My thoughts on Spanking

I decided to re-publish this post that was originally published last February since it’s an issue that has come up recently.

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When I first trusted in Jesus as my savior way back in 1982 I was a young single mother to Jimmy then four years old and Brian who was two.   I had always been vehemently opposed to any kind of violence being inflicted upon a child including spankings.  As I began hanging around other young Christian mothers, I was shocked to discover that they hit their children as a form of discipline.  In fact, they encouraged  me to spank my children also.  When I made it known that I didn’t believe in spanking, the other mothers were quick to enlighten me on the subject of Biblical discipline.

My new Christian friends proceeded to inform me that If I loved my children and wanted to be a good Christian mom that I HAD to spank them.  Indeed, I was told if I did not spank my children that I would be sinning.  My new friends taught me that the Bible was the inspired and infallible Holy Word Of God, the only true and ultimate authority over all things, and that it was always to be interpreted literally.

I adopted all these new beliefs. It was my greatest desire to obey God and be the best mom that I could be. I convinced myself that to be a good Christian and a good mother I needed to discipline my children with spankings. Yet still, the thought of hitting or spanking my children literally sickened me. Thank God my children rarely ever behaved in a manner in which I felt deserved a spanking. When they did I more often than not chose an alternative non-violent method of discipline instead.

I have rarely been more conflicted over anything the way I was about spanking. Hitting my children seemed and felt wrong to me.  However, it did seem as if the Bible taught that not spanking them was wrong. Thank God that sickening feeling finally won out and I came to my senses. I still believe that the Bible is God’s infallible, inspired Holy Word. I still believe that the Bible is the Christian’s ultimate authority over all things and our instruction book for life. However, I am not so sure that every word in the Bible is meant to be interpreted literally. Some passages in the Bible use imagery, metaphors, similes, allegories, symbolism, and parables as a way of instructing us.  Are such passages  meant to be taken literally or  figuratively? I do believe that the Bible instructs parents to discipline their children, but does He really expect us to beat, batter, or strike them in any way.   I think not! I no longer believe in spanking my children. In fact, I never really did.

The verses most often quoted when attempting to prove that the Bible  promotes corporal punishment are:

“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. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” (Proverbs 23:13-14)

“The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to itself disgraces his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)

In the above verses the Hebrew word for ROD, is SHEBET which can mean a shepherd’s rod, a walking staff, or a King’s scepter. Since it was King Solomon who wrote the Book of Proverbs I think we can safely assume that the rod being referred to in these verses is a king’s scepter. This type of rod would not have been used to beat someone with. In fact, when the King’s scepter was held out to someone it meant life for them. When the scepter was withheld it meant death. The Hebrew word for correction in these verses is MUCWAR which means discipline, chastening, and correction. This type of correction implies verbal correction, not physical.

Did Jesus, in the New Testament teach that children should be beaten or battered?  I think not! Except for the one time with the money changers in the Temple,  Jesus always conducted himself in a calm, loving, gentle, and peaceful, manner.  His ability to forgive an offense was God like!

I just cannot for the life of me imagine my Jesus smacking around defenseless little children, beating them with sticks or encouraging their parents to do so!  And what about children like Bethany?  Children with disabilities such a hers cannot even comprehend why they are being spanked!  Bethany does not have the ability to connect the discipline (spank) to her crime (disobedience).  She would learn nothing from a spanking other than someone who is supposed to love her and protect her is hurting her!

I realize that there exists more than one interpretation of the scriptures and that scriptures are often twisted to promote their interpreter’s own agendas. I am in no way implying that I am the ultimate expert in Bible interpretation, nor am I claiming to be a great Bible Scholar. I certainly have not spent years and years studying this topic. Yet despite that, God is capable of imparting to me through His Holy Spirit the same wisdom, knowledge, and spiritual discernment that He gives to everyone.

I believe that God does command Christian parents through His Holy word the Bible to teach, correct, and discipline their children and then to hold them accountable for their behavior. However, it is my opinion there are more effective less violent methods than spanking to utilize when correcting or disciplining our children.

I am sorry my fellow Christ followers who believe in spanking your children. Think what you may about me, but I do not believe that my God wants me to spank my children.

I retrieved information for this post from the following articles:

Biblical Perspectives on Spanking
An Answer to Proverbs 23 and “Beatest”
Spare the Rod
A Study of the Rod Scriptures


30 Replies to “My thoughts on Spanking

  1. I, too, am completely against spanking. That doesn’t mean I don’t discipline my children, just that I choose not to hit them. Spanking, on so many levels, just doesn’t make sense to me. Why is it that we are encouraged NOT to hit anyone, unless it’s a defenseless child and then it’s okay? How in the world does that make sense?!?

