Archived: The Simplicity of Biblical Parenting

Christian parenting experts often seem unable to see the forest for the trees. Whether it’s “grace based,” “gospel centered,” “heart focused,” or some other phrase du jour, many seem to begin with a lofty concept about what the Bible ought to teach about parenting then go to Scripture and—surprise!—find it there.

As a result, we have constantly clashing emphases—to the everlasting frustration of parents, who just want to know what God expects of them and how to perform those tasks more effectively.

My aim here is (1) to argue that all parents really need is a biblical theology of parenting, (2) to describe how we should go about building such a theology and (3) to identify several principles that must be foundational to it.

The sufficient Word

Does the whole idea of having a “theology of parenting” sound novel? It shouldn’t. Those who firmly believe that the Scriptures are sufficient for faith and practice should also believe that a matter as important as Christian parenting is sufficiently addressed in the Bible. The essentials are all there. Though human wisdom—Christian and secular—may offer some useful advice on the nuts-and-bolts level, all the major principles and purposes are in the Book. And, in the area of principles and purposes, those who do not embrace a biblical view of God and human nature can have nothing of value to say.

We need a sound theology, and a sound theology is pretty much all we need.

So how should we go about building a biblical theology of parenting?

The right texts

A biblically sound theology of parenting must derive its key ideas from Scripture passages that are actually about parenting and the family structure. But there are more foundational passages it must incorporate first: those that reveal the central human problem (which is also the central kid problem) and those that reveal what’s special about the nature of children.

First, let’s understand the central human problem. A good place to start is the beginning.

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (NKJV, Gen. 3:1–6)

It appears that the original humans chose to pursue the ability to judge good and evil for themselves rather than accept God’s judgment. They chose rebellion against God’s authority.

The NT describes the event more simply. Sin entered the world through “disobedience” (Rom.5:19). Though Scripture does not use the word “rebellion” in reference to the original sin, “disobedience” is a word that presumes a legitimate authority who has issued a command. Consequently, whatever else may be included in the concept of “sinner,” its basic idea is “a person who disobeys,” a person who rejects God’s authority (1 Pet. 2:7, Rom.11:30-32).

What ailed the children of Israel?

The testimony of Scripture regarding Israel’s central problem also strongly emphasizes the phenomenon of rebellion.

At Kadesh-Barnea, Joshua and Caleb warned the people that they should not rebel against God’s instruction to take the land of Canaan (Num.14:9). But rebel they did. Moses characterized their choice as “rebellion” more than once (Deut.1:26, 43). Later he suggested that Israel’s rebellious nature was at the heart of all their bad choices.

Also at Taberah and Massah and Kibroth Hattaavah you provoked the Lord to wrath. Likewise, when the Lord sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying, “Go up and possess the land which I have given you,” then you rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God, and you did not believe Him nor obey His voice. You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you. (Deut. 9:22–24)

God agreed with Moses’ assessment (Exod. 32:9). The pattern of rebellion continued through the nation’s history, with the result that God Himself frequently specified rebellion as the central malignancy of their hearts (Isa.1:2, 20; Ezek.2:3-4, Jer. 6:27-28; Hos. 4:16).

The depravity of sinners takes many forms, including twisted beliefs and affections. Pride, delusional independence, and many other ills live on, even within those who are being sanctified. Though other sin-related problems may be equally important, none surpass the problem of rebellion as a key to understanding the human condition.

So what’s wrong with kids?

As we move toward texts that focus more on the challenges of parenting, we find that rebellion also figures prominently. For example, the few texts that are directed specifically to children, share the same focus. Consider these examples:

Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. (Col. 3:20)

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Eph. 6:1)

My son, keep your father’s command, And do not forsake the law of your mother. (Prov. 6:20)

Other passages single out disobedience in lists of especially egregious sins.

backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents (Rom. 1:30)

For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy (2 Tim. 3:2)

As rebellion is at the core of what’s wrong with humans in general, it’s also at the core of what’s wrong with kids. A biblical theology of parenting must address the prominence of this problem in the hearts of children.

