To Spank or Not to Spank
Think of it: a minister of God recommending spanking a newborn infant! This is not only cruel and abusive, it's nonsense. Newborns aren't even aware that there is such a thing as right and wrong. All they know when they are hit is that they are living in a cruel world filled with pain instead of love and safety. Christian parents need to completely reject this abusive treatment of children. Never mind that misguided teacher uses Scripture verse or two wrenched out of context to support their position. This position is simply not biblical.
Unfortunately, these stories of Christian parents abusing children under the guise of discipline are not isolated instances. They reflect the real potential danger of physical discipline. Any time spanking is done out of parental anger, rather than love for the child, it is abusive. Go to any public place and watch parents with their children, and you will probably see one or more parents angrily grab their children or impulsively hit them. Other parents strike their children angrily or shake them when they can't get them to obey. Ten percent of child abuse cases come from severe shakes that have caused spinal cord and brain injuries. All angry corporal punishment frightens sensitive children and undermines their sense of safety, belonging, and security. In strong-willed or more rebellious children, it creates anger and the desire for revenge on the parent.
Should We Spare the Rod?
Opponents of spanking aren't all trying to undermine parental authority and let children run wild and do as they please. They have some valid concerns. Sometimes spankings don't work and the potential to abuse them should make all parents think seriously about the wisdom of spanking. Christian parents, especially, should be sensitive to the need to lovingly and patiently nurture children the way God, our heavenly Father, nurtures us. But does this mean we should never spank our children? Not at all. The fact that some parents abuse children with words doesn't mean we should never talk to our children, and the fact that some parents abuse children through spanking doesn't mean parents should never spank their children.
Angry spankings aren't
And they are abusive.
The Bible supports the occasional, restrained use of physical discipline. One proverb tells us, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him."5 This verse makes it clear that is a place for spanking, but it also tells us something about how to go about it. Like all good discipline, spankings should flow from love and be done for our children's welfare.
When our daughter was about a year of age, she started throwing her silverware on the floor. We would have liked to reason with Debbie, but she was too young to understand. If we used a logical consequence and took her food away, she wouldn't have seen the connection between throwing spoons and losing her food. She would have thought we were starving her for no reason. Since no other discipline would work, the next time Debbie threw a spoon on the floor we simply told her "No-no" and gave her a firm but non-angry spank on her hands. Within a week she went from throwing an average of five spoons on the floor each day to one. A couple of days later, she stopped entirely. We didn't damage Debbie or abuse her. We simply taught her to control her behavior by using the only discipline that would work. Like Debbie, most children can profit from a little physical discipline if it's done correctly.
The Bible mentions several types of discipline—instruction by words (Deuteronomy 4:36), instruction from the heart (Psalm 16:7), instruction through the consequences of our actions (Luke 15:11-32), and spanking (Proverbs 22:15). Spanking is only one method of discipline, and it should by no means be our major method of child training. Spankings are helpful only when they are used appropriately and in a good balance with other forms of discipline. Following are some specific guidelines to help you decide when a spanking is appropriate.
Spank Only If...
First, never spank a child when you are angry. Angry spankings are as unbiblical as failing to discipline. In fact, angry spankings aren't discipline—they're punishment. And they are abusive. By your example, they teach children that the only way to get someone else to control their behavior is to lose control of yours. God never corrects his children in anger, and we shouldn't, either. Remember the difference between punishment and discipline? Striking children in anger humiliates them, frightens them, and makes them angry or depressed. The Bible tells us "there is no fear in love."6 and that we shouldn't provoke our children to anger because that discourages them.7 Just imagine how you would feel if someone two or three times your size got furious and hit you! That's how children feel when they are spanked by an angry parent.
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