Q&A: Spanking Children – When Parents Are Too Strict
By Mark Benedict
Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Q: Dear Mark, I have been deeply encouraged by your website. I believe I have read almost everything you offer. Even though I have been encouraged, I have also been left with some questions. I feel as though I need to give you some background so you can answer them more effectively.
I grew up in a home where the rod was never withheld. I feel that my father (the chief disciplinarian in the home) never practiced grace when he disciplined. I was the only child. I was deeply rebellious growing up and my father tried to spank the rebellion out of me, but it only served to make me even more rebellious. My childhood home was a Christian home. I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday, as well as a Christian school. I resented everything about God and even got myself expelled out of the Christian school when I was 12 so I could go to a public school. I ran away from home more times than I can count and was a juvenile offender. I was pregnant at the age of 15 (I gave the baby up for adoption) and married at the age of 17. All of this I blamed on my father, his strict discipline, and what I called his cramming God down my throat.
I am now 29. I gave my heart back to God four years ago. I am in my second marriage and we are raising my 5 year old son (my husband is his stepfather.) My son’s father is not in the picture at all, by his own choice, and my husband is the only Daddy he has ever known.
I have tried my best to avoid spanking him because I didn’t want him to grow up hating me, as I did my father. I have read countless books on alternative disciplines and he is just as rebellious and defiant as I was. He is being raised in church and loves it and has given his heart to God very tenderheartedly. I have tried all different kinds of ways to discipline him in love. (Here are a few examples: Taking things away, and sitting him in corners. I’ve used creative discipline to try and make the punishment fit the crime, a technique by a popular Christian author of a book called “Reality Discipline”. These methods may very well work for other parents but they are not working for us. He is drifting deeper into rebellion. He yells at me, throws things at me and all the while I am trying to keep my cool and trying to “creatively reason with him”.
My husband is a Christian as well and loves our son deeply. He has wanted to spank him all along, but I have resisted it. My husband and I love each other deeply, and we have made a peaceful, loving home for our son, trying to model Christian values for him.
Now to my questions: I feel the Lord is leading me to bring my son into Biblical correction. I know the other methods don’t work. If I start spanking my son, how do I keep him from becoming even more rebellious like I became? Also, what are the laws concerning corporal punishment? I don’t want my son to go to school and tell his teacher that I have spanked him and have the Social Service people take him away from me. What are my rights?
I want to do the right and Godly thing for my son, but the enemy is putting fear in my mind. If you could find just a couple of minutes to answer these questions, it would be a great blessing to me.
Your sister in Christ, TC
Editor’s Answer Below on Spanking Children
A: Dear TC,
I’m glad that you have taken the time to read through my web site. I feel very deeply for you in your current situation, and hope that you will be encouraged to let God lead you through your circumstances to His peace and stability for your home.
Before we talk about the topic of spanking children, I would first share a few observations about your situation based on what you’ve told me above. Bear in mind that these represent a form of “spiritual common sense” and are offered for your meditation as surface observations. Our own view of our life can be complicated by our involvement. Sometimes other people see things plainly about our lives that simply defy self-discovery in our own turmoil.
Spanking children can be done harshly in anger, but this is an ineffective approach and does not follow the scriptural teachings. Your father may have failed you in not demonstrating the tenderness and warmth of Christ while he was imparting the discipline, but you don’t seem to be very appreciative of the good things involved in his role in your life. He was careful to take you to Church and made sure you heard the Gospel. Even if he was stern, you’ve admitted that you were extraordinarily rebellious. Have you ever gone back and thanked him for the role he played in your salvation and asked his forgiveness for your early rebellion?
As his daughter, it is best to leave aside the issue of your father’s failures, for that is a matter for God to deal with. It is important that you properly address your own failures with your father. The reason for your rebellion was not your father’s sternness but your own sinful nature, which only produced bitter fruit in your life. Your father’s severity may have provoked you to respond poorly to your father, but as a child you were exposed to the truth of the Gospel and yet chose to go astray to indulge your own self will. Scripture says in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” You acknowledge that it was your own choice to stray from what you learned about God as a child.
My dear friend James’ father was an abusive drunkard during James’ childhood. Late in his life, his father was in the final stages of liver failure from a lifetime of alcoholism. During his terminal illness, my friend helped his mother daily nurse his father until the end of his life. My friend and I worked together and I was a frequent visitor to his home to see firsthand the tenderness and respect he showed with this dying, yet still hardened man. Before meeting his father I was always touched by how James would laugh and tell the funniest stories about his childhood experiences. His sense of humor and fond memories of growing up were evident, despite the very tough times his mother, brother, and sister experienced due to his fathers drunkenness and failure to support his family. My friend bore no bitterness towards his father but thanked God for the family He chose for him. It was his early decision to leave home to escape his father and join the Army which was responsible for his salvation as a young soldier and the circumstances which led to his marriage to the mother of his children.
Your father doesn’t sound anything like many of the families of those that write me, perhaps God would be more honored if you would no longer concentrate on your father’s shortcomings and mistakes. Instead, you should acknowledge God’s superior wisdom in choosing your parents for you and be grateful to them for the part they played in making you the person you are today.
There is great importance in honoring our parents, even if we do not think they are as worthy of our honor as we would like. We honor them because they are figures and representatives for God who act in his place in our lives. The Bible promises blessings to those who honor their parents and warns those who do not of serious consequences. If you have never righted your relationship with your own family you cannot be confident of God’s support in raising your own family. The sins of one generation will be passed to the next unless there is a fresh application of God’s grace in each succeeding generation.
To right a relationship does not mean to mend the faults of others but to acknowledge and take responsibility for your own sins so there is no stumbling block to others due to your past actions. As for your son becoming rebellious, children by nature are born with an inclination towards rebellion. From your own experience, you know what he will grow into, unless you change his heart through the effective application of spiritually based Bible discipline. Perhaps you can keep him from a life of heartbreak and rebellion by obeying God and seeking His intervention through fervent prayer and fasting.
It is essential that you and your husband have a clear sense together of the Lord’s leading in your approach to disciplining your son. A period of research together such as you are now doing, prayer, and much discussion until you have agreed to a plan of discipline among the two of you will lead to success. I recommend the book “No Fear” by Robert Surgenor for information about the laws state by state, concerning discipline. There is information on my web site about it.
A child of five is a special challenge, you need to be fully convinced of the approach you will take and be firm and steadfast in your enforcement of the rules you impose. Creative discipline is good for a well-trained child, but defiance and rebellion is a valid reason for spanking children. We respond to this kind of behavior with the rod, to bring deliverance from the expression of destructive selfishness, which leads to separation from God.
Well, I hope this might help some, feel free to reply if you’d like clarification on anything I’ve said. We will pray for you and your family.
Our Warmest Regards In Him, Mark and Sallie
Hi Mark, Thanks for getting back to me.
I can’t believe I was so blind when it was right in front of me. You are so right, I had never truly thanked God for his choice in my parents, despite their faults. Nor had I ever completely reconciled my relationship with my father. How could I ever expect to have an obedient child myself without doing those things? When I read your letter, I just started crying from conviction.
However, in regards to my own son’s discipline, the enemy is still putting fear in my mind. I still want to find out what my rights are, so I am going to try and find the book you recommended.
Thanks so much for allowing God to reveal something to you that I have needed to do for a long time.
Your sister in Christ, TC