Is Spanking Really a Good Idea?
(All quotations from Proverbs unless noted.)
“To put it in very simple terms: firm, painful discipline works!”
Those words are from an article entitled Our Children: A Source of Gladness or Grief? In that article I exhorted parents to work diligently to train and discipline their children properly because it is both best for the children and expected of us by God. This week I want to offer some suggestions for those who believe that firm, strict discipline, especially if it includes spanking, is an outdated, ineffective relic leftover from a less enlightened bygone era. Some choose to reject discipline that includes corporal punishment without ever trying it, but others say they no longer use it because they tried it and it didn’t work for them. Without claiming to have all the answers, consider the following responses to some objections I have heard, and in a later article we will consider a few reasons some parents don’t see the results they were hoping for.
“All the experts say there are better, more effective ways than spanking.”
It is probably true that most behavioral psychologists and child welfare advocates oppose spanking, but don’t be misled into thinking the opposition is unanimous. Though they may be the minority, there are still many pediatricians and psychologists who believe spanking has an important place in the proper training of children. But what if without a single exception they were all in agreement? Would that change the words of the Almighty God? It was the Lord who granted Solomon a wisdom surpassing that of all other men (1 Kings 4:29-34) and led him to say the following: “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (13:24). “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him” (22:15). In Hebrews 12:5-11 we have a similar New Testament endorsement of chastening and the peaceable fruit it can yield. To dismiss spanking as a cruel, barbaric, and antiquated method of discipline is to reject the Bible as inspired of God and to make the wisdom of men superior to the law of God.
“Spanking teaches children that violence is acceptable.”
If you believe the Scriptures you know that this is not the case. Spanking does not promote violent behavior; instead, it helps teach children the importance of obedience and the concept that disobedience to the legitimate authorities brings painful consequences. If children do not learn to respect authority as toddlers and young children, they are likely to face the consequences in the classroom, the courtroom, or more importantly, before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). “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” (23:13, 14).
“My parents were too hard on me when I was growing up and I don’t want to be like them.”
While everyone should strive to learn from and not repeat the mistakes of their parents, answer this. Did you grow up respecting your parents, principal, police officers, etc.? Did you learn that a person can survive without having to have everything they might want at the very moment they want it? As a youngster I sometimes thought my parents were too strict and too harsh in their discipline, but I know now that I was looking at it from the point of view of a child who also didn’t understand why he had to wash his hands, brush his teeth, go to school, be quiet during the worship assembly, and use words like sir and ma’am, but looking back I am so glad they insisted on those things, and I realize now I would not have done most of those things without the occasional reminder that a spanking provided.
“Hardly a day goes by without a case of child abuse being reported, so why use a method of discipline so prone to abuse?”
Child abuse is a horrific, inexcusable crime, but to compare a properly administered spanking to the sadistic beatings some deliver is grossly unfair. Pain is a normal part of a child’s learning process. A child may fall down and bruise his forehead or touch something hot and get a little burn, and while we hate to see those things happen, we understand that they learn from those normal life experiences. Similarly, good parents do not enjoy giving a little smack to the toddler’s hand, taking a switch to the child’s legs, or putting a paddle to the “seat of the problem,” but the child will learn from those painful experiences. If you want to avoid abusing your child, one of the best things you can do is administer the discipline necessary to keep your child from driving you to the point of desperation and despair. “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul” (29:17).
All quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994 by Thomas Nelson Publishers