by HARVEY YODER
Many people seem to believe the main thing the Bible says about child discipline is “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” even though that saying is found in Ben Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac rather than in scripture. True, there are a couple of verses in Proverbs about the use of a rod in correcting a child, but the primary use of a shepherd’s rod (or staff) is not for punishing sheep but for protecting and guiding them.
There are several other texts calling us to diligently teach children God’s love and God’s ways—“when we get up, when we lie down and when we are on the way with them.” In other words, around the clock.
He showed great concern for the wellbeing of children.
There are also two brief texts which urge parents to bring up their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” that is, in the spirit and teachings of Jesus, and that we should never correct in ways that incite anger or cause discouragement. Neither of these New Testament passages mentions the use of a rod or promotes any form of physical punishment like spanking, slapping or whipping.
So how would Jesus have us parent?
While we seldom think of Jesus as a model for child rearing, he was a fully engaged mentor to twelve young followers with whom he practiced the kind of assertive toughness and soft tenderness we could all learn from. And he showed great concern for the wellbeing of children.
1) Jesus gives high priority to children and condemns in the strongest terms any kind of disrespect or harm done to them.
2) Jesus affirms the teachableness, defenselessness and dependency of children as examples we should all learn from.
3) Jesus teaches his followers faith and values by word and everyday example, explains things by using simple illustrations, devotes himself to meeting his followers’ needs, shows them honor and respect, prays for them, answers their questions, engages them in ongoing conversations, gives them challenging work assignments, and is assertive in correcting them as needed.
4) Jesus corrects by word and by reproof, without the use of any form of physical force. He nowhere advocates the use of a rod or any kind of violence toward anyone of any age.
5) Jesus’s teaching about dealing with someone who commits a wrong (Matthew 18:15-17) might serve as a model for correcting misbehavior in people of all ages:
a) Appeal to the offending person respectfully and in private.
b) Address the issue (the fault) rather than attack or put down the person.
c) Appeal for change rather than simply administer punishment.
d) Take another with you if necessary to urge a change of heart and behavior.
e) As the ultimate sanction, remove the offender from fellowship with the rest of the family or faith community (a form of time out!) until the misbehavior is acknowledged and corrected.
Could this be a good example of how we should parent?
Harvey Yoder is a family counselor and teaches parenting and marriage classes at the Family Life Resource Center. Questions relating to family concerns can be addressed to FLRC, 273 Newman Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22801 or to Harvey@flrc.org. His blog can be followed at harvyoder.blogspot.com.