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What Does The Bible Say About Spanking

Treat The Issue As Over

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After administering corporal punishment , do not keep bringing up your childs misbehavior.

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Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God’s truths in your daily life.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. See reprint policy.

Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com for practical, biblical, cross-cultural books, Bible studies, and ebooks.

That Spanking Is Harmful To Children

Spanking can be made harmful by misuse. I dealt with that in the introduction. But the idea that spanking is in itself harmful is a false teaching from Satan himself. This false teaching will eventually destroy the inner discipline of so many people that it will cause a breakdown of the social fabric that holds our culture together. We see it happening today as we watch. Listen to what God says:

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That Crying Is To Be Avoided At All Costs

One of the humorous techniques found in old movies has a man melting and giving in to just about anything when his sweetheart starts crying. Sadly, we see this panic and fear of a crying child in parents today. Children pick up on this fear and use it as a tool to create compliant parents. They develop mad-crys and fake-crys in order to mold mom and dad into putty that can be easily controlled. God, however, does not think that all crying is bad.

Should There Be An Age Limit On Spanking

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Part of my background has been in Early Childhood Education where I studied the ages and stages. Infants and babies should never be spanked, as they are not old enough to understand the reasoning behind it. They need parental redirection, attention, and care. They do not know right from wrong yet, and spanking will come as a shock. This stage of life is a time of building trust and spanking them will only confuse them.

Children aged two through seven usually have established trust with parents. They go from dependence to independence. They test parents to see what they can get away with and they want to overrule their parents authority. Spanking may be appropriate at this age from time to time, but children at this age still need a lot of grace and patience. Children can naturally be impulsive, selfish, and easily frustratedso its important to empathize with them and help them talk through emotions.

“Love is patient, kind and full of grace and forgiveness”

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What Is The Context

This Proverb is an observation of a general truth. Once again, this is not a command.

This is the fruit of one who is a fool and quite possibly this is talking about a foolish king.

Sowing injustice or iniquity often happens when a foolish son trains for future leadership and comes to power as a ruler or king. There are many examples of this in the Old Testament with the accounts of wicked kings.

Or this could also be saying that those who do bad or wicked things will suffer bad things? In any case, this is not talking about disciplining children.

That Control Over Your Child Can Be Gained Later

We usually express this excuse for not correcting our children as a stage they are going through. Of course, our child begins and ends these stages earlier and later than other children. Just ask us and we will tell you. We have created the terrible twos and the teen years as an explanation for our lack of godly parenting. But Gods word shows us, that if we do not have control over our children now, it is doubtful that we will have any control later.

  • Proverbs 19:18 Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
  • Each child has a window of hope. When that window is closed, there is little you can do to reach them. Yes, we can pray and should do so. But you must control them now before it is too late.
  • Biblical discipline is based on a concept the world hates. It is based on a recognition of the sinful nature of all people. The Bible teaches that children naturally become selfish, hateful and cruel. Parental discipline creates an atmosphere in which this selfish behavior is uncomfortable and is therefore avoided.
  • Eventually, the external discipline is internalized. The child matures and gets to where he can control himself without the continual threat of punishment. Since this internalizing of discipline is always a painful process, it is easiest to establish when the child is still young. Later is at best harder at worst it is impossible.

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Five Biblical Principles For Spanking

If spanking is to become a part of your parenting toolkit, it should be done with the Fruit of the Spirit as the foundation:

1. Focus on Love

Within a loving parenting relationship believe it or not, spanking can be an important time of connection when its done with calmness, explanation and immediate reconnection. Effective spanking involves responding in love, not reacting in fearthe fear that youve lost control of this human you are raising. Spanking outside of a loving relationship only produces angry kidskids who are more likely to rebel than participate in a relationship with their parents. Throughout the Psalms, especially Psalm 119, David provides the visual representation of a God who is trustworthy and loving in His correction even though its sometimes uncomfortable.

