You Spank Your Child?!

I once came across an article on the internet written by an author who was vehemently against spanking. He saw it as a form of child abuse and raised all kinds of arguments against the biblical references quoted by Christians for disciplining with a rod. I can’t blame him. When you really think about it, the image spanking conjures is somewhat disconcerting — a parent hitting a little child on the rear end with a stick. It does sound kind of awful.

The topic of discipline, with a rod in particular, elicits all kinds of responses from people. And until parents understand the biblical basis and experience the positive results of discipline, spanking can sound wrong.

Before rejecting and banning spanking as a form of discipline in your home, please read on…

Personally, I was spanked when I was a child. And I never saw it as “abuse” as many people today might call it. On the contrary, I understood it as “mommy and daddy are teaching me how to obey.” My siblings and I were not spanked that often, but when we were, my parents always explained to us why we were getting a spanking, what rule was broken, and how we could change.

I was always spanked in the same way. It was a long walk down the hallway to my parents’ bathroom where the big leather belt of my dad was hanging behind the door. When my siblings or I disobeyed a major rule in our home, we knew that we would be getting a spanking with that belt. The routine was the same. Mom or dad would talk to us and explain how we disobeyed, and we would acknowledge our wrong and ask for forgiveness. They would tell us to bend over and they would spank our behind with the belt not more than two or three times (directly onto the skin). This was always done in private and not in anger. Not once did a spanking ever cut our skin to make us bleed, but every single time it would sting badly! We would then cry and my mom or dad would give us a great big hug and tell us they loved us. I praise God that we had a good relationship because I understood how these spankings were used to train us and not to punish us. There was never any feeling of bitterness toward my parents after they spanked me, too.

When Edric and I became parents, we also believed that spanking would help train our children to learn obedience. I remember the first spanking Edric gave Elijah. We both cried and it was hard for Edric to do it. But right after, Elijah embraced Edric and his heart became soft and yielding. From then on, we applied biblical spanking to discipline our young children. So far, it has been working to remove defiance from their hearts and we have not had to do it too often (Praise God!).

We have kept the rules simple and spank only for major things. My dad used to tell us, “spank for mistakes of the heart and not mistakes of the mind.” For example, if your child forgets to brush his teeth when you told him to, don’t spank for that. But if you told him to brush his teeth and he yells back, “No!” that’s different. That’s wilful disobedience or a mistake of the heart.

But why spanking, a parent might ask? Why not just “go sit in a corner-time,” or one-on-one talks, or a quick slap on the hand? Here’s one reason. Spanking supernaturally transforms the hearts of our children. Seriously! It’s not my idea. It’s in the Bible. In Proverbs 22:15 it says that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will remove it far from him” Children can’t self-correct when they are young. They need help removing foolishness from their hearts and it is our responsibility to do so by spanking them with a rod. Spanking works. Whether we believe this or not, the reality stands. But it needs to be done in the right context.

The right context is a loving relationship. Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares his rod hates his son; But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Notice that the verse says, “he who loves…” The Bible also tells us that we are not to exasperate our children. One of the ladies in our parenting group said that her dad used to spank her without ever explaining what she did wrong and that he never had a good relationship with her. She was one of those moms that struggled with the idea of spanking her own children at first but has now applied biblical spanking with her daughter and has seen good results. But the difference between her own father’s style and hers is that she and her husband have a positive relationship with their daughter.

It is comforting to know that God himself disciplines us in the context of love, too. In Hebrews 12:5-11, it talks about how God disciplines those he loves, those who are his children. It is for our good so that we may share in his holiness. When it happens there is sorrow, but this is only temporal. In the end, discipline will produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Just as God desires for us to become righteous and holy through discipline, we should aim for the same result in the hearts and lives of our children. Discipline may bring temporal pain but it will produce life-long lessons. “Do not withhold discipline from the child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” (Proverbs 23:13) When a doctor has to set a broken bone, there is temporary pain, but it straightens the bone. We don’t say, “What an evil doctor! He is hurting the person!” We don’t say this because we know that the doctor is doing something that will ultimately amount to the persons good. (I broke my nose playing college soccer and it had to be reset without anaesthesia, but I’m glad my doctor did it!) Similarly, using spanking as a form of discipline is painful but it straightens the path of our children. It helps them to understand the difference between right and wrong. It teaches them to submit to authority and learn obedience. Proverbs 19:18 says, “Discipline your son in his early years while there is hope. If you don’t you will ruin his life.” The earlier you spank, the sooner they “get it.”

