Punishment or blessing it doesn’t matter – Here is why and what’s more efficient.
I will start with the quote Samuel Martin closed his chapter with. Dr. Randall Heskett of the Toronto school of Theology said: “Punishment must never be equated with discipline. True discipline teaches children how to live lives that are rich and full. Training and instruction should be our aim, not punishment.”
When I read the second Appendix of Samuel Martin’s book “Thy Rod and Thy Staff, they comfort me” I got some insights I would like to share with you. I took two main points out of it. His point in the end of the chapter is:
“Not only does punishment not work to bring about righteous behaviour, but also blessings and miracles do not bring about righteous behaviour either.”
Think about your life and about the life of your children. Can you relate?
I could! Here I will explain why and how Samuel Martin arrived to that conclusion, discussing biblical examples of how people “learned” out of punishment or blessings from God:
Out of the many examples he quoted, I will take two:
- The children of Israel and when they left Egypt
The children of Israel did experience God in amazing ways, in the process of being able to leave the state of slavery in Egypt. They saw the ten plagues the Egyptian people suffered, the parted waters where the whole army of the Pharaoh died in, (Ex.2-14) they heard God’s voice at the mount Sinai … and “there the people answered with one voice, and said, all the words which the Lord has said we will do”.(Ex.24.3)
Sounds as if they really took the lessons of this punishment and judgment of Egypt to heart? Or did they? As a matter of fact, no, the people rebelled from God ten different times within the first year of leaving Egypt!(Numbers 14:22)
- The King Solomon, one of the most blessed figures in the Bible.He was given “wisdom and largeness of heart, like the sand that is on the seashore. 1.King 4.29 God gave Solomon peace, unimaginable wealth, abundant food, prestige, a long life and miraculous confirmations of God’s presence in his life”Now how did Solomon respond to these immense blessings? One would think that he would have been one of the most righteous, God fearing holy men who ever lived.
But however, this was not the case at all. Solomon, after seeing all these blessings, wealth, happiness, bounty, peace and wisdom “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David, his father.”1.King 11.4
There are many more examples the author is referring to. Examples of people who experienced God’s punishment. Others who experienced God’s blessings. People were blessed or punished, but what they experienced made little difference in how they reacted.
The author points out: What we see here is a pattern. The pattern is this: God tells man not to do something. Man proceeds to break God’s law and commit sin, God forgives and man is restored into unity with God. As we just saw with the King Solomon it is not only the case that man does not respond to punishment to build righteousness and character, he does not respond to blessings either.
How was I relating to that? I thought about what values we want to implement in our children: no lying and stealing, but also honoring and respecting others, sharing, being able to say “I am sorry” etc. I can force one of these values upon my kids by demanding it from them, and punishing them if they don’t follow it. I don’t know your kids, but mine would learn what I want from them, and depending on their personalities they would try to oblige or rebel against it and receive the punishment . Another method would be to give them a “special blessing” (Going more often for a holiday, to the zoo, more Swiss chocolate or some presents) every time they do it right… they would do it for a while, simply to receive this special blessing and not because it was implemented in their hearts.
So what should I do if a child breaks my values, or does something it shouldn’t do?
- Samuel Martin takes John the Baptist as an example to follow (Luke 7.28):
He simply lived what he taught. People trusted him. He had no other agenda than the Lord’s. His teachings were extremely effective. People could observe him and his lifestyle. He had an authority people respected. They trusted him. They wanted to change their ways because they saw him doing the exact same thing he was telling them to do.
The point is, children learn by following examples, not by punishment or even blessings. They learn the same way we all do.
This is the same example we can give to our children. If I don’t want them to lie, I don’t lie and I highlight how I don’t lie. If I want them t trust in God, I trust in God and make sure they realize it.
I found that way of “discipline” the most powerful way to implement my values into their lives.
I remember well the day I was in a cafe with my four kids and about to change the stained pants of my 2 year old. The waitress came and asked me very harshly to not do that here, but rather outside the cafe. I was about to leave anyways and we left immediately…I felt ashamed, frustrated and upset, mostly at her way of talking to me, but I didn’t say much. My oldest asked me: she’s really stupid, isn’t she? I told him and all the kids: No, she is not. She works here, so she has the authority and the right to tell me to do that outside. I really feel frustrated because she was talking to me that way. I feel bad about it. But maybe she really had a bad day herself. In the car on the way home we continued the talk about how kids in kindergarten can behave in a rude way and how
they are not stupid because of that. We should never define people by what they do, but simply by who they are: loved and precious and unique in Gods eyes. I knew that this day I teached them – out of my example – about respecting and honouring people independent of their behaviour towards us and independent of how it makes us feel. And it felt so good that since that day I pray for more situations like that. Every time I get one, I jump wholeheartedly into it! Because, in my opinion, it’s the most effective, life and thought influencing way of raising kids.