Being a good disciplinarian…
Yesterday I met a couple whom I married at the local pub. We ended up talking about child abuse. The lady shared how her previous husband would take a stick and hit her son on his feet to make him stop crying. This reminded me of the number of people who have shared with me about the physical abuses they have been through as kids.
I grew up in a home where I was spanked and whipped and to be honest, I don’t think I was scarred for life because of that. But the spanking and whipping did nothing to change me. I was whipped many times at school so that I would change my behaviour. It only made me more rebellious and I grew up becoming hot-tempered and argumentative and involved in fights at school. The thing that changed my life around was my mum’s prayers for me. She shed many tears because of the person I was becoming as a teenager.
When this whole anti-smacking debate was taking place in New Zealand, I was in support of repealing section 59 of the Crimes Act. It was not because I was concerned that good parents would be prosecuted but because I was concerned about the level of child abuse and domestic violence happening in this country. The one verse in the Bible that helped me make my stand was this “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say–but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’–but not everything is constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23) Yes the Bible talks about using a rod to discipline our children but I knew deep down that it was not a beneficial or constructive way of disciplining our kids.
Today we live in a society where we understand child behaviour better. We understand the whole range of learning and behavioural disorders found in children. Before we had this understanding we would smack kids for everything they did wrong from behaviour problems to failing to understand the work they were learning. Now we don’t need to do that. There are more constructive ways we can use to train and discipline a child without resorting to physical or verbal abuse.
As someone who believes in the sanctity of life because we are all created in the image of God, and knowing that as a follower of Christ my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, I choose to live my life as an instrument of righteousness that values humanity. That means I choose not to use my body in such a way to intentionally hurt a human being physically or verbally. There is no where in the Bible that says we are to use our body as an instrument of discipline or violence. In fact the only time smacking is used in the Bible is to show us how we should respond to smacking. We are called to turn the other cheek when somebody hits us. This was one thing God changed in me. He took my hot-tempered nature and violent behaviour and turned me into a person who values the path of peace and reconciliation. So using our hands to smack or hit a child or for violence has no biblical basis. However the Bible does acknowledge the use of sticks to discipline children. To me, in today’s world, we need to use the knowledge and understanding we have to discipline children but I am convinced we do not need to resort to rods.
This is my thinking as a follower of Christ. There is going to be a time when my kids do not understand right from wrong or recognise danger. It is my role as a parent to keep them safe. If I left my front door open and the front gate open so that my child can leave the house and get on to a busy road, I should not blame my child for wandering into the road by hitting him. It is not his fault. If I do not have a fire-guard around a log burner and a baby wanders up to the log burner, I have no right to smack the child so that they learn. All I am doing is blaming my child for my carelessness. My role as a parent is to ensure my baby is kept safe at all times and not left unattended where they can harm themselves.
When they get to an age when they can understand right from wrong, my wife and I would teach our kids right behaviour and then discipline them for the wrong behaviour. So when they scribbled on the wall when told not to, they had to wash it off. My 3 kids learned pretty soon not to scribble on walls. We have tried hard not to use violence on our kids. We worked hard at trying to find alternate ways of disciplining our children through understanding their personality, character and behaviour traits.
Yes my kids have done some bad things that have broken my heart and caused me pain at times. But I never once believed that smacking them as a means of discipline would help them change. I know I didn’t change through caning, and believe me, I got heaps of caning at home and at school. For my wife and I, our goal has always been to train and discipline our children in the way they should walk so that as they get older they will be better people who would live a life of peace rather than violence. We read the various resources available to us, and we tried hard to model the life we want them to live. Today I am proud of my children and I love them to bits.
Maybe a good disciplinarian do not need to resort to beating a child.