In today’s life with all our social advances, one sometimes wonders if you are still rearing your children correctly. We are taught to fight for the rights of children, that we shouldn’t use corporal punishment, that we must allow them to explore life, that we shouldn’t treat any two children the same, and a lot of other ways of rearing children.
However, somewhere along the way something is amiss. Children will not subject them to authority any longer, crime figures have gone through the roof, and every generation is becoming worse than the previous. It is nothing new though. We can actually learn a lot from the Bible on this subject. Not only do we find examples we can use, but also some very strict guidelines we should follow.
Let me start by quoting a number of examples in the Bible. During the times of the kings in Israel, we find that each generation slipped further and further into idolatry, up to the point where the LORD decided to end it by taking Israel into exile in Babylonia. Even before this time we find a very good example in the Bible. Let us examine the life story of Eli and his sons.
Eli was high priest for Israel and served the LORD. But there came a day when the LORD spoke to him through a unknown prophet. This person told Eli what would happen to him as well as to his sons. We all know the story of how Eli and his sons died on the same day.
Why did this happen? Why was the LORD upset? How does the Bible put it: 1Sa 2:12 – “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial”,. Not that Eli their father was Belial, a wicked man; but although they had a good father, they were very wicked men, unprofitable abandoned wretches, that cast off the yoke of the law of God, and gave themselves up to all manner of wickedness: “they knew not the Lord”; not that they had no knowledge of God in theory, or were real atheists, but they were so practically; they denied him in works, they had no love to Him, nor fear of him, and departed from his ways and worship, as much as if they were entirely ignorant of him.
Isn’t it amazing that the Bible can declare that someone who grew up in the temple of God, did not know Him. If we look at the rules of orthodox Jews today, we will find that in order to become a rabbi, you have to be able to recite the first five books of the Torah at age five. By age twenty-nine, you have to be able to recite the full Torah. Eli’s sons were brought up to become the high priests, and as such had to understand the workings of the temple and what they could and could not do. They were priests.
What was their problem? They did not want to be subjected to authority. This is what we find further on in 1 Samuel 2: “And the priests’ custom with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came, while the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand; And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. Also before they burnt the fat, the priest’s servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have sodden flesh of thee, but raw. And if any man said unto him, Let them not fail to burn the fat presently, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would answer him, Nay; but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD.”(1 Samuel 2:13-17).
Does that sound familiar? Isn’t that what the children are doing? They have no respect for authority. Why not? We as parents have become like Eli. We allow our children to do that which is wrong, without teaching them to submit themselves to authority. How did Eli react when he was told what his sons were doing? “Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings by all this people.” (1 Samuel 2:22-23) How many times have I seen and been told that we should not interfere with the children as they are only going through a certain phase in their lives. No, they have never been taught how to submit themselves to authority. We have just given in to their demands every time. Never have they received any punishment for wrong doings.
Unfortunately there are no phases in a child’s life to work through. It is however our job as parents to educate them, and not only to give them information on how to react to circumstances that they will face in life. If we educate them, there wouldn’t be any phases to work through. But that was Eli’s problem too. He only told them that what they were doing was wrong. That was giving information, and not education.
What is the difference between the two subjects? To pass knowledge through to someone, is how our school system works. They are given information, and then tested to see what they can remember. To educate someone is to establish habits and to establish a way of life. It is like teaching someone to replace a plug on an appliance. If I give the person the information on how to do it, the person might still end up electrocuting himself by doing it, as he wasn’t taught how to do it. If the person however were taught how to do it by example, and by watching how it was done a number of times, the chances will be slim that he will electrocute himself when replacing a plug.
The same principle applies to rearing children. Educating your children is building their character, to teach by example and by practising how to do it, to lead the way, to prepare them for their battles in life. This means that a child should not only learn to listen only, but also learn to be obedient.
You might say that I am old fashioned and this is an old fashioned method. We live in a different time where we do it based on psychology. My question immediately is: Why are the results between the two ways so different? When I grew up children knew how to behave. Some of today’s children do not have an idea of how to behave. Proverbs put it as follows: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Proverbs 14:12)” If you feel strongly that the way you teach your children are correct, then I do not think that I will be able to change you viewpoint. But this proverb questions that point of view .
