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How to Not Foul Up the Discipline of Your Children - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon

Articles on The Christian Family

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A sober look at what Christian parents need to do in disciplining their children.


I don’t have children. The LORD, for whatever reason, decided to take all of my children to heaven. Like David said to Nathan about his own child, I also say about mine – I will go to them. Let’s simply say “multiple problem pregnancies.” However, even though I don’t currently “have” children at home, I still know what the Bible says about raising them. So, the premise of this paper is quite simple. It is a short look mainly at the book of Proverbs in raising children and discipline (though others Scriptures will help form a basis for the study in general). If one believes in Covenant Theology, then children are an important aspect to life in general. If one believes the Bible then you know children are important! God’s way of raising them becomes very important overall to the Christian parents who wants to raise their children in accord with God’s Word. If they do not want to raise their children in accordance with God’s word, there is a problem with the parent. Neglecting God’s word, as will be seen, will be detrimental to the character development of the child, and will bring fierce judgment on the parents as a result of their neglect both to the Word of God and their children.

Three Presuppositions:

There are three presuppositions that should be granted at the outset, or this paper is meaningless. First, the bible is God’s Word and His authority reigns supreme in every area of the Christian life, including how to discipline your children. God has given His people everything they need to live a life of godliness, and the Bible is that final authority in every area of faith and practice. That may seem trivial and “universally accepted”, but the matter of raising children and discipline somehow squeaks by unnoticed in this arena, and parents look everywhere else except the bible for their instruction on this. They look to next-door neighbors, unregenerate family members, Dr. Spock, their pediatrician, or Dr. Phil and Oprah. They need to look to the Bible.

Second, the book of Proverbs is the book of “common sense.” Even heathens could read it and glean good things about how to raise their children from it. When it says in Proverbs 10:4, “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, But the hand of the diligent makes rich,” this is not hard to understand. Use common sense: Lazy people who do not want to work will be poor. Diligent people who work hard at their vocation will not be poor. In the same way, when Proverbs is read, there is a wealth of information about raising children, and much of what is deemed “common sense” is also bolstered by the authority of the Word of God. God has given specific directives, common sense directives, wise directives, to raising children. Proverbs is classified as Wisdom Literature in the Bible. It is taking knowledge, and rightly applying it to the given situation. That is wisdom. And it is no mistake that Proverbs is filled with information about raising children, and discipline. God wants parents to think wisely about this topic.

Thirdly, if you are a parent who neglects the raising of your children in accordance with what is taught in the bible, you will no doubt hate the substance of this paper. But, if you want to raise your child in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and desire to heed God’s plan for disciplining your children, then read on. But overall, this is a paper for Christian parents who need a boost, a kick in the pants, to raise their children according to the Bible.

Basic Biblical Directives About Parents and Their Children:

Before we get into Proverbs directly, it is important to raise some Scriptural foundations on parenting in general. Parents are to exercise authority over their children. Is this obvious? For some, not really. However, God is very clear throughout His word on this. Children are not to run the household. Parents run the household. Parents do not cater to their children, they take care of their children. There is a huge difference between the two. Parents are to care for their children in bestowing upon them what they need, not what they want. That means parents are to listen to what God says children need, and to enforce this. They are not to cater to their children in hopes of appeasing them so they don’t cry. They are to give them what they need and that may often include making them cry. God says parents need to have authority over their children. For example: Genesis 18:19, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” Parents are to command their children. The Hebrew word here is tsavah (tsaw-vaw), which means, “to command, charge, give orders, lay charge, give charge to, order.” That seems straightforward. God is saying that fathers ought both to know God’s judgments, and to declare them to their children. Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” This is what fathers and mothers teach their children to do. When children throw temper tantrums they are not honoring father and mother and must be disciplined. When teenagers do not listen to their father and mother they are not honoring them. The idea of “honor” here is likened to “glory” or “give weightiness to.” Children are to revere their parents and give weight to their sayings and instructions. Parents are to teach their children to do what they tell them the first time they tell them. Just as Christians give honor to God, children give honor to their parents. If they do not, then they are sinning and need correction God’s-style.

