Spanking. The act and even the word itself have become controversial. To many it is abuse, not discipline. People claim that it gives birth to frustration, anger, and violence. They say that it does not bring about any good, instead it does harm… and they are right.
“Spanking has been shown to weaken the bond between kids and parents, slow mental development and increase antisocial, violent and criminal behaviors.” (NY Daily News)
A child is caught lying to his mom, she grabs him by the arm, hauls him off to another room, lays him over her knee and gives him a good spanking. A boy sasses his dad who has had a bad day. He pops his son on the mouth telling him that he better not disrespect him like that. These are examples that are all too common when it comes to spanking. Such responses flow out of anger or frustration and accomplish nothing good. The Bible confirms this…
“The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)
Angry, harsh discipline slowly destroys the parent/child relationship. It breeds hostility and violence in many children. On that count, the world is right… this is sin.
But this does not mean that spanking, in and of itself, is bad. I believe the Bible actually shows us that corporal punishment, or spanking, can be good and fruitful when it is done according to the will and wisdom of God.
Before we consider more on this controversial issue, we need to go back to the authority of the word of God. The Bible is right and true, without any error. Therefore, we cannot ignore the parts that are hard to understand or make us a bit uncomfortable. We must always remember that God’s ways are not our ways, but they are good.
Secondly, we need to remember that all have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and this includes even our dear children.
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15)
I find the concept of spanking to be something of a mystery. I don’t really understand how it all works, but I trust that God knows how humans function and how to best to lead us from our folly when we are young.
“A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)
The rod is a symbol of authority that a parent holds within the home. It includes everything from time-outs to corporal punishment. It doesn’t demand only one way of disciplining a child, but it certainly does not forbid spanking. It certainly endorses it. But like all authority, we must be careful to never misuse it.
If You Spank
This is not a post on how to spank your child. There are wonderful books and sermons that go into great detail on that topic (Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, for example). But I strongly encourage every parent who will or is considering spanking their child when warranted to take these words to heart.
1. Never discipline in anger. It is sin against God and against your child because you are, in that moment, not motivated by love but driven by selfishness.
2. Discipline in private and not around other siblings or friends. Spanking should never be a means by which a child is shamed. They are to be corrected and comforted.
3. Make sure the punishment fits the crime. Spanking should be reserved for specific situations, restricted to certain ages. Not every sin deserves a spanking. We reserve such discipline for lying and blatant disrespect. In our house spankings have been infrequent but fruitful.
4. Make sure they understand why what they did was wrong. This is why anger must be put away. We must be able to talk to our child through the process as best as possible.
5. Make sure your child knows that this is not a break in the relationship, but a means by which it is established. Punishment should always be followed by hugs and words of love and encouragement.
The World Is Wrong
The rod of correction is not to be used when our child embarrasses us or when we are irritated. It is not something to wield when we are mad or in a bad mood. While the world is right that this kind of discipline does more harm than good, it is an overreaction to declare that spanking should never take place.
Don’t believe the hype, but don’t trust your heart either. Trust God’s Word. Discipline that is meted out with kindness and love restores a child and honors God.
Jen Thorn lives in Illinois where she serves alongside her husband, Joe, at Redeemer Fellowship. She loves studying theology, reading the Puritans, and has a passion for all things chocolate. Jen has 4 children and blogs at jenthorn.com as well as goodmorninggirls.org. Follow her on Twitter @jenlthorn