Permission to Reprint: We receive many requests to reprint our articles in other publications. All of our material is copyrighted so that we can maintain control. However, we do hereby grant permission for any publication to reprint our articles in their entirety, without editing, on the conditions that: with each reprint, clear recognition be given as to the source; and the article must include our address and an offer to receive our free newsletter. This permission is in force unless otherwise notified.--The Pearls

The Website of Michael and Debi Pearl is NO GREATER JOY where you can get their address and request a free copy of their newsletter. We highly recommend their wisdom in training children to all parents who love their children. Their first book, TO TRAIN UP A CHILD is presented below in its entirety.


This book is not about discipline, nor problem children. The emphasis is on the training of a child before the need to discipline arises. It is apparent that most parents never attempt to train a child to obey. They wait until the child becomes unbearable and then explode. With proper training, discipline can be reduced to 5% of what many now practice. As you come to understand the difference between training and discipline, you will have a renewed vision for your family--no more raised voices, no contention, no bad attitudes, fewer spankings, a cheerful atmosphere in the home, and total obedience from your children.

Any parent with an emotional maturity level higher than the average thirteen-year-old can, with a proper vision and knowledge of the technique, have happy obedient children. This is not a theory; it is a practical reality which has been successfully applied many times over.

A couple, stressed out with the conflict of three young children, after spending the weekend with us and hearing some of these principles, changed their strategy. One week later, they exclaimed, "I can't believe it; we went to a friend's house, and when I told my children to do something, they immediately, without question, obeyed."

These truths are not new, deep insights from the professional world of research, rather, the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train his children. They are profoundly simple and extremely obvious. After examining them with us, you will say, "I knew that all along. Where have I been? It's so obvious."


To Train Up a Child

When you tell some parents they need to switch their children, they respond, "I would if I could find someone willing to trade." I have had children in my house that would be enough to give an electric wheat grinder a nervous breakdown. The parents look like escapees from a Second World War, Polish boxcar. Another hour with them, and I would have been searching the yellow-pages for discount vasectomies. While we try to sit and talk, the children are constantly running in and out of doors, complaining of ill treatment from the others, begging to go or stay or eat, or demanding a toy that the other children will not relinquish. The mother must continually jump up and rescue some breakable object. She says, "No" six-hundred and sixty-six times in the space of two hours. She spanks each child two or three times--usually with her hand on top of a diaper. Other than misaligning the child's spine, it seems to have no effect.

When we speak of consistently rewarding every transgression with a switching (not a karate chop to the lower backbone), this mother can only see herself as further brutalizing children for whom it will do no good. Her discipline is just "laying down a field of fire" to give herself sufficient cover to get through to the next task. She doesn't hope to conquer their wills, just create enough diversion to accomplish her own mission.

Another mother walks in with her little ones and sits down to talk. She says to them, "Go out in the sun-room to play and don't bother Mama unless you need something." For the next two hours we are not even aware the children are present--except when a little one comes in holding herself saying, "Pee-pee, Mama." They play together well, resolve their own conflicts and don't expect attention when one turns the rocking horse over and gets a knot on her head. They don't come in and out--they have been told not to. This mother never spanked her children while at my house. And she never needed to rebuke them. She looks rested. When the children are called to go home, one says, "Mama, can I stay and play with Shoshanna?" Mother answers, "No, not today. We have work to do at home." As he lifts his arms, the little fellow is picked up. Hugging his mother's neck, he says, "I love you Mama."

This young mother said to me, "My children want to please me. They try so hard to do everything I say. We have such fun together." She is looking forward to more children. They are the joy of her life. But there was a time when this was not the case.

By the grace of God and through the simple, Biblical principles found in these pages, with determination and an open heart this mother has trained up children who bring her joy and honor.

Training does not necessarily require that the trainee be capable of reason; even mice and rats can be trained to respond to stimuli. Careful training can make a dog perfectly obedient. If a seeing-eye dog can be trained to reliably lead a blind man through the obstacles of a city street, shouldn't a parent expect more out of an intelligent child? A dog can be trained not to touch a tasty morsel laid in front of him. Can't a child be trained not to touch? A dog can be trained to come, stay, sit, be quiet or fetch upon command. You may not have trained your dog that well, yet every day someone accomplishes it on the dumbest mutts. Even a clumsy teenager can be trained to be an effective trainer in a dog obedience school.

If you wait until your dog is displaying unacceptable behavior before you rebuke (or kick) him, you will have a foot-shy mutt who is always sulking around seeing what he can get away with before being screamed at. Where there is an absence of training, you can no more rebuke and whip a child into acceptable behavior than you can the family dog. No amount of discipline can make up for lack of training.

Proper training always works on every child. To neglect training is to create miserable circumstances for yourself and your child. Out of innocent ignorance many of you have bypassed the training and expected the discipline alone to effect proper behavior.

When headstrong young men join the military, they are first taught to stand still. The many hours of close-order-drill are simply to teach and reinforce submission of the will. "Attention!" pronounced, "TENNN--HUTT!!" is the beginning of all maneuvers. Just think of the relief it would be if by one command you could gain the absolute, silent, concentrated attention of all your children. A sergeant can call his men to attention and then, without explanation, ignore them, and they will continue to stand frozen in that position until they fall out unconscious. The maneuvers "Right flank, Left flank, Companeeey--Halt" have no value in war except as they condition the men to instant, unquestioning obedience.

As in the military, all maneuvers in the home begin with a call to attention. Three-fourths of all home discipline problems would be instantly solved if you could at any time gain your child's silent, unmoving attention. "TO THE REAR--MARCH" translated into family language would be: "Leave the room," or, "Go to bed." Without question they turn and go. This is normal in the well trained family.

We live in a horse and buggy community where someone is always training a new horse. When you get into a buggy to go down a narrow, winding state highway filled with eighteen-wheelers and logging trucks, you must have a totally submissive horse. You cannot depend on whipping it into submission. One mistake, and the young men are again making several new pine boxes and digging six-foot deep holes in the orchard.

A horse is first trained to stand still and submit to being caught. He must not fear the bridle or harness. He must stand still while the thirteen children step in front of the iron wheels to climb into the buggy. When stopped at the end of a driveway, waiting for the traffic to clear, he must not exercise his own will to step out in front of eighty-thousand pounds of speeding truck.

You must anticipate and train the horse for all potential occurrences. This is done in a controlled environment where situations are created to test and condition the horse's responses. The horse is first conditioned by being taken through paces. As you hold the bridle and lead the horse, you say, "Whoa," and then stop. Since you have a tight hold on the bridle, he must stop. After just a few times, the horse will stop to just the command.

The trainer establishes the tone at which the horse will respond. If you scream "Whoa!!" then in the future the horse will not stop unless the command is screamed at him. One such farmer trained his horses with a wild, frantic bellow. Most of his neighbors, who speak quietly to their horses, find it difficult to control his horses because of their inability to raise their voices in vehemence.

I was logging with a fifteen-hundred-pound mule that sometimes wanted to run away with the log. In moments of stress (actually I was panic stricken), I found myself frantically YELLING the commands. The owner would patiently caution me, "Speak quietly and calmly, or he will pay no attention." I never did learn the art of calmly saying, "Whoa" to a runaway mule pulling a twenty-five-foot white oak log with my foot hung in the trace chain. The point to remember is that the animal learns to identify not only the sound but also the tone.

If you raise your voice when giving a command to your child, he will learn to associate your tone and decibel level with your intention. If you have so trained him, don't blame him if he ignores your first thirteen "suggestions" waiting for the fevered pitch to reach the point where he must interpret it to be a real command.

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6)." Train up, not beat up. Train up, not discipline up. Train up, not educate up. Train up, not "positive affirmation" up. Training is the most obvious missing element in child rearing. Training is not discipline. A child will need more than "obedience training," but without it everything else will be insufficient.

Parents should not wait until the child's behavior becomes unacceptable before they commence training--that would be discipline. Discipline is a part of training but is insufficient in itself to effect proper behavior. Training is the conditioning of the child's mind before the crisis arises; it is preparation for future, instant, unquestioning obedience. An athlete trains before he competes. Animals, including wild ones, are conditioned to respond to the trainer's voice command.

The frustration experienced by parents is of their own ignorant making. Our problem is not "bad" children, just bad training. There are no exceptions, the "strong willed," the hyper active, the highly intelligent and the easily bored all need training, and training is effective on all.

Understand, at this point we are not talking about producing godly children, just happy and obedient children. The principles for training children to instantly obey can be equally applied by Christians and non-Christians.

There is much satisfaction in training up a child. It is easy and challenging. When my children were able to crawl (in the case of one, roll) around the room, I set up training sessions.

Try it yourself. Place an appealing object where they can reach it, maybe in a "No-no" corner or on an apple juice table (That's where the coffee table once sat). When they spy it and make a dive for it, in a calm voice say, "No, don't touch it." They will already be familiar with the "No," so they will pause, look at you in wonder and then turn around and grab it. Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, "No." Remember, you are not disciplining, you are training. One spat with a little switch is enough. They will again pull back their hand and consider the relationship between the object, their desire, the command and the little reinforcing pain. It may take several times, but if you are consistent, they will learn to consistently obey, even in your absence.

When God wanted to "train" his first two children not to touch, He did not place the forbidden object out of their reach. Instead, He placed the "tree of knowledge of good and evil" in the "midst of the garden (Gen. 3:3)." Being in the middle of the garden, they would pass it continually. God's purpose was not to save the tree--rather, to train the couple. Note the name of the tree was not just "knowledge of evil," but, "knowledge of good and evil." By exercising their wills not to eat, they would have learned the meaning of "good" as well as "evil." The eating was a shortcut to the knowledge, but not a necessary path.

The beauty of this is that thereafter, every time the children pass the 'No-No' object (their "tree of knowledge of good and evil"), they are gaining knowledge of good and evil from the standpoint of an overcomer. As with Adam and Eve in the garden, the object and the touching of it is, in itself, of no consequence; but the attachment of a command to it makes it a moral "factory" where character is produced. By your enforcement, your children are learning about moral government, duty, responsibility and, in the event of failure, accountability, rewards and punishment. In the here and now, they are also learning not to touch, which makes a child's social life a lot more pleasant.

It just takes a few minutes to train a child not to touch a given object. Most children can be brought into complete and joyous subjection in just three days. Thereafter, if you continue to be faithful, the children will remain happy and obedient. By obedient, I mean you will never need to tell them twice. If you expect to receive instant obedience, and you train them to that end, you will be successful. It will take extra time to train, but once the children are in general subjection the time saved is extraordinary. Some people say, "Child-proof your home." I say, "Home-proof your child."

