Do you withhold the rod?
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that you should never spank your child.1 The Academy sites all sorts of studies from a broad swath of culture and claims that a spank is basically more harmful than helpful and should never be a practice of discipline within someone’s home. I disagree with that thesis. I think that a spanking can be very helpful to get the attention of a young one that is acting foolishly. I do not believe that the spanking should be done out of anger, revenge or even used as an end in itself. However, the spank can be used very effectively when done out of love and concern for the child, with a view toward restoration of fellowship. In fact, Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Go back and read that verse again, you may not see it for a while and you definitely won’t see it quoted by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Spanking can wake a child from their indifference to sin
Sometimes an indifferent child needs a spanking. Proverbs 22:15 says, “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” Have you tried really hard to reason with your three or four-year old about why it’s not wise to run in the Walmart parking lot? Did they give you that blank i-don’t-understand stare? It could be because they lack enough life experience to understand the undeniable logic of your statement. You could try explaining to them why they should honor your wishes and that disobedience is sinful and then watch them commit the same sin again the next hour. This is when a swat might be helpful. I’m not talking about a beating. I’m talking about a firm swat or two on their bottom where God gave them a little more padding. My good friend from Africa shared this common Zambian saying with me once, “Children’s ears are on their butts.” Sometimes this is true.2 The swat can awaken in a child a sensitivity to sin that reason is unable to penetrate.
Spanking should be replaced with reason as soon as possible
When a child is old enough to reason and understand the law of God, you should naturally move toward conversational correction. I have known people who believe it is okay to spank their seventeen-year-old daughter or son who still lives with them. that’s wrong and a little odd. Spanking should be used responsibly with little ones who make foolish choices at a risk to themselves and others. They may need a swat and you shouldn’t be afraid, as a parent, to give them one, no matter what the culture says. However, you should never spank out of anger. If you can’t control your temper, this is not a discipline option for you. A spanking is all business; it’s not personal. You are trying to communicate an important point that gets the attention of your child not hurts them. if your conscience won’t allow you to spank, follow your conscience but don’t judge others who choose too. If you do choose to spank, remember that once the little one is paying attention, it’s time to move directly into the gospel of forgiveness.
The end game is reconciliation
If reconciliation is not the goal of the spank, then remember that it is not an option. Reconciliation should be the end goal of any form of punishment. Make sure that if you use a spanking, you also demonstrate love and affection with the same hands that inflicted the punishment.
“The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.”
- Martin Winslow. Parenting Tips from the Christian Home. Amazon.com
All scriptures quoted from the NASB bible