Joyous Parenting

How to Discipline Your Children Without Future Remorse

 

There are five verses in the book of Proverbs the misreading of which led me astray in disciplining my children. I wish I had never read those verses. And yet I knew God wanted me to read them. But it was only after my three children outgrew their father’s discipline and went off to live their own happy lives that I began to understand what God meant by these verses:

‘He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.’

‘Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.’

‘Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.’

‘You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell.’

‘The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.’   Prov 13:24;22:15;23:13-14;29:15

All five verses speaks of the rod in disciplining a child. And so I kept one paddle for smacking my little kids’ seats and two thin switches for caning their legs. And I kept them on top of a cupboard in a conspicuous way so my children, even in their best behaviors, can always behold the terror that awaits them should they revert to any misbehavior.

The fears, impressions and perceptions of little children are as real to them as are the real terrors and horrors to adults. But rare indeed is the father who can perceive experiences through his children’s senses. But it is my earnest prayer that this mission will be able to do just that – to encourage and guide fathers so they will be able to perceive the feelings of their little ones and turn their hearts to them, and thereby the hearts of the children will turn to their fathers in affection, respect and bonding that will never diminish with age.

Today I am able to feel to the core of my senses, in my very bones and liver, exactly how my children felt each time they passed by the cupboard. It’s the same feeling that would sweep through me if this scenario were real: My Father takes a lightning rod from the many stocked in third heaven, and pointing to it, tells me, ‘Look, my son, I am doing this for your own good, so you never go astray and land in hot water. I have given you my laws and shown you the path of life; if ever I catch you breaking any, this bolt will zap your seat with such searing heat you would think seven times before you want to do it again’.

For the rest of my life that I would be under the tutorage of the law (Galatians 3:23-25), I would live in daily dread of the consequences of forgetting that’s there’s a rod awaiting my every breach of good conduct. This was how the ancient Israelites lived, under the constant cloud of a Disciplinarian (1 Corinthians 10:1), except that instead of a bolt from the blue on the seat, a merciless barrage of granite stones awaited the sinner’s head.

This is how the churches under the legalistic system live today. Under the constant fear of breaking the law and coming under the wrath of God. Praise our Savior that his blood was shed for our sins, and not our own! Jesus has taken all the wrath that was due us upon himself. There is no more wrath awaiting us, even if we slip and sin, for our Father will forgive us the instant we realize our slip and ask for forgiveness.

Our children should never, even for a moment, live under the hovering fear of the rod of punishment. The father or mother who takes a cane or a paddle or some other instrument of torture in the sight of their child, has not attained the emotional and spiritual maturity that God expects fathers and mothers to attain before they decide to bring forth a child to the world.

So why does the Bible recommend the rod of punishment for children? Because there are possibilities of situations arising where only the physical rod, and nothing else, can discipline a child. It is truly a very rare possibility, and I can say with sufficient confidence that if you use wisdom, you very probably need not use even once a physical implement of correction.

What are those possible situations where nothing else but the rod is effective? See this verse again:

‘Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.’   Prov 23:13-14

A rod should be used in a situation that will deliver your child’s soul from hell. May our Father in heaven give you the wisdom to know what are those situations in your own child’s life. Here’re a few that I can tell you from my observations:

When a child displays a constant attitude of hatred towards another child, and in spite of your repeated verbal corrections, the child shows actions and speaks words that originate from an evil source that has somehow managed to penetrate your son’s or daughter’s subconscious mind.

Children who were left uncorrected with such an attitude are the ones who turned into human monsters in their adult lives, such as Hitler, Idi Amin, Bokassa, Stalin, Mao, and many others in the modern era, whose childhood hatred of other people went on wrecking their consciences until they could directly be responsible for the death of hundreds of millions of innocent people and think of it with impunity. “I can send the flower of German youth into the hell of war without the slightest pity”, boasted Hitler, echoing what another man with the same spirit in him uttered a hundred and twenty years earlier. “A man like me cares little about losing the lives of a million men”, said Napoleon.

