Before Tripp ever gets into the meat of this chapter, he shares an observation that I found very profound, “All earthly punishment presupposes the great day when destinies are eternally fixed.” I had never really thought about parenting in that light before.
Tripp begins the discussion of “The Rod” with a look at the current societal view of it. Of course, he touches on the fact that the rod, as discipline, is no longer a fashionable idea, and many people in today’s society view this biblical form of punishment as child abuse. Tripp observes, “I fear the majority reaction against spanking is a matter of fashion or style. The world of ideas is continually in flux. Ideas have their periods of popularity and unpopularity.”
Tripp looks first at the “Rationale Behind the Rod.” As he explains, if children were born morally neutral, there would be no need for the rod. They would not need correction, only direction. They would need instruction rather than discipline. The fact of the matter though is that kids are not born morally neutral. In Tripp’s words, “The child’s problem is not an information deficit. His problem in that he is a sinner.”
Proverbs 22:15 says:
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
However, Tripp is quick to remind parents that folly is not childishness. The rod is not meant for childish behavior. The spanking process is meant to drive folly from the hearts of our children. Tripp reminds us that the Bible is clear about what is at stake in Proverbs 23:14:
If you strike him with the rod,
you will save his soul from Sheol.
Biblical use of the rod as discipline rescues our kids from death. As parents, we use the rod out of love to rescue our kids from the dangerous state of living outside the will of God. To do this, we use the remedy prescribed by our holy and loving God.
The rod is used to help the child to fear God and acquire wisdom. The rod provide a concrete example to the child of the foolishness of rebellion. As Tripp explains, “Properly administered discipline humbles the heart of the child, making him subject to parental instruction.” The rod helps the child to learn to submit to authority. As parents, God does not leave us a choice. There are other options for discipline in addition to the rod, but God mandates the use of the rod in his word.
Next Tripp defines what the rod is:
- It is a parental exercise (to be administered only by a parent).
- It is an act of faith. As parents, it shows our confidence in God’s word.
- It is an act of faithfulness showing love and commitment to the child.
- It is a responsibility. Tripp puts it in a new light - “It is not the parent determining to punish. It is the parent determining to obey.”
- It is a physical punishment.
Tripp also addresses a number of what he calls “Distortions of the Rod.” These are concepts of spanking which have, in part, led to the societal distaste for the punishment:
- The Rod is not the right to unbridled temper.
- It is not the right to hit our kids whenever we want.
- It is not for the venting of frustration.
- It is not retributive.
- It should not be associated with vindictive anger.
Now that he has looked at what the rod is, and what it is not, Tripp addresses some of the common objections he gets when he presents this material to parents. Let’s have a quick look at each objection and Tripp’s response:
I love my children too much to spank them
This is a selfish motivation. Tripp explains that the one who benefits from using this excuse is the parent who avoids the discomfort of spanking. The most loving thing to do is spank our kids when it is called for. Consider the truth of Proverbs 13:24:
Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
I’m afraid I will hurt my child
Tripp reminds the reader that what we are talking about biblically based discipline. By definition, it will never physically harm the child.
I’m afraid it will make him rebellious and angry
Tripp falls back on Proverbs 29:17:
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest;
he will give delight to your heart.
The Bible tells us that, far from rebellion and anger, the rod will lead to peace and delight.
I’m afraid of teaching them to hit
Tripp clarifies this issue by pointing out that hitting in response to frustration is only taught when the parent spanks out of anger.
It doesn’t work
Rather than spanking itself not working, Tripp points to four circumstances he has observed that lead to spanking being ineffective:
- When it is done in anger
- When it is inconsistent
- When there is failure to persist on the part of the parents
- When there is failure to make certain that the spanking has been effective
I’m afraid of being arrested for child abuse
The first thing Tripp points out is that spanking kids is not illegal. However, in a society which doesn’t understand the Bible and equates spanking with child abuse, the best course of action is to administer this punishment in the privacy of your own home.
In the next section of this chapter, Tripp looks at the “fruit of the rod.” These include:
- Teaching kids outcomes to behavior.
- Consistent use helps kids to develop a harvest mentality (you reap what you sow).
- It shows God’s authority over the parents as an example of submission to authority.
- It demonstrates parental love and commitment to the child.
- It results in peace and righteousness.
- It gives children the security of discipline.
- It return the child to the place of blessing.
- It promotes openness and closeness between children and parents.
Finally, Tripp cautions against focusing too much on either the rod or communication to the exclusion of the other. He says, “If you focus exclusively on either the rod or communication, you will be like a ship with all the cargo loaded on one side.” Communication and the rod are designed to work together. While the rod maintains biblically based parental authority, communication prohibits “cold, tyrannical discipline.” Tripp concludes, “Authoritarian parents tend to lack kindness. Permissive parents tend to lack firmness. Asses which distortion of biblical training you would tend toward. Strive for greater balance.”
Two things strike me about this chapter:
- Disciplining our kids is not choosing to punish as a parent, it is choosing to obey. It is choosing to obey the God who saves us. Thinking of parenting, and discipline in that perspective put it in a whole new light.
- The second thing that struck me were Tripp’s comments on assessing whether you tend more towards the rod or communication in dealing with our kids. in my marriage, my wife and I are on opposite ends of this spectrum. Left to itself, this could cause all kids of problems both in parenting and in our marriage. However, when we admit our weakness, we can counter-balance one another and work together in raising our kids as we work to find balance in individual approach.