Child Abuse/Discipline

     In the world today there is much pain and suffering from all corners of the earth. Some happen openly for everyone to see, some are subtle, and others happen behind closed doors. Secrets left in the dark and skeletons in the closets that no one talks about, thinks about, nor want to even know about. It is unfortunate that some churches and Christian families have fallen into some of these habits. One of these many dark issues, and burdens on my heart, is child abuse.

     Believe it or not there are children that attend your churches, kids clubs, and may even be the child of a deacon that suffer from abuse. However, when I'm referring to child abuse I am not just referring to that of beating a child senseless, there are many forms of abuse and the Bible even mentions some of these forms of abuse. It is said that a child's habits are developed by the time they are six years old. During these years they learn, primarily, from their parents. Christian parents, mom or dad, I urge you to be careful and think before you act with your child. For if you don't, it could start a habit that turns into a downward spiral that ends in disaster.

     However, abuse is not discipline and discipline is not abuse. There is a huge difference between the two. The Bible makes this pretty clear. There is a balance and a difference between these things for in one way, we need to discipline and show our children "right vs. wrong". On the other hand though when does discipline and reproof turn into abuse? When is the line taken too far?

     Growing up both my parents experienced different forms of abuse. Each one affected them even to this day. My mom and dad are still disturbed and bothered by things they have experienced. This affected them in their parenting, and though they were striving to be good Christians, they made their share of mistakes with my siblings and myself. Although, this was much less severe than what they had experienced. The details are not important for I don't want to ruin anyone's testimony, but I assure you, we've had our share of heartaches. (like anyone else)

     My parents, remembering how they were brought up felt called by God to do something that few ever do: foster care. My parents wanted to help children that had homes similar if not worse than what they had grown up with. So while I was a child and all growing up we had child after child passing through our homes. Learning from them, talking to them, and getting to know one another. I almost feel like I've had over a dozen brothers and sisters from this. But during this time I heard so many stories from these children, and some of these kids will never be able to live a normal life. All because of abuse.

     What's my point? Abuse and neglect affect people for generations and there are thousands of victims to this. So first I would like to talk about discipline.

     The Bible says many things about disciplining your child. So let me ask, "Is spanking (physical punishment) against God? Should Christians spank their children?"

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Proverbs 23:13-14 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.

     Okay, so it's obvious that the Bible does tell us that we can physically discipline our children. Now I need to talk about the wording here. This is not giving us permission to beat our children (in the way we know) this is simply and only referring to a corrective "spanking" if you will. Causing damage to a child's body is not acceptable. The Bible makes that clear in verses like:

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

     The Bible tells us clearly to discipline our child by physical means! Nothing is wrong with this method. However, I'm pretty sure if you think it's cruel getting beaten with a rod, belt, paddle etc. to the point where it leaves bruises, scrapes, long periods of soreness, etc. That this would go under the "wrath" category. Let me ask you: do you want your children to be provoked to wrath? Violence? As the phrase says "violence begets violence." Notice in Col. 3:21 it mentions "lest they be discouraged". Let me give you a logical breakdown here. When discipline turns to wrath (abuse) its creates anger, which boils into frustration, which results in rebellion. Believe me, I know. I have seen and experienced this. Do not provoke your children in such ways with violence.

"Often times Christians want to emphasize children are to obey their parents"

Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.

      Parents have taken these verses way too far and have allowed themselves often times to get a "god-complex". They think everything they do is right just because they are the child's parent. This however is incorrect. For the next verse puts parents back in their place by stating "provoke not your children to wrath." It is true that children should obey/honor their parents. But parents are not a "god-like" being that whatever they say is right. Admit it, we adults are just a faulty as our children for we are all sinners. If you don't believe me, read about Jonathon and Saul. Jonathon had to defy Saul (his king and father) to save David (God's will)

      Parents are the example for children and God the Father is the example for parents! In Luke 15:11-32 is the story of the prodigal son. In that parable we see Christ loving His child and accepting Him with open arms and a feast. The father didn't beat his child! He loved his son! That is a beautiful picture of not only our Lord, but how parents should be with their children. We see many times that God also chastens and disciplines His people, but with a balance of mercy and justice. Parents, I urge you to look to God as an example of parenting! Notice how he deals with us! (We are all the worse children a father could ask for) This should remind us all the time to have a merciful spirit to our children.

