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The Bible and Spanking Children

How (and how not) to spank children

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: Bible study on corporal punishment and spanking children. Info and biblical advice for Christian parents on how–and how not–to spank their children. Many verses in the Bible show spanking children is okay if done in love. The Bible-based instructions in this online study show how to spank (or use corporal punishment) without committing child abuse.

The Bible and spanking children — Introduction

These guidelines are adapted from Parenting Foundations: Nurturing with Insight, Disciplining with Love.

Spanking (corporal punishment) is a biblical tool

God ordained spanking children as a means of discipline or correction. Here are some Bible verses about corporal punishment:

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. (Proverbs 13:24)

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away. (Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. (Proverbs 23:13)

A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother. (Proverbs 29:15)

Be wise — Spanking done poorly may be child abuse

Spanking has been misused by many Christians (as well as non-Christians), and can constitute child abuse. However, when used within a nurturing, loving home, spanking can have very positive results.

  • When done properly, spanking helps children grow in respect, obedience and self-control. It is not child abuse.
  • When done poorly, spanking results in anger and bitterness. It can harm children emotionally and physically, and may be child abuse.

Stay balanced: Create a nurturing home

The key to successful parenting is building a strong relationship–not corporal punishment. Spanking your children should be a small part of your parenting. If your main parenting tool is spanking or other forms of punishment, you will fail.

Important guidelines

As you read the following, score yourself from 0 to 10 on each point.

  • “0” means “I really need to improve in this area.”
  • “10” means “I am doing very well in this area.”

Enter your child’s life. Do things with him or her. My score (0-10): _____

Focus on the positive and build your child up. My score (0-10): _____

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

Listen. My score (0-10): _____

To answer before listening—that is folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

Speak with love and respect. My score (0-10): _____

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. (Proverbs 10:11)

The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. (Proverbs 10:20)

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a ruling rightly given. (Proverbs 25:11)

Do not spank in anger. My score (0-10): _____

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the spirit should restore that person gently. (Galatians 6:1)

Do not spank for all problems. It usually is best only to spank for willful disobedience. My score (0-10): _____

Do not spank an infant. My score (0-10): _____

Don’t spank a child older than ten. Older children are likely to feel humiliated and resentful. My score (0-10): _____

Related: Positive Christian Parenting

Be comfortable with your role as an authority figure

You are responsible to train your child. (Remember, the Bible shows us there is much more to this than spanking.)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Teach your children Bible verses that say to:

Honor their parents

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 5:16)

“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—”so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:2-3)

Obey their parents

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Ephesians 6:1)

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. (Colossians 3:20)

He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (1 Timothy 3:4)

Learn from their parents

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. (Proverbs 4:1)

I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. (Proverbs 4:2)

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes. (Proverbs 13:1)

Ten steps in spanking

1. Prepare yourself spiritually and emotionally

  • See problems as growth opportunities.
  • Chastise in love (Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21). Never spank in anger.
  • Take “time-out” for yourself to cool off if you need to.

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)

2. Evaluate why your child misbehaves

Willful disobedience often is not the real issue. Other possibilities (for which spanking would not be appropriate) include:

  • Poor hearing
  • Disability or tiredness
  • Stress from other problems
  • Reactions to a harsh or controlling parent

3. Meet with your child in a private place

Do not embarrass him or her.

4. Have a two-way discussion

Do not give a speech.

  • Give the emotional message of loving concern.
  • Usually, do not ask, “Did you?” This sets the stage for lying.
  • Help your child learn to accept responsibility for doing something wrong.
  • Have your child think of and then discuss alternatives to the misbehavior.
  • Do not overdo statements such as “You really hurt God” or “You really hurt me.”
  • If your child says that spanking is not justified, allow a brief discussion.
    There may be facts you should know. Listen carefully, then make up your mind.

5. Spank your child

  • Have a routine position for your child to assume.
  • Spank your child’s bottom. Never slap, hit, or pinch other parts of his or her body.
  • Allow your child to leave his or her underpants on. Do not humiliate him or her.
  • Limit yourself to a few spanks. Make sure it stings, but do not be brutal or abuse your child. Test your spank on yourself.

6. Expect your child to respond appropriately

  • Train your child to say, “I’m sorry” and show repentance.
  • Follow up if your child responds inappropriately. For example, have him or her sit on a time-out chair until he or she says, “I’m sorry” and shows repentance.

7. Pray with your child

Train your child to pray out loud, following these steps:

  • Tell God he or she is sorry for the specific misbehavior.
  • Ask God for forgiveness.
  • Ask for help to do better with this problem in the future.

Then pray, yourself, for your child to do better and thank God for forgiving him or her.

8. Reconcile with your child

The spanking is over. Say that you forgive and love your child. Hug him or her.

9. Have your child practice restitution

This may mean apologizing to someone or doing a few extra chores to help pay for physical damages.

10. Treat the issue as over

After administering corporal punishment (spanking), do not keep bringing up your child’s misbehavior.

Related: Positive Christian Parenting

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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