Is It Ok To Spank A Child?

Title: Is It Ok To Spank A Child?
Text: Proverbs 22:15, 13:24, 29:15
Time: September 19, 2014

The subject of disciplining a child through the use of corporal punishment has come up in the news recently due to a professional football players use of it in spanking his child. Adrian Peterson was suspended from football over an instance where he spanked his child that left marks on the boy. It’s not known what kind of marks where left on his son, if they were superficial or deeper, but no matter what, the topic of child disciplining has become a topic of conversation around the nation as a result of the news reports. When I first heard the news I was surprised that it even was news, but then I realized that we live in a time where more and more people, led by academics, professionals and so-called experts, are telling us that all forms of physical punishment are inappropriate. I’ve seen the trend against spanking growing over the years, but now it’s so strong that professional athletes are getting suspended from playing for spanking their child. That’s incredible. But it’s not just experts, professionals and academics that are leading the way against spanking as a form of child discipline, there are even today entire nations that have outlawed it entirely – for example, in Europe in Sweden, it’s against the law for parents to spank their kid. It’s moving in that direction here in the United States as well. I’ve even heard Christians say that it’s not good to spank your child. What I’m seeing is a lot of confusion on the subject, when really there need not be. The Bible is very clear on the subject of spanking, for example in the Proverbs, the wisdom literature of the Bible, that appropriate spanking of a child is not harmful, but in fact helpful in teaching them right from wrong. Proverb 23:13-14says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” The reference to “the rod” is simply a phrase for “switch” or “paddle” or some other harmless instrument of punishment. It isn’t a reference to anything that would actually harm or injure the child. Yet people today seek to ban all use of physical force in disciplining a child. The may think of something akin to the adult punishment practiced in such countries as Singapore, where “caning” is used as a form of punishment to deter crime. An adult is strapped to a post and a bamboo can is used to swat them across the backside. But this is entirely different from loving parents disciplining their children through the use of corporal punishment – or spanking. There needs some intelligent teaching on the subject of spanking, so I intend to do so with this message. I don’t have time to cover all the verses in the Bible about spanking and disciplining children, but I’ll review a few. Hopefully, by the end, we’ll come to see that there is a legitimate place for spanking in raising children.

First, there is the widespread rejection of spanking in the modern secular society. Proverbs 22:15, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” I mentioned before that most experts now oppose the use of spanking in child rearing, but I must note that not all do. For example, Dr. James Dobson, noted marriage and family counselor, has written extensively in favor of measured and appropriate spanking as a means of dealing with open rebellion in children. He says that in certain circumstances, under limited conditions, when a child is openly defying and willfully rebelling against the expressed instructions of the parent it makes perfect sense to spank the child under such circumstances. Of course, this teaching is in perfect harmony with the Bible, both Old and New Testament, but it is in direct contradiction with today’s secular modern worldview. Why do most experts oppose spanking today? It comes down to the widespread rejection today of the biblical worldview and the acceptance of the Enlightenment perspective of the innate goodness of every person. The Bible teaches original sin, that every person is stained with the original sin of Adam and Eve, and so everyone is born bad in the sense they come into this world with a natural tendency to sin and evil. Consistent with the biblical view, children must be trained against their sinful human nature and towards the supernatural life of God. This training includes the use of spanking. In opposition, the Enlightenment philosophy taught by writers such as Jean Jacque Rousseau, believes that children are born naturally good and that society corrupts them to be bad. They don’t need discipline so much as to be left free to naturally develop their own innate goodness. As can be seen, these two views, the biblical view and the Enlightenment view, are contradictory. They start from different premises and reach entirely different conclusions. Unfortunately, today, we are seeing the faulty Enlightenment view prevailing more and more in society as people throw off the biblical worldview that had guided Western Civilization since the time of Constantine. But as Christians we need to promote and advocate and practice the biblical view because that’s the only way to properly raise a child. It doesn’t mean that every parent will actually use spanking as a means of disciplining their child, it only means they might use spanking if the situation calls for it. It means that there’s nothing in principle wrong with using spanking, and that in some cases, it means it’s the right means of disciplining a child. Why should Christians operate under a false Enlightenment philosophy when they don’t buy into its premises? They shouldn’t. It doesn’t matter how many experts, academics or professionals argue against spanking, Christians should continue to use it if they need it in raising children.

