Child Discipline Conversation

Recently, in a computer chatroom, I had a conversation about child discipline. Someone started the topic by asking what a “rod” should be in terms of giving the “rod of correction” to a 16 month old child. I started providing some of the caveats that really need to be given, such as that (1) it must be for the child’s good, not to satisfy one’s own anger; (2) the severity of the chastisement must be tailored to the child’s age / personality and the offense; (3) the discipline provided must be consistent; and (4) the punishment must follow as soon as practical upon the infraction. Those things said, the “rod” is the general term for any means of measured, reasonable physical correction: aka corporal discipline.

About this time in the conversation, someone jumped in who had fairly strong opinions on the topic. He (I say, “he” because I don’t know whether this person was a man, woman, or child) jumped in to argue against using the rod.

His first argument was, “My parents didn’t use the rod on me, and I turned out fine.” (I am paraphrasing throughout this discussion)

I tried to steer the conversation back to Scripture, but I was surprised (it was a Christian chatroom after all) to find that the person wasn’t much interested in what Scripture had to say about the topic. Instead, the person seemed to think the idea of spanking children was barbaric, and the Scriptural testimony was largely irrelevant.

I say “seemed to think” because he wouldn’t really say what he thought about the Bible, even after being asked about a dozen times. Instead, he got increasingly hostile, eventually telling folks in the chatroom that they shouldn’t reproduce and that if they’d give him their addresses he’d come over and neuter them!

When he got too insulting, he got kicked from the room (not by me), but it was an interesting experience.

The most painful irony was the fact that the guy tried to argue from his experience at the beginning, but at the end I think the crowd probably was thinking to themselves that this guy was someone who would have benefited from having his hide tanned when he was younger.

I don’t mean to make it personally about this guy. It really shouldn’t be that way. There are much more gracious and temperate anti-rod folk out there. Ultimately, though, they cannot make a Biblical case for their position. That’s because in Scripture, corporal discipline (spanking one’s children) is the norm.

That doesn’t mean we have resort to the rod as the very first resort in every case, while trying to inflict a maximum amount of pain. That’s a caricature. On the other hand, what the Bible tells us is that a loving father physically disciplines his son, while a foolish father coddles his son.

There are some people that try to interpret the “rod” as being things like “time outs” and revoking privileges – but believers have consistently interpreted Scripture to mean actually, you know, giving your son a few whacks with a wooden stick. Here’s what one ancient commentator wrote:

Sirach 30:1-13
1 He that loveth his son causeth him oft to feel the rod, that he may have joy of him in the end. 2 He that chastiseth his son shall have joy in him, and shall rejoice of him among his acquaintance. 3 He that teacheth his son grieveth the enemy: and before his friends he shall rejoice of him. 4 Though his father die, yet he is as though he were not dead: for he hath left one behind him that is like himself. 5 While he lived, he saw and rejoiced in him: and when he died, he was not sorrowful. 6 He left behind him an avenger against his enemies, and one that shall requite kindness to his friends. 7 He that maketh too much of his son shall bind up his wounds; and his bowels will be troubled at every cry.
8 An horse not broken becometh headstrong: and a child left to himself will be wilful. 9 Cocker thy child, and he shall make thee afraid: play with him, and he will bring thee to heaviness. 10 Laugh not with him, lest thou have sorrow with him, and lest thou gnash thy teeth in the end. 11 Give him no liberty in his youth, and wink not at his follies. 12 Bow down his neck while he is young, and beat him on the sides while he is a child, lest he wax stubborn, and be disobedient unto thee, and so bring sorrow to thine heart. 13 Chastise thy son, and hold him to labour, lest his lewd behaviour be an offence unto thee.

This may be a little extreme: “no liberty” seems to be excessive. The point is that this ancient (perhaps 2nd or 3rd century before Christ) commentary clearly understood the Scriptural teaching regarding how children are to be raised as implying physically training them, noting that this is for the child’s good, for the parents’ good, and against the interest of one’s enemies.

This last observation, “He that teacheth his son grieveth the enemy” (vs. 3 above) is quite good. The enemy absolutely hates to see us properly training our children – he loves lax discipline, because it makes his job of turning them from the right way easier.

Grieve the devil, use the rod of correction diligently.


21 Responses to “Child Discipline Conversation”

  1. Rhology Says:

    What about the wooden spoon? ;-)

  2. exotesparemboles Says:

    I think the Puritans had some good counsel:Cotton Mather: “Better whipt, than damned.” John Eliot: “The gentle rod of the mother is a very gentle thing, it will break neither bone nor skin: yet by the blessing of God with it, and upon the wise application of it, it would break the bond that bindeth up corruption in the heart.”

  3. Daniel Montoro Says:

    I almost forgot, it is interesting that you quote from Sirach.

  4. Alexander Greco Says:

    Mr. Montoro,You need to understand that Protestants are able to quote from Sirach or any other ancient writing and still fall within the parameters of Sola Scriptura. The issue there is one of authority. Your line of argumentation will not work. Go read some of the debates on Sola Scriptura.

