Why, When, and How to Spank a Child
By Mark Benedict
Dear Christian Parents Editor, I have a question in regards to spanking. I have 2 sons, ages 6 and 8. Recently we decided to employ spanking as a disciplinary tool. When I spank them, sometimes after I am done they say to me that it didn’t hurt! I use my hand and was wondering: Should I start using an implement or start spanking them on the bare bottom? I do want to be careful, especially in the times we live in now. Would you suggest some spanking guidelines on the mechanics of spanking? I know I have been rather late with my decision to use spanking, but I feel I still can try to discipline them with some kind of discipline. Any suggestions would be very helpful. Thanks and God Bless. TJ
Dear TJ; Is your interest now in the use of the rod the result of observing your children are displaying frequent defiance or a lack of respect towards you? Are you a single parent? It is very important that both parents (even in the case of divorce or separation) agree to a common approach and method of discipline. Consistency in discipline is critical to a child’s sense of well being and knowing when to spank a child is important. Unless parents are in agreement about discipline and use the same standards children will be frustrated by the different approaches so even if parents are separated and share custody it is important that they talk about their standards for behavior.
I alter my advice to parents slightly, depending on their situation. In your case, a two parent family where both parents are working together as a team, you can have a discussion with the kids. You can tell the kids that Mom and Dad realize they have not been doing a good job of disciplining the children, and that God has helped you realize you need to enforce His standards more carefully. Let them know the rules have changed, but your love for them has not. Explain that in the future spankings will not be laughing matters, because sin and disobedience is a serious thing in God’s eyes. Make changes gradually and most important, be consistent.
In this case, since your kids are older, you can come up with a list of punishable offenses which merit spanking and review the list together with your children. The list should include defiance, sassing, and disobedience. Children should not be spanked for simple forgetfulness, or clumsy actions such as spilling milk. Spanking should be used primarily as a remedy for defiance, direct disobedience, and bad attitude towards parental authority. I Recommend reading the book “What the Bible Teaches About Child Training,” by Richard Fugate to help plan and develop your discipline strategy. See Best Books For Parents for more information on other parenting resources.
Hebrews 12:10-11 says, “For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” This New Testament scripture clearly indicates that discipline should not be something to be laughed off by the child. There are practical reasons for not using your hand to spank your children, by using a wooden rod or other implement, you separate the symbol of discipline from the person of the giver.
The object of discipline is to change the child’s attitude by giving a small experience of the potential terror and pain of eternal separation from God that will result from continued rebellion and disobedience. Our preference for utensils was to keep half a dozen wooden paint paddles (available for free at your local paint store) for our toddler sized children, for use on their rear. If you are disciplining older children through clothing, you may want to use a slender flexible rod several feet long, the traditional “switch.” These are free and plentiful if you have trees close at hand. A switch should be no more than 1/4″ thick, so it will still sting, yet be flexible enough to not bruise or injure a squirming child.
Parents need to realize that they are surrounded by confused, and often over-aggressive social authorities who will just as readily interpret loving discipline as child abuse. It is really sad and unfortunate in this day of undisciplined children that the positive act of spanking is so readily subject to misinterpretation as child abuse. It’s a sad society that can’t tell the difference between a legitimate act of discipline and real child abuse. This is just one of the growing effects of Biblical illiteracy. Unfortunately, television and media coverage of the ideas of the small, but vocal spanking opponents, who are intent on eliminating corporal punishment, have made many parents afraid to spank their children. The media frequently interviews self-appointed social experts who have a hidden agenda of criminalizing spanking and who use distorted statistics. For this reason, knowing when to spank a child means parents must also be careful to pick the right setting, and to avoid prying eyes and ears.
The Word of God says the children who are left undisciplined are the ones that are unloved by their parents. Parents who care enough to insist that their children be obedient and enforce their parental authority prepare for their children’s future success and help them be effective productive members of society. For a careful debunking of some of the phony information and statistics used by opponents of spanking see the book by Robert Surgenor, “No Fear: A Police Officers Perspective.”
Follow Up Letters
Thanks for writing back. Yes, I have noticed with both of my sons a smart-alec response to doing what they are told and delaying what they are suppose to do. I have been given a lot of backtalk from our younger son. I am married and my wife also has problems with the children obeying her as well. We are both in agreement now as far as using spanking. I just need to be more consistent in applying discipline. I see now the importance of using the rod instead of my hand. I am planning on holding a family meeting to discuss these issues and how things are going to change.
I let my wife read the email message and she agrees with your comments. I read the book “Shepherding Your Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp and decided I was growing slack in discipline. I will pick up the book you suggested by Richard Fugate, “What the Bible Teaches About Child Training,” as well as a rod. What do you suggest for positioning of spanking? Since I will be using a rod, should I have them bend over my knee or their bed? Both sons don’t know about me changing the rules in discipline. I have read most of the articles you have on spanking on your website. It is really a shame that other people can’t see that the use of spanking can be used in a loving way. I don’t mind at all if you want to use my questions for your Q&A Letters section.
Again, thanks for your advice and may God bless you and your whole family. TJ
I am glad that you and your wife are working together as a team. My wife and I used a slight variation on the highly ineffective practice of giving kids a count of three to obey spoken directions. We shortened it to a count of “one” and if they weren’t already moving to follow our directions, we had them fetch the rod! God expects us to train our children to obey without delay!
To train children for immediate obedience, we must first train ourselves not to habitually repeat our commands to our children. Parents should be consistent in giving directions only once, and then hold children responsible for their actions. Never threaten or nag your children, just tell them what to do and if they don’t do it immediately, administer the punishment that you and your wife have already agreed is appropriate for that type of disobedience.
Often times when children are smart-mouthed they are searching for the limits of acceptable behavior. Firmly show them where the boundaries are, and always be consistent. Parents can be strict, if they are equally diligent to love and praise their children. Children thrive on discipline, as long as they know they are loved.
After the spanking, when a child begins to regain composure and stop crying, it is important to reaffirm your love and affection and review the cause for discipline. Remind them that you discipline them because God requires it of you. Frequently, some children will need a few minutes by themselves to settle down and regroup, before they are ready to complete the reconciliation process.
As to expressing affection, we never let our kids walk by without reaching out and hugging them, even now when they are young adults. Well disciplined children are rewarding, you will never be ashamed to introduce them to your friends and family and they will grow up with a spirit of gratitude and appreciation.
In closing I would add that it is very important to have a clear idea of just what you expect to accomplish when you spank your children. This means that you should have a clear understanding of the Biblical underpinnings of parental authority, both the why and how of discipline, and the desired end result of your discipline, which is repentance and restoration. I can think of nothing more personally rewarding than the fact that we raised two children who love and honor God.
Not that they are perfect, nor that we never made mistakes, but they have grown up with a consciousness of God through our parenting, and are now walking under his influence. We trust him to finish what we started.
Our Warmest Regards In Him,
Mark and Sallie