Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday--What I think about SPANKING

To Spank or Not to Spank?  What a Scary Question

Spanking is a pretty hot topic and I was asked to share my thoughts on the subject by a few moms in North Carolina.   What I put here, of course, is my opinion only and should not be a substitute for prayer and research on your part. 

Let me start by announcing boldly that I am not drawing a line in the sand.  I am not saying it is good or bad to spank.  I’ll probably get hate mail for my refusal to be black or white but you should know that grey is my favorite color and my favorite place to be.

So, here are random ramblings related to spanking.

First and foremost, I know that the AAP, Dr. Phil, and Super Nanny are against spanking. Those experts are speaking to a large demographic and given the prevalence of child abuse, not endorsing corporal punishment makes sense. But I also know that these experts are not your child’s parents and they may not have your belief system.

Biblical References

Corporal punishment is mentioned in the Bible.  Here are some verses to reference:

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him (Proverbs 13:24).

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him (Proverbs 22:15).

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die (Proverbs 23:13).

The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother (Proverbs 29:15)

My Thoughts on These Verses

First, shepherds used rods to guide and direct their sheep.  At times the crook was put around a sheep’s neck to get it out of crags. Other times it was used physically to direct sheep.  The rod is used metaphorically and it is stated, “your rod and your staff comfort me.” Please note that while “rod” can mean corporal punishment, it can also mean guidance. 

In Proverbs 13:24, parents who love their children are “careful” to discipline them.  Think about the word “careful.”  It means intentionally exercising caution.  In my opinion, if you yell or strike out at a child in a fit of wrath and anger, you are not carefully disciplining.     

Proverbs 22:15 talks about disciplining a foolish child.  I caution you to be aware of the difference between rashly acting or being foolish versus being childish.  Your child will do things that will make you angry that are childish, not foolish.  Spilling milk is childish, not foolish.  Do not discipline your child for being childish—correct them.  Guide them.

Proverbs 23:13 and 29:15 encourage parents not to shy away from guiding and disciplining their children.  You are your child’s biblical authority.  Be their loving authority and advocate. You are responsible to train your child, which might include corporal punishment but also means more than spanking.

Given these verses, I do think that corporal punishment is biblically founded and may be useful when used correctly.  When done incorrectly, spanking can cause humiliation, anger, and bitterness in the heart of your child. It can harm children emotionally and physically, and is child abuse.

Spanking is not prohibited and may be encouraged.  However, you must remember that "everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial" (1 Cor 10:23).  There are biblical guidelines on how to discipline a child correctly. If you are not willing to put time and effort into praying and researching how to correctly discipline your child, please do NOT spank them.

Corporal punishment is a heart issue, not a salvation issue; therefore, I can't tell you that you must or must not do it.  Spanking or not does not make you a good, Christian parent.

What We Do
I went into parenting being 100% opposed to spanking; Matt viewed corporal punishment in a more positive light.  Therefore, we researched and prayed and came up with our parenting style. 

We have spanked our daughter a couple of times in response to severe, repeated disobedience. But more often, we’ve used time-outs, natural consequences, and loving guidance and discussion.

In the end, the decision to use or not use corporal punishment can only be made by you and your husband after a time of prayer and research.

If you choose to use corporal punishment, please read Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp.  This book will instruct you on spanking in a manner that encourages forgiveness and reconciliation. 

Some basic guidelines:

  • Never spank in anger or out of wrath.  Corporal punishment is not about vindication, retribution, or emotional release.
  • Do not spank your child for being childish.  Being disobedient and being childish are very different issues.
  • Never punish in a manner that embarrasses or humiliates your child.
  • Have a conversation with your child.  Try to find out why the disobedience happened and explain why the action was not correct.  Don’t lecture; listen.
  • If the situation requires a spanking, spank your child only on the bottom.  Use one or two swats that sting.  Test on your thigh first.
  • Show your child that it hurts you to spank them.  Encourage reconciliation and forgiveness.
  • Pray with your child.
  • When the event is done, it is done.  Do not re-hash or bring it up.
  • NEVER allow anyone but you and your spouse to spank your child.

Please remember that corporal punishment should only be a part of your parenting style, if used at all.
Whatever you do, be consistent, loving, and fair.  If you need resources on biblical parenting I strongly recommend Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel.

Please note that there is research about spanking that is more science-based (as opposed to faith-based).  I've not discussed that and will leave doing that research up to you, though this link to a comment from a reader offers resources.


  1. Well written!

    I totally agree that being a spanking or non-spanking parent has NOTHING to do with your relationship with Christ.

    I, personally, do not agree with spanking. I cannot picture a scenario that hitting a child would be the most appropriate or effective way to get a message across. I totally admit, however, to having done it a time or two amongst my three children.

    For me, I truly didn't know what else to do. I had tried all of my usual parenting tool-box, positive discipline methods. After two weeks of repeated disobedience from my 5 yr old, I finally swatted him on the rear. He got two spankings in one day, when he'd never been spanked IN HIS LIFE before that. You'd think it would shock him into behaving.. but no. He got really angry and he lashed back physically. It just made things worse. Adding physical punishment, for us, as never resulted in a positive outcome. (even with the converstion before and after the spanking)

    I love how you put on here the difference between childishness and disobedience. Oh I wish everyone would read that!

    I do believe that you can spank in a "more" appropriate way, but I just can't see it as a loving act. I do understand why ppl do it, but I do think they rely much too heavily on the misconstrude Biblical verses which, to many ppl's opinions, are NOT talking about spanking but only about guidance and teaching.

  2. Mandy--

    I very much agree that the verses can be totally misconstrued and have been used in oppressive measures. That's why I encourage anyone contemplating corporal punishment to read *Sheparding* (a book that encourages communication first and foremost).

    My Bestie has used spanking rarely and successfully but always as a last resort. She is the one who recommended the book. It took a lot of discipline on my part to make sure I was disciplining my child in a loving, graceful manner.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and comments.

  3. Thanks, Reagan! It's always good to hear the thoughts of another intelligent, Christian woman. I'm so glad you started a blog! :)

    -Christy (snowed-in in NC!)

  4. Christy,

    My pleasure. I appreciate the idea of something to blog about.

    Can't believe you're snowed in! We are in the 40s! Guess you shouldn't have moved back. Ha ha ha.

    How's Baby H?



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