Helping Children Understand God
Lately I have been telling my children (ages 3, 6, 10, and 12) that my scripture memory verse as of late has been Proverbs 23:13-14. “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol” [hell]. They have not been very thrilled about this. And even as I write this, I must wonder how many readers might not be too thrilled about this as well. Our current generation of parents have moved away from corporal punishment as a means of discipline for children. We are now supposed to reason with them and try and get our little three-year-old to understand why their behavior is wrong. We should try and understand why they are “acting out.” We should put them on “time-out” or restrict them from a favorite toy or activity, but by no means should we inflict any physical harm on them. Please don’t misunderstand me, there is value in all the above approaches, and they all have their place. Parents need to explain to their children why certain behavior is unacceptable, and they need to try and understand what makes their children “act out” and help them learn how to manage their emotions. Additionally, “time-out” and "restrictions" should become more the norm as children approach puberty and teenage years. But God is clear and certainly knows what he is talking about in Proverbs 23:13-14. Children need to learn at a young age that there are sometimes serious and painful consequences to their actions. If they don’t learn this when they are young, unfortunately, they will learn it as adults when the seriousness and painful consequences are enormous and far-reaching. However, at a young age, it is not just critical that children experience corporal punishment for their healthy development, but how they receive it. When I spank my children, I do not immediately send them to their room or leave them alone to cry. I hold them in my arms and comfort them, whispering in their ear that I love them very much. When they’ve calmed down, I once again explain to them why they were punished, and I make sure they understand that I love them very much. I will then pray with them and for them. Then I will usually sit and hold them for a while. I do this because I believe that if children don’t experience from their parent (especially from their father) that the same strong arms that will inflict pain on them are the same strong arms that will also love them, hold them, and comfort them, they will struggle their entire lives to understand God. They will struggle their entire lives to understand how the same loving, tender, merciful Father can also be the one who severely punishes his children when we go astray. If you want your children to better understand God, then “do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.”
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