Child discipline and "punitive measures"...

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In that same FB discussion mentioned earlier today, one participant wrote:

"...we know from lots of research that a punitive approach does not change behavior in a meaningful way..."

"...punishment doesn't work to change behavior except those times when the punisher is around."

Wrong. Yet there are few statements repeated more widely across our nation today and the damage done by the statement's endless loop of repetition is causing untold damage, particularly in our homes. Don't give this abdication-posing-as-enlightenment a free pass anywhere you are present and wish to confess your faith. Speak up!

To spark your thinking next time this lie is repeated, here are excerpts from...

my responses:

We most certainly do not know any such thing and those who think they do are foolish. ...God made us and He Himself commands us to be punitive in His book of Proverbs. He also tells us in His book of Hebrews that He disciplines those he loves. I want to be loved by God and I had no higher goal in being a father to my children than telling them the truth about the character and ways of God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

The original writer responded to this comment and I responded to his response:

Concerning God, your comments oppose Him publicly and it is that to which I was responding. Christians are not ashamed of God's commands and it's part of our love for Him that when rebellious souls oppose him publicly, we speak up to honor Him and to warn those who foment rebellion against Him and His Word.

So, for instance, here are God's Words: "Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod And rescue his soul from Sheol" (Proverbs 23:13, 14).

And this written specifically to believing Christians demonstrating that discipline and punishment are not antiquated methods of childrearing, but at the center of God's perfect character and one of the most certain proofs of his love:

"...and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness" (Hebrews 12:5-11).

(BTW, all CAPS are how the New Testament indicates quotes from the Old Testament.)

The writer responded yet again, to which I responded:

One other thing: since many today view so-called "punitive measures" and corporal punishment as misanthropic and ineffective, it seems pointless to frame the debate in religious terms since most people think of it as "childrearing styles"—and take your pick as you wish. Thing is, attacks upon punishment ("punitive") are attacks upon the Judgment Seat of God and His warning that His judgment will send us either ot Heaven or Hell. And Jesus warns us over and over again to flee Hell, which is to flee God's "punitive measures" against those who are firm in their pride and refuse to acknowledge their sin and flee to the blood of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin.

No father who believes he should avoid punitive measures in his fatherhood and encourages others to follow his lead in this can possibly believe and confess the coming Judgement and God's Fatherly consignment of a large portion of those men and women He has made to Hell.

It's for this reason that discussion of childrearing and discipline is so very, very spiritual. It is either an affirmation or a repudiation of Heaven and Hell. Of the goodness or evil of God's wrath against the ungodly and His punishing them with the eternal torment Jesus described as the "fire that is never quenched" and the "worm that never dies." So if you were tempted to think the discussion of rebellion against God is over the top in a dialogue on childrearing and discipline and "punitive" measures, I'm hoping this makes the theology of discipline and the reasoning behind those who attack it much more clear.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!