The Porch Light copyright by Revka (2006-2010). All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Scriptural case for spanking

As a Christian, I desire to live my life according to God’s Word, and I do believe that spanking is a Bible concept. Since God is our Creator, His way is best. However, He always allows us to choose whether we will accept and follow His way or whether we will go our own way. God is the One Who gave us free will, and I am certainly not going to take that away from you. I want it to be known from the outset that I am not trying to compel anyone to agree with me or do things my way.

The topic of spanking has been addressed in several blogs recently. I learned from Steve of Inside Fatherhood that spanking could land you in jail soon because a California (where else?) Assemblywoman is introducing legislation that would outlaw the spanking of children 3 and under. From the comments made, it would appear that no one, including those parents who do not believe in spanking their children, thinks that government has the right to legislate this. To me, it is just another attempt for the government to take control of our children away from us, and, as I commented there, God gave children to parents, not to the government. It takes parents to raise a child, not a village, and certainly not government. Note: Steve just added a post asking Is Spanking Acceptable? Visit to weigh in on this topic.

Rory’s HameLife post Spanking - Why Many Keep Seeking for a Better Way explores the idea that spanking interferes with the development of the child's conscience. The theory he presents says that a child who is feeling guilty may use his actions to beg to be spanked so that he can be relieved of his guilt. Rory pleads the case for not spanking but finding a better way for your child to deal with guilt.

I visited a couple of other blogs, but those were the two that I felt to be most compelling. Before I start my own post, I would like to lay down some ground rules for any discussion that may follow.

  • I do moderate comments left on my blog, and I reserve the right to delete any comment.
  • I don’t mind people offering dissenting opinions; however, I ask that you be courteous and respectful in presenting your opinions.
  • Courteous behavior applies to everyone, not just dissenters. There is no need to become rude and hateful simply because we don’t agree with someone or something. I want my blog to be a welcoming place, even if we don’t all agree.

We spank our children. I’ll get into the why in a little bit, but first let me show you how. We do not spank for every little infraction. (My Derbe has an excellent post about examining your child’s motives before punishing them. Children often make messes or act in a way that we would attribute to malice aforethought when they were only being curious or trying to help.) Spanking is not the only training tool in our parenting toolbox, and we do not believe it should necessarily be the first one to be utilized.

In our house, spanking is mainly used for 2 offenses: direct disobedience and deliberately hurting someone else. We will spank for other transgressions if the occasion warrants, but that is more the exception than the rule. We do not spank impulsively or in anger. I know spanking is often associated with a parent who has reached the point of having had enough and strikes in anger, but it need not and, indeed, should not be that way. When our children have transgressed in a manner that we have pre-determined will result in a spanking, we take the erring child into a room alone and proceed to examine with her why she is receiving a spanking. The (fictional) conversation might go something like this:

Me: “Pookie, what did Mommy tell you to do?”

Pookie: “You said to go to bed.”

Me: “What did you do?”

Pookie: “I not go.”

Me: “What happens when you don’t obey Mommy?”

Pookie: “I get spanking.”

Me: “That’s right. You do get a spanking.”

The spanking is then slowly and calmly administered whilst I reiterate the reason she is receiving a spanking.


Pookie, you need to tell me and God that you are sorry for not obeying Mommy.”

Pookie will comply, and then we will share a hug and kiss, followed by a reminder to obey Mommy next time. Fellowship is restored.

But why even go through the trauma? I certainly do not enjoy spanking my children, and there is no way they enjoy receiving a spanking. Like I said before, we spank because spanking is a Bible concept. Lest you think that I know not whereof I speak, let’s look at the Bible.

Proverbs 23:13-14 “[13] Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. [14] Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

Proverbs 13:24 “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

Proverbs 22:15 “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”

Proverbs 19:18 “Chasten thy son while there is yet hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”

Proverbs 29:15 “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”

(bold emphasis is mine)

Don’t shoot me; that’s what the Bible says, and I don’t see how it could be any clearer. There is a time for correction with words, and there is a time for correction with the rod. If I leave out either element, my discipline is unbalanced. As you see above, when I crucify my selfish desire for comfort and endure the inconvenience and personal pain of spanking my children, I am actively loving my children.

