Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalms 23:4)
Good discipline corrects behavior by causing the child to determine that he does not want to ever again experience the punishment his parents used when he misbehaved. He resolves, therefore, to "do better next time." Good discipline is instructive as well in that it teaches a child the crucial difference between right and wrong. As such, it is akin to the staff used by shepherds to move sheep from one place to another and keep them from straying. Good discipline should be compelling. Specifically, it should be forceful enough (but no more!) to keep a child moving toward that which is right and away from that which is wrong. Scripture teaches that good discipline proves a parent's love for a child, that the undisciplined child is "illegitimate." This means proper discipline is as essential as love to the maintenance of the parent-child bond. Good discipline also teaches an important concept, one that will serve the child well throughout his life (and of which he will be/must be occasionally reminded throughout his life): that wrong behavior results in painful consequences-that it must be "paid for." Good discipline, therefore, is like the supple rod that the ancients used to separate wheat from chaff, that which was nourishing from that which was not. In this case, however, the rod is used to separate good behavior from bad behavior-behavior that nourishes the spirit from behavior which destroys. Is good behavior, like God's rod and staff, comforting?
Absolutely! For more than thirty years, social scientist Diana Baumrind has been investigating the differential effect of various parenting styles on child behavior. Baumrind has found that the most well-behaved children-those who are most obedient, respectful, and responsible-are also the most well-adjusted. Regardless of IQ, family background, parent income or education, the well-behaved child, when compared with his less well-behaved peer, experiences more success socially, academically, and emotionally. With regards to the latter, Baumrind has found that the obedient, respectful, responsible child is happier by far than a child whose behavior has not been as well disciplined.
Baumrind has also discovered that well-adjusted (happiest) children tend to have parents who discipline in relatively old-fashioned ways, including spankings. These parents don't spank a lot, mind you, but have no problem administering an occasional swat or two or three (that'll do) to a child's rear end. Baumrind's findings belie propaganda to the effect that spankings are a form of egregious psychological abuse. Granted, some parents spank inappropriately and far too often for any one spanking to mean much of anything, but an entire vintage of wine should not be judged by a few bad bottles.
Do Baumrind's findings mean that parents should spank? No, it simply means that parents should stand ready to deliver the best discipline possible in any given disciplinary situation. In that regard, my personal and professional experience has convinced me that there are times when a spanking is the very best of all possible disciplinary alternatives, that it will get the necessary point across to the child in the quickest and most persuasive manner.
Regardless of method, good parental discipline is always a manifestation of "thy rod and thy staff." It corrects, instructs, compels, and authenticates a parent's love. The end result-good behavior-is surely a life-sustaining comfort to the child so lovingly disciplined.