Proverbs 13:24 He who spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
This verse is heartily despised by many today, and we are seeing the results in society all around us. Physical abuse is of course not a viable option, but failure to discipline is emotional abuse. As has been amply demonstrated in the current pandemic, “experts” all too often make pronouncements for devious motives, and the results can be tragic. That applies in every one of the social sciences, that is, those that deal with human interaction. Economists are notoriously inaccurate! However, it is in psychology and psychiatry that some of the deepest damage is done. I had a friend 40 years ago who was a clinical psychologist, and he maintained that psychology could diagnose, but only God could heal. I’ve not seen anything to contradict that. Specifically in reference to this verse, Dr. Benjamin Spock was the great “parenting expert” when I was a child, and he was very down on “corporal punishment.” Sadly, and tellingly, before he died he published one last book confessing that he had been wrong, and lamenting the monster that he had unleashed. Research over the past several decades has shown that boundaries are essential for healthy child development, because without them a child becomes anxious. Over the course of a human life, the period in which we are least anxious is the period in which we have the least freedom of movement: in the womb. It is as we grow and mature that we become able to handle greater multiplicity of options, but parents often project their own preferences on their children and give them more “freedom” than they really want, whatever they are demanding. Parents who give in to their children all the time are quite literally spoiling them, as in spoiled food that is good only to be thrown out. Back when multi-generational homes were the norm, new parents didn’t panic because their own parents were there to guide. Today such homes are the exception, and new parents often feel totally unqualified. To be honest, they often are! No parents are perfect, but it is painfully obvious that a married father and mother provide the best foundation for future success for any child. Some have turned out very well without that, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Children need both nurture and discipline from both parents to have assurance that they are valued and loved.
I am aware that what I have just written will provoke a strong negative response in some people, but I am convinced of it from the Biblical record, from my personal experience, and from observing all sorts of families for the past 70+ years. When I am talking about parenting with couples before I perform their wedding, I tell them what I have observed in my older grandson. Since we live in Japan and they live in Washington State, I got to see him for the first time when he was 14 months old. My impression was that he was an amazingly happy child, hardly ever crying. About the third day of our visit, the reason for his good disposition became obvious. He and Cathy and I were playing in the living room, and he did something for which he had been scolded before. When his mother (our daughter) noticed that from the kitchen area, she called him down by name with a firm, “No.” She then asked Cathy to slap his offending hand. Hearing that, he extended his hand, and then slapped it himself! The reason he was such a happy child was that he had full assurance that he was loved, because he had appropriate boundaries. Now entering teenage, he is still remarkably assured and mature for his age. That gives me great comfort to feel I didn’t do too bad a job with my daughters!
Father, thank You for the privilege and the responsibility of parenting. I am a physical father, but I am a spiritual father to far more. I don’t have the same options with my spiritual children! Help me apply appropriate discipline in each case, not relying on my experience or my “wisdom” but listening to You in every case, so that each one may be raised as You intend, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!