My previous blog presented an overview of the dissimilar meanings between both rebellion and disobedience, and chastisement (corporal punishment) and punishment. The difference between rebellion and disobedience was so described as follows:
- Rebellion is related to the concept of a subordinate’s knowing and willing defiance of a rule or command by the one who is in authority.
- Contrastingly, disobedience is not an intentional act against the will of one’s authority, but merely the breaking of a rule or desire of that authority. That rule may, or may not, be known or comprehended in advance of its violation.
Correspondingly, differences between chastisement and punishment were described as follows:
- Chastisement is the intentional infliction of sufficient pain to stop a rebellion and force submission of a subordinate to his rightful authority.
- Punishment is the penalty required to equally match the disobedience, as that principle was initially defined in Exodus 21:23-25.
To understand how these terms are properly applied to the area of child training, let us consider some quotes taken directly from my book, What the Bible Says About Child Training.
The Introduction to that book states its theological/philosophical position. Quote:
This book is based solely on what the Bible says about the topic. It is unique in that the subject is handled solely from the Biblical viewpoint. The author accepts the Bible as absolute truth and as infinitely superior to any human system of thinking. There has been no attempt to modify God’s Word to make it compatible with human philosophies, psychology, sociology, religious views, or public opinion. God’s Word is accepted as is, without human adulteration. The Bible is also accepted as living and powerful information that is as relevant today as in the day when it was first revealed.
Let us first look at what this book says about a child’s disobedience:
- God delegates authority to parents. Because children are commanded to obey their parents, they have the right to set their will above that of their children and to command them to follow their rulership. They also have the power to administer justice and to punish for disobedience, as well as to reward for conformance to their commands. You may never have considered yourself to be someone who has the right to create law, but as far as your child is concerned, your word is law. If your child is disobedient to your word, he has broken the law you have set for him. Your children are to do what you tell them to do!
- Controlling a child is an expression of parental love—true concern for the benefit of the child. True love will require a personal sacrifice on the part of the parents. They must be willing to take the time to monitor the child’s behavior closely. They also must be willing to face the inevitable conflict that occurs when the child must be confronted with his disobedience. The sacrifice involved in controlling a child also includes the instant handling of unplanned interruptions into the parents’life. These interruptions often interfere with what the parents want or even need to do. Therefore, loving parents must be more concerned with doing what will benefit the child, rather than what they would like to do to benefit themselves.
- Chastisement should not be used for MOST disobedience!
- A way of explaining the proper penalty for disobedience is by seeing it in relation to an absolute. First, the standard represents what is right (an absolute amount of righteousness). Second, the breaking of a standard represents what is wrong (a specific amount of unrighteousness). Third, the penalty is, therefore, the correct amount of payment necessary to equal the wrong (to correct the unrighteousness).
- Setting standards should normally include a warning of the penalty for disobedience. God’s Word, as always, provides us with this principle. When God sets a standard for man’s obedience, He always includes a warning of the punishment that can be expected. For example, God gave man the standard not to commit murder (meaning an intentional or negligent homicide):
You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13)
As a part of the standard, God also warned of the penalty for committing murder:
He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 21:12)
Also, in His total fairness, God has warned man of the penalty for ignoring the most important standard ever given to man:
The Standard: He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; (John 3:36a)
The Penalty: And he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36b)
In this last verse, God not only clearly tells all human beings the standard for salvation, but also warns of the punishment they will receive for disobedience of this explicit standard (See 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Revelation 20:12–15).
- A child is held accountable for punishment only when the broken standard has been clearly set and communicated. If the penalty had not been given, it could be less severe than normally called for, or even waived on the first offense. An unknown law can be broken, but there should not be accountability in that case.
For where there is no law there is no transgression. (Romans 4:15b)
But sin is not imputed when there is no law. (Romans 5:13b)
Punishment is a judicial sentence without partiality. Fathers are naturally soft on their daughters, and mothers are often too lenient with their sons. This is not just, nor is playing favorites between children in the family. No matter how convincingly a son promises his mother never to do it again, or how sweetly a daughter looks up at her father, punishment must be carried out consistently.
You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. (Deuteronomy 1:17a)
God has given his laws to human judges to administer justice on earth between people. Parents are some of God’s human judges. When parents punish their children, they are carrying out God’s judgment. Because of this, parents can depend on God’s power to help in the administration of punishment to even the largest child.
We will now look at what this book says about a child’s rebellion in Chapter 15:
Conflict sometimes occurs when parents attempt to control their children. This conflict is the result of a child’s rebellion. Rebellion, formally defined, is “(the act of) open or determined defiance of, or resistance to, any authority or controlling power.”
Parents must learn to recognize the ways children express their rebellion and how to handle it when it occurs. Rebellion is the willful rejection of authority expressed either actively or passively. In other words, a child is obviously in rebellion when he says no to your instructions, hits you, or acts in direct disobedience. But, he is also in rebellion when he continuously chooses to ignore or forget your instructions. When a child consistently forgets he actually is choosing not to remember. Your word simply is not important enough to keep in his mind.
