“Spanking” is a word in parenting circles that immediately creates tension. We all understand why… there are folks on either side of the issue who have a strong opinion about the subject…
Some feel any time a parent strikes a child it’s wrong and abusive. Many of the people who feel that way were in fact abused by a parent or authority figure, sometimes even under the guise of it being a “spanking.”
Others feel spanking, done properly, is an appropriate and healthy form of discipline. What is more, they also feel that it’s supported scripturally as a method of discipline God Himself condones and encourages (when done properly).
We understand the debate, but honestly don’t care much about the arguments on either side. We’re most concerned with what God says about spanking. On this episode we’re going to walk through the primary Bible verses that support the use of spanking in parenting.
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE
A HUGE CAVEAT TO ADDRESS THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN ABUSED IN THE NAME OF SPANKING
Before we launch into this episode we feel a need to say a few things to those who have suffered abuse at the hands of a parent or other authority figure. We are so sorry about what happened to you. You didn’t deserve it and it never should have happened. If that abuse happened under the guise of spanking, even with Bible verses thrown in for support, it’s even more terrible.
We know that if you are that person, it’s hard for you to even imagine what a “proper” spanking could be like. You may be feeling repulsed even hearing us talk about it in those terms. Again, we are sorry that you were mistreated as you were… but can we ask you to do something before you turn off the podcast? Stop and ask the Lord to show you what HE thinks about spanking. And know this… He will do that through the scripture. So as you listen, hold our feet to the fire. Are we saying what scripture says or are we adding words to God’s mouth? You be the judge.
We believe that if you humble your heart before God, He WILL show you what’s right and what’s wrong in this realm of spanking.
OK, thank you for your patience. Let’s move ahead.
BIBLE VERSES THAT SUPPORT THE PRACTICE OF SPANKING AS A FORM OF CHILD DISCIPLINE
Proverbs 13:24 – He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
This word “rod” gives some people trouble (they think of abusive beatings). But let us be on the record right here at the outset, the Bible never suggests or condones any kind of abuse when disciplining children. This use of the word “rod” was a common term in the culture in which the Old Testament was written and it is not meant to convey unwarranted or abusive behavior by a parent or authority figure. We’ll say more on that in a moment.
Some argue that the word “rod” is a generalization for the entire realm of discipline. Granted, the word “rod” could be a euphemism used to describe the entire practice of discipline. But when we say that, we have to realize that the word is used as a euphemism for a REASON. So my question is this: WHY was the rod associated with discipline? The answer is very simple. Because it was USED for discipline.
It’s similar to a person who needs their roof repaired saying to the roofers, “Get out your hammer and get to work!” They are saying, “Get busy fixing my roof!” But WHY did they use the word “hammer?” Because a hammer is USED to repair roofs. There is a direct relationship between the two things.
So Solomon COULD be speaking of broader disciplinary methods, but at the VERY LEAST he is speaking of a form of discipline our culture calls “spanking.”
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT SPANKING?
Let’s look a bit closer at the verse we just read — Proverbs 13:24.
Proverbs 13:24 – He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
Solomon uses very extreme language to get his point across in this verse. What he’s saying is that a person who refuses to discipline their child appropriately — and spanking (”the rod”) could very well be one means used to do so — is treating their child as if they hate them. Said another way, they are doing a harmful thing to their child by withholding the discipline they need.
The last half of the verse highlights the same thing from a positive angle. The person who loves their child is CAREFUL TO discipline that child. So contrary to those parents who think they are doing good to their child by NOT spanking or disciplining them, the opposite is actually true. You are doing your child harm by not establishing proper boundaries and consequences for overstepping those boundaries.
Spanking, done properly (next episode we’ll cover exactly what that means), is always beneficial to a child because it establishes appropriate and healthy boundaries for the child — and the resulting consequences of violating them.
Proverbs 23:13-14 – 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.
We should notice first the clarity of this command. DO NOT withhold discipline from a child. That’s the God of the Universe speaking so we’d do well to heed His instruction. The next part of the verse brings up an example of one form of discipline that was common in that day, the use of the rod. Notice the emphasis… the proper use of the rod (a spanking) is NOT going to do harm to your child. It isn’t. Solomon’s sarcasm shines a bit here when he says, “He will not die!”
