The Value of Disciplining in Love
1. What is needed if one’s children are going to be obedient?
OBEDIENT, loving, well-mannered children do not just happen. They are molded and produced through example and discipline.
2. How do the views of many child psychologists conflict with the Bible’s counsel?
2 Many child psychologists put a “hands off” sign on children, as did one who said: “Do you mothers realize that every time you spank your child you show that you are hating your child?” But in his Word, God says: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24, Revised Standard Version) A few decades ago, particularly in Western nations, books on child training, with their theories of permissiveness, flooded the market. Discipline would inhibit the child and stunt its development, the psychologists said; and as for spanking, just the thought of it was horrifying to them. Their theories collided head on with Jehovah God’s counsel. His Word says you ‘reap what you sow.’ (Galatians 6:7) What have a few decades of sowing the seeds of permissiveness proved?
3, 4. What has resulted from a lack of proper discipline in the home, and so what do many recommend?
3 The bumper crop of crime and delinquency is well known. Youth crime accounts for over 50 percent of serious crime in many industrialized nations. In some parts of the world, school campuses are hotbeds of class disruptions, fights, verbal abuse and obscenities, vandalism, assault, extortion, arson, robberies, rapes, drugs and murders. A spokesman for a federation of teachers in one major country traced the discipline problem to the school’s failure to reach the children at an early age, and blamed delinquency on the deterioration of the family and the unwillingness of parents to set reasonable standards of behavior for their children. In considering the question of ‘why some members of a family become criminal while others do not,’ The Encyclopædia Britannica says: “Family disciplinary policies may be either too lax, too severe, or too inconsistent. American research has suggested that unsound discipline may be related to about 70 percent of criminal men.”
4 The results experienced have led to a reversal of opinion among many and a return to discipline.
THE ROD OF DISCIPLINE
5. What is the Bible’s view of spanking?
5 A spanking may be a lifesaver to a child, for God’s Word says: “Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol [the grave] itself.” Again, “Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him.” (Proverbs 23:13, 14; 22:15) If parents hold their children’s life interests dear to them, they will not weakly or carelessly let disciplinary action slip from their hands. Love will motivate them to take action, wisely and fairly, when it is needed.
6. What does discipline include?
6 As regards discipline itself, it is not limited to punishing. Discipline basically means ‘instruction and training that holds to a certain order or framework.’ That is why Proverbs 8:33 says, not ‘feel discipline,’ but “listen to discipline and become wise.” The Christian, according to 2 Timothy 2:24, 25, “needs to be gentle toward all, qualified to teach, keeping himself restrained under evil, instructing with mildness those not favorably disposed.” The word “instructing” here is translated from the Greek word for discipline. The same word is so translated at Hebrews 12:9: “We paid due respect to the earthly fathers who disciplined us; should we not submit even more readily to our spiritual Father, and so attain life?”—New English Bible.
7. What benefits result from discipline by parents?
7 A parent who fails to provide discipline will not gain a child’s respect, any more than will rulers gain the respect of citizens when they allow wrongdoing to go on with impunity. Discipline, rightly given, is evidence to a child that his parents care about him. It contributes toward a peaceful home, for “to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11) Disobedient, badly behaved children are a source of irritation in any home, and such children are never truly happy, not even with themselves. “Chastise your son and he will bring you rest and give much pleasure to your soul.” (Proverbs 29:17) After some firm but loving correction, a child can get somewhat of a new outlook and a fresh start and often is far more pleasant company. Discipline, indeed, “yields peaceable fruit.”
8. How can parents discipline in love?
8 “Whom Jehovah loves he disciplines.” (Hebrews 12:6) So it is with the parent who truly has his children’s best interests at heart. Disciplining is to be done out of love. Anger may be normal when one becomes provoked by a child’s wrongdoing, but, as the Bible shows, one should be “keeping himself restrained under evil.” (2 Timothy 2:24) After a person has cooled down, a childish sin may not seem so big: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to pass over transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11; see also Ecclesiastes 7:8, 9.) There may be extenuating circumstances: Perhaps the child is overly tired or does not feel well. Maybe he actually forgot what he had been told; adults do that too, don’t they? But even if some wrongdoing is not to be passed over, the discipline should not be an uncontrolled outburst or a blow that simply releases the emotional pressure of the parent. Discipline involves instruction, and by an angry outburst a child learns a lesson, not in self-control, but in the lack of it. The feeling of being cared for that the child senses in well-administered discipline is absent. Balance, then, is essential and promotes peace.
