by Bob Thompson


"Has God indeed said...He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly."?   Proverbs 13:24


Are you really supposed to  use physical chastisement as the only means to correct your children for acts of rebellion?  How do you interpret it?

Proverbs 22:15, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;  The rod of correction will drive it far from him."

Proverbs 23:13-14, "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."

Proverbs 19:18, "Chasten you son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction."

Is your response, "Oh, it doesn't mean what it says...", or "The original languages tell us that it doesn't really mean what it says...", or "The culture at that time was different...", or a myriad of other

If your excuses are wrong, then God says you are actively hating your child.


If there is an area that grieves my heart the most in terms of the Lord's ways not being lived out, it is this one.  I detest to see children raised to be selfish tyrants, and as such, whose destiny is very grim indeed.  It is common place in the world, to see children as young as two years old ruling over their parents by threat of tantrum!  Truly, the concept of respect of adults is going quickly in the world.  But what grieves me more than this, is to see professing Bible believing parents acting not too differently than the world.  In this area particularly, the world's psychological precepts have essentially won out over Biblical precepts in the church [link to Can 'Christian' Psychology Help Me?].

Perhaps this issue is the one that speaks the loudest to me regarding the reality of the soon return of Jesus Christ.  I shudder to think of a world ruled by the generation of selfish, manipulative tyrants now being raised.  As parents who are Jesus' disciples, we must stand on the Word of God, for if we don't our children will have precious little chance to trust in the Lord.  What does the Word say regarding child discipline?

15 Biblical Principles for Raising Children Who Will Trust in and Serve the Lord

1. First and foremost, you, parent, obey the Lord and His Word and don't explain it away with psychobabble.

  • Hebrews 12:6-11, "'For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.'  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, they you are illegitimate and not sons.   Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect.   Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?   For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.  Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
  • Proverbs 13:24, "He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
  • Proverbs 19:18, "Chasten you son while there is hope, And to do not set your heart on his destruction."
  • Proverbs 22:15, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him."
  • Proverbs 23:13-14, "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."
  • Proverbs 29:15, "The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother."

What is unclear about spanking with the rod?

2. What is the way a child should go? OBEDIENCE - "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." (Eph. 6:1).

Why should we train our children to be obedient to us/authority? Because we desire to set them in the ways of Jesus who perfectly obeyed His heavenly Father. We want them used to obeying authority so that if they choose to follow the Lord, they will be prepared to obey Him out of their love for Him (John 14:15).

3. What is the meaning of "train" regarding teaching obedience? Proverbs 13:24, "He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly." This verse tells us that the essence of training is discipline, and that prompt physical chastisement with the rod is God's way.

4. The world tells us, and we have been raised to some degree, believing that chastisement/correction is wrong.   That "hitting" or "whipping" or "beating" a child is evil.  Those are Satan's words. God uses, in His Word, "correct with a rod", or what this culture knows as "spank with an implement".

God COMMANDS us to spank with an implement in Proverbs 23:13-14, "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 promise from God is that if we do "beat him with a rod" we will deliver his soul from hell. What a wonderful reward for obedience to the Lord!

Please notice the strong language the Lord uses regarding how strenuously we are to administer chastisement i.e. "beat him". This certainly does not describe a half-hearted swack that barely brings enough pain to cause a few whimpers. Obviously it does not mean to cause bruises either.  The strenuousness of the spanking should be in proportion to the child's stubbornness in general, and in proportion to their defiance over the act of rebellion which brought the chastisement.   Very compliant children will not need as strenuous a spanking as prideful, stubborn, defiant children.

Proper Biblical, and thereby loving, chastisement is not done in uncontrollable anger, but rather not in anger at all or with anger clearly under the control of the Holy Spirit. The goal of chastisement is correction, not punishment.

The Bible says use a "rod", and God has His reasons for commanding that we use a rod. It is better to use a rod than one's hand because God says use a rod.  You can run to psychology [link to Can 'Christian' Psychology Help Me?] or to a wrong interpretation of the Scripture, but both paths are sadly a means of you yourself rebelling against God and His clear Word.

5. Why do we need to use chastisement to discipline our children? First, because God said to!  If that doesn't motivate you, then you are not a believer.

