There is one “punishment” Scripture that has always stood out to me among the several that are usually quoted—that is Proverbs 19:18: “Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise, you will ruin their lives” (NLT).
Two things stand out to me about this New Living Translation version passage:
1. There is a window of time to discipline our children that we can actually miss if we are not careful.
2. We can “ruin” our children’s lives if we do not discipline them.
Now, obviously, I can take these verses to extreme—I mean, what is the window? Is it fluid, based on each child or is it constant—and we need to be sure to stay on top of it? Am I one month too late, so my child’s future is sealed with disaster?
Is there no hope at all if I do not discipline---I mean, what about the sovereignty of God, what about free will, what about other influences, what about grace?
Obviously, these are proverbs for living—and our children are not absolutely doomed if we do not discipline them. (And we all make mistakes in our parenting.) However, this verse has always spoken to my heart that God wants me to do my part in child training of our young children—and to do it in a timely manner. And Proverbs are generally a glimpse into something bigger that we need to apply in our lives.
Society bears this verse out—as does research. Society says, “Get them while they’re young”; “this age or that age is the tenderest age.” In our heart of hearts, we know that children are impressionable. We know they are like sponges in their early years. We know that so many habits and behaviors are formed in the early years.
And research bears this out. So many studies have shown over and over again how much learning takes place in the early years of a child’s life. Various studies show signs of this—that 80% of everything a person knows is learned by age five; that a child’s moral compass is set by a certain age (for the most part); and on and on.
As is usually true, the Bible declared it first—then society and research confirms it (not that it needs confirmed!). I know in our parenting we have held this verse in high regard and tried to apply it to the early discipline of our children—with positive results.
By the way, the King James version of this Scripture is also born out in our children: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (KJV). Moms, especially, are prone to give in to a child’s crying and fussing—and Solomon even addressed this problem! Smile…