Eight Misconceptions About Spanking

Content Author: 
Reagan, David
Scripture Passage: 
Proverbs 13:24; Proverbs 19:18; Proverbs 22:15; Proverbs 23:13; Proverbs 23:14; Proverbs 29:15,17

“There’s never a good reason for spanking child, researcher says.”  Or so said the headline on page A7 of The Knoxville News-Sentinel for June 27, 2002.  But the article could have been written in 1992 or 2012.  The social scientists decided many years ago to stamp out the evil of spanking.  They will continue their imaginings until spanking is outlawed or until it completely goes out of style.  Truth does not matter when you have an agenda.

I could quote you the couple of statements (which, by the way, were placed way down in the article) that demonstrate the questionable nature of this research.  Or, I could dig up some of the research to the contrary (that almost never makes it to the mainstream media).  But, then, I would be fighting on their own turf using the weapons of their choice.

I have decided to take an entirely different approach.  This is one that the social scientists would totally reject…and, in so doing, show their deep rebellion against God.  In this article, we will go to the source of all truth.  You got it—the Bible.

In our study of scripture, we will see that man has been convinced of things that simply are not true.  He has serious misconceptions about spanking children for disobedience.  Unfortunately, most Christian parents today do not get their understanding of discipline from the Bible.  They get it from the world.  This article will show the scriptures that correct these misconceptions.

Since this is a public article and I do not know your preconceptions concerning discipline, I have to say a couple of things to protect myself from false accusation.  These statements may also protect you from misapplication of the principles in this article.

  1. Nothing God says in His word and nothing I say in this article makes allowance for true child abuse.  Jesus was a protector of little children and we should be as well.  Anyone who truly abuses a child deserves everything the law can throw at them.  To permanently injure a child for any reason is a wicked act and it deserves swift and exact punishment.
  2. Spanking can be misused in many ways.  Love must still be the primary factor in dealing with any child.  Spanking can be too harsh, too inconsistent, too late, too hasty and too much.  The fact that you spank your children does not make you a godly or righteous parent.  You must use God’s wisdom and always deal with the child for his own good.  And I, for one, do not want to deal with any lawsuits where you use me as an excuse for abusing or mistreating your children.
  3. The only absolute authority for how to raise children is to be found in God’s word—the Bible. I may make mistakes and teach things incorrectly.  Do not look on me as the final authority.  However, God’s word is always true.  Raise your children according this Book and God will honor His word.

Now, what are the misconceptions people have about spanking.  You may be surprised to see them, one by one, dealt with in the book of Proverbs.  I hope you are ready to obey the Lord in these matters.

That Spanking is an Act of Hatred

I have seen parents who would not spank their children until they were so mad that they felt like spanking them.  This is wrong and dangerous.  You do not spank your children because you are mad at them.  Spanking is not an act of hatred.  God says that it is an act of love.

  • Proverbs 3:11 – “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”
  • Notice that God corrects (spanks) those He loves.  His chastening hand is proof, not that He hates us, but that He loves us.  If he hated us, He would let us go our own way and head for destruction.
  • Actually, the Bible teaches that you show hatred toward your children by not correcting them.  Proverbs 13:24 – “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”  To withhold the rod of correction is to demonstrate hatred for your child.  You are saying, “Go on; head for ruin and destruction; I don’t care.”
  • Do you really love your children?  Then show it by correcting them when they disobey.  Correct them by spanking them.  Show them how much you love them.
  • I remember times when I cried with my children before I spanked them.  I told them how much it hurt me to hurt them.  But I also told them that I must punish them because I loved them too much to let them go the way they were going.
  • When you spank your children for the right reasons, it is an act of love.  Do you see it as an act of love?  Do you express your love in your time of correction?

That Control Over Your Child can be Gained Later

We usually express this excuse for not correcting our children as “a stage they are going through.”  Of course, our child begins and ends these stages earlier and later than other children.  Just ask us and we will tell you.  We have created the terrible two’s and the teen years as an explanation for our lack of godly parenting.  But God’s word shows us, that if we do not have control over our children now, it is doubtful that we will have any control later.

