When I was a single young man and attending college I had a room mate for whom I have the greatest regard. We talked for hours on end about a myriad of subjects. One day we talked about discipline styles. He was wise beyond his years because of the training of his Godly parents. He said to me, “My parents taught me that a child should not be spanked with the hand because hands were made for loving.” “They always used a rod.” Our conversation went on for some time and some of the ideas expressed in this message are really from him. (Originality is not one of my character traits.) “Hands are made for loving!” I have never forgotten that discussion or that wise statement. Now look with me at the definition of spanking:
From the Online Etymology Dictionary, by Douglas Harper
“spank” (verb) 1727, "to strike forcefully with the open hand, especially on the buttocks," possibly imitative of the sound of spanking.
“spanking” (noun) "act of striking with the open hand," especially as a punishment administered to children, 1854, verbal noun from spank (v.). Also, an adjective expressing something having a “striking” appearance.
Since the definition of spanking is the use of the “open hand” I have eliminated it as a means of discipline. Remember, “Hands are made for loving!” Particularly note the dates given for the earliest use of the words. The word “spank” did not come into common use until well after the translation of our beloved King James Version of the Bible! Spanking as described in the definition is not a Biblical form of discipline. So what is? I am glad you asked. Let's explore that.
The term “rod” is used in the scripture to refer to a branch, a twig or a stick used for various purposes. It is a tool or implement that may serve as a walking stick, a measuring stick, a staff, a weapon, a spear, and even a Scepter for a king or ruler. In addition, the original word is also used of a tribe or clan or a family. And finally there is the use of the rod as an instrument of discipline.
I can remember the earliest use of the the rod in my life. While I was a young child my mother carried a small switch (rod) with her wherever we went together. The truth is I probably needed it more than I got it but here I wish to make several observations. The switch was small. It fit the size of the boy. As I grew older and bigger the rod grew too! I searched my database (once called the memory) and recalled the last time I can remember the rod in my mother's hand. I think I was about 9 or 10 years old. I had mistreated a young lady at church and my mother went to a bush that grew alongside the church (I wondered if someone had planted them for this purpose.) and broke off a nice limb, striped the leaves, and lifted my pants legs and put a few stripes on me. The embarrassment of that episode in my life was worse than the rod but the rod communicated what it was supposed to: you can't be carrying on such foolishness. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." Proverbs 22:15. It worked.
The rod has been a special blessing in my life. It helped keep me on the right track and God has blessed that my children have been good kids due to God's blessing on our ever-so-imperfect use of this corrective discipline. I am not being critical of those who disagree with me. This very article was prompted by a pamphlet I picked up from the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse. There is some good advice in the pamphlet but also a disturbing lack of understanding of the proper way to administer corrective discipline.
The proper use of the rod is not abuse. Any discipline can become abusive. I have personally witnessed abuse that did not involve spanking. Examples would include: yelling and screaming at a child; slapping, shaking or jerking a child; hitting a child with large objects, and the list could go on and on. It is also abuse to allow a child to disrupt the lives of others with incessant crying and loud protests or noisy fits. Proper discipline makes these protests short or provides a quick exit from the public for the administering of correction. "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." Proverbs 29:15.
Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse was a pastor, evangelist and radio speaker of a previous generation. I really enjoyed his ministry in the Word. Dr. Barnhouse traveled a lot and took his younger children with him. He spoke in one sermon about “the worship bag” they always took with them. It contained “a Bible, a Hymnbook and a Ping Pong paddle.” I loved it when he stated, “A Ping Pong paddle is a marvelous instrument of worship. It is small, makes a lot of noise and doesn't hurt much.” Children need discipline. "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (early, diligently or quickly)." Proverbs 13:24 Did you notice the hate/love relationship God places on the use of the rod? (Our worship bag contained a paint stirring stick for the same reasons.)
The following is a list of important principles regarding the proper use of the rod. Please feel free to share others you know with me. I am not the expert on this subject.
1. Remember, Hands are made for loving! Let love be the guiding principle of your correction.
2. Use a rod that is appropriate for the size of the child. A small switch (rod) communicates well. If the rod does not grow with the child your use of it will become useless.
3. Do not give loud, verbal warnings as this can develop into an inappropriate display. Save your loud, verbal warnings for appropriate, life-threatening situations. They will be more effective that way.
4. Start with an appropriate amount of pain, but remember pain communicates. Too much pain is abusive and will be counterproductive. Check your anger. Corrective discipline is a practical need not a reaction to cover your own embarrassment.
5. Remove the child from public view. If your child becomes fitful postpone the discipline until you are out of public view and can explain the reasons (reproof) for the discipline. As a side note, parents should teach their children to sit quietly for extended periods at home before expecting them to do it in public places. Discipline not taught in the home should not be expected in public.
6. Explain your actions to the child and the proper behavior (reproof) you expect. Don't say this is going to hurt me more than you. They won't believe you. And you want to be believable.
7. Remember to make proper correction the goal not the cause. Proper discipline will produce quiet confidence, respectful actions and loving children that bring joy, not shame. Proverbs 29:15.
8. Apply the rod to the backside. God made a wonderful place for it. See, Proverbs 10:13; 26:3
9. Remember, corrective discipline is an event that should be remembered! Don't laugh or joke about it. Playing around with discipline will drain the life out of it.
10. Correct your child before someone else has to! And don't get mad when they have to do what you didn't do. Correction begun early in life (Proverbs 13:24) will be easier and pay future dividends.
"Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." Proverbs 23:13-14. The solemn words of these verses need to be heeded. A corrected or disciplined child will not be guaranteed to miss out on a devil's hell (which can only be avoided by faith in Christ Jesus) but from abiding with those who are the residents of hell, the grave, and the pit of sin. (The Hebrew word here is translated hell thirty-one times, the grave thirty-one times and three times as the pit.) Susanna Wesley taught her children to “cry softly,” not throw a fit, when corrected. May her tribe increase! This can be done if done early. I commend the reader to the Word of God and its simple but straight forward principles. If we fail to use proper corrective discipline we fall under the discipline of the LORD who said, "Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes." Psalm 89:32. May we believe God and practice his discipline with our families and expect His blessing upon our faithfulness. O Magnify the LORD with me.