Spanking Your Child: Corporal Punishment for Child Discipline?


Spanking Your Child: Corporal Punishment for Child Discipline

Spanking Your Child

Corporal Punishment for Child Discipline?

Richard Hollerman

Many of you have been raised under some of the same child raising philosophies as I was years ago.  As I look back, I think that many of the practices that were in vogue when I was younger came from a culture that was then in place. It seemed like nearly every family practiced some form of corporal punishment in the raising of their children. And this same view prevailed in the public and private schools of the time.

In our own family, my father and mother seldom used the paddle or their hand. I recall one time that Mother disciplined me and maybe my father also did so once. At least, this is all that I can recall.  Probably many other parents did discipline their children occasionally, as circumstances dictated it.


Spanking Your Child: Corporal Punishment for Child Discipline

Much of this has changed over the years. The revered Dr. Benjamin Spock, supposedly a child-raising expert, began to promote a no-physical discipline approach to child rearing. Sadly and significantly, this led directly to the rebellion of the 1960s, in which young people seemed to naturally turn from their parents’ wishes and all of this came without their being physically disciplined or punished. Of course, the removal of prayer and Bible reading in 1962 and 1963 didn’t help the situation. Plus the introduction of drugs in the 1960s accelerated the teen rebellion in those days.

Parents began to think that it was unhealthy to spank their sons and daughters, as fathers and mothers had done for countless centuries. They were told that this form of discipline would warp their children, thus many of them took a “soft” approach with the hope that their “enlightened” views would work. Sadly, they didn’t work and a whole generation of young people was raised without the benefit of corrective discipline. In time, Spock could see the error of his thinking but his change of view was too late to correct the mistaken views that he earlier had promulgated.


Spanking Your Child: Corporal Punishment for Child Discipline

Some may not be acquainted with Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903-1998), as parents in the middle twentieth century were:

Benjamin McLane Spock . . . was an American pediatrician whose book Baby and Child Care, published in 1946, is one of the best-sellers of all time. Its message to mothers is that “you know more than you think you do.”

Spock was the first pediatrician to study psychoanalysis to try to understand children’s needs and family dynamics. His ideas about childcare influenced several generations of parents to be more flexible and affectionate with their children, and to treat them as individuals. However, they were also widely criticized by colleagues for relying too heavily on anecdotal evidence rather than serious academic research. In addition to his pediatric work, Spock was an activist in the New Left and anti Vietnam War movements during the 1960s and early 1970s. At the time his books were criticized by Vietnam War supporters for allegedly propagating permissiveness and an expectation of instant gratification that led young people to join these movements, a charge Spock denied. ( wiki/Benjamin_Spock).

In our own little school in Western Pennsylvania, spanking was sometimes but not often practiced.  I recall that in the second grade I was once spanked because I proceeded to do an assignment before I was even told to do so. On one other occasion, about the same time, I was disciplined because I jumped in a pile of leaves in the playground. But seldom did I receive the paddle or the wooden ruler and it wasn’t used on many of the other students either. But it was always there as a threat; this served as adequate deterrent for us children.

What is Spanking?

When we look up “spanking,” we learn some interesting facts that help us to understand this time-proven form of discipline:

Spanking is a type of corporal punishment involving the act of striking the buttocks of another person to cause physical pain, generally with an open hand (more commonly referred to in some countries as slapping or smacking). More severe forms of spanking, such as switching, paddling, belting, caning, whipping, and birching, involve the use of an implement instead of a hand. Parents commonly spank children or adolescents in response to undesired behavior. Boys are more frequently spanked than girls, both at home and in school. Some countries have outlawed the spanking of children in every setting, including homes, schools, and penal institutions, but most allow it when done by a parent or guardian. ( wiki/Spanking).

We might be shocked to learn that certain nations do forbid all spanking, but this is true, particularly in the more secularized countries. Note a further description of bodily discipline:

Spanking of children by their parents is a common form of corporal punishment used in families in the Western world. It is normally done with one or more slaps on the child’s buttocks with a bare hand, although, not uncommonly, various objects are used to spank children. Historically, boys have been spanked more than girls.[6][7] In the United States, the spanking of infants is common, with toddler-age children being spanked the most.[8] The main reasons parents give for spanking children are to make children more compliant, and to promote better behavior, especially to put a stop to children’s aggressive behaviors. (Ibid.)

In the mid-twentieth century, liberal researchers began to advocate less bodily discipline or no corporal punishment at all.  They thought that this would beget further physical reactions in the children:

[They thought] that spanking, or indeed any form of corporal punishment, tends to have the opposite effect. Children who are physically punished more often tend to obey parents less with time, and to develop more aggressive behaviors, including toward other children. There are also a number of documented adverse physical, mental, and emotional effects of spanking and other forms of corporal punishment, including various physical injuries, increased anxiety, depression, and antisocial behavior. ( wiki/Spanking)

The world makes a caricature of the Biblical teaching on child discipline. They want people to think that religious. conservative, Bible-believing parents are mean and abusive, thus all discipline should be banned–whether at home or in the schools.


