Friday, July 11, 2008

Spanking – Why, When and How?


The subject matter focuses on the biblical topic of spanking. However, it is important to remember that spanking is only one important aspect of child training.

The Bible instructs parents to "train up a child in the way he should go,”' and spanking needs to be seen in the proper context of that training. The correct training of children involves four vital areas: love, discipline, teaching and example. As these areas work together, the training of children comes into proper balance.


Parents want their children to obey them to do something, yet many parents fail to get obedience. Some are so discouraged and frustrated they don’t believe obedience from their children is even possible.

What is wrong? Why don’t many parents get the results they so desire to see? Why do many parents often succumb to anger, frustration, despair or cruelty in their attempts to train their children?

The family is God’s idea. He brought it into being. In His Word He has given clear instructions as to how He intends it to function.

There are several hindrances which keep parents from receiving God’s wisdom and instruction in the area of discipline.


1) Humanistic Thinking
Often this philosophy carries the idea that parental authority and discipline are wrong, that they hinder true freedom. The concept that children are basically good and if left to themselves will grow up to be happy, fulfilled people is another plank in the' philosophy of humanism. Because this world's way of thinking has such a strong influence, even among Christians, many parents become skeptical of discipline and feel they will hinder their children's development and future happiness if they spank them.

The Bible tells us, however, that "folly [foolishness] is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him" (Proverbs 22: 15).

2) False Love
Another hindrance to discipline comes from a misunderstanding of the meaning of love. Some parents will say, "I love my children too much to spank them." On the surface this may sound good, but if falls far short of the kind of love God wants parents to show to their children.

God is love; His love desires the best and highest for every individual. Since real love chooses the best, it must bring correction to anything within an individual's life that will keep that one from the best. Without true discipline there is no true love, and without true love there is no true discipline. "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him" (Proverbs 13:24).

3) Child Abuse
Another hindrance that keeps some parents from spanking their children is the issue of child abuse. This is an area that has rightly been a source of grief for concerned people everywhere Child abuse can surface in various ways - sexual, verbal, physical and even emotional abuse.

No matter what form it takes - whether it be neglect and rejection, or assault and brutality - child abuse should be despised by every parent.

However in rejecting even the thought of child abuse, parents must be careful not to reject God's way of providing loving correction through spanking. This is not to be confused with child abuse. Parents must guard against the fear that loving discipline is a form of child abuse.

A spanking is not a time for parents to release personal frustration, tension or wrath. "For the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God" (James 1:20).

Though a spanking is not intended to be an enjoyable experience to a child or to the parent, if properly given it reaps positive and long-lasting benefits.

4) Laziness
Another hindrance to parents spanking their children is personal laziness. Spanking takes a full commitment of the will of both parents to make it an effective part of the training of children.



1) Childishness
A spanking should never be used to force something upon children they are not prepared to handle because of age. Children should not be disciplined for being themselves, for acting their age.

2) Lack of Ability
Parents must also guard against using a spanking to try to make their children duplicate someone else's abilities.

3) Accidents
Legitimate forgetfulness and unintentional accidents are also not reasons for giving a spanking. Parents need to be careful to differentiate between faultless and blameless behaviour of their children.

4) Incomplete Information
Another time when a spanking should not be given is when parents are not sure of all the facts surrounding a particular incident. Do not "rush to judgment" if all the issues are not clear. A parent should not rely only on "hear-say" information, but should be certain of what really took place.

5) Out of Anger
A spanking should not be given when a parent is responding to his child in anger. It is not for the purpose of releasing parental frustration, and should not be based on a parent's emotions. Child abuse is the result of this kind of discipline. Rather, spanking is providing loving correction on the basis of obedience to God's Word.

The specific areas that need correction within a child are the areas of disobedience and wrong attitudes

Willful disobedience and wrong attitudes are never acceptable and need to be corrected with a spanking.

1) Obedience
No place does the Bible teach that obedience or right attitudes are natural responses for any child. It is disobedience that is natural. Parents don't have to train their children to lie, to rebel, or get angry; but they do need to train them to obey, no matter what their personality may be.

In recognizing willful disobedience a parent needs to understand the difference between what a child is able to do and what a child will not do.

The Bible states that obedience must be complete. (This directive, of course, takes into account that parents will not be leading their children into areas of evil.) Children are not to obey their parents only when and if they feel like it. God wants them to respond to their parents' authority and to learn to obey them in every area.

Another important aspect of obedience is that of promptness. The classic injunction "Delayed obedience is disobedience" still holds true.

Children need to learn to obey their parents' word, even if another adult tells them something different.

Also obedience from children should he unquestioned; it should not be based upon how reasonable a command sounds to the child.

2) Attitudes
The other major area for discipline in children is the area of right attitudes. God desires not only prompt and complete obedience but joyful obedience that comes from the heart.

Children should be encouraged to come to their parents at any time and freely express themselves and ask questions, but they need to be trained to speak in a pleasant tone of voice, showing the respect and contentment that comes from a right attitude. Because right attitudes are issues of the will and not the emotions, a child can choose to be happy and content. The feelings, the emotions, are a barometer of the will. When a child chooses the proper attitude, the appropriate emotional response will follow. At mealtime, for example, a child may not like a particular food that's being served, but the child can be trained to eat it with a thankful heart.

Wrong attitudes in children often come to light during playtime with friends or siblings. Often these selfish attitudes will be expressed in arguing, grabbing, pinching or lighting. Children can learn to be kind to one another. When children protest or throw temper tantrums, this too is a manifestation of a wrong attitude. The loving correction of a spanking is needed in order to correct these attitudes.

