The Bible and Spanking Children
How (and how not) to spank children
Doug Britton, MFT
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:
He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24)
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. (Proverbs 23:13)
The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his 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.
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): _____
He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame. (Proverbs 18:13)
My dear brothers, 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 violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked. (Proverbs 10:11)
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. (Proverbs 10:20)
A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)
Do not spank in anger. My score (0-10): _____
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him 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.)
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he 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—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 with proper 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 listen to rebuke. (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, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, 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
Related: More Bible studies on 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.