  5. Turretinfan Says:

    I’m guessing that Mr. Montoro was thinking more about the canon issue than the Sola Scriptura issue. But the same response applies. I can (like the church fathers) quote from books that I don’t necessarily view as inspired.-TurretinFan

  6. Alexander Greco Says:

    Turretinfan, you’re right, that is what I meant to say.

  7. Daniel Montoro Says:

    Alexander, maybe you should do a little reading yourself, Turetinfan is a cherry picker. He quotes Sirach when it agrees with a point he wants to make, but then ignores it when it doesn’t. I don’t need you to tell me what I need to understand, capice? Maybe you need me so you don’t fall into that kind of lunacy.

  8. Turretinfan Says:

    Montoro:I’m actually quite fond of most of what Sirach has to say, and I openly state where I think it is wrong (as I did in this very post, if you would try to read a little better), when it is appropriate to do so.I’m somewhat curious though – do agree with Sirach that the appropriate way to raise children is to give them no liberty at all?I’m not looking for a lecture, I’m looking for one of the following answers:1) Yes, I do think that the appropraite way to raise children is to give them no liberty, as Sirach says.2) No, I disagree with Sirach.3) Sirach doesn’t say to give your child no liberty (although it sure looks like it says “Give him no liberty in his youth”).4) I don’t understand the question.5) The question cannot be answered (by me), “yes” or “no.”So as not to waste your time writing a long answer, you can just type the number of the answer that is yours.Bottom line – your “cherry picking” claim is a false one.-TurretinFan

  9. Daniel Montoro Says:

    Very clever, jackass! You seemed to forget another option, its called “context”Go ahead and do you’re cherry-picking quoting with my comments as well like you do with God’s word.

  10. Turretinfan Says:

    I’m not sure how “context” keeps you from picking one of the five options I gave, but ok …Context is very important. I agree. I did try to provide a good chunk of verses before and after the line in question in my original post. Perhaps I missed something, though.So, feel free to tell me what part of the context makes “no liberty” mean somsthing other than the most obvious meaning of “no liberty.”-TurretinFan

  11. Ben Douglass Says:

    There are some people that try to interpret the “rod” as being things like “time outs” and revoking privileges – but believers have consistently interpreted Scripture to mean actually, you know, giving your son a few whacks with a wooden stick.Ironically, there are couples who use “time out” as a codeword for “spanking” when they are in public.

  12. Ben Douglass Says:

    3) Sirach doesn’t say to give your child no liberty (although it sure looks like it says “Give him no liberty in his youth”).Two observations:(1) The Greek is exousia which can mean authority in addition to liberty.(2) “Give him no liberty” is an unnecessarily strong translation. The Greek reads “Do not give him liberty.” This admits of less extreme interpretations than that which you are assigning to Sirach. E.g., “do not give him license.” This would fit perfectly with the succeeding clause, “and wink not at his follies.” In fact, in this case, the second clause would be in apposition to the first. So, your disagreement with Sirach on this point is quite unnecessary.Mr. Montoro, a little less testosterone in your apologetics would result in a marked improvement.

  13. Mike Burgess Says:

    “No liberty” is the KJV translation. The D-R is better, it renders the verse “Give him not liberty in his youth, and wink not at his devices.” The NAB renders it “Give him not his own way in his youth, and close not your eyes to his follies.” The New Jerusalem Bible has “While he is young, do not allow him his freedom and do not wink at his mistakes.” I think you can see the distinction and also appreciate hyperbole as an accepted form of Proverbial literature. In any event, the context to which the always-colorful Mr. Montoro referred is in verses 9 and 13, even in your KJV. But the context is even more appropriately understood in the sense that the “son” referred to in this chapter of Ecclesiasticus is presumed to be one who requires frequent discipline. It is an unwise (if you’ll pardon the pun) reader of the text who assumes every child will require exactly the same measure of treatment. Every parent worthy of the name knows this is not the case. Jesus ben Sirach was not saying a father shouldn’t ever play with his children, shouldn’t ever laugh at or with them, nor is he literally saying that a spoiled child will cause actual physical wounds requiring bandages each and every time. You implicitly acknowledge all this anyway; your equating the enemy in v. 3 with “the Enemy” is proof of that.