It is natural for little children of even Godly parents to display wrong attitudes. It is a trait that they and we have inherited from our first parents when the tragic fate of all their descendants’ genetic dispositions was sealed at the moment that Adam and Eve decided to go their own way against their Creator’s will. This naturally inherited disposition in human beings can be suppressed only when their human spirit is overridden by the Holy Spirit on being born again. Until then, parents have to be constantly alert against their children’s natural spirit gaining a permanent stronghold in their consciences.

When a child speaks or acts in a spirit of hostility against another child, parents must correct that behavior with immediate gentle correction. Gentle, because the child is not doing it deliberately. But when gentle correction is proven futile after a couple of times, the correction should taken on a sterner approach. But our Creator has put within every child an innate desire to please their parents. When they see that they have done something displeasing to their parents, and that the parents are not happy with them as before, extremely rare is the child who would not want to do all they can to regain their sense of assurance of their parents’ delight in them.

But should it happen very rarely that a child continues to display a wrong attitude, and gentle and stern correction (including withdrawal of privileges and other forms of nonphysical correction) are not effective enough, then, and only then, should the parent resort to a physical rod. When such a situation happens, the parent may take the child and give him a smart, but not too hard, smack on the seat with their palm or a flat object. Alternatively, they can use a thin switch for a single whip below the knees. Just a single whack or whip.

You should absolutely never punish your child when there is even a trace of anger in your mind. A child corrected in anger is a child that imbibes a similar quality – a spirit of retaliation. That’s actually what the parent is doing when they hit a child in anger – retaliating against their child because the child has done something that offended them, not solely because the child has done something that endangers the future of their soul.

If you feel anger in you, pause, and pray a short prayer for wisdom and restrain in correcting your child. When your emotions are under control, then take the paddle or switch and correct your child.

I know from experience that just a single use of the paddle is enough. For some sensitive children, even the sight of the parent taking a cane to punish him is effective enough. If child shows much fear in sighting his instrument of torture (for that’s how any normal child will view the rod), refrain! Call you child, and tell him firmly that if he doesnt want to be caned, then he should never repeat the offence again. Only an unusual child will refuse to immediately accept this condition for nonpunishment. You have already used the rod on your child, although it did not land on his body.

Photo Courtesy: Wesley Fryer – flickr.com

After you are done with the correction, there comes the ‘restoration of hearts’ phase between parent and child.

In the mind of the child, his parent’s punishment of him, no matter how much he himself feels he has earned it, is a short breaching of the absolute confidence he has in the one person he loves and adores above everyone and everything else. This temporary breaching, if left unattended, creates a deeper sense of rejection in the child. He feels the parent may have never really forgiven him fully, or that his parent’s love for him may have diminished. Unwise parents have suffered the consequence of little children being left alone with their hurt emotions after physical or verbal chastisement. The effect of unattended hurt is seen in the rebellious responses of the child when he or she becomes a teen.

Soon after the rod is administered – in situations where it is absolutely necessary to save the child’s attitude from being hardened in hatred or rebellion – the father or mother should make the first move of reconciliation. The parent should go to where the child is, embrace him and tell him that dad, or mom, loves him and he is just as dear to them as before. Some children may be immediately comforted, some others may take a little longer for their hurt to be soothed. However long it takes, the first priority in life for the parent then is for him to turn his child’s heart back to him as before.

Another situation where the rod may be necessary is when the child repeatedly forgets or ignores a strict instruction of the parent, the disregard of which may endanger the child’s physical life. For example, a child continuing to go to a dangerous area to play, or a stubborn tendency to get into fights, or repeated stealing, or repeated lying. By ‘repeated’, I mean’ doing it again after being warned at least three or four times.

Again I say, that such situations will be very rare, and it is my constant prayer that parents whom I am privileged to be able to counsel will never need to use the physical rod even once in their parenting years.

An example of a family where the rod was never used once stands as a great encouragement and testimony to the truth that a physical rod need never be resorted to in bringing up your children to be Godly people.

