"He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." Proverbs 13:24
This verse has come up numerous times in the last couple weeks and always in support of beating children. I remember being spanked as a child and I remember feeling humiliated and crushed in spirit. I do not think God wants us to beat our children. He wants us to discipline them.
So what is the definition of discipline? "Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement." (thefreedictionary.com) Notice the definition says training, not abuse. In contrast the definition of punishment is "A penalty imposed for wrongdoing" (thefreedictionary.com) or my favorite definition "Rough handling; mistreatment" (thefreedictionary.com). If we hit, are we training our children to be bullies? Are we training them that it is morally ok to hit other people that are smaller and not expect retaliation? What course of action would a parent take if their child smacked another child because that child did not do what they wanted? How do you tell them that hitting is only ok when I am hitting you? Surely all of this sends a mixed message. Not to mention, at what point does spanking become abusive. I heard a lady say that if it leaves a bruise, your hitting too hard! That's a very fine line indeed.
My children are very well behaved at 9 and 11. People always comment on their gentle nature and kind-hearted spirits. How did we get to that point? One word, discipline. Notice I did not say punishment. The goal of discipline is to teach. Our best teaching tool is our example. We teach others how we want to be treated. I treat my children with respect and dignity. I treat them how I want to be treated.
I told them from the time they could understand words that God wanted me to teach them how to behave so that others would take the time to get to know them. If they were poorly behaved, nobody would take the time to get to know the wonderful people that I know them to be. I have always been consistent in my discipline. No always means no. When I say that we are leaving, we actually leave. I don't announce we are leaving and then sit and chat for 20 minutes while they wait. I follow through with what I say. If I say we are not going to the beach unless your room is clean, they know that we will not go to the beach. I am fully prepared to follow through with the consequences even if it means inconvenience for me. If I am not prepared to follow through, I do not make the threat.
At some point, spanking becomes ridiculous. You cannot spank a 16 year old boy and expect to get results. At that point, you have to figure out how to make them behave without abuse. If they have no respect for you or what you say, you have already lost the battle. Discipline is hard work and often inconvenient but the work done early in life, makes life easier in the long run. Spanking may be a convenient source of discipline in the near term, but respect is much more powerful.
I personally like this verse for discipline versus the latter.
"Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6