"The Rod and Reproof Give Wisdom"

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 10
The above verse is found in Proverbs 29:1515The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. (Proverbs 29:15) and is most important. The latter part of the verse reads, “But a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” We get the same truth in the New Testament: “Ye fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:44And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4) JND). We notice that the phrase “of the Lord” is appended, for in this dispensation of grace the children of Christian parents are in a place of privilege, as they are to be raised under the Lordship of Christ. In these verses we have quoted, both the rod (discipline) and reproof (admonition) are mentioned. As we have noted throughout our discussion of raising children, and indeed in every area of our lives, balance is needed. Naturally, we tend to be creatures of extremes.
Reproof and Explanation
In our modern world where man is glorified and where it is often claimed that man is basically good, there is a large body of teaching about raising children that emphasizes reproof and explanation, as if this were all that is needed. The assumption is that if a child knows what is right and what is expected of him, he will do it. This, of course, ignores the fact that man has a sinful nature — a nature that wants to do its own will. Indeed the word “iniquity,” which is very frequently used for sin in the Word of God, simply means “lawlessness,” or the exercise of an independent will.
There are others who go to the opposite extreme and who largely ignore reproof, relying rather on stiff punishments to deter children from doing what is wrong. When this is the approach, children may be punished without really knowing why, and thus the bad behavior may be repeated. Also, unless discipline is accompanied with good teaching and the name of the Lord is brought in, children may become alienated from their parents, feeling that they are being punished only because the parent is bigger and stronger. As someone has aptly stated, “Rules without a relationship lead to rebellion.” Children may learn to obey certain rules out of fear, but rebellion will be the end result.
The Right Combination
It is needful to balance these things with our children, and again, only the Lord can give the necessary wisdom. Some children have very tender consciences and are far more sensitive to reproof than others. They may need relatively few actual punishments. Others are born with strong wills and, when they are young, may need rather frequent punishments to teach them. But for all children, a combination of the rod and reproof is necessary.
Today, in worldly circles, many reasons are given for not using the rod, but most of them assume that it is used in anger and with violence. Studies are referred to, which are alleged to prove that spanking does not work, but rather has a negative effect. But we never find this in the Word of God. God and His wisdom are utterly beyond man. “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:44God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. (Romans 3:4)). In the Word of God we find the Lordship of Christ brought in, and thus Scripture speaks to both parents and children. Both are under the Lordship of Christ. A right attitude and spirit on the part of the parents is crucial to effective discipline.
When children are very young, it may be impossible to reason with them or offer an admonition. In such situations the rod must be used, especially if the situation involves the child’s setting his/her will directly against the parent. However, as they get older, the Word of God and the Lordship of Christ should be brought in, to show clearly that the particular sin is not merely against the parent, but ultimately against the Lord. I well remember a Christian woman, brought up in a Christian home, who related that whenever she was punished by her father (when she was old enough to remember), he would never leave her until she and he had knelt down and she had confessed to the Lord what she had done. This sometimes took a considerable amount of time, but she related how it had a real effect on her heart and conscience.
The Confirmation of Love
This brings up another point that is most important, namely, that after any punishment, it is necessary for the parents to confirm their love to the child. This will be difficult if the punishment is given in anger or frustration, and only confirms the need for discipline not to be carried out in this frame of mind. A father once disciplined his son, then came downstairs right away, leaving the son in his room. His wife wisely said, “You have not finished yet; you left your son crying alone in his room.” The father recognized his failure, went back upstairs and comforted his son, thus solidifying the lesson the boy needed to learn.
Dealing With the Will
But there is another point of supreme importance. Parents will find with some (and perhaps many) children that there comes a time, usually when they are less than three years old, when their will is set directly against that of the parent. The difficulty may involve what seems to be a trivial matter, but the will is strong, and the child refuses to obey. A real battle often ensues, and the parent may be tempted to give in, thinking that the whole episode is escalating out of control. I have known parents who worked with a child under these circumstances for some time, perhaps with both reproof and discipline, only to have a child who still refused to obey.
It is imperative that parents not give in, if this situation arises. Yes, if the child becomes totally agitated and distraught, it may be necessary to “take a break” and perhaps take up the matter later. Sometimes several sessions with that child may be needed, if the bad behavior is repeated. It will almost break your heart to see your little one, whom you love so much, display such stubbornness, with such a strong will. It hurts even more to have to continue working with that child until that will is shaped in the right way. Sometimes on occasions such as these I have known more than one mother who called her husband at work, asking him to come home and help her in the situation. Needless to say, he came home, and together they persisted before the Lord, until the child gave in. But once that issue is settled, the child seldom sets its will against the parent again. Yes, there may occasionally be failure later, but the will has been shaped, and the Lord has been honored.
What happens if the parents give in, thinking that persistence is too hard? Then it will be even more difficult in the future, for having been allowed to win the battle a few times, the child will try even harder to exert its own will. Eventually parents will tend to give up. The world today (at least the Western world) is all too full of young people who have never learned to obey, to submit to authority, and to yield their own wills to that of another. A temper tantrum in a small child is frightening enough, but to see a teenager or young adult totally out of control is a disaster. As a result, we now need courses in “anger management,” and signs in stores and government offices advise people that rough and abusive language and violence will not be tolerated. These would not be needed if parents did their job properly.
We should not be surprised to see this trend out in the world, for the Lord has told us in His Word that in the last days “perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:11This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. (2 Timothy 3:1)). However, the Christian home ought to be a bastion of light and peace and a place where the Lordship of Christ is owned. Let us always remember that the wisdom of God is all we need for our pathway down here.
Obedience out of Fear
Once again, however, we must speak about balance, for we can go to extremes on both sides of this issue. On the one hand, parents may emphasize authority and submission, but in such a way that children obey largely out of fear. The atmosphere of the home suffers under such a parental regime, and children react to it like “scared rabbits.” This is not what the Word of God teaches. Love must be the motive spring for discipline, and children must be able to realize this. If children are fully persuaded of the love of their parents, it will make a huge difference in their acceptance of admonition and occasional discipline. The administering of discipline is never pleasant at the time, but “afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:1111Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Hebrews 12:11)). If a child is firmly convinced of a parent’s love, it will stimulate the needed exercise in discipline, and thus bring about the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.”
Authority Abdicated
On the other hand, it is possible to go to the other extreme, where parents abdicate their God-given authority and allow children openly to disobey. I have known children in Christian homes who did not obey until they were spoken to several times, or until the parent began to count out loud — 1, 2, 3, etc. Under such circumstances, the children soon learn how far they can push their parents before they have to do as they are told. Then, when they do obey, they often do so with a very poor attitude. This is not a good outcome and should never be allowed in a Christian home.
First of all, it dishonors the Lord, from whom parents have received their authority. If children do not learn to submit to God-given authority in the home, they will not submit to authority in the educational system, in the workplace, or in society in general. Second, it frustrates the parents, who, in the face of continual stubbornness in their children, may resort to yelling at them, and perhaps eventually losing their temper. All this would be avoided if the problem were “nipped in the bud” when it first appeared. May the Lord give us wisdom in these difficult days to act in the right way with each of our children, that godly discipline may be administered, but in love and grace that accords with our Lord’s ways with us.
W. J. Prost