I recently began a series of posts about whether to spank children as a form of discipline. Here’s what the Bible actually says about spanking…
Let’s dive into the scriptures…
I’m going to start out with a few passages that refer to discipline/correction in general because they set the context for appropriate physical correction….
Proverbs 1:7 - The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
This passage highlights the importance of healthy fear as it relates to God and the discipline process. We can’t hope to discipline properly if we, as parents, don’t have a proper fear of the Lord, and if we are not helping our children to gain the beginnings of that fear also.
Proverbs 3:11-12 - My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
- Discipline is to be an act of love – when from God or a parent. I have to confess there have been times when I’ve rushed to discipline with one of my kids because I was personally hurt/embarrased/inconvenienced, etc. It had more to do with what the outcome was on me (a punitive, selfish response) than it did with the wrong that was done. Be careful to know your own motives, parents…
- A parent can delight in their child and be very attentive to discipline at the same time. We discipline our children because we care for them so much. We correct their wrong/unsocial/unkind/inconsiderate behavior because we delight in who they are and in who they are to become.
Proverbs 13:24 - He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
Some would argue that this passage is speaking of discipline in general, not a spanking. Could be… but coupled with the rest of the passages that speak of the rod, it’s a bit simplistic to make such a wholesale assumption… as you’ll see. But some points here:
- Not spanking is a form of neglect. Solomon says you hate your child if you withhold the rod of correction.
- Parents who love their kids are “careful” to discipline them. It’s a thoughtful, controlled process.
Proverbs 22:15 - Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
What is folly? Some translations call it “foolishness.” It’s a natural part of being a child to be foolish. Part of the parent’s job is to teach their children, through various means, how to curb that foolish tendency – because it can be very dangerous. Part of the way we parents are to do that is through the use of a spanking. Let me explain by way of an example…
Children get excited when they play. They lose all track of what’s going on around them. If you’ve ever tried to call your son to dinner when he’s playing Nintendo, you know what I mean.
Once, when my son was very small, he was absorbed in a game of “ball” we were playing in the front yard. We were having a great time. Then the ball went bouncing into the street. He went after it. Despite my calls and stern voice, he kept running – a look of joy on his cute little face! FOOLISHNESS!
I ran out, yanked him up, and spanked him – all the while telling him, “NO going out in the street! NO! You will get hurt…” Can you see that my application of a spanking was actually a response to his foolishness, and a loving action? I’d rather have his little bottom be sore for a bit, than for him to be broken and bleeding in the street.
Proverbs 23:13-14 - Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.
I have to laugh each time I read this because it so perfectly answers the concern of many opponents of spanking – and with a little twist of sarcasm, no less! The verse is making the point that physical punishment is completely appropriate when administered properly. This kind of punishment is actually very instrumental in leading the child into the right paths. And by the way, this verse makes no sense at all if “rod” only means “discipline.”
Proverbs 29:15 - The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.
Wisdom is the opposite of foolishness – and we see that not only does it drive out foolishness when we properly spank, it also embeds wisdom into the hearts of our children in ways they will not forget. The physical intensity of a spanking is part of what it is that engrains the lesson in the mind of the child. It was the physical intensity of falling from a 30 ft. cliff when rock climbing one spring that engrained the importance of using proper equipment into my head. I’ll NEVER make that mistake again. And parents who love their children cannot wait for the natural consequences to happen – if they do, they will have a dead child (remember the car coming down the street)? Spanking, properly applied, does bring wisdom.
I don’t want to abuse my children, neither do you. I don’t want to see anyone else abuse their children. But spanking is not abuse. When rightly administered, it is a form of loving discipline that curbs foolishness and imparts wisdom. You could ask my grown children, and they’d tell you the same.
In future posts I’ll go into what makes the difference between an appropriate spanking and an abusive one.
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