Navigating Your Child's Education: Grades 6-8

3 min read

Parenting Tweens: The League of Folly and a Tribe of Discipline

Aug 27, 2019 7:00 PM

Prov. 22:15 – Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

Proverbs 22:15 is obviously a controversial verse for a number of reasons. This particular proverb seems to point to physical forms of discipline and could be misconstrued or taken to a very harmful extreme. Discipline can take many different forms in a parent-child relationship. How we discipline our children must be determined within the context of our relationship with the Lord and the individual needs of our children.

What’s interesting to me is that these words “bound up” and “rod” in Hebrew have dual meanings. So while at first glance, one could quickly read this verse (and other Proverbs that refer to the “rod” in parenting) and conclude, “If I spank my child, that will correct their behavior.” But through drilling down into the meaning of this text, we read a richer, deeper vision for godly parental discipline.

The first half of Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child…” The word “bound up” is actually the same root word used for the idea of a “league.” According to the wisdom of this proverb, young people are in the “folly league.”

Think about sports teams as they are structured in leagues. As the parent of a middle schooler, you know exactly how anyone in the “folly league” plays. Whether it’s a questionable social media interaction, a forgotten schoolwork assignment, disregarding authority, or something else, tweens are naturally inclined to folly.

I am not suggesting that tweens cannot be meaningfully involved in making their own decisions or that tweens are incapable of serving others, there is just an objective lack of years and experience that leave tweens needing guidance.

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The second half of Proverbs 22:15 says, “…but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” This phrase “rod of discipline” is found several places throughout the book of Proverbs, and is often interpreted as corporal punishment or spanking. The word for “rod” is actually also the root word for “tribe.”

In other words, tweens are in the “league of folly” and need a “tribe of discipline.” For young women, the “tribe of discipline” might be a group of trustworthy ladies around her that can speak wisdom—about relationships, school/career choices, spiritual formation and more—living life God’s way. For young men, the “tribe of discipline” might be a group of men who will share their mistakes while offering encouragement, wisdom, and accountability.

When our kids were about to become teenagers, my wife Angie and I spent some time with friends who were just ahead of us in their stage of raising children. They had really great kids; we asked them for advice. We sought out wisdom from our own “tribe.” They shared with us these two truths that they’d experienced:

  • Become friends with the parents of your children’s friends--Your kids likely won't listen to you, but your kids’ friends’ parents are the smartest, most awesome people in the world. Have you experienced that? Has your daughter come home and said, “You know Hanna’s mom told me that if I brush my teeth twice a day, I’m 75% less likely to get cavities?” Hanna’s mom is a genius!

In having relationships with parents of your children’s friends, you can align your messaging and communication so that you all can say the same things. Through nurturing these parent-to-parent relationships, you can develop a league (or tribe) of discipline.

  • Every kid makes mistakes, let them make some while they are with you--Proverbs 22:15 clearly explains that folly, mistakes, and failures are a part of the maturation process, and our role is to walk our children through mistakes--to deal with the league of folly--before they leave our home. This may require us to give our children enough leeway to experience some failure while they are still with us so they are equipped to deal with it independently as they grow up.

As parents, it can be disheartening and frustrating to see our children playing in the "league" of folly, but scripture counsels us that a "tribe" of discipline "drives it far from him." Through aligning messaging with our children's friends' parents, fostering an environment of Christ-centered accountability, and allowing our children to make mistakes before they leave our home, we can help our children grow and mature.


Dean Fulks
Written by Dean Fulks

Dean has been the lead pastor at Lifepoint Church since its beginning in 2004. He is also the coordinator for SEND Columbus, an initiative to plant churches throughout central Ohio. Dean is married to Angie and they have three children. He has a Master’s of Divinity from Mid-America Theological Seminary (Memphis, TN), with a minor in Memphis barbecue.