An example of active rebellion is when your child will not listen to or accept your instructions. The typical expression of such rebellion is when he “throws a fit,” responds with “no,” “I won’t,” or defiantly walks away while you are still talking. None of these overt demonstrations of disrespect should ever be tolerated. Your child should be required to listen quietly to your instructions without back talk or complaint. When he continues to play (or otherwise focus his attention away from you), chatters or ignores you when you are giving him instructions, he is also expressing rebellion. Your child should be required to pay strict attention to you by looking you in the eyes and verbally acknowledging his acceptance of your instructions with an attitude of respect. If you demand respect to be shown by his saying “Yes, ma’am” or “Yes, sir,” you will gradually make respect a part of his manner. Another example of active rebellion is when your child will not accept your correction. He may refuse to accept your reproof for his negative action or attitude by stubbornly avoiding the acceptance of his guilt. He might argue with you, charging that it was really not his fault; it was someone else’s fault, even yours, that caused him to do whatever it was for which he was accused. Some children will “clam up” instead of arguing. Their unwillingness to admit their wrongdoing and to thereby agree with your reproof is a silent act of active rebellion.
On the other hand, passive rebellion is practiced by children when they meet the external requirements for obedience but are internally resentful. It has sometimes been described as sitting down on the outside while standing up on the inside. This type of rebellion begins in the child’s hidden mental attitude; but eventually, it will surface in his facial expressions of disrespect, disgust, or anger. Passive rebellion can also be expressed by a child who politely listens to your instructions, but who consistently fails to follow them without reminders, threats, or pressure. Girls are most prone to this type of rebellion. They may nod their heads sweetly and say, “Yes, Mommy.” Nevertheless, when they are later caught not following the instructions, they declare that they were just about to do it, or that they forgot. The most subtle form of passive rebellion is to wait to obey until just before getting into trouble. A child considers that it is a victory of his own will over the will of his parents when he does not obey until he himself decides to do so.
Another subtle form of passive rebellion is to do what is required, but not in the way it should have been done. A child should be trained that obedience is not just following instructions; obedience includes following instructions in the right way. Often, children will assert their own will when carrying out instructions by doing it their own way. They only partially follow the instructions and then improvise by adding something or doing it however they want. Obedience is not the place for creativity. It is the place for strict compliance (1 Samuel 15:22, 23). Some children would not dare to disobey openly or even talk back to their parents; instead, they seethe on the inside. This type of internal rebellion will often reveal itself in facial expressions. Such children will act melancholy and have the disposition of a lemon. They will withdraw, sulk, pout, and in general make everyone around them miserable for their not getting their own way. This type of rebellion must be drawn into the open so that it can be overcome. If it is not, it is likely to explode in their teenage years. Parents must be aware of the potential danger of a quiet but sullen child! Basically, the principle is that a child is in rebellion any time he or she knowingly and willingly places their will above the stated will of their parents. When a child deliberately refuses to accept his parents’ right to rule, he is choosing to be rebellious.
Rebellion is the Overthrow of Authority
The conflict of rebellion will occur naturally in the process of child training. On the one hand, parents must direct and control their children in order to train them. They not only have this right; they are
responsible for using it (as discussed in Chapters 5 and 6 on Parental Authority and Parental Responsibility). On the other hand, children possess a will of their own plus have powerful temptations from their sin nature.
Parents are not responsible for the conflict, the child is. Children are to be obedient to the parents “in all things.” When parents are simply exercising their God-given right of rulership and conflict results, it is the child who has chosen to revolt. He has chosen to challenge the parents’ right to rule him and thus has become his own authority. He has rejected their external control and has given himself over to the control of his sinful nature. Rebellion could be pictured by a child who decides he is no longer under authority but has placed himself on an equal level with his parents. When this occurs it is similar to Satan’s rebellion when he said, “I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14:14b). The phrase “Most High” is the title of God’s ultimate authority—His absolute right to rule. Satan has said in effect, “No longer do you have the right to rule me. I will become like you. I will place myself on your level. No longer do I have to take your commands or follow and be obedient to you.”
Rebellion is a conflict of two opposing wills. It is the expression of the will of the one under authority against the will of the one in authority. Every child has a will of his own. He chooses when and whom to obey. At whatever point a child chooses to rebel, his parents must utilize sufficient force to put down the revolt immediately. God’s Word equates the sin of rebellion with witchcraft, indicating that Satan has a part in all rebellion. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:23a).
Child rebellion is the willful attempt by a child to overthrow parental authority. If rebellion is not put down, revolution will occur. Revolution is the ultimate overthrow of authority. When a child places himself on an equal level with his parents and is allowed to remain there, the revolution has occurred. From this position, some children actually take over the rulership of their parents. They control the family, demanding to be the center of attention. They may even dictate what the parents can or cannot do. When a child can throw temper tantrums to get his own way, or is able to get away with telling his parents to shut up, the complete overthrow of parental authority has occurred. Revolution destroys the orderly arrangement ordained by God and will result in chaos and cursing for both parents and child.
Please realize that these are only partial statements about these important issues meant to introduce the unique nature of these four words. The book deals with what God’s Word says about the parents’ authority, responsibility, and accountability to Him for how they must and must not carry out these functions. It also extensively deals with two facets of child training: controlling and teaching; explaining how good communication including the accepted teaching of godly principles can only occur with children who are obedient and honor their parents’ words. Additionally, the book sets out a suggested five-step procedure for how to teach obedient children successfully, and to rein in a child’s rebellion before it is too late.
If you would like to enter a public discussion about biblical parenting, you could do that by making a “Comment” on FBR’s Facebook page under this article.
If you have questions about this paper, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org after you have read my entire book. (What the Bible Says About Child Training is available at, https://www.amazon.com/What-Bible-About-Child-Training/dp/1889700134
In Christ, R. Fugate