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Last week we learned that it’s not good to be on the receiving end of a lion’s roar. If you consistently do what is pleasing to the Lord, you’ll find yourself as refreshed as the morning dew. Solomon moved over and talked about domestic relations. It’s tough to have a foolish son – in fact it can destroy a father. Constant wifely nagging is like a dripping faucet: it can drive you out of your mind. Having a wife is a good thing, but finding a prudent woman is a gift from God. Don’t be lazy – it can lead to hunger. We talked of the importance of keeping the commands of God. It is probably the primary indicator of an authentic relationship with God. If you do a good deed in the name of Jesus to help someone, God will reward your actions; we don’t know if it will happen here, but it will definitely happen in eternity. This morning, we enter into the much debated topic of child discipline.
Pro. 19:18-19 says, “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death. A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.”
This is still a hot topic. Child discipline has been debated for some time. We’ve had experts for years telling us the virtue of corporal punishment and others saying how harmful it is. Other experts tell us that parents need to provide positive reinforcement. Still others use the, “it’s just a phase” argument to excuse inappropriate behavior. There are definitely dos and don’ts of parenting. If you remember back to Pro. 13:24, Solomon said, “He who withholds the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” That sweet smelling, cuddly baby has something lurking within them that is nearly impossible to see when they are so young and innocent. As they grow older, that natural tendency begins to come out. It is stronger in some than in others. That natural tendency is known as sin and it takes many forms. Rebellion, pride, disobedience, stubbornness, deafness, the ability to ignore, laziness, lack of focus, short term memory loss, a propensity to perform certain functions at half their ability. You parents know exactly what I’m talking about. These characteristics come naturally to human beings because we are all sons of Adam. That means we were born with this ability to be ungodly, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12)
The way to overcome that natural tendency is to use the rod. Rod in this verse means correction. It does not refer to a physical rod, or a broom handle, or a switch, or a wooden spoon, or a hair brush. There are other places in Proverbs where that is true, but not in that verse. Solomon is talking about correcting behavior that is not godly; that’s not consistent with the standard. We’re in a church setting here so the Bible should be our standard of truth. We’re to instruct our kids to adhere to the standard. Since we’re all at different places in our walk with Christ, it only makes sense that our kids will follow suit where we walk. Your kids will tend to model the behavior that you demonstrate day in and day out. If you’re prone to lying, your kids will tend to lie and they will get confused as to why they get into trouble for lying. If you’re lazy in your walk of faith, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand why their faith is so important.
Discipline is a good thing. Rules and policies are good things. Believe it or not, most people follow rules and don’t even realize it. If you think otherwise, let me give you a few examples. Our students get on the bus each morning at a certain time so they can get to school without being late. I bet one of the questions you asked during open house at school was, “What time does my child need to be here?” You probably said the same things about the end of school. When you were hired at your job, you probably asked what time you needed to be there and how long you work each day. You file your taxes no later than April 15th of every year. You pay your bills by the date they’re due because if you don’t, the rule is a late fee will be imposed by the business or utility if you fail to adhere to the deadline. You use a #2 pencil on answer sheets so the machine will read your answers. You wait in line at the movie theater to get your tickets, you don’t just go to the front. For the most part, when we know the rules to live by, life is easier to live for all parties involved.
So Solomon broaches the subject of discipline again. “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.” You don’t want to pass the point of no return. You’ve seen this and maybe you’ve seen it in your own children. There will come a time that it is too late to parent your kids. Don’t misunderstand, you’ll always be their mom or dad, but there will come a time where you will be removed from the process and that’s a good thing. All of us should desire to raise our children in a manner that glorifies God and will maximize the possibility that they choose to follow Christ at the earliest possible age. Remember though, there are no guarantees that your child will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I can guarantee you one thing: if you’re a believer and you don’t share the life changing message of the Gospel, you will be held accountable. The follow on question would be, why wouldn’t you tell your child about Jesus? “Discipline your son while there is hope.” We need to take the Barney Fife approach. The moment there is behavior that is not acceptable, we need to nip it, nip it in the bud. If not corrected, those inappropriate behaviors will take root and will develop into habits that are tough to break. It’s way easier to pull a weed when you first see it than it is to pull it when you have time.
Parenting must be intentional. There is no such thing in parenting as losing the battle and winning the war. Every time your child battles you, you must win. You don’t have to be a tyrant, a screamer, or a hitter to win. And don’t apologize for your rules. Will they cry? Probably. Oh, I just can’t listen to my child cry. You’re going to need to get over it. Will they be sad? Most likely. Will they pitch a fit? Maybe. Will it be hard? Naturally. Will they appreciate your consistent discipline? Not for a few years. You’ve seen the parents that are ineffective. They’re the counters. They’re the one more time parents. they’re the ones that call the police when their child won’t go to school. They’re the ones that are training their kids that there’s always another chance and they don’t need to listen right now. They’re the ones where the kids make the rules and rule the roost. Let me be transparent here. I have made major blunders in my parenting. There are times when it’s all you can do to hang on until bedtime. There are times when you feel like you’re a total failure as a human being. Depending on the child, those times may be frequent or infrequent. Some kids are compliant; some are defiant and it can be in the same family. I want you to understand something very important. As a parent, you are responsible for your child. Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that having reasonable expectations for our kids will somehow harm them. At some point, we’ve come to believe that if we tell our kids no, that their psyche will be irreparably damaged.
Every child will benefit from being held to a reasonable, age appropriate standard. This is how they learn and grow. When you don’t correct your children, chaos will result. “Discipline your son while there is still hope, and do not desire his death.” KJV translates this verse, “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” An old German saying goes like this: “It is better that the child weep than the father.” The second part of that verse is to moderate the discipline or punishment. When we go back to the Law, it says, “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.” (Deut. 21:18-21) The Law empowered the elders of the city to mete out punishment by death, not the parents. Think of the elders of the city like our modern day justice system. In Eph. 6:4 Paul said, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In Col. 3:21 he said, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” If you take the time to teach, correct, and discipline your children while there is hope, there’ll be no need to bring them to the elders of the city to be put to death. That gives you the idea of just how bad having rebellious kids really is.
Let’s talk about anger again. “A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.” This typically plays itself out when we make excuses for people that act in ways that are not appropriate. People will say things like, “He can’t help it, he has anger issues.” “He can’t help it, he’s off his meds.” There are bona fide cases where medication is an appropriate treatment for issues, but we’re talking about people just being angry about things and many times, it’s anger about things that cannot be controlled. If you rescue someone that cannot control his anger, you will rescue them over and over and again.
Child discipline is a very hot topic in our culture today. We’ve got people that tell us to spank and not spank. We’ve got people that tell us to let our kids find their own way and don’t discipline at all. Every child will exercise their free will at some point. Not every type of discipline works for every child so figure out what works for your child. For the experienced parents, help new parents. If you see an out of control kid in Walmart or on a plane, offer words of encouragement instead of telling the parent that they need to take care of their child. Rules and policies are good to have; it teaches boundaries. The hope we have in our children turning out good diminishes with each passing year. Take care to raise them while there is still hope. Don’t tolerate out of control anger. If you bail someone out that is frequently angry, you’ll continue to do so. Let them bear the penalty for their behavior.