Sometimes the problem is that parents spank as a form of punishment and fail to discipline. There is a world of difference between the two. The purpose of punishment is to inflict penalty for an offense, while discipline purposes to train for correction and maturity. The focus of punishment is past misdeeds while the focus of discipline is future correct deeds. Punishment is done with an attitude of hostility and frustration on the part of the parent while discipline is done with an attitude of love and concern on the part of the parent. Fear and guilt are the resulting emotions in the heart of a child when punishment is inflicted, while security is the resulting emotion when discipline is used. Source: Betty N. Chase, Discipline Them, Love Them (Colorado Springs, CO: David Cook Ministries) 1982, pg. 15

PRINCIPLES TO REMEMBER ABOUT SPANKING:

  • Do not spank in anger. When your anger is not controlled, never spank a child.
  • Use a wooden rod or paddle (something that won’t cut the skin)
  • Generally, spanking is used more with toddlers and preschoolers, but it is also used with elementary-aged children. You can start spanking as early as 1 year old if your child is showing signs of defiance.
  • Use spanking when a young child OPENLY DEFIES your authority. When you tell your child to come to you and he runs away from you, that is defiance.
  • Have a few, clear rules that are important and spank when these rules are disobeyed. Remember to apply one-command obedience. If they did not obey a clear rule, spank right away. Don’t threaten or count or wait til you have reached the limit of your patience.
  • Don’t be afraid to use spanking when it is the best method to use, but don’t use spanking for every misbehaviour. Spanking is one method of correction, but there are several other methods available also such as direct, assertive communication and natural logical consequences. Carefully select your method of correction for every situation.
  • Spanking is a procedure. Don’t reach out and hit a child; it is disrespectful. Take the child to a private place and then follow the seven steps listed here:
  1. Get alone with the child, do not publicly embarrass him.
  2. Ask “What is our rule?” or “What did Daddy (or Mommy) say?” You are making sure the child understood your instruction before you correct him.
  3. Ask “What did you do?” You are asking him to establish personal responsibility for his actions and confess. This is important.
  4. Explain that you love him and equate love with correction. Say, “I love you and want to help you learn how to do the right thing next time. To learn to obey.”
  5. Spank the child. Give him a few swift but painful swats on the buttocks. The child’s angry, mad cry should change to a softer, giving-in cry.
  6. Comfort the child immediately after spanking. Do not reject the child. Hold the child close and reassure him of your love.
  7. If necessary, have the child make restitution. For example, if the child hurt a sibling, have him ask for forgiveness.

Sources: Peter and Deonna Tan-Chi, Biblical Parenting Seminar and Betty N. Chase, Discipline Them, Love Them.

Let me end with this beautiful promise from God’s word…“Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; he will delight your soul.” Proverbs 29:17

Discipline your child in love and you will certainly experience the comfort and delight that his wise choices, right thinking and actions will bring in the future.

Comments

  1. Jen Hagen says:

    excellent post, Joy. Spanking in a Godly way is so rare nowadays (even in Christian circles), and I think we are all seeing the wide-spread effects of this fact. I agree 100% with the whys, hows and whens that you talked about. Like you, I praise God for being raised by parents who disciplined us in this way, and we have seen the positive effects with our own children as well (not only in their behavior but also in our relationship with them and their perspective of God, themselves and the world around them). I could go on and on, but I just wanted to add my testimony to yours that the way ordained in the Bible really is effective when it is done correctly. I hope you don’t get negative fall-out from being open about this, but even if you do, I am praying that this post causes many to stop and carefully consider what the Bible has to say about disciplining and relating to our children.