2. Look for Other Discipline Options before Choosing to Spank

When theres imminent danger and you need to get the childs attention so he doesnt repeat the behavior, or when the other tools in your discipline toolkit havent been productive for a particular circumstance, a spank may be appropriate.

3. Maintain Self-Control and Avoid Anger

This is hard! Kids know how to push our buttons, which can seemingly shut down our brains and our self-control. A time-out will help you get back on your mental game and avoid an impulsive, ineffective correction. Instead, see #1 above.

4. Whatever is Good, Whatever is Noble

5. Only Spank Privately, If Possible

How Should Christians Respond To Spanking

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“Train up a child in the way he should go even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Christians must have knowledge and understanding about the emotional, social, and spiritual wellbeing of childrens needs. As Christians, we must look at the battles our children are faced with today. They need more from us than just a hand spanking. Childrens hearts are broken, confused, abandoned, and our culture is very reckless in caring about what they advertise to children. God has called us to love, to Be completely humble and gentle be patient, bearing with one another in love . The best thing we can do for our children is to train them to love by loving them and showing love to others.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

When using spanking, Christians should wait on the Lord for guidance. Parents should pray about their discipline style. Christians need to seek godly counsel with parenting concerns. Leaders in the church need to be trained in child discipleship and provide parents with Christ-centered, biblical information and resources.

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Look At The Purpose For The Passage

The rod verses fall in what we would call wisdom literature, which is not a set of commands but rather a set of principles of how the world works. They are often poetic and often metaphorical or allegorical, compared to the rest of Scripture. For instance, in Proverbs 6:19-20, were told to tie the commands of our father around our necks. Anyone wore a command necklace lately?

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Heres My Plea: Sometimes We Think Were Just Following The Bible When Really Were Following What Weve Been Told Is The Bible

And weve been told it so many times that we cant imagine it NOT being the Bible. This is true with spanking, but its true with so many other things, too, like:

  • May 23, 2022 at 8:49 am

    Yes!! Thank you!! Ive been on this journey myself as a new mother raised in a very authoritarian/abusive household where even abuse was justified with scripture. Ive felt sick to my stomach at the thought of hitting my 9 month old so Ive been digging into research and scripture interpretations and Im so relieved by what Ive found. I think spanking has held on so long because it caters to the parents sin nature a desire for control and to have others look at us as having good kids. Its not for the child so much as to get the results we want. So much relearning going on in my own heart and its encouraging to see you talking about it too!!

  • May 23, 2022 at 9:08 am

    So I shared your Friday Fixed it For You on my churchs Facebook page and it erupted with 166 comments before I turned the comments off. But anyway, one guy arguing for spanking said that if spanking has negative outcomes its because the parents are doing it wrong. The problem cant be God or his Word. Spanking is God ordained. Parents are doing it wrong.

    I have a question about the study: What were the operational definitions of negative outcomes and positive outcomes?

  • Your Rod And Your Staff They Comfort Me

    Gospel

    In Psalms 23, the rod and staff are considered comforting. Lets unpack that.

    Part of discipline is establishing boundaries, and boundaries are comforting for everyone. Theyre especially comforting to children who are trying to figure out the world and testing limits and authority. Its helpful to think of your parenting role as that of a shepherd, guiding your childrens paths and protecting them.

    A shepherd uses his staff to provide small corrections along the way, allowing him to keep his sheep on the path. That model applies to parenting as well. Think about your discipline style. Do you guide and redirect along the way or do you tolerate, tolerate, tolerate and explode? If its the latter, you may want to take a cue from the shepherds.

    Providing that comforting correction and encouragement along the way takes time and intentionality, but the payoff is huge. When you provide that correction often and early in life, your children will very likely need much less correction as they mature.

    Rarely, a shepherd needs to use his rod to correct or protect his sheep. Its not punishment out of anger, but rather a protective mechanism to keep the sheep from danger. Its correction out of concern and love.