Have you ever been the victim of tiny inquisitive hands? The very young child, not yet walking, is keen on wanting to grab any object of interest. There is no fault in this, but sometimes it can be annoying. When you are holding a baby and he keeps pulling off your glasses, you cannot explain to him the impropriety of such socially crude behavior. The little tot is not yet moved by fear of rejection. So, do you try to hold him in a pinned-down fashion where he can't get to your face? No, you train him not to touch. Once you train an infant to respond to the command of 'No," then you will have control in every area where a prohibition is in order.

Get set for training. Hold him where he can easily reach your glasses. Look him right in the eye. He reaches out. Don't pull back. Don't defend yourself.' Calmly say, No." If anything, lower your voice, don't raise it. Don't sound more serious than usual. Remember you are establishing a pattern of command to be used the rest of his youth. When he touches the glasses, again say, "No," and accompany your command with minor pain. He will pull his hand back and try to comprehend the association of grabbing the glasses and pain. (I usually just thumped their little hand with my index finger. I never knew one to cry. They don't even know that you did it. They think it was the glasses, or perhaps the "No" itself causes pain.) Inevitably, he will return to the bait to test his new theory. Sure enough, again the glasses caused pain; and the pain is always accompanied by a quiet little "No." It may take one or two more tries for him to give up his career as glasses snatcher, but he will.

Through this process of association the child will involuntarily recall the pain every time he hears the word "No." There comes a time when your word alone is sufficient to gain obedience.

You can also stop him from assaulting his mother with a bottle held by the nipple. The same holds true for hair and beard pulling. You name it, the infant can be trained to obey. Do you want to wrestle with him through his entire youth, nagging him to compliance, threatening, placing things out of reach, fearing what he might get into next? Or would it be better to take a little time to train? If nothing else, training will result in saving you time.

I know a mother who must call a baby-sitter every time she takes a shower. You should be able to take a nap and expect to find the house in order when you wake.

One particularly painful experience of nursing mothers is the biting baby. My wife did not waste time finding a cure. When the baby bit, she pulled hair (an alternative has to be sought for baldheaded babies). Understand, the baby is not being punished, just conditioned. A baby learns not to stick his finger in his eyes or bite his tongue through the negative associations accompanying it. It requires no understanding or reasoning. Somewhere in the brain that information is unconsciously stored. After two or three times of biting, with the accompanying head hurting, the child programs that information away for his own comfort. The biting habit is cured before it starts. This is not discipline. It is obedience training.

The mother clumsily holds her cereal bowl at arms length as she wrestles her infant for supremacy. When she places the bowl out of the baby's reach, he is taught it is off limits only if it is out of reach. To train him, place the bowl within easy reach. When he reaches out, say "No" and thump his hand. He will pull his hand back, momentarily look alarmed and again reach out. Repeat the process of saying "No" in a calm voice and thumping the hand. After several times, you can eat in peace.

When "No" and a thump occur simultaneously, several times, on different occasions, the voice command alone soon becomes sufficient to mold behavior. Again, keep in mind, the baby is not being punished, just conditioned. The thump is not a substitute rod. It is reinforcement to the obedience training.

One father tells of his training sessions with each new toddler. He sets aside an evening for "booty" camp, which is a boot camp for toddlers. The child of ten to twelve months is left alone to become deeply interested in a toy or some delightful object. From across the room or just inside the other room, the father calls the child. If he ignores the call, the father goes to him and explains the necessity of immediately coming when called, and then leads him to the father's chair. The child thus led through these paces is being programmed.

He is returned to the toy and left alone long enough to again become engrossed. Another call, and, if no response, the father gives a patient explanation and demonstration of the desired response. The parent, having assured himself of the child's understanding, once again sets up the situation and calls the child. This time, if there is not an immediate response the child is lightly spanked and lectured. The father continues this throughout the evening until the child readily and immediately responds to a summons. Thereafter, until the child leaves home, he is expected to drop everything and come upon the first call. As long as the parents remain consistent, the child will consistently obey. This "obedience training" is carried out in the utmost patience and concentration. The spanking should not be viewed as punishment, but as reinforcement to commands.

The parents who put off training until the child is old enough to discuss issues or receive explanations find their child a terror long before he understands the meaning of the word. A newborn soon needs training. The child needs holding, loving and lots of attention, but the mother often has other duties.

As the mother, holding her child, leans over the crib and begins the swing downward, the infant stiffens, takes a deep breath and bellows. The battle for control has begun in earnest. Someone is going to be conditioned. Either the tender-hearted mother will cave in to this self-centered demand (thus training the child to get his way by crying) or the infant is allowed to cry (learning that crying is counterproductive). Crying because of genuine physical need is simply the infant's only voice to the outside world; but crying in order to manipulate the adults into constant servitude should never be rewarded. Otherwise, you will reinforce the child's growing self-centeredness, which will eventually become socially intolerable.

One of our girls who developed mobility early had a fascination with crawling up the stairs. At four months she was too unknowing to be punished for disobedience. But for her own good, we attempted to train her not to climb the stairs by coordinating the voice command of "No" with little spats on the bare legs. The switch was a twelve-inch long, one-eighth-inch diameter sprig from a willow tree.

Such was her fascination with climbing that four or five sessions had not made her stop. The thought of further spankings was disconcerting, so I conceived an alternative. After one more spanking, I laid the switch on the bottom step. We later observed her crawl to the stairs and start the ascent, only to halt at the first step and stare at the switch. She backed off and never again attempted to climb the stairs, even after the switch was removed.

Disciplinary actions can become excessive and oppressive when the tool of training is set aside and one depends on discipline alone to do the training. I have observed proud, stern fathers, ruling their house with a firm hand and making sure everyone knows it. The rod is swift to fall, and especially in the presence of company. The children tremble in his presence, fearing to incur his displeasure. I have often wondered why, if he is so firm and faithful to gain obedience, he has not achieved it before entering the public arena. I am impressed, but not in the way he hopes.

Except where the very smallest children are concerned, training at home almost entirely eliminates the need for discipline--especially public discipline. Yet, should the need arise in public, do a flanking maneuver and administer it; then go home and train so that it never again happens in public.

As I sat talking with a local Amish fellow, a typical child training session developed. The father was holding a twelve-month-old boy who suddenly developed a compulsion to slip down onto the floor. Due to the cold floor, the father directed the child to stay in his lap. The child began to stiffen so as to make of himself a missile that would slip through to the floor. The father spoke to him in the German language (which I did not understand) and firmly placed him back in the sitting position. The child began to make dissenting noises and continued the resistant slide. The father then spanked the child and spoke what I assumed to be reproving words. Seeing his mother across the room, the child began to cry and reach for her. This was understandable in any language.

At this point, I became highly interested in the proceedings. Most fathers would have been glad to give up the child to continue their own conversation. It was obvious the child felt there would be more liberty with his mother. If he had been given over to her, the experience would have been counterproductive training. He would have been taught that when he cannot get his way with one, just go around the chain of command. The faithful mother, more concerned for her child's training than the gratification of being clung to, ignored the child.

The father then turned the child away from his mother. The determined fellow immediately understood that the battle lines had shifted and expressed his independence by throwing his leg back over to the other side to face his mother. The father spanked the leg that the child turned to the mother and again spoke to him.

Clearly, the lines were drawn. The battle was in array. Someone was going to submit his will and learn his lesson. Either the father would confirm that this one-year-old could rule his parents or the parents would confirm their authority. Everyone's happiness was at stake, as well as the soul of the child. The father was wise enough to know this was a test of authority. This episode had crossed over from "obedience training" to discipline for attitude.

For the next weary forty-five minutes, fifteen times the child would make his legs move, and the daddy would turn him around and spank his legs. The father was as calm as a lazy porch swing on a Sunday afternoon. There was no hastiness or anger. He did not take the disobedience personally. He had trained many a horse or mule and knew the value of patient perseverance. In the end, the twelve-month-old submitted his will to his father, sat as he was placed, and became content--even cheerful.

Some will say, "But I couldn't take it emotionally." Sometimes it is difficult and trying to set aside your plans for the sake of child training. It does involve emotional sacrifice. Yet, what is love, but giving? When we know it will work to the temporal and eternal good of the child, it is a joy instead of a sacrifice.

Where our motives are not pure, where we suspect anger may be part of our motivation, our pricked conscience causes a reluctance to act. We fear that our discipline is an act of the ego to dominate. We must deal with our own impurities for the sake of the child; for if the child doesn't receive this kind of training, he will greatly suffer.

1. Every small child will have one or two times in his young life when he will decide to take hold of the reins. The stubbornness is profound--amazing--a wonder that one so young could be so dedicated and persevering in rebellion. It is the kind of determination you would expect to find in a hardened revolutionary facing enemy indoctrination classes. Parents who are trained to expect it and are prepared to persevere still stand in awe at the strength of the small child's will.

2. If you are consistent, this test of authority will come only one, two, or, at the most, three times in each child's life. If you endure, conquering the child's will, then in the long run the child wins. If you weaken and let it pass to the victory of the child's will, then by winning it is a character loss for the child. You must persevere for the both of you. The household cat who, regardless of protest, door barring and foot swinging, is occasionally allowed to stay in the house will take the occasional success as impetus to always try to get in. If he is consistently kept out (100% of the time), he will not come in, even when the door is left open. The cat, allowed to occasionally get its way, is trained, despite your protests, to come into the house. If you kick it hard enough and often enough, it will become sufficiently wary to obey while you remain on guard but will still bolt through the door when it sees the opportunity. On the other hand, dogs, thirty-five times smarter than cats, can be trained either to come in or stay out upon command. The key again is consistency. If the dog learns through conditioning (consistent behavior on the part of the trainer) that he will never be allowed to violate his master's command, he will always obey. If parents carefully and consistently train up a child, his or her performance will be as consistently satisfying as that rendered by a well trained seeing-eye dog.

How many times have we observed the grocery store arena? A devious little kid sits up in the command seat of the shopping cart exercising his "childhood rights" to unlimited self-indulgence. The parent fearfully but hopelessly steers around the tempting "trees of knowledge of good and evil." Too late! The child spies the object of his unbridled lust. The battle is on. The child will either get what he wants or make the parent miserable. Either way, he conquers.

One father proudly told of how he fearlessly overcame by promising the child ice-cream if he would only wait until they left the store. Such compromises will simply confirm the child's terrorist tactics. You are not gaining control of the child, he is gaining control of you. All children are trained, some carelessly or negligently, and some, with varied degrees of forethought. All parental responses are conditioning the child's behavior, and are therefore training.

