“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24). “Do not withhold discipline from a child…” (23:13). “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (29:15).


Is spanking child abuse? Maybe the way Adrian Peterson, Viking football star, did it. Discipline and punishment are not the same. Discipline is administered in love, not in anger. We are doing it for a child, not to a child. We are not getting back at them for disturbing our peace by fighting with a sibling. We are in full control of our emotions, speaking in a normal voice and conveying love, not irritation. If you are irritated at your child’s behavior, don’t spank. Give yourself a time-out so you can administer a spanking appropriately. A mom who understands this recently said to me, “If they don’t know I love them, I just lost them.”  They need a firm, small object (like a ruler) with a gentle heart. Discipline is children-training, not corporeal punishment. It comes from our parental desire that children walk into their future with confidence, that they know who they are.


Child abuse is terrible. God will not hold parents guiltless who abuse their children. What we see at Cub’s is not deliberate, thoughtful, gentle, nor effective. It produces resentment and separation, not security and maturity. Parents who recoil from the idea of a spanking probably haven’t seen one administered with appropriate care. What we typically see is a vengeful parent embarrassed by children being children and using tone and volume to shame the them rather than giving them the gift of a deliberate spanking that will help control behavior. I would say, “Meet me in my study,” and they knew what it meant. I would quietly talk over what was violated, administer the spanking, then hug and pray together.


“No discipline is joyful at the time, but painful” (Hebrews 12:11). If it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t help. We are assisting a child to make a good decision the next time around: “I didn’t like the results of hitting my sister. Don’t think I want to do that again.” A spanking helps to restrain foolish behavior (more than a time-out), which is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15), and encourages positive behavior. We can trust Scripture to give us the truth. We just need to apply it in a way that makes it effective and leaves the event in the memory bank.


When I spanked Naomi once as a young girl (it didn’t happen often), she instinctively lunged toward me and hugged me as she cried. She felt my love. Had I shown anger, she would have been repelled rather than feeling welcome in my arms. Authoritarian parents who do not exhibit love will not get the results they want from a spanking. Nor will permissive parents who want to be close to their children but do not set strong boundaries or issue appropriate discipline. Authoritative parents who understand their training role and use spankings as one of the legitimate tools in their toolbox are building strong children who will likely become healthy adults, emotionally and spiritually. Children don’t usually come out of a timeout converted. They don’t say, “That was helpful. Now I understand why I shouldn’t hit my brother.” They are immature. Time-outs work better for adults.



Parents: when you correct your children, correct with content, not with tone. People who hear your tone and not your content should not be able to detect that you are upset. If they do, you are not correcting properly. Using tone, like extra volume or a strident quality is an attempt to change through means other than content. God does not do this.


When we correct with volume or quality of voice, It brings shame through our contorted voice. We don’t talk with friends that way. We are beating them up with our voice. When our kids get to us, we need to back off. Otherwise, we will be building resentment without knowing it. If they come back at us with the tone we give to them, they are echoing our bad behavior, and it easily escalates. What we wanted was a momentary correction and we got an argument, and our tone was to blame. We need the correction more than the kids.


Paul told Timothy to be gentle with those who opposed him. He was not to come with dominating voice as if to say, “I am in charge.” He was to come in a voice of meekness to match the character of Christ. We know whether we have learned the gentleness of Christ when it is time to correct our children for misbehavior that annoys us. If our demeanor changes, we are sacrificing content, and it will not get the same effect. Disciplining in love is purposeful, not punitive (that is, to punish rather than correct). We should be attempting to correct the behavior rather than shaming the child and beating him down with our yelling.


God’s still small voice says, “I love you” and “that was wrong” with the same volume and intensity of love. It makes us want to change and be like Him. He corrected us not out of annoyance but out of the desire that we take on His qualities of love, gentleness, and righteousness. Sometimes the correction of a parent comes because a child is interrupting them from their cooking or TV watching or book reading. The tone says, “I am upset. You are to blame for making me upset. If it wasn’t for you, I could keep doing what I am doing, but now I have to put my good book down and come over and break up a fight. See what you have done. How unkind!” We have just quit serving our child by giving him the needed discipline. We are serving ourselves by telling him to quiet down. Our actions are betraying our intentions, inappropriately applied because we were inconvenienced.