Second, because God knows we are wretched sinners, including our children (Psalm 51:5; Prov. 15:11), and He knows that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7). We are to teach our children to fear the justice of the One who hates disobedience, and that is done through chastisement for disobedience. As a sinner is made aware of sin, he/she is more likely to turn to God's mercy someday. As parents, our job is to make our children aware of BOTH God's love AND God's justice. Without awareness of His justice, our children will see no need to run to Him to receive His forgiveness later on in life.

6. What is disobedience? It is SIN, and it is comprised mainly of not doing what God tells us. And since God has given us the responsibility and privilege of training our children, our standard for our children obeying us is the same standard God expects from us, which example was given by Jesus, and which obedience is...

IMMEDIATE (John 5:19-20; Gen. 22:3; Luke 1:18-20) To be told God's will and to not immediately obey is sin - for a child to be told what to do by his parents and to not do it immediately is the sin of rebellion.

COMPLETE (1 Sam. 15:3-28, 18-19) Half-way obedience is no obedience at all and is a form of the sin of rebellion.

WITHOUT COMPLAINING/WHINING (Phil. 2:14; Num. 21:5-7) To complain about doing the Lord's will is sin, and for a child to complain/whine about obeying his parents is another form of the sin of rebellion.

All disobedience/rebellion against God/parents/authority is sin and God commands those who claim to be His children to chastise our children for their sins of disobedience/rebellion. Disobedience can be either ACTIVE (saying 'NO' when asked to do something) or PASSIVE (not openly saying no, but finding other ways to not do immediately, completely and without whining/complaining what the parent asks).

7. Patience should be applied primarily towards a child trying to do something right, NOT towards a child sinning.

If a child is earnestly trying to obey a parent but is unable to for legitimate reasons, then the parent should be patient towards the child. Father's must be particularly aware of this since the Scripture tells dads not to exasperate their children (or provoke them to wrath). What does "exasperate" or "provoke to wrath" mean? It means demanding that the child do something they simply are not capable of doing. However, God never asks us to be patient towards our own sin OR the sin of our not-yet-of-age-children. Rather, he gives ample commands that it is to be dealt with immediately and strenuously. We should be patient towards other people's sin (including our spouses!), but we are to be very impatient with our own sin or our young children's rebellion.

8. Many mother's are taught or believe that chastisement is the father's role. This is false as the following Scripture proves, "The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child let to himself brings shame to his mother". (Prov. 29:15).

One extremely important role of women throughout the Word of God is to train/raise the children, which makes a whole lot of sense since the man is out providing for the family. Two important things to notice about this verse. First, that mothers are to use the rod and rebuke to train her children and give wisdom to her children, AND second, if she does not, she is openly shamed by the disobedience and foolishness of her children (Prov. 22:15). How that more mother's who profess to know the Lord would sense that shame, and react in a way pleasing to the Lord by diligently training their child(ren).

9. Children, being sinners, oftentimes test how far they can press their own will against submitting to their parents will. This must be diligently looked for and corrected, for to ignore our children's rebellion and sin, is sin on our part against the Lord since He commands us to diligently correct and discipline our children.

It is particularly prevalent for mother's to ignore their children's sin and so mother's must be particularly diligent in this area.

10. It is important to know that after proper discipline is administered AND the child asks for forgiveness, then this is to be followed up by immediate forgiveness by the parent and a warm hug.

The actual, heartfelt words 'I forgive you' is the best way to convey this! This is extremely important and if sincere forgiveness is withheld, then the parent sins and causes a hardening of the child's heart (Matt. 6:15).

11. To OBEY is better than to PAY LIP SERVICE (Matt. 21:28-31).

We must be careful not to train our children to verbally respond in the affirmative but still be disobedient. If we tell our children to do something and they whine/complain about it, and we demand a verbal affirmation from the child while still allowing the child to whine/complain after the child has responded 'yes', then we are training our children to place words above deeds, which is training in sin and hypocrisy.

12. If we ask our children to do something more than once because they did not do it immediately, completely, and without whining the first time, then we sin by allowing our children to rebel against us, and thereby against the Lord (1 Sam. 2:22-25, 30).

