“Andrews, are you kidding me? How can child abuse ever be an acceptable activity in the kingdom of God?!”
When I hear this reasoning, particularly from Christians, it always makes me chuckle. This reasoning is indicative of the postmodern idea, predominant in the culture today, that there are no universal absolutes, and what seems right and comfortable to you, is right for you. Christians say they believe the Bible, but when something taught in the Bible, as we saw last week that spanking of children in the family clearly is, we don’t really see the Bible as ultimately authoritative.
Before we look specifically at a biblical model of spanking, I want to remind you again—and I can’t do this too often—how the kingdom, in which we have been given the responsibility to rule, is experienced. Only as we are learning to live, moment-by-moment, by grace alone with God, who is “above us,” can we begin to rule successfully over our responsibilities that lie “beneath us.”
With this way of life as a self conscious foundation, let’s look at how that rule occurs practically in our families by controlling our children. Keep in mind, as we said last week, the biblical way this is done is spanking and the instrument for spanking is the biblical “rod,” a flexible branch from a tree, what my parents called a “switch.”
Common mistakes in the application of spanking
The use of the rod has been much abused, and God’s enemies have used those mistakes to discredit its use altogether. We don’t need to cease the use of the rod; just use it correctly, and it will be the path to life for our children! Here are the most common mistakes:
1. Using the rod in anger. Never, never, never use the rod in anger (Can I say that any stronger?). You must remember that chastisement is for the benefit of the child, not to “get back” at him for what he has done to you. His training is a project in the kingdom that you have been given to complete, and the use of the rod is a part of that project. There should be no anger whatsoever as one uses the rod, but rather regret and a broken heart that its use is necessary. You should communicate to the child that you love him dearly, and, therefore, you are committed to training him for as long as it takes, and you will do this every time he disobeys. All is said calmly, as a teacher.
The major reason spanking is done in anger is because parents use the rod as a last resort, after nothing else they have tried has controlled the child. They finally blow up, see red, and whale the child for all they are worth. If they had spanked him at the first hint of rebellion against authority, before they were even slightly irritated, they could have done it properly. Putting off spanking until the last resort means you are more interested in your own comfort than in training the child. Spanking becomes a way to relieve the pressure the child has exerted on the parent, rather than being used to exert pressure on the child. Spanking should be a regular part of life for a child, like eating, until he has learned to control himself. This usually doesn’t take very long for a young child.
2. Spanking too lightly. This is particularly pertinent for mothers. If the anticipation of the rod does not bring fear to the child, either you are not spanking hard enough, or the rod is not large enough. Spanking through diapers is notoriously ineffective.
3. Verbally abusing the child during chastisement. Everything that comes from a parent’s mouth during chastisement must be positive and uplifting. The child should be loved, encouraged, built up, told that you believe he can obey, and given a vision for living a life in submission to authority. Then he should be spanked so firmly that he does not want to be spanked again. This approach will break the stubborn, rebellious will, and build up and encourage the spirit.
One of Satan’s biggest tricks is to tell us that we should control our children with our tongues, rather than the rod. He tells us that the rod is abusive. In actuality, controlling a child only with the tongue will invariably degenerate into verbal negatives when the child does not obey, as at times he certainly will not. The angry accusations, put-downs, demeaning remarks, unfavorable comparisons with siblings, etc., represent verbal child abuse (your child will never forget your verbal negatives), as they lead to a broken spirit, and leave the rebellious will untouched. The rod, on the other hand, combined with verbal encouragement, breaks the rebellious will, and feeds and builds up the spirit. Satan has tricked us into doing just the opposite of what we should be doing.
4. Spanking for punishment. Chastisement is used only for rebellion. Discipline because of a broken standard due to immaturity, childishness, a poor decision, or some reason other than rebellion, should not be the rod. The punishment should correspond to the transgression. The rod is used exclusively when it has been determined that the parent’s will has been deliberately defied.
The mechanics of administering the rod can vary. The father always administers the discipline if he is present. He delegates that authority to his wife when he is absent, with careful instructions as to its consistent application. Without her buy-in, she will be manipulated and played by a rebellious child.
Necessary components of a disciplinary session
1. Opportunity for admission of guilt and confrontation. When it has been determined that a child has defied authority, he is asked questions that encourage the admission of that fact. “What did you do?” (“I was disrespectful and told you to ‘shut-up'”). Lying, or trying to blame somebody else (“I was talking to my doll, not to you,” or, “I meant to say ‘shut the door,'” or, “Billy told me to say it”), is in itself an indication of rebellion. You don’t have to make him tell the truth, just give him an opportunity to confess. Let him know that you know he is lying, and confront him with exactly what he has done. “You have been disrespectful to me. We don’t do that in our family, because God tells you to honor your parents. My job is to see that you obey Him.”
Never ask the child, “Why did you do that?” That only gives him an opportunity to make an excuse. The issue is not, “Why,” but that he did, indeed, rebel.
2. Reading appropriate scripture. Then read to him the verses in Proverbs on spanking, covered in last week’s blog posting, to reinforce the fact that God is the one who commands you to spank him. You can make appropriate comments after each verse, i.e.; “It was a foolish thing to call me a ‘do-do head,’ wasn’t it?” (Proverbs 22:15). It is not necessary to read the verses each time, but it is a good reminder occasionally that God is behind this. After the verses comes the pronouncement, “In view of these verses, I have no choice but to spank you.”
3. Application of the rod. If the child is young, have him lie over your lap while you are seated. If he is too big for that, have him bend over while grasping a chair or desk. About four to six swats applied very firmly to the buttocks are sufficient. You are not trying to get the child to cry. Extremely rebellious teen-agers will not cry. Young children will sob their hearts out. You are being obedient to God, and inflicting pain to break rebellion. The swats need to be strong enough that this is not a pleasant experience for the child.
4. Prayer. After the spanking, take the child in your arms (make him put his arms around your neck if you are seated), hug him and pray for him, asking God to break the rebellion in his heart, and to show him the importance of learning not to lie, cheat, defy his mother, etc. Ask God to love and encourage him.
5. The charge. After the prayer, hold the child at arm’s length, look him in the eye (make him look you in the eye as well), and tell him that he’s going to become a man of God, and that you are going to stick with him until he does. Tell him that you love him, and you are going to try to be consistent and to spank him every time he defies you or his mother. Then excuse him to go.
The rod is the God-ordained way to break rebellion. There is no other. Isolation by sending the child to his room, or to a “time-out chair,” is not God’s way. That only gives the child an opportunity to be alone to seethe and build a case against his “mean” parents, and the issue—his rebellion—is never confronted. The rod, on the other hand, is like God’s “magic wand,” when used properly and consistently. Different children come under control over different lengths of time, but ultimately faithful parents will see the desired results. Generally, by six to eight years old, rebellion is broken if the parents began biblical discipline at the first sign of obvious rebellion against their instruction.
The father should do the disciplining if he is home. If he is not, the mother should handle the chastisement. This means that she must establish her own authority relationship with the children. They should be very aware that she carries their father’s authority, and he will affirm completely the decisions she has made in his absence. He must back her totally. This is assuming, of course, that she fully supports his leadership and does not undermine his child training policy.
The consistency in the implementation of a policy like this to address rebellion is absolutely critical. There will be times when conscientious parents will wonder if the effort involved to be consistent is worth the energy and time that is necessary. That’s when we must have a long-term vision of those children as mighty men and women of God, extending our influence, hence Jesus’, into the next generation.
Now that your child is ready to listen and receive from you, he is ready, for the first time, to be taught about life in the Kingdom. That is next week.