Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Training Requires Discipline

There is an old saying that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”  If the pudding doesn’t taste good, it really doesn’t matter how good it looks.  The real test of new things is what they produce in real life, not in how good the theory sounds.  The test of a new philosophy for raising children is ultimately how the children turn out.  It was with this in mind that Paul wrote that a pastor or teacher must be “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” In I Timothy 3:4-5.  If he can’t teach his own children to serve the Lord, he certainly isn’t qualified to teach other people to serve the Lord. 

Applying that same principle to the new philosophies about raising children, it quickly becomes apparent that the philosophies do not produce satisfactory results.  Doctor Spock was one of the primary proponents of the idea that punishing or otherwise discouraging a child would damage their mental development and discourage their creativity.  By 1957, he had acknowledged that such a philosophy could be carried too far, and began encouraging parents to set consistent and firm standards, and his later writings took a decidedly different approach than his first book.   Unfortunately, the academic world ignored his later conclusions, just as they had done Darwin’s.  The academic world is very quick to embrace a new theory, but they hardly ever admit they made a mistake if the idea doesn’t pan out, continuing to foist it off on their students as fact, to preserve their pride. What doctor Spock advocated in his later years was much closer to what the Bible teaches than his original book, acknowledging that the permissive attitude was causing serious problems in society. 

The Bible presents a clear philosophy for raising children that has been effective since the inception of the world, Throughout history, the more closely a society has followed those principles, the less societal problems they have had.  Today, even many working psychologists and sociologists are recommending at least a partial return to those principles if our culture is to survive. 

As we saw in the previous post, Proverbs 22:6 instructs, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Training requires actually practicing what we are trying to teach.  Unfortunately, the old saying, “practice makes perfect” is only true if we practicing correctly.  If not, practice makes the mistakes permanent.  Proper training requires correcting those mistakes before they become permanent. 

Some children are eager to please and learn easily, while others resist change, but no child is born with a fully developed understanding of what is good or bad.  Sometimes it is necessary to take action to make them realize that a certain behavior is unacceptable or even dangerous.  Proverbs 11:15 tells us, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”  By taking the time to do what is required to correct their behavior, we can teach the child to make wise decisions and behave properly.  As a result, Proverbs 23:13-14 advises, “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.  Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

Many parents today say they just love their child to much to discipline them.  It is far better to spank a child to teach him not to run into the street than to let him be run over.  It is far better to teach a child to pay attention to what the police tell him than to have him shot because he didn’t learn to obey.  Proverbs 13:24 advises, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”  The problem is not that the parents love their child to much to discipline them, but that they don’t love them enough to teach them how to be safe or have a good life. 

Children who are allowed to get by with things become increasingly determined to do as they please without concern for the consequences, as Ecclesiastes 8:11 tells us.  “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”   By not correcting our children when they need it, we are effectively teaching them to do wrong, and with practice that behavior will become permanent.  To prevent that, Proverbs 19:18 advises, “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”  The longer you wait to teach him, the harder it will be. 

The Goal of discipline is to make the child aware that their behavior is not acceptable.  It is not to hurt him or even per se, to punish him.  no more pain or discomfort should be used than is required to get their cooperation.  If simply telling them to stop is enough that is all that should be done.  If a spanking is required don’t hesitate to do it, but do not take out your anger on the child.  Child abuse is the result of people not having been properly taught to control themselves and do not address problems until they lose control.  Parents who don’t discipline their children properly are far more likely to abuse them that those who address the problem immediately. 

The more consistent discipline is, the less it will be required because the kids know what the rules are, and what the consequences will be.  When the parents are inconsistent, discipline depends on their mood and the kids don’t know what to expect, becoming frustrated and angry.  When there is no discipline, they don’t learn that their actions have consequences, and will stop at nothing, becoming very angry when something tries to stop them.  Modern American society shows the results.  Colossians 3:21 commands, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.”  Inconsistency or hypocrisy discourages people from doing what is right.


  1. Great post, Donald! I agree that many of society's problems today can be traced back to Dr. Spock's early theories. Scientific ideas come and go, but God and His Word are unchanging, and it is best to follow it in parenting as in all things.
    God bless,

  2. Thanks, Laurie.

    Unfortunately often even the scientist or researcher who first proposed an idea cannot convince people to reconsider when the facts are all in.