The Scriptural Misuse of Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

Teachers of the gospel must learn to turn from Old Testament scriptures of the law and teach the concepts and power of grace. This proverb addresses the rod but includes further forms of instruction that have been neglected by church leaders.

Apr 22, 2024 - 19:51
Apr 23, 2024 - 01:19
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The Scriptural Misuse of Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

Unlearned, Spirit deprived preachers who have yet to discover the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, continue to refer back to Old Testament scripture when relating to raising and disciplining a child. The Old Testament says, “Withhold not correction from the child: For if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, And shalt deliver his soul from hell.” Proverbs 23:13, 14. It says nothing about spoiling the child.

Many preachers teach that whipping a child is commanded by the Bible and they literally take it to heart, not considering that the Old Testament times required physical force on many people on many different occasions, not just children. Such as the eye for an eye vengeance against enemies, literally poking the eyes out of people, and killing with the sword, and wizards and witches were stoned to death. Yet, they completely neglect the instruction from Jesus and the Apostles when using grace in disciplining children.

Ephesians 6:4 says, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This says nothing about using physical force or beating children, in fact, Jesus warned against this when he says, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” Meaning, be careful how to treat children because they have the favor of God.

This is a more tinder approach to child rearing instead of the harsh forms of Old Testament discipline. “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:21. We are not to be aggressive toward children but use the admonishment, wisdom and love of the Holy Spirit to correct the child. “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” Luke 17:2.

Teachers of the gospel must learn to turn from Old Testament scriptures of the law and teach the concepts and power of grace. Too many preachers mislead believers by not turning the pages of old toward the teachings of Christ. Raising children is an area that needs serious attention especially in the world of immorality we live in today. Beating a child is not the way of grace. There is another way described below.

This advice is in no way an attempt to judge or berate a person’s parenting skills, but information of a tried-and-true tactic with centuries of success in child rearing through generations and through many cultural traditions. It comes from spiritual guidance and scribes of wisdom. That method is basically paying attention to your child, taking the time to reprove and correct them, and standing firm as an authority figure in your child’s life.

In contradiction to old fashion parenting, modern child-rearing methods such as being a friend to your kids and gentle parenting does not work for many children. Teachers can confirm this truth. Someone has to be the adult and either you or your kids will take the role. If a child is left to make their own decisions, they will forever ignore your advice. 

They will lack respect for you as the parent and second guess your knowledge and look to others, friends or their parents, to direct them in life. A well-known secret is that children look for and expect a loving form of discipline. A parent has to establish intellectual and emotional authority from the start.

New age books that encourage parents to play nice, speak softly and gentle parent set the parents up for failure when the child discovers there are no real boundaries, hard truths or consequences to their actions. If they feel every situation in life will be answered with gentleness and kindness, they will underestimate life and fall short of their potential for success. 

They will underperform expecting fair and equal results from their efforts and when they see life does not work that way, they will blame their parents for not preparing them. Some will resort to easier coping methods such as drugs or therapy from strangers.

In today’s extremely liberal, religious free-will-based society, too many people reject conservative, old fashion parenting skills and especially precepts from the Bible, which says; “The rod and reproof give wisdom: But a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15. This proverbs addresses the rod but includes further forms of instruction that have been neglected by church leaders.

Unfortunately, too many people misinterpret the concept of sparing the rod and spoiling the child, supposing that it talks about spanking and whipping the child into submissiveness. But if read with understanding and the correct interpretation, this basic concept from the Bible suggests being firm, correcting the child when they are wrong, and paying attention to their needs, in addition to New Testament teachings of careful admonition of the child with the loving kindness of grace.

This does not necessarily mean hitting the child, but if taken literally, spanking a child’s hand or restricting their reach when they touch things they are not supposed to helps the child understand what is dangerous and could harm them. It does not mean physical abuse. Unfortunately, again, too many overbearing church leaders and Christian parents misinterpret this scripture to mean laying on physical hands. 

Children naturally reach for things that could hurt them, spanking or restricting their hand shocks them into reality and they will think twice about touching things they should not. Children are resilient and more perceptive than people give them credit for. They understand a firm no and a pull-back to an action they need to acknowledge as wrong. If they continue the behavior, the parent should always remain consistent and spank or restrict their hands every time.