What we love about this passage is that it’s addressing one of the biggest fears of those who are hesitant to spank. They believe it’s going to hurt the child long-term. But Solomon goes to the worst extreme as an example — death — and says it’s not going to happen as might be feared. In fact, the opposite is true: properly spanking your child will not only SAVE him/her from death, it will save their SOUL from death as well.
Proper discipline, even to the extent of spanking when necessary, is part of what God uses to fashion appropriate humility, respect, and self-control into the character of a child. A wise parent WILL use spanking when needed to curb the sinful, selfish behavior we all all have in us when we come into the world. It’s how we become respectful, respectable individuals.
Proverbs 29:15 – The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.
This is the first passage we’ve seen so far that starts out with a direct benefit of proper correction of a child using a spanking. It says that it “imparts wisdom.”
That’s a pretty amazing statement. How can a physical, disciplinary act like spanking impart something as intangible as wisdom to a child? I don’t exactly know the HOW but I do know that it’s true. On this episode you’ll hear Mindi and I describe the fruit of wisdom that was borne of the spankings we lovingly administered, even when our kids were still pretty young.
I’d say it is some form of “magic” going on behind the scenes, but better than that, it’s the power of God at work in the spiritual, emotional realm as we obey what He says we are to do as parents. The spanking somehow shapes the child’s conscience, enabling them to develop their own sense of right and wrong, their own discernment. This verse defines it as “wisdom.”
But look at the opposite end of the verse. A child “left to himself” — left alone, not disciplined or spanked when needed — disgraces his mother. It’s interesting that the mother is mentioned here instead of the father. I think that’s because the mother tends to be the one with a deep ache for their children to be mature, godly, respectable people. Not that fathers don’t want those things too, but they tend not to feel the desire for those things as deeply as the mother.
The point Solomon makes is that a tender-hearted and well-meaning withholding of spankings out of misplaced mercy or compassion will actually do exactly the opposite of what the mother or father wants to come of the situation. The child does NOT learn wisdom, so they live out the foolish self-indulgent desires of their own sinful hearts. Same is right around the corner when our lives are characterized by that kind of motivation.
Proverbs 22:15 – Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
The word “folly” used here can also be translated as “foolishness.” And notice where it is in relation to a child… it’s “bound up in the heart.” I picture foolishness strapped to the inner parts of the child’s soul, such that can’t get away from it. It rules them. It dictates their behavior. And it’s close to their heart… the part of them that generates desires and passions. Foolishness and selfishness are close friends.
How is the child to be liberated from that foolish, self-absorbed mindset? One of the means is through appropriate spankings.
Mindi defines one type of foolishness as the simple, innocent motivation of small children to get into things they should not, but that could be harmful. A classic example is the electrical plugs in the walls of the house. This is a perfect example of how a child’s foolishness may compel them to stick things in the holes of the outlet. But an attentive parent will notice the child’s interest in the outlet, will instruct them appropriately, and spank to prevent harm coming to the child should it be necessary. Listen to hear the nuances of this situation.
The point though, is that though spankings are a manufactured consequence for foolish or wrong behavior, they are so because we want our children to learn to overcome foolishness in relatively safe environments, when less is at stake. The minor pain of a spanking can teach the need for obedience to a young child effectively rather than wait or delay in teaching the lesson, to the point that the child suffers a terrible consequence that is lasting or more harmful in the real life consequences that come from foolish behavior.
NEXT EPISODE: 9 guidelines for loving spankings that benefit your child
Episode Transcript (click to open)
011: Spanking is a good thing (not an abusive thing)
The last two episodes of this podcast, we’ve talked about the benefits and necessity of discipline. Well, that naturally leads us to questions about how to discipline our children. And one of the ways the Bible prescribes is what we call spanking. Now, whether you were spanked as a child or not, whether it was done well or not, I encourage you stick around. This is God Fearing Kids and the Parents Who Raise Them. Hey friends, welcome back. I’m Carey Green
And I’m Mindi.
And we want to talk today about the issue of spanking. Spanking’s a word parenting circles that immediately creates tension. You may have felt tension in your own heart. The minute I said that word, some people feel that anytime a parent strikes a child it’s wrong or it’s abusive and they’ll label it as abuse, others would feel that spanking done properly is inappropriate and healthy form of discipline. And like I said, we understand the debate, but honestly we don’t care about the debate very much simply because we care about what God’s word says. God’s word is given to us for not just the good of parents, but also for the good of children and spankings fall into that category.