SETTING FIRM LIMITS
9. In harmony with Proverbs 6:20-23, what should parents provide for their children?
9 Parents are to provide guidelines for their children. “Observe, O my son, the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother. Tie them upon your heart constantly; bind them upon your throat. When you walk about, it will lead you; when you lie down, it will stand guard over you; and when you have waked up, it itself will make you its concern. For the commandment is a lamp, and a light the law is, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” These parental precepts are to guide and protect the child, and they reflect the parents’ concern for the child’s welfare and happiness.—Proverbs 6:20-23.
10. What can happen when parents fail to discipline their children?
10 A father who fails in this bears responsibility. Eli, a high priest in ancient Israel, let his sons indulge in greed, disrespect and immorality; he expressed some protest to them but took no real action to put a stop to their wrongdoing. God said: “I am judging his house to time indefinite for the error that he has known, because his sons are calling down evil upon God, and he has not rebuked them.” (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-25; 3:13) Similarly, if a mother fails in her duty, she suffers disgrace: “The rod and reproof are what give wisdom; but a boy [or a girl] let on the loose will be causing [the] mother shame.”—Proverbs 29:15.
11. Why do children need to have limits set for them?
11 Children need limits set for them. They are ill at ease without them. Having them and following them make the children feel part of a group; they belong to it and are accepted by it because they conform to its requirements. Permissiveness abandons the young and leaves them floundering on their own. The results show that children need adults who have firm convictions about limits, and who will pass these on. Children need to recognize that there are limits for everyone on earth and that this results in personal happiness and good. Freedom can be enjoyed only when others recognize our area of freedom and we recognize theirs. Overstepping proper limits inevitably means that the offender is going ‘to the point of harming and encroaching upon the rights of his brother.’—1 Thessalonians 4:6.
12. Why is self-discipline important, and how might parents help their children to develop it?
12 When children learn that defiance of proper limits brings discipline of one kind or another, they come to recognize their own limits, and through parental firmness and guidance they develop the self-discipline needed to live satisfying lives. Either we discipline ourselves from within, or we will be disciplined by some outside source. (1 Corinthians 9:25, 27) If we develop inner discipline and help our children to do the same, our lives and theirs will be happier, freer from troubles and heartaches.
13. What are some important factors for parents to keep in mind when setting forth guidelines for their children?
13 Guidelines and limitations for children should be clear to them, fair, and with merciful allowances. Expect neither too much nor too little. Remember their age, for they will act it. Do not expect them to be miniature adults. The apostle said that, when he was a babe, he acted like one. (1 Corinthians 13:11) But once reasonable rules have been established and your children understand them, enforce them promptly and consistently. “Let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No.” (Matthew 5:37) Children actually appreciate parents who hold to their word, who are consistent and predictable, for they sense their parents’ strength supporting them and feel that they can rely on it when trouble comes and they need help. If their parents are fair yet positive in correcting wrongdoing, this gives children a feeling of security and stability. Children like to know where they stand, and with such parents they do know it.
14. Why is firmness important when children do not respond to direction from their parents?
14 It takes determination on the part of parents to show firmness when a child balks at obeying a parental order. Some parents then resort to threats of possible punishment, engage in fruitless arguing with the child or turn to attempts at bribing the child to do what they have told it to do. Often all that is needed is simply to be very firm and to tell the child, with conviction, that he must do it and do it now. If a child were about to step in front of an oncoming car, parents would tell it what to do in no uncertain terms. As certain researchers on the subject point out: “Nearly all parents get their children to go to school, . . . to brush their teeth, to stay off the roof, to take baths, and so on. The children often resist. But they comply, nonetheless, because they know the parents mean business.” You can expect your children to ‘tie your guidelines and commandments upon their heart constantly’ only if you reinforce these consistently.—Proverbs 6:21.
15. When parents are inconsistent in enforcing guidelines, how may the children be affected?
15 When parents spasmodically enforce guidelines according to the whim or mood of the moment, or when discipline for disobedience is long delayed, children are emboldened to chance some violations to see how far they can go and how much they can get away with. When retribution seems to lag, children are like grown-ups in becoming bold in wrongdoing. “Because sentence against a bad work has not been executed speedily, that is why the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11) So, say what you mean, and mean what you say. Then your child will recognize that this is the case and will realize that neither pouting, arguing, nor acting as though he feels you are cruel and unloving, will be of any use.
16. To avoid giving unreasonable commands, what should parents do?
16 This requires thinking before speaking. Rashly made rules or commands are often unreasonable. “Be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” (James 1:19) If discipline is not fair and consistent, the natural sense of justice that children possess will be offended, and resentment will develop.