Discipline is done for a child, not to a child. (I think I heard that first from Larry Christenson). We are training them. It is our gift to them to help them grow up. Children are immature, and we are God’s instruments to bring them to maturity, not show them how immature we are by our raised volume and unkind words. Children who grow up thinking they are an inconvenience will resent us and what we stand for. They will take opposite beliefs to spite us.


If your child instinctively hugs you after a spanking, you were doing it right. You are helping him  want to obey. He is repentant and tender. It did not bring shame or anger; it brought affection.  (A blog about spanking coming).


1 “Father” and “friend” are two different words. Kids need a dad. Let children their age be their friend. They need someone to bring order in the house (eating together, communicating, doing chores, having family devotions). Fathers who do not do these things should not be surprised if there is more chaos than peace in the home.

2 Be a child first. You are a son of the Father. The more you understand sonship, the better you will get fatherhood. The closer you are to the Father, the better you will father your children.We have been adopted into God’s family, chosen by the Creator, and we will always belong. We will never be alone, never without purpose, never without a future. Translate those realities to your children.

3 Understand vulnerability. I wish all fathers could have a meeting like we had a few years ago. It started with Andrew writing an email to his siblings, acknowledging his shortcomings as an elder brother. It continued when Gabriel, second brother in line, asking forgiveness of his siblings for sometimes arguing and joking. The atmosphere in the air led to a meeting that changed the way we did life at our house. When parents are vulnerable, they release grace into the air, making it easier for their children to share their struggles and failures. I wish my dad and I had talked more about hard issues. Dads, how about asking your kids to share with you where you have failed them as a father?

4 Serve your wife. The children will know if you are laying down your life or primarily going after a career. If the kids see that you are not in unity, they will play one off against the other. Unity at the top brings unity to the family. The best marriage advice I received came from Jesus, not about marriage–about life: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34). It took me a long time to learn how to lay down my life, but when I got it, things changed. Marriage is not about doing your own thing.

5 Discipline with love. The discipline that comes from heaven is deliberate, not reactionary, and is given to strengthen character, purposeful rather than punitive. God doesn’t go from a 2 to a 7 in ten seconds. He is slow to anger. You don’t ever need to raise your voice. My dad didn’t–ever. We grew up knowing we were loved and cherished.

6 Be present. Many children have father wounds because of absentee fathers who have convinced their children that the job environment is more important than the home environment. They seem to say to the wife, “You raise the kids; I will raise the money.” Family does not work that way. We worship a Father who is the most accessible person in the universe. “I called–He answered.” Be available to your children and especially in their times of greatest joy and greatest sorrow.

7 Emotions matter. You want more than the facts. Find out how your kids are feeling about you, life, school, themselves, God, the opposite sex. Probe. Where are they struggling, hurting, questioning? What are they afraid of, hoping for? Wish I had done more of that.

8 Focus more on identity than behavior. If you focus primarily on behavior, you will not get the behavior that you are desiring. My dad said often, “Remember who you are.” Identity drives destiny!


  1. a gift of property, especially personal property, as money or a will.  2. anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.

On January 31, 2018 at 10:57 AM, I wrote this to our children and their spouses:

“I pray for your children by name almost daily. Bless you for raising them to love God. If you think we have fun family times, imagine what it will be when they grow up close to their cousins. There is not a word to describe what that kind of fellowship and fun will be. I pray that there will not be one who will depart from the faith, not one who gives in to the lies of the devil. Each generation will only accelerate the anointing…

What about when they have kids twenty and thirty years from now. I probably won’t be hitting the road as much, so Mom and I will have even more time to enjoy them, sing, play the piano. ‘Do not be weary in well-doing, for in due season you will reap if you do not give up’ (Galatians 5:9). What Mom and I had in both our families has gained momentum in yours. It will gain even more in each succeeding generation, IF (big if) you are faithful in raising them as you are doing, passing the baton, and continuing to stay in touch and pray.

