The book of Proverbs is part of the Old Testament, and we know that Jesus took away the first covenant (Hebrews 10:9). However, there are timeless principles in the book of Proverbs that are appropriate for folks of every generation to consider and heed.
That certainly is true when it comes to what we learn about parenting in the book of Proverbs. The Bible says, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; for whom the LORD loves, He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11,12). Fact: God chastens/disciplines/corrects those whom He loves. Fact: when the Lord does that, He is doing what an earthly father does when he loves his son . . . he corrects/disciplines him. It is clear that the Lord expects parents to discipline their kids.
The Bible’s message is, “Do not withhold correction from a child” (Proverbs 23:13). Again, according to God’s word, which is the correct action: (1) to correct/discipline a child or (2) not to correct him? God says to correct/discipline him.
But, what if? What if parents choose not to discipline their kids? Do you really want to know what the Bible says? Here it is: “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24). One can disregard that instruction if he so chooses, but ignoring it, denying it, or arguing against it will not change what God says. Parents who love their kids discipline them. True, it is possible for a parent to discipline a child without truly loving him, but true love demands discipline. Be clear about this distinction: God sanctions disciplining children, not abusing them.
A number of years ago, after the conclusion of a lesson I presented about disciplining children, a father excitedly told me, “Brother, I sure do like that passage in Proverbs that you used.” We should love all Bible verses, not because they support what we want to hear, but because they are from God.
What do we learn in the book of Proverbs about the benefits of child discipline? Discipline drives foolishness out of a child’s heart, from which his actions and speech flow: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
Another benefit of disciplining kids is it delivers a child from an unhappy ending: “You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:14).
Third, administering discipline to a kid helps him gain wisdom, as it is written, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (29:15). Right-thinking parents understand that the long-term purpose of disciplining their kids is to help them develop the self-control/self-discipline to make good decisions on their own.
An additional benefit of child discipline is it helps a parent’s state of mind. That is not the top priority in administering discipline, but it is a consequence of it: “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul” (Proverbs 29:17).
Here are some thoughts about a few practical aspects of parents disciplining their children:
(1) Be completely certain that the child has done wrong before rebuking/disciplining him.
(2) Avoid disciplining children while angry . . . when mad, a parent may say or do things that he/she will regret later on. Does that sound familiar?
(3) Understand the personality/character of each child. What works as effective discipline with one child may not be the most effective method with another one, and vice versa.
(4) As much as the kids are able to understand, explain to them the reason for the discipline.
(5) Be consistent in administering discipline. This one is challenging. Be consistent with each individual child – if an action gets punished the first time, but not the 2nd time or 3rd time, but it is punished again the 4th time around, the child will be confused, not knowing what is unacceptable and what is not. Also, be consistent from child to child. If child #1 does it and gets punished, but child #2 goes unpunished despite making the same mistake, the partiality shown will create resentment. In addition, be consistent from parent to parent. If a child gets punished for his behavior when mom is around, but does the same thing in front of dad and there are no repercussions, this is sending the wrong message to the child. Parents need to communicate, cooperate, and make sure they are on the same page in all discipline matters.
(6) Parents need to be credible. If a child commits an offence and is told that he will receive some type of punishment for his misbehavior, then that discipline needs to come. Otherwise, how much stock will a child place in what their father or mother says?
Are there rules at school that have to be obeyed? Are there rules/laws in society that have to be obeyed? Of course. Children first need to learn respect for authority/rules at home. The book of Proverbs gives some great principles about disciplining kids. Parents who take them to heart are a blessing to their children.
— Roger D. Campbell