Elders are said to rule their house well, as in 1 Timothy 3:4, “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence.” If elders or pastors are to do this, what excuse do fathers have in not doing this? Their households should be in complete submission to them and with all reference. Every attribute that a pastor has, fathers are to have in degree as well. In the next verse (1 Timothy 3:5) it says, “for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” In other words, elders are to follow the role of the good parent first, then manage God’s house. This is a common attribute of the father: to rule his house with authority and have his children in complete subjection and reverence to him. That is a godly household. These godly households should look like little churches. Imagine if the church was made up of people who ran around the sanctuary while the preacher was trying to preach. They were yelling, carrying on, crying, etc. That would be chaos. Neither the home, nor the church, should look like that.

These are just a few of the basics of parental authority. God has placed parents over children. Never, ever, should children have authority over parents in any way, shape, or form. If they do, then the family is dysfunctional, and is not following the mandates that God has given in His Word.

What is Discipline?

Ephesians 6:4 states, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” The phrase “bring them up” means “discipline” or “that which regulates their character.” Without a regulator, divers would suffocate and die underwater, or, they would blow up being pumped up with too much oxygen from their tank. A regulator must be part of their overall apparatus in order for them to breathe normally and to regulate their air while diving. God desires parents to raise children in a normal Christian environment that always follows the commands of God’s word. That means that parents regulate their children’s character and uses discipline to do that. That does not make daddy a monster when he disciplines his children every ten seconds; it makes him godly.

Discipline, though, is not simply regulating their character by correction, but also by instruction. This is where parents teach their children the difference between right and wrong. My mother always used to say, “Who teaches you the difference between right wrong?” She did. She was the authority. She confirmed authority in discipline both by verbal instruction and the wooden spoon when it was needed – but hold that thought for a moment.

What Do We Do About Covenant Children?

Covenant Children are in desperate need of godly discipline. Parents demonstrate their weakness and sin in child rearing when they neglect verbal instruction and corporeal discipline. They are shucking their authority and disregarding God’s commandments when they do this. If they continue to do this, especially through the early years of forming their child’s character, they will foul up the character of their children for life, and reap the consequences in their later years. The child’s character –his heart– must be trained to become godly. The Fall has rendered children, the moment they come out of the womb, to sin. They are prone to it in every form. From the womb they sin, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. (Psalm 58:3)” Their character and heart are fallen. They are immature, foolish, full of self-love, and always try to press their parents to relinquish their authority over them so that they can become autonomous as much as possible. They are sinners. Little children do not need to learn how to aggravate mommy. They know how to do this because their hearts are fallen.

Covenant Children are not free from sin. Not all covenant children are saved. Though the parent rests on God’s promises, that resting must never work apart from the godly influence of the parent over the children in teaching them and disciplining them before the Lord. Of all children, covenant children should be disciplined most. This does not, in any way, lessen the requirements for godly behavior stringently enforced on children, but rather, it heightens it. Parents of covenant children should never think, for a moment, that because they rest on God’s promises to save their children (Genesis 17:1ff) that those children are automatically saved, and somehow godly discipline is not needed. After one year old, or one and a half, the parent can easily discern the manner in which the child is moving – is the child moving toward heaven or hell? If the parents have done their job as parents, it will become increasingly unclear in the early stages of their children as to whether or not they are a Jacob or an Esau. Yes, I said unclear. Parents should be so bold in molding their children’s character from an early age through godly discipline, that it is hard to tell until the later years whether the child will become a prodigal son or daughter or not. Those parents who neglect discipline as God intended it can tell at a very early age the sin and rebellion in their children because they are not harnessing them with godly discipline. It would be far better, then, for there to be a question in their mind about the state of their child’s heart in light of eternity at an early age, than to see that they have created a rebellious monster and simply call it the “terrible twos”. Covenant children, then, are less exempt from non-discipline, than any others because God has given a specific prescription for raising covenant children in holiness and godly fear. Discipline and instruction go hand in hand. In other words, if you raise your kids well, they will have two feet in one shoe all the time. It will be hard to discern where they are at because they will always be trying to please you.

