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Spanking As A Discipline For Children

QUESTION: How effective is spanking as discipline for children?


A more definitive question would be: "How should spanking be used as discipline for children?" When clearly defined guidelines are practiced, spanking is both effective and biblical. It is possible to be too strict. For that reason, parents need to establish a balance between two requirements: consistency in enforcing good behavior, while obeying God's command that we love our children. "Don't fail to correct your children. They won't die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death" (Proverbs 23:13-14, NLT). Spanking is an act of parental love established to change a child's behavior.

Children respond to the world differently from an adult. A child develops within boundaries that need to be filled with parental love. It is important that children learn the consequences of crossing those boundaries when they rebel or disregard authority. As adults, we realize that the purpose of a speeding ticket is to get our attention and to restrain our behavior. Children learn that the reason for their discipline is to get their attention and to change their behavior.

How effective is spanking as a discipline for children when parents are angry? The purpose of spanking is not for parents to express their anxiety or frustration. Anger places destructive fear into discipline. "...Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" (James 1:19-20). Spanking is never used to humiliate a child. One parent made a habit of spanking their sons in front of the other brothers. The intent was to illustrate the consequences of disobedience. The results proved ineffective and even caused ridicule and disrespect among the brothers.

Parents who discipline effectively spank on a basis of clearly defined rules, not on their feelings at that particular moment. They spank for acts of disobedience, defiance, and rebellion. Just like a police officer, they do not need to be angry to enforce a rule or law. Effective parenting is accomplished when God's moral laws are enforced. "Discipline your children while there is hope. If you don't you will ruin their lives" (Proverbs 19:18, NLT).

How effective is spanking as discipline for children when biblical principles are followed? Spanking is effective as a method of correction when it follows God's Word and also focuses on instruction beyond punishment. Wouldn't it be terrible if God changed His rules daily? Fortunately, God is not vague concerning punishment and sin. Children need clear explanation of the wrong behavior, the reason for the punishment, and your expectations for their future behavior. Focus on positive behavior rather than directing negative attitudes toward children. It helps parents to respond appropriately when the right questions are asked:
  • What was wrong about my child's behavior?
  • Was the behavior dangerous or sinful? Or was the behavior just a childish, natural response that was inconvenient to me?
  • What motivated my child's behavior?
  • What is the best method to correct this specific behavior so that I can encourage more positive actions in the future?
How effective is spanking as discipline for children? The Scriptures do not give parents permission or a command to yell at or hit a child. Hitting is an uncontrolled emotional response. Spanking is a calm application of discipline that is appropriate to a specific behavior. Often parents will ask, "How many times do I have to tell you that?" If simply telling a child made them obey, we wouldn't have to repeat ourselves so many times. Spanking is only one tool in disciplining children. Always think beyond the spanking to the goal of long-lasting results of godly obedience. "Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do" (Ephesians 6:1, NLT).

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