“Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” – Proverbs 13:24 (NLT)
If this isn’t a hot topic in today’s world, I don’t know what is. Every parent has a different take on discipline. Some people interpret “the rod” in this passage literally and use it as a justification for using a physical stick to apply a “spanking” to their children. Others see “the rod” as a metaphor for discipline in general.
It’s my understanding that the scripture is referring to discipline in general, no matter what form the administration takes. The form of discipline a parent uses on a child is up to the wise and prayerful discernment of a loving parent. Besides, the need for the “rod of discipline” will continue to be there long after the effectiveness of spankings wears off.
To bind the use of physical punishment on a child as a general rule goes beyond the authority of any one person over another. That goes both ways. One person cannot use biblical authority to tell another that they are scripturally obligated to use physical punishment on their child. Conversely, it is nobodies business, not even the law, to determine what the appropriate course of action is for a parent to take in disciplining their child. (Neglect and abuse are of course matters where the law has authority to get involved.) A wise a loving parent is careful to discipline their child.
I think, however, the main point of this scripture is more about love than it is about discipline. Do you even love your child? “Well, of course I do! What a ridiculous question!” Is it really? I don’t think it would be in the bible if it was so ridiculous. Yes, it is possible for parents to even “hate” their own children. They show it by their lack of taking care to lovingly discipline them.
I appreciate this quote that is in the footnotes of my NLT Study bible on this verse:
It is not easy for a loving parent to discipline a child, but it is necessary. The greatest responsibility that God gives parents is the nurture and guidance of their children. Lack of discipline puts parents’ love in question because it shows a lack of concern for the character development of their children. Disciplining children averts long-range disaster. Without correction, children grow up with no clear understanding of right and wrong and with little direction to their lives. Don’t be afraid to discipline your children. It is an act of love. Remember, however, that your efforts cannot make your children wise; they can only encourage your children to seek God’s wisdom above all else!”
Let’s think spiritually and encourage the next generation of spiritual thinkers by giving them the chance they deserve, and maybe sometimes feel we didn’t get, through proper discipline.
For an excellent book on this matter, I would recommend Raising Awesome Kids – Reloaded, by Sam and Geri Laing.