Spanking Your Child: Corporal Punishment for Child Discipline

Obviously, truly Christian parents, who love and respect their children, will not abuse their children in any way! Sadly, it is the world around them (including public schools) that will abuse children by promoting sexual deviations, evolution, materialism, carnal entertainment, and much more!

Permissiveness in the Government Schools

Most are aware of the breakdown in authority that is found in the public schools of America.  Not only are young people insubmissive or rebellious toward their parents, but this same attitude of insubordination prevails in their response to their teachers.  Probably nearly all educators confess that their students lack proper respect for authority and this makes their jobs all the more difficult.

Some school districts and some entire states forbid corporal discipline and, of course, this is manifested in the rebellious children who go to school. One report has this explanation:

Corporal punishment, usually delivered with an implement (such as a paddle or cane) rather than with the open hand, used to be a common form of school discipline in many countries, but it is now banned in most of the western world. These bans have been controversial, and in many cultures opinion remains sharply divided as to the efficacy or suitability of spanking as a punishment for misbehaviour by school students.

Formal caning, notably for teenage boys, remains a common form of discipline in schools in several Asian and African countries, especially those with a British heritage; in these cultures it is referred to as “caning” and not “spanking”.

The Supreme Court of the United States in 1977 held that the paddling of school students was not per se unlawful. However, 31 states have now banned paddling in public schools. It is still common in some schools in the South. (

This shows that “most of the western world” has banned corporal punishment in the schools. But this opposition has not gone without some opposition.

Notice the last paragraph in the above quotation.  In 1977, the United States Supreme Court ruled that “paddling” of students is not unlawful. However, some thirty-one states have still banned such punishment in the government schools. While this may be disheartening and may demonstrate why student misbehavior and rebellion is so ubiquitous, it does say that some nineteen states still permit some discipline. Our state of Texas is one of these, although policies may differ from one school district to another.

While the Christian may want to promote at least some form of physical discipline in the public schools of the land, we must admit that the proper place for this is in the home. Parents have both the privilege and the responsibility to train their children, and this includes corrective discipline when needed. Most perceptive Christian parents can see that the government schools are not the place for childhood education, thus several million children are now being taught in the home—a place where discipline may more easily be carried out.


Spanking Your Child: Corporal Punishment for Child Discipline

Biblical Instruction in Child Discipline

One reason why conservative parents and others who profess Christ promote responsible child discipline is because the Bible is so clear about this. There is no room for questioning whether corporal punishment is permitted or advocated. But this discipline is not to be understood as cruel and vindictive punishment carried out by an angry or belligerent parent. This kind of irresponsible discipline is totally disallowed. But if the discipline is exercised by loving, responsible, wise, and kind parents, bodily discipline is a positive way to deal with the child’s disobedience or rebellion.

Notice the Hebrew writer’s discussion on this:

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? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (12:7-11).

Here we can gather a few principles about this discipline. The writer is showing the need for us (as adults) to undergo the “discipline” of the Lord in order to grow spiritually. As he discusses this, however, he refers to child discipline as an illustration. We can learn from this illustration on how to carry out responsible discipline on our children. Notice, for instance:

  1. All children need to be disciplined from time to time. Thus the writer asks, “What son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (v. 7). Every responsible father will discipline his son (or daughter) whenever he needs it.
  1. Responsible discipline is a sign of sonship. If a child isn’t disciplined, it would show that he is not a genuine son of a responsible father.
  1. If we discipline a son, the son will respect the father.
  1. A true father will discipline his child “as seems best” to the father.
  1. When a child is disciplined, it is not a pleasant experience; he receives no joy in the discipline itself (although a wise son will know that it is for his good).
  1. A child who rightly responds to his father’s discipline will be trained in righteousness.

There may be additional points in this section, but these are the ones that immediately come to our attention.


Spanking Your Child: Corporal Punishment for Child Discipline

The Manifold Pointers from Proverbs

Most of us know that the book of Proverbs has many helpful pointers on disciplining a child. Solomon writes, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your heart and ornaments about your neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9). Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, should have learned numerous instructions on how to live a wise and godly life.  Sadly, Solomon himself seems to have fallen into gross sin and idolatry (1 Kings 11:1-13) and his son, Rehoboam, lived a foolish life, to the point that he lost ten of the twelve tribes over which he ruled (1 Kings 11:43; 12:1-24). Even though these tragic elements did lead Solomon and Rehoboam astray, we can still derive much good from the wise counsel given in the book of Proverbs.

