Here is Part One of the Heartfelt Discipline Review, in case you missed it.
In Chapter 3, Clarkson makes his case for why he believes the Proverbs verses do not apply to young children, and why they don’t apply for in the NT era for older children.
Bob Achilles really does an excellent job challenging Clarkson’s exegesis. I appreciate his words more having read the chapter. If you haven’t read it, go back to Part One and follow the link.
Clarkson interprets Proverbs 22:6, the “key that opens a locked door [in understanding biblical discipline],” in this way:
Dedicate a young man to following God’s way of wisdom. Even when he is a grown man, he will not turn aside from that way.
He reasons that the word translated child is ambiguous (which it is) and that we must look at the context to determine its meaning (we must). But for the life of me, this verse makes little sense as he has interpreted it. The context makes far more sense if the child is young.
A few sentences from the final paragraph of Chapter 3 are worth examining:
When I finally began to “spare the rod,” I naturally wondered about the biblical alternative to rod-based discipline. Answering that question has shown me not only a heart-oriented approach to discipline, but also a biblical relationship with my children.
It appears that Clarkson has set up a false dichotomy. Is spanking of any sort mutually exclusive with developing a biblical relationship with my children? Clarkson appears to fear so, and this concern appears to drive his discipline choices. I’m concerned that Clarkson is setting a precedent for an emotionally-based discipline decision making process (this doesn’t feel loving, it must not be what God means when He says X, I’ve come to Y conclusion). On the other hand, I do believe a parent can be so focused on spanking that he neglects to address the heart. Because of this danger, I am very interested in what “alternatives” he has in mind. I don’t have a corner on reaching the heart of my children.
The title of Chapter 4 is “Parenting by Faith: The Bible’s Formula-Free Approach to Discipline.”
When you discipline your children, three primary sources of control can come into play: flesh, formula, and faith. You can allow one or all of these to guide how you relate to your children, but most parents gravitate toward one over the others (p. 61).
Yes, I know I can discipline in the flesh. That’s a convicting thought, and Clarkson gives good examples: yelling at our children, lording our authority over our children. But then he says something that makes me uncomfortable. “It’s the fleshly part of me that says, ‘I can make my kids submit to me by using the force of my will and the strength of my own hand.’ ”
Here we’re back to the problem of an author forgetting about what parenting a toddler is like. I agree with Clarkson to the extent that ultimately, making our children submit is an inadequate approach. But there are many times in real life as a mother of three children under four years when I do make my kids submit on the outside. I’m well aware of the rebellious thoughts on the inside, and we deal with those thoughts, but I don’t think it follows that it is fleshly to make the child submit. It’s important not to equate outside compliance with inward spiritual fruit, I agree, but I don’t think the external must necessarily follow the internal. As my children get older, then Clarkson is really right– your children get to an age where you cannot force them to comply.
Clarkson’s discussion on parents’ desire for simple steps, a foolproof formula, is excellent. Some will disagree with his characterization of spankers as following a formula, but I can see a tendency of any mother to rely on a single parenting technique, including spanking. One mother’s formula is a spanking, another mother’s formula is time out. I do appreciate Clarkson’s desire for parents to consider the bigger picture of discipline (i.e., there’s more to discipline than spanking).
The alternative, “discipline by faith,” is summed up here: “[God] wanted us to depend on Him– on the power of His Spirit and the wisdom of His Word– rather than on formulas, experts, or our parenting skills.” Easier said than done, of course. Key to accomplishing this is understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
What God is doing in you will change your children’s lives, but what you do as a parent whose heart belongs to God will also change your life. God, through the Holy Spirit, is not only working through you, but in you as you live for Him at home…. As you become more like Christ, your children should be the first to be touched by that change (p.66).
To many Christians [walking in the Spirit] sounds mystical. How do you know when you’re walking in the Spirit? It’s not that hard, really. First, be sure you’ve confessed any known sins. Your heart has to be right with God. Second, saturate your life with the Word of God. The Holy Spirit speaks to your heart mostly with the words of Scripture. Third, talk to God by letting prayer become a part of your thought processes all day long. Finally don’t live in fear of displeasing God, but live in faith that pleases Him (p. 67).
Those thoughts are enough to keep me thinking for a long time.
Click here for Part 3