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:
- Get alone with the child, do not publicly embarrass him.
- 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.
- Ask “What did you do?” You are asking him to establish personal responsibility for his actions and confess. This is important.
- 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.”
- 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.
- Comfort the child immediately after spanking. Do not reject the child. Hold the child close and reassure him of your love.
- 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.