15 ¶ Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
To some modernists, this verse is an example of abuse because they don’t love their children enough to correct them; leaving it up to the school, the church, or eventually the state. To some traditionalists, this verse and the two others further on in Proverbs are merely excuses to brutalize someone weaker than themselves. Of course, to some nazi in the Department of Children Services if you follow this they'll do what they can to take your child away from you and put them in a home where they can learn to drink alcohol, smoke cigs, watch porn on TV, be a fornicator, a gossip, a liar, and listen to trash on the radio, none which are abuse in their eyes.
Every parent knows that you don’t have to teach a child to do wrong. You have to teach a child to do right. This verse shows that God allows for physical discipline, noting that correction is not punishment. Physically punishing a child will create fear and an understanding that violence is okay if you have to use that to control a person. Physical discipline, which still hurts, is designed to show the child that there are painful consequences to bad behavior, and that such behavior is not acceptable. The idea is to get them to stop doing what they are doing. We all know children need boundaries and, in fact, crave them. We do them a great disservice when we don’t set boundaries.
That being said, for the Christian parent who uses physical correction, it must never be done when you’re angry. If you’re child has annoyed you or embarrassed you get over it. Any physical discipline must only be done for the benefit of correction, not to satisfy your own carnal desire to get revenge on the child for doing something that embarrassed you or annoyed you, which is what that quick jerk ‘em up by the arm and wale ‘em on the backside, is most often about.
There are certain common sense prohibitions that we should be aware of. There are two things in particular I’ll argue with you on all day. One, never spank an infant. We don’t baptize infants because they don’t know what’s being done to them and we shouldn’t spank a baby because they do not understand. Until a child is old enough to understand correction there are other ways to handle a baby, like not giving into their every cry so you don’t train them that crying is the way to get attention. Another thing is that you should not spank a young person after they’ve reached adolescence. I know you will disagree but the buttocks is a very personal place and no adult should take their hand to it. The famous preacher, John R. Rice, boasted about spanking his eighteen year old daughter on the night before her wedding. This is wickedness and just plain wrong.
But, what does it say in the part of the Bible written directly to Christians about their behavior? We’re still in the Proverbs, written under the Law, and I’ve been trying to make spiritual applications to the Christian without contradicting the doctrine given to Christians. Here are some verses that give a hint to what the Christian attitude toward child rearing is supposed to be but we usually go back to the Law because it can be satisfying to the flesh.
Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
There are several things of note in these verses but most importantly is that the Christian parent is to raise their child in the NURTURE and ADMONITION of the Lord and to not do things so as to DISCOURAGE them.
If you choose to use physical correction on your child you should not only not do it when you are angry but you should explain why it was done and that it was because you loved them and want to teach them. But remember, the person who refuses to correct their child is just as unloving as the person who brutally beats them. With nurture and admonition of the Lord, through daily family prayer and devotions, with Bible reading, with Christ preeminent in the home, not as some sort of excuse to instill fear and loathing in the children but as a joy and a beacon of light, perhaps you’ll have to correct them less. Physical correction without God’s love is abuse. Period. Proverbs will have more to say about correcting children.