The Corporal Correction of Children – Part 1

The Corporal Correction of Children – Part 1

Posted in In line with Scripture

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him.”

— Proverbs 22:15

We Need More Grandpas

Junior bit the meter man, and then he hit the cook;

Junior’s anti-social now, according to the book.

Junior smashed the clock and lamp, and then he

hacked the tree.

Destructive trends are treated in chapters two and


Junior threw his milk at mum, and then he screamed

for more;

Notes on self-assertiveness are found in chapter four.

Junior tossed his shoes and socks out into the rain;

Negation this, and chapter six says disregard the


Junior set dad’s shirt on fire and upset Grandpa’s


That’s to gain attention as explained in chapter eight.

But Grandpa takes a wooden spoon, pulls junior ‘cross

his knee;

(He’s read nothing but the Bible since 1933!)

What did Grandpa read in the Bible? He would have read a great deal about how to love, train and discipline children. The other book referred to in the poem was also ostensibly about how to love and train children, but instead of disciplining them, it seemed to emphasise understanding them.

We have here two very different world views which give opposing advice regarding the rearing of children. One world view is found in Grandpa’s Bible: that of the Creator God. The other is found in the literature of created humans. In the final analysis, there are only ever these two world views: one from the mind of God, the other from the mind of man (although there certainly is a vast amount of variation in this second one; see also Proverbs 3:5).

Our text says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child”. This is a foundational statement about the nature of the child. Jeremiah 17:9 expands on this: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Children are NOT blank tapes who learn evil from elders, an idea championed by John Locke in the late 1600s. They pick up bad behaviour NOT from the environment, as behaviourists such as B.F. Skinner would advise: it is in their hearts (and in our adult hearts even still) from conception. Children are NOT little bundles of innocence: they are little bundles of depravity (see Psalm 51:5) and can develop into unrestrained agents of evil unless trained and disciplined according to God’s Word. Selfishness, violence, lying, cheating, stealing and other such behaviour are just the child unpacking some of this foolishness from the vast store in his heart. Bad examples such as ungodly parents, siblings, peer groups or television heroes only bring out the worst of the child’s innate foolishness and allow the child an excuse for its own bad behaviour….these things do not cause the bad behaviour. Each child has its own personalised store of foolishness bound up in its heart. Some seem to have vast amounts of the most amazing variety of dirty tricks, rebellion, manipulation and other forms of selfishness, combined with really cunning and creative ways of inflicting them upon you. Others seem so sweet and innocent all the time. Don’t be deceived (which is a weakness of our sinful hearts and minds that takes prominence in situations where we are called upon by our duty to God to rouse ourselves out of the old easy chair and do some unpleasant discipline and training). Visiting us for the first time from the USA 17 years ago, I asked my mum to give her opinion of our child training and discipline practises. She’d observed for some weeks, and we knew we were doing a great job. “You want my true opinion?” she asked ominously. “Well, yes, of course Mom!” “That 3-year- old of yours has you both wrapped around her little finger”!!!! I couldn’t believe it! But my mum went on to name example after example of us being pushed around and manipulated by this sweet little girl who we were sure was obedient and respectful in every way. How wrong we were!

The text further says, “but the rod of correction drives it far from him.” Three things are immediately apparent: First, a rod is to be used. Second, it is to be used as correction. Third, it is to drive the foolishness out.

The “rod” here may have some reference to ancient symbols of authority or guidance, such as a shepherd’s rod or a ruler’s scepter. Both are very applicable to this situation, for a shepherd’s rod, like a good spanking, is to keep one out of future trouble. And parents, like rulers, must exercise over their children the authority delegated to them, or else be found guilty of abdication, neglect, irresponsibility, etc. A rod is probably not a hand in most cases, though exceptions may have to be made at times.

Spankings are to correct the child, not punish the child. Our culture is quite used to the idea of spankings being referred to as “corporal punishment”. This terminology is quite correct in describing the way certain criminals are to be dealt with by the civil government (Deuteronomy 25:1-3). Once public schools came into existence, the teachers, being agents of the civil (secular) government, could not corporeally “correct” to any particular standard (lest they break the secular clause of Section 77), and so simply punished…..usually by caning. It is instructive to note that Section 59 of the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961 (the statute which protects parents from being charged with assault whenever they spank their children) reads as follows:

“59(1) Every parent of a child and, subject to subsection (3) of this section, every person in the place of the parent of a child is justified in using force by way of correction towards the child, if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances.

“(2) The reasonableness of the force used is a question of fact.

“(3) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section justifies the use of force towards a child in contravention of Section 139A of the Education Act 1989.”

It says parents are justified in using reasonable force by way of correction. This is a legal recognition of a parent’s Biblical duty as spelled out in our text. Note: the force used must be reasonable in the circumstances (which appears to include ethnic and familial traditions…see “The Parental Use of Physical Discipline in New Zealand”, Parts 1 & 2, Keystone Vol. V, Nos. 3 & 4, May & July 1999) and used for correction. (Section 139A of the Education Act prohibits anyone from using force “by way of correction or punishment” in any early childhood centre or registered school “unless that person is a guardian of the student or child.”)

Spankings are further meant to drive the foolishness, the sinful manifestations, out of the child’s personality so that they do not become permanent fixtures. If the foolishness and sin are not driven out, but simply left to simmer inside, what do you suppose happens? The child matures in foolishness and grows into a fool. Read through the book of Proverbs for some sober warnings against such a thing. It is so bad that at one point the Scriptures declare: “He who spares his rod hates his son.” (Proverbs 13:24).

The objective behind spanking is to train, to correct, to discipline. It is not retributive, it is not vengeful: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19b). God’s law requires the entire community was to take a hand in stoning capital criminals to death — with the exception of parents if it is they who turn their child over to the civil authorities. (Compare Deut. 17:7 with 21:18-21). Parents DO NOT have life and death powers over their children.

Because we each have this foolishness, we can easily identify with our children and help them see it is something we all must struggle with. Our job as parents is to drive the foolishness out until such time as the child can toss it out himself. It is a problem the child and the parent together can point out, identify and deal with together: often children are very perceptive in spotting parental inconsistencies (foolishness), and parents should be thankful — and repentant — when their children do point these things out. We therefore do not label our children “bad”; they and we see that there is bad in them, but with training they will master it.

From Keystone Magazine
May 2000 , Vol. VI No. 3
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389
email: craig

One thought on “The Corporal Correction of Children – Part 1

Comments are closed.