Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Funny, my bible doesn't say that. . .

A friend from long ago posted a scripture as her facebook status yesterday:

"Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones;a spanking won’t kill them. http://read.ly/Prov23.13.MSG"

Funny, my bible doesn't say that. In my NIV, Proverbs 23:13 reads "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die."

Proverbs, a book of POETRY, written for young men, was never intended to be either a book of promises or law. As poetry, it is full of metaphors and symbols meant to help the reader bring his knowledge forth into wisdom. [Knowledge is the possession of facts, wisdom is the application of those facts.] Learning how to apply the rules of the law to your life is an art, and one that takes much practice and patience. Nowhere in Proverbs does the author use a word referencing children under 13(ish). Then there's the whole discussion of the rod - that one's been beaten almost to death I think (ha ha). But at the very least, if you are taking Proverbs literally, how would spanking your toddler with your hand on their butt be the same as using a staff across the back of a young teen? It isn't.

Also, let's look at Proverbs more closely. If we're taking individual Proverbs about 'fools' and 'folly' (which some have applied to children and their childishness) and trying to apply them to our lives, let's look at two right next to each other. Proverbs 26:4-5.

Proverbs 26:4 "
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself."
Proverbs 26:5 "
Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes."

How could both answer and not answer a fool according to his folly? Would it depend on the situation? Would carrying out these instructions involve wisdom and discernment and an understanding of the situation and players involved? If a tired toddler has a meltdown, is the wiser approach to punish her or to get her the rest she needs? Do you need to engage in your own antics to prove your authority, or, as her parent, do you need to help her learn to care for herself and help her learn how to deal with her frustrations? You won't always be there to threaten punishment when she has to make a difficult decision. Your child needs to learn how to evaluate a situation and address the true problem - not just the obvious symptom. Taking an aspirin to cure a headache does nothing to address the dehydration that caused it in the first place. Many situations will arise for your child that need to be addressed in the same way. She will need to understand that in order to have a productive relationship with her husband or cow0rkers or children, she needs to eat well, get rest, and practice the Gospel daily. Threats of punishment don't teach any of those things. Proverbs 26:4 & 5 are trying to tell you to evaluation a situation and address the root cause. Whether you engage with the fool or not depends on the folly and the fool. Babies don't always get what they want, but sometimes what they want is a little joy to relive boredom. Or help getting to sleep. And those things, those things you can engage with. If you learn to listen to your children and understand what they're asking you for.

And clearly, as Godly parents, wouldn't we have higher expectations than simple survival for our children? Is my only responsibility to keep them still breathing when they turn 18? Seriously? I don't think so. Setting your bar for success at 'breathing and obedient' isn't doing anybody any favors. It's just allowing you to be lazy.

But, all of that doesn't fit in a FB comment to a status update. And it would only provoke heat in a discussion that has far too much already. I'll just continue raising my children with gentleness, love, and WISDOM; everyone else will do as they see fit.


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