Wickedness and weakness

Scripture affirms that we’re all born wicked (Rom. 5:12, Psa. 51:5), but it also attributes special weaknesses to children.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him. (Prov. 22:15)

Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat [nakah, strike] him with a rod, he will not die. (Prov. 23:13)

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Cor. 13:11)

In Scripture, the nature of children is pretty simple: they are immature versions of everything adults are. Since they haven’t had time to learn much, they’re foolish. Since they have not formed many good habits yet, they need correction. They speak, understand and think childishly. In a word—and a politically incorrect one at that—kids are inferior. They lack adult strength, adult intelligence, adult judgment. Accordingly, they are not entitled to adult privileges or tasked with adult responsibilities.

So our theology of parenting must account for the fact that children are both wicked and weak. Since they are sinners, they need to be evangelized or discipled. Since they’re weak and small, they need the additional protection we owe to the vulnerable.

What should parents do?

Though children are simply immature humans we should protect, evangelize and disciple, Scripture reveals that parents have a unique relationship with their own children. With that special relationship, they also have unique opportunities and responsibilities.

How does a biblical theology of parenting identify these responsibilities? It begins with the understanding that the essence of what God expects of them is fully revealed in Scripture. From there, it looks for passages that speak directly on the subject of what parents exist to do in the lives of their children.

Here are several notable examples, in outline form.

1. Parents should teach the faith to their children (teaching includes modeling).

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (Deut. 6:6–7)

My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck. (Prov. 1:8–9)

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)

2. Parents should love and bless their children.

that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children (Titus 2:4. See also Matt. 7:11.)

3. Parents should exercise authority over (make binding decisions for) their children.

one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (1 Timothy 3:4. See also 1 Tim.3:12, Eph. 6:1.)

4. Parents should restrain their children by means of discipline that hurts. The “rod” in Proverbs is both literal and representative of a larger category. It’s literal in the sense that people of the day would have would not have been squeamish about using some kind of actual stick at times. But proverbs are compact expressions of patterns and principles. The main idea is that parental discipline requires pain—sometimes physical, sometimes more emotional, as when we remove privileges, etc.

Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat [nakah, strike] him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell [sheol, the grave or death]. (Prov. 23:13–14)

He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly. (Prov. 13:24)

5. Parents should require respect from their children.

Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 19:3. See also Eph. 6:2.)

6. Parents should serve their children in all the ways believers are to serve one another.

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thess. 5:11)

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal. 5:13)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2)

forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Col. 3:13)

(See also Heb. 10:24, James 5:16.)

Simple, but hard

Christian parenting is parenting according the Word of Christ, a Word which is sufficient for understanding what our Lord expects from us and, generally, how to be effective in it. So parenting in a biblical way involves building our understanding of the task from Scripture—from the ground up. When we do this, we discover that parenting is hard to do—but not hard to understand.

 


Aaron Blumer, SharperIron’s second publisher, is a native of lower Michigan and a graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He, his wife, and their two children live in a small town in western Wisconsin, where he has pastored Grace Baptist Church (Boyceville, WI) since 2000. Prior to serving as a pastor, Aaron taught school in Stone Mountain, GA and worked in customer service and technical support for Unisys Corporation (Eagan, MN). He enjoys science fiction, music, and dabbling in software development.

 

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There are 79 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

When I wrote this, I had completely forgotten about Hebrews 12. Maybe just as well, since this one was getting on the long side already... and Heb.12:4-11 warrants a whole article all by itself. It isn't really about parenting, but uses some assertions about parenting to illustrate how God parents us. For the point about God to be valid, the underlying assertions about parenting have to be correct. So there is real meat there for developing a theology of parenting.

DavidO's picture

I just had a conversation with my pastor last night on another topic about how simple it is to look to scripture for the answers and how hard it is to live it all out. Thanks for another simple but hard exhortation.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Sometimes we seem to prefer something harder to understand but easier to do. I've seen this in teaching on sanctification. Because simple obedience is easy to understand but hard to do, it's tempting to adopt a view that is harder to understand because it gets us off the hook some of the time... "I'm struggling to understand this" vs. "This is clear; I just have to do it" or "I'm trying to approach this in a grace-based, gospel-centered way" vs. "This is simple; I just have to do it."

