I coached Little League baseball for over twenty years and enjoyed it very much. For me, it was about much more than just winning games, but influencing young people. Every week I produced a newsletter for them and at the masthead I had the statement, “Winning isn’t everything, but the effort to win is”. Coaches have had a great impact in my life and I wanted to do the same for other kids.
One day at practice I was hitting infield grounders to give the guys some reps and help them with their muscle memory in fielding and throwing. That means doing the same drill over and over. There was a young boy on the team, about ten years old, that was struggling with the correct mechanics of catching a ground ball. He just wasn’t getting it even after I had corrected him a number of times.
I stopped the drill and called out for him to come to me; the kids were at shortstop throwing to first and I was standing on the baseline right beside home plate. He came dragging up to me with his head down and I sensed God speaking to me, “Be gentle with him, he needs your affirmation more than negative words”.
As he approached I got down on one knee, eye level with him, and just before he was in front of me I began to lift my hand to put it on his shoulder and communicate that I wasn’t angry with him. When he saw me raise my hand he cowered and put his hands up in front of his face.
Here was a little boy that had been beaten by some authority in his life, probably one of his parents. I couldn’t prove it, but I believed it. He was conditioned to protect himself from being hit. I said, “Son, it’s alright. I’m not going to hurt you”. We talked for a few minutes and I sent him back to his place. My heart broke for him and he became a special project for me during that year. I made sure to lavish a lot of encouraging words his way and communicate kindness and patience.
The odds are that he will at some point become an angry man that, if left uncorrected, will produce angry children. What he had experienced wasn’t correction or discipline at all, but the result of a bully parent expressing their anger on a helpless, little boy.
We have an epidemic of parental abuse today and it has caused the pendulum to swing too far the other way. Rather than having discipline given in an atmosphere of concern, love and mercy many parents don’t correct their children at all. The most they might do is to fuss at them, thinking it will work. But it doesn’t. It only makes the parent frustrated.
Angry, abusive parents that slap their children and bully them do not remove the need for a child to be confronted and punished for wrong behavior. The Bible plainly teaches that we are to correct and discipline our children. In fact, it commands us to do so. Here is a sampling of Scriptures that show us the importance and necessity of disciplining our children.
“Withhold not correction from the child…” (Proverbs 23:13) If we fail to correct them we have disobeyed God. He designed the family and knows what will work to have a peaceful home.
“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying”. (Proverbs 19:18) There comes a time when it is too late for discipline.
“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes”. (Proverbs 13:24) The word “betimes” means “early in time”. I think this means early in their life and early in the offense. The earlier one begins to discipline a child, the less they will have to do so later on in their life – if it is done properly.
Again, the Bible unequivocally teaches that parents are to discipline their children. However, it also teaches us how we are to do so. In my opinion, most parents are passive in discipline. And I mean the vast majority. It only takes a trip to Wal-Mart to observe a frustrated mother that has no control over her seven year old for proof.
So, I am not at all saying discipline makes an angry child. Failure to discipline produces a rebellious, self-centered, narcissistic child. My father disciplined me early, often, and it wasn’t pleasant, but he never abused me. I thank God that he did spank me. The Bible says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” (Proverbs 29:15)
Biblical discipline isn’t nagging and making empty threats to correct behavior. That never works. Also, effective discipline isn’t random. It ought to fit the offense. The punishment must make the act of disobedience not worthwhile or it will be repeated again. However, discipline should never be given in anger or become severe and abusive. Never, ever.
The primary reason parents live on the extremes in disciplining their children (passive vs. abusive) is because it is a lot of work. It’s not easy to discipline effectively. It takes time and we must make sure our emotions are not causing us to react angrily rather than acting under control and with love and kindness.
Severe discipline is rigid and without compassion. Severe discipline is when it doesn’t make sense to the one receiving it. Severe discipline happens when it is given from a heart of anger rather than a broken heart.
God has delegated the authority and responsibility to discipline children to their parents. Discipline for wrongdoing teaches children the reality of justice and that they are accountable ultimately to God. Typically, fathers tend to be more stern and harsh in discipline than mothers, though there are exceptions.
There were several occasions when I told my children, “I can’t deal with you right now because I’m angry”. I knew that my angry spirit would destroy anything positive that could come out of the discipline. So I waited until my emotions had cooled down to talk to them and discipline them.
Albert Barnes, a gifted Bible teacher and writer of commentaries, wrote the following about the Scripture in Ephesians 6:4 – “…ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath…” (Ephesians 6:4). It is well worth reading as it pertains to angry, severe discipline. Here it is.
“…the very fact of anger in a parent kindles anger in (a child’s) bosom – just as it does when two men are contending. If (the child) submits in the case, it is only because the parent is the strongest, not because he is right…There is no principle of parental government more important than that a father should command his own temper when he inflicts punishment. He should punish a child not because he is angry, but because it is right; not because it has become a matter of personal contest, but because God requires that he should do it, and the welfare of the child demands it.
The moment when a child sees that a parent punishes him under the influence of anger, that moment the child will be likely to be angry, too…yet how often is punishment inflicted in this manner! And how often does the child feel that the parent punished him simply because he was the strongest, not because it was right. And how often is the mind of a child left with a strong conviction that wrong has been done him by the punishment which he has received, rather than with repentance for the wrong that he has himself done”.
Severe discipline produces angry children. There is a simple solution to this problem: never discipline your child when you are angry. It will not work and will bring lasting, negative consequences in their lives. The Bible says, “…the rod of his anger shall fail”. (Proverbs 22:8)
Yes, discipline is a part of parenting, a very important part. But we are never to give our children cause to be angry because of our anger – “… fathers, provoke not your children to wrath”. (Ephesians 6:4)
Curtis Hutson said, “You don’t reproduce what you want; you reproduce what you are”. That is never more true than in parenting. May we not reproduce angry children that will one day replicate the same way they have been parented.
I often wonder about that little boy that instinctively protected himself when all I was trying to do was to express my concern for him. He’s out of school now and perhaps even married. God knows I tried to be a positive influence in his life, but I know that a summer of baseball can’t overcome decades of angry discipline. I hope he has given his heart to Christ and discovered the power to forgive those that hurt him and a strength to not be angry with those around him. If not, he has a tough life ahead of him.