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TEXT: Proverbs 29:15
SUBJECT: Proverbs 21: Corrective Child Discipline
The discipline of children is a duty Divinely imposed upon every parent. It naturally falls into two categories, formative and corrective. As the names indicate, formative discipline seeks to "form" good character, while its corrective counterpart aims to "correct" bad character.
Last week I spoke on the former. This week, if God should so bless, I will address the latter. Tonight's subject, therefore, is "The Corrective Discipline of Children". May God give us the grace to understand and implement it rightly, for Christ's sake. Amen.
It is the parents' duty to correct bad behavior in their children. In a traditional society, this fact would be accepted without proof. But as our culture has become so radical, the duty needs be often restated and reinforced. From a Christian point-of-view, therefore, I offer five facts which make this duty plain and undeniable.
Your child is human. In Adam and Eve, humanity was created upright, with a knowledge of God, with a sinless heart, with an inclination to righteousness, and placed in a unfallen world. Yet even in this state of integrity, he needed corrective discipline. Thus the LORD God strictly forbade him to eat of that "tree which was in the midst of the garden upon pain of death". If therefore, your child is human, then he needs corrective discipline.
Your child is a fallen human. Adam did not remain in his original state. But by voluntary transgression fell from it. This fall had a radical effect upon his offspring. By virtue of Adam's federal headship, God imputed his guilt to every human. Thus, your new-born baby, who has never made a rational decision, "decided in Adam" to transgress the Covenant, and is therefore guilty before God, liable to death, and judgment. Moreover, by virtue of ordinary generation, Adam's sinful nature is imparted to all his children. Thus, David could write, "Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me". And as every parent knows, it doesn't take long for this depraved character to become obvious. If, therefore, your child is a fallen human, then he needs corrective discipline. As it is written, "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod will drive it far from him" (22:15).
Your child is a redeemable human. In the Atonement, Jesus Christ "tasted death for every (kind) man". But these various sorts of men have at least one thing in common, i.e., they "believe in Christ". But how does this "belief" come about? "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". But "hearing" in its most elementary sense requires attention to the Gospel as it is read or preached. But I ask you, dear parents, is "attention" an inborn quality of your child? No, it must be taught. It can only be taught by correction. If, therefore, you believe that your child needs to be saved, then you must correct those habits which privately or publicly hinder him from hearing the Gospel. Again, it is written, "Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod and deliver his soul from hell" (23:14-15).
You are called to imitate God. "Be therefore imitators of God as dear children". "Follow me as I follow the Lord". "For whom He did foreknow, He did also predestinate to be conformed to the image of His son", etc. But, how does God deal with His children? With leniency? 3:11-12. The Apostle to the Hebrews, however, even goes further, by adding, "For whom the LORD loves He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives...but if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are bastards and not sons" (Hebrews 12:6,8).
You are commanded to correctively discipline your children. I have already cited enough verses to prove this statement. If, therefore, dear parent, you will not correct your children, then you are in direct rebellion against God, all of your excuses notwithstanding.
The Living God has commanded every parent to correctively discipline his children. Those who refuse it, do so to the eternal ruin of themselves and their children.
THE MEANS OF CORRECTIVE DISCIPLINE.
All children need correction. Even the most modern parents will agree that "self-expression" has its limits. They might, for example, permit their child to throw a temper tantrum, but would not condone murder. Thus, everyone admits that bad behavior, must in some way or another, be rectified.
But how is it done? How should parents correct their children? How should they restrain sin? How should they break bad habits? Wicked men have devised a thousand schemes to that end, some of which Christian parents have adopted. Thus, negatively, corrective discipline is not implemented by:
Drugs. In the Seventeenth Century America, witches were blamed for everything. Three hundred years later, however, we have found another culprit, "hyperactivity". "My child, you see, won't sit still, be quiet, pay attention, etc. because he is hyperactive."
But hyperactivity being a "medical condition" cannot be cured by discipline. I must, therefore, replace the rod with the pills."
But such an argument may be rebutted in three ways:
It denies the sufficiency of Scripture, which nowhere cites "hyperactivity" as mitigating the need for corrective discipline.
It imputes ignorance to Solomon and the Holy Spirit. There was a strong depressant drug readily available to Solomon. It was called wine. But he never recommended it as an alternative to discipline. If, therefore, drugs are an alternative to discipline, then Solomon probably, and the Holy Spirit certainly, would have so informed us.
It ignores the central problem. Boundless energy is a blessing, not a sin (John 21:25). Energetic sinning is sinful. You ought therefore to cultivate your child's energy, and restrain it only when it becomes sinful.
Privation. Many parents punish their children by depriving them of some privilege, by sending them to their rooms, by putting them to bed without dinner, by putting them on restriction, etc.
But the fact that privation will not be effective is founded upon the following thoughts:
It is nowhere commanded or even hinted at in Scripture.
The prison (which is privation incrnate) is Pagan in origin rather than Jewish or Christian. Its utter failure to correct bad behavior is too obvious in the alarming rates of recidivism.
Your own experience puts the lie to this. For, when you were sent to your room, what was produced? Repentance? Resentment!!!
Lockout. Some parents punish their children by throwing them out of the home.
But this invention is also doomed to failure for at least two reasons:
It abdicates the parental responsibility.
It thrusts children into bad company, and therefore, greater temptation.
Positively, the Scripture presents two means for the correction of children. "The rod and reproof". They are specified in our text. They are reiterated throughout the Proverbs, as, for example: 13:1, 13:24, 22:15. If you think I am being selective, then I challenge you to find other means directly commanded anywhere in the Word.
Whenever parents substitue any other means for those Divine enjoined, then two things occur.
They deny the wisdom of God.
They forfeit His blessing.
HOW TO APPLY CORRECTIVE DISCIPLINE.
Corrective discipline must be really applied.
It must be intelligently applied, 29:15.
It must be consistently, applied, 13:24.
It must be painfully applied, 23:14,15 20:30.
It must be early applied, 19:18.
It must be proportionately applied, "eye for eye".
It must be continually applied. "To what age"?
It must be purposely applied, see note.
It must be prayerfully applied.
It greatly blesses the child. It teaches him, among other things, the following important lessons. Sin has its consequences. He must submit to authority. You love him.
It greatly blesses the parent. It discharges your duty. It clears your conscience. It quiets your home. It makes your children a delight rather than a scourge.
It greatly blesses society at large.
It gives glory to God.
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