I once got into a personal conversation with the head of a school where I served under him as the vice principal. He is one of the most principled and Godly persons I have known. He has two sons and a daughter. He said he and his wife had never once used a cane on any of their children. Once, however, he said, he scolded one of his sons, using a tone of rebuke that his child had never heard before. It happened only once. But, the principal said, this child was so affected by this verbal rod that it made a permanent scar in his mind. If the principal had refrained from even that slight rebuke, he could have had a 100 percent physical and nonphysical rod-free parenting life. But my point is, if you would diligently look for an alternative way to correct your child, a rod need never be used on him or her.

The principal’s children are successfully placed in life today and are parents themselves now. I do not know if they are able to continue the same kind of nonrod discipline in their own children’s lives as their parents were. I havent met the principal for many years now, but when I meet him next, I will ask him and find out.

I was an overstrict disciplinarian of a parent, to my excruciating remorse many years later. But by my Father’s grace, all my children have grown to be loving and lovable members of society, faithful to God and faithful to their families. But that’s because I have spent years and years of tearful prayers that God may negate any unhealthy qualities my children may have imbibed from my parenting follies in my earlier years as a father.

In all cases where the child’s soul or body is not in danger, never even think of a physical rod. Even depriving a child of a privilege should only be applied after his repeated infringements of an instruction.

The best short answer to how best to discipline your child is to put yourself in a similar situation between you and your heavenly Father. How many times have you committed the same sin, given in to the same weakness, and the Father did not so much as utter a single word of impatience, but was longsuffering toward you, and waited patiently until you came to him in repentance. And that’s why you and I love him so much and want to obey him so earnestly. Not because we have to, not because we fear his rod, but because we want to, because of his lovingkindness towards us even while we were sinning against him.

‘However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.’   1 Tim 1:16

‘The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.’   2 Peter 3:9

Our Father doesnt just forgive us a few times or several times until he reaches the point of too-many-times-already and then takes up his rod of correction. He forgives usany number of times we turn to him after a repeated sin. Even when we are forgiven a sin against him, and after a while we become careless and commit the same sin – seven times a day, or a total of 490 times – our Father’s forgiveness is still the same (Luke 17:4; Matthew 18:21-22). That basically sums up the attitude that fathers on earth should have toward their little ones.

The way we discipline our children will be the way they will live even to their old age.

‘Train a child in the way he [should] go; and, even when old, he will not swerve from it.’  Prov 22:6 CJB

Our loving and forgiving Father in heaven, bless every parent who has read this message and enable him or her to bring up their children in the way that you want them to grow up, so they can become Godly parents themselves, and above all, become children of God in whom you delight greatly. Amen.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

Because He First Loved Us, Let Us Love Him First

 

If you are a parent, do you recall the time when your eyes first beheld your newborn child lying naked and helpless beside es1 mother?  The child was your own, issued from your own body and that of your wife. Even if the child knew you not then, your love for him or her was beyond words.  This little piece of living flesh had already received the full measure of your love even before e had grown up to know you and love you in return. If need be, you would have even given up your life without a second thought to save your just-arrived baby’s life.

This, beloved child of God, is how our Father in heaven felt toward us in the day that we were first born into the world. In fact, if God’s words are true, he says that his love for man far exceeds the natural and instinctive love of a mother toward her child.2 I am speaking about our physical birth into this world, not our spiritual ‘born again’ experience.

We were born in the filthiness of our sins, inherited from our first parents when they sinned against God and inherited all the curses of life. We were lumps of filthy clay imbued with the life given directly from the person of God. This life is a very part of God himself, and God just cannot help but love you and me from the time of our conception. We could say it is an instinctive and unconditional love comparable and yet far exceeding the instinctive and unconditional love we have for our own children. This is how much God has loved every single child born into this world from the time of Adam and Eve. A beautiful analogy of this incredible love and compassion is given in Ezekiel 16:

‘On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in clothes. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.’

Naturally. We were conceived in sin because of the original sin of our parents that was passed on in our human nature and genes from generation to generation. We were as good as dead – hastening to our grave from the second we were conceived – born into this world for a just a few years before we forever perish from all trace of existence. But the Creator looked on the absolutely helpless tiny life on the day of our birth and his heart overflowed with tender affection and excitement for this new creation of his.

“Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” I made you grow like a plant of the field.’