Parents who purchase compliance through promise of reward are making their child a racketeer who is paid for protection. The child becomes the Mafia or union boss, and you, the "over the barrel" businessman. If you are just bargaining with a terrorist for one more day's reprieve from anguish, you may then strike a favorable deal, but if you are training up a child, you need to reconsider your methods. This compromise method is the making of a bitter, undisciplined, fleshly child--and eventually, adult.

I observed a father tell his small boy not to touch a particular object. Having been trained to ignore mild commands, the child picked it up. The father demanded, "Give it to me." The child pretended not to hear. "Did you hear me? [Of course he did] Hand it to Daddy. [With more firmness] Johnnnieee, give it to Daddy, NOW!! [Another decibel higher--hasty--angry] JOHNNY!! Am I going to have to SPANK YOU?" By this time the father became aware of his embarrassing tone. He calmed his voice, and in an attempt to bring it to a conclusion he leaned way out and extended his hand, making it easier for Johnny to comply. Because of the angry voice and burning eyes, Johnny assumed the temporary posture of, "Oh well, there will be another day." But, instead of meeting the humbled, groping father, he held the object in his general direction but down close to his body, forcing the father to advance even farther to retrieve it. The father, looking like a poor peasant receiving his necessary food from some condescending royalty, submitted to the child's humiliation and reached to retrieve the object. And then, in a display of weakness, the father placed it out of the child's reach.

What has Johnny learned from this episode? He has had his conviction reinforced that it is never necessary to obey a command the first, second, third, or fourth time. No one expects him to. He has learned it is permissible to grab anything within reach and to continue possessing it until the heat gets too great. He has learned not to respect authority, just strength (the day will come when he is the stronger one). By the father's example, he has learned how to use anger. By the father's advance to take the object from his hand, he has learned how to "get in the last shot" and maintain his defiance. That father was effectively training his small child to be a rebel.

What has the father learned? That little Johnny is just a "strong willed" child; that children go through unpleasant stages; that it is sometimes a very miserable, embarrassing thing to be a parent; that one has to watch a kid every minute and put things out of his reach; that the only things kids understand are force and anger? All of which are false. The father is reaping the harvest of his "mistraining."

After we take a look at the nature of a child, much of the rest of this book will describe many positive training techniques.



Childish Nature

(Understanding a child's natural development)

Just last night while sitting in a meeting, I looked over to see a young mother struggling with her small child. He seemed determined to make her life as miserable as possible--and destroy her reputation in the process. She had the "Why me?" look on her tired face. He kept defiantly throwing his bottle on the floor (assisted by her picking it up and handing it back to him) and making angry noises that forced the preacher to scream louder and louder. With threats of increasingly embarrassing displays, he forced her to put him down on the floor where he proceeded to audition for circus clown while insisting on procuring a neighbor's property. When she tried to prevent his thievery and rescue the stolen goods, he kicked his feet like an eggbeater and screamed his protest.

It was enough to make you believe the Devil started out as an infant. I am just thankful that one-year-olds don't weigh two-hundred pounds, or a lot more mothers would be victims of homicide. It causes one to understand where the concept of a "sinful nature" originated.

The mother knows the child shouldn't be acting like this; but due to the child's limited intellectual development, she feels helpless. Older children and adults have their actions constrained by many mental and social factors. This child is not affected by peer-pressure, threat of embarrassment or rejection. His life is one of unlimited, unrestrained self-indulgence.

The parents are waiting for the child's understanding to develop so they can correct "bad" behavior. They helplessly watch while selfishness and meanness of spirit grow behind a wall of undeveloped understanding.

What is the driving force in this child, and how can it be conquered? We need to understand some things about the nature of a child in order to institute appropriate training.

For the purpose of moral development, God created us to exist in a constant condition of need and dependence. The needs are most apparent in the small child. He needs food, warmth, companionship, entertainment, and a dry diaper. God has endowed him with strong, involuntary compulsions to taste, smell, hear, with eyes to see, and a desire to touch and feel.

The desires and passions in the infant are not yet complete. As he matures, he will find himself possessed of ever-increasing natural desires for things "pleasant to the eyes," things "good for food" and for those things that will "make one wise." His growing humanity will give way to a desire to build, to know, to be appreciated, recognized, to succeed, be a lover, and to survive in a secure state.

As infants grow, they learn to manipulate their surroundings to their own gratification. A smile, a grunt, kicking the feet, rolling and shaking the head, crying, screaming--"Pick me up--Feed me-Just look at me--Doesn't anyone realize I have urgent needs?--What could be more important than 'me'?"

The infant's world is no bigger than his needs. It is the only reality he knows. He soon learns that his "wants" can be just as readily satisfied. The infant cannot think in terms of duty, responsibility or moral choice. He has no pride or humility--only desire. He comes, he sees, he takes. He is created that way. By nature, he is incapable of considering the needs of others. The baby doesn't know you are tired and also in need of comfort.

The self-centeredness of infants and small children has all the appearances of a vice. But they are acting on natural, God-given impulses to the meeting of natural needs. They "go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies (Psalm 58:3)." Yet, God does not impute the lie to them as sin. God reckons as if they had no moral character, and therefore no responsibility. They do not possess the intellectual and moral maturity to say "No" to appetites. They cannot yet be deemed blameworthy. They begin life in innocent self-centeredness.

As the child gets older, say eight- to twelve-months, the adults begin to pay less attention to his demands, and a weaning process begins. The child is made to wait, told "No," and given boundaries. He must learn that he cannot always be first. If by now training has not already subdued the manifestations of his "selfishness," the child may come to be what we called "spoiled."

Guilty, frustrated parents are manipulated by the child's whining and crying. The sparing begins. The kid gets jerked around. Resentment builds. The adults begin to blame him.

The child feels the tension, but does not lessen the demands. He connives, calculates and resorts to angry tantrums. I have seen a two-year-old take a weapon and angrily strike his mother. The young child is not matured to a point where he can understand responsibility, weigh values and make conscious decisions based on moral or social worth; but he sure can mimic the criminal mind.

What is happening? A short time ago, the adults around this child would have given him anything he wanted, including their own life-sustaining food; but now they are beginning to expect a little giving on his part. He doesn't want to give. Taking has been his way of life from conception. The arrangement suits him just fine.

We adults, sensing the capabilities of children, expect them to give-and-take at a level appropriate to their maturity. When they fall behind our expectations, we become irritated. They NEVER make a smooth transition from the utterly self-centered "give me, give me" mentality to assuming responsibility for some of their own needs.

We are delighted when the three-month-old grabs food from our hand and stuffs it in his mouth; but let a three-year-old try it and it is not so cute. We are delighted when a three-year-old interrupts our conversation with a tale of his own, but a nine-year-old is expected to say "Excuse me" and wait for an appropriate time to participate in the conversation.

When we believe a child has matured to the point of being capable of responsible action, we automatically expect it of him. If he is slow to assume his duty, we become irritated with him for not "acting his age."

The beasts of the earth, in contrast to man, never need make a decision to deny natural drive. They are within their intended bounds living to self-gratification. But the growing child, as well as the adult, who doesn't rise above self-indulging desires is fallen from God's intention and design. The root of all sin is found in the runaway indulgence of God-given desires. Though, due to lack of moral development, the child is not held accountable, the unrestrained indulgences of his desires will be the very root that will one day result in his sinfulness.

Life is designed by God to be a spiritual womb, a place where the work of creation continues. Yes, the physical creation is complete and He is rested from it; but the moral creation goes on. Men are not born wise, righteous, experienced, or developed in consciousness.

Adam and Eve were never incomplete physically or morally. The rest of us must grow through different stages to reach viability. A four-month fetus, still in the mother's womb, is a living soul. Though all the tiny members appear viable, the baby is an incomplete creation needing further growth before becoming distinct from its mother. In like manner, a three-year-old child has all the tiny features of a morally responsible adult--a knowledge of right and wrong, a sense of justice, accountability, conscience, duty, guilt, shame, etc. Yet, none of the moral faculties are developed to the point of being fully operative. The child is not a morally viable soul. He is an uncompleted moral being. He is not accountable. Morally, the three-year-old is still in the womb. As the child grows, he slowly makes a transition from no moral understanding to complete accountability. There are vast differences of opinion as to when God deems them accountable for their own actions and thoughts. Without any basis, twelve years old has been the traditional age. Biblically, it will be sometime before twenty years of age (Deut. 1:39 with Num. 14:29-31).

One thing I do know is that it is not an "age of accountability," but a "state of accountability" (James 4:17; Lev. 5:3). Maybe as early as five for some children. Maybe as late as fourteen for others. I don't know.

The dilemma parents face is: How do we relate to the child during this transition period from no moral understanding to complete accountability? When the child is 30% morally cognizant and 70% morally naive, how do we relate to him? How do we know to what degree he is responsible? We know as far as judgment is concerned, God will not deem him blameworthy until all moral faculties are completely operative--until he becomes a morally viable being. But if the parent waits until the child can understand the need to exercise self-control, by then he has developed both a history and a habit of indulging his flesh to the full. The problem the parent must address is that the natural drives function a great while before the reason. The child's first learning experiences occur in a parent-supported, self-indulgent environment. It could not be otherwise.

The parent does not want to destroy the child's natural drives, but we would like to instill moderation. Yet, at an early age the child is incapable of choosing moderation.

Here is where we come to the crux of this whole chapter and the background for this whole book. It is important to understand: PARENTS MUST ASSUME THAT PART OF THE CHILD'S MORAL DUTY WHICH IS NOT YET FULLY DEVELOPED. The parents' role is not that of a policeman, but more like that of the Holy Spirit. When the child has his sails full of wind (strong drives), but no compass (moral discernment), the parents must be the navigator. When they are as yet incapable of conviction, our training and example will be their "standards." Before they can DECIDE to do good we must CONDITION them to do good. There was a time when the mother breathed for the child, ate for the child and handled his waste. Likewise, in the moral realm, until the child's reason and moral faculties develop to the point of independent operation, the parent must be the voice of his yet unborn conscience, his initiative and his set of values.

Each day he gets closer to his birth into moral individuality. Someday his spiritual heart will function without you. He will leave the protection of your sanctification and stand alone in the light of his own conscience (1 Cor. 7:14). Until maturity, the only moderation the child will know is what the parents instill.

