Folly is bound up in the heart of a boy,
but the rod of discipline drives it far away.
I just read a book that talked about this verse. The author—with whom I agreed about a great many things—insisted that this verse spoke of corporal punishment (spanking) and that every child (until a certain age) needs spanking to “get rid of the foolishness.”
I’m not so sure I agree.
Oh, that isn’t to say that I’m necessarily against spanking. There were times that I spanked my children. It worked for our daughter. (It worked for me!) It didn’t work for our son . . . and it didn’t work for my sister. Some children respond to pain (and the threat of pain). Some children aren’t moved in the slightest from their rebellion by the thought of a spanking. And for many adults, it’s difficult to separate spanking from anger. I know that there were times that I spanked in anger. Fortunately, it was through layers of cloth diapers and likely hurt my hand more than their bottom. But what if I couldn’t control myself? What if I moved from diapered bottom to unprotected face . . . or arms . . . or back?
The NASB Dictionary gives a number of definitions for the word translated here as “rod.” Only one of those definitions is “rod.” One definition is correction. In other words, one possible translation is something like “the correction of punishment” or “the correction of chastening.”
It’s difficult for me to believe that God has commanded us to beat our children into submission. However, it’s not difficult to believe that God wants us to discipline our children and to so discipline them that it drives the foolishness of sin from them. Proverbs uses the terms “fool” or “folly” frequently in opposition to “wisdom” or “the wise” to contrast those who obey the Lord and those who are rebellious. The point of parenting is to bring our children to the point of serving the Lord with gladness, rather than rejecting Him and His Word. The fact is, if we parented more (trained up our children), we might have to correct less.
Most Christian parents today don’t know that our worldviews have been corrupted by the influences of evolution. We believe that children should have a say, a choice, in what they do and want because they are separate individuals from us. That belief is a product of social evolution and it isn’t biblical. Christian parents have the mandate to raise their children as unto the Lord. In such a way that the children, as adults, embrace salvation and the mercy of God. And until they are old enough to make wise choices, we are commanded to use correction and discipline to move them into the path of life. (They don’t get a vote!)
I used spanking as did my own parents. If one spanks a toddler through a diaper (and doesn’t spank in anger), it doesn’t damage children. But if we, as adults, are unsure whether we can control our anger or not, we do better not to spank. Perhaps if we parented better, the need to spank would never arise.