Within minutes, we hear wailing from the bedroom. No, our children are not actually writhing in pain. Instead, they are desperate for another last drink of water, another go at the potty or another straightening of the blankets.
We all know it is not actually bedtime’s fault. Why is it that children do foolish things? Why do perfectly well-hydrated and previously sane children scream out for water, though they’ve been instructed minutes before that a consequence would ensue?
God’s analysis of our children’s problem is in Proverbs 22:15: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” Adam’s first sin has had horrible consequences (impact, influence) on the minds of our children. Romans 1 tells us how human nature changed so that humans “became futile in their thinking” (v.21) and “claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” (v.22-23). Every time our children usurp our God-given authority, they reveal their inborn commitment to reign as gods of their little universes.
When we see the foolishness in our little ones, we must have compassion. Their minds are always processing, developing and changing. But those minds are not morally neutral. Our children, like all those who need new hearts, are “foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasure” (Titus 3:3). When we see our children enslaved to their passions, we must remember that we were just like them and are still in need of God’s transforming grace.
God has given parents the precious tool of discipline to restrain and remove our children’s foolishness. The rest of Proverbs 22:15 continues: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” When we patiently, consistently and compassionately spank our children, we teach them that foolishness has consequences. God uses spanking to curb our children’s foolishness, to soften them so they’ll listen to instruction and to point them to their need of a Savior who can change their hearts. But when we refuse to use the tool God has provided, the rod of discipline, we create an environment where our children’s natural foolishness is free to flourish. Maybe it feels loving not to spank, but God’s Word says, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24).
Bedtime’s greatest con is much more deceitful than a promise of rest. Bedtime is not really about our rest and peace. Neither is the rest of the day. Instead, bedtime is one of many opportunities daily to please God by faithfully using the tools He has given to respond to the foolishness in our children’s heart. That is how we love them, just as our Father loves us: “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:6).