  2. hi joy. I’m just wondering, we’ve been trying to implement spanking as a way of disciplining ever since we attended pastor peter’s marriage encounter. But with my second son, we would not hear him cry loudly when he gets a spanking, so what do I do?
    thanks.

  3. Joy T Mendoza says:

    Hi Gemma, maybe you are not spanking hard enough? It should sting but not wound the rear end. What do you use to spank? And how old is your son?

  4. I agree that spanking is the best punishment for a child. My parents raise me in a Godly way and I still get spanked at 15 very often. I get the belt and cane on bare bottom and thighs. And I am thankful for it.
    I have to wear shorts all year and I get teased by freinds in school when they see the marks on my bare legs because I am the only child still spanked – most parents are not strict today.
    For Gemma if I may say something even if I’m not a parent only a kid: it can happen that the second son keeps stronger his tears in, sometimes I decide too not to cry. Normally I cant take it without crying because dad hits me very hard.

  5. You do raise excellent points but I do have some concerns/questions about this.
    1. I’m worried that the parents will not look into their hearts when they spank. I believe aside from the sin, the parents should also look if there’s anger in their hearts. One should never spank out of anger.
    2. Is it ALWAYS necessary? My daughter is 4 and by God’s grace she is very obedient. She has an obsession with rules and can be quite a stickler. I normally only have to tell her once and it’s always followed. So, if this is the case then should I still be imposing spanking?

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      Hi Liz, I completely agree with you. Parents should not have anger in their hearts when they spank. If they do, they shouldn’t spank. And I also think that some kids won’t get spanked as often. For example, I was spanked more than some of my siblings. he he. My youngest sister was maybe spanked once!

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      I love the idea behind your blog, Liv! I went through a couple of your “letters.” My daughter is still a wee little thing but I’m looking forward to sharing the same kinds of moments you get to share with yours. :)

  6. Hi Joy,

    I have no kids yet but is starting to think about it, I came across your article while reading about parenting and perhaps get some tips for when I become a mom, I thought your post was very well-written, although I must say that you failed to convince me.

    Why the need to spank? That is basically my question. The only direct answer you gave in your article is that spanking “supernaturally” transforms a child. You kind of lost me there. Please enlighten me because I seem to understand from your article that spanking is like a force beyond scientific understanding and the laws of nature, like magic you mean? While I understand your strong sense of faith and spirituality, I cannot ignore the many studies and researches (which are supported by UNICEF and other known organizations) about the negative effects of spanking however loving they are administered.

    I too read the Bible, I honor it same as you, as God’s words and teachings to us, but I tend to not take so literally. But I am no expert, I did find this file by UNICEF though, it was written for a New Zealand setting but the author makes some good points especially about the part where the Bible says to spank our children.
    http://www.unicef.org.nz/store/doc/children_are_unbeatable.pdf

    I kept going through your steps when the need comes to spank your child and again one question remains, why the need to spank? I always thought that parents spanked their kids out of anger and frustration, in fact I always thought that people only physically hurt others when emotionally hyped. So if you are calm and ready to talk, why the need to hit? Doesn’t that sound a bit calculating and cold? Like when people convict criminals, isn’t it a mitigating factor if they did out of passion or anger? But if they commit a crime with all sense in them, doesn’t that rank them as the cold-blooded kind?

    You also said that spanking makes kids submit to authority and learn obedience, isn’t that the same principle as training a dog? Forgive me if I seem harsh but, I really cannot help but see it this way. I’d like to think that having reason is what separates us humans from the animals, and I would like to think that even kids can be reasoned with, which brings me back to my question, why the need to spank when we can use words?

    Anyway, that is just me, one opinion out of many. But I am really curious to know what you would say about my point of view. God bless!

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      Thank you for your comments. I went through the link you sent me. I think there is some great stuff there. But I would like to clarify a couple of things. First, what is “smacking?” Is it slapping a child on the face or hand, hitting him on the head, boxing him? If this is “smacking” then I definitely do not think that this is biblical at all. We should never hit our children in this way. Any of these things done even just one time, with severity, while we are emotionally charged, is abusive. I think any of us would be scarred to some degree by any outburst of anger that resulted in this kind of “smacking.”

