Recently, my wife told me about a book that argues the Bible does not encourage parents to discipline their children with corporal punishment. Both of us grew up in homes where our parents taught us as children by using paddles, spanking, or the rod. Nevertheless, we have been surprised to hear from different Christians that they are not using the rod, and so here are some Biblical reasons to use spanking in the training of children.
1. The seriousness of sin is matched only by the seriousness of spanking.
When a child sins, a parent must respond. Every parent responds in some way, and his response speaks about the nature of sin. Spanking says something about sin. What do the other methods say about the nature of sin?
- A child sins and a parent laughs: Sin deserves laughter.
- A child sins and a parent talks: Sin deserves the transfer of information.
- A child sins and a parent ignores: Sin deserves to be overlooked.
- A child sins and a parent cries: Sin deserves sadness.
- A child sins and a parent spanks: Sin deserves punishment.
If you believe in the evil of sin, that it brings eternal torment as a just consequence, then why would you not teach that to your child?
And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:27
2. Kids are happier with spanking.
When children live under the attention, order, and authority of a strong but kind man, they can flourish more than in any other scenario. David did not discipline his children (1 Kings 1:6), and one of his sons raped a sister, one killed a brother, and one tried to usurp the throne. Who wants a home with a nightly fight about going to sleep? Who wants to shop with a child who cries for every candy or trinket that catches his fancy?
If we love our children, then with all that lies in us we ought to give them a peaceful home. If the peacemakers are blessed, then who more so than a wise father who looks into the future to create a long-term peace? Biblical discipline with the rod does that more efficiently than any other method.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9
3. Disobedient kids are painful to everyone.
We do not love our neighbors if we give them an uncomfortable environment. When other people have to deal with my child who is loud, rude, and distracting, they feel ashamed, annoyed, and eager to leave.
But turn the scenario the other direction: Who does not love a happy baby or child? When children play happily, when they relate well to others, it is a special delight equal to a work of art being brought into this other person’s presence. Christian parents have the chance to bring beauty, laughter, and pleasure to every one they meet by letting them see and talk with their children in appropriate ways. Societies need children to keep them humane and humble, but disobedient children exhaust every one. It is not loving to your neighbor to raise disobedient children. It is not kind to others to make them endure your bad parenting.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39
4. Spanking is an effective tool for creating habits of obedience.
No, spanking cannot create a new heart nor can it produce the miracle of regeneration, yet it can bring small children to a place of submission. The habitual use of this method forms an instinct of obedience. Since fathers will answer for how they have formed their homes, they ought to be specially concerned to use those tools that are most likely to bring this about. A devoted, happy father can form a habit of obedience in his children which will become a great help for each of them as they strive against their flesh and toward true character.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
5. The Bible teaches spanking.
The previous four points are each Biblical. But I have saved this reason for the fifth position because it is sometimes thought that this is the only reason to discipline. Here are some Biblical instructions to spank children.
- Proverbs 13:24 He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.
- Proverbs 23:13 Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall strike him with the rod And rescue his soul from Sheol.
- Proverbs 29:15, 17 The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother. 17 Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.
- Hebrews 12:7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
- Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
Notice that Solomon, Hebrews, and Jesus all taught on this subject. The word commonly used is “discipline” but that discipline brings “sorrow.” What kind of discipline brings sorrow, shocks, awakens, and even threatens? The NT teaches a painful discipline.
Some say, “Proverbs are only general statements. They are not absolute commands.” Fair enough: Then they should be generally followed. In nearly all circumstances, with nearly all parents, and in raising nearly all children, let us use the rod, discipline, and striking.
The arguments that were used in the book I read which opposed spanking, were not arguments that the normal Bible reader would bring up. Just read the Bible, and put away the experts. The Bible is actually very clear on most things.
6. Spanking has been used throughout a diverse number of cultures for all history.
When the collected judgment of hundreds and thousands of people from many language groups and time periods all finds wisdom in a certain tradition, we need to ask why.
Perhaps someone could argue that they are pagan without the Bible. Yes, but pagans did do some good things like practice marriage, oppose thievery, and promote male headship. Nearly every society in the history of the world has tried to do these things, and each of these three is Biblical. They moved toward the right position, though in no pagan culture can you find the best marriages, truest wisdom on private property, and wisest male leadership.
How can we tell if spanking among the pagans is the wisdom of common grace or the folly of demonic religion? We who have the light of Scripture start there whenever we try to make such cultural judgments. But with Scripture informing us, it is helpful to see that spanking is such an obvious technique that even those without the Bible knew about it. Spanking is a mark of common grace found in many cultures because it works even though those places did not all have Bibles.
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, Romans 2:14
7. Worldly people hate it.
The reverse of the previous argument is to look at the world’s loves and hates. The modern world hates spanking. Is that overspeak? They are trying to make laws to take a father’s freedom away because they so strongly oppose spanking. Well, someone says, they are only trying to stop child abuse. Really? Then why make a law blocking the rod, but no law blocking a child’s disobedience?
- Feminists hate spanking because they do not like strong men.
- Marxists hate spanking because they want the destruction of the nuclear family.
- Evolutionists hate spanking because they do not agree with original sin or total depravity.
- Globalists hate spanking because they want the family dependent on the state.
Not everything hated by the world should be hated by Christians. But when the world’s hatred lines up perfectly with an evil agenda, Christians must take special care not to be conformed to the world.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, Romans 12:2
There may be arguments and objections that can be raised against spanking children. But Scripture gives a Christian good reason to raise his children with a loving, consistent use of the rod in corporal punishment as a measured amount of physical pain combined with gracious demeanor, self-control, and wise words.