My pastor used a good illustration in a sermon about a father, who, when he was debarking from a plane, was trying to appease his child as the child was throwing a temper tantrum. The pastor was observing this common problem. The father was trying to give the child what he wanted instead of correcting the child. The pastor wanted to say, “Do you want me to discipline your child for you?” The pastor would have gladly brought the child into the bathroom and spanked his bottom; but he did not say it. The reason was obvious – the pastor did not have the place or authority to discipline someone else’s child. So, that father was left to discipline his own child, and did not. Later he will reap the consequences with an unruly son, or later in eternity he will be judged for not disciplining his child. Fathers and mothers must enact discipline in order to regulate the life of their covenant children. If they do not, they are raising prodigals.

When Does God Expect Obedience to Take Place?

Does God expect you, as a Christian, to whine and murmur at His commands? Is that sin? Does God say, “Well, he is just a young Christian, not nearly one or two years old at the most in his walk with Me, so I will let that slide”? How does God react to sin in Christians at any age? It should be obvious that God does not tolerate sin in any form in His people. They are continually being sanctified in their walk and continually being thrown into the refining furnace to be tested in their walk. God disciplines His children constantly. Hebrews 12:7, “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” The idea is that fathers in general chastise their sons. It’s their job. God, on a grandiose scale, does the same since He is conforming His people to holiness and to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. God expects obedience. What should parents expect of their children? The answer is the same. Regularly, fathers and mothers chasten their children because they love them. Hold that thought also for a second.

Should the child be allowed to whine or murmur when commanded to do something? Should the child be allowed to pull their hand back, or kick and scream, or run away when they are told, instructed, or shown to do something the parents wants them to do? Are children to be obedient? How often should the parent repeat the same command? Children should be obedient. God’s children, His elect, should be obedient on first command. Parents, in the same way, should expect their children to obey them upon first command. Many people, many parents, think that the “age” dictates the child’s behavior. If the child is rendering tantrums, well, its just the “terrible twos” or “threes” or “fours” or, whenever. This is secular nonsense. Stages of development must have the proper discipline so that the character is trained in a specific manner according to God’s Word. If the child is terrible at two, they will be ten times worse at twenty. Children, when they are disobedient to their parents are being disobedient to God since God has given parents authority over them. No age has been given amnesty to dissolve that authority, whether the child is one, two, three, or fifteen. At no time do children have the right to disregard a command that the parent has given them, so long as that command is according to the rightful authority of the parent before God. For some reason parents try to appease their children instead of being a parent to them and disciplining them. God wants obedience from children to their parents at every age.

What Proverbs teaches on How Parents Discipline their Children

With the basics of parental authority very briefly out of the way, parents need to turn to the book of wisdom and common sense in how to practically attain obedience in their children. Proverbs is a great course book on child rearing. It teaches the difference between the fool, and the wise. Remember, your child is either foolish or wise. Take five seconds, let the child run off on their own into the street and see whether they are foolish or wise. Now do not actually do that, but you know what I mean. Five seconds is all it takes for a parent to see the foolishness in their children. Fools despise wisdom and hate instruction. This is what foolish children need to learn. Foolish children are those who do not respect their parents and attempt to become self-autonomous. Mommy and daddy spend their time appeasing these hellions rather than disciplining them. Proverbs has much to say on how obedience is attained when raising children. But before we turn there, a reminder is in order. Parents must be reminded that to regulate their children is to regulate their sinful hearts. When they kick and scream while mommy changes their diapers that is telling the parent something specific about the child’s character and heart disposition. (And if the parent does not correct the child, that tells others about the parents and their walk with God.) Fallen children act wickedly across the board. They need correction. But correction for the sake of correction is not what God has in mind. Correction for the sake of holiness is what God intends. Now it is interesting that Proverbs has much to say on how not to become a fool by the manner in which parents correct and discipline their children. Again, even the heathen can reap benefits from the Bible in this way. Heathen, though, discipline their children because they are mad at their children for getting out of line. Christian parents have a far better reason to discipline their children in the way Proverbs demonstrates – God told them to do it this way! Then, secondly, the child will benefit from godly discipline, not accomplished in anger, but accomplished in love to better the child and regulate their character towards a God-fearing disposition.