As I have told you, I pray for the great-grandchildren who don’t exist yet, the children of your children… If all of them are loving God and each other, it will be quite a tribe of Christ-honoring people. Let the vision of the legacy keep you from burning out. One of the best words to describe raising God-fearing children is the word “hard.” Anxious moments (did I do the right thing?), sad moments (when they did the wrong thing), fearful moments (when they say “goodbye” and you’re not sure if they are ready). One day you will launch yours with tears of joy, thankful that God gave you the grace needed to give them what they require to live the same way you lived, walking in His ways.”

Why did I write this? Because seeing the big picture helps us to endure the whining, the kickback, the resistance. Karen and I got it. They are getting it, too. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” He could have said, “In the family…” You don’t get as much if you want to be the friend of your child, if you back them rather than the teacher, if you let them get away with stuff, because it is easier than making a big deal out of it.

When my kids said that they worked harder than the kids down the street, I had one answer. I asked, “Do you know why you work harder than the kids down the street.” “No, why?” “Because you don’t live down the street.” Rather than trying to make them feel important or be popular, I said, “Don’t think you are hot stuff. Hang with kids no one else wants to be with, and you’ll get the favor of heaven.”

We are encouraging our children to think generationally: “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” (Ps. 71:18).


Children aren’t raised by accident. They are brought up by careful and deliberate parenting. I once skipped church to go to my friend’s house. Later in the day my dad asked me how church was. I said that I had not gone. He was silent for a moment, a long moment. Then he spoke quietly. He never yelled at me. Never. He asked me very soberly if I would ever do that again. I said, “No.” I didn’t. Church was important to Mom and Dad, and it became important to me. So were daily devotions, alone and with the family. So was evening mealtime. Same for Karen’s family.

Our daughter Erikka recently said to me in a conversation about parenting: “We love getting together, all six of us siblings. No tension, no fighting, pure joy and laughter. You know why? You made us come together. We had devotions in the morning, even when we were grouchy. We ate dinner together and we talked. You put a jar on the table, and we would take turns picking the topic for conversation. We learned to relate in a fun way. And we really enjoyed it. We went to church. Always. No exceptions. We went on family vacations together. And we worked together on Saturdays. We had work parties. No surprise–we love being together.”

Did they ever complain? What do you think? We did it anyway. Did they like getting up and reading the Bible together? Sometimes. Dads, it was my job to see that we gathered. Why are they all following Jesus today? Why are they teaching their kids better than we did to love and honor the Lord? Because it had been modeled for us the same way, and we did what we knew.–with Holy Spirit grace. Call it legacy–the passing on of the faith from one generation to the next. What could be more important? Then expect Satan to intercept it with a thousand excuses. My kids whined. We did it anyway. Every one of them is glad we did!

I wish the Bible heroes we admire had some parenting skills. Samuel, a great prophet, knew nothing about being a dad. “When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel…Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice” (I Samuel 8:1,3).  He wasn’t even aware that his sons were incapable of leading the nation. He unwisely put them in positions of influence, and they abused the power.

“And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground” (3:19). Too bad that some of those words were not directed toward his own boys.

Samuel knew about the sons of Eli. God spoke to him when he was a boy and said, “I am about to punish [Eli’s} house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God and he did not restrain them” (2:13). Had he learned from the divine judgment, he might have spared his sons from the same.

Absalom hated his father and tried to overthrow him. David was crushed when he heard the news of his death. Absalom died from dart wounds, but he really died of father wounds. David was a better fighter than a father. He didn’t know how to relate to his children, and especially the son who was most like him. Thank God we have all learned a lot since then about intentional parenting.


Karen and I thank God that our children love the Lord, love us, love each other, and love themselves. We see them raising children and doing a better job than we did. We also thank the community of faith that certainly helped raise our kids. Others got through to them when we couldn’t. Karen and I recently reflected on some of things we did to shape our children. Here goes:


We worked hard to make it fun and interesting. I often came with questions that we would discuss, like “What was your funnest vacation?” “What has been your most difficult life test?” Talking sometimes lasted longer than the meal.


