But Peterson’s discipline of his son bordered on the brutal. According to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office, Peterson’s son suffered cuts on his thighs and hands and bruises on his lower back and buttocks. Peterson was indicted by a grand jury charging him with causing injury to a child. As a result the Minnesota Vikings have placed their star running back on an exempt list preventing him for any participation in team activities for an indefinite period of time.
Parents have often quoted “Spare the rod and spoil the child” as Biblical support for spanking their children. The only problem is that this statement does not occur in the Bible. There are other references to the “rod” in Proverbs, but not this one. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” first appeared in a poem by Samuel Butler in 1664.
The Proverbs verses about correction could be interpreted symbolically as well as literally. It could be a dramatic and poetic way of underscoring the point that good parenting includes wise discipline and correction. Nowhere does the Bible condone injury to a child.
In fact, Jesus had some of his harshest words for those who would harm a child. Jesus said, “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5-6).
Paul gave these instructions to parents: “And you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4).
Children need correction. They need it for their own safety so that they don’t put their fingers in electric sockets or run across the parking lot into the path of oncoming cars. They need correction regarding interaction with other children, to learn the manners and respect that will make them successful and benefit society. They need discipline to do the right things and avoid the wrong.
But that discipline needs to always be wise, without injury, whether mental or physical, supported with love and affirmation. They need the discipline that comes from observing the examples set by their parents in the way husbands and wives treat each other and how they conduct themselves in difficult situations. They need nurture, instruction and explanation.
Hopefully we will all learn lessons along with Adrian Peterson that will make us better parents and a better people.