Proverbs and Restoring Children

Spanking and the Rod

The rod, spanking, or corporeal discipline, is the God-ordained means to correct children of every age. Children are naturally wayward, and the rod brings them back. There are no markers anywhere in the bible that demonstrate that spanking should begin once the child is twelve. There is no age limit here. However, parents should not be so foolish to think that they should spank their 6 month old as they would a 5 year old. Yet, they should also not be foolish to think that their 6 month old does not need corporeal correction. (How is another matter – right now it is important to understand that God gives no leeway as to the age of the child.)

All children need to become obedient to their parents, and the God-ordained means to enforce instruction is the rod. Proverbs 19:18, “Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction.” Parents, get your common sense working. God says that there is a time in your child’s life where there will be no more hope in correcting them. If you do not correct your child now with chastening, with the rod, you are setting your heart on their destruction. In other words, you are setting them on a course for destruction – you are! Could this be any plainer? Parents, listen: covenant children or not, your children are on their way to hell unless they demonstrate otherwise. Godly discipline, chastening, is the hope God gives you as a parent to help them escape hell in their early years, middle years, teenage years. You may be saying, “He must be joking. Spanking does not deliver children from hell.” By thinking or saying that, you are missing the bigger picture. Let me explain this in two ways: Proverbs 23:13, “Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.” First, are you hearing what God says? God says that you should not withhold correction from the child, and the means by which you should not withhold correction as a parent is through corporeal discipline. God says that spanking a child will not kill him. God says that spanking your two year old in a proper manner will not kill him. God commands you that you withhold not correction from him. The bible says nothing of giving your child a “timeout.” What nonsense is this? Will you listen to the New Age gurus and Dr. Spock, or will you listen to God? Dr. Phil will tell you that your child needs a timeout. God tells you to beat him with the rod. Who is right? God does not tell you to have them stand in the corner like you used to see on Little House on the Prairie episodes. Willie Olsen was a real troublemaker: a brat. Mrs. Olsen never disciplined him and just appeased him. Mr. Olsen sometimes had his way and spanked him, but because it was not enacted constantly, Willie grew up to be a beast, and so did Nellie if you remember. The bible does not tell Willie to stand in the corner. The bible says that he should be punished with the rod. Those who try to “time out” their children are simply enraging them, and allowing them to fester in the corner. You are giving them time to think about how they can dupe you the next time; they are planning your next demise. Sometimes my mother would send me to my room when I was bad. Great! That’s where I wanted to be! Stop neglecting the Word of God. God says to punish them with the rod. Beat it out of Willie, for he is not going to die.

Parents need to understand the word “beat.” You are not going to like what it means. It is the verb nakah (naw-kaw’) which literally reads, “to strike, smite, hit, beat, slay, kill.” In Proverbs 23:13 it is in the Hiphal imperfect which renders the word to mean “to smite, strike, beat, scourge, clap, applaud, give a thrust.” In other words, scourge or strike the child so that he never does what he did ever again. Is this what you do when your child steps out of line? Your thoughts should be, I am going to strike the child in a way that he will never disobey me again. This is not brutality. Brutality would be a heinous sin on the parent’s side. Rather, it does mean that their bottom is so red, that they have a hard time sitting back down when you are done. If the child is too young for that, then give them a good smack with a tense rubber band on their arm or their thigh. They will remember it! Be advised – these are God’s words and His instruction of you regardless of what anyone else thinks or does.

