I read once that you have to be willing to write something now and then that makes you nervous, otherwise you aren’t writing anything really interesting.
Well, I think I can check that off my list today because I’m addressing something that makes me nervous to write about. Religion.
I am a religious person, and I don’t have any qualms relating that, but because I work professionally with people in a variety of settings — public schools, private schools, religious schools and families from varying sects, etc. — I don’t usually make my religious beliefs the foundation for what I teach. I do however always make sure that what I teach is in sync with what I believe.
So I felt personally challenged the first time someone responded to my no-spanking stance by essentially saying, “I’m a Christian, and I believe in the Bible. That’s why I spank my kids.”
I’m also a Christian, and I also believe in the Bible, and I feel my views on discipline are in sync with those religious views. I had thought before about writing a post on how I resolve the two, but decided not to step into a religiously based discussion.
Then I saw this news report about a seven year-old girl who was recently beaten to death by parents who, I believe, really thought they were following the Bible. Watching that video caused such a visceral reaction for me, that I knew it was time to write that post I’ve been nervous to share.
Spanking as a Broken Tool
I was spanked on occasion as a child, and I certainly don’t think I was abused or mistreated. While I am not one to assert that spanking is always child abuse, it’s easy to see how it can become such. As the statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics points out, spanking is a tool with diminishing returns. Intensity must increase in order to garner the same response. It’s a slippery slope.
In my ebook, Parenting with Positive Guidance, I talk about spanking as a broken tool. It’s something many parents cling to and it may appear to work from time to time, but it’s just not the most effective discipline tool. And it’s not one we have chosen to use in our home. (Read more about why here.)
Spare the Rod
Generally, when parents claim the biblical decree to spank they make reference to Proverbs 13:24, which states that “He who spareth his rod, hateth his son…”
Rather than use only a select few verses of scripture to guide my parenting, I prefer to examine the full works. I certainly desire to observe this verse, with a meaning I’ll share in just a moment, but I also draw parenting inspiration from other verses as well.
Ephesians 4:31-32 for example, where we are extolled to put away anger and wrath and rather be kind and tenderhearted.
First Corinthians 13:4-7, defining charity, which “suffereth long and is kind“, seems to epitomize parenthood as it encourages patience and pure love in spite of frustration and even provocation.
And not least of all, I look at the recorded life of Christ as an example to be emulated. The encounter in John, chapter eight exemplifies how those who clung to Mosaic law brought an adulterer before him and encouraged him to participate in stoning her. It was scripture. It was law. But Christ refused, inviting those who were perfect to cast the first stone. He corrected her with words and with love, rather than punishing her with pain.
What is the Rod?
As I mentioned, I don’t disregard the counsel given in Proverbs. But in its introduction, in the sixth verse, it states that the proverbs are to be understood and interpreted. I don’t claim to be a biblical scholar, but I do know that the term “rod” as used in scriptural writing can mean many things. I’ll discuss three here.
Scripture, or God’s word is often referred to as a rod or staff. Clearly, Christ-centered parenting would include teaching the Gospel and the use of scripture. For a Christian to spare this rod would certainly be neglectful parenting.
The rod is also used in scripture to reference a type of authority, like a scepter. Ignoring one’s parental responsibility and authority is in essence, an abdication of parenthood, and would likely be condemned by scripture as well.
The Shepherd’s Staff
In the pastoral time of King Solomon, the word rod could be used to refer to the staff of a shepherd. This could be used as a club to beat the wolves who would harm his flock. But it could also refer to the shepherd’s staff that was used to gently guide his sheep. And it is the image of the Good Shepherd who tenderly guides His flock, that I prefer to use as a guide to parenting.
And so it is within this context that I personally believe one can be a good Christian, a good parent, and raise children with discipline and love, even without the use of spanking.
What are your thoughts on spanking? (Please keep comments respectful.)
Top photo byRyk Neethling.
I agree with you totally. The whole issue of spanking is a very deep on and one can debate it for hours. If you want you can have a look at what I have to say on my blog post http://connectedchristianmom.blogspot.com/2011/05/to-spank-or-not-to-spank.html
I want my child to obey me out of a place of respect and trust, not fear or intimidation.
Debra Dane says
Thank you for putting yourself out there and sharing this view. It is such a heated topic without even touching on religious aspects…so all I will say is I try not to judge parents for their choices as I do believe we all make the best choices for US and for OUR FAMILIES… BUT (you knew there would be a but) I wholeheartedly am anti-spanking on any level. I have felt that urge on a rare occasion but know it is my job to reel it in and sort myself out. If a man hits his wife people get in an uproar about domestic violence, but many of those same people think nothing of a slap on a small child’s bottom. A defenseless and innocent child – who needs our protection and guidance in this world. I think it is hard to justify any hitting when you are usually working so hard to teach your children to be kind, not to hit others, to work through their anger and frustration. We lead by example so if you spank/smack/slap that is the real lesson you are teaching your child – not discipline, but violence.
Thank you, Debra. You make a great point. I really do try to not judge other parents, and I recognize that spanking can be a tool used with judiciousness and prudence. It’s actually the oposite notion I was trying to address: that one MUST spank in order to observe the Bible. Thank you so much for sharing your views. I’ve had the same thought about the domestic violence comparision as well. Likewise, if you watch the video link, the author discusses addressing a boy hitting his sister by saying, “That’s violence and it’s not accepted in our home.” He then prescribes something like 10-15 lashings. That’s the incongruity that I struggle with. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.