The parent must understand his role in the moral weaning of the child. One day, he or she is going to be able to choose. No amount of training is going to override the certainty of sin developing; but the training we give can make it easier for repentance to follow sinful indulgence.

In the infant and young child, we do not deal with their "selfishness" as sin, but we are aware of where it is headed. Drives, which are not in themselves evil, nonetheless form the occasion to all sin. Our training must take into consideration the evil that a self-willed spirit will eventually bring.

We parents cannot impart righteousness to our children, but we can develop in them a firm commitment to righteousness. We cannot write the law on their hearts, but we can write the law and gospel on their consciences.

Anticipating this development and its consequences places an urgent sense of responsibility upon us. The world is an undertow pulling our children to destruction. Looking at statistics alone, the probability is against their moral survival. The training we give and the wisdom we impart can make all the difference in the outcome. You hold an eternal soul in your hand. You cannot afford to give in to indifference, laziness, or careless neglect. It is the parents' responsibility to determine what level of understanding a child has and to hold him accountable at that level.

This is an almost impossible task if you depend on your intellect alone. If you are the principal caretaker of your child, your heart will be able to discern the world from his perspective. When the child believes it is wrong, it is wrong (James 4:17). Where there is moral understanding and he disobeys, he should be punished with the rod. Where there is lack of understanding of the moral quality of his actions, he should be trained and conditioned. Sometimes the rod is used in training. More will be said about this later.

When does this innocent, natural selfishness of a child become sin? In other words, when is a child to blame? Keep in mind that a youth will not come under condemnation until his moral faculties are fully operative.

As the child's reason and moral faculties develop, gradually there evolves an understanding of moral responsibility and duty. At some point (as moral perception grows to a point where one can be held fully accountable), every youth faces his own "tree of knowledge of good and evil." (See Deut. 1:39.) So far, everyone (except Jesus) has "eaten" (personally violated his own God-given understanding of right and wrong) resulting in personal condemnation.

Though God will not condemn a child until he is completely matured morally (grows into a state of accountability), that does not mean that the developing child is incapable of moral judgments and responses. When a child sins against his conscience, he is guilty. The degree to which his understanding is developed is the degree to which his actions can be called sin. Again, the sin is not imputed until the child becomes a fully functioning moral being. An unfinished clock, still in the making, may have moving parts, but it will not keep time until every last piece is properly installed.

The cause of this consistent failure to obey the law of God is the flesh-body in need of gratification. [After indulging in sin, it is called "sinful flesh (Rom. 8.'3),"--that is, flesh "full" of sin.] As the body of flesh was the occasion of Eve's sin and the occasion of Christ's temptation, so it is the occasion of your child's development into selfishness--which, at maturity, will constitute sin.

When the child's conscience is partially operative, he must be trained to practice self-restraint. For, if a child is allowed to violate his budding conscience, and continues to do so as it grows to full maturity, he will find himself already fully given over to his flesh on the first day of his awakening into accountability.

That part of the child that is awakened to moral duty should be brought into complete subjection to parents, and the child should be led to worship God (1 Sam. 1:28; 3:1; with 3:7). If you allow the flesh to run its natural course, the child will be possessed of many unruly passions and lusts long before he is cognizant enough to assume responsibility.

The clay formed into a vessel of dishonor was marred while in the potter's hand, only to be remade into a vessel of honor fit for the master's table. If God is the potter and your child is the clay, for a little while you are the wheel on which the clay is turned. As Adam and Eve were given a garden to dress and keep, you have been given loan of a little heart and mind to dress and keep.

There will come a time when your children must stand alone before "the tree of knowledge of good and evil." As the purpose of God has permitted, inevitably they will partake of the forbidden fruit. Now, in the developing years, you can make a difference in how they will respond after they have "eaten."

All the events of daily life, coupled with inner discernment, are laying a foundation of knowledge from which your child will make judgments about right and wrong. Somewhere on that road, each child will round a bend and, with the dawning, perceive his or her responsibility, duty and accountability to God. They will then be "without excuse."

With this understanding, we can better appreciate what is taking place in our developing child. Just as the child Jesus grew in wisdom and knowledge, so your child is going through a growth of understanding. The holy Scriptures are able to make him "wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). "You must prepare your child to save himself from this "untoward generation (Acts 2:40)." God has a prototype for the finished product. It is that we might be "conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29)." We parents work with God toward the day when our children will be conformed to "the measure of the statue of the fulness of Christ (Eph. 4:13)." The promise of God is still operative: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Prov. 22:6)



Parental Anger

As I was working on this book, a young mother said to me: "I get so angry sometimes; I treat the children so badly. They just upset me. Johnny is always picking on Mary and making her whine. I have to just stay on top of them all the time to prevent them from doing something they shouldn't. What can I do to overcome my anger?"

Previously, the parents rewarded disobedience by saying, "Now Johnny, I have told you not to do that. I am going to give you one more chance and then I will have to spank you." As he continued to disobey, her frustration mounted.

The parents had effectively taught their child that he could disobey until the parent's frustration reached a certain level. When he perceived that they had had all they were going to take, he knew it was time to back off for a while. He could return to his disobedience as soon as they cooled off. Sometimes, miscalculating, he pushed her too far, and she would "go off" before he could comply.

The mother's anger could be overcome if she would remove the cause of her anger. No, not the children, but their disobedience. Eventually, she always got them to obey. It was the long dragged out, tense and competitive prelude to their eventual obedience that was stirring her ire. The children were actually responding quite predictably. She had trained them not to obey until she got angry.

I gave her a copy of some child training material that I had written. Reading it, she decided to make some changes. She made it plain to her son that he was not to tease his smaller sister. She told Johnny that if he disobeyed he would be spanked for the first offense. The first spanking was a shock to Johnny. Mother was not waiting until she got mad. No warnings, no threats--she seemed to expect him to obey the very first time!

After two days of consistently rewarding every transgression with a spanking, Johnny turned to his mother and said, "But Mother, you are not giving me any more chances!" The mother said, "That's right, you don't get any more chances. From now on you are to always obey the first time." He had been using his "chances" to purchase disobedience. After two years he now obeys the first time, and Mother no longer gets angry.

When the State Fish and Game Commission issues permits allowing you to catch five trout, but no more, they are not preventing trout fishing, they are advocating it. These parents had issued their children a license to be disobedient five times, but punished them for the sixth offense. So every day the children went fishing for trouble, but always with an eye on the "warden." They would try to anticipate when to stop short of the real "last chance."

When Mom reduced the disobedience limit to zero and outlawed disobedience, little Johnny had to test the lawgiver to see if it was just another permit. When the "Warden" (Mama) proved to be serious, he decided that he didn't love "fishing for trouble" enough to pay the fine for what he caught. Little Johnny started obeying all laws the first time.

If State Troopers ceased writing tickets and instead started nagging and threatening, it would be tantamount to abolishing the speed limit. Picture a trooper pulling a speeder over and then explaining how sad it makes him feel for them to be going so fast. Can you see a trooper sitting on the side of the road shaking his fist and turning red in the face as cars speed by? After the sixth time of motorists being told, "Now I am not going to tell you again," all law would break down into "and every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

Parent, you can not blame your children if you have caused them to understand that disobedience is only unacceptable after several warnings and then a threat topped off by an ultimatum, and finally a gesture of force.

Parent, you have trained yourself not to discipline immediately, but to wait until your irritation builds into anger. You have allowed your motivation to be anger. "But how can I stop being so angry?" Simple. Discipline them immediately upon the slightest disobedience. Don't wait until it becomes a personal affront to you.


The children perceive in your anger and frustration that the discipline is a personal matter, a competition of interest. You are viewed by the child much as they view a bigger child who is bullying them in order to get his own way. They are not being made to respect the law and lawgiver; they are simply being made to give in to a superior force. They feel as if you are committing a personal transgression against them--violating their rights. They see you as just protecting your own rights and trampling on theirs. You have lost the dignity of your office. As they say, "You are not Presidential enough." Where there is no unwavering rule of law with consistent enforcement, in the child's mind there is no law at all, just competition for supremacy.

You have taught yourself to be motivated only by anger. And you have taught your child to respond only to anger. Having failed to properly train your child, you have allowed the seeds of self-indulgence to grow to ugly proportions.

The reason you are angry toward your children is that you don't like them. "Oh! I love my children very much." I didn't say you didn't love them. I say there are occasions when you just don't like them, for the simple reason that at such times they are very unlikable. It is impossible to like a whining, selfish, self-centered, spoiled brat.

We cannot help approving of that which is good and lovely, and despising that which is ugly and unwholesome. God himself has such feelings (Ps. 11:5). We are involuntarily very fair about it. When we think we are ugly in spirit we equally dislike ourselves.

You must face the fact that there are times when you just do not like your own child. I have observed the sometimes intense dislike of a mother for her teenage daughter or son. You may say, "But no one else dislikes the youth." If they had to live with him on the same terms as the parent, they would.

Now, why is your child unlikable? You will not like the answer: You made him that way through your training techniques. You may say, "But, I have not instituted any training techniques. I just scold them when it gets to be too much to bear." Precisely.

All children are trained. Their responses and actions are a reflection of their association to their principal caretakers. To neglect careful nurturing and training while trying to keep them in line through threat, intimidation, nagging, anger, and an occasional outburst of spanking is the most negative of training exercises.

Most automobile drivers are aware that the radar patrolman will usually allow motorists to go four-miles-per-hour over the speed limit without issuing a ticket. Consequently, most motorists will drive four or five miles-per-hour over the speed limit. When you allow your children to be disobedient four or five times before applying discipline, you are training them to disobey.

There is nothing cute or lovable about a whining "brat." To allow a child to whine and disobey is to mold a personality and character that you will eventually find hard to like. By taking control and teaching them to control their emotions and to instantly obey, the child will be cheerful and pleasant. Then the mother will like her daughter as well as love her. The child reciprocates the mother's delight by loving and honoring her even more. They can both enjoy each other's company. The mother is rested and refreshed by spending time with her children.

Talking with a mother concerned about the attitude of her fourteen-year-old, it became apparent she just did not like her own child. The mother's disapproval and frequent criticism had caused the daughter to become morose.

Actually, she was a very good and obedient daughter. She was cheerful with others, but sullen with her mother. The mother was wondering if she should use the rod to correct bad attitudes. She was afraid she had lost all control and influence. The mother had a very stormy youth and was anxious to prevent her daughter from the same fate. The more irritated the mother became and the harder she pushed, the more ground she lost.