We live in an era where people tend to believe the creation more than the Creator. The LORD has been raising children for over 6000 years and taught everyone from Adam to our parents and grandparents how to raise children. We tend to believe someone who spent maybe four years at university, and maybe also have some year’s practical experience. We all end up the same as Eli, who did not raise His children in the fear of the LORD. We are quick to accept certain passages in the Bible, but ignore others. Unfortunately, the Bible is the Word of God, and we cannot accept only the parts we like and forget about the parts we don’t like. This is the way the LORD puts it to Eli: “Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people?” (1 Samuel 2:29) You see Eli also thought he was rearing his children correctly, but that is not what the LORD thought.
How does the Bible proclaim that we should rear our children. Proverbs gives us some indication.
- Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
- Proverbs 19:18 Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
- Proverbs 23:13-14 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. (14) Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
- Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
- Proverbs 29:17 Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.
- Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
Remember that your action will not limit your child. We still want our children to grow up without any inhibitions and to be free. We have to remember that our actions will not cause his spirit to be destroyed, but that we will be teaching him to subject his will to ours. This could save him a lot of problems later on in his life. When we use the rod with the right spirit and self control and with love, the result will bring love.
We always hear that all children are different and therefore must be treated differently. I agree that every child has his own temperament, and personality, but that does not change the fact that every child is born with a self-centred nature. For that reason it is necessary to bring the child to a point where they have to learn to willingly submit himself to the God given authority. Following the LORD’s way can only do this, and that is by using the rod. Remember that children think you have a favourite child if they are not all treated the same. This point requires faith on your side. Believe this and do what the Word of God says. The LORD will ensure that His Word will produce the correct results, as long as it is applied in love.
How do we apply the method of the Bible? The first principle we have to teach the child is discipline. Discipline is the ability to control your will and to subject yourself to predefined requirements, and that is taught by using the rod. The pain caused by the rod, will clean the inner being of the child. This will cause the child to have a determined will to do what is right. It will also force the child to think of the consequences before embarking on doing something. Let me give you an example. A woman we knew had three sons in her house. When she wanted them to do anything for her, she had to ask, ask again, and the third time shout before they would do it. She decided to follow the Bible’s way, and after the first request used the rod. These boys were very surprised, as they were used to the fact that they could wait until their mother shouted before doing anything. After this incident they acted promptly after the first request.
What happened in this example, and that brings me to the second point, is that limits were set. The boys knew that they had to react after the first request, or the rod would be used. The same applies to any child. If we do not define these limits, the child will not know and hence would not know how to react. As soon as these limits are set, both child and parent can feel secure. The child will know where these limits are, and the parent will know when to discipline. The child will always try and test these limits, and the parent will have to know not to give in. This requires self-control on the part of the parent. An example I want to use has its origins in the USA. A field between two highways were walled in and playground equipment were placed on the grass. A group of pre-school children were taken to this spot and told they could play there. The children played without being scared of cars on the other side of the walls. Some even played up the walls separating the highway and the playground. The same children were taken to the same spot the next day and left to play. The children all huddled in the centre of the playground, as the walls were removed during the night. The same applies to our children. They will go up to the edges when they know were these limits are. Some might even test these edges. The moment we remove these boundaries, the children are confused and will not know what is allowed and what not.
How will the child test these limits? By being whimsical and moody. What is the solution? Use the rod, as this is the only way to get rid of the self-centred will of the child. Remember it will not destroy the child’s spirit, as it will only cause responsibility and force the child to make the correct choices. The Word of God teaches that this method will cause the child to fully develop their personality and character. So next time your child decides to throw a tantrum in the shop, don’t give in, use the rod. Let them know that they are disobedient.
To end of, a couple of pointers that I believe is necessary:
If a child’s self centred will is not broken, how will that child ever learn to subject his will to that of the LORD? How will he decide that he needs the authority of the LORD in his life? This can only be taught by being obedient to the parents.
Always pray for your children. Don’t ever think that they do not need your prayers. Remember the Bible tells us that Jesus also intercedes for us at the Father.
I trust that you will search the scriptures, and decide to rear your children the Biblical way.