Second, there is the Bible’s overwhelming endorsement of spanking as a means of disciplining a child by parents. Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” According to the Bible it is an act of love to spank an unruly child, in order that he might benefit from the correction. The opposite would also be true – failure to properly discipline a child, even spanking when necessary, is a sign of neglect or lack of love for the child on the part of parents. Do parents want their child to turn out right? Do parents what their child to become properly formed in childhood for adulthood later on? If so, then they will discipline their children in the necessary and proper way, even if that way calls for spanking it certain situations. Corporal punishment isn’t used out of anger or rage by good parents, but it’s used in situations where speaking, warning, instructing, or punishing in non-physical ways aren’t working. There’s nothing like a swat on the behind for a child to begin to listen and learn. All the “time outs” and “go to your rooms” and other non-physical punishments in the world sometimes don’t work. Sometimes what is needed is a little spanking for the child to pay attention. Yes, it provokes a crisis in the life of the child. They may start crying and acting like the world is coming to an end! They may throw a fit and begin a battle of the will with the disciplining parent. Let them! A child must come to the realization that their parent is in charge, not the child! The child must learn to live within the authority structure of the parent and yield to parental authority. What the so-called experts, professionals and academics have done with their anti-spanking crusade is convinced a generation of parents not to use physical force in disciplining their children – and the result is a generation of spoiled brats running around disrespecting teachers, authority figures including police, and basically expecting the world to cater to their whims. Why should today’s youth respect authority in the world? They’ve never been made to respect authority in the home. Their parents never made them behave because parents wouldn’t go as far as spanking them when necessary. The result is that kids who should have been spanked and taught respect and obedience, never were taught any of theses properly. The result is lawlessness and rebellion later on in the teenage years and adulthood. The Bible is crystal clear on spanking, and therefore Christians should be clear about it as well – loving discipline including spanking should be used by parents when necessary.

Third, Christian parents should learn godly instruction concerning disciplining their child. Proverbs 29:15, “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” The Bible has a lot to say about raising children, and what it doesn’t say we can surmise from what is said. For example, it says, “The rod of correction imparts wisdom.” How so? Because it teaches an experiential lesson to the child they won’t forget, or won’t easily forget. But children left undisciplined never learn the right lessons in life and later on suffer for it. So wisdom might say, they’ll either pay now or pay later in life. Better for children to learn the important life lessons early, than to suffer later in life because they lack wisdom and understanding. Now Christians don’t teach that parents must spank their children, but only that they should when it’s necessary. In other words, the worldly, secular and ungodly philosophy of anti-spanking should not lead and guide us in the wise use of disciplining children. We should spank when the situation calls for it. How do we know when it’s appropriate to spank one’s child? That’s a good question that needs to be answered with good, sound, solid teaching. I mentioned before Dr. James Dobson, who has taught a lot of all subjects related to marriage and family. He’s written a book entitled Dare To Discipline that outlines when it is appropriate and right to spank a child. It also talks about how to spank a child, and other helpful information. But this is just one of the many resources available to Christian parents on how to discipline children. What we must avoid is reading and following secular, worldly and ungodly parenting advice that says never spank a child. Supposedly “doing violence against a child” will harm them and cause them severe psychological wounds that will show up later in life – that’s the theory, anyway. But as we’ve seen before, the Bible specifically says for parents to spank their children – when necessary – and that it won’t hurt them. So we must choose between believing the man-made theories of the so-called experts, or believing God’s Word as found in the Bible. The truth is, there is no credible evidence of any long-term harm caused by appropriate spanking. Sure, there are cases of child abuse, or of parents hitting or beating their child out of anger or rage, or going too far or spanking inappropriately. But these are not what the Bible is talking about in disciplining a child. Sure, any good thing can be abused or taken to excess. That’s an argument for proper teaching and training on the subject, not an outright ban.

Proper and appropriate spanking isn’t child abuse. Unfortunately, as people more and more abandon the biblical, godly view of disciplining children, spanking is increasingly lumped in with child abuse simply because it involves the use of force against a child. Any parent who disciplined their child with spanking nowadays opens themselves up to the charge of child abuse. I don’t know all the details of the NFL football players case that I mentioned before. I don’t know if he was simply lumped in with child beating when in reality all he did was discipline his child through spanking. Maybe he is completely innocent. Or maybe he crossed the line and was indeed too rough with his child and it constituted abuse. I don’t know. All the news reports said was that he caused marks on the child. That doesn’t say a lot because legitimate spanking might leave marks for a time on a child as well. I guess it depends on what kind of marks and how deep they are, and so forth. But it’s simply not fair to lump godly and good parents who spank their children when necessary, lump them in with child abuser and beaters. It’s going to take courageous Christian parents in these days to do the right thing and discipline their children appropriately. Appropriate discipline calls for spanking when the child is openly defiant and refuses to follow the instructions of the parents. If after having attempted to persuade the child through words, warnings, and other means, if all else fails, then spanking is appropriate. It isn’t “beating” a child, it isn’t abuse, it isn’t assault, it’s spanking. It’s giving the child a swat on the bottom end that scares them more than anything, but doesn’t harm them physically. It shocks the child into obedience. Yes, it manufactures a crisis in the life of the child that frankly is good and healthy. Better now, under the loving care of parents, than later in adulthood under the cold, harsh treatment of police or judge or being sentenced to jail, and so forth. The important lessons of life must be learned by the child, and sometimes children ignore or dismiss what they parent is trying to teach them. They disobey, they defy, they openly rebel against parents. In these cases, in appropriate ways, children can be spanked in order to help them see the importance of what parents are trying to communicate. There’s nothing complicated or difficult about disciplining through the use of spanking. Most of this has been passed down from generation to generation, and it’s served as collective wisdom for millennia. Only now we’ve got to relearn it all over again, because it’s being challenged by so-called experts who are doing more harm than good in society. The Bible has been right all along, and we need to return to it and its wisdom once again today.


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