Is it TRUE that by ‘SPARING the ROD’ we ‘SPOIL our CHILDREN’? "Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction." (Prov. 19:18)
The modern society (both secular and the Bible professing faith community) have a popular belief today that it is not advisable to discipline our children. This belief may have evolved as a reaction against the past generation where heavy corporal punishment was inflicted on helpless children. However, the pendulum has swung so far to the opposite direction that parents are now afraid of disciplining and correcting their wayward children even when they are young. Any disciplining action upon minor children by their parents is automatically construed as ‘abusive behavior’, and the local/state authorities are ready to pounce upon the ‘offending’ parents by imposing legal fines and penalties. Another line of thinking is that people are basically good, and by extension, children come into this world as untainted and pure until they are ‘socialized’ into harmful, hurtful patterns by parents and society.
However, biblical wisdom challenges our modern philosophies and practices of child rearing. The Book of Proverbs, along with the rest of the Bible, presents a very different picture of children and childrearing. Although children are a blessing, they will drift toward evil if left to their own nature: "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child" (22:15a). For that reason, parents are urged to discipline their youngsters: “the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (22:15b). When we, as parents, neglect to fulfill our God-mandated responsibility, we are actually guiding our child towards his/her journey towards destruction as we read again from Proverbs: "Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction” (19:18).
We may disagree regarding the best way to discipline our children, but this should not negate what God’s Word tells us should be the end result for our children, which is to bring them into adulthood having a strong character and the ability to make wise choices (29:15). To make this possible, the book of Proverbs encourages us to use discipline in raising our children: "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" (23:13-14). In fact, we should lovingly discipline our children while they are still young and teachable. Any discipline that we decide should be administered fairly and given in an atmosphere of genuine love.
Let us remember that even though the instruction of God requires chastisement, this correction is not calculated to harm or even provoke our children. Apostle Paul is very clear about this, when he says: "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). Since training and chastisement results in some measure of suffering, we should be careful that our children do not rebel against it. It is always better for our children suffer briefly from loving correction than for us as parents to later regret over their wayward and destructive lifestyle. Let’s remember the judgment of God against the priest Eli for not disciplining or restraining them properly (see 1 Sam. 3:13).
Thus, our refusal to discipline our children will eventually doom their future: "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly" (13:24). We are encouraged to discipline our children when there is hope (19:18). J. P. Lange has pointed this out in his book ‘A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures’ as follows: “We have here a caution against that cruel kindness that kills by withholding reasonable correction”. Let us not ruin the lives of our children by refusing to discipline them in time, and the old dictum - ‘sparing the rod spoils our children’ - is so true!
Finally, we should also remember that discipline is only one part of a much broader home environment required to set our children on the path toward wisdom, self-appreciation, understanding, and humility (2:1–22; 4:3–9; 15:31–33). Thus, discipline is indispensable to healthy child rearing, and God calls us as parents to demonstrate lives of wisdom, truth, and service to our children, knowing that they may or may not choose to follow in that path. We as parents are simply called to do our best and leave the results to God knowing that God also disciplines us every day as well.