To Spank or Not to Spank?

To Spank or Not to Spank

We often get asked, “What about spanking?” One parent we talked with explained a conversation she had with her pastor about some behavior from her daughter that was really frustrating and difficult. She told us that the pastor’s advice was brief and to the point. He said, “When she gets that way you need to be consistent and firm in asking her to stop, and spank her immediately and without question whenever she is defiant.”

She wanted to know what we thought of his answer, and this scenario brought several thoughts to mind with regard to corporal punishment as the standard “biblical” answer.

For instance, I wonder why the pastor did not ask what about the child’s behavior was frustrating and difficult. I wonder why he didn’t seek more understanding of the situation or the child’s perspective on what was happening.

Parents’ Role in Discipline

I wonder if, by so quickly prescribing spanking, the pastor may have actually promoted the mother’s disobedience to Ephesians 4:6, which says, “Parents, do not exasperate your children.”

It is VERY troubling to us that the answer of spanking is so quickly given and justified in the name of six proverbs that speak about “the rod” when the whole of the scriptures, and especially the New Testament, are so filled with stories of grace and mercy. The spanking-oriented verses are proverbs, after all, not imperatives. And even those verses are interpreted differently by different Christian scholars.

Here’s What We See Happening Regarding Spanking.

Parents get angry because of what is important to them. And if these parents are themselves disciplined to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), they may well find that their motive for spanking their children is about their own selfishness and need for control. They may recognize that spanking occurs more when parent and child are stressed. They may find that their children don’t listen well because the parents don’t model listening well. They may find that kids whine because they watch their parents whine, or complain because they hear their parents complain. We’ve seen many kids spanked for doing exactly what they watched their parents do in a more grown-up form.

Do Parents Sometimes Misbehave When They Discipline?

I once asked the 16-year-old son of a pastor, “Do you think, when your parents discipline you for misbehaving, that they ever misbehave in the way they discipline?” Without hesitating the young man said, “For sure! Only their misbehavior is much more refined than mine, and there’s no one to hold them accountable for it.”

Our thought is that there is far too much spanking done in the name of immediate obedience by parents who are exasperated, not Spirit-led. The Bible doesn’t tell kids to not exasperate their parents. It tells parents to not exasperate their children. But some parents find that it is easier to firmly discipline in order to get immediate compliance and a sense of control than to do the hard work of understanding the complex dynamics between themselves, their children, and the teaching needed to lead children to true repentance and forgiveness. Parents don’t typically want to be accountable or responsible for their own junk. That’s too much work. They just want the kids to be accountable. It’s easier. But it’s not better. It exasperates their children.

Thoughtful Questions About Spanking:

The next time you’re inclined to spank your child, ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • Am I feeling out of control?
  • Might I be sinning against my child?
  • Is this the best way to reach my child’s heart?
  • Am I disciplining my child for something they’ve seen me do?
  • Might a different consequence better help my child value doing what’s right instead of just fearing doing what’s wrong?
  • Does my child see in my eyes the love I have for him or her?

The answers to these questions can help guide you more effectively as you consider how to discipline.

I’m glad I don’t get immediately spanked every time I don’t immediately obey.

How about you?