Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Discipline, part two

[note: very shortly I will be splitting this blog into two parts. This one will deal with family issues or mental health issues. The other blog will deal with things religious, personal, and political. Stay tuned]

Anytime you speak of discipline the subject of spanking gallops into the room. Remembering that discipline is not the same as punishment, let's examine the subject of spanking -- even though doing so is guaranteeing that I will upset quite a few people.

There are three key terms used in scripture: chasten, chastise, and rod. (using KJV terms here since they are so locked in and traditional)

"Chasten" means to instruct or train. It is found, among other places, in Psalm 6:1; Proverbs 94:12, Proverbs 19:18; Job 5:17; and Revelation 3:19. It can mean physical punishment, but quite often it does not. It is a broad term that refers to all forms of training and discipline.

"Chastise" is a completely unrelated word. Yes, in English it is a kissing cousin, but not in Hebrew or Greek. It clearly means physical punishment. It is sometimes translated "punish" or "scourge." We find it in Deuteronomy 22:18; 1 Kings 12:11; Luke 23:16. NOTE THIS: it is NEVER used in a discussion of children. It is always used in reference to the rebellion of adults or nations. God administers this chastisement through His law. Parents are never given permission in scripture to "chastise" their children.

But what about "Rod?" I hear you cry. Fair enough -- let's look at this. Many words are translated "rod" in our English versions but the most common is the Hebrew word "shebbete" meaning a teacher's pointer, a shepherd's crook, a king's sceptre, or the body of law (aka "canon"). Read Proverbs 22:15 and 29:15-17 and ask yourself what is being discussed -- a stick to hit someone with or law and teaching? It becomes obvious that the rod -- a symbol of law, authority, and teaching -- is not a beating stick. See also Proverbs 13:24 and ask the same questions.

Discipline is ALWAYS more a matter of example and teaching than it is punishment. Punishment can be required, but when it is the first resort, or the preferred method, that is a sign of laziness. It is easier to hit than to teach. God calls us to more difficult level of service than the animalistic "I'm mad, therefore I hit" mentality.

So is spanking always wrong? Not in the least. Some physical intervention is required when a child is in physical danger or is placing someone else in physical danger. When a child is reaching for a pot of boiling water it is no good to say "Now, Johnnie, remember our song about hot and cold?" Grab the kid! If needed, smack a hand and tell them "no!" The kid who rode their bike into traffic should be grabbed and lifted back into the yard with an urgency that impresses on their mind that something extraordinary and wrong has just occured.

But no harming the child, no marking them, and no terrorizing them. Ever. Stay very, very calm and in control. Don't over-react. Here are some examples: I was downstairs in my comfy chair when I heard my then four year old daughter talk back sharply to my wife. I left my chair, went upstairs, entered the room and told my wife that I would take it from there. I lifted my daughter, took her downstairs, and sat her on the dining table as I leaned in close to her face and said -- evenly and low -- "no one talks to my wife like that. Not my father, not the elders, not a policeman -- no one, ever, gets to talk to my wife like that. Understand me? I knew her before I knew you and one day when you are gone she will still be here. She is mine and I am hers. Got it?" Guess what? She did. I had a girl who went through her teen years without rebelling against her mother. She might disagree with her mother or even be very frustrated by her, but she knew there were strict limits in place and DAD was still roaming the house to protect his wife.

One day my son, then aged eight, got out of control. He was having one of those days when nothing was going right for him (we all have them) and I actually felt sorry for him. But when he spoke sharply to his sister and puffed himself up physically as if he was going to strike her I whacked him on the leg with my hand and told him to back off. We then went into another room and I listened to him tell me of his terrible day. I talked to him about how to handle those kind of things and we got it sorted out. No harm, no foul.

But maybe you try to discipline your kid and it doesn't work. There might be some real reasons why. We'll examine those next time.


At 5/02/2006 02:48:00 PM , Blogger Matt said...

Awesome article. This subject is something that I've spent some time thinking about. I've often wondered why some parents are effective in disciplining their children and others aren't. I've come up with a couple of attributes for the ones who are successful:

Confidence: Be sure in the fact that you represent God to the child and he's tasked you with correctly training him or her. Kids are like animals, in that they can sense fear. Parents may need some training to develop this confidence.

Consistency: Know what's really important and what's trivial. Don't waste time on the trivial things and send powerful messages when the kid messes up one of the important ones.