Secondly, why should you do this? Let me quote this in full: 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.” God says that you will beat your child with the rod and deliver his soul from hell. (And you thought I was making it up!) Let me break this down. Children are foolish. Even before they know what “foolish” is, they are foolish because they have fallen hearts. Parents are to correct the child wisely, lovingly and strictly. It is admitted that causing others we love pain and tears is hard and disturbing to us, especially seeing our child cry. But do not let your emotions overrule your good sense to what God is telling you. Will you be like Eli who did not correct his children and they became wicked sons of hell? This is what God is telling you in Proverbs 23:13-14. If you allow your children to dictate their minds to you, and you are running here and there to appease them, you are creating hellions – children fit for hell later in life. You say you love them, but you do not correct them as you should. You say you care for them, but you neglect God’s commands. Who is right? Is God right? Are you right? If you are a parent that trembles for the eternal destiny of your child, you will not withhold correction. If you neglect corporeal correction (which is what this Proverbs is talking about) you will be creating monsters – beasts – that will grow up to be prodigals, those of the same familiar distaste for godliness as men like Eli’s sons and Esau who sold his birthright for a pot of stew. If that is what you want, then do not spank your child. If that is what you want, then do not correct them as God determines is right.

It is true, parents should say “No.” But, if the child does not heed the parent at that exact moment, they should administer the rod. No second chances. If the child persists, the parents should persist. A firm discipline demonstrates a wholesome guidance to the child. Bill Cosby is funny. But Bill Cosby is also quite wrong about raising children. He makes mention of his wife sounding like a broken record. He makes us laugh. But this is not really laughable. He said his wife says, “Sarah, no. No. No. No-no-no-no-no!” Bill makes jokes about it now. He will not think rejecting God’s Word is so laughable when he stands before the throne of grace with His wife and is judged for neglecting God’s Word. That is not the way God would have you as a Christian parent instruct your child. You say “no” once, and instruct your child. If the child does not heed you, then administer the rod. If the child does not obey you, administer the rod again (remember, they will not die). A story is told of a 19th century family in England sitting by the fire waiting for the father to come home. The children were playing and the mother was knitting and the father came in from work. He sat down, and then called over little Billy, their youngest son of five years old. The mother said that Billy had been learning his ABCs that day during school at home. The father wanted to see this. He held up a chalk slate and asked Billy to read his ABCs. Billy refused. The father put down the slate, and took Billy into the back room and spanked him. Then he brought him back and sat down, picked up the slate, and again, asked him to recite his ABCs. Billy shook his head. The father brought him back in the room and spanked him again, more harshly. They came out, and again the father asked him to repeat his ABCs. Billy sat with tears in his eyes quietly and said nothing. The father took him back again and spanked him a third time. They came out, sat down, and again the father asked Billy to say his ABCs. Billy, again, said nothing. The father got up, and the moment that he began to rise again, Billy began his ABCs. The father looked at him, sat down, held up the chalkboard, and had little Billy repeat his ABCs to him, then gave him a big hug. That is godly discipline. That is withholding not correction. That is parenting. That is hard work. But who said parenting was easy?

Do you hate your children? Proverbs 10:13 says, “Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding, But a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.” Those who are devoid of understanding, at whatever level, need the rod. Parents who withhold the rod hate their children. Now, someone may say, “I do not spank my child because I cannot…it bothers me too much.” Or they say, “I do not spank my children because I love them.” Or they say, “My child does not know what he is doing – he’s too young, or too “whatever.”” Or, “My child does not know they are doing things wrong because they are too young.” These are atheistical lies. God says in Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” The rod is for those who act foolishly. They are transgressing the law of God. Parents who allow their children to get away with transgressing God’s authority in their life are acting like atheists. They hate their children. As a parent you say, “No, I love my child.” If your child walks all over you, or is neglecting your instruction and you do not correct them with the rod, you hate them. Sorry, God is right and you are wrong. Remember, this is what GOD is saying. The word “spares” here is “restrains”. If you restrain from using the rod, you “hate” or “are an enemy” of your child or children. If you love your child, which means “love those in your family that God has blessed you with,” then you muwcar (moo-sawr’) them, meaning, “disciplines, chastens and corrects” them. You have two choices: 1) You spank your two year old, or 2) you do not. If you do not, then God says you hate your children. If you do, then He says you love them. Do you hate them or love them? Do you hate or love God’s Word?

