Discipline And Punishment

by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)

(Chapter 11 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How To Rear Children)


A generation ago child psychologists came out with the theory that spanking a child may leave him with inner rebellion. They proposed that his desires should not be thwarted. Child psychology courses emphasized this theory. Unconverted professors and Bible- rejecting lecturers joined with misguided author in spreading the theory that spanking a child would leave him with certain repressed desires and would thwart his progress. Sincere, but deceived parents and educators swallowed this poison. Hence, we did not spank the child's hands when he did wrong. We took the paddle out of the schoolroom and the bite out of the law. Those unspanked children are now grown. Whereas they were throwing vases in living rooms, they are now throwing stones through store-front windows. Whereas they were lighting matches in kitchens, now they are setting fires to shopping centers, R.O.T.C. buildings, and banks. Whereas they were holding baby brothers hostage in basements, they are now holding principals and college presidents hostage in administration buildings. Whereas they were rebelling against mothers and fathers, now they are rebelling against God and country. Whereas parents would not force them to bathe when they could have done so, now society cannot make them bathe as adults. Because they were not forced to dress properly as children, they will not dress properly nor assume responsibility in society now.

These prophets of anarchy taught us that spanking a child would cause the child to hate the parents. Now these unspanked children, who are supposed to love their parents, embrace a philosophy whose first premise is hatred and even a willingness to kill Mother and Father, but the young folks who were spanked as children and disciplined in adolescence have a love for their aging parents that is envied by those who were deceived by these pseudo-psychologists.

Headed by their messiah, who was a leading children's physician, and inspired by his disciples who led this movement in the schoolroom, the followers of this heresy accused the Bible-believers of ruling by force an not by love. They included in their gospel such foolish statements as, "I love my boy to much to whip him." etc. They refused to accept God's admonition in Proverbs 13:24, "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." In Hebrews 12:6 we read, "For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth." Now we face a generation of anarchy, rebellion, and yes, even revolution which has been sown in doctors' offices, classrooms, office pens, and the silver tongues of orators.

Since disregarding the Word of God concerning discipline has led us to arrive at our present destination, let us seek the reversal of such a trend by examining the Scriptures and heeding them.

The Bible is clear that little children are born in sin. Psalm 51:5, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Psalm 58:3, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." Because of this God has given parents to children to discipline then, to spank them, and to teach them the awful results of wrong. The plain teaching of the Scripture is that the parent who disciplines his child does the child and parent a great favor. Let us notice these favors.

1. The parent who spanks the child teaches him to have wisdom. Proverbs 29:15, "The rod and reproof have wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." The child is taught the wisdom that sin does not pay and that it brings displeasure, discomfort, and heartache. He will learn to associate wrong with punishment and thereby flee from it.

2. The parent who spanks his child provides himself with a happy future. Proverbs 29:15b, ". . . .but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." Oh, the heartbreak endured by parents who have failed to discipline their children. Many such are decaying old folks' homes across the nation and around the world. They sit by silent telephones and search through empty mail boxes made so by the ungrateful child whose life is bringing shame and reproach to Mother and Dad. While these lovely souls pine their hearts away in remorse, their old-fashioned counterparts enjoy security, protection, provision, and love from those whom they spanked and disciplined as children.

3. The parent who spanks his child guarantees him a clean life. Proverbs 20:30, "The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil; so do stripes the inward parts of the belly." In other words, the parent who disciplines cleanses the child from evil character and inward sin. The child has been taught that sin brings trouble. He learns to fear and hate it. Someday he will rise and call his parents blessed.

4. The parent who spanks his child offers for himself more opportunities for service to God. In writing to Timothy in I Timothy 3:4,5 Paul says that a pastor should be one who "ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" He also disqualifies from the office of deacon one who does not control his children properly. I Timothy 3:12, "Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well." Hence, one who does not follow God's plain teaching about discipline is not qualified to hold either of the offices in the New Testament church. God will not use men who disobey Him in this vital matter. One reason God blessed Abraham so mightily is the fact that he could trust him to "command his children and his household after him," according to Genesis 18:17-19.

Eli the high priest in the days of Samuel, forfeited great blessings from God because he did not properly discipline his sons. His two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were both wicked men. In I Samuel 3:12-14 we have God's judgment upon him. Notice very carefully in verse 13 the words, "because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not." Judgment fell upon Eli and upon his house because he did not discipline his sons.

