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TEXT: Proverbs 22:6

SUBJECT: Proverbs 20: Formative Child Discipline


The discipline of children falls into two categories, "formative and corrective". As the names imply, formative discipline seeks to "form" good character and conduct in the child, while its corrective counterpart aims at "correcting" bad character and behavior. Both are essential. For commanding obedience without the threat of the rod will never convince your child that you are serious, while spanking without instruction will do little more than "provoke him to wrath".

The two subjects naturally overlap. But for the sake of clarity, we will deal with them separately. Therefore, tonight's subject is "The Formative Discipline of Children". May God grant us the grace to understand and implement it rightly, for Christ's sake. Amen.



It is the parents' duty to cultivate good character and behavior in their children. This seems so obvious as to require no proof. But so that our foundation will be sure, I must address it. Therefore, consider the following:

The light of nature demands it. "If any man does not provide for his own, especially of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel". Thus Pagans provide for their own. But such provision is more than food and clothing. It always includes at least some kind of training, e.g., "how to work, to tell the truth, etc.". If, therefore, idolators practice formative discipline, then how can Christian parents ignore it?

Natural affection would require it. Most parents want the best for their children. Thus they insist on good grades, encourage paper-routes, and sign up for little leagues because they suppose that study, work, and sports will be good for their offspring. But Chrisitan parents know that "Godliness is profitable". If, therefore, they love their children at all, they will do everything within their power to bring it about.

The parents unique place necessitate it. "As much as you have opportunity, do good unto all men". But who has more opportunity to influence a child than his parents? Obviously no one. Therefore, this duty especially devolves upon them. 19:18

But most especially, the Scripture everywhere commands the positive discipline of children.

The Proverbs especially abound in such counsel. See, e.g., 1:8, 2:1-5, 3:1, 4:1-4.

The New Testament well agrees with the Old. Ephesians 6:1-4.

This is a place at which many sincere believers stumble. Many spank often, but teach very rarely if at all. For are at least three reasons for it: ignorance, laziness, and a bad conscience.

Most parents of young children were born after the Second World War, i.e., from the late 1940's to 60's. This generation was largely reared under the ultra-lenient philosophy popularized by Dr. Benjamin Spock. These people know of its moral-bankruptcy, from both Scripture and experience. They vow to avoid it all costs. But, being creatures of extremes, they overreact, and begin to think that discipline consists of five items: spanking, paddling, whipping, birching, and beating! But as I have already demonstrated, Scripture speaks otherwise. Under the blessing of God, you need two instruments to be a good parent, a rod and a Bible. One without the other will be useless. Let your ignorance, therefore, be dispelled.

Many Christian parents correct, but do not instruct, out of pure laziness. It doesn't take very long to correct. "I SAID, SHUT UP!!!" can be vented in two seconds. A good spanking, I would estimate, can be administered in two minutes. Thus, correcting a child does not take much time from the parent. But seeking to form good habits takes in them nothing but time. Very few Christian parents are willing to take the time--to turn off the television, to hang up the phone, to close the book, to come in from the shop--to train their children. Alas!

The greatest hindrance, however, is a guilty conscience. Solomon evidently wrote the Proverbs in the earlier years of his reign, in those days in which he sought God's wisdom above everything else. From this platform, it is no wonder he could write so forcefully, "My son, hear the instruction of your father". But later, of course, Solomon fell into idolatry. Do you think he spoke as often and as well to his children then? An ungodly father can beat his ungodly children, but he can never train them unto godliness. Dear parent, do you feel tentative about teaching the Bible? Uncomfortable in leading family worship? Nervous when it comes to discussing "Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control"? I wonder why this is true? Solomon tells us. 28:1.

Godly parents, therefore, must not rest with "Driving folly from the hearts of their children", but must equally persevere in filling that void with "Wisdom". If your discipline consists of spanking alone, then you will drive out "one evil spirit", only to be replaced with "seven more wicked than himself". The "Last state of your child will be worse than the first".











Create a godly atmosphere in the home.

Israel's chief duty is identical to our own. "Hear, O Israel: the LORD your God is one LORD. You shall love the LORD your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your might". (Deuteronomy 6:4,5).

But how, do you suppose, they were to implement and perpetuate such a command? VV.6-9 of the same chapter explain it well.

Under the blessing of God, such an environment will conduce to good character in the children. But a secular home, with a Bible on the coffee table will produce, at best, a "Form of godliness without its power".

Dear parents, if you want to see your children forming good character, then you must convince them that "Your religion is not a Sunday morning affair. It is your life". One sobering note. You will never fool them.

This means that certain kinds of television and music will simply not be tolerated in the home. Here is a question: Does most popular music and television fall under the description of Ephesians 5:3-4?

You object. "The world is full of this music. They will hear it anyway. So, it won't hurt to have it in the home." Answer #1. Would you apply the same argument to any other sin, e.g., fornication? Answer #2: Is the Christian home to be both in and of the world? Answer #3: If you permit it at home, will this encourage or discourage the children from listening to it elsewhere?

You object. "I cannot do anything about it!" Answer: you cannot do much about it in the world. Your children might very well hear it at school, at their friends, etc. But you can, morally and legally do something about it at home. If a forty-year old man cannot prevent his twelve year old daughter from listening to ungodly music in his own home, then let me address a word to him which he might understand, "Squeak, squeak, squeak".













Establish a time for family worship and instruction.

As already noted, the Proverbs command godly parents to teach their children "words, law, commands, doctrine, discretion, wisdom" and so on.

Theoretically, I suppose, this teaching might take place regularly, but an random times. But I ask you, "Will it"? If you do not set aside a particular time to do something, will it ever be done? In most cases, no. This is especially true when it comes to family devotion. "Dad's watching the ballgame. Mom's on the phone. The daughter is getting ready for her date. The son is late for practice. The baby is about ready for bed. Thus the father who sincerely wants to instruct his family simply cannot find a time to do it. So, what should he do?

He should make the time. Set it aside. Insist that all the parties be there, without exception.

Cultivate and insist on good companionship.

The power of "peer pressure" must be respected. For fear of being "weird" many children have departed from their parents' teaching and brought upon themselves the awfulest consequences, including unwed pregnanancy, drug addiction, drunk-driving, athiesm, and a host of others.

The parents, therefore, must supervise their children in their selection of friends. This will sometimes require forbidding them to see certain people and encouraging to see others. It is written, "He who walks with the wise will be wise, but a companion of fools will be destroyed". (13:20).

This will require, at least, warning, 4:1,14-15.

And, whenever possible, action. Your son may see his ungodly girlfriend behind your back, but you don't have to make it easy for him.

Parents must, to the best of their ability, restrain their young. Cf. the lives of Eli and Samuel.

Present a good example.

Good words which proceed from bad parents only disgust children. They have but little influence. How does the parent answer his children, "If it is so important to be godly, then why are you godly?"

Good training from good parents has a powerful influence upon the children. Thus we read often in Chronicles that certain kings, "Walked in the way of their father, David.




Under the blessing of God, good formative discipline will produce good character in children, 22:6.

Its lack will produce just the opposite. 29:15.



Do it early. 19:18.

Do it prayerfully with faith, "Except the LORD build the house"

Do it expecting God to bless His own work. "Doubtless". Maybe not now, but perhaps far into the future, e.g., John Newton.

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