      Second, spanking is not smacking. Smacking uses reactionary force to stop unpleasant behavior or show displeasure. It may be random and inconsistent and intended as punishment or to shock a child out of doing something he isn’t supposed to. This is different than spanking. 

      Spanking is a disciplinary action to correct heart attitudes for the good of the child. Are there other ways to discipline children? Definitely. Like the article said, children need discipline and there are many ways to discipline a child that don’t require spanking. I totally agree with this. We have used many different forms of discipline in our home. We have used spanking very discriminately and thoughtfully. And as children get older, spanking is no longer as effective. Withdrawal of privileges is more “painful.” 

      Spanking is only done in our home when our children have clearly understood a rule and command then willfully break it — particularly between the ages of 2 to 6 when they are learning submission to authority. But we don’t have 10 million rules so spanking is not done often. To give you an idea, my oldest son was probably spanked no more than 10 times. Has he internalized obedience? Yes. Not like a dog to a master. But as a child of God who loves God, understands the blessings of obedience, and desires to follow God. Spanking is just one part of training up a child. The much greater part is to disciple them. We focus a whole lot more on discipleship than just discipline. 

       I am glad the article discussed the importance of recognizing child developmental stages because it is true that parents can be reactive to their child’s behavior and wrongly interpret it as defiance when they are merely being curious and explorative (especially in the earlier years). So I think the issue is not so much that spanking shouldn’t be used but that parents should be sensitive and educated about these developmental stages. 

      Third, parents who do not have a good relationship with their child will confuse their child if they spank them because they can’t balance this form of discipline with an atmosphere of love and security. The bible says to use the rod but it also says “Do not exasperate your child but bring him up in the instruction of the Lord…”

       I don’t know what kinds of families were used as the basis of the research claiming that spanking has negative effects. But I would think that the people who said that “smacking” resulted in worse behavior were most likely talking about being smacked in anger (which is not spanking), and grew up in homes where the parenting was dysfunctional. However, the citations in the article don’t include explanations of the scope of study. The article merely says that hundreds of studies have been made. But what kinds of families were studied? Were the parenting styles and home environment given consideration? To claim that spanking doesn’t work when there are people who have been spanked and say that it was beneficial means that studies should be made on these kinds of people, too. What was “spanking” from their perspective? What was the context in which spanking was applied? Why was spanking interpreted positively? Was there consistency among the answers? 

       I understand how it may seem complicated to say that spanking is using a flat paddle and giving x number of swats across the buttocks, with x amount of force, as a consequence for such and such behavior, never to be administered in anger or done publicly to humiliate the child, only applied if a parent has a positive and loving relationship with their child, etc. After all, who can go around to regulate that spanking is done in this way? It would seem much “safer” to say, children should not be spanked at all to avoid the possibility of abuse. Don’t even make it an option. But this is what makes spanking different than hitting or smacking. That’s why there are parameters so that it is done correctly. 

      It seems that your question is why spank? And I think you are saying that the steps I have proposed for spanking don’t make a convincing argument for spanking. Maybe if you have time, you can read another article I wrote early this year one http://teachwithjoy.com/2012/01/what-to-do-when-it-gets-ugly/ and let me know what you think.

      Discipline is a biblical command and that’s why we spank. But we don’t just use spanking to discipline our children, especially if there are more effective ways to address heart issues.
      You can also read this article http://www.parentingbythebook.com/Proverbs-1324.html 

      I think that your concerns are valid and I think it is always better to be careful about spanking versus indiscriminately spanking our children just because particular cultures or societies have done so. Parents should prayerfully consider the what, why, and how of spanking. But, the problem is not that biblical spanking is wrong, but that parents violate God’s principles for biblical PARENTING and create problematic children (whether they spank them or not.) So the focus should be on biblical parenting which will result in biblical discipline and biblical instruction so that our children follow and love God. 