Foolishness, or the neglect of upholding authority that God has given, is only removed by God’s manner of correction. Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” As God is your authority and Shepherd, so you are a shepherd of your children. As God sanctifies you and your heart towards godliness, so you are a shepherd of your child’s heart and are instructing them to heed your authority. Without that proper correction, the child will become enamored with his own authority and will become a wayward soul. Proverbs 29:15 speaks to this poignantly, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” The rod and rebuke cause children to heed their parents. This is God’s method of correction. When children are not beaten with the rod, and rebuked with instruction, even if that instruction is simply saying “NO”, then mothers are shamed by their rebellious children in the eyes of men and the eyes of God. They are shamed in being seen as irresponsible before God and men, and the child will bring shame to the parents as they run wild. Proverbs 19:26, “He who mistreats his father and chases away his mother is a son who causes shame and brings reproach.” This is the same as not heeding their authority.

Parents Who Give In

Children are under your God-given authority. Do not let them win in the battle. I have heard mothers say, “When I count to three, if you have not done it, you will get spanked – One……two…….two and half….” Now understand, the child won once the mother started bartering. Children should obey upon your first command. They should obey without challenge, without excuse and without delay. If they do not, they are prime candidates for a good spanking.

One mother said, “But if I did this every time junior was out of line, then I would be doing it all day.” Such statements attain my sympathy. However, no one said parenting was easy. God does not want you to be a good uncle or aunt to your child. He wants you to be a good parent. That means that you are not to give in to the child, but that the child must always give in to you. Always means just that – every single time. You are the authority. God says in Proverbs 30:17, “The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.” Let unruly children dwell on that for a while. God does not play games, Proverbs 20:20, “Whoever curses his father or his mother, His lamp will be put out in deep darkness.” Never give up in your discipline. The child’s eternal destiny is at stake in the manner you raise them. Does that scare you? It should. You are the God-ordained means to an end that God has decreed. What end will they come to?

How Old Should They Be to Correct Them?

What do we do with a two year old who is not listening to daddy when he says come here and do “such and such”? We ought to ask if he understands his father first. The answer to that is, “It depends on what you are asking the child.” If you are asking the child to arrange the magazines on the coffee table, then probably not. The child does not understand. But if you pick up the child, set them in their high chair, and then they want to climb out and you say, loudly and forcibly, “NO”, then yes, the child understands that. Now what will the child do? What will the parent do? The child should sit back down. If the child does not, what should the parent do? Should the parent say “NO” again? NO! Instead, the parent should administer corporal discipline. Some parents use a piece of leather from an old belt. Others use a switch from a tree. Others, especially at a young age, will use a rubber band. Others will flick the child’s arm or hand, or the back of their leg very firmly – but the child hurts as a result of it. The importance here is that you are fulfilling Proverbs 23 while being sure you are not overly exerting pain to a young child, while at the same time, being SURE they feel what you are administering. They should cry. It should hurt. Nothing takes the place of the rod. It is absolutely a waste of time to spank a child on his bottom that has a diaper on. Do not waste your efforts. (In other words, when you administer it, make it count every time no matter how long it takes – go into the bedroom or rest room, take off the diaper, spank them, change them, etc.) For little children the sting of a taking a rubber band between your finger and thumb, and then use your other hand to give them a smack with it on their thigh or arm will do the trick just fine. Make sure they know that it is a BAD thing to get smacked by the sting of a rubber band, or hit with a switch. Make them understand it so they will know that if they do not listen to you again that you will administer it harder the next time until they do understand.

With administering discipline the parent should note two things: 1) that God requires corporeal punishment regardless of age, but with prudence (in other words parents are not doing ANYTHING corporeal to their newborns, but ARE administering proper corporeal discipline to their one year old as they are able to handle it). 2) That every time it is administered, it should count. Parents who have their children’s welfare in mind, their eternal welfare, will not neglect this. Older children, two, three, four and up, will do everything they can to get out of being spanked. Be sure that every time you administer corporeal discipline that you do it so it counts, and to the manner of their age. They should cry, scream, or yell. Let them. Its part of God’s plan to have children cry and yell and scream being disciplined when they do something wrong. Its okay if they cry. They cry when they want something and you give it to them. Let them cry as you spank them. Crying is good in this case. If that were not the case, God would have made them laugh instead.

