Several years ago a small article appeared in the Newsweek magazine entitled, “Scandinavian Haven for Brats”. The remarkable fact was that the Danish Government had actually passed a bill of legislation prohibiting parents from using corporal punishment upon their children.

Denmark’s traditions are long-standing; her Parliament is a well-established seat of democracy. How could one hundred senior gentlemen sit there and pass a bill, with no significant disagreement, that attacked a fundamental practice as old as man himself? Are these men so unconcerned about the preservation of their nation and their past as to allow the rising generation to turn over all that may have been achieved in the many centuries of Danish life and culture? Probably not, but men are the result of a modern philosophy that is far wider than Denmark and is daily knocking on the doors of our own children’s minds.

In the principal institutions of learning, atheistic socialism is an increasingly dominant force and it seeks to overturn all that was established and fundamental in the world of our parents. One of its doctrines is that of the “radical individual”—the right of a person to determine his own course in life in every respect possible without interference or restriction from others. Behind this doctrine lies another theory even more fundamental to modern thought: that there is no evil in the flesh; that the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life are natural, legitimate and nothing of which to be ashamed. The Biblical teaching of the fall of mankind and the perversion of his natural desires is unknown and unwanted.

When we see this clearly, we perceive how completely irrelevant is modern advice in the training and disciplining of our children. Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote a best-selling book on the subject and his basic premise was that discipline and restraint only inhibited the wholesome potential of human nature. His theory and practical suggestions were swallowed by millions in all Western democracies; schools relaxed their programs; new curricula were developed and parents everywhere desisted from corporal punishment of their children. “Bashing only produces bashers.” A sweeping revolution was taking place in the basic, millennia-old teaching on the training of children.

The catastrophic results are now apparent in every school and office and street in the land. Even Dr. Spock has lamented his book and has travelled widely trying to persuade people away from the very liberal policies of his own pen! But the damage is done.

What says the Scripture? “O Yahweh, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer 10:23). Left to himself, man will utterly corrupt. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9) “From within, out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries… all these evil things come from within” (Mark 7:21-23).

There are two more proverbs even more explicit to the theme of child-rearing. “… A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov 29:15), “Foolishness is bound in the heart of the child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (22:15). This wisdom is the exact opposite to what most worldly educationalists and child psychologists are saying. It is really important and helpful for Christadephian parents to see this with perfect clarity.

Now the Proverbs not only speak about a child’s natural bent to transgression but they also provide the answer to avoid its terrible end—“the rod of correction shall chase it far from him”. “Rod” is Hebrew “shebet” and means exactly what the AV says, though doubtless the form it takes would vary according to age, person and circumstance. God is telling us that if we wish to turn a child from folly, then firm, physical discipline will be needed. As parents we naturally turn away from this. We do not like the upset in the home, the crying of the child, the disfavour of the subject of the spanking.

Yet the Father above sees it all and encourages faithful parents thus “Let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Prov 19:18). “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die” (Prov 23:13). There are many children who would never learn unless the rod was employed from time to time. The resolution of the father is determined by his ability to instil his principles into his children and not to be sidetracked by noise or temper or opposition or fear of unpopularity. Listening to the command of the Father, he does the job fairly and firmly.

The first half of Proverbs 19:18 also has important advice. “Chasten thy son while there is hope.” Discipline of this kind may well be accepted by teen-age boys if the same measure of earnestness has been seen throughout his development from childhood. If this has not been the case, then a sudden introduction upon a grown boy may bring an adverse reaction. This is particularly so today where he may be alone among his peers in receiving such from his parents. Early training has the most enduring benefits. What has not been practised before twelve years of age is difficult to introduce after. Even in a little one, never permit lying, defiance or disrespect.

The Blessings of Discipline

 The Scriptural teaching regarding failure to use the rod is terribly clear, so clear that men and women wish to avoid it. “The result is often a personal monstrosity as hideous as the creations of modern artists who with a similar disregard of the old rules try to express themselves in their art” (Islip Collyer, Principles & Proverbs).

The same Scriptures also comfort us with the excellent benefits from the use of firm discipline. The “rod of correction” turns the child from the path of folly (Prov 22:15). Mingled with verbal reproof it “gives wisdom” (29:15) and “delivers his soul from the grave” (23:14). So often parents today are beside themselves with their anxieties for their children’s course of life. Here is the Father’s wisdom and advice. Spare the rod in earlier years and we will not only spoil the child but do despite unto the advice of God. Correction backed up by “the rod” is the way to peace in a home. If the word of the parent is promptly supported by sterner measures, the home is at peace. Children then listen the first time to what their parents say. But if they know the parent goes on repeating his wishes, they will play on that until frustration and anger builds up in the parent and disobedience becomes a way of life for the child. “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Prov 29:17). No talk of a “generation gap” but respect, communion and pleasantness between children and their parents. Heeding Divine counsel, the parents have not sought peace upon the children’s terms as is almost universal in this age.

