Should a Child be Punished?
Every organization and institution must have a head. Without it there would be chaos and insurrection. This head must be recognized and respected as such for the happiness and well being of all concerned. The most important institution is the family and yet there are sometimes less honor and obedience here than in any other.
Years ago our grandparents did a great deal of corporal punishing, — possibly more than was necessary. Now, the world has gone to the other extreme and instead of strict obedience we find the children ruling the home.
The Bible is very explicit in demanding due respect to parents. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.” So intent is our Heavenly Father upon this subject that He promises a reward to those who obey. “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”
Solomon seems to have been of the opinion that corporal punishment was advisable:
“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” Proverbs 19:18
“Correct thy son and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” Proverbs 29:17
“The rod and reproof give wisdom; but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15
There are, however, two sides to this question. There is such a thing as ruling a child with so much severity that it robs him of his own individuality. We have known children who lacked poise and self-confidence because of such one-sided training. Very few parents strike the happy medium in child training. We are apt to be severe with the first child and too lenient with the last.
Your child is an embodiment of the faults and virtues of yourself. When he came into the world, not knowing whither he was going, he had no one to give him a start and possess him with graces and dispossess him of failings but yourself. If you are warped intellectually or morally, he is apt to be, for you are the source of his existence.
Now when he misbehaves, consider that, while he should be taught and trained, the culture he requires to be imparted to him by yourself. This brings us to the following principles of child training.
1. Anything you can do to improve your own manners will improve those of your child. No child is responsible for its evil tendencies and should be dealt with kindly and tactfully. Look at yourself as a child. Consider what helped or hindered your manners and apply the principles to that little, helpless creature God has put into your arms to love and to protect.
2. Were you ever punished by an angry guardian or parent? Consider the effect upon yourself to this day, including the lack of respect it gave you for him. A man does not know his great strength when punishing a little one, even in love; and when angry, he has no conception of the unnecessary pain and possible injury he may inflict.
A young father in anger threw his little one upon the bed. Its mother happening to be near, caught the child just in time to keep it from fracturing its tender skull against the bedpost. Humbled and penitent the young father thanked his wife over and over again for preventing him from injuring the little angel of the home. If anger cannot be controlled any other time it should most certainly be mastered when dealing with children.
3. If you wish a child to have a cheerful disposition, be cheerful yourself. Smile when you do not feel like it. Keep an even spirit. Be gentle at all times. In fact, be a model of what you wish your child to be. This should be the constant study of parents and should concern them more than the acquisition of stocks and bonds.
Determine to become all that the word “father” or “mother” implies so that you, yourself, aside from your admonitions and training will, in the years to come, be the most impressive sermon your son or daughter will ever hear. Be the finest example of piety possible. This is a heritage every parent should leave to a child and an honor that may belong to every one. Each mother should live constantly so that it may be said of her, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.” Proverbs 31:28
Self-control will have so refined and improved your own personality that you will discover that you have risen to a mental altitude where you have more influence over those of your own social circle than ever before. Added to this your ever cheerful spirit has caused you to appear younger and much more beautiful; and your calm repose in the arms of your Heavenly Father has given you a power with God and a power with men that you have never dreamed possible.
4. If you were once a weak character, of a passive disposition, you will find yourself developing into a strong one not by becoming bombastic, domineering or authoritative, but by your complete control over your own faults and weakness of disposition.
A child’s sensitive little being receives more training from the impressions it gets through the eye and the ear than it does from advice; and for him to see you become angry and hear your unpleasant remarks to and about people will undo much of the excellent training you have given him.
Perhaps you are naturally a strong character, of an active disposition, possibly a little severe and disposed to plow right through everything and every body to accomplish your designs. Your nature needs to be mellowed. Through prayer and humiliation it may become so. If you neglect these, sorrow will come in to soften and sweeten your spirit, but her work is very slow and painful. Insist now upon the training of yourself with your child so that the race for perfection will result in a beautiful character, both for him and for yourself, and you can say to the little ones of your home, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” – J.A.S.