  • Proverbs 19:18 – “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
  •  Each child has a window of hope.  When that window is closed, there is little you can do to reach them.  Yes, we can pray and should do so.  But you must control them now before it is too late.
  • Biblical discipline is based on a concept the world hates.  It is based on a recognition of the sinful nature of all people.  The Bible teaches that children naturally become selfish, hateful and cruel.  Parental discipline creates an atmosphere in which this selfish behavior is uncomfortable and is therefore avoided.
  • Eventually, the external discipline is internalized.  The child matures and gets to where he can control himself without the continual threat of punishment.  Since this internalizing of discipline is always a painful process, it is easiest to establish when the child is still young.  Later is at best harder; at worst it is impossible.

That Crying is to be Avoided at All Costs

One of the humorous techniques found in old movies has a man melting and giving in to just about anything when his sweetheart starts crying.  Sadly, we see this panic and fear of a crying child in parents today. Children pick up on this fear and use it as a tool to create compliant parents.  They develop mad-cry’s and fake-cry’s in order to mold mom and dad into putty that can be easily controlled.  God, however, does not think that all crying is bad.

  • Proverbs 19:18 – “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
  •  I have seen some parents determined that their children would cry when they spank them, so the children learn to cry to satisfy the parent.
  • I have seen others who were so upset by the sound of their child crying when being punished that they did all they could to sooth the child—even before the child was repentant.
  • In all this, the children are in control and they use crying to control mom and dad.  Don’t be taken in.  Simple, unadorned crying can be good.  It means someone is unhappy.  If this unhappiness leads to a correction of actions, this can be a positive thing.
  • But let me warn: natural crying wears itself out in a few minutes.  If it is honest, it leaves the child quiet and reserved for a period of time.  This is a good time to let the child know that they are still loved—not while they are angry or crying mad tears.  Watch out also for crying that is used as a weapon.  This, in itself, should be corrected—verbally, if possible.  Let them know that you know what they are doing and that it will not work.  You are not going to play their game.
  • After all, children do what you allow them to get by with.  More than that, they usually do what works.  If they keep practicing some technique of parent control on you, it is probably because it works.  Even after it stops working, they will try for awhile.  But children are much more practical than most parents.  If something no longer works, they eventually stop.  Parents will keep on practicing the same ineffectual stuff forever.

That my Child is Naturally Good

Young children are indeed innocent.  But they also have an inborn sin nature that leads them to do wrong as soon as they are able.  You do not have to teach a child to lie or be selfish or rebel against authority.  They naturally know how to do these things.  Children are innocent in that they do not know the full import of what they do.  But they are sinners in that they naturally do wrong.  This two-sided nature is spoken of in scripture as foolishness.

  • Proverbs 22:15 – “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
  •  I remember the looks on some teachers and adults when they had to tell this pastor that his son or daughter had done something wrong.  They seemed to hate to tell me that a pastor’s son could do wrong.  Did I believe them?  Of course not.  My child could do not wrong! ………All right, I’m just kidding.  I knew what my children were capable of.  After all, they were my children.
  • But we have an epidemic today of parents with perfect children.  Their child could do no wrong.  And they are ready to beat up the teacher or adult who would even suggest such a thing.  Don’t let your children make a fool of you in this way.  Accept that they are human and will do wrong.
  • The Bible says that your child has foolishness bound up in his heart and that correction is the cure.  Too many parents would rather protect the disease (the child’s foolishness) then help the child become strong (by correcting them).  You wrong your children when you support their wrongdoing.
  • One Note: Infants do not need to be spanked.  Their understanding is too limited.  They cannot make the connection between their action and the punishment.  Spanking an infant or a baby is wrong and cruel.  Their actions can be corrected in gentle ways.