5. The disciplining parent adds years to the life of his child. Exodus 20:12, "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." What a favor the parent has done to the child when he disciplines and spanks him. He literally adds years to his life.

6. Such a parent guarantees his own child a happy old age. The Bible teaches in Proverbs22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." In other words, when the child is away from home without the presence of the discipline of his mother and father, he will not depart from his training. He will become a happy and prosperous member of society and will be a properly adjusted adult. This Scripture should be observed very carefully. Many parents of children who have gone into deep and terrible sin comfort themselves in the fact that the child will come back because Proverbs 22:6 promises it. This is not the teaching here! The Bible never promises that a child who goes off in deep sin will come back, but rather teaches that a child reared properly will never depart from the way he has been trained. In other words, it does not say, "he will come back to what he has been taught," but rather it says, "he will not depart from what he has been taught."

7. The parent who corrects his child will probably save the life of the child. Proverbs 23:13 says, "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die." Now at first reading we might be led to believe that the teaching of this verse is that the rod itself will not kill the child and certainly this is true if administered properly, but there is another teaching here: The child who has been spanked and taught that doing wrong brings bad results, tragedy, and punishment will less likely brawl or be killed in a car wreck because of drinking while driving. He is not as likely to die of some terrible disease caused by sin. In other words, he will be taught to live a safer life than he would have lived had he not been disciplined. Ah, how fortunate is such a one.

8. The parent who spanks the child keeps him from going to hell. Proverbs 23:14, "Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell." A child who is spanked will be taught that there is a holy God Who punishes sin and wrong. Hence, he will learn to heed authority and obey the laws and rules. When he then hears the Word of God he will obey what he hears and will accept the Gospel as it is preached. The parent has kept his child from hell by teaching him truths that can be learned only by discipline and the use of the rod.

9. The spanking parent teaches his child how to equip himself better for the future, for he will obtain a better education. When the child has been taught to respect authority, obey the rules, and keep the laws before he starts to school he then transfers this obedience and respect to his school teacher. Because of this he receives a better education, better equips himself for life, and will be of more value to society and reap a larger financial reward. Hence, the parent who disciplines his child Scripturally is putting money in his pocket and success in his future.

Many parents are willing to abide by the aforementioned principles, yet do not have the knowledge of the practical side of administering such discipline. Some practical suggestions follow:

1. Let the child realize that you are simply representing God in the execution of the punishment. Explain to him that parents represent God before their children and that they are ministers to execute His judgment. Psalm 103:13 says, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him." So God is like a father and He chooses fathers and mothers to represent Him in the punishing of little children. Let the child realize that if you as a parent do not punish him properly, you are being disobedient to God and committing the same sin the child is committing. Explain to him that you are a child of God and if you refuse to obey God in the execution of His judgment upon your children, God will pour out His wrath upon you. For you to be a good child of God requires that you be a good parent to the child. Let him understand this. He will get the idea that God is a holy and just God, One Who loves and yet One Who wants us to become out best. For this to be so He must punish us when we are deserving.

2. Sometimes spanking should leave stripes on the child. Proverbs 20:30 says, "The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil; so do stripes the inward parts of the belly." Our natural man rebels a such punishment, but we are reminded in I Corinthians 2:14 that the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit. Hence, we have to trust the God Who knows more than we and obey Him.

I can recall when I was a boy we had a peach tree in the back yard. I do not ever recall seeing a peach grow on that tree. When I think of the old peach tree I think of Mother walking back from it with a branch in her hand, peeling the leaves off as she came. I then recall her using that switch to spank my little bare legs. I can still see the stripes often left by that switch, and I thank God for every one of them. Today I call her "blessed" because of her faithfulness to the teaching of God and her willingness to obey Him. Placing stripes on me as a child kept me from bearing more painful ones as an adult. Ephesians 6:4 says, "And, ye fathers. . . bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." The word "nurture" means "chastening." It is the same word that is used concerning the scourging of Christ as He was beaten with the cat-o'-nine-tails. The wise and spiritual parent obeys God and follows His commandments, not his own reason.

3. Begin early in spanking the child. Susannah Wesley said she spanked John and Charles before they were a year old. Certainly the wise parent will start by at least this age. Proverbs 19:18 says, "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." This means there is a time in a child's life when no hope is left. During the formative years, yea, the infant years, the child should be spanked. As soon as his is old enough to walk away from his parents he should be spanked if he does not walk where they say he should walk. As soon as he is old enough to understand what they say he should be spanked if he disobeys what they say. This Scripture admonishes us that even when a child is so young that his crying reaches our sympathy, and though it is hard for us as compassionate parents to spank one who seems so innocent, we should nevertheless discipline him. Parents should not have to remove vases and delicate glass ornaments from living room tables. A house need not become disorderly and full of riots because a baby has come. Start early in disciplining the child.

