To spank, or not to spank: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous behavior,
Or to take drugs against a sea of troubles,
And by avoiding end them?
So might William Shakespeare have written in these troubled times, but in his day, the question would not even have come to mind. It was understood by all that the rod was the principle means by which the will of a child could be trained to respond to the voice of authority. It was just common sense. Once the will had been trained, the rod was no longer needed, for then the child would normally obey his parent’s command without question or resistance.
Yet today, in the absence of common sense, parents have to resort to all sorts of verbal and psychological tactics to get their children to obey them, or at least to keep them from hurting themselves or others. When these attempts fail, they turn to drugs in hopes of tempering their children’s outrageous behavior, or perhaps even their own. Still, juvenile crime and teen suicide rates climb steadily while Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) scores decline. Sociologists are calling it the “Me” Generation — the most self-centered and least satisfied generation in recorded history. The two go together.
The souls of a generation are adrift in a sea of relativity, having no moral compass to guide them, and no voice of authority to which they consider themselves accountable. It is because their wills have never been trained. All their lives they have been steered by appeals to their emotions or their intellect, training them to live by their own subjective feelings and judgments, which can be very poor guides indeed.
The human soul consists of the intellect, the emotions, and the will. If these three are not in agreement, then the soul will be in turmoil. At any given time one of these three aspects of the soul will be the driving force in the choices a person makes. Some people are driven mainly by their intellect — by what seems reasonable to them in the moment, regardless of whether it feels good, and regardless of whether someone is telling them otherwise. Others are driven mainly by their emotions — by how they feel at the moment, regardless of whether it is reasonable, and regardless of whether someone is telling them it is not that way. Very few in these days are driven by their will, having been trained to obey the voice of their conscience, or the authority over them, regardless of whether it feels good or seems reasonable.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of these soul dynamics with an all-too-familiar example of how parents today attempt to steer the souls of their children:
Mother notices that Jimmy is not eating his beans. “Doesn’t Jimmy like his beans?” she asks. Obviously not. “But they are good for you!” Jimmy makes a face. They don’t taste good to him. Mother reasons, “You will be hungry before supper if you don’t eat your beans.” Supper is far off and Jimmy is not impressed. “But Jimmy will not grow into a big man if he does not eat his beans.” Manhood is still farther off than supper, so Jimmy is still less impressed. Mother sighs, having failed to persuade Jimmy by appealing to his intellect.
Next, she tries the emotional route. “Oh, come on, Jimmy, if you eat your beans, there will be a nice cookie waiting for you.” Jimmy weighs the pleasure of eating the cookie against the suffering of choking down the detested beans. The cookie loses. Next comes the threat. “Now Jimmy, you are taxing my patience! If you don’t eat your beans, you won’t have any dessert for a week!” Jimmy pitches a fit; mother clears his unfinished plate and sends him to his room for a nap, where he plays with his toys until he falls asleep. Jimmy has won the battle. He did not have to eat his beans, and he suspects that another fit will get him past the threat of no dessert. But Jimmy is not happy.
If the mother had been wise, the story would have gone more like this:
Mother notices that Jimmy is not eating his beans. “Jimmy, eat your beans.” Jimmy stalls. Mother responds calmly, “Well, Jimmy, you are not being obedient. Come with me.” She takes him out and spanks him. Jimmy cries and says he is sorry for being disobedient. Mother forgives him and gives him a hug, then brings him back to the lunch table and says, “Ok, Jimmy, now eat your beans.” Jimmy looks at the beans and considers resisting longer, but he knows from experience that he cannot win. Jimmy eats his beans. His mother is pleased with him, and Jimmy is happy.
In this example, the wise mother addresses the will of her son, not his intellect or his emotions. She knows that if she can train him to consistently use his will to do what is right, then his intellect and his emotions can be trained to be good servants to him in his life ahead. Her love for her son causes her to consider the dangers ahead of him, if he is left to his own immature thoughts and feelings, as weightier than her own suffering in crossing his will and dealing firmly with the inevitable conflict. To shirk that duty is to hate her son, not caring about the calamity that awaits him. That is the truth expressed in the ancient proverb:
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24)
Be assured that the child senses the hatred, and his later rebellion will be his direct response to it.