Okay, so with the verses that have been mentioned I am going to lay down some principles

     We are to discipline our children that way they can be raised correctly, but we are not to provoke them. Treat them worse than they deserve. Generally, as a child gets older the need for physical discipline is decreased. For as a child grows older a paddle will just become more and more infuriating/frustrating as oppose to correcting. There must be a balance. The verses suggest starting when the child is young and as they grow older they will stay true to what they have been taught.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

     I want to break down the three major parts of abuse I have seen. Keep in mind each of these can have different affects on different people. Also, it's easy to combine these and do all of them at the same time. Parents: be cautious. That is a life in your hands and however you raise will see the fruits of your labor.

1. Physical

2. Emotional
3. Spiritual.

Physical Abuse

     This one is pretty straight forward. Physical abuse can be getting beaten, physically neglected(like denying your child a meal as punishment), and even sexual abuse. All these are forms of physical abuse. Each one can have severe side effects. Please, be sure to avoid these at all costs. Generally speaking, boys will become angry, physically defensive, and more apt to lash out or even strike back. Whereas girls will tend to become shut down and struggle with depression.

(I will not be dealing with sexual abuse here. We are talking about issues that might be debated in the Bible or Christian circles. Sexual abuse is obviously wrong and perverse and will not be discussed in detail as of right now)

     It is important to discipline our children with a spanking as they are young, but it has been proven (and I have witnessed it) as a child gets older, it is less and less necessary to use physical discipline. As a child reaches adolescence spankings will just create anger, humility, depression, and frustration in their heart. I have witnessed this happen to many teenagers. Some will never step foot in their parent's house again.

     When I was at Fairhaven (for only one semester mind you) They would even spank their seventeen year olds after school after earning a certain amount of demerits. As I was working in the youth ministry, many of these young adults had angry rebellious hearts. NO WONDER! Their spiritual leaders were forcing them into submission with physical force. Teenagers are not much different than adults. The last thing an adult would tolerate is a wooden paddle on the butt...well teenagers are just young adults...they will not appreciate it either. In fact, one kid got kicked out of the academy when he was sixteen because he refused to be "reprimanded". Witnessing this planted it deeper into my heart that corporal punishment must be regulated. If you do not regulate it, you will reap what you have sown.

     Most of these children left with bitterness in their hearts and the girls struggled with depression issues. It was sad and appalling to me that even young children in the academy were showing signs of this. That is because the physical "discipline" the "rod" was being used in excess not moderation. Not with wisdom. Only a cold line drawn. As mentioned before: use God as your primary example!

     It amazes me to this day how my nephew responds to discipline. My sister will tell him "no" or correct him in some way. If he doesn't listen she will, if needed, discipline her child. I about dropped to the floor when I saw my sister talking to him about "what he did wrong, and why she was punishing him". She would then give him his due, and he would cry and instead of running away from her, like most children do, he ran to her giving Melinda a hug. It blew my mind, and still does today. Melinda always reminds him that she loves him, and explains why. He now has accepted that mommy and daddy love him and he goes to her with a tender heart realizing his wrong doing. Incredible! Could it be, that instead of always spanking your children coldly, that a little bit of love and an explanation can make a difference from rebellion to obedience?

     Parents, spanking is not always the answer. Let the punishment fit the crime. So many Christians run straight to the whole "I'm gonna beat the devil out if him" mentality. Instead of teach, admonishing, and encouraging the child all while disciplining them. Discipline is a form of love (Prov. 13:24). Not of anger, hatred, or frustration. A child had better be able to sense your love and concern even while being disciplined. If not, you are, more than likely, doing something wrong.

Emotional Abuse

     This one is huge in a vast majority of homes. Also referred to as "verbal abuse". This is generally caused by name calling, (especially cussing/name calling) giving your child unrealistic expectations, comparing them to other people/children, and always putting your child down.

     As the Bible says, do not provoke your child to wrath. Saying such things cause anger, bitterness, and depression generally in kids. This is generally when children will "mouth back" or not say anything at all.

     This also occurs when a parents lashes out in pure anger, yelling, screaming, and/or name calling. It's one of the most immature things a parent can do. For it either hurts the child deeply, or makes you look like a fool. As a general rule: don't scream at your kids. It will not end well. Either he/she will become depressed/angry monsters. Or they will laugh at you and tell their friends that their parents "lost their mind" or is "crazy"! Always be in control of yourself and the situation. You are the parents, don't act like the kids. If you remain calm and controlled then you are setting a proper example of yourself and parenting. No matter how bad the child is, do not lash out.

      Even the "difficult child" needs to be treated the same way. Each child is different and will need to be handled differently, this is true. But if you lose it on one kid and not the others this will come off as "favoritism" and hurt the child even more. Consistency should be your policy! Always love and encourage your children verbally.