We also want to be sensitive to those who have been abused as a child, possibly all in the name of being spanked and their parents might have misused spanking. We are truly sorry for that. We have known people, friends and family who have gone through that. And it is a hard thing to ever come.
And we know that if you’re in that boat, this is a difficult topic for you. It’s hard to even imagine in your situation what a proper spanking would even look like. And we understand that. We also understand it’s a struggle for you to even think about spanking your own children after what was done to you. That all makes sense to us, but there’s a world of difference between a person who uses a hammer to put nails in the wall and a person who uses a hammer to kill their next door neighbor. You see the hammer is not the issue. It’s how it was used. Spanking is not the issue. It’s how it was applied. We would encourage you to not throw out the concept of spanking, just because somebody misused it in your life. We encourage you to step back, take a deep breath, ask God to teach you what right spanking should look like. And he will get you there in time.
This is really like any other area that we might come across in the Bible where we find it’s really hard to do X, Y, Z. For example, I know a lot of times it’s hard for us to have to forgive someone. So we really have to work hard, because we know the Bible tells us to forgive one another. So we ask him to help us. And we’re so thankful when he brings us to that point. It’s the same kind of thing. So we need to hear what God says in his word for the good of our children, because we love them.
That’s right. So as we’ve gotten all that laid as a groundwork, let’s talk for a moment about what the Bible says about spanking. Now the main passages that we’re going to consider, use the word rod. And this gives some people trouble because they think of abusive beatings. The moment they hear about using a rod or something like that, but the Bible never suggests or condos, any kind of abuse when disciplining children. And we’re going to get to that in a moment. But that word rod is where a lot of debate comes in. Some people will argue that the word rod was being used in a generalized kind of way. And it just refers to the entire realm of discipline. Now granted the word rod was indeed associated with discipline back in the day when the word was being used. But my question is this. Why is the word rod associated with discipline?
It’s because the rod was used for discipline. <laugh> it’s like, you know, saying a hammer is related to construction. Well it’s because a hammer is used for construction. What is this with me and hammers today in my illustrations. <laugh> that’s funny. Anyway. So Solomon, the one who wrote most of these passages could be speaking of broader disciplinary methods in addition to the use of the actual rod. But at the very least he is speaking about using a rod and that’s what our culture calls a spanking. So as we dive into what the Bible says, we’re going to just read all of the passages that refer to the rod, how it’s to be used, what it does. And we’re going to do a little bit of commentary on each of those.
So Proverbs 13, 24 says he who spares. The rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
So there’s some pretty strong words to use there. The word hate he who spares the rod, which means does not spank his son hates his son. And many. Why do you think Solomon would go to such an extreme to say it with such strong language?
Well, I actually kind of laugh when I read this verse. Sometimes because many times we, as parents would say, no, I’m sparing the rod because I love my child. I don’t want to hurt them. And I think that Solomon uses the word hate because that truly is what it is. If you carry out the lack of spanking in a child’s life to the end result, when they’re grown, they will have wrong attitudes. They will have wrong beliefs. They all will have wrong behavior and a miserable life in most situations. And so the parent withholding the spanking is like hating them. They mistreated them. So Psalms trying to make the point. No really you’re hating your child. You’re not loving them. It’s an expectation to us as the parent.
Yeah. And the second half makes that even more clear where he says, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him is careful both in what discipline he applies in and how he spanks. I mean, it’s all part of this love that we express to our children through spanking. All right, this next one is Proverbs 23 versus 13 through 14. And it says, do not withhold discipline from a child. If you punish him with a rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death. Now this is getting into what you were talking about. Those long term results of not spanking your child. Solomon’s insisting here pretty strongly that when you use the rod or you spank as a form of discipline, it is going to save your children from some pretty dramatic things. He says, save his soul from death. I mean, just think of the accidents a kid could run out to, you know, chasing the ball into the street and a car hits them. But if the parent has previously spanked the child, because they’ve had a tendency to around the street, it’s going to prevent that child from actual death.
