Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24
“To spare the rod is to spoil the child” I have heard it said. This saying is based on the Bible verse, Proverbs 13:24. This does not give you permission to beat your children or be abusive by any means. (If you are leaving a bruise you are spanking too hard!) But, it certainly does give you permission to be a nonpermissible parent who refuses to pacify their toddler’s raging demands. I used to fall prey to this. My toddler would kick and scream, and cry and whine to get what she wanted, and many times I gave in. I felt weak and powerless. The more times that I gave in, the more powerless I became.
“The rod” referred to in Proverbs 13:24 is certainly an actual physical rod, but I believe there is a spiritual component to this verse as well. The rod is discipline. Discipline is twofold, the rod in addition to Bible based correction that is verbally stated (Proverbs 29:15) (Revelation 3:19). We are to discipline our children because we love them and this is what God has called us to as parents.
Disciplining children is no fun, and often a laborious task, but it is so rewarding. When I began disciplining my toddler for her temper tantrums and demands, I noticed a shift in her attitude. “I love you Mommy,” she would tell me way more often. I also got many more hugs. It’s almost as if she was saying, “thank you for correcting me.”
It is not good for children to rebel, lie, demand, or be disrespectful. But it is even worse for them to get away with these things. It weighs heavy on their hearts. They need the rod of discipline delivered in tandem with reproof and godly wisdom. They need correction, and God’s Word breathed into their little hearts and lives, in the process. They need us to tell them right from wrong and point to Jesus in doing so.
Our children need us to discipline them. Their hearts are thirsty for our firm and loving correction. It makes them feel safe to know the boundaries, to have godly parameters surrounding them on all sides of their lives. It gives them a sense of security in knowing what is acceptable and godly, and what is not. It gives them comfort in realizing that they cannot get away with committing willful sin in their lives. It empowers them to make right decisions based on their knowledge of the borders that exist.
Disciplining your children does not make them immune to sin. They will still act out, and misbehave at times. They will still grapple with the serpent of sin in their lives, but we must prayerfully discipline and carefully correct our children when that sin rears its ugly head.
We don’t have to be helicopter parents, but we do need to discipline our children when correction is called for. It is an outpouring of our love for the Lord. The Lord uses us as parents to discipline our children. Through godly discipline, we can be vessels of God’s love and ultimate goodness in their lives.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
Discipline is no fun to give or receive in the moment, but if our children can learn from their mistakes and have hearts that are aligned more closely to Jesus they will thank us for it. They may never say “thank you” but they might show you in other little ways. “I love you’s,” “hugs,” and attitude changes are forms of fruit that can be found that represent God’s love growing up and out of our children’s hearts.
Harsh discipline is terrible, and detestable to the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Discipline without correction and God’s Word incorporated is useless (Matthew 23:26). But, discipline that is delivered with the heart of God in mind, and God’s Word on our tongues is pleasing to the Lord. Let us be faithful with the talents of our children’s hearts that the Lord has entrusted us to.