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Unbalanced Parenting

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The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.—Proverbs 29:15

One frustration that is bound to confront any parent is a child’s complete ignorance of everything. (I mean, come on, how could he know nothing? Right?) As adults who have been to school, learned all kinds of stuff, matured (hopefully), and essentially been around longer than our kids have, we can easily forget what it was like to not know anything. Couple that thinking with our biblical understanding that every child is born with an innate tendency to do wrong, and we might assume that our children’s behavior is always intentional rather than simply uninformed. This misunderstanding can lead to serious frustrations.

God wants us to train our children to be wise, and Proverbs 29:15 reminds us of the balanced approach to training our children to behave wisely: the rod and reproof. The “rod” is a proverbial reference to punishment for disobedience. “Reproof” means correction, an argument, or a chiding. Reproof is the instruction, telling what is wrong; the rod is the enforcement, correcting what is wrong. The balanced approach to training, then, is to lay down rules for right and wrong and to punish when a rule is disobeyed. This will teach a child to act in light of what he knows, which is being wise.

An unbalanced parenting style, however, will emphasize one aspect of the training process to the exclusion of the other. A child will be frustrated when he is punished for something he had no idea about. Parents will be frustrated when they expect obedience by talking about right and wrong but never enforce the right. I can remember at times being frustrated with my own child’s behavior and thinking, “How could he not know the right thing to do?!” or “How could he not know how dumb that was?!” The answer might shock you: I had never told him! Sad to say, I was being unbalanced in my training.

When we lean heavily on a “rod-response” to uninformed behavior, or when we never get around to correcting deliberate misbehavior, we are unbalanced. If we find ourselves frustrated with our child’s behavior, we need to ask ourselves, “Have I talked with my child about this previously?” The answer to that question will direct us to our next action. As Matthew Henry said, “If a reproof will serve without the rod, it is well, but the rod must never be used without a rational and grave reproof.” The balanced approach of instructing and enforcing is the Bible way to raise wise children.

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Nathan McConnell has served as the director of Deaf Outreach since 2005, a position which entails overseeing the deaf camps each week of the summer, teaching sign language in churches and establishing deaf ministries, and coordinating deaf outreaches for the purpose of evangelism and promotion of the Ranch's camps for deaf young people. In 2013, Nathan agreed to become the administrator of Bill Rice Bible Institute, a one-year training program for high school graduates, ages 18-25. He and his wife Rebekah have two young sons, Warren and Walter.

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