Some things truly are not simple. But I think it's our nature get wrong which things are simple and which things are not.

Bob Bixby's picture

This is helpful to the conversation.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I agree that parenting is not as difficult to understand as it is to do. We (in general) tend to discipline for our own convenience- the kids are getting on our nerves, usually. I have to ask myself- "Why do I feel irritated right now?" if the kids are playing loudly, teasing each other, or haven't done what I asked or in the manner I wished... my own behavior is often the problem, not theirs. I have to address my own weaknesses first before I can address theirs (mote-beam).

There's no doubt in my mind that the use of the rod is a Scriptural principle. Folks often think it is the most dangerous tool in the parental toolbox, but watching parents negotiate with kids is quite scary, IMO. In spite of the fact that He is plenty merciful, we should be very careful about perpetuating the idea that one can regularly negotiate with God. He punished His own people with deadly diseases, snakes, and the earth opening up to send folks directly into the pit. Talk bout your time-outs. I think kids need to know when they've crossed the line into rejection and rebellion in no uncertain terms.

But- if the groundwork has been laid well, those instances should become fewer and farther between. I think the problem with some parenting advice is that it focuses on discipline methods rather than building relationships. I'm very happy to see more encouragement for parents to model good behavior, and to love and nurture and bond with their children. I'm astonished at how little time parents spend with their children, just hanging out, working together, talking... They always seem to be running hither and thither, or are parked in front of computers and television. People actually think sitting in front of a tv with their family for 2 hours is bonding.

Yeah- it's bonding all right- but it's who they are bonding with that's the problem. http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-confused002.gif[/img ]

Louise Dan's picture

Doesn't the gospel have anything to do with this? Christ? The cross? Grace? Or do we parent in a vacuum with no respect to the cross or the gospel?

Rachel L.'s picture

Most parents who physically punish their children reserve it for certain more egregious offenses. (Some parents use physical punishments for every infraction, but they are generally in the minority and are often used as examples of "what not to do" by other Christians.)

My question is: If you believe that God wants is to use physical punishments that cause pain, why WOULDN'T you use it for every infraction?

In what other arenas do we say, "God commands this, but I should obviously limit its application?"

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Rachel L. wrote:
My question is: If you believe that God wants is to use physical punishments that cause pain, why WOULDN'T you use it for every infraction?

In what other arenas do we say, "God commands this, but I should obviously limit its application?"


This doesn't make sense. Parents are given many commands- everything from regularly teaching God's commands, to nurturing, to using the rod, to not provoking and discouraging them. Since people are Scripturally recognized as individuals, methods, even within Biblical parameters, are going to be somewhat different from house to house and child to child. I see no reason to say that because the rod is one of the methods commended that is it the ONLY method commended.

One would also have to define 'infraction'. Sometimes kid mess up because they don't understand expectations, or because they are physically uncoordinated, or they simply forget. Any parent who can't find their car keys can be sympathetic to a child who has forgotten to take out the trash. An infraction IMO would be a purposeful rejection of well understood rules of conduct, not a kid spilling their milk while reaching for the green beans.

Rachel L.'s picture

You know I would really hope that no child is ever punished for accidents or simple forgetfulness. That seems so obvious to me that i was not specific in my last post. Thanks for bringing that to my attention, Susan.

I'm talk about disobedience. Why wouldn't you spank for every instance of disobedience if you believe God commands you to spank? If it is God's instruction, why aren't you obeying?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

It's the "every instance of disobedience" part- this is not so easy to ascertain. I think we need to be very VERY careful to know exactly why we believe the rod is necessary. We do have some guidance on this- examples of foolishness and rebellion. But what is foolishness? Jumping off the garage roof with a trashbag for a parachute? I think we may not have the right understanding of foolish and silly behavior, because we tend IMO to think of foolish and silly as having a humorous aspect. "Foolish" makes a great word study that I think helps us have a more Biblical mindset of what disobedience in children actually is, mostly because children begin without the ability to reason, and then they gradually are more able to discern complex topics. Our discipline methods MUST change with their changing ability to understand and satisfy expectations.

