At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; But the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”Proverbs 22:15
Men and women who grew up in abusive homes can sometimes have a hard time believing what Scripture teaches about corporal punishment. They have allowed their bad experience with something color what they believe about a good and proper use of it.
The proverb begins with the cold, hard fact that nobody needs to teach your child how to sin. When they come home from the hospital, they are—as my father affectionately used to say—“little bundles of sin.” They are, by nature, objects of wrath.
This doesn’t seem fair to us, but the reason it doesn’t seem fair is because we too are affected (and infected) by sin. Is a child in a crib a walker? No, in the sense that he has not taken his first step yet. But he belongs to a race of walkers, and it is in his nature to walk. Is he a talker? Well, no, in the sense that he has not spoken his first word yet. But he belongs to a race of talkers, and it is in his nature to talk. Is this child a sinner? The child has not committed an individual sin yet, but he belongs to a race of sinners, and it is just a matter of time. All he lacks is the mental capacity and the requisite muscle strength.
So folly is bound up in the heart of the child. This is a given. There is no child—apart from the Christ child given two thousand years ago—of whom this was not true. The good news for parents here is that there is something that can be done about it. The rod of discipline, correctly and judiciously applied, will drive that folly far away.
An important distinction for parents to remember is that this is discipline, not punishment. Discipline is corrective, and need only go so far as is necessary to accomplish the correction. Punishment is meted out in the interests of strict justice, as when the state executes a murderer. The point is not to make the murderer better, but rather to administer justice. Discipline in the home is not to be like that.