When the Rod of Discipline Is Broken
“WILL we be opening up shelters for mistreated parents by the year 2000?” asked French psychologist Jean-Pierre Chartier. The reason for this question? Evidence that a disturbing number of children are not only disobedient but abusive to their parents. In his book Les parents martyrs Chartier tells of teenagers who have written their parents threatening letters or have even blackmailed them. As to the reason for this phenomenon, Chartier says it is that parents have failed to impart to their children a set of standards to live by. “In some cases,” says he, “it might have been better had they boxed their ears a few times.”
Perhaps you disagree with these sentiments. The unmistakable trend in many parts of the world is for parents to go easy on the old-fashioned rod of discipline, lest they ‘retard their child’s development,’ ‘stunt his personality’ or ‘infringe on his “human rights.”’
Nevertheless, many are disillusioned with liberal child-rearing theories. A 1980 poll, for example, revealed that six out of every ten citizens in the European community felt that parents nowadays are too lenient. “More and more,” said Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “child training has become a matter of simply letting everything run its natural course.” What has resulted? According to John O’Malley, a psychiatrist recently quoted in Time magazine, permissive child rearing has produced teenagers “less respectful and responsive to parental authority. Children do not have firm limits, including standards of behavior.”
Parental disapproval notwithstanding, many youths blatantly take drugs and engage in illicit sex. And if not engaging in such overt acts, some nevertheless manifest a defiant attitude toward their parents. Psychoanalyst Benjamin Wolman thus claimed that parents who fail to teach their children obedience “are raising wild weeds.” He condemns the “do-as-you-please concept” because it “prevents the child’s growth,” provides him with “no inhibitions, no self-restraints,” and possibly sets the stage for later antisocial conduct.
A tragedy that recently took place in Germany illustrates just how antisocial an undisciplined child can become. In this case a 15-year-old carefully planned and executed his mother’s murder. Police officials reported that instead of being remorseful, the boy expressed disappointment that a similar attempt to kill his father had failed.
Because so many parents are finding it difficult to raise their children, organizations designed to help parents are springing up rapidly. In the United States the organization Families Anonymous conducts group discussions with parents, friends and relatives of youths with problem behavior.
Another self-help organization, however, tries a firmer approach. It is appropriately named Toughlove. “Drawing the line against out-of-control youngsters and forcing them to behave” is its announced purpose. This it endeavors to do by helping parents set reasonable restrictions on wayward children’s behavior—restrictions that are enforced. Member parents give mutual support and help. In just a year the group had by 1982 grown from 25 to 500 units in the United States and Canada.
Both organizations have claimed a measure of success in helping parents and their children. But the idea of disciplining one’s children is hardly new. Long ago the Bible said: “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15) So it is no surprise that self-help organizations that follow this wise advice experience a measure of success. However, does using the “rod of discipline” mean using brute force on your children?
Discipline—A Way of Life
Some equate discipline with spanking. And, indeed, at times physical punishment has its place. But in the Bible, discipline also includes correction and training. For example, at Proverbs 8:33 the Bible says: “Listen to discipline and become wise, and do not show any neglect.” Discipline does not always have to be administered at the end of a strap. Talking with a child and sharing Bible-based counsel is often far more effective.—Deuteronomy 6:6, 7.
Nevertheless, a young person needs more than rules and restrictions. He needs direction and purpose in his life. This only comes when parents impart a knowledge and appreciation of the Bible to their child. Once he is taught God’s standards of conduct, he is able to avoid traps other youths may be ensnared in. (Proverbs 2:10-13) Rather than being confused as to which direction his life should take, the “reproofs of discipline” provide him a “way of life” that he can follow.—Proverbs 6:23.
So if “breaking”—failing to apply—the rod of discipline is not working with your children, try applying some Bible-based discipline. Jehovah’s Witnesses would be happy to show you how this can be done.
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Bible-based counsel is often more effective than the strap