Discipline is controlled, calm and loving…or it’s sinful
The photo website I use for most of the pictures for Reformed Perspective has more than 24 million stock pictures, so no matter what the topic, I usually have piles of options to choose from. But when I tried to find something to illustrate an article on parenting, and I punched in the search term “parents” along with “discipline” or “punishment” I got only one basic type of picture: glowering, shouting, finger-waving moms and dads. The variety from one picture to the next was only whether the parent had already lost it or was just about to.
This seemed to be the world’s idea of parents doing discipline, and no wonder then that they want to ban spanking. No one wants to allow enraged adults to vent their frustrations by hitting kids!
But, of course, this is not what discipline should ever be. In Proverbs 13:24 we see that God both clearly encourages corporal punishment, and prescribes the boundaries under which it is to be administered:
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
It can be easier not to discipline our children, to let things slide, to pretend we don’t see and don’t know what they are up to, and to just hope that they will smarten up without us having to get up from the couch. But if we love our children more than the TV program we’re watching, the book we’re reading, or the friend we’re talking to on the phone, then we will stop what we are doing and apply the corrective that is needed when it is needed… which is immediately.
But this verse is about more than a willingness to discipline; we’re told that this discipline is motivated by love. There was no love to be seen in any of the website’s stock pictures. These screaming, reddening, out-of-control parents looked like they wanted to hit their kids. As Pastor Douglas Wilson explains:
Discipline is corrective, and it is applied for the sake of the one receiving it. It is not punitive, and it is not rendered for the sake of the one giving it. When you are spanking a child, you are either being selfish or you are being selfless – one or the other. You are doing it because you are exasperated, frustrated, beside yourself, and frazzled, or you are doing it as a fragrant offering to the God of your fathers…. When you are highly motivated to discipline your kids, you are not qualified. When you are qualified, you don’t feel like it.
Screaming and spanking simply don’t go together. Or rather, they often do go together, but as parents we need to recognize this for the sin it is. Discipline must be an act of love.