Why We Don't Spank
God makes it clear that you don't have to spank to be a godly parent.
BY: William Sears, M.D., and Martha Sears, R.N.
From "The Complete Book of Christian Parenting and Child Care."
To spank or not to spank is the subject of much emotional debate among parents and professionals. The question has produced controversial books, magazine articles, and TV programs, even legislation. Many Christian child-rearing books favor spanking as an effective method of correction. Many child development experts speak out against it. Christian parents are naturally confused about all the mixed messages they received regarding the subject.
Our opinion of spanking is based upon our experience as a pediatrician and a nurse observing what works and what does not; our joint experience as spanking-- and then nonspanking--parents of eight; what God says in Scripture regarding correction; and the opinions of other Christian writers with whom we strongly agree. It is also based on the leading of God, as we have prayed for this wisdom. We are sure that the other writers, who favor spanking, have also prayed for and received wisdom and leading from God. It seems that God is saying this is not an either/or decision, and that both "sides" are to stay open to the other.
First, we have to say that it is absolutely wrong and against God's every word to be mean and abusive toward a child or to strike a child out of frustration, hostility, or anger. Everyone with a conscience agrees on that. The only reason some parents dare to do this is that children are small and defenseless. These children will grow up to be angry individuals who will most likely be mean and abusive to their own children.
Second, most everyone agrees that spanking should never be the main strategy in correction. Even parents who believe in spanking ought to strive to create such an attitude within their children and an atmosphere within their homes that spanking is seldom necessary.
Third, if you feel you must spank, it should be reserved for major confrontations, when a parent's authority is on the line, situations in which a child (not a toddler) willfully defies reasonable authority, and other approaches are not getting through.
Here are some basic scriptural and cultural considerations that will help you understand our view that spanking not be used. Ultimately, you must make your own decision based on your beliefs and your family situation. Our position on spanking, one that has evolved over thirty years of parenting eight children, is that we won't do it.
Being reluctant to spank or refusing to spank at all may actually make you a better disciplinarian. The search for alternatives to spanking forces you to find more positive ways of directing your child's behavior. You end up knowing your child better, and your child actually has more respect for your authority because he knows that you can deliver the help he needs to not only control, but to learn better behavior. Spanking can tend to devalue a child, making him feel weak and powerless. This kind of self-image will not help him fight off temptation in the future.
Corporal Punishment in Scripture
Proverbs 22:15 states, "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him."
The Book of Proverbs has more to say about the rod. It is here that the Bible appears to take a clear stand on spanking:
"Do not withhold discipline from a child; If you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod, And save his soul from death. " (23:13-14)
"The rod of correction imparts wisdom, But a child left to himself disgraces his mother." (29:15)
"He who spares the rod hates his son, But he who loves him is careful to discipline him. " (13:24)
At first reading, it would seem that the Bible takes a clear stand in favor of spanking as an important mode of correction. While these passages seem to support spanking, this is not the only way to interpret them.
While it is clear that the rod does appear to be an object to strike with, the term rod is also used in the Bible in connection with the shepherd's staff: "Your rod and your staff, they comfort me" (Ps. 23:4). The shepherd's staff was used to guide the wandering sheep along the right path. The rod was used to beat off predators--not to hit sheep who strayed.
The original Hebrew word shebet means "a stick" for punishing, writing, fighting ruling, walking. Proverbs 13:24 would be translated: "He who spares his ruling [authority] hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly." In other Old Testament books there are uses of the word shebet that are obviously symbolic.
In the New Testament, Christ preached gentleness, love, and understanding, as did Paul: "Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?" (1 Cor. 4:21). In the New Testament, Christ did not overturn the laws of the Old Testament but simply fulfilled them to a higher level of spirituality and understanding: He stressed discipline and direction from within, rather than direction by force from without. Given the context of the total Bible, we feel God makes it clear that you don't have to spank to be a godly parent.