Discipline is inconvenient: Kids will figure out that they can get away with more when you're tired, or distracted by something. Be willing to turn off the TV, hang up the phone, get off of the couch and address problems immediately. This goes along with the consistency thing. Also, realize that disciplining a child is going to require a huge sacrifice of your own time and effort.

I've got this theory that if a parent can consistently and lovingly discipline a child throught the first five or so years, the rest is smooth sailing. Not that there aren't unique problems that will surface as the child grows through different ages (and my oldest is only 11, so I'm sure I'll find out), but you can teach a child respect, politeness, and self-sufficiency at a very early age, and then refine on those basic lessons the rest of their lives. Bottom line: If you allow your child to be rebellious to you, what makes you think their attitude toward God will be any different?

Anyway, this is an awesome thread you've started and I pray that many parents will take this advice and own the responsibility for shepherding their children to heaven!

At 5/02/2006 10:34:00 PM , Blogger Bill said...


This is an excellent post—one that sets forth the ideal in clear and concise terms. Oh, that it could always run along so smoothly! But, occasionally the wheels fall off and we make some big mistakes. There have been times when I’ve needed to humble myself and ask my children to forgive me for bungling the dad thing. They have taught me so much about grace in these times!

Keep the good stuff coming, brother!


At 5/04/2006 08:21:00 AM , Blogger L.E.Meredith said...

Brother Patrick
I hardly ever disagree with another’s article in writing I usually just agree or disagree
And keep my opinions to myself.
But the following statement I disagree with so much I believe it requires rebuttal in writing. ( I leaned in close to her face and said -- evenly and low -- "no one talks to my wife like that. Not my father, not the elders, not a policeman -- no one, ever, gets to talk to my wife like that. Understand me? I knew her before I knew you and one day when you are gone she will still be here. She is mine and I am hers. Got it?") It instantly reminded me of the Reggie White commercial showing parents getting in the face of young children (four years old) and Reggie leaned in close to the camera and said “how would you like me in your face” as Reggie said we should never Intimidate, bully, threaten or scare children into obeying parents. Just as Christians should never be scared into obeying God. Both instances of obedience should be inspired out of love from both the Father and the child. I am not opposed to a paddle on the behind when absolutely unavoidable, but don’t make it a first choice.
Don’t we wish we could see into the hearts of our children, as God can, or do we?
As you said I too think you have upset quite a few people. Children are my greatest weakness.
God Bless you

At 5/04/2006 08:36:00 AM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

I appreciate your comment and your concern. If you were to talk to Kara you would see that she never felt intimidated. She was being told what was real, unchangeable, and solid in a way that she could understand it. My voice was never raised. My face never showed anger. I got in close to her (say -- a foot and a half away) because at that age if the child is not focused on your eyes and face, they do not hear you.

At 5/04/2006 06:33:00 PM , Anonymous agentlespirit said...

Speaking as a parent who has known true rebellion in their teenagers, it comforted me many years later for one of them to tell me that it wasn't MY fault she made the choices she did anymore than I blame my mother for everything I've ever done--good and bad.

One thing that worked well with my kids when they were grade school and up and acting out in the grocery store was to tell them that if they were getting out of hand, I would gently touch the offender's ear once. If that didn't change the offender's behavior, the ear would get a second gentle touch and a spanking delivered once in the car to go home.

Poor Jared. He's the only one that ever tested it and found out I meant business and it always worked after that. Consistency IS important.

Funny thing is,one day I was at the mall with Jared and Amy when they were teens one of them touched my ear and said, "Mom, you need to calm down a little". We all had a laugh over itand I think I calmed down! lol!

PS: If "Cheetah" ever comments on your blog, that's my cat. She has her own blog too and sometimes she forgets to sign out and I don't check who's signed in.....

At 5/04/2006 08:48:00 PM , Blogger Matt Tapie said...

Patrick this is great. I have never seen anyone treat this subject with such balance, wisdom, and theological reflection. Keep writing!!

At 5/05/2006 03:04:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great comments. Oh how much easier it is to look back and assess, than it is to look forward and perform our roles well.I will briefly comment on a posted comment about getting in Kara's face.Fear is a healthy beginning to all understanding.(Ps:111-10)
Without fear and adoration first, Love has no basis because the full impact of Grace is lost in self made knowledge of what God would and wouldn't do to disobedient spiritual children. It's only when the fear that exists stays and becomes the sole motivation for our response to God that it is misplaced.


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