Father’s Role

 A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother” (Prov 10:1). Why does the Scripture say the heaviness of his mother? “A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother” (Prov 15:20). Again it is the mother who has been despised, her instruction that has been spurned. “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Prov 29:15). These proverbs reveal a very typical family problem—the neglect of the father to be a true father to his sons and daughters. His grief or shame is not mentioned in these proverbs because he never was concerned. Yet he is the head of the family and it lies at his feet to give direction to the home and discipline to the children, a truth again pronounced by the Apostle Paul (Eph 6:4). Yet in so many homes this simply is not the case. Tired from a day at the office or factory, the father often arrives home expecting to be waited upon rather than to bring the power of leadership into the home. The children are noise and nuisance to him. The meal-table (if he’s home for it!) is just a place to eat and the whole day’s activities of the children are just not part of his interest and involvement. Then there is the father who can continue reading the paper or watching the television when mother is beside herself with little children needing bedtime attention and older boys and girls who just ignore her requests.

If we are blessed to have a wife to help in the bringing up of our family—there are many parents today who do it alone, then woe betide us if we behave irresponsibly. Our wife needs every bit of the stronger vessel’s interest and co-operation. She will never forget her children; she brought them into the world. She was involved in every aspect of their development. She cannot cease her concern for them. But some fathers do and that is the real-life scene that the Spirit describes in these proverbs.

A father who sits about when the mother is administering discipline is failing his role. A father who fails to react when a child cheeks his mother is a miserable shirker. A father who suffers his wife to become frayed and despairing through the lack of obedience of their children, is neglecting his Divinely-appointed role. Let the father lead, show his firm but fair resolve and let mother always know that she has a sure and strong supporter in all that she is working for in her children.

The Son In Whom He Delighteth

God’s ways are not man’s ways, nor His thoughts their thoughts. The wise of this world say, “Beating only develops further bashers. Whatever is the point?”! The reason for discipline is not only that the fruits justify the means but that a wise and loving parent could not act in any other way. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Prov 13:24). The stirrings of a profound and eternal love for a child will move a parent into action. Discipline is not administered through desire—else it were cruelty and hate. True and wise parents practise discipline because they love their children and cannot bear the thought of them not eventually entering into eternal life. They value so strongly the little lives that God has entrusted to their care that they are prepared to carry their love to the point of enforcing their will, for the eternal betterment of the child.

This is how Yahweh deals with His children. “My son, despise not thou the chastening of Yahweh; neither be weary of His correction: for whom Yahweh loveth He correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Prov 3:11-12). How this turns upside down the wisdom of the world. Lax neighbours may despise Christadelphian parents who firmly correct their own children, but the Father above says that they are the parents who love their children—and those who neglect discipline hate them!

This is a truth illustrated by the most elevated examples. Who of God’s greatest servants avoided the adversities of life? Look at Joseph’s amazing trials: the subject of unwarranted hate from his brothers, estranged from his beloved father, hundreds of miles from home locked in an Egyptian dungeon, bitterly betrayed and besmirched by an evil woman. Moses was forty years exiled in Midian in the best years of his life, when circumstances and his personal endeavour had lifted him from a watery grave to be the prince of Pharaoh’s daughter! And Yahweh loved these sons! But there was more to come. In the vale of Kedron midst ancient olives, in the darkness of the very early morning hours, a lonely yet sinless Son, despised and rejected by the very men he came to save, uttered “prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears”. His Father saw them all, yet removed not the cup from his mouth. Here a son “learned obedience by the things which he suffered”.

Christadelphian parents awake! Are such examples in vain? Are we to be fooled by the world to think that our discipline, in all its varied forms for all the various kinds of children and temperaments, is too harsh and not an expression of love? We know better. We have seen a true Father’s love for His Son! We shall not let our sons and our daughters grow up except it be in the wholesome, faithful and pleasant ways of the Lord. Will we let them dress in the careless ways of this world and present themselves loose and unlovely? By no means! Shall we simply ignore their speech and attitudes to others because they are in a different generation? By no means! Will we let them go off with the unguided and uninstructed children of this world? By no means, lest what happened to Dinah happen to them! (Gen 34:1–2). Will we let them use and abuse the facilities of the home without restraint or sense of duty? By no means, for such are one step away from criminals (Prov 28:24).

Nurture and Admonition of The Lord

The present hour needs clear vision of the principles and a clear view of the whole picture. There is nothing in the above that condones a bully over his children, a father who stalks the house in anger and bad temper, bent on finding cause for yet another thrashing or verbal bashing. “Nurture and admonition of the Lord” is the Apostle’s summary. “Like as a father pitieth his children” is the Scripture’s description of the attitude of fathers to their children (Psa 103:13).

Here then we have fathers who have both strength to uphold obedience and loving interest that ensures time is spent in the spiritual education of their children. When this formula is exercised then happiness will result. Children greatly appreciate parents who can have a little heart-to-heart chat, sitting on their bed, enjoying a walk together, working on a project with them. Such times afford marvellous opportunities to sow the seed of divine ideals and are the very pith of Moses’ original instruction—“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” Deuteronomy 6:6–9.