Both of us learned from parents that bringing the family together for prayer and scripture was a non-negotiable. I don’t remember them resisting it, because we tried to make it interesting. Sometimes we succeeded. They learned to pray early and are now teaching their kids.


I learned that as a boy when I skipped church–once! Never again.


We knew that God’s correction didn’t feel good, but it communicated love. We tried to do the same. Hey, it worked–usually.


not rock-stars. Servants work hard. They concentrate on their responsibilities, not their rights. I told them to do the dishes at their friend’s house. I modeled it for them when we stayed at someone’s home. They knew we would be cleaning the garage or working in the yard. When they said that they worked harder than the kids down the street, I asked them if they knew why. They answered, “No.” I responded, “Because you don’t live down the street.”


Still do. You might hear us on the deck some evening when they are here. We love being together. They would rather be with their now extended family than with anyone else (I think). At least it looks that way to Karen and me. Some of us will be together on the North Shore in October for several days of fun, maybe three-wheeling (or snowmobiling?). They even travel together–to Greece, Ireland, California.


Didn’t happen at first. I was a recovering Pharisee and had not discovered the joy of weakness. By the time I did, our kids were learning it as well. Andrew wrote his siblings in 2013, asking forgiveness for not being the elder brother he wanted to be. Two weeks later Gabriel wrote and asked forgiveness for goofing off too much and for giving more advice than affirmation. Vulnerability releases grace. Gabriel caught it. Wouldn’t have happened had not Andrew led the way. Then one night the kids got up from dinner to play a game. Somehow I convinced them to “talk” instead. We gathered in the family room. Here’s what I heard coming out of my mouth: “I’d like you to share with me where I have failed you as a father.” You’d think they would have waited for a few seconds. They started right in. Difficult for dad, but it turned into a two-week healing time with another meeting as a follow-up. I wish every dad could have two meetings like what we had.




My dad was a wise and hard-working man. He told his six children, “Leave your place cleaner than you found it.” Somehow his example stuck. Took forty high schoolers camping at Sequoia. Told them to keep the bathrooms clean. Said we would be checking. The Ranger came by because they had never seen the bathrooms that clean. They expected the opposite from rowdy teenagers. Thanks, Dad, for a good example.

One dad told his wife, “I’ll bring home the money and you can set the tone in the home.” Wrong. The reason some guys think the Christian life is for girls is because Dad provided well but led poorly and was distant. Not mine.



My dad didn’t raise his voice with us. Never. Felt badly the few times I used volume to leverage control, and I am not even Italian. Volume is manipulative. The Good Shepherd leads with gentleness and lowliness. Dads, take your cue from Jesus, not a coach.  There’s a reason that in the only two places the New Testament focuses on parental responsibilities, it speaks to husbands, and the first words are negative: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21).



Does it bless you that the most powerful Person in the universe is the least controlling? When the prodigal wanted to leave home, the father didn’t take away his keys. He even gave him the inheritance. He knew that the son had already left in his heart. He used love to influence, not force to control–and it worked. “Love never fails!” I never doubted my dad’s gentle love.



I never saw my parents fight. They had disagreements, and I know they had their tough times, but we saw Dad loving Mom and Mom respecting Dad. I often sat next to her in church. When my dad said something in his sermon that was on the edge, she would squeeze my hand and say, “Oh, Andy!” very softly. When we all got home, she had nothing but affirmation for the man who obeyed his vow to love her until death parted them.



I got the feeling that my dad enjoyed being with me. Once he made me a t-bone steak before a basketball game, then sat down and watched me eat it while we talked basketball. That memory is imprinted on my mind for life. Can’t say I remember more than a couple of the nine hundred sermons I heard him preach.



When I spent a summer during college days at the headquarters of Campus Crusade for Christ, I learned a lot about running a church, and I told my dad a few of them. He only had thirty years of experience. Years later, after I became a pastor and saw how difficult it was, I went back to my father and acknowledged that I was an idiot. The way he forgave me said that he had never thought about it–and never would. It helped me see how God forgives–and loves! Thanks, Dad!