     Even when angry, it is best to walk away from your child instead of risking losing your temper and saying/doing something that you will regret. Emotional abuse is one of the most common forms of abuse and I have seen and counseled more children/teenagers due to this form of abuse more than any other type of abuse out there.

     I was in a video store recently and a kid knocked down an entire shelf of movies. The mom instantly turned around and started yelling at the kid, swearing at him, and calling him names that I won't even repeat. The kid just stood there, his head hanging low as she made a scene embarrassing the little boy. One of the moments that a parent acted far worse than the child, expecting her child to act better than even she does.

     My old youth Pastor's wife, and my professor in college both told me this "What you do in moderation your followers will do in excess" well, that's doing something in "moderation". Can you imagine what your child will become if you behave like that mother "liberally"? Parents, remember these words.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Spiritual Abuse

     This form of abuse is, unfortunately, very common in Christian homes. So what is spiritual abuse? This type of abuse occurs when the Bible/God is used as an excuse to mistreat a person. Or giving them unrealistic expectations and using the Bible as your excuse to do so. Also, this can be caused by making your child live by a strict "code of conduct" and saying "it's more honorable to the Lord" and constantly "shoving" these things down a child's throat. This can result in anger, bitterness, and frustration, not just toward the parents, but toward God.

     Very few children that grow up in the churches continue to go to church afterwards. In fact, over 80% of church going children will stop attending churches as adults, and around 45% will stop believing in God altogether. When asked why, generally speaking, these people will describe their childhood as one that had strict rules, ridiculous standards to live by, and a constant "Bible beating".

     For example: Recently I wrote about Skirts Vs. Pants (check out side bar for my other topics) I have heard, many times, of a girl who was required by her parents to wear skirts. When the girl grew older she didn't see why she was required to wear them and decided to start wearing pants too. Then her parents told her she was "sinning" and in "rebellion of her parents" and "rebelling against God" wearing pants. This is spiritual abuse. Using your thoughts of the Bible or proper Christian conduct as an avenue to mistreat your children! Mistreating your child, or any person, and using the Bible to do so is frankly unacceptable. Don't use Jesus Christ, Lord of all, as your excuse to mistreat anyone or put them down. This does not honor the Lord.

     However, this usually is not an intentional abuse by parents. In fact, they attend church and generally have a good relationship with God! Then when their children are older they wonder "What did we do wrong?". Usually, these parents will say things like "We tried to instill good habits into our children!" or "We always had them memorize scripture! It was part of their daily routine!"

     Parents, let me tell you this right now and true (brace yourselves) the Bible doesn't tell us to teach our children habits or routines. It teaches us to create a desire! We must equip and emphasize a desire to do that which is good. Equip them with the tools to live a godly life. Otherwise the habits and routine turn into "fluff". Habits can be broken, routines can be changed, but a desire is insatiable.

     Most Christian parents will agree with me on that point. But here's the thing, are you living it? So often parents put a wall of rules and regulations to protect their children. Problem is, many of these rules hurt children more than help them. If a child is kept from the "influences of the world" how is the child supposed to be prepared for the world? How is a child supposed to be able to judge character correctly? Know how to deal with difficult people, swearing, sexual jokes, or even witness to people? I have seen kids who have been "protected" by their parents be released into the world and it seems either one of two things happen (generally speaking) The child shuts down, overloaded (and sometimes never leaves the comfort of home or family) or the exact opposite sets in. Being unprepared and inexperienced from a young age forward, the child loses control and drowns in the worlds chaos and sin. I have seen that pattern probably about a hundred times now in front of my very eyes.

We are to be in the world...not of the world. (John 15:19, John 17:16)

     Don't misunderstand me here, rules are important, and we should try to protect our children. But not shelter our children. God told us to be separate from the world, not to run from it. So what if we trained our children properly? What if we equipped them?

One of my favorite teachers at Crown College gave me this illustration.

"If there was a mob of people outside trying to break into this room to kill you, and we had only one gun. If I told you to get behind me, as I stood defending you with the gun; would you fight for yourself more so? Or what if I put the gun in your hand and said 'defend yourself'? Which do you think would be the best way to get you to fight?" - Mike Fox

      This is a perfect example for what I'm talking about. Don't just sit there and try to "Protect your kids from all things in the world" but instead equip them to protect themselves. Give the truth of the Bible. With every rule show them from the Bible why you say that. Show them truth and allow them to make some decisions on their own, or be able to choose some of their own standards. A lot of times parents too often try to "micro manage" a child's life. Don't fall into that trap. It will (generally) hurt your child's decision making skills, or turn them angry and bitter for "holding them back".

