Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Disciplining Children & Other Themes (Proverbs 22)

It’s interesting isn’t it, the divergently different methods over history pertaining to parenting practice. Well, Proverbs has a particular slant on how to bring kids up, and it’s very effective, but it requires a very wise, focused parenting style with an eye on the longer term development of the child.

There’s another significant thing about Proverbs 22--at verse 17 is the commencement of the Thirty Sayings of the Wise that carries on into Proverbs 24. But more on that further down.

Two key proverbs on parenting virtue around the discipline of our children mark the proverbial stance. Verses 6 and 15 (TNIV) say respectively, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it… [and] … Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.”

We must start children on their way to virtuous (wise, prudent, diligent) living from the very first moment, and each day forth, being careful not to be lazy in the task of teaching them moral truth. We do this and most of the time we can expect them to not turn from it. It will become so ingrained. Importantly, the heart will know the ‘moral reason why’ and the grown child will reflect a fundamental concern for the preciousness of others.

To teach this is our goal as parents, and anytime we see our kids straying from moral living we have to sternly correct them. It would be better to over-correct (without becoming abusive) than under-correct, for children are by nature ‘foolish’ of heart. Unless we teach them about the core preciousness of others they’ll probably not learn it.

The ‘rod of discipline’ is not necessarily a cane or a physical implement, but it includes these. For wanton and flagrant disregard of people, animals and property, children up to about 7 or 8 should potentially be chastised i.e. smacked. Doing this properly, however, is a whole subject on its own and something I’m not tackling here.

There are four clear “do not’s” in the six Sayings of the Wise in Proverbs 22:22-28. These are clear commands for the wise to be ever vigilant about.

We do not exploit the poor, as we’d be pitting ourselves against God. We’re careful not to make friends with those prone to a “hot temper” as we might very well become ensnared with them. We don’t move ancient boundary stones i.e. lie or steal to defraud someone over land--the most precious material commodity in the ancient Near East--most of all regarding our relatives. Blood is thicker than water. (And, after all, it’s our family heritage at stake!)

We must also not go into bat for someone with whom a bad association is likely to form or has formed. Getting involved with them might mean we’d put at jeopardy everything we call precious.

Finally, we’re encouraged to grow our skills, for the skilful will not serve only the lowly; they’ll end up working for the finest bosses available. This further inspires us in our work and extends and propounds our purpose in life.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

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