About ten years ago I was freshly graduated from college and had a friend who married a woman who was just a baby Christian. She had accepted Jesus as her savior and was excited to do all she could for Him. We had a pastor that recommended we meet together, so we did, for many months.
I learned a whole lot at that time. She and I had extremely personal conversations and she asked some very difficult questions about life and married life. I had never been married and I didn’t know that much about life – but we were there to worship God together, and although I tried to answer her questions without it, we came to rely consistently on what the Bible said.
She flourished as a woman and a Christian at that time. She is now a mother, still worships God and wants her children to know God. But what I hope most of all this that she’s learned her lesson – and my lesson too: Even if you are totally clueless about something, the answers can be found in the Bible.
I am glad I didn’t set out to give her marital advice. I would have had some ideas but I didn’t realize all marriage entailed. I learned, and I hope she did too, the way to know something is not necessarily through life experience, it’s through the wisdom that comes from knowing God and reading the Bible. These are things she wanted desperately, and I also want for my family.
For this reason, as a mother of one, I have no reservations about writing about Biblical Parenting. I think the wisdom for raising any number of childen of any age is accessible, no more to the Duggars than to me. It might make sense to talk to a couple who has been married for twenty-five years for marital advice, but you are doing so assuming it’s been twenty-five happy years. Same goes for a mom of three, or eight, or twenty. You assume they are “good” kids and a happy family. The parents are loving, yet firm. The way things look on the outside aren’t always the way they are on the inside. So, here goes.
The simplest and most essential verse in the Bible is this one: “Do to others as you would have them do to you”.
The book of Proverbs mentions the “rod” several times. This word, “rod” refers to a “shebet”. (There are three Hebrew words that can be translated in to “rod”, but none of them are used in Scripture. “The word rod is “shebet” in Hebrew. This word is defined as following in Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon #7626: rod, staff, branch, offshoot, club, sceptre, tribe a. rod, staff b. shaft (of spear, dart) c. club (of shepherd’s implement) d. truncheon, sceptre (mark of authority) e. clan, tribe” (from Joanne’s Get Off Your Butt Parenting website.)
At the time the Bible was written, children nursed until they were five or six years old. It is only when the baby was weaned he began to be disciplined. Samuel was brought to the priest once he stopped breastfeeding. He would have been a boy, no longer a baby.
Interestingly, the ages a child is usually beaten a lot is before they are 4-5. Parents frustrated by their childrens’ developmentally appropriate behavior, including crying, spilling and drawing on walls, punish their child. When the kid turns about 3 1/2 – 4 the behavior stops and the parents praises the belt or spoon they’ve been using on their child and praise God for it. There is a secret to 3 1/2 – 4 year olds, though. They all grow out of it. Many of the reasons children that small are crying is because they are ill, teething, lonely or just curious. I’ve seen parents respond to their children with, “If you don’t stop crying I’m going to give you something to cry about.” This brings us back to the purpose of a parent and punishment. If a child is crying, the idea is not to force them to continue to cry, it is to be a shelter of them. The Bible asks us to be gentle, and the baby to be content as a weaned child. Do threats have a part in that?
According to Crystal Lutton, a prominent proponent of Grace Based Parenting writes “Ironically, the modern idea of spanking first appears as domestic discipline between sexual partners and such popular catchphrases within the Church as, “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” “a spanking should be done in love, never in anger,” and even reference to “the right way to spank” are actually references to the practice of Domestic Discipline. Even today the neophite to the internet learns very quickly not to Google “spanking”. Yet in many churches today the practice of spanking has not only become the primary method of parenting but it has been coupled to the Gospel in such a way that it is pure heresy. Christians who choose to not spank have their salvation questioned, even by pastors, and are told that their children will not be able to enter into salvation.”
(For those of us unfamiliar with the practice, Domestic Discipline is a style of relationship where the husband teaches and corrects his wife with corporal punishment. You can find more information on the internet if you do a search and want to see a picture of a wife’s bottom. (Yech))
One problem with corporal punishment is that it teaches kids to lie. I know a family whose son was given bloody noses because of the punishment his parents inflicted on him; I saw them to it do him once. The second time I asked him, “How did that happen?” “Oh, nothing.” “Tell me now.” “I fell in to a door.” He was clearly lying. There is no command in the Bible to beat your children; the original Ten Commandments tell us not to lie. There are other examples I have heard of personally – lying to pediatricians, lying to school teachers, lying to other adults in authority. Why teach a child that it is okay to be hurt by someone in charge of you, and to lie to those you might try and protect you? What is the Biblical support for such actions?
1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not into into the kingdom of heaven.
4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
We want our children to be the ones who know God, but our actions can be unforgivable. Of course I am exaggerating a little, but I take God’s Words seriously. I assume if you made it this far, you do too.
