The Importance of Spanking a Child

(Post 3 of a series of 4)

This will be post #3 in my series on parenting, and this one will answer the question of what the Bible teaches about spanking. Before we look at any scripture, though, I want to say a quick word about child abuse. Sadly, child abuse does occur. And, unfortunately, many people label any form of spanking as child abuse. But I want you to give me credit for not advocating fanatic extremism. When I talk about spanking a child, I’m not talking about breaking a child’s arm, blacking a child’s eye, or bloodying a child’s nose. Instead, I’m talking about spanking in a sane, sensible way, one that makes use of that part of the anatomy that has extra flesh and padding. (Surely it can’t be mere coincidence that God built us all with some extra padding back there.)  Anyone with an ounce of common sense and Biblical sense knows that there are limits to how far a parent can go when spanking a child. My point with this post is simply that going to the other extreme and not spanking is also wrong. Putting a ban on spanking might satisfy the politically correct, but it will never satisfy God.

Alright, now let’s look at some scripture. We’ll begin with Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”

Obviously, this verse flies directly in the face of the attitude that says, “If you really love your child, you will not spank that child.” God says, “That’s the exact opposite of the truth.” He says, “If you really love your child, you will spank that child.” The term I like is “tough love.” Real love can’t always be mush and gush. Real love must sometimes involve using the rod for the purpose of discipline.

The fact is that God, as each Christian’s heavenly father, simply demands that earthly parents follow the example that He sets in dealing with His children. I say this because Hebrews 12:5-10 tells us in no uncertain terms that God disciplines (chastens, whips) Christians when their unholy behavior demands it. That passage actually goes so far as to say that if God doesn’t chasten a person, that person isn’t a true child of God (a true Christian).

Listen, parents, you aren’t more loving than God! God loves each Christian far more than any earthly parent loves any earthly child, and yet He still disciplines each Christian. You see, He doesn’t ask any parent to do something that He Himself isn’t willing to do. God knows that children must be disciplined (chastened, spanked). He loves His children too much not to spank them when they need it, and He asks each parent to follow His example.

Now let’s look at Proverbs 19:18: “Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction.”

The scary part of this verse is that phrase “while there is hope.” The teaching is that a parent only has a limited window of time in which to break a child of its stubborn, destructive self-will. Parent, if you wait until the teenage years to start your chastening, you will be too late. You’ve got to do your chastening while your child is still developing those traits and habits that will carry that child through life. Never forget that those traits and habits will go a long way in determining what kind of a life the child will have.

Think about cement. When cement is first mixed and poured, you can put your handprint or your footprint into it. You can even write your name in it. But you can’t do any of that once that cement becomes hardened and settled.

In the same way, the parent who wants to leave an indelible impression upon a child must make that impression while the child is young. Once that child reaches a certain age, the impression won’t take. You can’t do much with a sixteen-year-old smart aleck. You can’t build the proper values and the right kind of character into an eighteen-year-old know-it-all. That’s why we’ve got to mold and shape our children while they are still young. We’ve got to chasten them while there is hope.

Next, let’s look at Proverbs 22:15: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.”

Parents, we’ve got to get away from this idea that children are naturally innocent. Each child comes out bearing the mark of Adam’s fall from righteousness. Maternity wards are filled with little sinners, and don’t you ever forget that. A newborn has daddy’s eyes, mommy’s nose, and Adam’s nature of sin.

Because of that nature of sin, each child is eaten up with foolishness. Children do things they shouldn’t do, foolish things. They run out in front of traffic. They try to climb trees. They throw temper tantrums in the middle of stores. They do the very things they are told not to do.

How do we get this foolishness out of them? Will begging do it? No. Will bargaining do it? No. Will reasoning do it? No. The Bible says that what will do it is the rod of correction.

I’m not against lecturing, revoking privileges, grounding, or putting a child in “time out.” Each of these brands of discipline has its place in the raising of a child. Furthermore, I don’t believe that spanking is always the best way of handling a situation. But let me be clear: I don’t read anything in the Bible about lecturing, revoking privileges, grounding, or using “time out.” I do, however, read a lot about spanking.

Parenting should work in the following way. First, parents should lay the foundation of spanking in a child’s life. Then, once the child has been spanked and knows that spanking is a very real disciplinary option, the parents can build a diverse system of discipline upon that firm foundation of spanking. That diverse system can include things such as lecturing, revoking privileges, grounding, or using “time out.”