4. The parent should build such a close relationship that the worst part of the spanking is the broken fellowship between the child and the parent. I can still recall how disappointed my mother's face looked when she spanked me and I can recall how I dreaded displeasing her even more than I dreaded the spanking, (and believe me, I DID dread the spanking). When the love and affection is close between the child and parent and the relationship is what it ought to be, the worst part of a whipping is the broken fellowship. In other words, when the parent is not disciplining, the relationship should be so wonderful, the fellowship so sweet, and life so happy that the severance of that in itself is terrible punishment for the child to endure.

5. The spanking should be a ritual. No mother or father should jerk the child up and in a fit of temper administer a spanking. In fact, no punishment should ever be given in a fit of temper. The ritual should be deliberate and last at least ten or fifteen minutes. (In the long run time will be saved using this method.) It should be a ritual dreaded by the child. He should not only dread the pain but the time consumed in the ordeal.

6. The punishment should always be far in excess of the pleasure enjoyed by doing wrong. The child should realize he will always be the loser by far and that the discomfort will be so multiplied that soon he will have forgotten the pleasure derived from the wrong.

7. The parent should state very clearly to the child the wrongs and the punishment for each one. As near as possible these wrongs should be listed with the punishment that is to be inflicted for each one. If the punishment does not seem to correct it, then perhaps it should be increased. Some parents have made lists of possible wrongs and have carefully gone over this list with the child explaining exactly what each punishment would be. The punishment is inflicted without exception so that the child will know exactly what to expect.

8. Before punishing the child tell him clearly what wrong he has committed. Talk sternly and deliberately without a display of temper. Let him know exactly what he has done wrong. Then require that he state to you exactly what the wrong was so that what he did is very clear to you and to the child. Then, ask him what the punishment is. By this time he will know. Let him know that to be just and righteous you must inflict the punishment reminding him that you are doing it in the place if God against Whom he has really sinned.

9. Never give a child that for which he cries. The baby who cries for attention and gets it will become a child who cries for a toy and gets it, then a teenager who whines and complains for every whim and gets it, and then a young adult who will demonstrate and riot in order to get his wishes. Riots are not started in the streets but in the crib.

10. The spanking should be administered firmly. It should be painful and it should last until the child's will is broken. It should last until the child is crying not tears of anger but tears of a broken will. As long as he is stiff, grits his teeth, holds on to his own will, the spanking should continue.

11. After the spanking tell him why you did it. While he is still crying have him sit down. Explain to him again what the crime was and that you had no alternative but to obey God and punish him for the crime. Ask him again to repeat to you what he did that was wrong. Allow the impression of the association between the wrong and the penalty to be cut deep in his mind.

Then the wise parent should assure the child of his love and explain the reason he spanked him was because of that love. He should then have the child remain in the room alone. (All spankings should be administered in privacy and with a closed door.) The parent should have a brief prayer with the child. Lead him to realize his sin was against God. Ask the child to pray asking God to forgive him. He should then have time to be alone in the room to think over his wrong for a few minutes. After two to five minutes the parent may open the door and allow normal activity to resume.

12. Parents should always support each other in the disciplining of the children. Sometimes the mother may think the father is too harsh or too mean. Sometimes the father may think the mother is illogical or unreasonable. Such feeling should never be expressed openly. (Perhaps a discussion can be carried on privately, though in some cases this would not be advisable.)

Sometimes older teenagers say to me, "Brother Hyles, at our house we have two sets of rules: my mother's and my father's." This causes frustration in a child's life. The ideal situation would be for the mother and father to agree on what is wrong and what punishment should be inflicted. If this is not possible, there should certainly be support for each other on the part of each parent. It is always best for the parent to be on the side of authority, hence, stripping the child of his desire to seek sympathy from one parent after punishment is meted out by another.

Happy in old age is the parent who obeys God in these matters. Happy is the child who feels the security of such punishment. When Becky, my oldest daughter, graduated from high school and was preparing to go to college, I took her out to eat. I asked her how she was going to rear her children. She looked at me and said, "Dad, exactly as you have reared me." When I asked her why she replied, "Dad, I always knew you loved me when you said,' No!'"

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