I hope this title doesn’t make me sound like a monster, but interestingly enough it is actually biblical: “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.” Proverbs 23:13, NAS95. Now, neither the Bible nor I are are suggesting a torture chamber for your kids. What I mean is the “torture” of work, struggle, failure, loss, getting punished, “doing without”, waiting, saving rather than spending, starting at the bottom and working your way up, living with consequences of your deeds, and sweat — just to name a few.
And for anyone who has teens or an remember being a teen, you know how these things an create groans, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth that sound like they might be coming out of a torture chamber — all in hopes that you’ll rescue them from these unfair tortures. Sometimes these dramatics work quite effectively on parents — the results are usually more or less like the out-of-control children you might see on “Super Nanny” (if you can stand to watch that program).
But some parents don’t have to be “persuaded”. Some will “protect” their children from suffering, because they want their children to have it better than they did. They’d like to put them in a protective bubble to shield them from the bumps and bruises of life. Sadly, the results are often very fragile and dysfunctional adults with grave “entitlement” issues. While one of the functions of good parenting is to protect one’s children from harm; our children, especially our teens, don’t really need to be protected from everything.
In both cases — the permissive parenting style and the protective parenting style — the truth remains that they “…will not die”, when they are allowed to endure such discipline. In fact, they will thrive. To do otherwise is to create “enabled” adults bereft of: strength for handling the vicissitudes of life, good judgment, responsibility, the ability to improve themselves, self-control, the virtue of thrift, and many other important life skills.
When I was in junior high, I mowed lawns in the hot Corpus Christi summers for spending money. I had managed to save a whole $12 dollars, a fortune to me; and as I entered the 9th grade I wanted to carry the money in my wallet. My parents warned me, but I couldn’t be persuaded, because I was sure that I knew what I was doing. A couple of days later my wallet was stolen out of my gym locker. My parents didn’t replace the money; how insensitive! It was a $12, hard-learned lesson about the lack of honesty in the world that I never forgot.
This is the very way, God deals with us. We often groan toward Heaven about our plight in life, but God is just being a good Father. Sometimes He lets us work rather than just providing what we want, He lets us suffer the consequences of our foolishness rather than protecting us the way we’d like, or He lets us struggle for answers rather than just giving us the quick one. Sometimes He lets us grow in wisdom, in strength, in insight, in skills, in patience — letting us suffer a little, while we learn a lot.
Don’t rob your children of what they need; let them suffer a little and learn a lot.