I knew this family when the daughter was a child. I recall that even then the mother didn't like her daughter. Taking her own ugly attitude to Christ, the mother found cleansing and healing. The teenage daughter quickly showed tremendous improvement.

Sometimes in the areas of talent and personality, parents have narrow expectations for their children and are critical when they fall short. But, more prominently, where the parents are poor trainers, they come to dislike the child they have produced. If you have painted a picture that you don't like, don't blame the canvas. Get out the brushes and paint over the mess.



Tying Strings

There is a mystical bond between caring members of a family. I can look at each of my children and feel that union. It is as if we were joined by many strings of mutual love, respect, honor, and all the good times that we have had together. The more good experiences we have together, the more strings that unite.

Where two or more people are living together, their interests, opinions and liberties sometimes clash. The strings that unite are often cut by selfishness, indifference, pride, self-will and the like. Where there is not a constant tying of new strings, family members soon find themselves separated by suspicion, distrust and criticism. The gap can grow so wide that the two can become virtual enemies.

When this happens between parent and child, it is a serious crisis. Unless new strings are tied, the two will increasingly grow apart. When a youth says something like, "My parents don't understand me," or "They don't care," it is testimony of a complete cutting of all strings.

Recently, a father told us of a victory in this area. His first grader came home from school and became preoccupied drawing and cutting out paper hearts. The father and son were close and often did things together. Seeing the boy's smitten condition, the father lightly poked fun at his activity. The child didn't see anything amusing. He turned away and continued his labor of love. Over the next several days, the boy would conceal his endeavors from the father. The father became aware that a confidence crisis had occurred. The child was withdrawn and resisted all overtures to fellowship with his father. The strings had been cut.

If, at this point, the father had accepted this wall as just a "stage"--or worse, become irritated and contributed further to the breach--this would have been the beginning of a breach that would have grown wider with the years. But the father was wise and took positive action. After school one day, he said to his son, "Hey Jessie, you want to go out to the shop with me? We will cut out wooden hearts." Jessie reservedly looked up and seemed to be cautiously analyzing his father's intent. After a moment, his facial expressions changed to believing delight, and he said, "Sure Dad, that would be great." As they worked together creating a wooden heart to be given to Jessie's friend, the wall came down and camaraderie was restored.

It is important that sons and daughters can trust their parents with personal, intimate knowledge. If there is a barrier in this area, when the time comes that the young man needs counsel, to whom shall he go? The feelings of a child are just as important and sacred as those of an adult. Always treat your children with respect. Never ridicule, mock or laugh at your child's ideas, creations or ambitions. The trust you desire to have when they are older must be established and maintained when they are young. If you have an older child with whom you have failed in this area, it is not too late to apologize and reestablish that trust. It may take a while to earn their confidence, so get to it.

I would say that most parents have allowed the strings to be cut and have not made a responsible effort to tie new ones. It is most critical that you understand and take care in this area. When the strings are all cut, there can be no effective discipline or training. Without that mutual respect and honor, further discipline only angers and embitters the child.

I talk with many parents who have lost contact with their child. For every one string that might tie them together, there are two situations to cut it. Not only is there no longer a bond, but there is a cloud between them that obscures understanding. The parent takes the child's withdrawal and resentment as rebellion (which it is) and brings out the whip lashes of the tongue and rod. Like a wild animal the child further withdraws into his own world of suspicion and distrust. Similar to the control of a warden over his prisoners, the rod can force outward compliance, but it will not mold character or tie the strings of fellowship. The parent feels the child slipping away, sometimes into the fellowship of bad habits or undesirable company. The parent's anger or broken-heart will never stitch up the breach.

The parent who resorts to sympathy tactics: "If you loved me," or "You hurt me so much," or "Why do you do this to me?" may elicit token compliance, but will only cause the youth to yearn for the day when he or she can get away and be free. Many parents have thus driven their young daughter into the arms of an unwholesome lover.

The small child is often neglected and mishandled with little concern on the part of the parent because the child doesn't possess the means to manifest his hurt. By the time the parent is forced to admit there is a problem, there is a war zone of obstacles between them. What a child is at four he will be at fourteen, only many times magnified. Your two-year-old whiner will be a twelve-year-old whiner. The intemperate five-year-old will be an intemperate fifteen-year-old.

A mother came to us concerned for her fourteen-year-old daughter. She had been reared in a very protected environment and was outwardly obedient, but the parents felt that there was a breach in the family ties. When given a chore, the girl would obey, but with a sullen attitude. It seemed to this mother that her daughter was tolerating the family and was not at all pleased with the company. There were periods of withdrawal. She seemed to have her own little world. With no outward disobedience, there was nothing for which to reprimand the teenager. This mother had lost fellowship with her daughter. The strings had long ago been cut. Rebuke or discipline would be fruitless, even harmful, until the strings of mutual respect and trust were tied.

As my wife sat talking, an altercation developed between the young mother's two sons, one and three years old. They both began to scream while tugging at opposite ends of the same toy truck. The mother hollered, "What is wrong with you two?" "He is trying to take my truck," cried the older of the two. "Billy, give Johnny back his truck," she yelled. After further peace-shattering threats and screams of protest, he reluctantly handed over the truck.

The younger child then defeatedly left the yard and stumbled into the house to stand beside his mother--thus punishing the other brother by the loss of his company. (It is an adult form of retribution, but children must learn it sometime.)

After the chastisement of loneliness had done its work, the older brother became repentant. Picking up his truck from the sand pile, he made his way into the house where he found the offended younger brother now sitting in his mother's lap being consoled for his losses on the battlefield. With a smile of reconciliation, he held his truck out to the younger brother. As the younger brother was about to accept the sacrificial peace offering, the mother turned to see the grinning child dribbling sand from his truck onto the floor. "Get that thing out of here!" she commanded.

Being engrossed in her company, she was not thinking of her children as human beings with complex feelings. She just saw another cleaning job to further add to her burden.

At this point a psychological transformation occurred in the child. He had just experienced a "repentance" that had cleansed him of anger and selfishness. Weighing his right to possess the truck against his brother's company, he had found that he valued his brother more. He was learning important social lessons about give-and-take. He was learning to share and how to control his possessiveness. His heart was surrendered and vulnerable. He had gone the second mile; and when he got to the end of it, he was shocked to find that no one cared. It really didn't matter. He had laid down his guns, and now he was being fired upon. If he was not going to be allowed to surrender, if they didn't care enough to accept his offering, he was not going to stand there exposed, grinning like a fool, while being unjustly blasted.

He didn't understand what all the row was about. Who could be upset about a little sand on the floor? After all, he had been playing in sand all morning--he loved it. As he studied the threatening face before him, you could see the little mental wheels turning.

Immediately the smile left and was replaced by wonder, then puzzlement, finally defiance. Suddenly, an idea came to him. It now being clear she was mad about the sand being dribbled on the floor, he raised his truck to examine it, then defiantly dumped the full contents onto the floor. To his satisfaction it worked. She came apart. She had hurt him and he had successfully retaliated. "Just look at her red face. That will teach her to attack me. Boy, I won this round."

This mother had missed the opportunity to accept the surrender of this rebel leader. Instead she had driven him back into the countryside to practice his civil dissent in defiance of the established authority. Like many rebels, he had no alternate plans for the future. He lived to be a rebel because of his hatred for the authority that he hoped to punish for perceived injustices.

Now, you may think that I am over-dramatizing the child's feelings. It is true that he could not tell you what he was thinking. Nor will he be able to understand these same feelings when at fourteen it becomes apparent he has serious problems. But, at three years old, the child's actions all demonstrate the root bitterness of a rebel.

If the parents don't change, when the boy becomes a teenager they will throw up their hands and say, "I don't understand that boy. We have raised him right, taught him right from wrong, taken him to church; and he acts like we are the enemy. We have done our best. It is up to the Good Lord now."

This mother is failing to tie strings of common respect. The seeds sown at two years of age come up at fourteen.

Parent, if you are having problems with your children, just know that you are not alone. They are also having problems with their parents. One party is going to have to adjust in order to help the other. Since you are reading this book, and not the child, and since you are the more experienced of the two, and since God didn't say, "Children, train up your parents," the responsibility is completely on you.

I remember looking into the face of one of my boys and knowing that the strings had been cut. It was a sad thing to see him slip from the mooring and drift away. At the time I had not formulated the terminology, nor even recognized the principle; but I could see that there was a breach. A fault line was widening the gap. The fault was mine. I had pushed him too hard, demanded too much, and then been critical when he had not performed to my expectations. When, like a turtle, he withdrew into his shell, I could see that he had dismissed me. He had decided to live without me. There was too much pain in association with his father.

I didn't know how to define it, but being fully responsible for the training, I knew that it was my responsibility. I immediately apologized, lightened up, revised my criticism, found the good in what he had done, and suggested an exciting outing. It took several days of me being sensible, fair, just, and kind to restore the strings of fellowship; but children forgive quickly and are restored if we will let them be.

"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4)." A father who teases his children to anger can expect them to do the same to others smaller than themselves. On more than one occasion, when scuffling with my boys, I have found myself having fun at their expense (That was when I was bigger than they). They remind me to play by the same rules to which they are bound.

Don't laugh this off, fathers. If you make your little boy mad while you are having fun, you have created a bully. After all, weren't you bullying him? The wrath you provoked in him will be stored up until he can release it on one weaker than himself. That wrath can only be put away by his forgiving you. He cannot forgive until he sees your repentance.

If the child is rooted in bitterness, you have a healing and restoration ministry ahead of you. Your heart and life must be fully surrendered to God or you are wasting your time. You will just have to try to stay out of his way. He will be rearing himself. His chances are not good, but don't increase his bitterness by playing the hypocrite. It is hard enough to make it in this godless world when you have good support; but for a kid filled with bitterness, facing it alone, there is not much hope. Maybe the mother can make a difference. Often a boy just shuts out a father for whom he only has disdain and relates to his mother in a manner that may bring him along in an average way.

Father, if you care for your child's soul more than your pride, then humble yourself, ask his forgiveness (even if he is just two years old). Then become a patient father and husband. Spend time with your children doing things that are creative--that give them a sense of great adventure or accomplishment. You can't lead your child closer to God than you are yourself.

Tie some strings. You must be knit together with your child before you can train him. Confess your failure to God and to your child. Ask your child to forgive you for anger and indifference. At first they will suspect it is just a manipulative ploy on your part and will keep their distance; so you must begin rebuilding.

