I believe in original sin–through one man, Adam, sin entered the world. We are all born infected with this virus–think of a computer virus. It doesn’t make everything your computer does mess up, but if it’s in there, it’s infected. But I do not believe this means we are born sinners OR sinning–rather, with an inclination to sin. Without God we will sin.
Then it comes down to how you define sin–whether it’s a violation of a “known” law, or any deviation from the perfect will of God. But either way–it doesn’t require punishment. See, if you believe that it’s a violation of a known law of God then very young children, based simply on mental and cognitive development, can’t be guilty of sin. This is actually what I believe. But if you believe it’s any deviation from the perfect will of God then you believe that everyone sins all the time throughout their lives, so what makes sin from young children different or worthy of some extra punishment? Because Scripture is very clear that Jesus took all of our punishments on the Cross and we cannot think that we must add something more for our children–this idea actually makes it so that children’s sins become MORE than adults and that is not even rational. In other words, Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to atone for your sins, but not for your children’s–that takes something extra.
Moving into talking about willful disobedience—I simply do not find this to be a legitimate argument when it comes to young children. If you study the development of the mind at all you know that children don’t develop logic until ten (pre-logic begins at age eight) and reason doesn’t even come until fourteen, so the idea that a toddler or very young child is willfully disobeying doesn’t fit–they lack the mental capacity to do that. It’s also important to note that in both Greek and Hebrew the concept of “obey” is based on the assumption that the one being obeyed has earned the trust of the one obeying–it’s a voluntary variation of normal response. In other words, disobedience is the normal human response when there is no trust. When there is trust, relationship, and discipleship– then there is obedience. You can demand compliance, but not obedience. Obedience must be earned. When a parent is demanding obedience from a young child and considering any lack of obedience to be willful they simply lack understanding of how God made children.
I do understand how frustrating it can be to have a toddler do something you’ve told them not to do. But this is the age for earning trust–for making your words have meaning. You can’t just tell them to do something and expect unquestioning compliance—this is the time to make it happen. Pick them up and move them; redirect; etc. Discipline
cannot take place outside of relationship and adversarial approaches DETACH. This is why spanking “the right way” is always followed by a ritual for reattachment. But that detachment is counter productive.
Teaching done within relationship, that doesn’t ever detach, is discipleship.
Disciples imitate the master, the master doesn’t demand imitation. You cannot demand respect; you command it by being worthy of respect.
This is why I talk about discipline requiring that we, the parents, change–that we be the people we want our children to become. They will imitate us–at least until they reach a stage where they decide whether that is a wise road to continue down. Teen rebellion usually comes from (among other things and combined with other things) seeing hypocrisy from parents–inconsistency between what they say and who they really are. There is a need to individuate (separate into their own person) but this doesn’t have to be the painful, challenging thing it has become in our culture.