“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
— Proverbs 22:15

In every group of children you will discover a wide spectrum of behavioral issues: downright disobedience, bad attitude (which gets more common around nap time), aggressiveness, control issues, the whining sissy wanting to be coddled, and the wild-haired kid doped up with red dye and sugar. And then there is the most disturbing of all, the foolish child.

Often, the most endearing child is the foolish one. She can be obedient and kind, and not a loudmouth; she just acts silly. She might take unwise chances, such as standing on the slide and making stupid faces until she loses her balance, falls, and gets hurt.

I say her, but usually the most foolish child is male. Parents overlook the foolishness because he is not rebellious, mean, bitter, or hurtful to others—just silly and childlike beyond his age. Maybe that is the reason God very specifically addresses this issue and tells parents exactly how to respond. God says, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” This verse is found in Proverbs 22, the same chapter that features the famous child training verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

I often hear the parents of rebellious, older children wonder why their son departed from his careful training. It is because they forgot to work foolishness out of him.

A word of caution is in order: Balance is hard to find. Some parents are heavy-handed and overbearing and can take the fun and warmth right out of sunshine. They are the foolish ones. This will only lead your children to anger.

As a child grows, his unrestrained foolishness will progress from amusing to irritating to embarrassing. You wish you could just shut the door and hide his behavior, and many parents eventually do shut the door, so to speak, on their foolish clown. A child knows when he is acting like a fool. Don’t be embarrassed and belittle him. Be wise and deal with it like God commands.

When you fail to drive the foolishness out of a young child, he will develop embarrassing habits that become very difficult to control. Then you have two big problems: a foolish, silly kid, and an angry, hurt child who feels his rejection. Your task is then much more difficult.

Good habits are made, not born. From our mail we know many parents struggle with their children’s eating habits. If your child thinks it is funny to gorge on junk, even to the point of sneaking around, know this: it is better to set them free from bad habits now than for them to struggle all their lives with being overweight and sly. An admonition backed up with a few licks could help shape good lifetime habits.

But please use common sense. Feed a hungry child when he is hungry; don’t cause him to be tempted above that which he is able. When you allow children to get so hungry they want to sneak around to satisfy their hunger, you are training them to be thieves and liars. Instead of being trained to walk in truth, they are being trained to walk in deceit. For every thirty slacker parents who allow their children to overeat, there is one parent who goes overboard in demanding austerity in the child’s diet. Observers would characterize those parents as legalistic, angry, short-fused, lacking a fun spirit. Ask God for wisdom and listen to the advice of wise parents around you.

The moral of the story is this: Not all children are rebellious, loud, selfish, mean, aggressive, bossy, whiny, or moody, but all children have foolishness bound in their hearts. Give your children the gifts of wisdom, sobriety, and a sound mind; drive foolishness far from them.

It is much easier to squelch foolish behavior while the child is yet young. If you catch him acting silly or irresponsible, then rebuke and spank as needed to produce sobriety. When you see him do a dumb thing and you know he knows better (or at least should know better), communicate the seriousness of your concern with an unemotional, measured spanking.

“The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.”
— Ecclesiastes 10:13