Most Christians are familiar with the verse in Proverbs 13:24, "He that spares his rod hates his son: but he that loves him chastens him early." We are generally also acquainted with the verse in Proverbs 23:14, "You shall beat him with the rod, and shall deliver his soul from hell." Unfortunately, some have taken these verses literally, applying law with harshness, and not considering the grace that Yeshua introduced us to in the New Testament. Keep in mind that, even in the Old Testament, the word for beat meant to strike either lightly or hard, and in the case of children, a sensible person would know that excessive force should never be used.
The Old Testament taught "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," but Yeshua taught to not resist evil. The Old Testament taught to hate our enemies, but Yeshua said to forgive our enemies and to love them. The Old Testament taught that it was permissible to divorce one's wife if she displeased, but Yeshua taught that the only genuine cause, as far as He is concerned, is sexual unfaithfulness, and that a man ought to love his wife as Yeshua loves the Church and gave Himself for her.
So why would Yeshua teach us to be kind to our enemies and for men to not be so tough on their wives, and not mean for us to apply the same principle of grace to children, the most vulnerable of all? In the time that those verses in Proverbs were written, the minds of men were inclined towards backwards behaviour, evidenced by how they set themselves up in patriarchal systems, kept slaves, and engaged in polygamy.
God meets people where they are at, so He bore with those Old Testament saints' cultural flaws. Yelling at children and hitting them causes brain damage, but is not good for children to be allowed to run wild. Children who are not disciplined do not feel loved. They need to know where the boundaries are to feel safe and cared about. Spanking as a way of discipline is better than no discipline at all, if better ways are beyond a person's understanding. There are better ways, though. We who have the Holy Ghost within us, who leads us into all truth, are in a better situation for learning how to deal wisely with our children.
The "rod" simply refers to discipline; it does not necessarily mean a literal rod. Reality Discipline is the best kind of discipline there is. The remedy for going off track should relate in some way to the offense, and be implemented to an appropriate degree.
When I was a little girl, my mother told me to wash the kitchen floor. I did a sloppy job of it. My mother was not pleased, but if she had spanked me for not doing a good job, I probably would have forgotten about it by the next time I was required to wash the floor, and done a bad job of it again. She did not, however, spank me on that occasion. She made me wash the floor over again, telling me to do it right. I deeply resented having to wash that floor again, but it was the last time I ever had to wash a floor two times in a row. In fact, that lesson carried over to other chores, because I learned that if I did not do it right the first time, I would have to do it over again.
The kind of discipline that worked with me when I was a little girl was the kind that made sense, and that I could tell it had my best interests at heart. The New Testament teaches to not provoke children to wrath. If we expect children to obey us, then we have a responsibility to make it EASY for them to obey us, by being sensitive to their needs, respectful to them as people whose needs are as important as our own, and not having unreasonable expectations. A lot of times, we can avoid needing to discipline our children by being willing to put more effort into our parenting and paying more attention to them.
When I thought I had a handle on knowing how to be a parent, I blundered about like an elephant in a wheat field. When I humbled myself and realized that I desperately needed God's help to know how to deal with my children, crying out to Him for wisdom in individual situations, He gave me some very cool ideas. It helped me feel really good as a parent that I implemented those creative ideas, and the results were satisfying.
Parenting does not have to be drudgery; it can be fun. It depends on what approach we take. If we choose to go with grace, wisdom, and creativity, overall it can be a very satisfying adventure, in spite of the rough spots.
If a person has blown it with their kids and the very best time is past (the early years), it is not too late to do it right. Even if they are in their teens, they will appreciate that we tried hard to make amends by improving our parenting skills. That appreciation might come later, instead of right away. If they are now grown up, don't worry. We get a second chance when we're babysitting our grandchildren, and the grandkids will love us to bits, if we are reasonable and behave in other ways that are truly loving, rather than over indulging them to win cheap points.
I have babysat my grandchildren a lot, particularly the oldest, as his mother was only 17 when he was born. He had a tendency to throw huge tantrums, but he always settled down after I forcefully said to him, "What makes you think that I will do ANYTHING for you, after what you just put me through?" One basic rule is to never reward tantrums.
