Pastor Bill Neil
The Three R’s of Child Training
The biblical training of children is firmly based on the parents’ authority and the children’s respect for that authority in the home. The simplest way to remember child training is to remember the three R’s: Rulership, the Rod, and Relationship (Respect).
The is the first step in bringing harmony to the family is rulership. The parents’ authority in the home must be established early in a child’s development – generally between birth and age 2. Your children must simply recognize that you, the parents, are their authority.
In order to achieve this it is important first to establish boundaries. Numbers 34:2-12 tells about how God set boundaries for each of the tribes of Israel, and Deuteronomy 32:8 says: “When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.”
It is a proven fact that people in general, and children in particular, operate far better within established boundaries. There’s a sense of safety inside those boundaries, and the boundaries let you know what’s expected of you.
A parent establishes boundaries first of all by using tone of voice. This doesn’t mean yelling and screaming, but it does mean having a firm tone when you say No.
Boundaries are also implemented as you use restraint. That means, in practice, that as the child crawls toward that electrical outlet in disobedience to your No, you must pick him up, hold him back and not allow him to have his way.
The primary reason God gives for judging the high priest Eli is that he did not restrain his sons. God tells Samuel in I Samuel 3:13: “For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile and he did not restrain them.”
The second R of child training is the Rod.
Proverbs has many things to say of the rod. It is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding (Prov. 10:13); for the fool’s back (Prov. 26:3). The Hebrew word for back is gev (gave) which literally meant the middle of the back of the body. If we pay close attention to this word it will give us all the insight we need regarding where to spank our children. Not on the face, the hand, the leg or some other part of the body, but as the Bible reveals, the rod is to be placed on the middle of the back; that is: the butt; the bum; the gluteus maximus.
Specifically regarding children Proverbs has these things to say about the Rod:
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
The Hebrew word for foolishness is ‘eviyl (ev-eel): to be perverse; crooked, troubled, doing wrong. This differs from childishness because foolishness is willful, deliberate disobedience and defiance toward authority.
“Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die” (Proverbs 23:13).
The Hebrew word for the Rod is shebet (shay’-bet): literally, a stick or a branch. (Hence the use of willow branches or switches). For many of us the rod is a wooden spoon. Basically it is an object that can easily break if overused. It is never your hand.
“You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:14).
Beat is a word used in a number of different ways in the Hebrew language, but in child training it means to strike, to smite, or to spank.
“The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
“He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24).
Children resent parents who do not respond by bringing a proper penalty for their foolishness. As they grow older they will question why you allowed them to sin without consequence.
As you can see, there is nothing abusive, in definition, about a proper biblical spanking. Spanking is the demonstration of a parent’s love and concern for the future of their child’s obedience to God and to every other authority in their life.
Spanking must never be done out of anger or frustration. If you are angry at your children, wait to spank them. If you spank them when you’re angry this teaches them that it’s okay to hit someone else when you’re angry.
The third step is to achieve Relationship/Respect.
These two words are together because they are married. You cannot have a healthy relationship, especially with your children, without mutual respect. This is the most difficult transition for every parent to make because it requires an element of friendship.
Because so many parents in our society are the product of divorce, there is a real lack of connection when it comes to building friendships with our children. If our teenager doesn’t respond to our respect by returning respect we default back to rulership, i.e., “As long as you’re in my house…”
While these measures may be necessary in extreme circumstances, be advised that pulling the authority card won’t help you win them over. Yes, there are still rules and the parents are still the rulers. But now that your authority is understood it can be lived out in a mutually respectful relationship.
Colossians 3:21 tells us, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
To provoke your child means to anger, enrage, or frustrate him; to make him feel like giving up because they are discouraged, spiritless and disheartened. How do you react when your child fails? Do you pounce and attack or forgive, build up and enourage?
We must allow our children room to fail. It’s far better for them to fail at home where we can bring restoration and instruction, than to wait till they’re outside where we may never even know what they’re going through in their lives. If they don’t feel like they can mess up and still be accepted, they will become performance-based kids, which may later translate into being performance-based Christians. If they feel they must always gain our acceptance based on performance, that’s how they’ll try to gain God’s acceptance as well.
Children need to learn redemption, restoration, forgiveness, grace, mercy, deliverance, and recovery from Mom and Dad. We don’t want them to grow up feeling like God has no place for failures in His Kingdom.
By Bill Neil