A good warning sign that we are allowing our children to sin/disobey/rebel is if we find ourselves in anger, sternly warning our children to obey or else. If we use verbal threats like, 'All right, I've had it' or 'O.K., that's enough', or shouting the child's name to make our children obey, then that might very well mean that we have chosen to allow our children to sin without chastising them just prior to our making that statement. We often do this because of our laziness or aversion to doing things God's way, and have said in essence, "O.K. I've been ignoring your sin, and now I'm finally getting tired of it, so I will now obey God and properly train you". What does the child learn from this 'patience toward sin' other than some sin and rebellion is O.K. Wouldn't it be better to discipline immediately and prevent the child from sinning and the parent from getting angry? The wise dad or mom disciplines right away and doesn't tolerate disobedience/rebellion at all. This way, the parent is consistent and the child learns faster and more proficiently and is trained much more quickly, thereby allowing peace to prevail much faster, which is God's will for the believing home.

13. Explaining the reasons to a young child why they should not sin MUST FOLLOW the chastisement and forgiveness, NOT PRECEDE IT OR REPLACE IT.

As adults, if God clearly asks us to do something and we don't immediately obey but rather ask Him why we should do it, we sin. If a child is sinning (disobeying, whining or complaining) and we respond by asking the child essentially, "why are you sinning (whining)" instead of properly disciplining the child, we do things our way and not God's way. It is also an irrational question to the child since the answer is "because I am a sinner who is choosing to sin right now"! Sinners sin, that's what we do! Children before the age of accountability, cannot answer the question, 'this is why I am sinning', and must simply know the cost for sinning by receiving chastisement from the parents. Children must obey their parents just because God has said to, period. As the children get older, the parents can and should explain the reasons why they should not sin.

14. The Bible everywhere teaches that children are to respect their parents AND other adults (authority), even as wives are to respect their husbands (Eph. 5:33).

One of the biggest victories of Satan is to convolute and pervert this authority and have children commanding, bribing, black mailing, extorting or otherwise manipulating their parents. We are to train our children to be servants, even as we desire to fully serve the Lord. This is done by training/teaching our children to be humble servants - they are to do our will, we are not to do theirs! Parents are not to 'serve' their children by conveying to them that they are so important that the parent must meet every desire of the sinful child. Humble servants don't demand attention and if parents respond to the children's every desire (not legitimate need), the parents sin by training up self-centered, selfish children, which is the opposite of training humble servants.

Children are sinners and demand "ME"! We must diligently train them to understand what Jesus means by "the last shall be first", and the Lord has given the chain of authority in the family as the starting place for this training/model, and a child's place is at the bottom of the chain of authority. This relational fact must be established before one can start pragmatically training children to be servants. If we are primarily serving our children, then we are teaching them that they are really important and worthy of being served, and thereby we encourage self-centeredness.

Jesus says to serve/love those whom you'll get nothing back from (Luke 6:32-33) and those who we as adults are to serve are the poor, helpless, weak people (Matt. 25:35-46). We naturally (in the flesh) desire to exalt our children because we see ourselves in them and we, as sinners, love to love ourselves. Instead, we must set a schedule consistent with God's desires and decide how time is best spent or else we are abrogating authority/leadership to our children.

15. The Scripture tells us women/girls are beautiful to the Lord if they are quiet and gentle (1 Pet. 3:4). We must train our little girls towards this.

The Scripture says that wise men and women are men and women of few words who carefully consider what they say (James 1:19; Prov. 10:19). Are we training our children properly in this area, or are we encouraging many words? If adults are speaking, a child should not be speaking while the adults are speaking nor making noise while the adults are speaking. To allow a child to speak or make noise over adult conversation is to encourage the child to disrespect authority and to exalt him/her will as more important than the adults. A subtle form of rebellion by children is to demand attention by making noise or other distractions while adults are speaking. If we let their disrespect go un-addressed, we are allowing them to sin and thereby training them against the Lord and His ways as clearly revealed in His Word.

Concluding Exhortation

May the Lord help us in this very important task and may we have the strength to trust in His ways and lean not on our own understanding. May we, by His grace, turn away from the world's foolish methods and beliefs, and instead turn to and fully embrace the Lord and His ways as found in His Word, for all the answers.  To do anything less is to hate our children (Prov. 13:24).

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