But the great mistake so many parents make is they start trying to build the diverse system of discipline without ever laying the foundation for the building. They go straight to the other forms of discipline without first putting down the foundation of “the rod of correction.” So, yes, there will be exceptions to the rule of spanking, but let’s make sure that we don’t throw out the rule and just go with the exceptions. In God’s plan, the rod of correction, used rightly, is to be the initial, foundational means of disciplining in a child’s life.

Now let’s look at Proverbs 23:13-14: “Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.”

These verses take a little explaining. Let me start by saying that the Hebrew word that is translated here as “hell” is Sheol. There is a lot that I could say about this place called Sheol, but for now let me just say that in Old Testament days people thought of Sheol as the realm of the dead.

In other words, when anybody died that person’s soul went to Sheol. One section of Sheol held the souls of the saved. That section was one of bliss and comfort. The other section held the souls of the unsaved. That section was one of suffering and torment. The New Testament’s Greek word for this place is Hades. The Old Testament’s Sheol and the New Testament’s Hades are the same place.

So, when an Old Testament person says something about going to Sheol, he’s most likely talking in a very general way about dying. He’s simply saying, “I’m going to die.”

And so the teaching of Proverbs 23:13-14 is not that spanking automatically leads to a child’s salvation. The teaching is that, as a basic rule, children who are spanked correctly tend to grow up and live longer lives than children who are never spanked. When a parent refuses to spank a child and break that child of its inborn rebelliousness, that little rebel grows up to become a big rebel, and big rebels tend to live sin-shortened lives.

Big rebels rob banks and get killed in shootouts. Big rebels commit murder and are put to death in gas chambers. Big rebels become alcoholics whose livers and hearts become ravaged with the adverse effects of alcoholism. Big rebels become smokers whose lungs become blackened and damaged. Big rebels become drug addicts whose days are shortened by harming their bodies through drugs. Big rebels become sexually promiscuous and fall victim to sexually transmitted diseases. In all these examples and others we could mention, we see that unbroken rebels stand a very good chance of somehow shortening their days through some kind of sin.

Now let’s move to Proverbs 29:15,17. First look at verse 15: “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” And then comes verse 17: “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul.”

Here again we have a contrast presented. A child who is left to himself (who is not spanked when he or she needs it) brings his mother to shame, but a child who is corrected (who is spanked when he or she needs it) gives delight unto a parent’s soul. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, but something very important happens when a parent either spanks or refuses to spank. What happens is: One of two categories of “seed” is planted in the child’s life, seed that will produce a harvest the parent will one day have to reap. Rebels tend to make their parents’ last years troubled ones, years filled with regret. Why? It’s because those parents planted the wrong type of “seed” by refusing to spank. On the other hand, obedient children tend to make their parents’ last years good ones, years filled with peace. Why? It’s because those parents planted the right type of “seed” by spanking.

So, to sum all this up, many parents today just don’t realize that a deadly disease is coursing through the veins of their children. That disease is sin. Its symptoms are: disobedience, stubbornness, selfishness, temper-tantrums, back-talking, and rebelliousness. The only true cure for this disease is for the child to put saving belief in Jesus Christ. But until a child is old enough to make a legitimate, soul-saving decision to believe in Christ as Savior, the primary cure for the symptoms of the disease of sin is discipline. And, according to the Bible, the basic foundation for disciple should be spanking.

There was a time in this country when spanking was looked upon as a perfectly acceptable means of discipline, but now much of public opinion has changed. God hasn’t changed, though, and neither has His written word. He spanks His children (Christians) when they get out of line, and He expects earthly parents to do the same with their children.

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8 Responses to The Importance of Spanking a Child

  1. PDeverit says:

    Spirit of the law or letter of the law?: The vast majority of professionals agree that child bottom-battering/slapping isn’t healthy. A marginal few (mostly religious fundamentalists as those at Calvin) think that child bottom-slapping is good.

    “The much-touted ‘biblical argument’ in support of corporal punishment is founded upon proof-texting a few isolated passages from Proverbs. Using the same method of selective scripture reading, one could also cite the Bible as an authority for the practice of slavery, adultery, polygamy, incest, suppression of women, executing people who eat pork, and infanticide. The brutal and vindictive practice of corporal punishment cannot be reconciled with the major New Testament themes that teach love and forgiveness and a respect for the sacredness and dignity of children, and which overwhelmingly reject violence and retribution as a means of solving human problems. Would Jesus ever hit a child? NEVER!”
    The Rev. Thomas E. Sagendorf, United Methodist Clergy (Retired), Hamilton, Indiana, 2006.