“How tender, how dear. “The Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces…” He didn’t turn his back. He didn’t say, “Stop crying. I am really not in the mood for this right now.” He is tender, gentle…wipes away tears. Again, Jesus is our example. And as such if he was gentle and tender…wipes away tears…isn’t that we should do? Yes! This applies to our friends, our “neighbors,” or spouse…so shouldn’t it apply as well to the littlest ones. Our children certainly need to have their tears wiped away in a gentle and tender manner. Not their fears, feelings, needs cast aside. Not hit or yelled at. And Jesus is certainly not the one who causes those tears…he wipes them away. I do not want to be the one that causes my children to have tears; I want to help Jesus in being the wiper of tears–not the causer of tears. Hitting a child is certainly being the one who causes the tears. Yelling at a child is being the one who causes tears. Withholding love from a child is being one who causes tears. Ignoring the child’s feels or treating them as frivolous is being the causer of tears in our little ones. I don’t think this is how Jesus would have us treat our children. He would have us wipe away their tears with tenderness, gentleness, with love unfeigned….” Shannon.
He wants us to be like little children in our approach to him, he does not want us to punish our children for crying, in fact, I’m here to argue he doesn’t want to punish us at all.
The word “punish” means, according to Miriam-Webster “1: the act of punishing. 2 a: suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution b: a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure3: severe, rough, or disastrous treatment.”
Let’s take the second definition. It mentions “retribution”, an action that should not be a part of a Christian’s life. We are to forgive, lavishly. Can we do so while we are seeking retribution from a small child? I don’t think that we can.
We look at the third definition, which is entirely self-explanatory. Then we look at the word “discipline”. It’s used interchangeably in the community that practices corporal punishment. Discipline, as it is practiced in the Bible looks like this:
“So many people quote “rod” scriptures to justify hurting their children…. But rod had more than one meaning. A shepherd’s rod was a 3 foot long club. They did NOT hit their sheep with these rods, but beat off wolves that were trying to attack their sheep. A staff is also referred to as a rod at times. A staff, of course, is longer and thinner than the club rod. It was used for walking, resting, and guiding the sheep. Not for hitting. Rods also represented authority. Rod may also be a something that was used for punishing a wayward “child” in the Old Testament. In the verses where it talks about this the Hebrew word that was used for “child” was for a grown child, not a little child. So, yes, perhaps people did hit their wayward children with a rod…but they were grown children, not young children. And in the Old Testament it says a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye…when Jesus came he fulfilled the law.” He wholly bore our sins upon himself so we don’t have to pay for them. He gave instructions to those who are followers of him so they would know how to live this way: “He said for give seven times seventy, turn the other cheek, he who is perfect cast the first stone…So trying to cite “rod” verses in the Old Testament as God’s will that one should spank children doesn’t really hold up at all.” Shannon
Does this mean that we shouldn’t correct our children, guide our children? Absolutely not. Correction and guidance are of utmost importance in raising these little children. Correction and guidance with love, gentleness, love unfeigned…not hitting, slapping, yelling, control, and power.”
“Every time one wipes away a tear from a child it is the same as wiping away a tear from Jesus. Every time one yells at her child it is the same as yelling at Jesus. Every time one hugs a child it is the same as hugging Jesus. Every time one hits her child she has hit Jesus. Every time one comforts a child she has comforted Jesus. Every time one ignores a child she is ignoring Jesus. Every time one is gentle, tender, and loving to a child she is gentle, tender, and loving to Jesus.” (Shannon)
This applies to sleep as well. Many parents are led astray by teachings such as Ezzo (Babywise, Childwise, Growing Kids God’s Way, Prepared for Parenting) and Michael and Debi Pearl (No Greater Joy, Made to be His Helpmeet). They advocate an adversarial relationship with children. “Parent-centered is no more Biblically sanctioned than child-centered parenting; Believers are challenged to be Christ-centered in all things and this should also apply to parenting.” (Crystal Lutton) Leaving a newborn to cry for 45 minutes is leaving Jesus to cry for forty five minutes. Ignoring a child’s hunger cues is ignoring Jesus’ hunger. Mother Theresa says, “….In the last day, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, “Come, enter the Kingdom. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me.” Then Jesus will turn to those on His left hand and say, “Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink, I was sick and you did not visit me.” These will ask Him, “When did we see You hungry, or thirsty or sick and did not come to Your help?” And Jesus will answer them, “Whatever you neglected to do unto one of these least of these, you neglected to do unto Me!”” Who is “leaster” than a newborn child?
If the prominent school of thought for parents, especially Christian, is wrong, where do we go from here? Maybe I will write a devotion on that later this week. I found writing this devotion to be difficult to write, although I believe strongly in the truths contained in it. I hope you will consider these thoughts and Bible verses, as you go on, that this will change the way your treat the world, especially your children. I’ll close with this:
“Grace-Based Discipline is more about you as a parent than your child. It is about modeling appropriate behavior, being kind and firm, teaching (discipline), correcting (verbally admonishing), respecting and being respected in a way that can only come from relationship. The right relationship you create with your child foreshadows the right relationship your child seeks with his creator.” (Lutton)
P.S. I am not even going to get in to people that whip their children with belts. That’s a whole nother story I can’t deal with right now.
P.P.S. I quoted Crystal Lutton, Joanne and Shannon. I believe that is all. If you find a quote I attritubed incorrectly, please please please let me know so I can ameliorate this situation.