This technique is best practiced on children as toddlers. Once they are at speaking age, they should know better and know the main differences between right and wrong, which are essential and needed lessons of life. There is no reason a parent should not teach their child the difference. 

Spanking a child with a belt or anything else such as a tree switch or an extension cord is overbearing and exaggerated discipline and will be unnecessary if they learn the difference between right and wrong very early on. Unfortunately, too many parents believe that physical discipline is the only form of correct child-rearing. This is false.

Parents should be firm and authoritative in their voice tone and stand firm and consistent on their demands. This registers with a child much more than physical discipline. Sit them down, make them look you in the eye and tell them exactly what you expect of them. Hold their face to meet your eyes if they continue to turn away. Without shouting or threats and provoking them to anger, this method will teach the child severity on your part. Do not constantly threaten the child to do what you want them to do, tell them the truth about the consequences of their actions. This gives them a chance to ponder their actions, builds critical thinking skills, and they do not have to always defend against threats.

For instance, if they refuse to do their homework, tell them they will not pass the class and will have to repeat it again and again until they are older than the kids in the class. Tell them if they do not clean up their room, they will live in filth and get sick from germs and end up in the hospital. If they do not want to eat their food, tell them they will go hungry, lose weight and get ill. 

Then tell them you will take them out of school if they do not want to work, you will take what they have and they will not have anything to clean up, and you will not cook them food because they do not want to eat. These are realities in life. Uneducated, unemployment, and poverty are consequences. This gives them time to think about what was said. Children are smart. There is never a need to use physical violence against a child. A parent in tune with their child and the Spirit will know exactly when to use force if the action is too egregious for a soft word. It comes naturally.

However, as the proverb goes, if a child is left to him or herself and not disciplined or taught right from wrong early, or the consequences of negative actions, they will become unruly, disrespectful, and juvenile in the long run. They will talk back if not checked right away by the parent, they will intentionally embarrass the parent in public if they know they will not be disciplined in private, and they will raise their hand at the parent if they have no boundaries as to who is in charge. A fifteen-year-old boy is in prime position to raise his fist at his mother if she has set no limitations or demanded respect from him as a child.

There has to be a level of firmness on the part of the parent if they want a child that can fend for themselves in life. They have to be disciplined with seriousness, made to sit and calm down from tantrums, and given attention and detailed lessons when they need it. They cannot be ignored and left to learn for themselves. They must be taught; taught how to do things and not just given a task and expected to complete it without instruction. This is the ultimate parental neglect. 

Neither can the parent do everything for the child as they get old enough to do for themselves. Not teaching the child to learn and take responsibility for their own basic needs is neglect. When they become adults, they will expect the parents, and others, to do their life for them.

Some kids are different than others in development. Some are naturally respectful and kindhearted. Parents must be able to recognize this trait in their child and build on it. If the parent neglects the child’s true character and unfortunately ignores and erases it, they will have a resentful child. If the parent has no discernment of the child’s feelings and needs, they will misinterpret the child and choose the wrong method of discipline. You cannot turn a flower into a rock, or vise-versa.

Some parents think their child’s good heart is contrary to their own hardness and try to harden the child against their will. This is neglectful parenting. They end up turning the child into a version of themselves negating the true nature of the child. This can be emotionally traumatizing to the child and make them rebellious. Parents must understand who their child is and take into consideration the genetic make up of the child’s character from both sides of the family tree, the mother and the father’s side.

Some kids are more disobedient than others and need extra attention and direction. A parent must recognize this need and attend to it immediately. Hyper Activity Disorders and attention-seeking bad behaviors come mainly from neglect of discipline and sometimes the child’s diet. Parents must spend time with their children and also research what they are feeding them and take it into consideration. 

Children tend to rebel when there is constant conflict in the household. If there is tension between the parents, the child should be sheltered away or monitored afterward for how they feel, otherwise, if left alone with their feelings, they will turn to other, ungodly sources of comfort. Some children’s personalities clash with family members and friends so their peers and acquaintances should be monitored at all times. Attention to the details of your child’s life is crucial in raising obedient children. But anger and physical force will harden a child’s heart.

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” John 1:17.

MinisterCR A minister, teacher and preacher of the gospel of Christ for 32 years. Peace and love to all. Stay prayerful.