The Discipline Debate

The self-professed wisdom of modernity has long sought to impose a secular—and often statist—view of disciplining children on society. From its early machinations in the era of Thomas Dewey to the mistaken musings of Dr. Spock, worldly humanists have called themselves experts and advanced steadily into the realm of raising children in what has become in some places a coup against parenthood itself. Their worldview wrongly assumes that information and reason alone are sufficient to address any misbehavior. Because they reject the spiritual, they fail to appreciate the nature of temptation and the necessity of training moral will. This is—and always will be—the role of parents. Some of these psychologists’ goals, such as eliminating child abuse and injecting a broader spectrum of correctives into the parental arsenal—are commendable; however, their ultimate designs are  anti-family because they fail to appreciate the essentiality of the parent-child relationship as a core element of child-development. Rather than simply bemoaning this intrusion, parents must become proactive rather than reactive. This requires more than correcting clear wrongdoing on the part of a child but also involves instilling the proper values and discipline into your children.

The thirteenth chapter of Proverbs begins with this straightforward pronouncements: “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke” (Prov. 13:1). Therefore, parenting involves instruction. It implies providing children guidance, direction, and wisdom that they can carry with them throughout life. Every parent values certain tidbits of information that would not only benefit a child but prove essential in the long run. Some parents work to instill a strong sense of budgeting and financial acuity so that their children will learn to save more than they spend and perhaps even know how to invest well. Some believe in proper diet and exercise and make this a mainstay of daily life with the firm expectation that children will adopt those principles in perpetuity. Others have their children focus on their secular education so they can excel in college and get a high-paying job. However, the advice that follows in the rest of the chapter, while practical, focuses on the spiritual that informs everything else in life.

Therefore, according to Proverbs 13, parental instruction should include teaching children that: 

  1. They should guard their words carefully (Prov. 13:2-3).
  2. A good work ethic is the best path to real prosperity (Prov. 13:4, 11).
  3. They should live with unquestionable integrity (Prov. 13:5-6, 17).
  4. They should not judge matters based upon appearances (Prov. 13:7).
  5. Wealth comes with an additional slate of problems (Prov. 13:8).
  6. Listening and learning will accomplish far more than selfish combativeness (Prov. 13:10, 13-16).
  7. They should discipline themselves to think long-term and spiritually and then seek the satisfaction of the completion of a meaningful and purposeful goal (Prov. 13:9, 12, 19, 21).
  8. They must learn to accept constructive criticism in order to excel in anything (Prov. 13:18).
  9. They should seek out companions who have a proven track record of righteousness and spiritual growth (Prov. 13:20).
  10. They should learn to be frugal rather than wasteful (Prov. 13:22-23).

The chapter closes with a reminder of the fruit of parenting depending on what we prioritize: “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly. The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul, But the stomach of the wicked shall be in want” (Prov. 13:24-25). In this the chapter comes full circle. It began emphasizing the importance of parents instructing their children on how to conduct themselves in life; it ends emphasizing that parents have the responsibility to hold their children to these standards while they are at home through discipline if they wish them to practice them as adults. It is only after all the hard work and heartaches that the effort will be rewarded. This is true for both the child and the parent.

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