How Do You Know if You are not following God’s Rules for Discipline?

There are three books I recommend reading right off the bat: 1) Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, 2) Withhold Not Correction by Bruce Ray and 3) The Little Book of Christian Character and Manners by William and Colleen Dedrick. Those three will place you on solid ground concerning discipline and raising your children as God-fearers. They are not perfect books, and you must be discerning (as with anything, including this article) but they will be helpful. As a parent, you do not know everything about being a parent. Get help. Get counsel on how to raise children so you can do it the best way possible – by godly instruction.

In The Little Book of Christian Character and Manners by William and Colleen Dedrick, there is a wonderful list in the back that are warning signs for parents who do not have authority in their home, or a signal that they are loosing control in their home:

My child whines, cries, and pouts when I say “no” to him.
I find myself reluctant to ask my child to help with any tasks because of his negative reaction and inability to complete a job. He usually responds to my requests by whining or answers, “I can’t…or I don’t want to…”
There is an excessive amount of noise and confusion in my house: screaming, bickering, crying, hitting, rough behav­ior with furniture or toys, etc.
I am unable to leave food snacks or any­thing of personal value within my child’s reach.
I am unable to leave my child (aged three or above) out of my sight or unat­tended in another room for any period of time without being worried about what he is up to.
I am embarrassed or afraid to take my child to other homes or the restaurant because he is so active (boisterous, silly, fidgety; he knocks things over and touches every­thing).
My child is unable to sit quietly for any length of time in a place I specify.
Going shopping is a fiasco because my children run through the clothes racks, or touch everything in the store, or run away from me.
My child has a “smart mouth” (yells, uses abusive language, swears at me) or hits me.
My child throws tantrums, refuses to eat or do what he is asked to do.
My child takes things without asking and rummages through our drawers and cupboards.
My child does not come when called or respond to my voice from another room.
When I ask my child to do something I always have to explain “why” first.
Many of my child’s toys are broken and he rarely puts any away—outdoors or indoors.
My child avoids doing what I ask by using flattering words, changing the subject, or doing some other good deed instead.
My child gets my attention with loud, disrespectful demands, e.g.,”Hey, Mom! Get the __ for me!” or “I want __ !” or “Mom, come here!”
I find myself saying, “I can’t do that because Suzy won’t let me” or “I can’t get Johnny to do that…”
When I spank my child he pouts, responds in anger, screams, throws himself on the floors, slams doors, pro­longs his crying, coughs, or gags (attempts to vomit).
As I talk on the phone or chat with oth­ers, my child constantly interrupts or acts naughty, demanding my attention.
My child is constantly bored, discontent, and looking for entertainment; wanting to play, he grumbles at his work.
I am ready to pull my hair out. My child drives me crazy. I am so worn out all the time that I can hardly wait to get a break from him at every opportunity.

A note to parents: How sharp is your Scripture memory? Can you think of a verse dealing with each of the above? These are exam­ples of poor character qualities that the Bible— especially Proverbs—addresses.


If you do not keep in step with God’s prescription for your children, 1) you will be judged for neglecting God’s commands and principles in His Word, and 2) you will have unruly children that bring you shame. It is very easy to foul up raising your children correctly. Just sit back and let them walk all over you. Appease them. Do not discipline them. Give the excuses that you always give for not keeping up with them. Fouling up the character of your children is not hard. Most of the world does it day in and day out. Do not listen to Dr. Spock, or your secular next-door neighbor. They do not have a clue as to how to raise children. God does. Listen to what God has said just in the book of Proverbs and you will not only honor God, but also honor your children, and later, they will honor you as well. Do nothing, and you will raise a prodigal. Do something, but not in accordance with God’s word, then you will raise a beast. It’s all up to you.

Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”

Proverbs 29:15, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”

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. 14 You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.”

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Reformed Theology at A Puritan's Mind