Anthony Selvaggio. A Proverbs Driven Life: Timeless Wisdom for Your Words, Work, Wealth, and Relationships, "Chapter 12, Still Sinners, A Parents' Need for the Grace of God." (Shepherd Press, 2008) In Proverbs, "discipline" means education and training in a broad sense. Moreover, Proverbs does not prescribe one single method of discipline but an array of methods (179-80). In his second chapter on parenting, Selvaggio looks at two broad categories--verbal discipline and corporal discipline:
Speak the Truth in Love: Verbal Discipline
While corporal discipline can be justified in the book of Proverbs, the overwhelming biblical emphasis is on training children by speaking to them. "In fact, Proverbs teaches that parents should seek to become so effective at verbal discipline that corporal discipline eventually becomes unnecessary" (180). Verbal discipline involves encouragements and warnings.
Encourage Good Behavior
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. Proverbs 4:7-8
A primary method of discipline throughout Scripture is verbal encouragement that explains to children the benefits of pursuing what is good. Parents should express verbal incentives in language that a particular child can understand. In Proverbs 4, the father calls on his adolescent son, who is obviously interested in the opposite sex, "to embrace wisdom as he would a beautiful and godly wife, urging him to see that this will bring him honor in the community" (181). Effective parents tailor incentives to the unique interests and desires of their particular children.
Discourage Bad Behavior
My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. Proverbs 1:10
The wise man also takes time to explain the consequences of disobedience. "Verbal discouragement of bad behavior involves both warning and explanation, exposing the sin for what it is... A boy of seven playing with matches should be told not to do so, but he must also be shown the destruction that can result. A girl of thirteen flirting with pre-marital sex should be told to stop, but she should also be informed about the painful consequences of sexually transmitted diseases, the burdens of teenage pregnancy, and the benefits of abstinence prior to marriage that would be forfeited" (184).
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Proverbs 27:5
"The words of discipline we speak to our children need to be clear, true, and loving. Those words that encourage godly behavior must be full of the joy and promise of God's blessing. Those words that discourage sinful behavior must seek to warn and persuade in no uncertain terms, for there is much at stake" (185).
Corporal discipline is the second biblical method within a parent's disposal. "Normally discipline should begin with verbal correction, and often that is enough. But especially when children are younger, most parents will find it necessary on occasion, to couple verbal discipline with corporal discipline" (186).
Selvaggio points out two important differences between verbal and corporal discipline. First, corporal discipline is always corrective. Parents should apply corporal punishment only "in response to a specific instance of sin or foolishness" (186). Corporal discipline is intended to prevent future sin, but it is only to be used in response to past sin (189). Second, each instance of corporal discipline must be combined with verbal instruction "so that the child understands as clearly as possible why the corporal discipline is being applied" (186).
According to Proverbs, corporal discipline is reserved only for the obstinate. "Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is found on the back of him who lacks judgment" (Proverbs 10:13). "Children who will not receive verbal correction must receive a different, more direct, form of correction" (188). For the obstinate, "the rod of correction imparts wisdom" (Proverbs 29:15), but the punishment must fit the crime. As the apostle warns, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Parents must never discipline their children out of frustration and anger. They should guard their hearts against desires to maintain their own righteousness or authority. Rather, "corporal discipline should always be motivated by love for the child and exercised in a spirit of self-control" (189). God did not intend the rod for retribution or pure punishment but as a corrective and restorative measure.
When we consider how God the Father disciplines us, this highlights the restorative nature of parental discipline. God disciplines us verbally. "Hear, O my people, and I will warn you--if you would but listen to me, O Israel!" (Psalm 81:8). And he disciplines his children corporally. "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in" (Proverbs 3:11-12). God uses pain and suffering to correct and discipline us--to restore us and help us to grow. God disciplines us corporally "because we are his children, and therefore he loves us like a father, extends mercy to us, and desires what is best for us--even when what is best is not what is most pleasant" (193).