Monday, June 10, 2013

Just Wait Until Your Father Gets Home!

(Ed. note:  this post was originally written and published in June of 2011.)

These words heard by nearly every child born on this earth were intended to strike dread in them and the anticipation of a trip to the woodshed. They were perhaps some of the most remembered words uttered from my mother’s mouth.  But, Mom wasn’t short of her own switches.   She was quite capable of doling out immediate punishment if the need arose.

In fact, there was a time when part of the punishment consisted of Mom making us go out to the backyard and cut our own thin branch from a tree.  You know the kind.  They were smaller than the diameter of a pencil, about two feet long, and made a high pitched buzz as they came whizzing through the air towards your backside.   Mom would place it on top of the refrigerator where it was handy and a constant reminder that her eye was on us. My sister once took it upon herself to remove it and break it into pieces while Mom wasn’t looking.  Her efforts to dispose of it brought further wrath and she was promptly marched to the backyard and told to cut another one.  We quickly learned that Mom’s supply of switches was endless.

However, Dad’s preferred choice to mete out discipline for extremely bad behavior was his belt.   It never came off his waist unless the offense was a serious one and a life lesson was in order.  A quick slap on a bare behind ultimately got our attention and prevented us from repeating our mistake.  But the sound of Dad marching down the hall to our bedroom where we waited, and the jingle of his belt buckle as he whipped the belt from his pant loops, usually had us crying and repenting before he entered the room.  And, as was most often the case, his heart would melt at the sight of us and words would replace the sting of the belt.

My husband once told me that his father went to a tanner and had a strap made with my husband’s name on one side and his sister’s on the other.  His Dad would hang it in obvious sight as a constant reminder that, even though he was gone quite often, it would be readily available when he got home.

As children growing up in a large immediate family, we were sure to engage in activities with our cousins that would get the adult’s attention and the need for discipline.  My father’s middle sister, Donna, was especially quick to catch us and mete out our deserved punishment. When I was four or five years old, a group of us had uttered a word that seemed harmless at the time, but raised the ire of my Aunt.   She herded us together and made us sit in a line on the front porch.  Standing before us and delivering a stern lecture on why the word we used was not appropriate, a bar of soap was whisked out from behind her apron.  As she marched down the line like a drill sergeant, she accurately
and efficiently shoved the bar of soap into each of our mouths.   The taste of the soap lingered in my mouth for what seemed like days and it was a long time before the word ever again crossed my lips.

By today’s standards, many would think my siblings and I were harshly abused.  Nothing could be further from the truth.   In fact, if my parents had known about some of the stuff we had gotten away with, I am sure they would have put us under lock and key.  Either that, or Dad would have needed a new belt every few months and Mom would’ve run out of limbs to cut switches.  We were well-behaved kids, respectful and polite.  But we were also typical kids with a bent towards mischief and curiosity.

During the generation I was growing up in, it was expected that kids be disciplined for bad behavior.   We could not get away with much.   The small town we lived in was close-knit and everyone’s eyes were on us to make sure we stayed the well-behaved kids they expected us to be.  As with any small town in the 1950’s and 60’s, there was the average knot head that was always getting into trouble, and everyone knew it.  But the community was ready and willing to step in and help turn the kid around.

As my sister and I were raising our own children, we were at a family BBQ and the Aunt who wielded the bar of soap was present.  We sat and watched as our kids
tore around the yard with their cousins and raised all sorts of Cain.   At one point, both my sister and I caught the kids misbehaving and both of us spoke to them at once.   For some reason, they did not appear to hear us, even though we felt that we had used our best you-better-stop-that-right-this-minute-or-you’re-in-trouble voice.

Our Aunt began to laugh at us.  She informed us that the tone and tempo of our command sounded more like a wimpy plea rather than a demand to stop what they were doing.  So, thinking her experience and maturity could provide us with some insight, we asked her to demonstrate.  Rising to the challenge, she looked straight at the kids and in a low and threatening voice, and words I fail to remember, told them to cease and desist at this moment - or else.  To our amazement, they did!  My sister and I were stunned.  What was the difference between how we had reprimanded the kids and the method my Aunt employed?   It had to be the bar of soap.  We were certain she still carried one around with her and our kids must have known it.

