This post is a record of my current personal paradigm shift. I feel as if I’m in the middle of switching realities. Bear with me as I’m figuring things out.
- Obedience should be cheerful, quick, and complete. Absolutely!
- Do we actually do that? Absolutely not!
- Should we train and discipline our children to? Absolutely!
- Does God punish us every time we don’t? Should we punish them every time they don’t? Hmmm.
Instead of punishing our children for every infraction to “instill obedience” or “correct habits,” how about letting them “get away with” some things?
Maybe children shouldn’t be expected to be seen and not heard, obeying quickly, completely, and cheerfully the first time every time. Maybe that is demanding too much, setting the standard too high. Maybe it is better for them to be foolishly, sinfully unafraid throw tantrums occasionally and be as disobedient to us as we are to God.
Maybe instead of beating them so they will be more quiet, maybe the right thing to do is to treat them gently and avoid putting them in situations where they are more likely to sin. And when they do sin, as they inevitably will, because we all do, maybe we should understand that they do so out of weakness (being overly tired, overly hungry, sick or in pain, etc.) and we should respond to them in ways other than immediate corporal punishment. Maybe corporal punishment should be saved for the most extreme of cases instead of being used as a blanket first response for everything.
Am I beating my children and attempting to control their behaviour to save myself embarrassment among people whom we know will condemn us based on the behaviour of our children? Am I doing it to help save their souls?
Spanking does not save souls. And my job is not to control their behaviour. My job is to guide them to want to do the right thing. Beating lambs does not seem like the best way to do that anymore.
Training & Discipline
Why is it that in the context of Christian parenting, the words “training” and “discipline” are so often used interchangeably or synonymously with “spanking”? Training and discipline throughout other spheres of life (except perhaps the military) do not involve physical beatings for mistakes.
Athletes, mathletes, no matter the field, students practice and practice. And if the coach or teacher is standing over them with a stick beating them for every mistakes or for not going fast enough, it is not usually considered very good coaching or teaching. How can it be considered good parenting?
When teaching children anything, I don’t think the most important thing is cramming their little brains with facts or forcing them to conform to whatever extra-biblical standards we arbitrarily come up with and label “Christian.” I believe the most important thing parents and teachers can do is to point them in the right direction, encourage them so they want to learn more, help them to want to do the right thing out of love.
Love, Feeling The Love
Love needs to be the motivator, not fear. Without love, no matter how perfectly behaved a child you end up with, it means nothing (1 Corinthians 13). (And I know that sometimes the most loving thing a parent can do for a child does not feel like love to that child, like when parents take away something dangerous from babies or don’t stop them put their hands in a fire, or do not give a teenager permission to get a motorcycle.)
Part of being loved is feeling loved, having an unwavering assurance of love. We can never be too loving. We can never give too much love. I feel as if it should be needless to say, but regularly beating children with a stick is not the best way to make them feel loved.
Spankings may be appropriate in some situations, but if it is used for everything, but in most situations there are far better ways of dealing. It takes a lot of wisdom, observation, and creativity to figure out what is right for each child in different situations.
“You cannot give your children too much assurance of your love, and you do not need to — in fact, you must not — teach them to question their assurance in order to get them to toe the line and live the way they should.
“And so it is with the church.
“Presumption is deadly and pastors should preach the covenantal warnings of Scripture. But no one has ever perished because he had too much assurance, because he trusted too much that God loved him, that Jesus died for him, that the Spirit was working to glorify him.”
— John Barach
It is easy for anyone to hold another person to a higher standard than oneself. It is easier to see the speck in another’s eye than the log in one’s own. It is easy for parents hold their children up to higher standards than they do themselves and cloak it under the guise of “tough love” but it is simply hypocritical and eventually children will get older and recognize it for what it is. Teenagers have problems with rebellion, true, but often that rebellion and resistance against parents comes from reaching an age where they start recognizing the hypocrisy.
Obviously, parents cannot be perfect all the time. But when parents beat their children constantly for things that they cannot do or that they do not even try to do themselves, it reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the servant who was forgiven an insurmountable debt by his master and then went off to oppress someone who owed him a small amount (Matthew 18:21-35).