      • Mark Cloma says:

        Hi Ms. Joy,

        I am just curious. What could perhaps be the rules and commands you impose on your children that if violated, spanking is done? Thanks

        • Joy T Mendoza says:

          Hi Mark. We have one main rule when they are little…OBEY. If we tell them “Don’t touch the socket. Obey,” and they do it defiantly, we spank for something like that. But if they are too young to understand and they are just curious, we will just move their hand away or distract them. By 2, they can already understand. And it is obvious when they become defiant. They will give you a look like, “I will do what I want to do.” That’s when we start spanking. It can be earlier for some children and a little later for others who aren’t as communicative. But, as a parent, God will give you the discernment to tell what is defiance from curiosity. For things like fussiness and bad attitudes, we tell them to change their attitude. If they don’t, they will not be paid attention to and their fussiness will not get them the thing that they want. If their bad attitude continues and becomes disrespectful, we will spank for that, for as long as it was made clear to them that behavior like that is not allowed. Otherwise, we really don’t spank for a lot of things. Spanking isn’t always the mode of discipline. There are other ways to discipline. Discipline is definitely a priority though. So we have to evaluate what is appropriate for the circumstance. However, when we do spank it is done in a consistent manner and in the context of a very good relationship with our kids so they can connect it to love and not see it as mere punishment. We always communicate that we love them and want what is best for them. And of course, we don’t spank in anger or frustration, and Edric and I share the same perspective and reinforce the same rules so our kids don’t have to guess what is allowed and not allowed in our home, or run to one parent who is perceived as the “good cop.” I hope this helps. If you have more questions, just ask. God bless you!

  7. Hi! I came across your blog while searching for an article about spanking. I just spanked my 2 year old son and it made me feel I’m a terrible Mom. *sigh! I try my best not to spank but even talking to him sometimes doesn’t work. I lost my cool when he was jumping on the bed and almost fall. He did it for several times and refused to listen.

  8. I love your article. Im a single mother, would love to email chat.

  9. Hi Ms. Joy,
    You’re article about spanking is perfectly well written and straight to the point. I have been applying this principle to my 3+ year old child and your article reminds me of some major important points that I have missed when in the process of doing so. It helps me get back on track. I am planning to print some copies of it (this web page including the URL so they may see and would want to visit your site and learn some more positive biblical principles about parenting), if that’s okay with you and give some to my siblings and friends. I hope that many more will be blessed by this site. God bless!

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      No problem, John. Sure. Hope it helps families. Please remind everyone that relationship is key. Children need to feel very attached, secure with, and loved by their parents for spanking to work positively. Also, spank only when necessary, not frequently. Major on a few rules to teach obedience. And discipline should be accompanied by discipleship. It’s not just about corrected wrong behavior and attitudes but brining up children in the knowledge and instruction of the Lord, for their good.

  10. I am a young mom with a son turning 3 in June. And I am affirmed by your post that we are really doing the right thing. Spanking is Biblical that’s why we do it to discipline our child. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  11. I agree with you Joy. Spanking is employed (maybe even to an indiscriminate point) in Asian countries and honestly, I don’t find the children there any less well behaved than those in countries where spanking is viewed as evil. If ever, I find them more respectful of/obedient to their parents.

  12. Hi Joy,
    I am a first time mom and i always read your blog. It does enlighten me in many ways!

    My son is only 1year and 3 months old, but he is already showing some little acts of defiance…there are occasions where he cries (with stomping foot) because he doesnt get what he wants (like a toy or when we close tv for naptime). I just let him cry (but still dont give in) and after he calms down, i try to explain to him why. 1yr and 3 months old…does he even understand what i am saying?

    I do want him grow up in obedience and i also believe in spanking (with love) and positive parenting. But im really confused. Some say he is too young to understand. Some say i should start now. What steps should i take?

    thank you!

  13. Hi Ms. Joy,

    I would really like to apply biblical spanking to my son, but he has asthma of the skin. It’s so hard for us to discipline him because we do not want to add stress. When his stress level creeps up, his itchiness and irritability goes into overdrive and often scratches himself until it bleeds. On the positive note, my child can outgrow this monster. The doctors say they usually outgrow this skin abnormality by the time they are 6 or 7. But I am afraid that spanking no longer applies. What do we do when we have to start disciplining are children at a later age? Hope you can help.