KEEP ENTERTAINMENT UNDER CONTROL
17. What view of work and play should children come to appreciate?
17 Play is a natural part of a child’s life. (Zechariah 8:5) Parents must recognize this, while gradually introducing into the child’s life an appreciation for work and a sense of responsibility. Then, whatever chores the child may come to have are generally best done first; play comes second.
18. What effect can associates have on children?
18 Some children become “street children” or virtual strangers at home due to seeking entertainment elsewhere. If the associations are poor, the effects will be poor. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Some association outside the home is, of course, beneficial to the child so as to develop a broadened understanding of people. But when there is too much outside association or it is left uncontrolled, the family circle becomes weakened or even fragmented.
19. What are some things that parents might review to determine whether they are making the home an enjoyable place for their children?
19 Along with the discipline they give to correct this, parents may well ask themselves what they might do to make the home more enjoyable for their children; whether they are spending enough time with them, not just in instructing or disciplining them, but also in being true friends and companions to their children. Are you usually “too busy” to spend time with your children, to play with them? Once they are missed, opportunities to do things with a child will not come back. Time is one-directional, and the child does not stand still but keeps growing and changing. Seasons flow by, and though it seems like just yesterday that your son was a baby learning to walk, you suddenly realize that he is becoming a young man, and your little girl has been transformed into a young lady. Only if you maintain a good balance and discipline yourself in your own use of time can you avoid slighting the opportunities this precious period offers—or prevent seeing your children draw away from you while yet in tender years.—Proverbs 3:27.
20, 21. Where there is a television in the home, what responsibility should parents assume, and why?
20 Where television is a common source of recreation, limits may need to be set on its use. Some parents use TV as a baby-sitter. It may be convenient and seem to be cheap; but in reality it can prove very costly. Television programs are often saturated with violence and sex. The impression given is that violence is an acceptable way of solving problems; illicit sex appears as an acceptable part of everyday life. Many surveys have shown that this can desensitize a person to such practices, especially young persons. You are concerned that your children eat food that is healthful and not contaminated. You should be even more concerned about what their minds are being fed. As Jesus showed, food does not go into our hearts, but what we take into our minds may enter our hearts.—Mark 7:18-23.
21 Control over the kind of programs watched and also the amount of time spent in front of TV can make a big difference in a child’s development. Television can provide some enjoyable entertainment and even education; but if uncontrolled it can become an addiction, consuming enormous amounts of time. Time is life, and some of that time could surely be spent in other more profitable ways. This is because television replaces doing with just seeing. It displaces not only physical activity, but also reading and conversation. A family needs communication and togetherness, and just sitting silently together in the same room watching television is not going to satisfy that need. Where an excess of TV watching is a problem, parents can develop in their children an appreciation for other activities in place of television—healthful play, reading, family activities—particularly if parents themselves take the lead and set the example.
WHEN YOU DISCIPLINE, COMMUNICATE!
22. Why is it important for children to understand the words used by their parents?
22 One parent tells of this experience:
“When my son was just three years old I gave him quite a sermon on lying, how God hates liars, using Proverbs 6:16-19 and other scriptures. He listened and seemed to give the right responses. But I had a feeling he hadn’t got the point. So I asked, ‘Son, do you know what a lie is?’ He said, ‘No.’ After that I always made sure he knew what the words meant and why he was being disciplined.”
23. What might be involved in helping children to see the rightness of a particular course of action?
23 When children are still infants, parents may only be able to point things out as “no-nos,” such as touching a hot stove. But even with those first simple warnings, reasons can be given. It may be simply that a stove is “hot!” and to touch it will “hurt!” From the start, however, keep before the child the principle that what is involved is for the child’s good; then highlight the desirability of such qualities as kindness, considerateness and love. Help the child to appreciate that these qualities underlie all right requirements or restrictions. Also, emphasize why a certain action expresses these desirable traits or not. When this is done consistently, you may be able to reach not just the child’s mind but his heart.—Matthew 7:12; Romans 13:10.
24. Why is it important for a child to respect authority?
24 Likewise, the need for obedience and respect for authority should be inculcated progressively. During the first year of life, a child’s willingness or unwillingness to respond to adult demands will begin to show. As soon as the child’s mental development allows for it, impress upon him an appreciation of the parents’ responsibility to God. This can make a great difference in the child’s response. Without this, children may view obedience as something they have to express merely because their parents are bigger and stronger than they are. If, instead, the child is helped to see that the parents are not giving their own ideas but are giving the child what the Creator says, what his Word says, this will give a strength to the parents’ counsel and direction that nothing else can. It can be a real source of needed strength when rough areas begin to appear in a child’s young life and he or she begins to feel the stress and strain of holding to right principles in the face of temptation or pressure.—Psalm 119:109-111; Proverbs 6:20-22.