In addition to being Scripturally mandated, there is something about spanking that breaks a child’s self-will and softens his sin-hardened soul. Oft times today we hear that we should not break a child’s will. Baloney! A sinner who is willful will not heed God’s call to repentance. It is only those who are broken who are willing to submit to God and ask for salvation. I believe that is why Proverbs 23:14 says that beating your child with the rod will deliver his soul from Hell. I don’t want my children to go to Hell; I want them to be saved.

The theory that you should refrain from spanking your child so that he can learn how to cope with guilt may sound good, but it is not Biblical. Man is inherently sinful and rebellious and always seeks for a “better way” than what God has decreed. Instead of deciding not to spank your child, use that opportunity to explain that, while spanking does erase the debt he owes you, only Jesus’ blood shed on Calvary can pay the much greater sin debt he owes to God. Always look for ways to point your child to Christ, for only Christ can relieve us of the load of sin that we carry. Also point out that even though his debt to you is erased, actions still have consequences. Thus, though he has paid the penalty for hitting his sister, he has still hurt her and must offer a sincere apology.

There is more I would like to say, but I think this is quite long enough. In closing, even if you choose not to employ spanking when raising your child, I hope that you can now see that spanking is a Scriptural mandate.


The New Parent said...

Hi Revka--Well, you did jump right into the spanking fray. We've chatted a little before about this topic.
From my persepective, I think we may want our children to have understanding, not simply obediance. Yes, they may obey, but it will be mechanical and lack understanding if it comes from physical threat.
For me, a spanking should only be given if the child's focus needs to be redirected because it is habituated in one direction. And it should only be given by a truly conscious parent. One who has grown past their own foibles of anger, impatience, annoyance, intolerance, etc.
Since we all don't generally fit that bill, I wouldn't spank, because I would know in my heart it's coming out of a frustration that my child isn't listening to me. I would know that I was spanking based on my own limitations and before I did that, I would want to seek new information.
I'm so not a Biblical scholar, so the only point I can add in that direction is that the language of the Bible is archaic and translations open up interpretations. Very little in the Bible is "clear" and, I guess, that's why there are so many Biblical scholars trying to understand what was really meant.
Nice post, though, Revka.

Revka said...

Hi, Frank,
Thanks for stopping by and weighing in. I value your input.

I, too, agree that obedience should not be a parent's only goal in discipline. During the young formative years when their understanding is limited, we can and should train them to submit to authority; during the school years, it becomes more about developing their character, and during the teen years it's about helping them learn to make wise choices on their own. For an in-depth look on molding a child's heart, I particularly like "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Tedd Tripp. You might enjoy reading it - you can always check it out from the library.

A child who is well trained will not need to be spanked or even "redirected" very often. Spanking helps set clear boundaries, and its use diminishes as the child learns to stay within those bounds.

While I can understand where you are coming from, I must respectfully disagree with your opinion that only a parent "who has grown past their own foibles ..." should spank. Though I am not perfect, God has placed me in the position of parent where I am commanded to corporally punish my children. It is my responsiblibity to administer that correction with the right attitude. That is why we don't spank our children when we are angry or frustrated; that is not the correct attitude for administering discipline. That is merely taking our frustrations out on our child. Instead, as I stated, a spanking is a predetermined consequence for specific actions.

BTW, have you found that quickly correcting a child (the first time they commit an offense) removes the frustration and anger that builds up when you have to keep correcting for the same offense?

I'm not a Bible scholar, either, but there are resources such as the Strong's Concordance that define all the words in every verse in the Bible. It also makes a difference which version you use. I stand for the King James Authorized Version, but I've posted about that before, and this is not the place for that discussion anyway. (smiling) In any case, I learned long ago to always interpet a verse literally unless it is obviously supposed to be a figurative interpretation. And there is a difference between interpretation and application. As my father always used to say, "Every verse has one interpretation, but it can have many applications."

I believe the Bible is much clearer than is comfortable for us. Unfortunately, "man is always seeking a better way" and oft refuses to acknowledge the truth that is staring him in the face. In fact, I have seen "scholars" who have "reasoned" themselves right out of any belief in God. Just as I desire unquestioning obedience from my children, so God desires our faith and asks us to simply follow His commandments. The Bible even says that He has chosen to hide some things from us.

Thanks again for offering your thoughts. I always enjoy our friendly discussions. (smiling)

knowhimwell said...