God wants everyone who was born to live forever – everyone born into this world of every race – Indian, Chinese, African, European, American, Arab, Aborigine, and every other race of mankind. He loves each one of them so much that long before the creation of earth he had already planned a way of redemption for mankind in case they fell into sin. The only way the Creator could redeem his children from eternal condemnation was to give up his own life as a penalty for man’s sin. His one life could redeem the total of humanity, because all humanity have their existence in his one life. And so God, in the person of Jesus Christ, came into this world to die for us and to save us.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’   John 3:16

That’s how much our Father has always loved you and me from our birth, before we ever came to know anything about our Creator.

We who have been called to the body of Christ as firstfruits have been set aside from the rest of the world for an awesome purpose, so that through us Christ may bring his salvation to the rest of the world. And so we the spiritual Israelites grew up in the tender care of God while the rest of the world was allowed to continue in their wicked ways for the time being.

Each of us saved by God received the knowledge of our Savior in our own particular way. Perhaps because our parents were earnest Christians we grew up to be followers of Christ. Perhaps through the influence of a Christian friend. Whatever the manner of our coming to know God, we all came to accept Christ as our Savior and called ourselves by his name, ‘Christian’, which means ‘belonging to Christ’. But like unfaithful Israel and betrayous Judah, most who profess Christianity have forgotten their roots and have turned away to serve other gods. Am I being unfactual in using the phrase ‘most who profess Christianity’? Observe the lives of the ‘Christians’ – people who have been born into Christian families – in your neighborhood, in your workplace, how many of them do you know whose lives are centered around Christ, and who are willing to give up everything in life, even their lives, if necessary, to remain faithful to God?

‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.’  Luke 14:26

‘Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.’    Luke 14:33

What does ‘hate his father and mother’ mean here? Mat 10:37 makes it obvious: ‘Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me…’

This is the absolute condition for being a true Christian. This is the absolute condition for entering the Kingdom of God. This is the only criterion of true conversion. One iota less than this absolute condition will not do.

Do not let any preacher, any church teach you errantly that any condition less than this will enable you to be accepted by Christ as his follower. Just because you have been baptized, because you are an active member of your church, because you believe all the teachings of Christ, and even because you obey him and keep his commandments zealously, you don’t become a Christian. If in your heart and thoughts you are not fully convinced you are willing to give up even your father and mother and wife and children and your own life, if necessary to be faithful to God, you can never be looked upon by Christ as a Christian, as someone belonging to him. Either Jesus meant exactly what he stated, or he meant something else. Let your own understanding and sincerity determine that.

Does then giving up everything in life to follow Christ mean that like Buddha you leave your beloved family and your responsibilities in the family and go away to some remote corner of the earth and proclaim Christ? The Holy Spirit is our true teacher of the Word of God. Let him show us what Christ meant by this condition of discipleship.

Jesus meant that he is a most jealous God and Spouse.3 He will not in the least entertain a rival affection in your heart. His jealousy is like the jealousy of a righteous husband when his wife begins to shower more affection on other men than on him. It is a jealousy based on true unfailing love. A jealousy that is directed for the good of the one loved. God first loved us long before our parents and wife and children were even remotely in our thoughts. He gave us life and eternal hope. He gave himself for us before we even knew about him. And he wants us for himself and himself alone forever. Everything else he allows us to have in this life is like a fringe benefit, like the icing on a cake. Good to be enjoyed and appreciated for their limited value but could never begin to compare with the value of the real thing.

God wants us to make him our first love because he first loved us before everyone else and because he chose to love us unconditionally when we were without hope and squirming in our own filth waiting to perish eternally. If God loved us so much when we were still in our filthiness, how much more must he now love and rejoice over us who have begun to love him in return, though we be full of filthiness still!

O Christian, do you see how you should relate to such a God?  This is how: We should probe our every thought and intent and see if indeed God is our only basic love and happiness. If he allows us to have a little bit of fringe happiness in the form of our marriage and family and other temporal blessings, let’s enjoy them as long as we are given them. But the basis, the foundation, of all our happiness is God himself. Unless we can say with absolute conviction that the basis of all our happiness is God himself, we haven’t reached there yet.