I'd write more but I have to go to the library now. I'll try to pick up the rest of my thoughts on this later today. Unless someone else does a better job and I can just say "Ditto". Smile

Julie Herbster's picture

Thanks, Aaron, for your "simple but hard" overview on parenting. I appreciate your emphases on the sufficiency of Scripture (using Scripture responsibly) and on the core human problem. The philosophy you have articulated flows naturally and logically from these overarching principles.

@Louise:
Your questions are rhetorical, right? I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about how the gospel/Christ/grace should inform our parenting philosophy.

@Rachel:
You asked about limiting application to commands...The fact that God gives principles/commands doesn't necessarily mean that He has spelled out exactly how we should apply those principles/commands in every situation. In addition, one command or principle should always be informed by, and in harmony with, the other principles that God has given us. We parents have the "simple but hard" task of deciding how these ideas will be applied in our own families. EDIT: Oops...I was so slow at posting this that you and Susan have beat me to the punch on this one. Good discussion.

becw's picture

I can agree with a lot of what you've said...except #4 that Parents should spank/hit/beat their children.
I'm always amazed when Christians use the "immature versions of adults" argument as a way to justify hitting children. We don't hit adults to discipline them. We allow the natural/logical consequences of their actions play out. So if children are immature versions of adults why is it okay to hit them?

Natural/Logical consequences can (and DO!) hurt and don't require physical violence against someone who is immature, smaller, and weaker.

Our Lord certainly does not ever say that children are inferior.

Matthew 18:2-6 Matthew 18:10 Mark 10:13-16 Matthew 21:15-16

There are many more verses that go to show just how important and precious and yes equal to adults children are. Smaller, weaker, and immature thinking does not equal "less than" in God's eyes. If anything these little ones deserve more of our time patience gentleness and grace as we teach them about the Lord

Bob Bixby's picture

One day my five year old daughter deliberately defied me and went across the street and then lied about it. I knew I could not spank her hard enough to help her understand the sin (disobedience and lying) and the danger (a street). If I spanked her "hard enough" I would leave bruises and I refuse to do that. I found a "rod" and we went to my office and I stressed what she deserved. I could not spank her hard enough, I said, because I knew it would hurt her too much, so I gave her the stick and told her to strike me.

She gingerly and timidly struck me across the legs, the front of my thighs, and I scolded her by asking, "Patience, do you really, really think that what you did deserves just a little tap like that?" She shook her head and struck a little harder. Again, I told her that was not hard enough. Sin and danger could kill her and she needed to emphasize how bad it was. With my coaching she struck me as hard as she possibly could four times. It was quite painful.

We both cried. I had real pain tears! I explained to her then that though it hurt a lot, it still was not hard enough. The real punishment for her sin was once and for all on the cross. The pain we were feeling now was "grace pain" to train us and help us understand the gravity of our sin and, that day, Daddy was showing grace to Patience by standing in as a substitute for the pain that he felt had to be inflicted. She was only five and, being a very sensitive girl who is very attached to me, was broken-hearted.

She never crossed the street again and she never defied me again.

I don't punish my kids. I discipline them. And, yes, sometimes there is pain involved, but they are learning that punishment for their sin was on the cross and the deserved pain of our sin and folly has already been absorbed one hundred percent. Sometimes it is God's loving plan for us that we feel "grace pain" so that we learn to hate our sins and run from danger. Sometimes Daddy can absorb it for them. Sometimes they must feel the pain, but never is it above what they are able to bear.

If obedience is the goal, I think that we do need to remember that it is usually God's kindness that leads to repentance. Often severity hardens. To think of disciplining our kids in terms of punishing, makes us judges. We have to make the right call. We have to trust our assessment of our child's action. But it is possible that there may be a reason for disobedience that we are not aware of. And then the parent is trapped in inequity because the punishment for the lie yesterday was a very hard spanking, but today there was a BIG lie and a defiant attitude. If the punishment doesn't match in severity what was delivered for the crime yesterday, there is confusion.

