We will talk about the role of the rod, but not yet. There's something more fundamental that must be kept in mind.
To be sure, corporal discipline is a God ordained means of building character, self-discipline, and wisdom. But it must be understood that it is merely ONE of the means God has appointed. It is a powerful tool, but it is a tool that is secondary. It must be accompanied by liberal use of God's main tool: His Word.
Folly is bound up
in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline
drives it far from him.
Proverbs 22:15 ESV
Note the language Solomon uses. He calls it, not just the rod, but the 'rod of discipline' (or chastisement, correction). The Hebrew word for 'discipline' carries with it the idea of 'instruction,' just as our word 'discipline' connotes the idea of 'discipleship.'
Solomon's wisdom reminds us that the rod is a teacher, but it must be wielded in the hands of one who acts as a teacher. A good spank will communicate, but clear communication must accompany and support what that rod says.
Ultimately, it comes down to one's goal. The foolishness of a child is not pent up in his or her rear. It is bound up in the heart. A child may learn discipline by the rod. But the rod alone will not touch the deepest regions of his/her soul where folly truly resides.
On the other hand, "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12
To be sure, the rod by itself can be a means of provoking your child to wrath and driving them further into foolishness. For this reason, it must be kept in mind that the rod assumes the use of good communication, regular instruction, and godly exhortation.
This, of course, begins with family worship: The Bible must be opened, read, and applied in the home. Children should also be made to sit through worship as much as they can so that they can hear God's word declared from the pulpit, sung in music, and administered through the sacraments.
Immersion in the Scriptures might not be as dramatic as a paddle, but it is much more dynamic and the power thereof should not be underestimated.
Moreover, when the rod is employed, it should typically be accompanied with instruction and affirmation. Parents should speak to their children about their need of discipline and the reason for it. After physical discipline takes place, children should be given expressions of affection to affirm your love, exhorted in how their behavior should change, directed in repentance/forgiveness, and encouraged through prayer.
In his book "Shepherding a Child's Heart" Ted Trip tells the story of little Charlie, who had been caught stealing money from the church's offering plate. The child was confronted and made to return the money to the pastor. He produced $2 and proceeded to apologize, tears streaming down his face.
The pastor commended the boy and began to explain that this is exactly why Christ came; that God sent his Son to die for people like us who were willing to steal from God and his people. Jesus life and death was for the purpose of making people givers and not takers.
At this Charlie broke into more sobs and drew out another $20 from his pocket. He had prepared to go through the motions and keep back the hefty sum, but the gospel wouldn't let him do that. It reached into the depths of his soul and produced a change of paramount proportions.
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