25. How might the counsel at Proverbs 17:9 help parents to discipline their children in the right manner?
25 “The one covering over transgression is seeking love, and he that keeps talking about a matter is separating those familiar with one another.” (Proverbs 17:9) This is true also in parent-child relationships. Once a child has been made aware of his mistake and understands why he needs to be disciplined, and the discipline has been given, love should move the parent to avoid harping on the transgression. Whatever was done, be sure you make clear that what you hate is the wrong, not the child. (Jude 23) The child may feel that he has ‘taken his medicine’ and may view frequent references to the incident as a needless humiliation. It could result in his alienation from the parents or other children in the family. If the parent is concerned that a wrong pattern is developing, then the matter can be dealt with later in some family discussion. Do not simply recite and review past acts, but consider instead the principles involved, how they apply and why they are so important to lasting happiness.
DIFFERENT WAYS TO DISCIPLINE
26. Why do not all children respond in a desirable way to the same kind of discipline?
26 “A rebuke works deeper in one having understanding than striking a stupid one a hundred times.” (Proverbs 17:10) Different children may need to be disciplined differently. The temperament and disposition of the individual child must be considered. One child may be very sensitive, and physical punishment, such as spanking, may not always be necessary. With another, spanking may be ineffective. Or a child may be like the servant described at Proverbs 29:19, one who “will not let himself be corrected by mere words, for he understands but he is paying no heed.” In such a case the child would need corporal punishment.
27. How did one father help his little boy to stop marking on a wall?
27 One mother reports:
“My son was barely two when he wrote on the wall—little red marks not far from the floor. His father showed them to him and asked him about them. All he got was a big-eyed stare, not a Yes or a No. Finally his father said, ‘You know, son, when I was about your age I wrote on a wall. It’s kind of fun, isn’t it?’ Well, the little boy now relaxed, his face was all smiles, and he started an animated conversation about how much fun it was. He knew daddy understood! However, it was explained that even though it was fun, the walls were not the place for marking. Communication was established and, for this child, some further reasoning was all that was required.”
28. How might a parent avoid arguing with a child?
28 When disciplining, to give reasons so as to teach and instruct is fine, but it is not usually advisable to argue with a child. When her child argued about doing certain work, one mother simply said: “When you get it done we will go to the park,” which was to be a treat for the youngster that day. Some pleasure or outing would be withheld until the assigned job was completed. If she came to check and found the work was still undone, she would say, “Oh, not done yet? We’ll go when you’re through.” She didn’t argue, but she got results.
29. What could be done to make a child feel the undesirable consequences of his wrongdoing?
29 Feeling the undesirable consequences of wrong acts can help children to learn the wisdom of right principles. Has a child made a mess? It may be that having to clean it up himself will make the strongest impression. Has he been unfair or rude? Learning to apologize may do the most to correct a wrong trend. He may have broken something in a moment of anger. If he is old enough, he might be required to earn money to replace it. With some children, the denial of certain privileges for a time may bring home the needed lesson. In the Christian congregation the withdrawal of friendly association is a way used to cause some wrongdoers to become ashamed. (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14, 15) With youngsters, temporary banishment from family companionship can be more effective than spanking. Extremes, however, such as locking a child out of the house, go beyond what love would dictate. Whatever the method used, children need to be shown that they must bear the consequences of their behavior. This teaches them responsibility.
DISCIPLINE IN LOVE
30. Why is balance important when parents set guidelines for their children?
30 “Make sure of the more important things,” keeping in mind that “the wisdom from above is . . . reasonable.” (Philippians 1:10; James 3:17) Remember that young children are bundles of energy that is seeking release, and they are hungry to learn and explore and to try out new things. In setting out limitations and guidelines, show good judgment and be selective. There is a balance to be struck between what is essential and what isn’t. Having made known the limits, then, rather than trying to control every minute detail, allow the child to enjoy moving freely and confidently within those limits. (Proverbs 4:11, 12) Otherwise your children may well become ‘exasperated’ and “downhearted,” and you will find yourself worn out because of making issues of things that are not really of any particular consequence.—Colossians 3:21.
31. What example has Jehovah God set in giving discipline?
31 So, parents, “chastise your son [or daughter] while there exists hope,” but do it God’s way, in love. Imitate Him: “The one whom Jehovah loves he reproves, even as a father does a son in whom he finds pleasure.” Make your discipline both valuable and loving, like your Creator’s, for such “reproofs of discipline are the way of life.”—Proverbs 19:18; 3:12; 6:23.