Do I think spanking is the right thing to do? Yes, sometimes. I think it is the wrong thing to default to. It is painful and ultimately loses effectiveness as training (the purpose of Heb. 12 discipline) and reduces both parent and child to live under the cloud of punishment day after day.

dmicah's picture

Quote:
We don't hit adults to discipline them.

Actually, Law enforcement, Correctional facilities and the military consistently use force or the threat thereof to prevent and/or correct the imminent and ongoing behavior of adults.

Physical actions, i.e. talking, picking up a young one and walking them away from the electric outlet, to sitting them in timeout, to placing them across your knee, are in their most basic elements purposeful forces implemented upon the child by the wiser one in the family. Each of them forces a change in behavior. A spanking is merely at the top end of the use of force spectrum counteracting the child's actions on a behavioral spectrum.

We really need no more than Scripture to validate mild forms of spanking (not hitting), but what about the biological argument? Why does pain exist? Simply put, it's a discomfortable sensation that produces evasive action. The pain reinforces the consequences of poor actions and decisions, accelerating the learning process for young ones whose cognitive abilities have yet to convert life experiences into wisdom.

Anne Sokol's picture

It's hard to write after that . . . I'm tearing up. God has led us to share consequences with our kids, too, sometimes.

and that's the whole picture, what bob wrote.

Aaron says: "So our theology of parenting must account for the fact that children are both wicked and weak." I am wicked and weak, every person is. and what did God do for us?

I'm not going to say it all right, but . . . that is the heart of gospel parenting. that is the heart of grace. punishment is there, but it is not mine to bear. My sin does hurt me and others very deeply--a teaching pain. but how can I demonstrate to my kids what saving thing God has done for us that is our precious treasure for all eternity? the intimate relationship he gives to me . . . that is more the my attitute of parenting. anyway, can't say it like it should be said, but that's more the attitude I'm trying to have as a mom.

Greg Long's picture

I appreciate that Bob, and it's very powerful, but God still "chastises" His children with "painful" discipline, even though Christ has died for our sins.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Anne Sokol's picture

"I don't punish my kids. I discipline them. And, yes, sometimes there is pain involved, but they are learning that punishment for their sin was on the cross and the deserved pain of our sin and folly has already been absorbed one hundred percent. Sometimes it is God's loving plan for us that we feel "grace pain" so that we learn to hate our sins and run from danger. Sometimes Daddy can absorb it for them. Sometimes they must feel the pain, but never is it above what they are able to bear."

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

That is what I was thinking about earlier- we all tend to 'default' to one method or other, because we are basically lazy. Sometimes it's easier to spank, or deny privileges, or send them to their room rather than take the time to find out what is going on in their hearts.

What we are really talking about is consequences. As parents, we can't always allow natural consequences, such as when a child crosses the street without permission or looking both ways. Other times we can allow natural consequences- like every winter when it first turns cold and in the spring when it starts to get warm, my kids tell me they don't need a coat to go outside and play. I let them go out in short sleeves and flip flops, and pretty soon their self preservation kicks in and they come inside and bundle up. And they get The Look from Mom. http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-confused002.gif[/img ] And they don't do it again until the next change of season. And eventually it clicks and is no longer an issue. Are they being rebellious? Or just excited about going out to play so that only two or three brain cells are actually engaged at the moment? Knowing your kids well will help you know the difference.

Interestingly enough, my mother still tells me to put a coat on before I go outside. I tell her I'm old enough to decide if I want to flirt with hypothermia. Biggrin

I have so many thoughts in my head right now that I feel completely random. But this is a very good conversation to be having in light of all the parenting books out there, from Dr. Spock to the Pearls to Gothard.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
1Co 11:29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
1Co 11:30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
1Co 11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
1Co 11:32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

Do we really parent like God does? I don't think so- but our goals should be the same- to teach our kids to judge themselves.