Don't barge in and overpower them with emotion or a new philosophy. Be a friend. Do with them the things they enjoy doing. Be caring. Be more ready with your ear than you are with your mouth. Be very sensitive to their concerns. Tie strings until you have earned their respect and honor. If they sense that you like and enjoy them, they will respond in kind. When they like you, they will want to please you and will be open to your discipline.

The strongest chord of discipline is not found in the whip; rather, it is the weaving together of the strings of mutual love, respect, honor, loyalty, admiration, and caring. It is the difference in being "led by the spirit" and being "under the works of the law." The law gives us direction, but only the spirit of grace gives us power. If you will cultivate fellowship with your child, you will have such cooperative compliance that you will forget where you last left the rod.

I can remember an incident that occurred when I was only four years old. Several of us, about the same age, were walking along behind a row of houses when one of them suggested that we throw rocks at a basement window.

I can still remember my thought processes. As I considered doing it, I saw my Daddy's face. He never told me not to break windows, but I knew he would not be pleased. I had no law to go by, but I had my father's presence to guide me. It was not fear of punishment or scolding that motivated me. It was my fellowship with my father that I dared not jeopardize. To please him and enjoy his favor was my strongest impulse. I withdrew from the window breaking party and walked in my father's light.

My father was not perfect. He wasn't even the best of Christians, but I was not yet aware of that at four or even ten years of age. To me, he was law and grace. As I grew older, I slowly (sometime with a jolt) came to see him as just another struggling member of the human race. Still, I never outgrew that desire to please him.

But, as my confidence in him waned, my confidence in God grew. With the eventual transfer of my faith to God (as it should be), I found myself still motivated not by the law and a fear of hell, but by the face of my Heavenly Father. Today, I have a double lighted path.

Parent, above all, you must cultivate that kind of a relationship with your child. It is a painful thing to sin against your best buddy. If you can maintain this bond with your child you will never have a problem child.

When the child is young, the parents are the only "god" he knows. As he awakens to Divine realities, it is through his earthly father that he understands his heavenly Father. Fathers (and mothers also), you are the window through which your young child understands God. A child learns of the character of God through observing the parents. The parents do not have to be perfect, just a mini-caricature representing a balance of God's personality. All that God is in infiniteness, the parents should display in the finite. The parents need not be all-powerful, just the child's source of strength. The parents do not have to be all-wise, just wise enough to guide the child and warrant admiration. The parents need not be sinless, just demonstrate a commitment to the good and holy. As the child sees the parents' humble dependence on and love for God, because he loves and respects his parents, he will love and honor the one the parents love.

As the child relates to the figurehead of authority (his parents), in like manner he will later be prone to relate to God. If, when the parents say, "No," they do not mean '"No," then the "thou shalt not" of God will not be taken seriously either. Children with cruel fathers usually mature with a foreboding of their heavenly Father. Those disciplined to lovingly obey their earthly fathers are more ready to obey their heavenly Father.

If you feel the strings are cut, you will want to tie new ones. Here are just a few suggestions on tying strings:

* First and foremost, look at your child with pleasure and smile.

* Enjoy their company and demonstrate it by inviting them to go with you when there is no reason but their presence. For the young, look at pictures or read a book together.

* Sit on the floor and play. Tumble and roll, laugh and tickle.

* Take them on outings of adventure, excitement and "danger."

* A ten minute trip to the tree-house to see their creations.

* Let them lead you out to the swing to show off their latest stunt.

* Make a kite or build a bird house together.

* Mother, teach your children to do everything that must be done in the house. Make it all a fun experience. Don't use the very young as slave labor, they will experience burnout. Let them bake cookies at three years old. When you are sewing, let the young ones sit on the floor and cut out doll clothes. When you are painting, let them make a few swipes.

* Fathers, by their participation, let the boys feel they are the protectors and providers of the house. If they can walk, they can carry in groceries or bring in firewood. Brag on their achievements.

The idea is for them to feel that they are very special to you, and to know that you find great satisfaction and delight in sharing with them. If you order your life so your children feel needed, they will desire to walk in harmony with you.



The Rod

I observed a child possessed of continual discontent. His mother was vainly trying to elicit obedience to a simple command. He was miserable, constantly complaining, whining and angry. The mother, made miserable by the little tyrant's rebellious antics, was ill-tempered toward him. But she continued to plead with him as if she were trying to remember what it was she heard about "positive affirmation" and not "stifling his personal expression."

As an objective observer, concerned for the child's happiness and well being, I said to the mother, "Why don't you give him a spanking and make him happy?" The shocked mother, replied, "Oh, he will grow out of it. It's just a stage he is going through."

If she truly believes this is an inevitable, natural stage (a condition for which little Johnny is not responsible), why does she sometimes become enraged, demanding a different conduct or attitude? The mother, while excusing him and maintaining a "patient" vigil for the "stage" to run its course, and in spite of her verbalized philosophy, does blame the child. Down inside, she knows he should be--could be--decidedly different. His attitude problem is heightened by the criticism and rejection he feels from a disapproving mother and from the public.

We have progressed to the place where a discussion of the use of the rod is in order. Let's talk about spankings--sometimes called "whippings." "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (Prov. 13:24)." This seems to go exactly opposite to the feelings of many parents and educators. The passage clearly states that a failure to apply the rod is due to the parents' hating the child. "No!" cries the mother, "I love my child too much to spank him." The parent who responds thus does not understand: 1) the authority of God's word, 2) the nature of love, 3) his (or her) own feelings, 4) the character of God, or, 5) the needs of the child.


The wise God who said: "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not... (Mark 10:14)," also said:
* "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." (Prov. 19:18)

* "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." (Prov. 13:24)

* "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." (Prov. 22:15)

* "Withhold not correction from the child, for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die, Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (Prov. 23: 13-14)."

* "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." (Prov. 29: 15)

* "Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shah give delight unto thy soul." (Prov. 29:17)

You may have strong feelings that prevent you from spanking your child, but it is not love. The God who made little children, and therefore knows what is best for them, has told parents to employ the rod in training up a child. To refrain from doing so, based on a claim of love, is an indictment on God himself. Your actions assume either God does not desire what is best for your child or you know better than He.

Parent, you need to know the difference between true love and sentiment. Natural human sentiment--often taken to be love--can be harmful if not submitted to wisdom. Love is not sentiment. That is, love is not the deep feelings we often have in association with those close to us. Such feelings can, and often are, self serving.

Love is not an emotion at all. Love, in the purest sense, is goodwill toward and good doing for your fellowman. True love is disinterested. That is, there is no thought of personal return nor of personal loss in the act of loving.

An emotionally weak mother often looks to her child's clinging dependence for her own self-fulfillment. She finds a deep need met within herself as she constantly dotes over the infant's every want. Her consuming passion for the child, which she takes to be love, is too sacred to jeopardize. Her insecurity causes her to consider only what she perceives to be her loss in the act of spanking. She is afraid to do anything that might cause the children to reject her. If such is the case, she is not loving the child, she is loving herself. Her own feelings take precedence over the child's needs.

The pitiful look of betrayal in his poor little eyes just breaks her suffering heart. It would hurt her too much to obey God in training up her child. Because of her fear of personal emotional suffering, she neglects the rod. "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (Prov. 13:24)."

In her own need, she is so naive as to believe that her "sweet" child will grow out of it and be a wonderful person. She thinks, "Just give him a little more time; he doesn't understand yet."

To set aside one's own feelings for the purpose of objectively regarding the good of the child is the only true love. If a mother should smother her baby while kissing him, she has not loved him.

Her own anger may cause her not to trust her motives in corporal punishment. See chapter 3, PARENTAL ANGER. Then again, this distrust of the rod may go back to the memory of a tyrannical, unreasonable father. She may have vowed, "I will never be like my father. I will love my children. They will not fear me the way I feared my father." The father not only hurt her, he is now hurting her children by causing her to react in the opposite extreme.

Sometimes images from the past cause a mother to have deep foreboding every time the father spanks the children. Mothers who have been conditioned to associate anger with discipline impute a motive of anger to anyone who is spanking a child. The child perceives the protectiveness of the mother and will whine for her when the father attempts to discipline. Her lack of commitment to the father's discipline prevents it from being effective and causes deviousness in the child. It is time to stop reacting to the past and start acting as God and sound reason dictate.

Some parents fail to use the rod because of peer pressure. They may be in disagreement with their own parents about child training. The modern parent is bombarded with propaganda, supposedly based on the latest psychological research, which villainizes Biblically based child rearing. The parents are shamed and caused to look over their shoulder before applying discipline.

The parent who excuses himself from using the rod based on an excuse of loving the child too much does not well understand the character and methods of God toward His own people.

There is a current thought pattern that has edged into the Christian's thinking. It goes something like this: "Since God is love, He is not discriminating, demanding, vindictive, or vengeful." Essentially, they view the love of God as incompatible with the justice of God. It seems to them that He must be either one or the other. There is a vague, undefined sense that God was once vengeful, but is now passive, tolerant and ecumenical--the Universal Father. God is stripped of His balanced personality and defined in a non-threatening way. Heaven is well received; hell is suspect. "Judge not," the most popular verse in the Bible, is quoted as if God Himself could no longer discriminate between right and wrong. As much as God is love, so much is he holy, just, judgment and truth. It is out of His love of righteousness that He is coming in "flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thes. 1:8)." To choose one side of God's character as a model for our actions, while rejecting the other, can hardly be called virtue.

Those who out of a magnanimous sense of righteousness choose not to use the rod are, by inference, condemning God. "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons (Heb. 12:6-8)."

Then it says He chastens us "for our own profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness (Heb. 12:10)." A most profound statement! God does not have any sons who escape chastisement--"all are partakers." And, did He stop loving those whom he chastened? Quite the contrary, love was His motivation for the "spanking." Only through chastisement, could His sons fully partake of His holiness. He does it "for our own profit."

"No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous... (Heb. 12:11)." God's chastisement is a painful "whipping." Our "fathers of the flesh... chastened us after their own pleasure... (12: 9, 10)." The Scripture not only condones physical "scourging," but promotes it as a means to holiness--when ministered for the son's "profit."

The chastisement is represented as a sure sign of love: "for whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth. " If there is no chastisement, it is not only an indication of not being loved, but of being a "bastard" So we see that out of the very love of God springs chastisement. Thus, our original passage in Prov. 13:24, "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. "

If God's love is expressed by the "whippings" He gives, then can we not love our children enough to chasten them unto holiness? I have heard a rebellious teenager say, "If they only loved me enough to whip me."

Recently, a mother told us that after cracking down on her children with a consistent use of the rod, one child thanked God for making his Mama sweeter. The increased spankings had reduced disobedience, causing the child to be more in harmony with his mother. He interpreted this to be a sweeter mother.