Great post Revka!

knowhimwell said...

New Living Translation:

Proverbs 23:13-14
Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death.

Revka said...

Ah, Karen, thank you so much! :) These various blogs have all been interesting to visit, haven't they? Thanks for telling me about the current controversy in the first place.

knowhimwell said...

I do let my children know if they were hurt as a result of disobedience. I don't feel like this tears them down or hurts their self-esteem. They may be so bothered by getting hurt that they don't see the whole picture as to why they got hurt. My daughter is three years old and it is my job to show her that with disobedience comes pain. If she falls out of the bay window (that she is not allowed to play in) and gets hurt, then I need to remind her why she got hurt, so that maybe she won't do it again. I need to help her come to this conclusion. I am not reminding her in a taunting, I told you so kind of way, but in a way that says you need to listen to mommy and daddy because we are here to protect you.

God's laws are to protect us too. I know that's hard for so many people to understand. God did not just sit around one day and try to think of all the rules He could make up to torture us and keep us from having fun. He did it so that we would be healthy and safe. He didn't say no sex before marriage because he wanted to keep us from fun. He knew the special bond that comes from a man and woman sharing with one another. Your virginity is the only thing you have to give to someone that you've never given to anyone else. With premarital sex comes hurt, pain, sickness, STDs, and I could go on. Before sin there were no STDs. Anyway, I know I'm rambling. But my point is that God gives us rules to protect us.

Revka said...

Great points, Karen. Boundaries and consequences are both evidences of self-sacrificing love. It is so much easier to let things slide than it is to invest the effort to make corrections. God cared about us enough to set boundaries for our protection because He knew the ultimate consequences of "going there," and He wants us to do the same for our children.

The New Parent said...

Well, based on what you're saying Revka, should we stone our children for cursing? We simply don't do everything that's in the Bible. And if that's true, then we cherry pick our way through the good book.
I think that spanking is a tool that needs to be understood fully before using.
I have to agree with Rory that incurring a parent's displeasure should be consequence enough.
I don't think I've ever seen spanking stop a child from "transgressing." They continue to push boundaries, because they must learn--our brains are simply wired that way. Using physical punishment to try and stop that process only undermines their ability to try and understand how to make choices.
If a child continues to disobey a parent, they may not have been taught effectively how to do what is expected.
Is it possible that it's our failure to teach well that's really at play here?

Revka said...

You will probably be shocked when you read this, Frank, but there are times when I am around foul-mouthed kids that I ALMOST wish cursing were still a capital offense. I bet people would be a lot more careful what words came out of their mouth if they knew that they could lose their life over what they said. However, Israel was a theocracy governed by God (meaning He determined what was a crime and set the punishment for said crime) while we are a republic governed by man. God allows us free choice, and that includes the governing of our country.

You are right; we don't practice everything that is in the Bible. Some things, such as making an actual sacrifice for our sins, obviously no longer apply to us literally (Christ already made the last and ultimate sacrifice for all of our sins when He shed His blood at Calvary), but everything in the Bible is still relevant and has some kind of application to our lives. You are also very right in saying that we "cherry pick our way" through the Bible, choosing what we will practice and what we will discard. That is one reason my reply to your first comment stated that the Bible is much clearer than what makes us comfortable. Living according to God's Word is both difficult and lonely, for it means swimming against the current.

I know from PERSONAL experience that a spanking CAN cause a child to refrain from ever again committing a specific act. The spankings I received actually aided my ability to make choices. I learned the law of sowing and reaping. Spanking taught me to look beyond the act to the end result, whether or not that result would be a spanking. Spanking also taught me healthy fear. Did you realize that wisdom is a result of fear? "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10)

Yes, it IS natural for children to test the boundaries, for that is how they learn. And if we are not consistent in whatever method of discipline we employ, our children will not know where the boundaries truly lie. In that aspect, yes, we parents can actually train our children to disobey, and that is entirely our fault for not being consistent. However, parents are not always (perhaps not even usually) to blame for their children's disobedience. REPEATED COMPREHENDING disobedience is evidence of the rebellious sin nature we all inherited from Adam. Our hearts are naturally bent toward sin.

Revka said...