Rachel L.'s picture

Julie Herbster wrote:
@Rachel:
You asked about limiting application to commands...The fact that God gives principles/commands doesn't necessarily mean that He has spelled out exactly how we should apply those principles/commands in every situation. In addition, one command or principle should always be informed by, and in harmony with, the other principles that God has given us. We parents have the "simple but hard" task of deciding how these ideas will be applied in our own families.

I couldn't agree more. Smile

So how does one reconcile "spanking" with:

*not provoking our children to anger
*being kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving
*forgive, and you will be forgiven
*blessed are the merciful
*you have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness
?

So, if I've prayerfully and with sincere study reached the conclusion that the Bible tells me to parent with mercy and not with physical punishments, why do so many Christians attempt to tell me that I'm sinning by doing so?

If it is a COMMAND with PROMISES, then using an alternative form of punishment (time out, loss of privileges, etc.) is failing your child. If it's okay to NOT physically punish for disobedience SOMETIMES, then it can be okay all the time as well. At a minimum, "We parents have the "simple but hard" task of deciding how these ideas will be applied in our own families" can lead some of us to be firm in the belief that we are not supposed to spank.

Garry Geer's picture

There seems to be a false distinction being made between "discipline", "punishment" and "discipling." It occurs to me that there seems to be a much stronger division being made between the three then Scripture warrants. "Discipline" and "punishment" are both slippery terms, changing meaning with person, vs. application.

We do know that God punished certain people within the New Testament church in order to bring a change in people's lives. Consider Annanias and Sapphira, or those at Corinth who mistook the Lord's Table. God wanted people to know, "This is what I will do if you act in this manner." Punishment for one became discipline/discipling for someone else.

"Discipline" currently holds the connotation of consequences for the sake of change. I appreciate that definition, but for those who are contra-corporal punishment they tend to load the argument, strongly intimating that those who spank don't want their children to change. They just want to exact a penalty. It is an unfair assumption, but one that often lies (lays?) at the root of their argument. "I am grace based and you are......."

Someone may have already said this, but it seems as if discipline and punishment have to exist but they must do so in the larger context of discipling. I could go on.

I say this as a father who very rarely spanks myself. I think it has been close to two years since I've given a swat. Yet, I think that is happening now because we were careful to build certain expectations in our children when they were young. Part of this was the understanding that there would be immediate consequences for certain behaviors, especially if they were tinged by rebellion. Does this exist in a context of communication, grace and compassion? I like to think so, but then that is natural. You could ask my congregation, but they would probably pretend they don't me.

A few anecdotes/thoughts...
I was 12 years old, and my father and I had been going round and round for a while. Finally one day he told me to change my attitude or he was going to adjust it for me. I remember calmly telling him, "You can try." He rarely spanked. He responded something along the lines of "You won't win." I do remember saying, "You will wear out before I do." It took a while, but I broke. My dad and I were both weeping at the end. Not from pain, but from shame/love on my part, and the pain that comes from love on my father's part. We had problems after that, but never one with respect.

Also, my son asks me to spank him rather then to be grounded off of electronics. Its still pain no matter what we call it.

Take it for what its worth,

Garry

Julie Herbster's picture

Rachel L. wrote:
Julie Herbster wrote:
@Rachel:
You asked about limiting application to commands...The fact that God gives principles/commands doesn't necessarily mean that He has spelled out exactly how we should apply those principles/commands in every situation. In addition, one command or principle should always be informed by, and in harmony with, the other principles that God has given us. We parents have the "simple but hard" task of deciding how these ideas will be applied in our own families.

I couldn't agree more. Smile

So how does one reconcile "spanking" with:

*not provoking our children to anger
*being kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving
*forgive, and you will be forgiven
*blessed are the merciful
*you have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness
?

So, if I've prayerfully and with sincere study reached the conclusion that the Bible tells me to parent with mercy and not with physical punishments, why do so many Christians attempt to tell me that I'm sinning by doing so?

If it is a COMMAND with PROMISES, then using an alternative form of punishment (time out, loss of privileges, etc.) is failing your child. If it's okay to NOT physically punish for disobedience SOMETIMES, then it can be okay all the time as well. At a minimum, "We parents have the "simple but hard" task of deciding how these ideas will be applied in our own families" can lead some of us to be firm in the belief that we are not supposed to spank.


Rachel, I really don't want to get into a discussion about spanking...Suffice it to say that I do not believe spanking is irreconcileable with the concepts you listed above. (For some reason, parenting threads in discussion forums all seem to funnel down to this one topic, and I think there's a lot of misunderstanding because of the loaded words we use without stopping to define them, like (in this case) spanking itself, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, etc.) My response was not intended to start (or continue) a debate about spanking itself, but to challenge your reasoning when you said:
Quote:
If you believe that God wants is to use physical punishments that cause pain, why WOULDN'T you use it for every infraction?

In what other arenas do we say, "God commands this, but I should obviously limit its application?"


and again:
Quote:
Why wouldn't you spank for every instance of disobedience if you believe God commands you to spank? If it is God's instruction, why aren't you obeying?

I merely said (Susan said it better, actually) that, in addition to the admonitions to physically chastise children, there are other principles which must inform our parenting choices. As Susan said, "I see no reason to say that because the rod is one of the methods commended that it is the ONLY method commended."

Again, in this post, you have advanced this line of reasoning:

Quote:
If it is a COMMAND with PROMISES, then using an alternative form of punishment (time out, loss of privileges, etc.) is failing your child. If it's okay to NOT physically punish for disobedience SOMETIMES, then it can be okay all the time as well.

Can we unpack this a bit? First, how is using an alternative form of discipline (I don't like the word punishment) failing your child? The biblical principle repeated throughout Proverbs and other Scripture is that the rod/painful physical consequence drives away foolishness...it makes the fool wise...it brings peace to the home, etc. Hebrews speaks of God "scourging" His children in chastisement...consequences that could be called "negative," although the results are nothing but positive in Scripture. So, if we desire to parent "biblically," we take note of these things that Scripture says about discipline. We then read, as Susan said, about "nurture," "love," "not provoking," etc....and, desiring to take into account the whole counsel of God, and believing that God does not contradict Himself, we incorporate ALL of these ideas into our parenting philosophy, allowing each of these principles to find a place in the way we interact with our children. Your second sentence doesn't make sense to me, given the way we are supposed to view Scripture. If God, directly addressing parents, says that something is a good thing...something desired to make our children wise...something that will rescue him from the grave...something that brings the peaceable fruit of righteousness...and we NEVER do that "something," are we really parenting as God intends us to do?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Louise Dan wrote:
Doesn't the gospel have anything to do with this? Christ? The cross? Grace? Or do we parent in a vacuum with no respect to the cross or the gospel?

Teach them the faith. Pretty sure I included that.
Ultimately everything the Bible teaches is part of the grand plan of redemption and therefore, part of the story of the gospel... and linked to it. We don't need to be afraid to let the Bible speak to specific topics when it does. If it talks about parenting, that's where to go to learn about parenting. If it talks about the nature of children, that's where we go to learn about the nature of children.

James K's picture

Quote:
So, if I've prayerfully and with sincere study reached the conclusion that the Bible tells me to parent with mercy and not with physical punishments, why do so many Christians attempt to tell me that I'm sinning by doing so?

If that is your conclusion, then so many tell you you are sinning because it is so easily disproven. It really takes little effort to see what God has already said.

Prov 23:13
Don't withhold correction from a youth; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.

This verse tells us:

1. Correction is necessary
2. Physical punishment is at the very least included in correction
3. Physical punishment is a form of striking
4. Children are not to be beaten in such a way as to put their life in danger.

Obviously the physical pain was not meant to be anything malicious or cruel such as biting, or breaking bones.

All these anecdotal examples are actually quite worthless. We view our own children is through our own sinfulness. I can also give story after story. The bottom line is that God says one thing. Either obey or not, but the constant attempts to outsmart and rethink what he said are just different forms of disobedience.