The popular notion that spanking is abusive or at least “old fashioned” could only have emerged from a society that has lost touch with the wholesome and character-building agrarian life that has been man’s lot for most of human history. In those days, a father needed his sons to help him cultivate his land and care for his livestock, and a mother needed her daughters to help her feed and clothe her household. The children’s strength and abilities were demanded of them from an early age, and the fact of being needed gave them a sense of worth that is rare in children today. The rod and staff of their father’s authority was a comfort to them, as Psalm 23 says, for it assured them of his unwavering love and concern for them. They knew he was training them for a purpose, and if they gave themselves to that training, they would grow up to be respectful, responsible, productive adults who would be a benefit, not a burden, to society.
Of course, today’s farms do not generally provide such a training ground. They have fallen prey to the lures of technology. Mechanization has reduced the need for laborers while the glitter of self-life draws the children away. Only in the military is there any vestige of disciplined training, as national security still demands the sacrifice of self. Consider the absurdity of the following scenario, when Jimmy is in boot camp:
The sergeant notices that Jimmy is slouching. “Doesn’t Jimmy like to stand at attention?” Obviously not. “But it doesn’t look good when you slouch!” Jimmy sneers. The sergeant reasons, “You will not be chosen to march in the Veteran’s Day parade if you don’t shape up.” The parade is far off and Jimmy is not impressed. “But you will never become an officer if you don’t learn to stand at attention.” Commissioning is still farther off than the parade, so Jimmy is still less impressed. The sergeant sighs...
Actually, a more likely scenario would be something like this:
The sergeant notices that Jimmy is slouching. “FIFTY PUSHUPS YOU LAZY *#&%$!” Jimmy hits the ground...
It is not that the sergeant is cruel or inhuman. On the contrary, he cares deeply about the life of this would-be soldier, and about the security of his country. There is a purpose for the men under his authority, and his job is to train their wills to respond to the voice of authority without regard to whether it feels good or makes sense to them. Otherwise there is no possibility of them fulfilling the purpose of their training.
Who would want to live in a country whose military was trained in the way that parents are now being taught to raise their children? No amount of technology could make such a country secure, although it might not realize that fact until its borders were being overrun.
This is a profound irony: The very fact that the German government has passed a law prohibiting parents from spanking their children, and is prepared to enforce that law by means of fines, imprisonment, and ultimately taking the children away from their parents, shows that they firmly believe in the effectiveness of the rod. They believe that the pain inflicted by such discipline will train the parents to obey the state without regard for their own personal convictions and love for their children.
So it is not really a question of whether the rod of discipline is an effective and appropriate tool to train people to be obedient. Certainly all nations believe it is. It is merely a question of whose hand holds the rod and whose “bottom” it lands on.
Child training is thus a fundamental conflict of the individual versus the state, of human rights versus the ever-changing ideas of “the greater good.” Is the state the only legitimate source of authority? Is it by the authority of the state that we all “live and move and have our being”? Or was the Apostle Paul right when he wrote of how men “should seek God, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being.”1
The moral flexibility of governments acting to further the “common good” at the expense of individual rights allows them to do virtually anything, including forced sterilizations,2 euthanasia, and the darkest stains on human history. These are all deeply connected at that most dangerous level of human government: ideology.
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb is His reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:3-5)
It is evident that the German government considers children to be the property of the state, but gives the parents the privilege of raising them, so long as they subscribe to the current child-rearing philosophy of the state. However, we in the Twelve Tribes know that our children are a gift to us from our heavenly Father, and that we are accountable to Him for how we raise them.
Therefore, since He has entrusted these little human souls into our hands, and since He has revealed to us His purpose for their lives, and since He has put the rod in our hands and given us clear instructions for its use in equipping them for that purpose, and since we love our Father and our children with all of our hearts, we must be diligent, come what may.
Yet we sincerely believe that the wisdom our Father has given us to raise our children, and the wonderful, wholesome life of love and unity that He has established for them to grow up in, will result in generations of respectful, responsible, and productive adults who will be a blessing to the countries that make room for us in their hearts and within their borders.