by Irven Lee
Truth Magazine, February 17, 1983
Children do not have the ability at birth to understand the language of their parents. We all realize this, but we should also understand that these little people do not know the commonly accepted rules of etiquette, nor do they recognize property rights. Each child seems to assume that anything he finds and likes belongs to him. Only gradually does he learn that some things are his and that other things are the property of others. The innocent child does not, of course, have any sense of discernment between what is morally right and what is wrong. Because of parental failure to guide or train the children many young people never come to have a definite code of morals or sensitive consciences to guide them in the way of righteousness.
While many are not trained to discern between good and evil, they could have been trained. They are as capable of developing faith, godliness, and spiritual wisdom as they are of developing physical skills and language skills from people about them. Some parents take an interest in helping their children to develop the ability to earn a living but not much concern to teach them how to live. There are many who are skilled in athletics, music, and in various aspects of business that are as ignorant of spiritual values as the brute beast from the jungle (II Peter 2:12). That which is most important is lacking.
Parents must have the respect of their children or they cannot convey the value of their own knowledge and experience to them. Love, instruction, personal attention, and the proper example from parents can go a long way toward obtaining this respect. To make their word authoritative, the chastening rod is recommended by the word of God. This is not physical or mental abuse, but it is not always pleasant to the one who is disciplined or to the one who is administering it. Even the Lord chastens those He loves.
"My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable f' lit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:5-11).
We may not be able to identify the occasions when the loving heavenly Father is chastening us. Our complaining bitter attitude toward things that are beyond our control will not help. Fortunate children whose fathers love them enough to use the rod at the proper time and in the proper way grow up with special respect for their parents. Those undisciplined children cannot be pleased. No undisciplined child is ever a happy child. He is not self-disciplined nor is he pleasant and cooperative in disposition. Is this not true of the unrestrained children you know? Love suggests the use of the rod, but not to the unreasonable point of abuse (Proverbs 13:24; Colossians 3:20-21). There is a very useful form of discipline that yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Ephesians 6:4; Proverbs 13:24).
The punishment the child receives from his parents should be adequate to bring his will into subjection. Impulsively hitting the child may only aggravate the rebellious attitude. Conquer the rebel and be consistent, and there will not need to be a constant running battle. A good man should have his children in subjection with all gravity (I Timothy 3:4-5). There is some "know-how" involved in the proper discipline. Children are small for a few years so all parents should develop a skill in the use of effective discipline. Obedience is one of the greatest lessons to be taught, and here is where discipline in the home comes into its place of very great importance. An adult can buffet his own body and bring it into subjection, but a child lacks the depth of understanding to discipline himself, so his parents provide wise and effective discipline until he is trained and mature enough to see the need to control his own fleshly nature.