That Spanking is Harmful to Children

Spanking can be made harmful by misuse.  I dealt with that in the introduction.  But the idea that spanking is in itself harmful is a false teaching from Satan himself.  This false teaching will eventually destroy the inner discipline of so many people that it will cause a breakdown of the social fabric that holds our culture together.  We see it happening today as we watch.  Listen to what God says:

  • Proverbs 23:13 – “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.”
  • Those who hate or misuse scripture are quick to misunderstand the meanings of words.  They see the word beat and jump to conclusions.  To beat a child does not mean to cruelly injure.  It means to strike with a swinging motion.  Nature has created a perfect place for this on the child.  When a child is struck on the fatty flesh of the bottom with an instrument created more for sting than for harm, the effect can be achieved without injury.
  • God says that when you spank the child, “he will not die.”  The properly applied spanking will not kill him or cause permanent harm.  Rather, as the total of the verses we are studying teach, spanking is the best way to assure a mature adult with integrity.  Remember, if you do not correct your child, that is evidence of your hatred for him (Proverbs 13:24 - “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”)
  • NOTE: The word betimes in Proverbs 13:24 means that it has to be done over and over again.  You cannot correct a child one time and be done with it.  You are disciplining him.  As with military discipline (or any other kind), this requires continual and consistent repetitions.  If you will be consistent, your child will learn discipline.  And, remember this: the more consistent you are, the less harsh you will need to be in the punishment.
  • Each child is different and there are punishments that do not involve spanking.  Learn to use good judgment in correcting your children.  What works with one child, may not work with another.  What may be necessary with one child, may not be necessary with another.  I had one child who cried when I spoke to her in a serious tone.  She seldom needed a spanking.  I had another child who had to be trained to respond to my voice.  He ran roughshod over a couple of early teachers because they did not take charge.  And, when the adult did not take charge, my son was glad to oblige.  Adjust your punishment to the circumstances and to the personality and tenderness of the child.  And, remember, spanking is not always necessary.

That a Child’s Behavior and Spiritual Condition are Unrelated

Some Christians seem to think they can skimp on discipline because when their child gets saved everything will work out just fine.  They seek their child’s salvation as an antidote to bad parenting.  However, poor discipline limits a person’s spiritual maturity.  The two are connected.  Also, good discipline makes a child more ready to accept salvation.  Some children never get saved because they were never disciplined in a godly way.

  • Proverbs 23:14 – “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”
  • As with many scriptures, this one has been misused.  It does not mean that spanking directly saves the child.  This verse must be taken in context with verse 13 (quoted in point 5) and other teaching in the Bible.  Sensibly understood, this verse teaches that the correction of the rod leads to a disciplined child who is naturally more open to salvation and less likely to take the path to destruction.  So, the child’s behavior affects his openness to God and his reception of salvation.
  • This brings a new perspective to your daily discipline.  You are either preparing your child to receive Jesus as Saviour or you are placing hindrances between him and God.  Yes, salvation is still a personal experience.  You cannot save your child by correcting him. He can still reject God’s offer.  But your spanking (consistent correction over a period of years) has the ability to make him more open to the gospel.  Just as the lack of discipline makes it harder for him to trust in the Lord and submit to Him.
  • Modern parents are too quick to let their children use their own judgment and make their own decisions.  They do not believe that they have a right to control their children’s actions and decisions.  But God places the responsibility on the parent.  You are responsible for what they do while under your care.  You had better make sure they are going in the right direction.
  • A child’s earliest conception of God is that of a parent; usually, the father.  Many scriptures speak of our relationship to God as of the child to the father.  If you do not require your children to obey, they will probably not think it important to obey God.  If they do not submit to you, they will find it difficult to submit to God.  Do not underestimate your importance as a parent in establishing your child’s relationship to God.
  • NOTE:  Over the years, I developed my own approach to the discipline of my children when they were disobedient.  One of the things I learned to do was to send the child to his room when he disobeyed.  I would then spend three to five minutes thinking and praying about what punishment would be most effective at this time.  By the time I stepped in to speak to the child, they were compliant and I had gotten over any anger I might have initially had.  I could then deal with them from a heart of love and concern and not in a spirit of anger.