Thank you for your honest opinion on this issue. It is one that my husband and I struggle with in our own home. I wanted to present a different opinion than many I see here. We have (through much prayer) decided that spanking can be appropriate and necessary in some situations. I agree that the examples you mentioned are wrong and can quickly send the wrong message. They are counterproductive in teaching children the right way to handle their anger. However, when a spanking is administered in the correct way it can be used as a way to teach lessons about consequences and the results of rebellion. We believe that the spanking is the last resort in correcting behavior. It must be given by a parent that is not angry, or frustrated. And the reasons for it have to be explained to the child both before and after the punishment so that he clearly understands that his own willful and repeated disobedience have left us with no choice but to take this step. In the times we have had to use this tool to correct our son it has been a time of love and caring that has brought our son to face the seriousness of his actions and the consequences that come from them. I believe that this is not only beneficial to him, but also to us as reminders that there comes a time when God must punish his children when they refuse to listen to the call of mercy and grace He so often extends to us. And that the punishment for sin is death, paid for by God. Our sins are serious and that is why we have chosen to carefully use spanking as a tool to teach our children.
I needed this this morning. Thank you so much. It was as much a devotion for me as it was informative.
We are Love and Logic [aka natural consequences] parents. Positive guidance has worked wonderfully for us. We have a “crying couch” that gives that person [mom included] free reign to feel whatever feelings they need to feel for as long as they need to feel them – but only on the couch. Our family rules only consist of 5 things: 1) Help. 2) Be safe. 3) Use good manners. 4) Make good choices. 5)Serve with joy. We feel that these encompass the things we value. Discipline in our home is something we ALL work at and being Christians it means that we all make mistakes (even the parents) and have to ask forgiveness.
We do have ONE exception – when the child is under 2, is in a dangerous situation and needs to obey the very first time. For instance, in a parking lot. We hold hands. We do not let go. Running from mom or dad could mean death. This has happened only once with each of our 3 children. One swat and some stern words solved the problem. My oldest, who is very sensitive, responds best to words. A raised eyebrow can result in tears. With the middle child, raising your voice only makes a problem worse. We lower our voices and sit next to him to really get through.
I’m not totally opposed to spanking, but I don’t think it is a great tool. There are so many other things that work better. Every family has their own dynamic and personalities. Choices have to be made individually. We try to set our children up for success and definitely don’t think physical punishment is the way to go to get the desired results.
Luke Pereira says
I agree with you, Bryssy! I don’t think spanking is ALWAYS harmful. But there are two considerations that come to my mind. The first is that there will always be people who will inevitably interpret a Public Service Announcement that tells them that in very specific situations that have to be thought about and applied judiciously it is ok to spank your child as a go-ahead to beat the crap out of their children. It is an unfortunate interpretation of such PSA to justify a pre-existing belief that beating your child is ok.
The second is a very personal opinion: I don’t believe that in the case of child rearing there can be a big brush that includes the various (perhaps infinite) contexts, realities, and circumstances into one set of rules. Therefore, judging the act of spanking as an isolated event ignores the myriad contexts, realities, and circumstances I’ve mentioned about.
But here comes the BUT: If you rely solely of physical punishment, you will be educating your child that corporal punishment is pervasive, and the negative consequences are manifold! Thank you for comment. I hope you and the blog writer will get to read my two cents. All me best! Luke Pereira
I am so glad to read this. You put it all down so kindly and thoughtfully.
I was dismayed when I first came across the “it is your duty to spank your children” line of Christian thought. I blogged about it here: http://www.whattherestimefor.com/what-theres-time-for/2010/05/and-jesus-said-unto-them.html
I also recently blogged about the time I reacted without thinking on a bad day when my child was hitting me. http://www.whattherestimefor.com/what-theres-time-for/2011/07/whap.html
I appreciate your well thought-out post. We do choose to spank our children, but we have always limited spanking to specific, potentially dangerous behaviors or direct disobedience. We have found a variety of discipline techniques work best, and we include spanking in that list, but certainly don’t rely on it wholly. I had a discussion with my son last night about foolishness, after he did something that can be described as nothing less or more than just plain foolish. God’s Word says that folly is bound up in the heart of a child, and that the rod of correction will drive it far from him. I told him that my understanding of this verse is that spanking is a God-given tool that will help to remove foolishness from him. I told him that if I continue to see such careless, foolish actions I will have no choice but to use spanking as a way to drive that folly away. I didn’t spank him. I didn’t have to. He knows I will if it gets to that point, but he is also old enough to understand that he can make choices that are wise and will make the “rod” unnecessary. All this to say, I do believe that there is something inherent in physical pain that teaches us better than all the lectures or time-outs or whatevers. And there are times when spanking is needed to bring a child to the point of obedience and submission to God.
But I also believe there are times when spanking is exactly the wrong thing: when the parent is angry or out of control, when the child didn’t know his actions were wrong (I’m thinking of the first time my child said a swear word), and when the bad behavior is being caused by exhaustion or hunger or other physical needs that the parent should be aware of and meeting. I also think that spanking is really only effective when done by a parent who has a loving relationship of trust with her child; when there are thousands of sweet and beautiful moments shared by the parent and child to balance out the moments of punishment; and when the parent is in humble submission to God.
I think that in the end this comes down to a parent’s own personal understanding of Scripture, of her children, of the circumstances of the behavior. And I think we must be so careful (on both sides of this coin) to respect and not judge one another’s choices (so long as they are not harming a child). I believe that we are all doing the best we can, and we have a beautiful chance to share grace with one another when our opinions on this differ.
Thanks for the dialogue, and for letting me ramble. 🙂
Thank you for your thoughtful answer, Erin. I think you are right that there is an element of personal interpretation here and that we can agree to disagree. I didn’t intend to be judgemental of those who choose to spank sparingly. My issue is with an insinuation by some that spanking is the only discipline tool, and that those who don’t use it must not be good Christians or believe in the Bible. Like you, I believe there are many tools to use, and for me personally, spanking hasn’t been one. Like you, I don’t think a parent should spank out of anger, yet it has only been in anger that I have personally felt the impulse, and that is largely why I choose to use other guidance tools. I also had to express concern with the situation in the news piece I linked to where a widely read author encourages parents to “swat” their children repetatively using various instruments, citing scripture as the basis. I know the parents who beat their child to death (and another to the brink) are the extreme end, but it just made me sick to my stomach that they could be so misguided. Thank you for adding to the conversation. It is helpful to me to see how parents thoughtfully implement different philosophies in their own homes.
I’m sorry if I came across as accusing you of being judgmental; I didn’t get that impression at all. People who beat their kids deserve judgment, in my opinion. But I thought you expressed yourself well and kindly. I was also trying to avoid sounding judgmental. It’s so hard to have good conversations when there are no facial expressions to interpret. 🙂
I love your blog and I enjoy reading it; keep up the good work! 🙂
Oh, not at all. It’s just the one point I worried I hadn’t made clear. Thank you so much for reading, and for your kind words. And thank you for having the courage to weigh in on a topic that can be difficult to discuss!
Well said!! I think most anti-spanking parents have a skewed view of spanking – like it is some sort of escalating torture device that is motivated by anger and malice toward the child. Such ‘spanking’ is child abuse and is NOT biblical discipline. In my house I have found that lovingly administering the rod causes my children to be endeared to me and becomes less and less frequently needed as the child grows. Please recognize that spanking does NOT equal anger!!! God says it equals LOVE!
Thank you for sharing on such a controversial and sometimes difficult topic. Although I belong to the “spanking within strict guidelines” camp – I really appreciated your reasoning. I especially appreciated your research on the word “rod”. That is something I never thought of before and I think you really brought some understanding to words we just often repeat without thinking about them.
We did spank our children (they are all grown now) for acts of willful disobedience – but never for childish irresponsibility. We never spanked in anger – in fact my husband and I never, ever wanted to spank them and many times the tears that flowed came from us. I often thought that it was our tears that impacted our kids choices for the next time – more than the spanking they received. We believed that if we administered a spanking it would be done privately so as not to embarrass our child and it would be done hard enough for our child to know we meant it. We would then leave our child alone in their room for a short amount of time until emotion had been spent and then (and this was the most important part to us) we went to them, held them and discussed the behaviour that resulted in the punishment. We always expressed our love to them and that we believed in them and that we were confident they would be obedient the next time. We would then pray together asking God to help us be obedient. It always ended up being a time of sweetness together. All four girls have grown up to be wonderful, responsible adults.
I don’t believe every situation calls for a spanking and I think there are children who respond much better to other forms of punishment. You have to know your own child and what makes them tick. But as for me and my house . . . . spankings were effective and I don’t regret that we chose to use it as a training tool.
Robin, I appreciated your comments about your own tears having more of an impact on your children than theirs. I remember as a kid, responding to peer pressure by saying, “My dad would kill me if I did that.” It was an easy out as my dad was/is a judge. But even as I said it, I knew the more important thing to me was knowing that that kind of disappointment would kill my dad, and I didn’t want to let him down. I think that regardless of the tools used, a strong and loving relationship is what makes the tool most effective. Thanks for sharing your perspective.
I am also a non-spanker. From a psychological standpoint it really makes no sense. It might make the parent feel better, but what is it teaching the child?
Exactly Jenny. It teaches the child that violence is a normal reaction – which it should never be.
Respectfully, I do not believe there is ever a need for spanking. To hide behind scripture is terrible; although of course everyone interprets the bible in different ways – it is not possible that Jesus would sanction a child to receive pain – it is just not necessary. In my opinon, it is never necessary – my daughter is 2 years old and I could never hit her, no matter what she did.
I would not hit an adult who was rude to me, and even if another adult were to hit me, I would walk away. So a being a child should not mean the response to bad behaviour is physical. I was spanked as child and it was useless – I did not respect what was being done to me, and it certainly didn’t stop me from doing naughty things – children do naughty things to test the boundaries. It is our job as parents to guide them – not hurt them.
I found your post wonderfully written and hopefully it will make more people realise that there is never a need to resort to violence in discipline. Well done for having the courage to post about it despite feeling cautious. It was totally respectful and clearly written.
I love your blog!
Thanks for the great post. I am not a parent, so haven’t solidified my views on it. Definitely would do more research into the meaning of “rod.”
However, I think the important distinction here is that any discipline needs to be done rationally and lovingly. The point of discipline is to improve the child and help him develop his own discipline. I think any discipline (spanking, standing in the corner, etc.) that is done in anger is much more likely to be detrimental.
It seems to me the difference is the degree of damage if done poorly. I’ll speak about a topic I know better: Dog training. There are many tools in dog training, from the more hands-off, treat-centered, rewards-based clicker training, to more pain-oriented methods like a shock collar. Personally, from my research, there is no bad method of training, as long as it’s done by a trainer who knows what he’s doing (although there may be better choices for a dog or trainer). The damage is when someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing approaches a method. With a method such as clicker training, you may end up with a poorly trained dog (or even a dog trained to do something you don’t want it to do), but it’s unlikely you’ll end up with a psychologically scarred dog. If you put a shock collar on a dog and don’t know what you’re doing, you could seriously damage that dog. I think, perhaps, for certain dogs, in certain situations, with skilled trainers, methods such as shock collars may be more valuable. But what happens when unskilled or uncaring trainers approach the same method?
It seems to me like it may be the same for kids. All methods may be effective with a good, intelligent, level-headed discerning parent. But what about the people who do lash out in anger? Or the folks who don’t have good discretion? That’s when you get the terrible stories about kids being killed in the name of discipline.
I’m firmly in the “don’t spank” camp. That said, I don’t pick up my phone to call child and family services when I see a scared Mom smack her child when he/she runs out in traffic. I just don’t see why spanking is necessary when there are so many non-violent ways to discipline a child. Many countries in the World (24, now?) have made spanking illegal.
Just to give people something to think about (and this is just based on my personal experience – not scientific studies) …. I have run a home daycare for 24 years. It has been my experience that the children who are spanked as a method of discipline are harder to discipline in a daycare setting where – in Canada, anyway – teachers and daycare providers aren’t allowed to hit children. It’s as though those children don’t think you are serious about a “rule” unless you are prepared to hit them to enforce it.
Amy Hood says
I love this comment. The last sentence really gets the point across.
Thank you for standing up and speaking on this topic.
I am not a religious person, so I can’t even begin to understand the nuances of the bible nor how people could think that it would encourage them to hurt a child… hurt any0ne. And yet we hear of so many cases when that is the case, when people think they are doing ‘the right thing’ because they have read a book or listened to ‘an expert’. I am so glad that there are people like you out there who are willing to stand up and say that not only is there a better way, but also a better way that still affirms your faith.
oh, I’m crying after watching that video that I can’t even read anyone’s comments above…such a sad sad loss, that book and the writers are appalling!
I can’t say I’m firmly in the “no spank” camp as I have given my eldest a gentle swat. Once. I told myself I never would (although I myself received the occasional swat as a child and didn’t feel abused) because I couldn’t justify it teaching them anything- except that perhaps, Mom was beyond wits end 🙂 It was at the end of series of unfortunate events- I’d driven from Ohio to Florida, without my husband. We had been there a week, without my husband (I honestly admire single parents so much!). We were completely out of sync with our normal rythms and routines. We were in a relative’s house where material possesions hold asacred place in the heart of the family member (there were literally sections of the house we were completely prohibited from entering and nearly everything was glass, crystal, procelain) and so I was at my wits end when I was trying to wrestle his diaper on him for the umpteenth time and I exclaimed in frustration, “I feel so frustrated I feel like spanking you!” At which point he firmly planted his feet on the chest of his little brother and buck kicked his brother HARD to the floor. As he brought his legs up exposing his bare rear inches from my hand- I swatted him . . . . . . and he laughed. I was grateful for his reaction, however, and that I hadn’t done it harder, I felt guilty enough as it was. I was grateful for his laugh, too, because it jolted me back to the reality of my long term goals with discipline. I was able to sigh, apologize, hug and “try again” myself. It still wasn’t an easy night. I feel like this is a confessional, but what I learned was that I do, like I expect of my son, need to work harder to control my emotions and actions, that I have spanked and didn’t find it effective or like how I felt about it. Now I am working on my tone- because spanking isn’t the only fear/intimidation inducing discipline tool and I feel like keeping the anger out of my voice is the next step to being more in control of myself. Thank you for addressing this so wonderfully. It was all so well written and thoughtful and considerate.
First let me say I respect your point of view and believe most parents are doing their best for their children.
I did spank on occasion when my child was small but l used other forms of discipline also. I think each situation and even each child/parent determines the discipline that is needed. I also think the difference is discipline not punishment. My goal was to raise my child in such a way that he would become self disciplined (as much as any of us can be). Spanking out of anger or frustration is punishment and I agree that punishment never gets the results you want. Like some others have pointed out spanking is not the only punishment that hurts…if you do any thing to “punish” a child what is your goal? I’ll teach you a lesson, or I’ll show you? It makes me sad to see parents always threatening their child with punishment with no follow through.This leads to two things-arguments with your child about why they won’t listen or the parent becomes frustrated and then takes it out on the child. By using discipline as consistently as possible the child learns to respect what you say and a more loving bond is made. BTW new to your site LOVE IT!
Teacher Weena says
Very insightful. It takes courage, really to write about your beliefs. I, too, am not a parent yet so I still have to have ‘hands-on’ experiences in order to stand firm on the issue. My general knowledge of ‘spanking’ I have learned from my parents. (1) they never spanked us when they were angry. (2) when they did, there was an explanation afterwards. (or we are fully aware why we are being spanked). (3) we had other forms of ‘punishment’ like taking away our privileges (no T.V., extra chores, etc.). (4) they both agreed (if we had to be spanked or not ) on the punishment. (I guess if either of them disagreed on the decision of the other, they did not show us).
I normally enjoy reading your posts, but am amazed so many of your readers condone and use physical punishment and abuse of their children. It saddens me no end. There is such a wealth of research out there that clearly shows the ongoing negative consequences spanking children has on their emotional, physical and social wellbeing, not to mention the price we have to pay as a society. It seems such a little thing, such an easy, harmless way to discipline children, but in fact it is an insidiously destructive and unhelpful way to guide behaviour. There are so many other tools out there, easily accessible for parents now thanks to the internet, that do not require us to seed fear in our children of their parents, but instead engender respect – which after all is the main goal of most parents. I am just grateful I live in a country (New Zealand) that has enshrined in law the protection of children from the same abuse adults are protected from: hitting (or spanking/smacking, whatever you call it). I suggest to those parents who seek to follow the word of God by spanking that they revisit the tools they use and expand their knowledge of what God’s word means, in the same way the author of this post has done. They will find their children respect them because they trust them, not that their children do what they say out of fear. I know which one I would prefer, and which builds a lifetime bond of love. Let’s raise children who don’t have to recover from their childhoods.
I recently read a quote from one of the leaders of my church. He states, “We will never have a greater opportunity to teach and show Christlike attributes to our children than in the way we discipline them. Discipline comes from the same root word as DISCIPLE and implies PATIENCE and TEACHING on our part. It should NOT be done in anger.” –Lynn G. Robbins
Spanking is usually done in anger.
I also enjoyed reading and agreed with your interpretation of the meaning of “the rod” and the example of the shepherd’s staff used to gently guide his sheep. I think as God’s children, he gently guides us and teaches us through life’s experiences. We need to do the same for OUR children…who are essentially His children.
I love that quote, Laura. Thank you so much for adding it to the conversation!
After watching that very disturbing story I also came across this counsel from a leader of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My spirits were lifted and my parenting batteries recharged after reading his full article. Here is a link to the article, http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/what-manner-of-men-and-women-ought-ye-to-be?lang=eng&query=manner+man+ought+be%3f
Love your blog.
Amy Hood says
I love running into other church members! I, also, LOVED that article(What manner of Men and Women Ought Ye Be) so much that I cut the title out of the mag. and made a magnet for our fridge. 🙂 Have a wonderful day, Sisters!
I feel the same way, I don’t spank my child even though most of my Christain friends do. Well said and well written. I believe correcting your child is a fundamental part of being a good parent, and thus I believe I far from “spare the rod” I just don’t do it with spankings.
In the news clip, the author of the book says that if his child hit a sibling, the child would be told that it was not acceptable behavior…then he would proceed to hit this child. How could an intelligent person not see the real message to the child; if you can get away with it (if you are bigger, for instance) you CAN you hit another person.
I had the same thought. And not just that he would hit a child for hitting, but hit him repeatedly, as he said at least 10 times, I believe.
We don’t spank at all. The roots of it actually come from ancient pagan sexual ritual…between adults.
We live in an area that is very pro-spanking. I don’t talk about it much, ( I’ve lost some friends when I’ve only mentioned simply that I don’t spank and nothing else) because I think parents would be so ashamed if they knew where it came from. And I think most parents really are trying to do the right thing, but they’ve been manipulated and pressured by their pastors, leaders, and Christian parenting authors.
When intrepreting the bible, what I like to keep in mind is that Jesus defines the Scriptures, not the other way around. If a belief is inconsistent with the life Jesus lived (who came to show us the heart of the Father), that belief should be questioned.
I would be interested to know where the information came from that children were not spanked as a form of punishment until this pagan sexual ritual was conceived. I would be interested to do more research about it and a google search wasn’t fruitful. Specifically, I am curious approximately when did this practice begin? How did such practice come to be associated with discipline of children? How were children disciplined prior to this ritual? Which pagan religion did it stem from? The reason I ask all of these questions is because it has really made me question the “beginning” of the practice of spanking. I guess I just always thought it was a natural form of discipline since Adam and Eve! If it’s not “natural”, then how did it become common practice for so many centuries? Was the first spanking of a child out of anger (retaliation) instead of guidance (discipline)? My mind is spinning here! Even animals in nature swat their young to guide and train them. Until I can do a little more research I’m going to have to go with nature over pagan ritual. I would love to have more information if any one has any.
Thank you. Any writing that helps the rest of us differentiate and remember that Christians (like any other group) are diverse is a tool that brings light to the Earth – at the very least sharing the truth that not all those who believe in Christ interpret his words (and the Old Testament) in the same way. Thank you, from my heart.
I feel physically ill after watching that video clip. I am a Christian, and cannot even tell you how many women from church have tried to encourage me toward spanking – one even recommended that particular book to me! I
I have two young boys (the older, 3 yrs, who I have on occasion smacked on the bottom – nothing even close to THIS brutal) but I have always, always, felt uneasy, sad, and regretful afterward. Thank you for writing something like this, that rather encourages me toward peace and long-suffering when my children are being “difficult.”
Slightly unrelated to the post itself (and good point on the christianity not=spanking point) I recently read a very compelling book called Nurtureshock- A collection of in-depth studies done in the last decade analyzing the traditional ways that children are raised in america, and whether or not they are effective. It breifly touched on spanking. The studies were expecting the conclusion that spanking would result in a more aggressive child, but on the contrary, A child that was spanked regularly, in other words spanking was a consistent form of punishment were NO more aggressive than children who were not spanked at all. The children who were the MOST aggressive were the ones who were spanked only for the most serious of transgressions. The problem was consistency. Children with ANY form of consistent punishment were just fine. It was the inconsistency that was bad for the child, not the form of punishment. I loved the book, and would recomend it to anyone. The writers didn’t have an agenda, and plenty of times the studies showed just the opposite of what they expected it to. It was honest, and very interesting. (I personally am choosing not to spank my children, for no other reason than I remember telling may dad one day, when I was about to be spanked that Jesus did not want him to spank me. I truly believed that from everything I had learned at church, that he was not supposed to hurt me as a punishment. If a 4 year old understands that, why doesn’t an adult?)
Thank you for taking the time to write. How ever I must respectfully say that spanking is not anything to do with the tragic and violent beatings that the parents gave in that news report.
Spanking in my book is an open palm on the backside. Period. It causes a momentary sting and that is it. It is very effective, over within a few seconds, followed by hugs. What is so effective is that there is no lingering shame for our kids that they are still in trouble. It is over, they are forgiven and we move on.
It is light years removed from the news story. That is NOT spanking. It is BEATING. I don’t like it being put in the same category. It is libel against us parents who choose to use a simple open hand, ONLY on the backside.
I think that’s enough said. I hope I have distinguished my point clearly. I hope you don’t hate me for what I do.
Tara McClintick says
I can’t even imagine Jesus spanking a child. I’ve also heard that the shepards never hit their sheep with the rod, just used it to gently guide them in the direction they wanted them to go (or beat a wolf off if need be, but not the sheep itself). The only time people seem to want to spank is when they are angry at their child, so I’m not sure how people wait until the anger is over to spank – I think it takes more self control and creativity to try to teach your child without spanking. I also believe in teaching your child that hitting others is wrong, and I think spanking is a huge inconsistency in that message. When you have a child with special needs, such as autism, it can backfire and make things much worse. I’ve seen the same thing happen with my younger brother. I was fearful of being spanked, but he just got more sneaky, angry, and rebellious. It does not help the parent/child connection in my viewpoint, which ultimately is what parents are pleading for when they spank “Listen to me, I need to teach you something” – often spanking has the total opposite result. This was interesting to consider, thanks for posting. I know many parents struggle with this issue, but I firmly believe you do not have to spank to be a good parent and hope that more and more parents get that message so they do not feel pressured to control their children in that manner. There are many other ways to encourage cooperation and help children develop self-control.
first of all, i just found your blog and am really enjoying reading through your posts. you have some really great stuff and i’m looking forward to reading more in the future. second of all, i’m in the rarely-spanking camp (as a family we’ve gone from mostly-spanking to rarely-spanking as our children have grown bigger and other forms of discipline have more effect and they can make better choices for themselves), and as i understand you don’t mean judgment in your post (and i really do appreciate you putting yourself out there) it’s hard to see what i strive to do out of love as a parent put in the same camp as that video. i know that’s not your intention, but since this is in essence an anti-spanking post, that’s how this post leaves me. and from reading through the comments i keep seeing the word abuse and how people think it’s impossible to spank without anger. know that my children feel safe and loved and never show ANY sign of physical aggression, it’s always disappointing to feel so many people out there just assume and make a judgment that i can only be hurting and scarring. (this is mostly a reply to many of the comments i’ve read. not your post.) *sigh* anyway, just my two cents.
Thank you for this post. I could not agree more.
I do spank my child. I do. I do it with love, out of love. I do not beat my child. I do not abuse my child. I would like to make sure this clear to those who want to see spanking illegal: Abuse and beatings cause trauma, spanking does not (or, at least no more so than any form of discipline).
The reason I choose to spank has nothing to do with religious doctrine, though I am a Christian. For generations upon generations parents spanked their children. Teachers spanked their students. Neighbors spanked the neighborhood children. And the majority of the children grew up to be respectful, productive adults. I don’t see that so much in today’s society. I see more and more children bossing their parents, threatening teachers, disrespecting their neighbors and growing into self-serving adults with expectations of entitlement. I’m not blaming this solely on the lack of corporal punishment; there are so many factors. I simply see a cause and effect correlation, so I choose to spank my son when it is truly warranted.
I use spanking as a form or discipline not retaliation. I don’t spank when he accidentally spills his milk or uses my favorite lipstick as a crayon, but rather when he holds his milk out, looks me straight in the eye, I warn him not to, and he proceeds to pour it on the floor. I then sternly point out what he did (which he was already well aware) make him bend over and give him three stiff swats. He cries briefly, not out of pain, but for the fact of being in trouble. I give him a hug and I tell him once again why he got the swat and he sits on my lap and we cuddle for a few minutes. I have to say, that so far (I don’t expect this to last forever) we have not experienced re-occurrence.
Why, may I ask, do you make him bend over? Does that make an easier angle or is it to humiliate him? I don’t understand that.
Amy Hood says
I am glad that someone else blogged about this sensitive subject. I did, too. 🙂 That’s the link ^.. if you wanna check it out.
Thank you for writing this. I am struggling very hard here – because at almost 57 the very idea that a child is spanked/hit… makes my pulse rise drastically, and my stomach clench. I can’t write too eloquently as I have fibromyalgia and fibrofog which doesn’t allow me to be so. So I will just go and write .. what I feel and believe. I am not trying to ‘knock’ anyone but I am trying to make you think about what you are REALLY doing when you spank that child.
As I said, I am almost 57 and when my parents spanked /hit me for the first time. They lost me. They lost my love, respect and trust. I don’t trust and respect anyone who hits me and never will. The only lessons learned were .. fear, pain, anger, hate and resentment – and that adults lied [‘We don’t hit”] and would and could get away with anything. That if you were larger/older etc the way to deal with another when they aren’t doing what you want, or saying what you want is to hit them. That as a child, my thoughts and needs were less important. That they didn’t love me – and NO the post spanking ‘cuddle and make up’ and ‘we love you’ .. didn’t mean a single thing to me – actions speak louder than words and they had just HIT me – something I never did!
My family are Christian but spanking children is not part of our church. It was done simply because that was how THEY had been treated. Was it kind? No. Was it patient? No? Did it teach anything .. ah yes .. but nothing good. My parents relationship with me was damaged forever and my childhood ruined. Was I abused?? Difficult … I believe that if you strike someone, ANYONE yes it is wrong and therefore abuse. Most spankers agree that what I suffered was not abuse but was ‘just’ spanking. I beg to differ.
Am I violent? No… strangely I was always a quiet, gentle child. I seem to know from as far back as I remember, that hitting is wrong. I was taught about Jesus and the Bible – and he was ‘gentle’ and commanded us to be too. He never mentioned how important it is to hit a child – and never would have. I truly believe that the devil works in strange ways too … and just because something has been done for centuries does NOT necessarily make it right. Just a few years ago, beating one’s wife was expected and ok .. if it was ‘in her best interests’ … just as some say about children today. It is time we all agreed that children are small people and should have the same safety from being hit under the law than you, me, the criminal and even animals.
I don’t believe one can spank with love. To me it’s an oxymoron. You might feel you do – but truly, try putting in the words “I spank/hit my wife/husband and love her/him” and begin to see how wrong that sounds. And just because you are ‘not raising your husband/wife’ doesn’t mean that hitting a defenceless child, several times smaller than you, who if a toddler will NOT understand why their beloved parent has just hurt them, is right.
If you spank with anger – you may go way to far. If you are going to spank ‘cold’ – what really does that say about you? What does it TELL that child? I know all it told me was that parents/adults could hit me just because of about anything – because if they can do it when calm .. they can do it anytime! Yes.. I knew ‘the rules’ – but that didn’t stop me being fearful all the time.
I never spanked my children, I didn’t want to teach them /show them violence. To be hypocritical. I wanted them to learn the lesson and not to be sneaky and avoid being hit. I wanted them to come to me with ANYTHING and trust me … not to be fearful about what I ‘might’ do or not. I wanted their respect – and hitting isn’t respectful. Respect is a two way street, and I needed to earn it not to simply expect it because I was bigger and older. They are now fine, gentle, kind adults. My two grandchildren who are not hit are growing up beautifully too.
I hope I haven’t offended anyone – but this is how spanking caused ME to feel … and I still suffer from it’s effects today in that I never think I am good enough. I am not the only person who has been damaged this way… I just do NOT want another child growing up being spanked and hit … and being told that it’s God’s/Jesus’ will …..
Can’t get my head around the fact that people tell themselves that there is a difference between spanking and hitting/beating etc. If spanking is so appropriate, would you allow your child to spank you, his peers or a dog? You know, respectfully and with hugs afterwards and all…duh.
Dara Stoltzfus says
Yeah, I know what you mean. I have a few friends who get into “arguments” with me on fb every time I post an article like this one…and I always refer to spanking as “hitting” (on purpose) because they ALWAYS get upset and start in with, “I do not HIT my children!”
Dara Stoltzfus says
I was a “spanker” till I found out that the ancient shepherds carried a rod…and a staff. And, that the “rod” was this spiked thing used for…beating off predators! Not for beating the sheep! It freaked me when I found this out ’cause I’d always just “gone with the flow” with the whole Proverbs verse you quote about sparing the rod. When you think of the rod as a weapon against things that come against your sheep (kids) and that it is to be used against the predators in the defense of the sheep…it takes on a whole deeper meaning for parenting, I think. It was a hard transition for me, ’cause I was on child #7 and had a 21 year old. So, I had many years invested in “spanking” my way thru parenting. It has been an awesome change, though, now that the transition is over. And, I am SO THANKFUL to find so many other parents out there like you. 🙂
(Here’s something I wrote about how to tell if you’re using the “rod” correctly or not…thinking of all my spanking friends… http://everythingisknowable.blogspot.com/2011/06/easy-self-test-about-use-of-biblical.html)
Ben Finney says
“In the pastoral time of King Solomon, the word rod could be used to refer to the staff of a shepherd.”
What is your source for that?
On the contrary, the shepherd’s staff is distinct from the rod. See Psalms 23:4, “… thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
Your idea that the “rod” for treatment of one’s child is meant gently does not agree with the plain meaning of Proverbs 23:13–14: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”
You can either believe that the Bible’s advice for child raising is good, or you can say that beating one’s child with a rod is bad. You can’t have it both ways.
In answer to your first question, I read the King James Version of the Bible, and my copy includes a Bible Dictionary. In that dictionary the term “rod” is defined and referenced using the definitons I cited in the post, as well as acknowledging the fact that is was used in those times to punish wayward children and other offenders.
As to the remainder of your argument I think first of all, that your citation of Proverbs 23:13-14 further substantiates the definitions laid out in the post. If you actually and literally beat your child with a rod he can die, as exemplified in the news piece I cited. If, however, you use the definitions of rod I pointed out, your child will not die, and will still stand corrected. Thus it seems to me to be a more appropriate application.
Lastly, I refuse to hinge my personal testimony and application of the Bible on solitary verses. While I believe all to be inspired and recognize all as Canonized works, different portions were written for different puposes and to different audiences. I believe in the right to inspiration for understanding and interpretation and was sharing my view. I reserve that same right for others to personal revelation and respect their differences of opinion, to the extent that it does not infringe on the well-being of others. As I’ve stated before, I know and respect people who use spanking as a parenting tool, but it is one I can not personally or professionally get behind. There is a point, however, where the term “spanking” is used to cover practices of abuse (as in the news piece), and I will not allow those practicioners to hide behind scripture, or more importantly, to misguide others.
So, more directly, yes. I do believe in the Bible as a guide for raising children, but as a complete book. Not as a group of isolated verses.
Ben Finney says
> I read the King James Version of the Bible, and my copy includes a Bible Dictionary.
My quotations were also from the King James Version. It clearly condones beating one’s child with the rod. Do we go by the words of the Bible, or by the words of some later author of a Bible Dictionary?
> Lastly, I refuse to hinge my personal testimony and application of the Bible on solitary verses.
I’m not asking you to do that. What I’m presenting is child-rearing advice – even admonitions – to beat one’s child with a rod, in clear wording in the Bible. Do you apply that advice? If not, why are you ignoring clear instructions from the Bible on how to raise your child?
If you repudiate that advice, I applaud you. But you can’t then consistently maintain that a book that clearly condones that treatment is somehow a good guide.
We’re just going to have to agree to disagree.
Ben Finney says
> We’re just going to have to agree to disagree.
So a reasoned discussion of the actual scripture and its consequences for your beliefs is not an option? That’s regrettable.
I feel sorry for this guy’s kids. He’s just looking for a fight.
He’s not. I have the same confusion over an obvious and clear verse, taken in context, not as an isolated verse. I love my children completely, and often feel that I don’t know HOW to discipline effectively. This man, I feel sure, is expressing frustration based on what looks pretty clear in the Bible, but not being included in the discussion here. I admit I was too nervous to join the conversation originally, and the FIRST verse that came to mind when I read the post and started to read the comments was the one this man has quoted, because, well… what of it? It’s so clearly stated, and can’t be twisted or denied. I am not in the spank camp, or the non-spank camp, because I just do not know what is right or wrong! The advice and discussions everywhere are so very conflicting, amongst Christians! I can’t tell right from wrong, and it makes me panic slightly because I really need to know what’s RIGHT to do for my sweet children. I think it’s a pretty passive aggressive response, two years after his comment, to come along with a one liner accusing him of looking for a fight and saying (the unkind stinger that had to be thrown in there, by the looks of it), “I feel sorry for this guy’s kids.” I don’t. I don’t know him, or his kids, and we are not meant to judge each other. That comment was unkind and unhelpful to the discussion.
Diane Hunt says
Forgot to tell you how much I appreciated this article. Well said, Amen, Hear Hear, etc. 😉 Loved it! Even saved it to Pinterest! 😉 Thanks so much!
Your interpretation of the word “rod” falls exactly in line with what I believe (though I’ve never applied it to that scripture before). I even grew up singing a song in Primary stating “the Iron Rod is the word of God.” I believe that using the “word of God” to guide your child is much more in line with the teachings of Christ than whacking your child with a large stick.
My husband and I do not using spanking as a rule, though I must admit to a few swats myself. However, as these were more emotional reactions on my part than rational discipline, I’m not proud of these occasions. While I don’t think that spanking (and I do believe there is a HUGE difference between spanking and hitting, as a few others have remarked) is harmful in the long run, I don’t find it to work best for me. I tend to have a short fuse (especially when pregnant) and so it’s much better to just leave the whole spanking option out entirely.
It’s truly sad how many people are abused in the name of God.
Wonderfully written and thank you!
I appreciate your stepping out of your comfort zone!
I haven’t read all the comments, so maybe I’m repeating something, but I want to throw out one more thing that I have never seen addressed.
First, unless we want to reinterpret things metaphorically, I think in the Old Testament children were likely spanked… They could be stoned, too. Does that mean it is the only/best way to discipline a child? The woman caught in adultery KNEW what she deserved, and I think that has a big bearing in Grace.
Mostly though, what about human history? Spanking was used in OT times, we know that most of modern history it was fairly standard in western cultures. Does that mean anything? If the founding fathers, Farragut, Galileo, Susan B Anthony, great men and women of history were brought up with spanking as Standard Practice, should we be nervous that “no spanking” has such a brief history? I mean, we are finding all manner of problems with processed food, genetic manipulation of plants, pesticides and nuclear bombs, things that are also about as new… Does anyone consider this in their decision-making?
(I’m not an advocate for or against spanking.)
nikki marie says
It is always nice to read a genuine post on a real topic. I agree Christians conveniently overlook much of scripture that points to good parenting. Teaching self-control, obedience, love, putting others first and many other biblical principles are often overlooked. Biblical parenting does not live or die on one verse in Proverbs though I don’t think it can be disregarded either.
Though I love your ideas for what “rod” could possibly mean, in Hebrew the word actually translates to a physical branch or staff, not anything figurative. We do have to remember to always take scripture in context and to use the Bible and its principles in their entirety in all areas of life, including parenting.
Thanks so much for writing this! We have a one year old and are quickly heading into discipline areas and are trying to figure out what to do! My husbands, a psychologist, isn’t big on spanking but all the (many!) Christian parenting books I’ve read are for it. Your points are great for our talks on this. thanks!!
Amanda @ Dirt and Boogers says
I am anti-spanking but have been around spanking my entire life. I was hit as a child out of pure frustration from my mom. I vividly remember her running across the room and smacking me hard on the leg. I can’t remember what I did to require such a reaction, but I remember the anger. I hate that memory, and that was enough for me to decide that spanking is not for me. The unfortunate part is that I find myself wanting to hit my son out of anger every now and again. It takes a lot of will power and thought on my part to not spank my son. It breaks my heart that I have this impulse to hit my child, but I’ve learned that you parent the way you were parented…unless you work hard to break the cycle. That is just what I’m trying to do. I’m 3 years in and haven’t hit him yet..go me!
As an adult, I have several Christian friends who do spank with wooden spoons and have read Train Up a Child. I’ve been told that I’m not parenting correctly because I don’t spank. They look at me like I’m crazy. I’ve even heard statements like “God tells us to obey our parents, so when you don’t obey me, you’re not obeying God, and God that makes God angry”. I am a Christian, but for me guilt statements like this and spanking are just not ok. Sometimes it feels like I’m going against the church because I chose to not parent the way the church teaches…maybe it’s time for a new church. I will absolutely use your definitions of “rod” the next time someone tries to tell me that God requires us to spank our children.
Thank you so much for taking a risk and writing this post. It’s wonderfully written and very thought provoking.
I am Jewish but was curious about the topic. Here in Israel spanking in public is against the law even. I can tell you from the Hebrew perspective, you are spot on. The rod is a symbol of authority not something used to beat a child. I was raised in the US and spanked as a child and I know it just made me angry it did not inspire me to behave better. How can I tell my children not to hit if I hit? It is a bad example. I hope your article will help many really think about their choice of discipline. May we as parents be the examples that we need to be, may we have the patience, cool spirit, and peace we need to react in love and gentleness even at the most extreme instances.
I don’t have kids yet but this is an interesting topic to me. I wasn’t spanked as a child and therefore can’t imagine ever spanking my children. But I’ve heard my pastor make references about how people should spank their children and I never understood. I turned out ok! 😉
Makeovers Motherhood says
Thank you for having the courage to speak your heart and write this. Spanking is such a rough subject. I will be honest that I was too often using the threat of spanking (or spanking itself) to deal with discipline areas in our home. It was a simple (and lazy) go-to threat which made the situation stop immediately rather than being proactive and talking/working through the situation with my child and teaching him. I didn’t realize how much I was doing this until my husband called me out on it. And it broke my heart. Since then, we started using “Discipline Jars” for the boys and for myself as a kind and teachable way to learn from our mistakes and bad behavior and to reward acting with kindness. I am still not a perfect mom by any means (and we still spank as a very very last resort). But just the process of removing spanking from our home has lifted a weight off us all and is helping us to show more kindness, love and compassion to each other. And it reminds me daily of all the grace given to me by Christ.
I wrote about our journey using the Discipline/Reward Jars (why we needed them, how to make them, how we implemented them, and how they affected our family). You can find it at http://makeoversandmotherhood.com/2013/07/discipline-jars-part-1-why-we-needed-them/
The Facts About Spanking: http://youtu.be/ONNRfflggBg