    • russellmckinney says:

      I understand your answer and respect you as a person, but I do not agree with your position. Here are a couple things. First, the vast majority of professionals also believe that abortion, the ultimate form of child abuse, is a viable option for expectant mothers. So, they aren’t going to concur with the Bible on many issues. Second, I’ll admit that the passages are all from Proverbs, but this isn’t a case of what you call “proof texting.” For one thing, the passages are numerous. For another, how many times does God have to say something before we give Him credit for being serious about it? Why are Proverbs passages such as 3:5-6, 16:18, 31:10-31 and others considered acceptable, even fertile, ground for preaching and teaching but the passages on spanking aren’t? Such “hunting and picking” is true “proof texting.”

      For that matter, 2 Timothy 3:16 does say: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” That word “All” includes more than John 3:16. It also includes those verses from Proverbs.

      As for the question of “spirit of the law or letter of the law?”, Proverbs is not a “law” book. The “letter” of the Old Testament law is recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Proverbs, on the other hand, is a “wisdom” book that offers general wisdom for living. There’s nothing “law” about it.

      As your selected quote points out, the Bible is a big, complex book that can be mishandled to teach many things. That’s why we must consider the totality of the book whenever we are trying to get at the truth of a subject. For example, passages in which Old Testament characters such as Jacob, David, and Solomon became polygamists must be interpreted through the light of ones such as Genesis 2:21-25, Matthew 19:1-9, 1 Timothy 3:2, and Titus 1:6, which plainly teach that polygamy is wrong. But there is no passage, Old Testament or New Testament, that contradicts the Proverbs passages on spanking.

      Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:20-21 command children to “obey” and “honor” their parents. Those passages also instruct fathers not to provoke their children to wrath. But none of that speaks directly to spanking. The end of the Ephesians passage commands fathers to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (N.K.J.V.) Again, though, there’s nothing there to rule out spanking.

      On the other hand, Hebrews 12:6 walks hand in hand with the Proverbs passages. It says: “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” The Greek word translated there as “scourges” is “mastigoo” and it is the exact same word used to describe the whipping that Jesus took from the Romans just before His crucifixion. Obviously, I’m not saying that children should be whipped with a Roman “cat of nine tails” whip. I’m simply pointing out that Hebrews 12:6 does say that God “whips” (spanks) each of His children. Therefore, when someone says that Jesus would never hit (spank) a child, my response is that Hebrews 12:6 indicates otherwise. The Lord does it every day with “scourges” (whips) that we can’t see.

      From what I can tell, this whole issue strikes a chord with you. So let me be clear that I am not a Bible-thumping, backward, caveman with knuckles that drag the ground. I am a college graduate who is currently raising two typical boys. I don’t keep them locked in the basement or chained up in a closet. I don’t hit them with two-by-fours while drunkenly spouting off verses from Proverbs. There’s nothing scandalous or “Livetime Movie Network” about us.

      Still, I’m not just boasting when I say that others will agree that my boys are good kids. They are well-behaved and respectful. They do well in all areas, including social settings and sports. But they do know what it is to be acceptably spanked by a loving father. The great thing is, as they have gotten older, the need for spankings has decreased. You see, the Biblical foundation of discipline (spanking) was laid and now we are enjoying the blessings of being able to build a great life off that basic foundation.

      The boys certainly aren’t emotionally or physically scarred for life. To the contrary, they now understand important concepts such as authority, submission, acceptable behavior, punishment for unacceptable behavior, and discipline. All of that will give them an ideal opportunity to live lives of decency and morality and become highly productive people.

  2. PDeverit says:

    People used to think it was necessary to “spank” adult members of the community, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual battery if a person over the age of 18 is “spanked”, but only if over the age of 18.

    For one thing, because the buttocks are so close to the genitals and so multiply linked to sexual nerve centers, slapping them can trigger powerful and involuntary sexual stimulation in some people. There are numerous physiological ways in which it can be sexually abusive, but I won’t list them all here. One can use the resources I’ve posted if they want to learn more.

    Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child buttock-battering (euphemistically labeled “spanking”,”swatting”,”switching”,”smacking”, “paddling”,or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    I think the reason why television shows like “Supernanny” and “Dr. Phil” are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak,

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson,

    NO VITAL ORGANS THERE, So They Say
    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at http://www.nospank.net.

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    American Psychological Association,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    Churches’ Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus’ Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    • russellmckinney says:

      It’s clear that you’ve spent a lot of time studying this issue, but it’s also clear that we are coming at it from two completely different perspectives. What I wrote was all about the Bible. So, you really aren’t arguing with me so much as you are arguing with it. The basic issue has nothing to do with the laws of other countries or various “experts” on the subject. As is the case with so many topics, the question comes down to, “Do you believe that every word of the Bible is God inspired as 2 Timothy 3:16 says?” If you do, then the Proverbs passages on spanking trump what anybody else says about spanking. If you don’t, then it is pointless for me to argue with you.

      As to the relationship between striking the bottom and stimulating sexual feelings, God knows more about the human anatomy than we do. Any talk about spanking unintentionally leading to sexual arousement says much more about our depraved, sex-crazed society than it does about God and His written word. In the end, if you want to give more credence to the stated positions of Dr. Phil or Supernanny than God, that’s your right. But years ago Tonya and I made the parental decision that we were going to believe the Bible and build our parenting around it.

      Ryan is 12 now and Royce is 9, and we are greatly pleased with the results we’ve seen across the board. No, our boys aren’t perfect, but the behavior they exhibit definitely falls in the high range on where we’d like to see it at this level. Putting it simply, God’s way has worked for us. That is undeniable. And that’s why I can speak with the benefit of experience when I recommend it to anyone who wants genuine truth.

  3. I find it interesting that in this world you can find “experts” to prove whatever viewpoint you hold. It begs the question of authority. If the mind is already contrived what it may think is truth, then citing what you find from experts in the field, though contrary to other experts, merely supports a viewpoint established more on self authority than expert rhetoric. Certainly, we can all agree to the varied nature of the shaded lens of self belief rooted in self authority. However, if the Bible has complete authority, how does that change things? Well, it doesn’t if used in the same manner as the role of the “experts”. Consider reading the Bible as the ultimate authority and explore it with an openness to the Holy Spirit, who guides into all truth. One side note, you must have been drawn by and indwelt by the Spirit for this method to be of use. Otherwise it will be rubbish to you. The Spirit will always be in harmony with the word, unlike a trail of highly educated and trained experts. If they don’t agree, where then is truth? Is that for you to decide? Does it center around you? Or, could there possibly be a source of all truth, knowable – even on a personable level? Examine for yourself – no book has been studied more and understood less. If you’ve read this very valuable exchange, I pray you read more of the Bible and ask the Counselor to guide you into truth. Keep searching… He’s looking for you.

  4. Dieter says:

    Hi Russel,

    you´re so right! When I was young, I discovered my own will and I tried all to get my own will. I remember a short time of rebellion without limits in me. But my mom and dad recoginized their responsability soon. They spanked my bare butt soundly, it was a hard and relatively short struggle, During the spankings I often felt, it would be better to me to die than to submit in my rebellion, but it hurts so much when you´re spanked properly, you´re so exhausted from crying, when spanked long enough and then there´s the moment of brokenness and relief, that you feel submitting is better than to die. The spankings humbled me, the baring was an humiliating aspect of the chastisement, but it showed me unmistakebly how commited and helpless I was and that I could never win this battle. Daddy was in charge and I had to comply. That was the point. When I was 6 and went to school, I was a good and obedient boy. The spankings, I´ve got changed my life forever. Sometimes when I´m dreaming, I try to rebell against someone, even I don´t know why, I try to cry out, but in the same moment I´m breaking down, helpless with a frog in the throat. The fight of the wills between me and my parents is an experience that I will never forget in my life, the painful spankings and the changing of my mind are present every day. I´m so greateful to my parents that they accomplished God´s will.

    I would be glad to hear from you.

    Yours truly

    Dieter

    • russellmckinney says:

      Thanks for your comment Dieter. Yes, the problem of one’s self-will is a major one, the depths of which few people seem to truly appreciate. It sounds like you have struggled with it even more than most.

      • Dieter says:

        Dear Russel,

        that´s the point, the sin of rebellion and the struggle with it, you´re really a wise man and you know me very good, leaded by the holy spirit in you.

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