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.