The very nature of the child makes the rod an indispensable element in child training and discipline. We will summarize the previous comments on the nature of a child (chapter 2) and then draw some important practical applications.

SUMMARY: "They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies (Psalm 58:3)." The infant, through natural drives for food, cuddling and bodily comfort, soon learns that by falsely representing his need he can gain excessive indulgences. But due to his immature reasoning faculties, God does not count the lie as sin. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17). Sin is not imputed where there is no law. (Rom. 5:13)." The infant, not knowing "good and evil (Deut. 1:39)," is not held responsible for his lack of conformity to the law. Nevertheless, infants do lie. And, children issue forth with a multitude of other selfishly motivated thoughts and acts that will, upon their coming to the "knowledge of good and evil," constitute a "body of sin."

Though they are not now to blame, there will come a time when, through the development of the understanding, the conscience will be awakened, and for these things they will be counted blameworthy.

Your child is in a body of infirm flesh. The God-given drives toward the fulfillment of bodily needs and appetites form a constant and incessant occasion to lusts. The drive itself is not sin. Lust of the flesh is natural (Deut 12.'15). But when one is "drawn away of his own lust, and enticed," and the lust conceives with opportunity, "... it bringeth forth sin (James 1:14, 15)."

You cannot prevent your children from the life of testing that this body of flesh (skin, blood and bones, with all its passions and needs) will bring. But you can train them in the disciplines necessary to not be given over to a selfishly indulgent life. The rod is your divine enforcer. "The rod and reproof give wisdom... (Prov. 29.'15)."

Understand, we are not suggesting that a child can be trained into the Christian experience, only that the mind and body should be developed to its highest possible natural discipline. This cannot do other than aid the Spirit in convicting them of sin, causing them to realize their need for a Savior. We are talking about the lawful use of the law.

Understanding the development of a child helps us to understand his needs.

Self-indulgence and an unruled spirit will produce emotional dissatisfaction. An undisciplined child will be insecure. Lack of self-control produces anger. A failure to get one's own way causes self-pity. Unfulfilled lust results in restless agitation. Feelings of being treated unfairly precipitate bitterness. Because of this, both the child and the adult have an innate need to be governed. Otherwise, purposelessness and lack of identity result. "A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame (Prov. 9:15)."

As a child develops in his sense of "oughtness," any violation of his own standards produces guilt. Guilt is involuntary self-accusation. It is the soul knowing itself and not liking what it sees. The smallest child who knows he has failed in doing what he ought suffers guilt. Although the child's soulish faculties are not yet completely operative, nonetheless, a child who violates his budding conscience becomes burdened with guilt and self-loathing.

A child who is so burdened will only becomes more vile when lectured, shamed, ridiculed, deprived of some privilege, made to go to his room, made to sit in the corner, given a painless whipping or a jerking around accompanied by threats. This actually provokes the child to anger. The parent, by these responses, has magnified the problem. The child may be induced through one of these measures to yield temporary compliance, but his heart of uncleanness is confirmed in its evil.

For clarification, I will give my definition of "self-loathing." In the extraordinary ignorance of modern psychology, there exists the assumption that man's major problem is "not loving himself." This comes from a failure to understand the association of the emotion of self-loathing, which comes from guilt, with the supreme motivation of self-love.

By creation, we naturally love ourselves. We think in terms of what will benefit us. "For no man ever yet hateth his flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it (Eph. 5:29)."

By nature, every human values righteousness and expects it of himself. To not live up to your own standards is to experience self-condemnation (conscience) and to suffer the pains of guilt. The human spirit, given by God, comes equipped with a permanent, resident, divine judge (the conscience).

The higher one values his own good (loves himself) the greater his own despising (which is guilt) when he fails to achieve his goals of right doing. The subsequent self-loathing is nothing but self-rebuke for failure to benefit the person he loves the most-HIMSELF.

A child or adult who is self-loathing is, due to his self-accusing conscience, hating his own particular state or lot--precisely because of self-love. The more one loves himself, the deeper the self-loathing. If one truly hated himself, he would find great satisfaction in the negative things that come upon him. When a child is self-loathing, he is damning himself for known violations of conscience and failure to live up to his own standards.

Again, the guilt demonstrates that by nature the child innately knows he deserves punishment for his moral failure.

Therefore, toward understanding the nature of a child, a knowledge of the presence of guilt is essential in the application of chastisement. A spanking (whipping, paddling, switching, belting) is indispensable to the removal of guilt in your child. His very conscience (nature) demands punishment.

Most psychological problems are rooted in guilt. Guilt only occurs where one honestly judges himself to be worthy of blame. One may inappropriately be convinced of blame, but the guilt is nonetheless self-incrimination.

Parents who try to shame or humiliate their children into right behavior will see the power of a guilty conscience to curb some actions. But obedience thus rendered will only deepen the false guilt, putting the child further out of touch with true repentance and healing.

Guilt is never, in itself, restorative. That is, it does not tend toward less blameworthy actions. On the contrary, the guilty soul is a slave to every temptation. Guilt puts one out of touch with the normal restraining factors. The despair of guilt abolishes motivation toward right doing. The anguish of failure lowers expectations. Guilt lowers self-esteem to the point where one does not expect to do other than fail. This reality has caused the modem psychologists to view guilt itself as the culprit. To address the guilt is like dealing with the pain of a toothache, but not the tooth.

Those who suffer the consequential guilt of their misdeeds are often seen inflicting pain or suffering upon themselves. This self-abuse is an unconscious attempt to "pay the fiddler." The unwritten common-law of retribution pervades all of man's thinking. Regardless of the age, religion or lack thereof, education, or philosophy, all intuitively know that wrongdoing deserves and can expect punishment. This law is assumed even by those who give their life to denying it. With the first awakenings of consciousness, a child understands this to be the case. It remains a basic presupposition of life.

The guilt burdened soul cries out for the lashes and nails of justice. Your child cannot yet understand that the Creator has been lashed and nailed in his place. Only the rod of correction can preserve his soul until the day of moral dawning. That is why the soul of man never rests until the conscience has been pacified by a believing look at the bleeding, crucified, substitute of the Lamb of God. Guilt is the law's chief witness against the sinner. Guilt is the bars that enclose the damned in the eternal suffering of their sins. Like a zealous prosecuting attorney, the conscience will not drop its case until it is sure that justice has been done.

I observed a small child who, upon being caught in a misdeed, turned her backside to the parent, pulled her diaper down, and gave herself three slaps on the bare bottom. The offering, though cute, was not accepted.

One young boy is not spanked when he throws a tantrum or disobeys. It seems that he delights in doing what he is commanded not to do. The more he rebels, the meaner and guiltier he gets. For punishment, he is pinched or made to sit in the comer, or sometimes put in a dark closet. When he comes out he is madder than ever. He could intimidate a fire-eating dragon.

Sitting in a comer, he was heard to say, "Nobody likes me. I'm as bad as the Devil. I never do anything right." This little fellow is being reared to take his place in a jail cell. Dark corners and dark closets breed darkness in the soul. An empty room and a pouting child incubates guilt and anger. Only the rod and reproof bring correction. Somehow children know the rod is their just due.

Guilt is an essential part of our natural, moral self. Without it we would be like a smoke detector with no alarm. But, guilt is only a means to an end, a temporary condition. It's the soul's pain, as when we touch something hot, designed to give us warning, to change our actions. It is a great blessing to feel guilt, a sign of life, a healthy response. Do not follow the modem philosophy by trying to eliminate guilt through fudging on the standards. Keep the standards high--as high as the person of Christ. Let the guilt come, and then, while they are yet too young to understand, absolve it by means of the rod. When their time comes, the principles of the cross will be easy to grasp.

The parent holds in his hand (in the form of a little switch) the power to absolve the child of guilt, cleanse his soul, instruct his spirit, strengthen his resolve, and give him a fresh start through a confidence that all indebtedness is paid. "The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly (Prov. 20:30)." "Inward parts of the belly" is a description of the physical sensations associated with guilt.

Stripes ("scourgeth" Heb. 12:6) are said to be to the soul what the healing blood flow is to a wound. A child properly and timely spanked is healed in the soul and restored to wholeness of spirit. A child can be turned back from the road to hell through proper spankings. "Withhold not correction from the child; for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (Prov. 23:13, 14)."

Father, as high priest of the family you can reconcile your child to newness of life. Guilt gives Satan a just calling card and a door of access to your child. In accompaniment with teaching, the properly administered spanking is restorative as nothing else can be.

Do you comfort your children with a rod? If you have not seen the rod as a comfort to your child, you have missed its purpose. "Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalm 23:4). I will chasten him with the rod...(2 Sam. 7:14). Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes (Psalm 89:32)."

David, who experienced the rod of God's correction and was chastened for transgression, found comfort in the Divine discipline. He was comforted by the rod. It assured him of God's control, concern, love, and commitment. Children need to know that someone is in control.

"Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying (Prov. 19:18)." Proper use of the rod gives new hope to a rebellious child. The exhortation is to not let their crying cause you to lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spanking. A parent's emotions can stand in the way of a thorough cleansing.

An unchastened child is not only restless and irritable in his own spirit, but causes the whole house to be in turmoil. "Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul (Prov. 29:17)."

Recently, a young couple with five children came to us for advice. The wife had become unresponsive to her husband and irritable with their three children under five. "I sometimes feel like I am going crazy. I don't want to have any more children," she blurted out.

They stayed in our home for a couple of days submitting to scrutiny. After a little instruction, they went home and gave it a try. Two weeks later they were in a church meeting where I was speaking. Their children all sat on the bench with them, never making a stir. Afterward, the father, eyes filled with wonder, exclaimed, "There was a miracle here tonight and no one seemed to notice." As I was looking around for discarded crutches, he continued, "A whole service and not a peep! I can't believe it!" A little training and a little discipline, and the children gave them "rest" and "delight." Furthermore, the children were obviously happier. The Mother later said, "Now, I think I would like to have more children."

Don't think of the rod as a weapon of defense or a show of force; think of the rod as a "magic wand." The first time parents see its restorative powers they are amazed. Picture a child of any age who is miserable, complaining, a bully to the other kids. When you look at him, all you can see is the inside of a bottom lip. Every device has failed to bring relief. The kid feels that he is living in foreign, occupied territory. He is obviously plotting the day of throwing off the yoke. Bribed, threatened or swatted, he only gets worse. Fail to use the rod on this child, and you are creating a '"Nazi." I still marvel at the power of the little rod. After a short explanation about bad attitudes and the need to love, patiently and calmly apply the rod to his back-side. Somehow, after eight or ten licks, the poison is transformed into gushing love and contentment. The world becomes a beautiful place. A brand new child emerges. It makes an adult stare at the rod in wonder, trying to see what magic is contained therein.