  1. A parent who loves his child will discipline him diligently. (What we say here of the father and the male child could also be said of the mother and the female child.) “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Proverbs 13:24).

Those parents who say that they would not want to discipline their children because “they love them too much,” are totally mistaken. True love will do what is for the good of the child and will not be swayed by false sentimentality.

  1. A parent must discipline his son or daughter while the child is young and before he is older. Time is of the essence here. “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death” (Proverbs 19:18).

If one neglects a child when he is young, it is too late to exercise such discipline when the child is 12, 14, 16, or 18 years of age. It must be done while the child is still moldable.

  1. A parent must seek to teach and train the child so that he will not allow foolishness to dominate his life. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).

Do you wonder why your child acts foolishly on a regular basis? This is part of childhood and the child must be disciplined so that his character will be formed according to God’s Word.


Spanking Your Child: Corporal Punishment for Child Discipline

  1. A parent must not have the mistaken notion that rightfully applied discipline will harm the child. Not at all. The child will be harmed through lack of proper discipline. “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you beat him with the rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with the rod and deliver his soul from Sheol” (Proverbs 23:13-14).

Godly discipline has a rightful purpose. The responsible father and mother will want to lovingly, wisely, and responsibly seek to apply discipline (especially for the younger child) and not be swayed by the humanistic ideas to the contrary. True discipline will correct a child and keep him from sin and a disastrous end.

  1. A parent must use both verbal correction along with physical discipline in order to lead his child rightly. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).

One of the chief ways that a child seeks to manipulate his parent is to act selfishly. A self-centered and self-directed child who insists on his own way is a sure recipe for disaster! To deal with this childish propensity, the parent must use both “reproof” (explaining the reason for the discipline) and “the rod” (physical discipline itself, using a “rod” or an object).

  1. A parent should think of the end result of the discipline and the benefits of what he does to correct the child. “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; he will also delight your soul” (Proverbs 29:17).

Some people, especially in the past, only used physical discipline—and this did not work. It could be cruel and heartless. In our day, some parents only use verbal correction—and this doesn’t work either. It can result in verbal abuse or permissiveness. According to this verse, we need both aspects of discipline. A parent needs to lovingly and carefully explain the child’s infraction, plus he needs to actually “apply the rod” to the child.

Several Suggestions for Corporal Discipline

We’ve read a helpful approach to child discipline that contains some of the components that a parent should keep in mind. This article is entitled, “The Biblical Approach to Spanking,” by Chip Ingram ( parenting/effective- biblical-discipline/ effective-child-discipline/ biblical-approach-to-spanking). Here are the seven steps:

  1. Clear warning. The parent should express a verbal warning so that the child clearly knows what is expected of him and what the consequence of disobedience will be.
  1. Establish responsibility. The parent often says, “Why did you do that?” This is the wrong question. Simply asking “Why” doesn’t help the child to admit his responsibility. Instead, the parent could ask, “Johnny, what did you do wrong?” The parent should continue to ask this until the child admits to his wrong behavior. The parent remains calm and the child admits his own responsibility. Focus on the child’s behavior and not his identity. He is loved although his behavior may not be what you would want.
  1. Avoid embarrassment. Don’t reprimand a child before friends or anyone else. This would bring much damage that would be difficult to retract later.
  1. Communicate grief. Instead of communicating anger, express your disappointment and broken heart. Also, express how the child’s disobedience affects God.
  1. Physical discipline should not be harsh, cruel, or violent. Don’t discipline from anger or frustration, but from love and a sincere desire for the child’s welfare. The discipline should hurt but shouldn’t cause harm to the child’s body. You may want to have the child lean over the bed as you exercise the spanking while you remain in control.
  1. Sincere repentance. Let them know that you are relating the discipline to their behavior and not to them as a person. Let the child sit in your lap and cry a while. Then you can lead the child to confess his guilt and wrong behavior to a brother or sister or some other child or adult.
  1. Unconditional love. Pray with your son or daughter and give thanks to God for them. Let them know that you love them as a person, regardless of their failings. Don’t convey the idea that you are an angry or insensitive father (or mother), but that you are using the rod as God would want.

“Many people have bought into a bad, stereotypical model of spanking, where out-of-control parents and religious fanatics beat children instead of disciplining them. . . . A huge segment of the population believes spanking is barbaric, basing that opinion on the abuses rather than the biblical model.” After disciplining your child with the Biblical approach for some weeks, “they’re likely to have a clearer conscience and changed behavior. . . . Your children will feel a lot more loved, and they’ll have the privilege and blessing of being in a home that’s at peace.”


Spanking Your Child: Corporal Punishment for Child Discipline

The information in the final section above comes from Effective Parenting in a Defective World  published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

( parenting/effective- biblical-discipline/ effective-child- discipline/biblical- approach-to-spanking)






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