That Children Will Grow Out of Rebellion

Actually, children do have a rebellious stage they go through.  It begins when they are born and continues through their entire life.  You see, we are all rebellious by nature.  That nature has to be disciplined or we will always be rebellious.  I do not deny that children go through some identifiable stages.  But rebellion is not a stage.  It is a way of life.  If it is not corrected, it will continue into adulthood.

  • Proverbs 29:15 – “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”
  • Too many children raise themselves today.  This is even true of many homeschooled children.  Parents are sometimes there with the children but they are not in charge.  The children run the roost because there is no discipline.
  • Many parents think that they can ignore the rebellion of toddlers.  After all, they are in their terrible two’s and will soon settle down.  The truth is, they do settle down after a couple of years.  But they do not grow out of their rebellion.  They simply change tactics.  The toddler years are the best time to teach the child discipline.  They are so transparent at this age.  Everything is straightforward.  It may take a lot of energy because they have a lot of energy.  But progress is also transparent.  Do what you can while there is still time.  Sooner is always better than later.
  • As a rule, children do what they do because they have been trained to do so by their parents and guardians.  If you child continues to throw tantrums, it means that in his eyes something is gained by the tantrum.  I cannot tell you what it is because each child and each situation is different.  However, your job is to make sure that nothing is gained and that the payment for the tantrum is unpleasant.  This, when done consistently, will cure most tantrums—although it might take longer with some than with others.
  • As to general behavior, your children are what you have made them.  If they whine, it is because you by allowing it and responding to it have trained the child to whine.  If they hit people for no reason, it may be because it brings the attention they desire without a punishment they truly fear.

That Spanking Causes Stress and Turmoil

Parents today as a whole are a wimpy lot.  They fear confrontation with their children.  They fear being rejected by them. They are even afraid that their children will not love them.  This insecurity in the parents causes an awful dread of their child’s tears.  They seek to avoid crying at all costs.  They avoid any conflict that might bring these tears or crying.  And, in doing so, they create a home where peace never comes.

  • Proverbs 29:17 – “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.”
  • God says that disciplined children create a peaceful home.  Why can we not get this?  If rebellion and disobedience are not confronted, they breed a spirit of tension and conflict in the home.  The only way to solve the problem of conflict is to confront and solve it in each child as it displays itself.
  • One response I receive from people when I tell them how quick I was to paddle for disobedience is that I must have paddled my children a lot.  I guarantee you that I paddled them a lot less than some of you who have little control over your children.  When you punish all clear disobedience; when you do it consistently and with love; when you explain how the child can avoid this punishment next time and encourage them to do so; you may find that you only have to speak the word and your children will obey in almost every case.  I got to the point that I was honestly surprised when my children would disobey me since direct disobedience was so rare.
  • Some of you think that my wife and I must have been perfect parents or at least that I am claiming we were.  We were far from it.  You may think that our children were perfect.  They were not.  Please understand, all parents are human and have human frailties.  We are not in a contest for parent-of-the-year or any such thing.  I write these things in order to help you.  Some of these principles took us several years to learn.  You can learn them too.
  • Parenting, God’s way, still works.   I saw it work with our children even though neither they nor their parents were perfect.  Please drill this in your minds:  God’s way works.
  •  I am tired of hearing parents say things like, I tried spanking my child and it just does not work with him.  That is like the church that decides that preaching no longer works for getting the gospel out and so turns to the latest worldly gimmick.  There are a lot of Christian parents raising their children according to the latest whims of the world.  They are wrong.  If your household is a madhouse with the children running the show, then you are not using God’s methods.  Do you really want to be obedient to the Lord in this most important area?  Are you willing to learn the ways of God?

So, what are you going to do?  Are you going to moan and groan and say that I just do not understand your situation?  Are you going to hit and miss a couple of times and then give up?  Or, are you going to systematically and faithfully learn God’s way of disciplining children and then apply these practices to your own family?  The choice is yours.  I pray you make the right one.  Start by studying the scriptures and principles taught in this article.  Find other good materials and study them.  Study what the Bible says about raising children.  Pray for God’s help and wisdom.  You will find that He will be there to help you.

David Reagan
Daily Proverb

Proverbs 25:9

Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: