Since I was spanked as a little girl, it was only natural of course that I would plan to do the same with my own children. After all, I turned out AMAZING! However, when I became a mom, I realized that I had no idea how or when to administer a spanking.
Are there certain sins that just get an automatic spanking?
Should I spank her for hitting another kid?
Do I warn her first and then if she deliberately disobeys again, I spank her?
How many times should I spank her?
Do I use my hand or a spoon or a branch or a belt or a shoe?
How young is too young?
How old is too old?
Is this the best form of discipline or merely a last resort?
I decided to go back to the original source – the Bible – in order to make sure that I was really obeying God’s Word regarding how and when to spank my children. I began to do some research in an attempt to answer all these questions that I had looming in my mind.
The first thing I noticed is that spanking is NOT in the Bible. The word “spank” is found NOWHERE in the Holy Scriptures. “Spanking” is a euphemism. Words matter, so let’s call it what it is – hitting. Spanking is hitting a child.
Despite the fact that the word “spanking” cannot be found in Scripture, there is wide disagreement between how and when to implement this teaching even among those who believe the Bible advocates for hitting a child. If you were to pick up any two books written by “Christian authorities” or talk to any two Christian parents on the subject, you will find a number of conflicting recommendations:
“Don’t spank a child over 5.”
“Don’t spank a child over age 12.”
“Begin spanking before a child’s first birthday.”
“Do not begin spanking until a child is at least 3 years old.”
“Never spank with your hand – hands are only to be associated with love.”
“Spank with your hand so that you will know if you are spanking too hard or too soft.”
“Children have extra padding on the butt which God put there for spanking.”
“A slap on the hands, butt or thighs will surely teach them!”
“Never spank in anger.”
“Only give two swats.”
“Spank until they produce real tears and genuine repentance.”
I’m sure I could record hundreds of other pieces of advice from various parents and scholars, but if in the end all of these people are claiming the ultimate authority on the matter is the Word of God, then we should go back to the Word of God for the answers. Here is what the Bible teaches:
- There is NO Biblical upper age limit. The only limit given in the Bible is that there should be no more than 40 stripes (for an adult). The Bible only references using corporal punishment in regards to legal adults (12 and older)
Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight. (Deuteronomy 25:3)
- The Bible specifies that the “rod” is for the BACK (not the BUTT).
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
and a rod for the back of fools. (Proverbs 26:3)On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,
but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense. (Proverbs 10:13)
- The Bible specifies using only TWO items for corporal punishment – the rod and the whip (not the hand or belt).
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24)Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol. (Proverbs 23:13-14)Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (Proverbs 29:15)
- The Bible indicates that corporal punishment should be severe enough to leave a mark.
Blows that wound [bruise] cleanse away evil; strokes [beatings, slaughter] make clean the innermost parts. (Proverbs 20:30)
So if we are going to really obey the Bible in regards to this matter,
we should beat our children on the back with a rod until they bruise regardless of age.
I do not know of any Christian who would advocate for doing that. We cannot claim to support a parenting philosophy that hits children as discipline based on the Bible while at the same time neglecting to obey the Word of God’s explicit teaching on the subject. We use the Bible as our excuse to hit our children without being careful to do it the way the Bible says. So either we are not doing what the Bible says or we are not understanding what the Bible says. Let’s explore together the deeper meaning of these verses by investigating what the “rod” really means.
- Were you hit as a child?
- How did your parents hit you?
- Why did your parents hit you?
- How old were you when you were first hit by your parents?
- How old were you when you were last hit by your parents?
- How did you feel before and after being hit by your parents?
- How did your parents decide when and how to hit you?
- Would you or have you hit your children?
- Would you or have you hit your children the way the Bible recommends? Why or why not?
- What is the impact of answering these questions with the word “hit” instead of the euphemism “spank”?