A temper tantrum is not something a parent should ignore, or laugh at, or play along with in order to show the child how silly he looks. Children discover different methods for getting their own way. Some children will act cute, some will beg, other will throw temper tantrums. Some children will pretend they don't understand, while others will come up with the "I-forgot-to" tactic.

Children need to know that wrong attitudes are never acceptable. If these attitudes are not dealt with quickly and firmly, not only will the child become unhappy but the well being of the whole family is affected as well.


Parents need to understand the necessity God places on spanking and when a spanking should be given; but it is also important to know how to give a spanking.


1) The Right Instrument
God has instructed parents to use a stick, not a hand, when they need lovingly correct their children with a spanking. (A rod is a flexible branch or twig or stick.) The hand is a part of the parent and should be used for purposes of expressing affection and loving service.

God has instructed parents to spank with a stick because in His wisdom He knows this is the most effective way of providing the loving correction children need. The reason for this is that spanking, although an outward act, ultimately deals with the heart issue within a child. A spanking is not an enjoyable experience but rather a character-changing experience. Through the pain of spanking a child is to be brought to the place of repentance over what he or she has done wrong. A stick is the most effective instrument to spank with because its flexibility brings the greatest amount of stinging pain without the danger of physical injury. Stiff, hard objects like paddles or wooden spoons don't produce as much pain and also include the possibility of injuring a child. Belts, although flexible, are not as effective as a stick and also might cause injury.

Other forms of discipline such as putting a child in a corner, or depriving him of supper, or sending him to his room are not effective means of discipline because the issues of willful disobedience and wrong attitudes within a child's heart remain untouched. Often when children are put in corners or sent to their rooms, resentment and bitterness have opportunity to grow within their hearts. Harsh, unkind or belittling words such as "good¬-for-nothing" or "spoiled brat" are destructive to a child and must never be considered proper discipline. Even parents who would never think of spanking their children, regarding it as cruel and unjust, will speak words to them in anger, causing inner wounds that can take a life-time to heal.

2) Spanking Promptly
A spanking should be given as soon as possible after a child has done something that needs correction. A spanking shouldn't be put off by a mother "until Daddy gets home." On the other hand, a father needs to be sure to take his responsibility in providing the correction of spanking when he is home and not leave it only to his wife.

One reason why a spanking needs to be given promptly is that if delayed it would be easy for younger children to forget the reason for the discipline.

3) Find a Private Place
Spanking is a private issue between parent and child. Its purpose is correction, not embarrassment. Before a spanking is given a parent should take the child to a place where privacy can be insured.

4) Clarify the Issue
Before a spanking is given, it is important to make sure the child understands the reason for the spanking, in order to bring that child to a place of repentance for the particular issue involved.

Children need to understand that a spanking is not an attack against them personally but is correction for what they have done wrong.

5) Get Into a Good Position
Often parents are unable to give an effective spanking because their children are not in the proper physical position to receive one. A child over a parent's knee may work fine when the child is young, but it is better to have older children simply bend over a chair or a bed.

A proper position also reflects and attitude of willingness to receive correction. Children who fight a spanking by kicking or twisting or blocking the spanking with their hands need to learn to submit to correction.

6) Spanking The Proper Area
God has given parents the perfect area on which to administer a spanking - the child's bottom. It is a safe place because it is well cushioned, yet it is highly sensitive area. In order for a spanking to be effective, good contact is important. Parents, however, need to use practical wisdom regarding how much clothing to remove when spanking an older child. Remember, a spanking is not intended to embarrass or humiliate.

7) Wait For The Proper Cry
The purpose of a spanking is to bring a child's heart to a place of repentance. Repentance means having a change of mind towards the wrong that was done, having genuine sorrow over that issue. This is different from remorse, which often occurs in children when they are put in a corner or denied a privilege. This type of discipline generates a feeling of being sorry for getting caught instead of being sorry for what was done.

Swats or slaps are not spankings. They only create anger or resentment in children and will not only bring them to a place of repentance. A spanking needs to be hard enough and long enough to bring a repentant cry, a cry that says, 'I’m sorry." A parent will be able to discern in a child's cry when he or she has broken and come to repentance over an issue. A repentant cry is different from a cry of anger or protest, which usually occurs at the beginning of a spanking.

Exactly how long and how hard a spanking needs to be in order to bring a repentant cry is a matter for the parent to determine. It can vary, depending on the sensitivity of the child's will.

8) Have A Period Of Reconciliation
After correction, a parent needs to allow a child to cry for a reasonably short amount of time. Then a child should be told to stop crying and be brought under control. If parents leave the room immediately after a spanking and a child is left in tears, those tears can quickly turn into self-pity. When this happens children will usually go looking for sympathy from someone, most likely the other parent. This will not only hinder a child's repentance but create an opportunity for a child to divide the parents by working one against the other.

The period of reconciliation after a spanking provides a special time of love and intimacy to take place between a parent and a child. It gives comfort and reassurance to a child. It also helps to bring a child into self-control and freedom. The time spends with a child after a spanking assures him that the issue is dealt with and over. It is in the past and is not something that will be nagged about or held against him. This can be reinforced by the parent through loving, reassuring embraces and a brief time of prayer.

Also the time a parent spends with their children after spanking will help confirm to the parent that the child's heart has truly been brought to repentance. This can be done by instructing children to make any needed steps of restitution.

Extracted from “Spanking – Why, When, How?”
By Roy Lessin
Bethany House Publishers

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