Psalm 127 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

     This passage I have heard applied on a physical level. Talking about children being our "heritage" our "legacy" if you will. That happy is the man that has many children. But let me share the notes I have in my Bible. Please follow along in your own Bible. Each part of the commentary below is marked with it's corresponding verse:

"Children are God's gift! They are arrows! Have you equipped your children to be God's arrows? Solomon, David's son, was the heir to the throne. Solomon was David's heritage".

(Vs. 1) The Lord must build the church and the home. It's vain otherwise. What good is a house or church if God is not in it? The result would be vanity

(Vs. 2) These things would be vanity.(2 Samuel 7:26-29, Joshua 24:15) a father and a house must serve God and be built on Him. (

Vs. 3) The Heritage that is being spoken here is not a blood heritage, but a heritage of faith. What good is a blood heritage that is not rooted in faith? (Vanity)

(Vs. 4) Children are as arrows. Arrows are sharp, straight, and accurate. what are your children? Build them and equip them to be arrows in the hand of a mighty man (Pastors, ministers, or even God)

(Vs. 5) What will make you happy? Not vanity. but a faithful, goodly, heritage. Train and equip your children to protect the gate. Life's not about what we do, but what/who we leave behind.

     The idea here is that children are tools to be used of God, but we see what happens when a child is not raised correctly. (Look at the life of Solomon) Abusive and harsh situations will not result in your child being an arrow, but instead your child will fall into a vain life. Because he/she was not shown how to develop properly.

      One other, and more common form of spiritual abuse, is making someone contradict their own conscience. Many times parents will make their children do something that goes against that child's moral compass. Like forcing their child to lie to someone, admit to something they didn't actually do, force them not to be involved (or quit) a certain ministry. The list is pretty much endless here. Parents let me tell you this. DO NOT hurt a child's moral compass. If a child feels passionate about something (being honest to friends, ministry etc.) Do not, under any circumstances discourage this! It means your child is sensitive to that which is right, or called by God. It doesn't mean they want to disobey you!

      I have kept on the topic of spiritual abuse for a while and to be honest the list is far larger than the examples I have given. But I feel most Christian parents are aware of what physical abuse is and emotional abuse, but parents so often forget about spiritual abuse. You see, God can help anyone heal from physical and emotional abuse. If one experiences spiritual abuse, this can cause a resentment toward the things of God. Sometimes even a bitterness of God or a unbelief that He even exists. Parents, raise your child to have a desire and love for the Lord. Not to dread Him! God gives freedom and liberty! He also brings justice. Show your child both of these things. Prove to your children that "God is freedom and sin is a chain!" Because I promise you, the world (and their flesh) will tell them "Sin is freedom and God is a chain!". Children should look at God like their liberator, not their captor. Parents I urge you to be sure you are teaching, preparing, and equipping your children!

     The Pharisees would be considered "Spiritual Abusers" that for sure. Some other examples of spiritual abuse (or people using the things of God for unjust reasons) are found in Jeremiah 5:30-31 and Jeremiah 6:13-14.

      Now, I know that some will say "I don't have a kid so how can I understand?". Well, you're right, I am no parent. But I have seen many children come through my family's foster care ministry, I have worked in many kids clubs, and have attended two Bible colleges, and have had many friends and I have personally witnessed this behavior. All the things I have said have come from good Christian people that have raised many children and I have seen them grow and flourish. Certain patterns always give birth to certain results. I have seen it time and time again. Now, occasionally there is an "anomaly" and someone turns out different. Sometimes a person was raised right and through the use of free will, leaves what he has been taught. Other times, someone is raised wrong and comes out a better person than I could ever hope to become. I'm not saying this is always going to happen. I will say, a vast majority of people will be affected this way.

     In closing, I know that all these topics here deserve a book series on their own. I won't get into every shade of grey. For that is what the Lord is here for. Let Him guide you! Pray on how you will raise your children. Don't live in fear of the world, but of the joy in Christ! Ask yourself, "have you gone too far?" also ask yourself "Do I need to go a little further?". Deeply and thoroughly, examine yourself! Make sure that you are not doing any of these things: excessive spanking, beating, yelling, screaming, demeaning, cussing, or favoring. Certainly, do NOT use God or the Bible as your excuse for bad behavior or as a way to control your children's life. God's Word should be used in a way that liberates your children from sin!

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

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