    And I’ve been in a few debates over this (I usually don’t discuss it, but sometimes people leave you know choice), and people always say “Of course I don’t hit my children, I spank them.” Look up the definition. If you are spanking your child, you’re hitting them. People just justify it by calling it “spanking” and then it’s okay?

    Also, people always say that the state of our society is because of kids not being spanked. I think there is so much more to it than that. My kids are still young (3 and 5), but so far are actually quite well-behaved, more so than most of the other kids we are around who are spanked, so spanking is not the be all, end all of discipline.

    1. Actually Crystal, you brought up a great point! Kids are taught that hitting others is bad then their parent’s turn right around and spank them when they do! How confusing that must be for the little ones. They must think, “I can’t hit anyone but mom and dad can hit me?”

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  2. Other than your god saying so, how does any mere mortal know which biblical passages are “imagery, metaphors, similes, allegories, symbolism, and parables as a way of instructing us?” Who on this Earth is given the authority to decide what can be dispensed with as figurative or taken literally?

    And if some of it can be taken figuratively, how do you know not all of it is figurative? If you don’t read all of the bible literally then all of the bible is subject to wild interpretation.

    I’m just interested in understanding the hypocritical spin doctoring you’re doing to justify why you choose to believe some biblical teachings literally and others figuratively. And why every single human shouldn’t do likewise. And how a world full of Christian’s who choose which passages to apply figuratively vs. literally based on their own personal convictions doesn’t actually just render their bible rather useless as they’ve already chosen to veto as they wish.

    Incidentally, I do NOT spank. It’s barbaric. A quick swipe on the butt to a child that’s having an escallating meltdown is probably fine and harmless and I’m not going to freak out if I see it either.

    1. Hi Jane! I don’t think any mere mortal can claim to know exactly how every verse in the Bible is supposed to be interpreted. I have not claimed to know it all. This post is exactly what the title of it reads, my thoughts based on how I see things. I do think going back to the original language, either Hebrew or Greek to find which words the English (or whatever language) was translated from and taking care to read all verses in context can shed a lot of light on the meaning and intent of a passage. I also think that we need to ask God to help us to understand His Word and trust that He will. We need to search the scriptures for ourselves and not just blindly follow along with what people tell us.

      1. Well, yes, Sylvia – I agree that you shouldn’t “follow along with what people tell us.” That’s sort of my point, right?

        You have decided for yourself to pick and choose what’s figurative and what’s literal within biblical scripture, yet God placed no disclaimer anywhere in the bible that states any of it is figurative at all. Humans have decided that on their own. You have decided that on your own. And you know why, right? Because certain scripture doesn’t align with how certain humans choose to live their lives and in order to reconcile that, in order to claim biblical respect and adherence, they needed (you needed) to decide that certain scripture was simply figurative. That’s pretty funny, even if really just kind of sad.

        All you claim to know is that you “still believe that the Bible is the Christian’s ultimate authority over all things and our instruction book for life,” but based on your biblically unsupported decision to dispense with a literal interpretation, it’s actually impossible that you actually do believe the bible is the ultimate authority over anything – because you’ve overruled the bible itself!

        1. “God placed no disclaimer anywhere in the bible that states any of it is figurative at all.”

          Except for Jesus’s parables, and the visions that Joseph and other prophets interpreted, you’re absolutely right! But…can we really take any of the following literally?

          “My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts. My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi.”
          –Song of Songs 1:13-14 (NIV)

          “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.”
          –Matthew 13:31 (NIV)

          “When he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!'”
          – John 1:36 (NIV)

          Heaven is not a seed, lovers are not flowers or fragrances, and Jesus of Nazareth was not a wooly animal with hooves (nor did John believe that he was). Therefore, all of these passages are clearly meant to be figurative.

          The surrounding text does not always SAY, “This is a metaphor and not a literal statement” the way it does when Jesus is telling parables. But does that mean that every single sentence that isn’t part of a parable is completely literal? Arguing that there must be a disclaimer for every figurative statement in the Bible, or else it must be taken literally, is to say that the woman from Song of Songs was in love with potpourri and that John the Baptist thought Jesus was a sheep.

  3. You have raised some good points, and I like the way you brought out the true definitions of the words “rod” and “correction.” I DO believe in spanking, WHEN IT IS DONE CORRECTLY. The correct way to do it is without any kind of anger. (The picture you displayed of Dennis the Menace is not the correct way, since the Father looks angry). Unfortunately, it is hard for most parents to spank without anger, and that’s where the problems come. If it cannot be done calmly and lovingly and without anger, then it should not be done. There ARE other ways to discipline that can be just as affective. Spanking is not wrong, but it is not the ONLY way. I believe it is between each parent and God to determine what works best for their family and their situation.