Or if the parent is through the years of raising them, spanking them when appropriate. And so the child is growing in wisdom and learning good behavior. Most likely they’re not going to grow up being a drunkard or being on drugs, which many times that lifestyle causes them to die early. So there’s just a lot of different avenues and ways that you could apply this. But I also kind of laugh at this verse because it speaks to a fear that parents have. Yeah. You know, if you spank your child, come on, they’re not going to die. <laugh> I mean, it’s kind of like many times parents talk about, oh, I’ll never spank my child. And Solomon is saying, if you punish him with rod, he’s not going to die. You you’re actually going to save him from death. So he’s speaking to the root of our fear many times. And I think that that’s wisdom.
Yeah, exactly. All right. Why don’t you read proves 29, 15 for us,
The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself. Disgraces his mother.
Okay. Now this one is explaining one of the benefits of spanking in terms of something that the spanking provides for the child. It says it imparts wisdom to the child. Now that may sound a little strange that swats on the rear end somehow infuse wisdom into that child. But God is telling us there is a, I don’t think you should call it magic, but there’s something to a physical component of discipline that enables a child to gain wisdom.
I think we could say a spiritual power from the holy spirit.
Yeah, absolutely. And in our experience with our children, how did you see that play out?
I saw it play out when our children were at other people’s houses. Hmm. And a lot of times you notice this when they’re at a young age, people, many times would comment about how well behaved our children were or how kind they were to each other. There was an underlying wisdom our children had that seemed out of the ordinary for their age.
Yeah. And that happened as well with respect for other people’s things. When we were, were at their house, our kids weren’t often breaking things because they were manhandling everything it’s because we had taught them in part, through spankings at our own home, what was appropriate, what was not those kinds of things and the children yes. Gained wisdom over time. Now that’s an example with the younger child. Can you think of an example with older children? I mean, as they got older, you could see the fruit of the spankings in wisdom.
A lot of times you see the character of your children at home and if they’re building good character because of what God’s doing in them, you’re really happy about that. But then you wonder when they’re out in public, is it truly that same way? And every time our children started working outside of the home, we would always hear back great praise of them. And it was kind of funny how as our children got older into their teens and twenties, people would come to us and they were, were already thinking well of us and our family, because they were so impressed with our children. And we know that that is because the wisdom that God grew in them through the insight he gave us as their parents.
Yeah. And spankings is a part of that.
Yeah. That’s actually a huge part of it.
Let, let’s make a disclaimer here. We’re not saying you spank your kids 24 7 and for everything they do wrong, we’re going to get to that more in the next episode.
Absolutely. And the funny thing is, is that we actually didn’t spank our kids very much
But we spanked them at the very beginning every time the first defense happened and amazingly we didn’t have to do it much afterwards.
Yeah. And if it’s an ingrained sort of behavior or a child who’s particularly struggling with a specific issue, sometimes you have to stick with it for a week, two weeks, but very quickly spanking drives it out of the child.
So the second part of 29 15 says, but a child left himself, disgraces his mother or his father. But I, I look at that person. That’s, that’s important to me because I’m, I’m a mother. And I realize there are times when my child’s behavior shames me or I’m sad about it and I don’t want that. But the important thing about that is I was at home with my children, caring for them, watching over them, teaching them, training them throughout the whole day. So I saw a lot of their bad behavior come up for the first time between me and them or between their siblings. And so I was able to teach and train and discipline at home. And so when company would come over or when they would go play at a friend’s house, they wouldn’t throw a fit on the floor because I already dealt with them throwing fits at our house or they wouldn’t steal a toy from their friend or hit their friend because I already dealt with them hitting their sister at home. So anyways, there’s just great value in being aware of your children’s behavior all throughout the day so that you could either encourage them in it or you can discipline them in it and you will not be disgraced. You will not be ashamed when your children are out in the world because you appropriately disciplined them.
Yeah, that is absolutely true. I can remember situations like that where we honestly would be a little bit amazed at how respectful or how, how they didn’t respond to a bad situation in a bad way when they were at someone else’s house. And it was because of this kind of thing that they learned through the rod of correction, the kind of wisdom that kept them from disgracing their mother or their father. And that is just valuable. Now there’s a little side comment I want to make here on this issue that surely we’re going to have a podcast episode about in time, but notice how it says a child left to himself. Now, I don’t think that means placed in their room by themselves and, and you never deal with the, the discipline, although it could mean that for sure. But it could also mean a child who the parents are not devoting enough time to, to do exactly what you described, watch their behavior, instruct them, discipline them.
