Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 19:18
"Discipline your son while there is hope and do not desire his death"
It is interesting to realize that God never directs us to do that which we would normally do. So His direction, through Solomon, represents a different direction than our selfishness would want to take.
God reminds us here that we must go against our natural tendency in parenting to let our kids figure it out on their own. We have to go against our natural instinct to just tell them what to do. We must correct, train, develop, coach, motivate, and admonish. We have a natural tendency to either create robots or let go and let God train them.
This is the Hebrew word yasar, which means to discipline, correct, instruct. It deals with training but implies a good bit of correction. There is a commitment to the rod and reproof; to clearly aiming consequences at incorrect behavior. It is a lot of work to train so that the behavior is demonstrated on repeated occasion. Many parents are content with telling their children what they should do instead of making sure that the correct behavior is actually accomplished. Solomon also says that a slave will not be instructed by words alone. It takes modeling and chastisement. Our children really only know the seriousness of our commands by whether we take action to correct and even punish incorrect behavior. If it is important for your child to know, then you must train, retrain, correct, reprove, administer consequences, etc.
It is not okay to say: I told them. A parent must ask the questions: What would it take for this child to not take drugs or drink or get mixed up with the wrong crowd? How would I cause this child to make good choices? What will I do when they begin to make bad decisions? What will I do when selfishness erupts in my child's behavior? How will I train my child to act properly when I am not around?
Most parents in our culture do not enjoy their children because they are unable to count on reasonable behavior from them. And if they get bad behavior, there is not a clear-cut workable plan to change that behavior. This is what it means to follow this proverb.
As a parent you have a limited window of time to accomplish the process of civilizing the wonderfully selfish individual that has been deposited in your care. It takes relentless focus and repetition. If you tell yourself or others that they should know that but they are not acting that way, then they don't know that. They only "know" what they do. They do not "know" what they do not do.
This is the Hebrew word tiqwa, which means hope. There is, in this word, the root idea of clear expectation that something will take place; a steadfast confidence that a certain result will take place. It always involves waiting upon the fulfillment of the expectation.
Most parents have dreams for their children and the kind of children they will become, along with the type of relationships they will enjoy with them. It is these righteous dreams that have a small window in which they can take place. If one does not provide the training and discipline necessary to control the selfishness or foolishness that exists within a child, then a parent’s dreams will never be realized.
This is interesting because it clearly says there will be a time when there is no hope of turning them from the path they are on. So throw yourself into training when there is the opportunity for change. I have seen a number of parents who have taken their children to church hoping that the church will do what they should do. Then those parents have been upset when their children have turned out selfish, self-centered, rebellious, and a hundred other maladies of selfishness gone to seed. Parents must put in the time to train. Other caregivers can help and reinforce, but there is no substitute for direct parental involvement. It is how the child catches that you love them.
This is the Hebrew root word mut, which means death, die, kill. The idea is clearly that without parental training for where the landmines of life are, your children will end up doing selfish things that will move them close to death or will separate them from you and others. Selfishness produces death. The wages of sin is death. When people consistently pursue their own way, they produce separation and distance.
Indirectly by refusing to put out the effort to discipline your children you are being selfish and your children will be moved more and more to the pathways of death. We are watching in our culture just how far the youth culture will go to fulfill this truth when the moral boundary lines are removed from their upbringing.