Applying The Rod



When the time comes to apply the rod, take a deep breath, relax, and pray, "Lord, make this a valuable learning session. Cleanse my child of ill-temper and rebellion. May I properly represent your cause in this matter." No jerking around. No raised voice. The child should be able to anticipate the coming rod by your utterly calm and controlled spirit.

At this point, in utter panic, he will rush to demonstrate obedience. Never reward delayed obedience by reversing the sentence. And, unless all else fails, don't drag him to the place of cleansing. Part of his training is to come submissively. However, if you are just beginning to institute training on an already rebellious child, who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.

Otherwise, tell him to bend over on the bed or couch; and while he is in this position give some choice admonition. You have his undivided attention. Slowly begin to spank. If you go too fast, you may not allow time enough for the inner transformation to occur.

Use your own judgment as to what is effective. I found five to ten licks usually sufficient. Sometimes, with older children, usually when the licks are not forceful enough, the child may still be rebellious. If this occurs, take time to instruct and then continue the spanking. A general rule is to continue the disciplinary action until the child is surrendered. A spanking is made effective, not by its severity, but by its certainty. Spankings don't have to be as hard where they are consistently applied. Your calm dignity will set the stage to make it more effective.

If an older child perceives a self-defensive, competitive posture in the parent, he will react to the spanking much as he would if whipped by an older, bigger boy down the road. He will become subdued and cautious but not honoring. It will control his actions but not change his attitude.

Make it a point never to use your hand for spanking. Exceptions should be highly justified. It is usually the impatient, personally offended parent whose hand continually darts out like a snake. The parent, too busy to take the time needed for training, blurts out, "Just get off my back, leave me alone, stop bothering me." The hand swatting is a release of the parent's own frustration.

Furthermore, where the child is concerned, the hand is for loving, not martial arts. The hand on a diapered bottom is useless as a spanking, but effective in causing permanent damage to the spine. There is no surface pain to the child thus whipped. Any pain would be deep inside, similar to a fall or a car wreck. Any spanking, to effectively reinforce instruction, must cause pain, but the most pain is on the surface of bare skin where the nerves are located. A surface sting will cause sufficient pain, with no injury or bruising. Select your instrument according to the child's size. For the under one year old, a little, ten- to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (striped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch diameter is sufficient. Sometimes alternatives have to be sought. A one-foot ruler, or its equivalent in a paddle, is a sufficient alternative. For the larger child, a belt or larger tree branch is effective.

There are always some who act in the extreme. Such could use what has been said about the legitimate use of the rod to justify ongoing brutality to their children. I can think of several right now. These abusers of their children would not in the least view themselves as such. They would call themselves "strong disciplinarians." "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Matt. 18:6)."

Only a few parents are categorically abusive. But, many parents sometimes give in to an abusive manner or employ abusive methods. The child is rebellious. The parent suddenly loses it and screams out. Like a whirlwind, the child is snatched up by the arm and given several bangs on the bottom. The parent's eyes burn. The brow hardens. The pulse rate soars. Anger is the best word to describe the feelings. Smash! Subdue! "You will do what I say. You are not going to do this to me little girl." Red faced, muscles tensed. Anyone looking on the face of the parent would think there was a war on.

The rod should not be a vent for the parent's anger. In the daily run of life, many people generally experience anger and feel the need to strike out. There is no place for that selfish vindictive streak in the discipline of children. Where the child's good is not the supreme motivation, there will be problems.

I am ashamed to say that, in most cases, the rod is administered at the end of an intolerance curve. The average parents (Average parents end up with average children--the wrong end of the scale) are quite predictable in their "discipline" reactions. They go through several "warm-up" exercises to become sufficiently angry to generate retaliation against the child.

"Johnny, stop climbing on the stool. You could break something. Did you hear what I said? I am not going to tell you again. What do you mean, 'No?' Now you do what I tell you to--right now. DO YOU HEAR ME?!! GEEETT DOWNNN!!! I have had about all I am going to take from you. Why are you always so hard headed? You are driving me crazy! This is absolutely the last time I am going to tell you...

"GET DOWN!!!" Then she tell him several more times.

At this point it is a competition between the emotionally disturbed mother and the little boy. A cauldron of anger and resentment has built up in this mother that is momentarily at a near killing rage. It is the exact feelings that, in greater proportions, and in the less restrained, lead to murder dozens of times every day. Her hostility gushes forth. Like a striking snake her arm becomes a bungle cord yanking the child from the stool, swinging him screaming through the air. With the other bare hand she strikes out at his bottom in a wild spray of flat handed karate chops. The gyrating child, his little shoulder nearly dislocated, screams his protest of defiance. The mother has vented her anger and is ready to resume her routine. The child goes off to plot his next escapade. This has no more resemblance to discipline than a playground fight.

Once the parent's feelings of personal injury are expelled through this act of violence (that's what it is in the case described) and the kid flees from sight, or appears sufficiently subdued not to cause the parent more trouble, the parent is satisfied. "Forget the kid. He will not cause ME any more trouble for awhile." A truly concerned parent is going to patiently instruct the child for his own good. The rod must be accompanied by reproof in order to give wisdom. By reproof, we don't mean ranting and raving.

It is this very knowledge of their own lack of self-control that constrains some parents from ever using the rod. Their own life is so out of control and filled with guilt that they recognize their inability to be objective and fair in discipline. Their unwillingness to repent and bring their own life into balance will cause the children to suffer from a lack of the proper administration of the rod.

One of the marks of the unbalanced use of the rod is the lack of accompanying instruction. "The rod and reproof give wisdom (Prov. 29:15)." Where there is just a venting of the parent's anger, there will be no careful, patient, concerned reproof. The rod should be viewed as an aid to instruction, in that it reinforces reproof, not as the last resort of a frustrated superior force. Reproof without the rod is equally unbalanced.



Philosophy of the Rod

The growth of a child under the tutorship of the parents is time spent in God's moral workshop being fitted for heavenly citizenship. As the child develops, the parents should accurately recapitulate the moral government of our Holy God. The rod is the parents' main tangible aid to bring the child to understand the judgment of God--and eventually the grace of God.

To the small child, the father and mother are the guardians of all law, the protectors of truth and the dispensers of punishment and reward. The parents are a window through which the child gets his first impressions of the foundation principles of Divine government. If you make rules and do not respect them enough to enforce them, you will be making a statement about law in general. Your responses to transgressions are stage-playing the responses of God. By application of the rod they will understand their accountability to God. Unless all transgression, rebellion and meanness of spirit be treated as God treats sin, the child's world view will be false.

The military uses real bullets in training the men to avoid enemy fire. Replacing the rod with hollow threats would be to your children like replacing live bullets with firecrackers. It would get the men killed later on.

Therefore, the proper use of the rod is indispensable to a complete world view, for the rod completes the concept of law and accountability. If temporal authorities do not honor the law enough to enforce it with punishments, how could the child believe the great eternal authority will be any different?

A child must take seriously the moral law. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10)." In defining the root of sin, Paul said, "There is no fear of God before their eyes (Rom. 3:18)." The proper use of the rod teaches a wholesome fear. Do not fall victim to the modern rewriting of "fear" as "respect." For Jesus said, "But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear.' Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell,' yea, I say unto you, Fear him (Luke 12:5)." The Scripture makes a distinction between honor, love, and fear: "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king." (1 Pet. 2:17)

Though we don't have "the spirit of fear," we who understand eternity fear to be in opposition to the "Avenger" of all evil. Remember, you are preparing your child for real living in a real world and to face a real God in a real judgment of real accountability to a reward in a real eternity. This is no game; the rewards are great, the loss too horrible for a parent not to make this top priority.

The end a Christian has in view is not just submission to the rule of law, but that the child should understand the grace of God. Only through the naked sword of the law do we understand grace. White is invisible until it is placed against a dark backdrop. The law is "our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ (Gal. 3:24)." God could not show Himself on Mount Calvary until He first showed Himself on Mount Sinai.

By strictly enforcing the rules of the household through legislation, accountability and punishment, you not only teach them to fear and respect the Lawgiver, but you create opportunities to demonstrate grace. What a sacred responsibility!

Having clarified some important issues on the application and philosophy of the rod, let us return to our discussion on training.



Selective Subjection

One very irritating habit of some children is their tendency toward selective subjection. Have you ever attempted to correct a child, only to be impudently told, "You are not my Mother, you can't tell me what to do?" (Most likely, the mother can't tell him what to do either.) That response demonstrates that regardless of the child's obedience to his parents, down inside he is totally rebellious. He is not under authority.

If the child perceived some devious intent on the part of the adult and was resisting abduction or something akin to it, such boldness would be in order. But don't delude yourself into being proud of your child's actions as if it was loyalty or caution. It is rebellion, which is as the "sin of witchcraft." Even when another child, out of regard for the right, cautions his fellow mate, there should be subjection.

There is by nature in every child an innate awareness of common duty to the "good of being" in general. This unwritten code is expressed when one small child says to another, "You ought not do that." The conscience that is not yet seared is constantly appealing for conformity to this innate standard. When a child rebels against the just rebukes of his peers, he is not just rebelling against his peers, but against the "rule of law" in general. No, the child is not conscious (neither are most adults) of a "rule of law." He may not even know what the word "rebellion" means, but he is nonetheless functioning exactly as an adult functions when in a state of rebellion. The child is violating his own conscience. He is suffering guilt. He is building a barrier of pride, self-love, and will become self-loathing. A child encouraged or permitted to thus continue is destined to moral destruction.

My two youngest daughters, when nine- and eleven years old, were entertaining some children we were keeping. A two-year-old girl picked up an item that was off limits. Her older sister, fourteen, told her she couldn't play with it and proceeded to take it away. The child threw a screaming fit. (That was her normal approach in paying back her parents--they considered such behavior normal).

My nine-year-old, amazed at this bizarre behavior, came and told her mother. Deb, upon investigating, found the little girl was mad at her big sister whom she considered to have no jurisdiction over her behavior. The fourteen-year-old admitted she was not allowed to discipline her little sister. My wife immediately set up a training session. She took the forbidden object and placed it back on the floor in front of the child. You may say, "But that is tempting the child!" Did not God do t