I’m thinking of homes where both parents are working and the kid is put in daycare or put in an afterschool program and all that. And those people who are caring for your children are trained professionals, but they are not going to care for your children like you do. They’re not going to have the biblical principles and guidelines and willingness to spank like you do. Your child in essence is being left to themselves for large periods of time. And you’re not there to see the behavior. You’re not there to make the corrections. You’re not there to administer a spanking, should they need it? And I think that that’s something that parents in that situation really need to take seriously because we are raising godly human beings. This is the most important thing we can do with our lives. So again, we’ll probably have an episode on that in the future, but I just wanted to throw that in there.
Another meaning that I see this verse could talk about is a child being left to himself could mean sending your child a time out for their form of discipline. And I see that as a child as left to himself, if you just say, go to your room, you don’t treat your brother like that, go to your room. They’re left to themself in the sense that they are not being trained or guided in any way of how to think about what just happened. They’re not being appropriately disciplined for maybe doing something wrong to their brother. So that child is left to himself to develop whatever the enemy is going to be whispering to his mind when they’re sitting in their room or whatever their flesh is going to be telling them to do. So if you do that on a regular basis, you’re not training them up to be a godly thinker. So that’s another example of how we should not leave our child to himself.
Proverbs 2215 says folly is bound up in the heart of the child. Now think about that imagery. It is bound up in the heart of the child. I picture folly or foolishness being tied to their heart. It’s like it it’s attached to them. It’s there. It’s hard to get out, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. Now, again, here’s a holy spirit generated power or something that happens here. When we apply spankings, rightly it actually drives foolishness out of the child.
And I think that that’s something where we need to walk by faith. Believing that God’s word is true. There’s times when you and I were amazed at the sweet tender heart that our children were developing after a spanking. And we realized folly is being driven out of them. And that’s just the power of the holy spirit working in them. And it was such a blessing to us. There were other times when we were seeing our kids, they’re just kind of acting up a little bit here and there. And we’re thinking, you know, we need to really start focusing and buckling down on their behavior. Maybe they need to spanking. Then the Lord would show us and we would give them a spanking and their spirit turned sweet. Again. It really is an amazing thing. What the holy spirit does in your children. When you obey his word and use his tools,
It’s just cool to see the fruit. It’s cool to see what comes of these kinds of things. When you actually exercise a little faith to trust God, that what he’s saying is true. Now, again, if you grew up in a context where spanking was misused, your brain may be stripping some gears right now saying, how can this really be true? How could physical discipline some sort of striking a child with a rod cause these great benefits that are being described, that’s a little naive. Well, I’m going to challenge you stop for a moment and try and discern how much of that is coming from your negative experience, where it was done wrongly and how much of that is coming from the spirit of God. Who’s speaking through his word. The word of God is true. The word of God tells us God’s perspective on these things. And if he says, it’s going to bring wisdom. If he says it’s going to drive out foolishness. If he says it’s going to save their soul from death, we as Christ followers are obligated to believe him. That’s what faith is.
Amen. That is so powerful.
So I hope you can see just looking at this quick summary of the passages that talk about the rod. Number one, it is talking about actual spankings. It’s not just talking about a form of discipline. It also talks about the preventative benefits that spanking brings saving children from danger, saving them from being a fool, those kinds of things. It also talks about the things it imparts, which is wisdom and the ability to be a respectful person rather than a shameful person. There’s so much more benefit that can come from appropriately applied spankings. And in the next episode, that’s all we’re going to talk about is how to do this, right? Because again, we realize many people have misapplied. It, many people have turned to abuse rather than biblical spankings. And we want to make sure we lay the groundwork in this episode for that instruction. That’s coming in the next episode.
Thank you so much for listening. And let me just pray for us, dear heavenly father, thank you for your guidance in your word. Even about things like spanking. And I just pray that you encourage the parents who are listening right now to seek your heart and your will regarding this topic and that you will lead them to seek your truth in the Bible so that they can be encouraged personally, about what you say about spanking. I ask father that you will find the evil one from causing parents to believe lies about this topic and that you will help the parents up today. And the generations to come to be godly wise, humble parents, learning to discipline and train their children as they should. And as you desire them to and Jesus name, amen.
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