  14. Wow. You sure are committed to abusing your children. What blessed difference this will make in their lives!! I commend you for your God-fearing resolution to torture helpless little creatures. Jesus smiles with each whack you deliver on the supine bodies of the defenseless. He who turned the other cheek and mandated forgiveness rejoices at each babe’s cry. Just as the Christ in life found so many sinless ones to cast stones in deathly judgment, we in the church find many a saintly parent, self-assured of their own salvation and in utter certainty of their own moral standing, ready, willing and eager to raise a heavy hand against those entrusted to their charge. How God must rejoice.

  15. Lia Pineda says:

    Hello Ms Joy,

    Thanks for this wonderful post! Please enlighthen me because I’m having problem with my 1.5yo son. It seems that he’s not understanding when Im saying “no hurting, no biting, no pinching” as he does it often to almost everybody and worst even to other kids we just saw like in the grocery, ect. Is it a problem that needs spanking already? It really bothers me that it might get too deep to removed from his behaviour. Appreciate your response. God bless!

  16. Suzanne says:

    Spanking has worked very well for us. When a child is disobedient, we take him or her to a private room. As we’re undressing them, we talk about what they did to earn the spanking. Then it’s a very hard spanking with the belt on their bare bottom. Afterwards we let them get their composure and get dressed. We always follow up with lots of love and positive attention. I got my share of naked whippings with the belt and it did me good, so I’ll continue to spank my kids this way too.

  17. Hi Joy,

    DO you recommend to spank 9 year olds? Are they too old for parents to adopt spanking as a form of discipline?

  18. Thank you for sharing this as this will help me discipline my 3 year old daughter. We have started spanking when she was 2+, but she gets a little more of it now at age 3 (and I thought they said terrible 2s, I even happily told my husband, yey, we’re past the terrible 2!)

    Recently though, after spanking and explaining what she did wrong, she would cry and ran to a corner away from me or husband, and not speak pretending like a baby, which really breaks my heart. Before we would hug right after spanking. But now, I have to wait it out for a while, to give her time to cope with her emotions. Not sure if this set up is better though.

    No counting and threatening – will have to give this a try the next time around. Hopefully not too soon, since we had spanked tonight.

  19. Exactly what I needed to learn, as a single mother at the age of 24, I brought to myself to discipline my child. The role of being mom/dad frustrated me, and admittedly had way over the right spanking. When my daughter cried and put on a poker face, I would usually turn around, not comfort her and cry when I’m alone. I was deeply in despair, but i thought i had no choice, if i would not be so tough on her, who will discipline her but me. For a year or two, i saw myself as an unfit mother, i really tried to change, i try to better myself, I want my child and I to have a close and loving relationship as she grows up. Little by little, the Lord cast my anger and frustration aside, i’m still in the process but I know he is healing me, he knows that in my heart I really want to learn how to become the best parent I could be, so I could be deserving of my child whom God gave me. Thank you for a wonderful, life changing article. Can you feature how to divide your time so you could spend some quality time with your children even if you are busy minding businesses and careers.?

  20. Regina Po says:

    Hi Joy,

    I’ve been reading your blogs and it has helped me so much as a mother of two beautiful children. My husband and I were struggling between spanking and not spanking as a form of discipline for our eldest son, Caleb, who is turning 3 years old this August. We have opposing views to this, as I believe that spanking is unnecessary. Although both of us have points, we never captured that thin line of spanking in love vs spanking in anger or frustration. I was led by the Holy Spirit to read this article of yours and it gave me so much insight. I will have my hubby read this too.

    Also, I am interested with homeschooling my kids. I hust don’t know how to do it. Continue to be a blessing to moms like me.

    In Christ,
    Regina Po

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  1. [...] and stern voice.  Once, he repeatedly went down his chair.  Hubby and I considered it an act of defiance, an act which warranted spanking in our home.   After that fateful account, one reminder was [...]

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