Those who are trying to "gospel" parent without involving physical punishment fail many proverbs, but also fail to rightly understand that the gospel is all about penal punishment. God punished severely his own Son in the place of sinners. To "gospel" parent your children is to include the reality of that to them after you spank.

Out like faith in truth I guess.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Anne Sokol's picture

it makes me tired Smile

it's not ever going to come out in the wash in a conversation really.

1. does the bible command me to spank my kids? I think that's is one crux issue. if not, we can agree that it's optional.

2. how do we view our children? that's the other crux issue. parenting books train us to view our children primarily as rebellious sinners. I'm not sure why marriage books dont start here or why books abotu church life dont start here either. it's the same. or parenting books would have us stop spanking when a child accepts Christ.

So, I'm leading my "rebellious sinner" (aka, little child) to Christ . . . and that takes us back to point one, does God command that I spank in order to save his soul, in order to help lead him to Christ?

here we go on the merry-go-round . .

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Rachel L wrote:
My question is: If you believe that God wants is to use physical punishments that cause pain, why WOULDN'T you use it for every infraction?

In what other arenas do we say, "God commands this, but I should obviously limit its application?"


Fair question. But it misunderstand what I'm saying and probably what others are saying as well. The principle is that we need to use discipline that hurts, not that must always use discipline that hurts... also "hurts" is not limited to physical pain, in my view (or anyone I know of).
So there is no need to limit it's application because the principle itself is not a "Use the nuclear option every time" principle.
The degree of "pain" in the discipline of course has to correspond to the offense in some way.

I believe there is room for mercy but even mercy is not possible unless you have an actual standard and require obedience to it. If obedience is optional, "mercy" has no meaning. So we have to be careful that we don't, in the name of being merciful, basically take an "obedience is optional" approach.

Anne Sokol's picture

i don't think you have to specifically instruct parents to inflict pain upon their children. in fact, that could be unwise. I think the pain part pretty much happens naturally to children as we discipline them, even when we are doing it gently. crying over the toy being removed b/c he hit someone with it, for example. but then thinking i need to spank (or I could pinch, as I've seen done) on top of that? I don't agree with your take on this point.

then, consider the nature of the pain. I think a more accurate portrayal of disciplinary pain (esp in Heb. 12) is like that of working hard, like running or an athletic workout-- that is also painful. long-term physical training is painful.

so anyway, those are some thots.

becw's picture

Sorry new here don't know how to quote

Anyway a poster up a few used an example of a child crossing a street as a reason to spank instead of using natural consequence. I wanted to point out that I said Natural/LOGICAL consequences. IMO it is not LOGICAL to spank a child for forgetting the rules and doing something foolish. You're right it's not apporpriate to allow your child to risk being hit by a car, which is where the LOGIC comes it. If your child is not responsibile enough to stay in the yard away from the street then she will either have to play in an area of the yard that is not in proximity of the street or not be allowed outside without adult supervision. No spanking necessary, simply being a proactive parent.

And to the person who had his 5 yr old hit him repeatedly as hard as she could to teach her a lesson...that's some sick twisted stuff dude, my jaw literally hit my keyboard reading that.

Greg Long's picture

Anne Sokol wrote:
2. how do we view our children? that's the other crux issue. parenting books train us to view our children primarily as rebellious sinners. I'm not sure why marriage books dont start here or why books abotu church life dont start here either. it's the same. or parenting books would have us stop spanking when a child accepts Christ.

So, I'm leading my "rebellious sinner" (aka, little child) to Christ . . . and that takes us back to point one, does God command that I spank in order to save his soul, in order to help lead him to Christ?

here we go on the merry-go-round . .


Actually, Anne, the other books the Tripps have written take exactly that perspective--that we are rebellious sinners who need redemption through the cross of Christ. Even after we trust Christ we still need the forgiveness that comes from turning from our sin to Christ and trusting that that sin was paid for at the cross. So they are exactly consistent whether they are talking about training children or counseling adults.

Do you believe children are rebellious sinners by nature?

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Anne Sokol's picture

yes, I believe my children are rebellious sinners--like the whole world is--but I also believe they are children.

I don't believe small children are the "fool" in proverbs either.

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