  14. Turretinfan Says:

    Mike and Ben,I held your quality comments to see whether Montoro would be able to produce something similar when given a chance. Unless Blogger lost it (not inconceivable), he didn’t.I agree that “don’t give him liberty” is a more strictly literal translation (certainly of the Latin, which the KJV seems to follow). I also agree that it may be that there is a reason not to view this apparently absolute command as being an absolute command.If I thought that Sirach was inspired (or if I thought that this discussion was important to the issue of Sirach’s supposed canonicity), I’d have more motivation to address this.Perhaps it is sufficient to say that I disagree with the idea that we absolutely cannot give any liberty to our children, as opposed to insisting (right now) that this is the only way to interpret Sirach.I do find it interesting that none of the kind responses I recived appealed to any infallible interpration of the text. I hope you each didn’t think it would be necessary to find some place where the fathers or the (other part of the) magisterium of Catholicism discussing this, in order to figure out what it means. If my hope is correct, then I tend to agree with your working presupposition that we can read works like Sirach and understand what it means, without an infallible (or ultimately authoritative) interpreter to tell us whether or not our interpretation is correct.This is not invitation to further debate this issue (at least not in this combox), just food for thought for those who kindly contributed to this discussion.-TurretinFan

  15. natamllc Says:

    Well, now I really really know why my Dad did what my Dad did!I will tell you.We raised horses. We bred them and our mares delivered us folds.One such fold, a stud, was guilt but when the procedure happened it wasn’t very good and the guilding was hard and a bitter horse, hard to handle.My two sisters were permitted to handle the horse. I wasn’t. I was given the shovel instead! grrrrr.Well, one afternoon, when I thought all was clear, I halter the horse and took him out to graze some fresh green grass. Little did I know the intimidation that awaited me by him. It wasn’t but a few minutes and this guilt reared up and I lost control and lost him. He was just way too strong for me to handle. “Maybe my Dad understood something I did not” :)Well, it took me about forty minutes to recapture that horse. Thinking I was in the clear, I began hurriedly to get the horse back into the coral before anyone noticed. I was walking calmly up the street and as I did I heard a familiar sound. “Oh no”, it was the sound of my Dad’s car!!!My Dad drove past me slowly, looked at the situation, then went on. I thought, hmmmmm, he didn’t even roll his window down and say a thing to me. I kept moving towards the coral. I kept my eye on my Dad. He went up and parked the car. He went out of my sight walking towards the house. Now I am a bit puzzled because I thought he would surely come to me and take the horse, reprimand me somewhat for being disobedient to his command, “do not handle that horse”.But suddenly, my Dad appears out into plain sight. He is now deliberately walking towards us. He has the “bull” whip in hand. Hmmmm, I thought, I guess he wants to have it as he takes the horse from me and takes him back to his coral.He comes up, calmly takes the rope haltered to the horse halter and whips me three times, wap, wap, wap right on my shins. Oh, I jumped in pain, and ran home quickly. I ran into the house and to my room. I sat on my bed in pain as the throbbing pain was pulsating through my entire being, out my eyeballs.I sat there for a long while expecting my Dad to come into my room and lecture me. He didn’t.It now came to dinner time and my mother called everyone to the dinner table. I came in and sat down glancing at my Dad. He sat there and was served dinner. He did his usual questioning of our school day and how things went.He asked me about my school day and if I had any homework. I did.He never once mentioned the whipping or anything about the horse and me handling him.I never, needless to say, ever wanted to have anything to do with that horse ever again! :)All I needed was what was delivered. It did it’s intended work in my compliance to what could have become a very dangerous situation for me and others had the horse really went cooky and started running all around, maybe getting hit by a car or hurting some child who would have gone up to pet the horse.I am glad for the wisdom of my Dad and I have never forgotten what effect it had on me. I have two sons and I have not spared the rod with either of them when they were little. Both are grown and growing into manhood. There is a deep bond between us and an unspoken affection between us.Cotton Mather is right: “Better whipt, than damned”.

  16. Turretinfan Says:

    Ben,Your gentle rebuke has been seen by Mr. Montoro. His response was to curse at you and insult you. I can forward you his precise words, if you like.On the other hand, in a separate comment, Montoro indicated he liked your and Mr. Greco’s responses to the issue.-TurretinFan

  17. Turretinfan Says:

    My apologies. I erred in identifying Mr. Greco as the lucky recipient of Montoro’s compliments. He has informed me (well – reminded me, since if I had read his original comment more closely I would know) that he praised Mr. Burgess not Mr. Greco (for whom, apparently, he has little regard).-TurretinFan

  18. Turretinfan Says:

    Mr. Montoro further wishes everyone to know that after his last published comment above, he didn’t bother to come back (until after I posted the other answers), and consequently cannot be said to have not had an answer for himself.That’s his claim – I’m not endorsing or defending it. I also don’t endorse his slighting of Mr. Greco or Mr. Douglass-TurretinFan

  19. Daniel Montoro Says:

    “I also don’t endorse his slighting of Mr. Greco or Mr. Douglass”Just beween you and me, we both know better.

  20. Turretinfan Says:

    Montoro:If you want to come here and insult me and my guests, you’ve got the wrong idea about how I operate.And no – while I disagre with the gospel of the church to which Greco and Douglass belong, I have a great deal more respect for them, particularly since they have kept their comments clean and rational.I frenquently disagree with what they have to say, but that doesn’t keep me from respecting them as people.-TurretinFan

  21. Turretinfan Says:

    Montoro:You probably need to click that little “comment” link in the paragraph about the comment box. It may help you realize the futility of trying to use this combox to insult me and my guests.-TurretinFan

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