The Most Neglected Verse in Child Rearing

Now that I have your attention I want to let you in on a secret.  This blog could have also been entitled “The Most Neglected Verse in Marriages,” or “The Most Neglected Verse in Church Disputes.”  The reality is, II Timothy 3:16 has a wide array of application points.  However, I do believe that it can truly help parents when it comes to raising children if applied properly.  Paul wrote these words to his son in the faith, Timothy:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness . . .”

In context, Paul is telling Timothy to “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed,” namely, to continue in the Scriptures.  I firmly believe that if we take the four profitable truths that Paul lists here regarding the Scriptures, and apply them to how we raise our children, we may just find our parenting to be more joyful and effective.  While it is true that the Scriptures tell us “whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24), there is more to discipline than using the rod of correction.  Here we find two negative areas of discipline and two positive areas.  All four are needed in a proper balance.    

Teaching as Discipline

            To teach means to provide correct information to someone in such a way that they understand the truth.  Specifically here it is the teaching of the Word of God.  We must be committed to teaching our children the Word of God and then applying it when discipline is necessary.  For instance, when your child decides to have an outburst of anger, as parents we could allow it, then just go on about our day.  We could allow them to do it then get angry back at them.  Or, we could use it as an opportunity to teach them.  Teaching your children is really more so something that you do before they act.  Teach them the gospel.  Teach the Proverbs so that when they get angry you might be able to say, “Dear, do you remember the Proverb that we have been learning, “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (Proverbs 29:11)?  If you are not teaching them the things of God daily, they have no chance really to be fully trained in righteousness, do they?  This is a form of pre-discipline.  We teach so that they can learn how to act when presented with a situation in life.  We teach them so that they can glorify God with their lives (I Corinthians 10:31).

Reproof as Discipline

            To reprove means to rebuke false teaching and admonish those who believe them.  This is the negative side of teaching.  Let me give you an example.  When your 8-year-old son throws his toy car at his 11-year-old brother who was picking at him, how should we react as parents?  Should we simply say, “Son, you should not have done that . . . now apologize to your brother?”  Reproof would look more like this.  “Son, your brother should not have been picking at you.  We will deal with that later.  Nevertheless, the Scripture says ‘don’t return evil with evil, instead return evil with good.’  That isn’t what you did is it son?  Instead of throwing your car at your brother, what should you have done?”  This is what reproof looks like.  After you reprove you can then discipline them with a proper punishment if needed.  However, you have done more than get on them.  You have reproved them.  You have brought the scriptures to bear on this offense.  You have rebuked the false teaching of “pay back.”  Your son was not seeking reconciliation but retribution by throwing the car at his sibling.  Thus, you correct the false teaching and admonish your son for seeking retribution while at the same time allowing him the opportunity to confess and repent.

            There is more to discipline than reproof.  We should also seek to correct our child.  I have heard it said this way, “No doubt we are to help a child if they have fallen, but we must also seek to stand them back up.”  This is what correction does.  

Correction as Discipline  

            Standing that child back up after he has fallen is what it means to correct them.  Correction is the restoration of something or someone back to its appropriate state.  In the previous example, it would be best understood that correction would be pointing the 8-year-old back to obedient godly living.  It might look something like this: “Son, instead of throwing your car at your brother, what should you have done?  If you cannot handle the situation with proper words, or if you cannot allow love to cover your brother’s picking at you, you need to come and find your mom or dad to help sort it out, right?”  There is a better way to discipline your child than to just get upset with them or spank them automatically.  We need to also correct them in love.  Our children are wholly human.  They need loving correction, not just a sharp rebuke. If this car tossing and anger continues as a selfish rebellious pattern, punishment will be necessary.  But they also need correction.

Training as Discipline

            Training is one of the positive sides of discipline.  “Training in righteousness” describes training that points to what is right or what is in accord with godliness.  A wise father once provided an example of what this looks like.  He reminisced about his young son, 4 to 5-years- old at the time, running in the house and slamming the door.  The father responded by saying, “Son, come here.”  The son replied, “Yes, dad?”  “Don’t slam the door,” the father responded.  The young son with a smile said, “Okay, dad.”  5 minutes went by and the son came rushing through the door again . . . and SLAM.   With patience the father could see that this was not a rebellious act, but instead simply one of a forgetful child.  He was excited about being outside and doing boy things.  The father knew that the most effective thing he could do was to train his son, not spank him for his forgetfulness.  The father looked at his son and said, “Son, stop.  Do you remember what I said about the door?”  The son said, “Oh yes, dad.”  “Okay, I want you to open the door, and now shut it quietly.  Open it again.  Shut it.  Open it one more time, and now shut it.  This is how you enter and exit a room, son.  Do you understand?”  The son shook his head in affirmation and went back outside to play.  Ten minutes later he ran back inside and slammed the door again.  But this time the young boy looked at dad and said, “Oh, man!  Dad, I am sorry.”  To which the father said again with a smile, “Do it 3 more times, son.”  You see, there is a place for corporal punishment.  No doubt there is.  However, not every offense needs it.  Often your children simply need the patient and loving training from their mom and dad.  When parents teach, reprove, and correct with love, the training part may take time but it comes easier. 

            The author of Hebrews writes, “For 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).  The Word of God is sufficient for all things, even our child rearing.  To raise and discipline our children according to this often neglected verse takes time, patience, self-denial, and perseverance.  The next time your little Gideon wants to slam a door or throw his car at his brother, think about the words the Apostle wrote in II Timothy and ask yourself which of the four discipline tactics would be most helpful in that situation.  So, teach, reprove, correct, and train your children according to God’s Word.  It is the tried and true way to honor the Lord while rearing your children. 

Soli Deo Gloria,

Adam B. Burrell

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