For those who were here earlier and now notice that a comment and my reply to it are missing, they were deleted at the e-mailed request of the commenter. I had no problem with the content of the comment.

Rory said...

Thank you so much for linking to Hamelife. It gives visitors an opportunity to read the various views.

What an interesting week, it was.

Revka said...

You are most welcome for the link. I, too, believe that we should be informed of opposing views. And I heartily concur that this week has been interesting. (smiling) Stop back by any time.

Justice Fergie said...

hi revka,

great post. and obviously a tough issue for many. we do spank (and were both spanked as children) but your statement was a really important one:

"That is why we don't spank our children when we are angry or frustrated; that is not the correct attitude for administering discipline."

I have to try to keep that in mind sometimes! And also not to spank as a first resort.

Just this morning my husband and I were having a related conversation. We were talking about how my oldest doesn't "listen" to me the same way that she does to him. He attributes it largely to the fact that he spanked her very early on and established boundaries. She knows the consequences when disobeying daddy. I tried my best not to spank and (maybe?) this is why she knows she can "get away" with more around mommy. So am I in trouble already? She's only two-and-a-half!

Also, my spankings don't seem to faze her. Perhaps it's because they are frequent and not as hard as they could be. Does this happen with your kids? Do they do something wrong, get spanked and "keep on trucking"? What do you do in this case?

Revka said...

Hi, Fergie,
Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

Yes, there are many times when I have had to refrain from spanking my children because I have allowed their disobedience to go further than I should have and consequently am frustrated or angry or (sometimes) furious. Knowing when I cannot afford to spank is part of being a parent and taking responsiblity for my actions. Besides, as I stated before, spanking is not the only tool in our box.

My kids often obey their father better than they do me. I think that is probably because he IS more consistent. I am a "tender-hearted" mother who tends to slack off the consistency when the children are doing well. Unfortunately, they pick up on the change and start pushing the boundaries again. That is my own fault. Consistency in discipline makes for fewer discipline problems and a much more cheerful atmosphere.

No, your situation is not hopeless. Work on being consistent in your boundaries and the consequences that come from crossing those boundaries. Don't let things slide. Train your child to obey at the first command, and then enforce that expectation.

Yes, there are times when it seems that my children do not respond to being spanked. Sometimes it just takes perseverance and determination on my part. (I'm NOT talking about beating my children here; I'm referring to consistency in discipline again.) Your children will battle you for control, and that is not a battle you can afford to lose. They need to learn that the easiest path is the path of submission.

knowhimwell said...

I think that one reason children behave more for their dads is because they are men. When I first started teaching, I noticed right away that students will respond much more quickly to a man's instructions before a woman's. There's just something about it coming from a male. Also, another reason could be because moms tend to be with their children more than their dads. So, when the mom is talking to them they may be thinking 'Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mom's just talking again.' I think they are somewhat conditioned to our voices. Just my thoughts, anyway.

Revka said...

I think you have a point, Karen. I never considered that. Do you think the deeper voice could be more intimidating, too?

Publius said...

Assemblywoman Sally Lieber announced yesterday that she would introduce her bill today. Her bill has expanded to include all children, not just those 3 and under. I don't expect to see the language available online until Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of next week because this is one of the busiest weeks of the year in Sacramento. I have posted a link on my site where you will be able to get the language of the bill when it is published.

Revka said...

Publius, thank you so much for letting me know this new information. I greatly appreciate it and will be checking your site for breaking news. Thank you, too, for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with you about spanking. All 5 of my children are well-adjusted, happy adults and all of them were spanked. We had specific rules...i.e. be kind to one another, obey your parents et al and the spanking was a calm application of 2-3 swats with a flexible hot glue stick that doesn't bruise and can be used over clothing. Then we loved on them. There was no yelling or belittling.

In fact, I found that if I became frustrated with my children, it was usually because I wasn't discipling them.

Several children we knew over the years whose parents did not spank, ended up having to have counseling and usually had other problems.

Revka said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for adding your thoughts. I agree that when my children act the worst is often when I have not been consistent in enforcing my expectations.

dymas said...

Hi Revka, I am enlightened by your post here, especially your biblical reasonings. I do spank my children occassionally when I think it is neccessary and I don't see any adverse effect on our relationship.

Revka said...

Hello, dymas, thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I'm very glad you found this post helpful. God bless you.