The sooner one begins to discipline a child, the better. The longer a child is left to himself, the harder it is to bring him under control. A point can be reached when hope is lost of a child’s ever yielding to correction. That is why it is important to start training and disciplining a child at an early age, whenever a child begins to defy the parent.
We are warned not to allow a child’s crying and pleading to keep us from disciplining him. Most children try to play on a parent’s sympathy to escape punishment; however, if we really love them we will not allow this to happen. For small children, punishment should be a whack on the buttocks with a small reed-like rod. (This rod could be a switch from a fruit or willow tree or a small wooden spoon. It is not to be a heavy rod or anything that would cause physical damage.) The purpose of a spanking is not to cause any lasting physical harm, but to cause spiritual correction. It should be swift and cause short-lived pain that makes a point. That point is that the small pain they feel now will prevent them from feeling great pain by failing to learn obedience, which could cause them loss of their lives in some cases.
Some parents have a mistaken idea of what love is. Some are compassionate and do not wish to “hurt” their children physically or emotionally. In reality, however, such sentiments are selfish and do not express true love for a child. The parents refrain from fulfilling their duty to properly teach the child right from wrong, in order to spare their own feelings. To fail to discipline a child is actually cruel. It is like failing to clean a child’s cut finger simply because cleaning the cut hurts the child. Allowing infection to set in, however, brings the child worse pain. The momentary pain of discipline is far better than the devastating pain that rebellion brings for disobeying God’s ways. Rebellion unchecked in a child can even lead to his eternal damnation.
Children can be very manipulative. If a child senses an adult’s sensitivity or compassion, he may pretend or exaggerate fright or pain. Many children are experts at manufacturing “crocodile tears.” A child unchecked or undetected in the art of manipulation is deceived by his own sin. Every one of us is born with a sinful heart. Jeremiah 17:9 describes the heart as “…deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked….” (NIV). Sin is very deceptive and will destroy us. Every child needs to be taught right from wrong, and not to follow the inclinations of his heart, which is full of the deceitfulness of sin. The discipline that a parent gives his child today will determine that child’s well-being as an adult tomorrow. “For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them” (Proverbs 1:32).