I was reading an article here in the Seattle times yesterday that made me ill to my stomach.
It’s a story about a young girl in the Seattle area that was locked outside by her parents and allowed to die of exposure. She was locked outside as a form of discipline. These parents homeschooled this girl and followed the parenting methods laid out in a book called To Train Up a Child.
To Train Up a Child is authored by a man and his wife out of Tennessee named Michael and Debi Pearl. Michael Pearl is an evangelist and pastors a marriage and family counseling ministry called No Greater Joy Ministries here on this website. Essentially, Michael Pearl and his wife Debi adhere to a literal interpretation of the “spare the rod spoil the child” part of the Old Testament in the Bible.
The article in the Seattle Times goes on to describe 3 other child deaths by the hands of parents that were followers of Michael Pearl’s child rearing advice. They had several other things in common also, most notably they each were homeschooled.
My wife and I homeschool our children. In most instances I am an advocate of homeschooling, but not in every circumstance. As I’ve stated here before, we got a lot of flack from people when we first decided to homeshcool. Even now, when people ask where our kids go to school, we get quite a few raised eyebrows. However, I understand homeschooling is not for everybody.
Homeschooling is hard work. It’s a long-term commitment. But contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a degreed teacher to get your kids a good education. Mostly its dedication. For both of my kids, because of their personalities, it works out well. I understand, though, that certain personalities might not work well and I also understand that if both parents have to work outside the home it doesn’t work out well either. Nevertheless, I still believe educating your kids at home is still the best option if it’s available.
One thing we’ve run in to over the years is our fair share of “nuts” that homeschool. These are the ones that seem to always make it into the news, much like the ones mentioned in the Seattle Times article above. The ones who live in the woods and refuse to pay their taxes, the ones who read a passage in the Old Testament like “spare the rod and spoil the child” and interpret it to mean it’s okay to lock your child out of the house and allow them to die of exposure while at the same time ignoring New Testament passages the instruct us not to exasperate our children and discipline harshly to the point of discouragement. The ones who ignore the instructions by Paul telling men to be servant leaders and examples for their children, not discouragers.
These seem to be the types of homeschoolers the world hears about. The sad thing is, there are certainly plenty of them out there.
I’m a firm believer in discipline. The thing is, discipline isn’t only defined as physical punishment. When God wrote “Spare the rod and spoil the child” that passage when interpreted in light of the New Testament means that if we love our children we will bring correction rather than ignoring destructive and sinful behavior. Discipline is sometimes physical, though I firmly believe far less than many Christians believe. Discipline is always consistent, it’s always loving, and it always builds up rather than tears down.
Many times in my life I’ve heard from well-meaning parents that discipline was intended to “break their spirit” and bring the child into line. That by “breaking their spirit” the child was less likely to stray and was more likely to obey. Over the years, however, I’ve seen the result of this sort of discipline. In every case that I’m aware of it has led to nothing more than destruction and chaos. It’s lead to a hole in the child’s life that takes nearly a lifetime to dig out of.
I’ve made my share of parenting mistakes. There’s no doubt I’ll continue to make more. I also understand that a child is an individual with their own will; God deals with each of us as individuals. As time goes on, though, and I see the results of not only my own mistakes but the mistakes of others. One thing I’m convinced of is the results of harsh discipline.
Overly harsh discipline results in a child not seeing God as both a loving God, but a God who disciplines us because He loves us and wants to correct us. It results in an adult that has a hard time relating to others in a patient and loving way. In far too many instances it results in psychopathic behavior. But worst of all, harsh discipline results in a person that has a hard time not only trusting God as their Lord, but believing that He loves them and gave His life for them.
So next time we might have the idea that “spanking the devil” out of a child is the way to draw them closer to God, think again…..Is God patient with us? Yes. Does he give us many many chances before he “spanks”? Absolutely. Does he “smack” us every single time we do something wrong? No. God deals with each of us in the most patient and kind way. So where would a Christian possibly get the idea it’s okay for us to discipline our children that way?