If today all our fringe benefits are taken away from us, and every security structure vanishes from under us and we are left with God and God alone, how will we respond? Is your Christianity steadfast as long as you have certain basic conditions met in your life? Or will you continue to be faithful to him in any and every circumstance that he allows in your life? This is what our Savior desires to know about you above everything else.  And he will withhold every blessing, if need be, and allow you to go through every kind of suffering until he is convinced to his full satisfaction – and you too are in your conscience – that you are his alone.

Every trial, every affliction that comes to a child of God is for the sole purpose of drawing the person closer to God and of causing him to make God his first love and first joy. Remember, the Lord has promised that he will never leave you nor forsake you. He will never allow you to suffer beyond what you are able to endure.4 But that could sometimes mean that you might be left with nothing in this life except your joy in God and the basic material provisions for your survival. You could be left, as Baruch was, with just this one promise of God:

‘I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the land. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not. For I will bring disaster on all people, declared the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’ Jer 45: 4-5

When the Lord begins to overthrow and uproot every idol in your life that’s competing with your Savior for your affection, your love and your time, that’s when you begin to see if you really belong to him.

Are you perhaps serving the Lord like an earnest minister of Christ did for many years until the Lord wanted to really know if this minister loved him literally more than anything else in this life? Here, listen to this eyeopening true story of a servant of God, as narrated by a pastor who knew him:

‘When I was a young pastor, I went to visit a man who had been one of my “heroes” and a friend. He had been the pastor of large churches, an author of some note and a famous evangelical leader. I went to visit him because he had just been told that he was dying of cancer.

I was very young and had not, to that point, found out that God’s servants also have “feet of clay”. An older friend who had been to see him almost every day subsequent to the diagnosis of cancer tried to prepare me for my visit. He said, “Steve, have you ever had all your security structure taken away? Have you ever been without any hope? Have you ever had every dream shattered and every desire destroyed?”

I admitted that I had never experienced that kind of pain.

“Then,” he said, “be careful that you don’t judge too harshly when you see one of your heroes broken, bitter and without any hope”.’
Source: ‘When Cliches Don’t Work’ by Steve Brown – The Plain Truth Online, September-October 1998

Is your only security structure your Savior Jesus Christ? Is your only dream to live and die for Christ, who died for you? Is your only hope the eternal joy that awaits you when your Lord comes? If you cannot affirmatively answer from your heart any of these questions, you are at risk of being broken, bitter and without any hope sooner or later.

O Christian, are you willing to forsake everything, even your own life if need be, to follow Christ? Until you are absolutely sure of this, you can never be absolutely sure you are a true Christian in God’s sight. Before you decide to want to be a true Christian, you are told to sit down and count the cost.

‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?…In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.’   Luke 14:28,33

But the most joyful news is, we have a Helper who can and will do for us exceedingly far more than all we ask or imagine.5 We need never fear we will fail to measure up to God’s expectations.  We need never fear if we will be able to cope with all that God would demand of us to be his own.  My life is a great testimony to the tenderness of God.  The harshness of the Christian life is only the initial growth pains. And we ourselves are responsible for prolonging it, because we delay committing our lives wholly to him. When we have proved that God indeed is our first love and have demonstrated it by being willing to give up our happiness based on everything in this life, then we begin to receive our joy from the Lord himself,6 then we begin to receive from him a hundredfold and more of all that we had given up.7

‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!’  Romans 5:6-10

‘How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’

‘This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.’

‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’

‘We love him, because he first loved us.’   1 John 3:1,16; 4:10,19

Let us therefore love him first, because he first loved us and gave up his life to save us from eternal death.

 

Pappa Joseph

 

1 Please refer to the English usage page in this website for information about this usage.
2 ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you.’   Is 49:15
3 ‘Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.’   Ex 34:14
4 ‘God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.’   1 Cor 10:13
5 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…’   Ep 3:20
6 ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.’    John 15:11
7 ‘Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.’ ‘I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age…and in the age to come, eternal life.’   Matthew 19:29  Mark 10:29,30.