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How Legit is Spanking?

Spanking is not the most popular of topics. Seriously, who looks forward to that when considering the potential bliss of parenthood? Can you imagine a baby shower game entitled “pin the spanking spoon on the baby”? No, of course not! That would be horrible because there is nothing sweet about spanking.

But as uneasy as we are about spanking, we should admit, it is biblical.

The Proverbs state it plainly:

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.  –Proverbs 22:15

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.  –Proverbs 29:15

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. –Proverbs 23:13

When the Proverbs were penned, the “rod” was known to be a short stick a shepherd would use to redirect his sheep. With just a little tap tap the sheep would realize they were headed into danger, and they’d change their course.

Which is exactly the effect the “rod” has on a child. In fact, just a little pain goes a long way.  A long way in showing a child how they ought to live, in teaching them what sin is, and in communicating sin has consequences.

The Logic

Could God have prescribed another way to discipline children? I suppose he could’ve. But applying a measure of pain is a logical way to deal with sin and disobedience.

In life, when we do something wrong, there is often a painful consequence. It is not always physical pain, but it is pain nonetheless (and sometimes we wish it were merely physical). According to the wisdom of God, this is also how to teach a child—use a painful consequence.

Ultimately our acceptance of spanking comes down to accepting the words of God. If God’s word says discipline is a part of parenting, then it should be part of our parenting. If God’s wisdom says the rod is effective, then it would be foolish to not take heed.

The Motivation 

Initially, spanking doesn’t seem very loving. But Hebrews 12:6–7 says,

“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”

In other words, God shows his kids love by disciplining them, and the same motive should drive us.

If you still feel uneasy about the idea of spanking, here are a few biblical principles that should ease your concerns:

  • The “rod” was a small stick, not a large pole or beam! The idea is not beating our kids with a tree branch!
  • The goal is to apply just enough pain (and not more) to associate a painful consequence with a wrong action. The Bible never makes inflicting pain the goal; instead pain is the means to impart wisdom to a child (Proverbs 29:15).
  • Spanking shouldn’t involve venting our frustration or losing our temper (because that would be sinful on our part).
  • Our children should know that love is what motivates us to correct their behavior (as is seen in Hebrews 12:6-7).

If we are self-controlled when we discipline, a thoughtful spanking is a loving response to a child’s wrong-doing. Correction, as painful as it is, saves a child from far greater pains in life. As Proverbs 13:24 states, Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” 

The Battle

Let’s be honest. It’s not really our children who have a problem with spanking. It’s us. Children learn to understand and expect consequences. But we parents forget why we must discipline, and we quickly lose our motivation.

We need to hit “refresh” on the rationale for why we would go out of our way to inflict pain on the same children we’d give our very lives for.

We need to remember we do it not just because we love our kids, but because we love God. When we love God, we want to obey Him. Therefore when God says we should discipline our kids, we say “okay.” [It is even good for our children to see that when God says to do something, we choose to obey, whether we like it or not.]

But we also need to remind ourselves over and over again – this is for the good of our children. If we listen to the voices of culture, we may start thinking spanking is a tad abusive or over the top. Or we may agree with “better methods” out there. But God’s method is the best, most loving, most effective method there is. Spanking is truly a quick and powerful solution to fighting the foolishness and rebelliousness the Proverbs warn against.

Show Love! 

With love as the motive and with obedience to God driving us, let’s do the hard work of discipline. We surely want to train up kids who know right from wrong and who know how to obey authority; so like a loving shepherd with his rod of correction, let’s direct our little sheep. Let’s do it thoughtfully, with patience and self-control– but let’s do it faithfully.

While spanking is never easy or fun, we must remember: he who loves his son “is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24).


You can read Part 2 here:  When to Stop Spanking (and What To Do Instead)

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