in an open carry state when it comes to firearms. But I recommend concealed carry if you’re carrying around a wonder wand.
Fifth, use wisdom and good judgment when determining when to discipline. Parents should expect cheerful obedience right away. So in the main, if there is disrespect instead of cheer or delayed obedience (age appropriate of course), then you’re in the discipline zone.
Sixth, the rod should be used in the little years and weaned off as the children grow.
Seventh, there is nothing wrong with regrouping and repenting when the general tenor of the home is grumpy and undisciplined. There are times when dad and mom need to gather up the children and say, “We’ve been raising our voice, repeating ourselves, getting frustrated with you, and the whole thing just hasn’t been what it needs to be. That’s all on us and we ask you to forgive us.” After forgiveness is extended and received, follow up with, “We’re now renewing our commitment to cheerfulness in the home, sacrificial love, and the simple use of the love paddle when needed.”
Eighth, and this final point is more general and paradigm setting, raise your kids according to an upside down triangle. Many parents raise their children according to a regular old triangle. It is wide at the bottom when the children are young. There is little correction at this time when they are small. Then parents start to tighten down as the child grows. The child receives less and less privileges until the situation is bottlenecking with the teenagers who will abide by your rules as long as their under your roof and what not. We find at this stage that we are the champions of discipline, bringing the hammer down as they say.
My recommendation is to flip that triangle upside down. The little ones need lots of correction. Yes, try to give them a world full of yeses and a few solid nos. This is good advice and maps on to what our Father did with the trees in the Garden of Eden. But this teaching can be misappropriated by some such that their little children are simply hog wild. Don’t be heavy handed of course. But do set clear parameters for small children. They can be trained to sit still. They can be trained to come when you call. They can be trained to sit when you tell them to sit and stay when they tell you to stay. Your child has better stuff going for him than your German Shepherd.
Add to this not running in crowded spaces where there are elderly people, looking older people in the eyes and saying hello, firm handshakes, and speaking up. Boys do well to stand behind their chairs at dinner until mom and sisters sit down.
All of this takes hard work. It is training. And as the children grow, they will have the self-control and discipline required for greater liberties and responsibilities. Take the training wheels off and let them ride. None of this is new. But it is good sound wisdom. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”