"Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him." - Prov 22:15 (ESV)
Before I even begin this chapter, considering the topic, I know some of my readers might pull up their "wall of defense" and prepare for battle. Please know that we're simply evaluating Scripture and seeking to understand what it means regarding our childrearing. I have no evil intentions and will do my best to correctly communicate the author's points.
So why do children need the rod in the first place and why are we having this discussion? Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick..." Children are not born morally and ethically neutral. Tripp said it well, the "child's problem is not an information deficit. His problem is that he is a sinner." Where does the rod come into play? I've already listed one verse in the opening of this blog (Prov. 22:15). In addition, Proverbs 29:15 says, "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother." When the rod is properly administered, the child is rendered compliant and ready to receive life-giving words. I love Hebrews 12:11 dealing with this topic, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
Tripp goes on to clearly explain what the rod is. He says it is a "parent, in faith toward God and faithfulness toward his or her children, undertaking the responsibility of careful, timely measured and controlled us of physical punishment to underscore the importance of obeying god, thus rescuing the child from continuing in his foolishness until death." He breaks it down further into six parts. The rod is reserved for the parent alone. It is an act of faith in that while the parent doesn't perfectly understand how it works, God has commanded it. It is an act of faithfulness toward the child. There are many times where we do not want to spank our children. However, being true to God, we must be faithful to our children. The rod is a responsibility of the parent. The parent is either choosing to obey or disobey God's command on the matter. The rod is physical punishment - but not in any of the ways I will list in the next paragraph. It is always "careful, timely, measured and controlled." Lastly, the rod is a rescue mission. When a child disobeys his parent, he disobeys the Lord (because He has called for parental obedience). The child is disciplined ultimately because he has disobeyed the Lord, not the parent. He needs to be rescued from the sin that leads to death.
Now in all of this talk about the rod, what are we not talking about? We are not talking about allowing child abuse. A parent does not have the right to an unbridled temper. Tripp says that he will discuss this more fully later in the book. The rod should not be associated with anger. A parent being mad at a child will not correct the problem. The opposite, a spanking done with love (and communicated in such a way), will lead the child towards a repentant heart. As parents, we do not have the right to hit out children whenever we wish. The rod should only be used in the context of correction and discipline. The rod should not be used to vent frustration. The rod is not used to exact retribution. It is not payment due but simply a means to administer discipline in a biblical way.
There are many common objections to the rod. I'll mention them each but comment only briefly for the sake of space.
- Objection #1: I love my children too much to spank them. Is it hard to spank our children? Most of the time, yes. Yet who benefits from the lack of a spanking? Not the child, because they are not being disciplined as the Lord has commanded. Yet it is the parent who is being spared the feeling of discomfort or agony over the spanking. "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." -
Prov 13:24 (ESV). This verse suggests the opposite of the objection.
- Objection #2: I'm afraid I will hurt him. There IS a such of thing as child abuse, let's not be mistaken. If we are mindful of our own hearts when the spanking is administered, this should not be an issue. Proverbs 23:13-14 says, "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from [death]."
- Objection #3: I'm afraid it will make him rebellious and angry. Proverbs 29:17 says, "Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart." The disciplined child (when done properly) is a child at peace.
- Objection #4: It doesn't work. There are four possible reasons here. First, there is an inconsistent use of the rod and the child never knows what to expect. Second, the parents fail to persist long enough to get the expected response. Third, the spanking is ineffective because it inflicts zero pain. For example, a double layer of diaper will not respond to a spanking. Lastly, if it is administered in anger, the child will see their parent as a bully and not a giver of justice.
- Objection #5: I'm afraid of being arrested for child abuse. There is validity to this concern. Tripp suggests that a spanking always be given at home. He says it's ultimately a question of faith. Will I obey God with risks attached?
Tripp closes by discussing the fruit of the Rod. He says "the rod teaches outcomes to behavior." When we are consistent, our children learn there are inevitable outcomes to certain behavior. God has built a principle of sowing and reaping. The rod also shows God's authority over Mom and Dad. One reason children have a problem with authority is because it is not modeled well in our culture. The rod demonstrates parental love and commitment - he is engaged and involved. As Hebrews 12:11 says, the rod yields a harvest of peace and righteousness. The rod returns the child to the place of blessing and not that he would continue to live a lust-driven life. It promotes and atmosphere of closeness and openness between the parent and child.
Tripp point out that we cannot focus exclusively on either the rod or communication (as discussed in the past). They are designed to work together and should always function in such a way. He goes on to state that the primacy of both the rod and communication will vary depending on the child's age, which will be discussed in future chapters.
Wow! What an incredibly detailed and insightful chapter! I pray it is an encouragement to you this week!