Volume 16, Issue 2: Childer
At a recent conference, my wife heard a funny story about some old friends of ours who had moved to another state.
They have two small children, a four-year-old and a two-year-old. Once when both children needed to be disciplined, the
four-year-old was off getting spanked and the two-year-old was sitting in the hall while her brother was receiving his just deserts. As
she was waiting, her father heard her singing Psalm 20 to herself"the Lord hear thee in troubled times." "That doesn't
apply here!" he told her.
We have had many occasions where high school and college students, large numbers of them, have been sitting around in
our living room, telling stories. Periodically, the theme will turn to spanking stories, and one of the most remarkable features of
such storytelling has been the affection that the stories reveal. Disciplined children are not abused children; they are secure children.
Not surprisingly, secure children grow up into secure young men and women. Abused children are not really being
disciplinedthey actually become as undisciplined (in the biblical sense) as their angry and undisciplined parents. Abuse is not an excess
of disciplineit is a total absence of righteous discipline.
People who do not know how to look beyond surface appearances will say that when you spank a child you are teaching
them violence. They say spanking a child is hitting a child, and they are impatient with those who seek to make fundamental
distinctions. Lovemaking is not rape, even though the same biological act is involved in both. Executing Ted Bundy is not imitating Ted
Bundy, even though someone loses his life in both instances. The difference between child abuse and child discipline is as vast as
the difference between unrighteousness and rightousness.
Godly discipline, spanking included, is an act of love. Children who are disciplined appropriately know that they are
being loved, and they know that the world is a secure place. Boundaries exist, and those boundaries are defended by parents who love
the boundaries, just as they love their children. Children who are not corrected and spanked when they need it know that their
parents are actually exhibiting a hatred of them (Prov. 13:24). This is what Scripture teaches, and so we may safely assert it. But having
done so, we are also invited to taste the godly fruit of obedience in this. The Scriptures are not true in a vacuum; they speak the truth to
us, about us, and concerning us. Whenever we obey, trusting God for the blessing, the results are what the Bible promises to
And this is why it is such a great delight to listen to spanking stories. They are overwhelmingly characterized by joy,
kindness, delight and affection. It would be wonderful for someone to collect and publish them. But there is a certain kind of
innocence involved in them, an innocence that is hard for some artsy folks to take. The stories would all come off sounding like they should
be published in the Saturday Evening Post, Norman Rockwell cover and all. Everyone knows that to write realistic stories about
childhood, the writer has to have lanky, greasy hair in his eyes, he has to smoke cigarettes like Keroauc, his jaundiced eye has to see the
seemy, the gritty, and the real. The stories I have in mind, involving parents who did exactly what they were supposed to, would come off
as dishonest. They would ring false to the jaded reader. They would seem far too . . .
wholesome. But this is only because we have
been calling evil good for a lot longer than is spiritually healthy (Is. 5:20).
One time my grandson was over at our house (after spending about two years on this planet) and he did something or other
that warranted paternal intervention. As he was being led off down the hall by his father, he raised one hand, pinky and thumb
extended, wagged them back and forth, and said, "Hang loose, Daddy."
Another time this same child was ready to receive richly-deserved swats, awaiting the arrival of his father. He decided that if
he was going to catch it, he might as well enter into the spirit of the thing. He started shouting, "Ten more swats, Ben! Ten more swats!"
At the time of discipline there is sin, frustration, correction, patient counsel, prayer, and loving reconciliation. It should be
a serious time, with a resultant sweetness. But sometime mysterious happens to these serious times over the course of time. With
the passage of years, a loved child grows and matures, and one of the great things in this maturing process is the perspective it
provides. And the spanking episode becomes funnyendearing. But sin left to itself always grows up ugly.
One time, many years ago, one of our daughters was sitting at lunch, confronted with a sandwich that she did not want to
eat. My wife left the room for a moment, and when she came back, the sandwich was entirely gone. "Did you eat it?" The solemn
reply was yes. Nancy, having been to college, went over and looked in the garbage can and found the sandwich sitting on the top. Since
lying was one of our central spanking offenses, the discipline was promptly administered. And looking back now, we all think this
was hilarious, including the offender, who will be dealing with her own children the same way soon enough.
But suppose the same kind of disobedience and lying is
not disciplined. As the years go by, we all discover there is
nothing endearing about it at all.