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    Dr. Tim Muehlhoff is a professor of communication at Biola University in La Mirada, California where he teaches classes in family communication, interpersonal communication, apologetics, gender, and conflict resolution. Tim and his wife, Noreen, are both on staff with Biolas Center for Marriage and Relationships where he is a co-host of The Art of Relationship podcast.

    Why Im Not Convinced Biblical Spanking Is Biblical

    This week were tackling an incredibly sensitive and divisive subject: spanking as a form of discipline. Four women have agreed to share with us the reasons why they chose to spank their children, or why they opted not to. This series is not meant to convince anyone that spanking is either right or wrong, but rather to give us each the chance to hear from mothers who have chosen different from us. It also gives us the opportunity to thoughtfully reflect on how weve chosen to parent our own children. Find all installments from this series here.

    We didnt initially make a conscious parenting decision not to spank, but it wasnt a discipline method that held much appeal for either me or my husband, so we never did it.

    But then, after a discussion in a church setting several years ago, I set out to learn a little bit more. Because even after hearing pastors who knew way more about the bible than I did explain the why and the how of spanking from a Christian parenting approach, something still didnt sit right with me.

    And after doing my own research several years ago I can unequivocally say that I wont spank my kids. But before I tell you why, you need to know two things:

    So without further ado, here are the reasons that I dont spank my children, both from my journey as a parent and from what I believe to be a biblical perspective.

    Parenting is not easy, and when it comes to a critical issue like discipline, the stakes are high. We dont want to mess up.

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    Who Is The Father

    a. In the Old Testament, most often the father is the immediate progenitor. But father could also refer to grandfather, clan patriarch, tribal leader or elder, or a wise teacher of the Law.

    b. These fathers were responsible for drilling the Law into the trainees. The Law-Word brought tangible blessings and life to the son, father, family, clan, tribe, and nation.

    c. In Proverbs, the father is the teacher and the son is the student-learner.

    The Hebrew term, ben, doesnt tell us the age but the context of passage with the word ben in Proverbs does. Proverbs is talking about naar/son who is 12 to 24 years-old. Again, see this article.

    The specific and limited interpretation would see this as the naar/son in training.

    The broad interpretation would interpret this as any offspring.

    The rod might have been applied to the back of a young boy , though some scholars make a point that in ancient Jewish culture, the son was not accountable to the Law until he was a naar/son, about twelve years old.

    Samuel Martin and Clay Clarkson bring out there is a lack of evidence to show this kind of beating happened with younger children.

    William Webb says it is possible the ancient Jews followed the 40 lashes limit for adults and possibly worked backward to 1-2 smacks on the back for a child. But there is no hard evidence for this.

    The extra-biblical ancient text, The Wisdom of Sirach makes it clear that children were also beaten on their backs with rods.

    This Verse Is Descriptive And Says What Is Or What Can Be It Is Not A Command

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    a. Proverbs 10:13 serves as a warning to older sons in training if they deviate from Gods Law and righteous path.

    b. The broader impact was more than merely ones personal affront to Gods Law.

    Such a person dishonored his parents. For a culture with the family honor code, it was a very serious thing to bring shame to the parents and family. We see this type of culture in our day with conservative Muslim families or various traditional Asian families.

    This wayward son person easily influenced other members of the community

    c. This verse is not commanding a parent to use the rod on the fool. Rather, it is a visual description of the kind of person a fool is. Everyone in that society knew the fool was identified with the rod of punishment. They went together like butter to toast or ducks to water .

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    The Right Way & Wrong Way To Discipline Your Child

    Knowledge and wisdom is important when raising your kids. But just because you know something doesnt mean that you know how to apply those things.

    We must ask Jesus to give us wisdom when disciplining our children.

    Wisdom is the ability to apply the knowledge you have, or answer the question, What should I do?

    As Christians, our wisdom should come from God, not the world. We can get wisdom straight from the Word of God , and through prayer by asking.

    Start today to seek Gods way of living, and implement that to your kids.

    Our goal in parenting isnt raising perfect children but rather to develop kids who know how to make good decisions driven by Godly wisdom

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