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Rearing Children

By the late Gardner S. Hall

We do not have a great deal of specific teaching on this subject in the Bible. So much of what I will suggest is in the area of human judgment. However, I trust that age, experience and many years of observation qualifies me to make some helpful suggestions.

1. Teach the children submission to authority. Children are taught to obey their parents. (Eph. 6:1-3; Col. 3:20). However, they need to be taught to obey. And, the first step in this teaching is to impress upon them the lesson of respect for authority. Whoever has charge of them in infancy and childhood must teach them this. This should be parents if they are living.

2. Begin this training early. It can and should be taught during the first few months of life. I once saw a child about six months old reach for some object he would have destroyed if he had gotten hold of it. His father said, "No, no." The child continued to reach and even placed his hand on the object. His father gave his hand a firm spank. He cried for a moment, then reached again. He received a harder spank and that was followed by louder crying; but he reached still again. He seemed determined to get that thing. The reaching, spanking, crying and repeating No, kept up till the baby no longer tried to get the object. I am aware that the father would be criticized by most child psychologists. But I believe he was right. He did not bruise the child but he helped him realize who had authority. I had opportunity to observe the growth and maturity of that baby and he has always been a very obedient child. He never argued with his parents when they made a decision they thought was wise for him.

3. Submission by firmness and perseverance. I have already indicated something of how this lesson of submission must be taught. It must be done by firmness and perseverance. If that father had allowed his child to destroy that object, or even if he had simply moved him away, I believe he would have lost an important battle in the war against rebellion. We should not be too hasty to prohibit what a child is doing. If it is something that is harmless we should not stop him simply because it gets on our nerves a little. But when a thing is wrong or harmful and we issue a command to stop it we should see that he does stop. Once I was visiting a home during a meeting. After dinner the family and their guests were on the front porch. Suddenly the father yelled out to his eight or nine year old son, "Boy, I said stop eating them green pears!" Later in a very loud, stern voice, "Boy, if you don't stop eating them green pears I'm coming out there and kill you alive!" But his boy had heard such threats before and he knew it was thunder with no lightning. So he did not obey and there was no punishment. Some ten years later I visited that town again for a meeting and that boy was in prison. I was not surprised. When a child does not learn to respect the authority he knows, he will be a problem in school, in church, and in society. He will make the kind that will drink, take dope, defy the law in his way of life, kill by his reckless driving. I just heard today of the drunk boy who in company with girls plowed into a crowd of people who had assembled to worship Elvis Presley. Two were killed. He would not have been that kind if he had learned submission to authority.

Many years ago I baptized a couple in a meeting a few miles from my home. Later I decided to visit the family. No one was there but the mother and a five year old son. We sat on the front porch and talked. The boy wanted attention, so he threw a drink bottle on the concrete walk with considerable force. The mother tried to ignore him but as he threw it with greater force she commanded him to stop. He did not, so she gave louder commands and he threw harder. Finally she made a dash for him and he ran across the busy highway. While he was on the other side several cars passed at high speed. She was frightened and was warning him not to run in front of one. She then escorted him back and he received no punishment. I moved from that area but was invited back to that church for a meeting after a few years. The brethren told me what a problem the boy was in school and that they finally sent him home because they could not manage him.

I hear people say, "You don't tell a sixteen year old boy what to do." I say you do if you have taught him the lesson of submission to authority. He will obey and you will not have to shout or threaten. There is a time and a place for gentleness and sweet talk. But there is also a time for firmness, sternness, and no compromise. What I have written thus far can be supported by a number of passages that teach discipline of our children. "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." (Proverbs 19:18). "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." (Proverbs 29:15). "Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yeah, he shall give delight unto thy soul."... (Proverbs 29:17). One of the best women I ever knew was too sweet to administer effective discipline.

We have emphasized the need of teaching children submission to authority. Still more needs to be said. This very day as I drove my car in a city I waited for a traffic light to turn in my favor. It turned; but as I was moving into the intersection a young man driving a panel truck ran the red light. A boy on the other side looked at me and gave a smart aleck grin. At another intersection I pulled up beside him and the driver looked around at me with a mocking face and shouted some words which I did not understand. Thus, he defied the law and showed an attitude described in Proverbs 30:13. "There is a generation O how lofty their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up." This describes the conceited, wise guy attitude we see in many young people. This boy could have been a very different kind. Proper teaching and Christian training would have made him different. I can well imagine the kind of home he came from. I know numbers of young men and women who respect the law when they drive and who show respect to other drivers.

A few years ago we read of burning and looting in large cities. In 1977 I hear young people say bitter things about their schools' dress code. They declare vehemently that they have no right to tell us what kind of clothes we must wear and how long our hair must be. In a northern college the students undertook to block the building of a gymnasium; so instead of the college officials running the college, a handful of rebellious students would take over its operation. Rebellion is about to destroy our country. A few years ago many young men defied the government by burning their draft cards. The first one to have done such a thing forty years ago would have advised all the others not to try it after Uncle Sam got through with him. I believe Christians should not fight in war, or otherwise, but they should show respect for constituted authority. (Romans 13:1-7).

What is the explanation for our present state of society? Answer: Failure of homes to exercise firm discipline and teach respect for authority. It must be done in the home, for it must be begun long before the child comes under the influence of any other institution. They need the lessons before they are old enough to go to school; besides, most teachers lack the wisdom and grasp of what constitutes true Christian character and morality. Furthermore, if a teacher understood such he (or she) would be restrained by permissive superiors and even by the courts. A child cannot be in a Bible class enough to learn all he should know; though a dedicated teacher may supplement the teaching of good parents. The responsibility rests solidly upon the shoulders of parents. If they fail, the children will suffer and society will suffer.

Between the ages of six and twelve my rearing was by a grandmother and an aunt. My father was away from home most of the time. Once when he returned they informed him that my conduct had been something of a problem. A few days later he took me by the hand and led me to a strip of woods near the house. He had made no threats, he had not raised his voice. He selected a long, slender blackgum sprout. Then he talked and shamed me for my conduct. Then the blackgum talked. Its voice was loud; it was heard by some people some distance away. I remember till this day how painful it was. There was more talk, then another dose of the blackgum. The silly modern psychologists, if they had been on hand, would have shamed him, maybe hauled him into court. But that experience definitely improved my conduct. That was the last whipping he ever administered to me. "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby." (Hebrews 12:11).

My father was wise in making that punishment severe and unforgettable. Some of the most ornery children I have ever seen were slapped, spanked, scolded and threatened just about the whole day, every day. One thorough job will accomplish more than a hundred impulsive slaps or spankings. The child may well get the idea that he is hated by parents who nag, scold and yell loud threats all day. But when, without such outbursts, a parent calmly talks to the child, appeals to his conscience and lets him know he is loved, a good sound whipping is effective. However, it is possible to wait till it is too late to administer such chastening. "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying." (Proverbs 19:18).

EDITOR’S NOTE: I highly commend the article above from the pen of the late Gardner S. Hall. This article appeared in THE BULLETIN of the West Madison Street church of Christ . Please read it in light of the scriptures cited and follow God’s teaching on this vital subject! Lord willing, there will be more articles written by this writer in issues to come!]

Email the Editor at markjward@yahoo.com