I am one among many who believe that today’s children could use some old-fashioned discipline.  A trip to the woodshed or a march to the backyard for a good switch does no harm as long as the one doing the disciplining keeps a clear head as to why he has to do so.   As Proverb 23:13-14 wisely instructs us: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” (NIV)  And as God did with the children of Israel, when my own kids misbehaved to the point of needing restraint, I always followed up with an
explanation as to why they received their punishment.   Just as I knew my parents and Aunts and Uncles loved me, my children also knew I loved them in spite of what I had to dish out.

If we would only take a moment and look closely at the behavior of children being raised in today’s disrespectful environment, we would see a vast difference between them and those who are being taught Biblical values and morals.  In God’s infinite wisdom, He watched as His children misbehaved and wandered away from His truths.  His response was always to bring out the rod of discipline in order to turn their heads back around.  And as Proverb 22:6 points out, if we employ His will by raising our children the way He desires, they will carry these lessons with them for the rest of their lives.   I am proud of my two sons who are now grown with children of their own.  Each matured into honest, respectful, and respected men who applied the lessons they learned to their lives.  The values that were instilled in them as children have been handed down to their own children in spite of the world’s dogged effort to convince them otherwise.  And I can assure you that neither son bears emotional scars for having been occasionally spanked when they grossly misbehaved.

Our children must learn that there are consequences for their actions.  Instead of putting a child into “time out” or attempting to “reason” with a willful and stubborn individual as he kicks and screams, the rod of correction is usually more successful.   The
sting of a switch lingers far longer than a feeble attempt to sweetly reason with a child.  I have watched my children, my grandchildren, and others' children gleefully skip away after a verbal reprimand, learning nothing except that they got away with whatever it was to bring it.

This generation is sadly failing Parenthood 101.   Parents today have this misguided idea that children must freely express themselves and are simply trying to figure out their identity and individuality.  There is less quality time and instruction spent with their children and we are seeing a surge in bad behavior and violence as the result.  Parents want to be their children's friend rather than their parent, guide, and teacher; leaving them to their own devices and careening towards disaster and failure as adults.

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15) (NIV) God has given us a clear and sane reason why parents should turn to the rod of discipline more often.   Born into sin, our children are empty vessels when they enter the world.   It’s up to us to choose how the child is filled.  If we leave them to themselves and the influence of the world, we can be assured the contents will spell trouble and dismay.The rod of correction imparts wisdom; but a child left to himself disgraces his mother…Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” (Proverbs 29:15, 17) (NIV)

In the twelfth chapter of Hebrews, the author speaks of the benefit of God’s discipline and the parallel between our earthly father’s need for it and the infinite
wisdom of our heavenly Father’s rod of correction.  The type of discipline we employ with our children should be considered nourishment to their souls.  It awakens their conscience and instructs them on Godly behavior.  It equips them with the necessary tools to live productive and value-filled lives.   “Because the Lord disciplines those He loves…,” so should our chastisement be done out of heart-felt love and desire to see our children mature into responsible adults and decent, law-abiding citizens.  “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (v 11, NIV)

I learned a valuable lesson from the Aunt who had the bar of soap and who commanded attention when she spoke. My husband used to tell our sons that everything they did reflected back on us and how we raised them.  If I had chosen to ignore the wisdom my Aunt had to offer and the lesson behind my own parent’s discipline, I’m sure trouble would have come more often.

As I look at today’s society, I have to question how some people were raised and whether they ever heard the words, “just wait until your father gets home”.  One day our Father will come home, and this time, He won’t hesitate to bring out His eternal rod of discipline and apply it where necessary.

If you need any help, I have a good, sturdy tree full of switches in my backyard.

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