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Common sense safety illustrates this principle. For example, a young child is told not to play in the street. This is not something that limits the joy or freedom of a child, but a boundary designed to prevent harm and enhance life. When a toddler or young child is incapable of understanding the purpose of boundaries, we often use the confining protection of a fence. This restrictive barrier keeps them from wandering into traffic or falling into a pool. These limits are not just good, they are vitally necessary.
That is why the Bible clearly indicates that if we mature and gain true wisdom -- understanding -- we will have the Law written in our heart, not merely carried in some rule book. If we don't understand the necessity of heeding and submitting to the spirit of the law, we experience the consequences of ignorant or foolish actions. Pain and sorrow inevitably result. That is why the Bible teaches if you spare the rod, you will spoil the child. This rod in the Old Testament indicates a corrective instrument like a switch that inflicts momentary, temporary pain, not an abusive weapon for cruelty. It is through this minor pain that we learn to avoid seriously damaging pain.
I do not believe that a parent should strike a child with his or her hand, but rather use some other form of correction. A parent's hand should be a hand of love, not an instrument of pain. The discomfort should be associated with the improper action on the child's part, not seen as an expression of unkindness on the part of the parent. It is because in an out-of-control world where some brutal, insensitive parent will exercise a form of horrific abuse, you are almost reluctant to even mention that correction and discipline could involve something that brings about momentary pain, but never physical damage. If the parent does not choose this approach, then the discomfort of limiting free time or doing meaningful, positive things they want to do is, of course, very uncomfortable to the child.
Children must understand the purpose of punishment. It is the parent's responsibility to ensure that the child comprehends and accepts the discipline as instruction, not abuse. This does require a parent to never administer discipline out of anger or in public, explosive displays. To impart self-control, we must exhibit it ourselves.
Children need to understand that discipline is for the purpose of protection and establishing understanding the painful consequences of crossing principled boundaries. If your child insists on playing in traffic, they will get hurt, if not killed. If they don't understand why boundaries are important, they will continue not only to press against them and test them, but they will continually cross them. The end result is never positive.
There is no way for a school to assume the responsibility of parenting and correcting children. It is easy to enforce the rules of the school if the children have been trained at home to respect boundaries and understand their purpose. This will never happen apart from some stability and some proper foundational elements within the homes. Where fathers are too often missing, we are going to face indescribable difficulty and see kids out of control.
Although schools should teach principles, it is not possible for a school to undue the damage of a lack of discipline at home. The government must enforce laws to protect the innocent. Schools must enforce rules to maintain order, but without parental involvement and support, we will raise a generation of law breakers and disrespectful citizens. We've got problems. The best place to correct them is at home through loving, consistent discipline.
Author: James Robison
Word Count: 717
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity. Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net
Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.