Should a child’s personality be considered when disciplining?


We ought to consider our children's personalities and characters when we seek to discipline them.  What works well for one child may not work for another, even within the same family.  Might spanking be a good form of discipline for one child, but ineffective or damaging to another?  Are there some children who shouldn't be spanked? How does a parent decide what is the best form of discipline for their different children? What good alternatives are there for spanking a child?


When dealing with any human being you will find that each person learns in a variety of ways. When teaching children you quickly learn that some students pick up things faster if they can see it, others learn better by hearing a lesson, still others pick up things better if they can say it, and still others learn best if they can manipulate it. Even though there is a preferred style of learning for a student, it doesn't mean that a child who prefers to manipulate things can't learn from a book. He might not learn as fast or he might not enjoy the lesson as much, but he still can learn.

Punishment or negative discipline is a part of learning.

"And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed" (Hebrews 12:5-13).

When a person does something wrong, there needs to be a negative consequence to keep a person from repeating or continuing in bad behavior. "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11). To provide no punishment, no negative discipline at all is a recipe for disaster in raising a child.

There are children whom you can just look cross at and they will immediately regret whatever they just have done. Others, though, appear to care less how other people view their actions -- they are too wrapped up in what they are doing. But just as a verbal learner is not harmed by having to read a book, a misbehaving child is not harmed when given a punishment that might not be ideal for that child or that situation. He might not get the lesson as quickly, but the fact that he had some negative consequences means he knows there will be some sort of repercussions to his actions. For example, the Bible notes, "Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool" (Proverbs 17:10). So if you have a child who is wise, a rebuke may bring about a better result than if you have a foolish child whom you spank.

The idea that spanking is harmful is directly contracted by God, "Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell" (Proverbs 23:13-14).

The Bible has quite a bit to say about discipline -- and not just spanking, a variety of methods are discussed. I have provided a list in the Notes on Disciplining Children. In my experience, a variety of methods works best. There is no one size fits all solution to keeping a child from misbehaving. Which should you use? Try one and see if it modifies the child's behavior. If you don't seem to be making headway, try something else.

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