If he did not cooperate with me, I said to him, "Just you wait and see how well I cooperate with you, the next time you want something." That gave him something to think about.
Most of the time when he was little, we got along really well. My daughter figured that was because I did not ask much of him. Well, as far as chores went, I lived in a tiny bachelor suite and there wasn't much that had to be done, except to put away his toys and, when he was older, help with the dishes.
I challenged Connor to pick up his toys, capitalizing on his competitive streak. I divided the Lego in half and said, "Let's see who can pick up their Lego faster." Another method that worked was to use his stuffies as puppets and put on a bit of a show with them while he picked up his toys. If he stopped picking up this toys, the stuffies stopped doing their thing, too.
There was difficulty getting him to wash or dry dishes when he was around 11, but I was also reading a couple of series of books to him when he was that age. I threatened to not read to him later, if he did not do his chore. It always worked. He could read, but he liked to listen to me read to him, if he was interested in the story.
One was a mystery series and we enjoyed trying to figure out who dunnit. Not murders. They were stories about teens and hints that juvenile detention is no picnic. The other series was about a teenaged spy who did not want to be a spy. Connor asked me to get those books for him. I refused, at first, saying that spies tell lies and they kill people. He had to promise to never be a spy before I checked out the books and we both loved the stories.
I enjoyed doing the villains' foreign accents. I changed things in the story that I did not approve of, and Connor sometimes looked over my shoulder to see if the book really said what I read. I liked to tease him a bit, to see if he was paying attention, by inserting ridiculous things such as, "And then he came across a giraffe that was walking on the sidewalk." Ha ha.
The general practice of engaging in fun activities with children gives us some leverage when using reality discipline, as well as occasions for emotional bonding, which adds to their sense of security, and building happy memories to warm their hearts in later years.
If a child makes a mess, the child should clean up the mess. My son and daughter scribbled on the walls only once. They did not want to have to scrub crayon off the wall again. If once does not cure the kid, just make them clean up their messes until they get the message. Unless they are the ones who clean up the mess, they won't understand that it is not fair to expect others to clean up after them when they are careless or destructive.
Kids should not have more toys and clothes than what they are capable of keeping in order, even if that means that they have only four changes of clothes and six or seven toys. Toys and clothes can be added as they develop a habit of neatness. This takes discipline on the part of the parents. We have to restrain ourselves from overloading our children with toys and clothes, for the sake of helping our children develop good habits and good character.
Side benefits to the parent are more money to save and less laundry to do, as well as not having to see an eyesore of a messy bedroom and their toys scattered all over the house.
Parents also have to model neatness themselves, to be a good example, and we have to patiently demonstrate to our children how to clean up their room and do other chores. Parents have to diligently attend to their own tasks, as well. If a child complains about being used as a slave, it can be pointed out that the parents do chores, too. They don't just sit on the couch watching TV while ordering their kids around.
My mother was a good housekeeper. She taught us to make our beds using hospital corners. We had to wash, wax, and polish the hardwood floors, dust furniture, wash and dry dishes, etc ... we did a lot of inside chores and yard work, as well. We grumbled about being used as slaves, but my mother worked harder than anyone in our home, so we did not have a real basis for complaint; we could not resent her for long for making us do work. In later years when I was a waitress, I was considered the best person to train other servers how to clean up the passbar at the end of the day. I wasn't happy about being stuck with the last shift more than anyone else, but my mother can take it as a compliment to her training.
I preferred earlier, busier shifts where I could earn more tips and complained to the manager, so he eased off a bit. After all, if the other servers knew how to do the job well because I taught them, they should have done it well and been just as qualified to train others.
Being a parent does not give us the privilege of acting like a jerk and expecting kids to give us respect anyway, because the Bible tells children to obey their parents and honour them all their lives. We reap what we sow.
Success as a parent is not measured by how our children behave. It is measured by how accurately we hear God and how much we obey Him. He told me years ago that, even if my children are too immature to appreciate what I do for them, He always appreciates it. At the end of the day, our satisfaction has to rest in how God views our efforts.
Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you.