Saturday, August 13, 2011

Encouraging Children

The Proverbial Rod of Discipline
My mother raised me with the proverbial rod of discipline. What I mean is that my behavior while I was growing up frequently merited corporal correction from my mother. She used a wooden paddle. Upon this paddle, which has now passed to me, is carved the following: “Prov. 22:15.” So, when I say she raised me with the proverbial rod of discipline, I mean that she raised me the proverbial rod of discipline. I did not know at the time the words of this verse, but I knew what it meant. Because of my mother’s just, moderate, loving, and even-tempered use of this paddle, its message was not lost on me. I knew paddling not as an act of angry violence, but as a response to behavior that I myself knew to be foolish. I knew better was expected of me than I had provided.

Proverbs 22:15 – “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” – helped me in the path away from folly and toward virtue even before I knew its words. I still think it is an important verse and that many in the modern age dismiss it too quickly, but it is not this Old Testament verse I want to focus on at the moment. Rather, I want to look at a New Testament verse that provides an important balance to the more numerous passages of Scripture that encourage the discipline of children, Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

This verse often comes into my mind when I find myself being too hard or harsh with my children, or when I set my expectations too high. It is an important reminder that the role of the parent is primarily one of encouragement, rather than force. I can force my children to memorize information and I can force my children to behave properly – to a limited degree – but it is more important to help form my children into people who freely choose a life of virtue and faith.

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