Harsh discipline is not recommended for children but it has long been known that a child brought up under such a regime is not likely to have as many problems as one whose parents are indifferent to his behaviour. It is also well known that a child with indifferent parents will often play up just to see if he is important enough to his parents to get them angry. The desire for significance in the eyes of one’s parents is much more powerful than the desire for an easy life.
Children who are punished when they step over the boundaries are always happier than indulged children because there is a great sense of security in knowing where the boundaries are. Also, children who are disciplined well learn to relate well with others. Well disciplined children are much nicer to be with than spoilt, self indulgent brats.
When Moses was writing the books of the law, he knew that he would never be able to legislate for a perfect society. However his laws were designed to restrain evil and injustice so that God’s people might live in a relatively safe, loving community and might be God’s showcase to the world around them.
One thing Moses insisted upon was that parents should discipline their offspring. His way of doing that was to prescribe the death penalty for children that were stubborn and rebellious (Deut 21:18-21). This law showed parents that the authorities backed them in their discipline at home. It also gave children a clear picture of the consequences of disobedience.
Moses recognised the tremendous harm that arises when spoilt recalcitrant children are set loose on the community. We may think his approach a rather harsh way of dealing with children, but judge for yourself is it any less harsh having to live behind iron bars and burglar alarms? Is it any worse not being able to let your children out of your sight for fear that they may fall victim to those who have never learned that there are moral boundaries in life.
It is not uncommon for young men in jail to testify that they did not really know their reckless immoral lives were wrong until the police finally caught up with them.
One of the hardest things to communicate to children today is the idea that God is a just judge that will not let sinners off. Our understanding of God, in our early years, is gained from an understanding of our parents.
A child raised by parents who are indifferent about discipline, who are always letting him off in order to win his popularity, will imagine God to be like that. He will grow up believing he’ll do okay on the day of judgment if only he can hone up his wheedling and manipulation skills.
I suspect many believe you have to put up a really strong case to get to Hell. Very few people these days think that we have to take God’s justice seriously because they don’t have to take justice seriously here on earth.
I suspect in our soft decadent world where justice is trivialized and disciplined frowned upon, if you err a little on the side of strictness with your children, you are probably getting it right.
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