    1. I so do so agree with you, Victoria. Spanking in anger can lead to child abuse, that’s for sure. And I want to stress that these are my thoughts and beliefs. I am not judging anyone for spanking, nor am I trying to convince anyone to go along with me. I’m just voicing my opinion and how I came to my conclusion.

  4. Good for you! I am glad you listened to your own moral sense and didn’t beat your children. I know that their life and your relationship with them is all the better for it.

  5. <3 this is such a hard thing in the mommy world. I completely agree. It is hard for me to imagine a loving God instructing us to hurt a helpless child. Also I find it hard to justify "don't hit" with spanking as a consequence. I can only hope that if I am wrong, God will understand and forgive me for trying my best. xoxo.

    1. @KT
      You are not wrong. And if you are he will understand, and forgive you. He forgave those who crucified him for crying outloud.

  6. Sylvia, dropping by from maid servants of christ. thanks for dropping by and posting this link there. Great article. My current convictions agree most closely with your poster victiria on this topic. I feel this is really a weaker brother issue where there is some room for personal convictions. I however am not convinced which side the weaker brother falls on regarding this topic, therefore my post of the questions that you read today. Looking forward to exploring your site more and hope you will drop by ours again.

    1. I don’t think it’s a question of anyone being a weaker brother as long as abuse is not invloved. It’s just a difference of opinion! Thanks for stopping by and for your thoughtful comment!

  7. Hi, I just want to quickly add my thoughts and experience with this… boys are 18.5, 17 and my daughter is 14.5, and I have NEVER spanked them. I actually barely ever “punished” them for anything. If they did something I didn’t like, we stopped everything and talked about it — although alot of the time I was yelling! LOL (I TRIED not to yell!)
    Basically, I could see my kids as very young humans trying to relate with their world, and I saw myself as their protector and guide, and I had alot of compassion for what they were going through as they grew and had to learn that the world WASN’T all about them! I tried to give them anything that they wanted, unless it wasn’t possible, and when they couldn’t get what they wanted, I genuinely felt bad for them and would comfort them and try to offer alternatives. All of this maintained and strengthened the bond that they had with me. There were rough times, of course, but I never bullied them.

    I wanted everyone to know this to be able to tell you that as near-adults, they are wonderful, compassionate, loving people — they aren’t criminals or self-centered jerks who feel entitled to have whatever they want (like my mom warned me would happen if I didn’t “spank them into submission”). They have a deep and complete TRUST in me, because I never betrayed their trust by hurting them! They tell me EVERYTHING, and I do mean everything (sometimes I wish they wouldn’t! LOL), and they have rarely lied to me — my 17 yr old son has even told me that he can’t watch porn online (when his friends pressure him to) because he knows he’d have to tell me about it, and he can’t face that!! Even when they did lie, they would admit it soon after, and I was never angry about it. I always told them that the only reason I don’t want them lying to me is because how can I help and protect them if I don’t know what is going on?
    If any of them have any problems or difficult situations or even anything that bothers them, they come to me for help and advice. We talk ALOT still, and because of their trust in me, they listen and take to heart what I think about something. I think it is SO important in this world to have the primary influence with your children, and by spanking and hurting them, you chip away at that influence. I think that’s a dangerous thing to throw away!

    I wanted to offer this little bit of assurance to you moms with small children who are afraid of the repercussions if you don’t spank — there are no bad ones! 🙂 As long as you parent with compassion and love and GENUINE caring for them, you can’t go wrong!!

    1. You sound like an awesome mom, Lisa! You treated and continue to treat your children with the love, respect, and compassion that they deserve and they have grown up into great young adults! Thanks for sharing your no spanking success story!

  8. That was one of the things that made me realize I could not continue “teaching” at a very small church school back around that same time. 😉 I was not trained as a teacher and it seemed that the only discipline for kids who continued to do “wrong” was to paddle them! I thought, I definitely need to go to college because I’m sure there are other ways of encouraging kids to do what they needed to. I was right. 🙂

  9. I agree with you 100%. How am I supposed to teach my daughter not to hit her little sister if WE hit HER? She can’t comprehend that it’s only ok sometimes. If anything, she will just learn that it’s ok to hit if she’s hitting someone smaller than her, who she perceives to have done something wrong and is deserving of discipline. When we did try spanking, it really did not work, and only made things a lot worse. There are more peaceful ways to earn their respect and teach them right from wrong, and yes it takes more effort and self-control. And sometimes I will slip up and not be that great of a parent, but I will always try to do better the next day! Kids may seem like obnoxious mess makers at time, but they are the most precious gifts on this earth, so I think they are more than worth the extra effort it takes to parent them peacefully. I always keep in mind that I will look back on this time when they’re grown, and I don’t want to have any regrets. 🙂

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