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To Spank or Not to Spank?

Updated on August 28, 2018

Which is the right way to discipline a child?

No two parents have the same method of disciplining a child. Just as there is no standard formula on how a child should be brought up. There are cultures that frown at spanking, viewing it as a human rights violation and child abuse. Even some clinical counselors and psychologists abhor such a method of correction. But there are parents who believe that spanking a child is the way to make him an upright member of the society. Also, many Christian parents employ physical correction in shaping their children’s behavior. They believe it’s an acceptable form of discipline as it is repeatedly mentioned in the Bible.

“... for the Lord trains those He loves, and chastises every son He accepts. Perseverance is part of your training; God is treating you as His sons. Has there ever been any son whose father did not train him?” (Hebrews 12:6-7)

Nevertheless, no matter what a parent believes in, the bottom line is that all parents only want the best for their children.

I can’t blame the people who view spanking as a violent, dangerous, and ineffective method to curb a child’s behavior. After all, there’s a very thin line between spanking and beating. People who are against it may have, in some ways or the other, witnessed or experienced abuse and physical violence that they don’t want it repeated in their own households. It could be that they had an abusive parent that caused them to live a not-so-good life experience. Such experience may have led them to stand on the belief that spanking can plant the seed for violent behavior.

On the other hand, I also understand those people who employ physical correction as an effective way to curb a child’s behavior. I’m one of those children who experience such kind of discipline in my childhood.

Being brought up in an actively practicing Catholic environment, my parents did employ spanking on me and my two older siblings. They believe that it’s the way to make us better members of society. And none of us ever regretted it. Honest!

“Beat them with the rod, and you will save them from Sheol”. (Proverbs 23:14)

My sisters and I got spanked as a consequence for the severe wrongs that we did. For my part, my habitual offense was mostly for leaving home without asking permission from my parents and for going home late. But let me clarify this. I got spanked many times, but NOT beat! There’s a huge difference between the two actions. Although as a child being spanked was a physically painful experience, it was as nothing compared to what I’ve become today.

As I recall now, I could say that those spanking moments have helped me become a better person. I now understand the worries my parents had. It must have been profoundly stressful and horrifying for them not knowing where their younger-than-a-teener child had gone. And this happened at the time when mobile phones were not yet available in our area.

“While there is hope for him, chastise your child, but do not get so angry as to kill him.” (Proverbs 19:18)

Had it not been for the strict rules at home, I would still be a mischievous person today. Spanking worked on me and my siblings in a positive manner. My parents always made it a point to explain to us why we got punished. We learned early on that it’s not good to challenge the elders’ authority. It never occurred to us that we were being abused or mistreated by our parents. Through the kind of discipline we experienced, we’ve become the highly-organized, well-trained, caring, and law-abiding citizens now.

Spanking was always the last recourse our parents had to employ on us. They did it only after repeated teaching, advice, and warnings were left unheeded. And we were hit only on specific parts of our body, like the hands, legs, and butt. As far as I can recall, I was never hit on my head, face, or spine - areas that are sensitive.

My personal view on spanking

Based on my personal experience, I could say that spanking is a good form of discipline. I know my stance on the issue would raise many an eyebrow. And I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d draw strong reactions especially among the human rights advocates, child welfare groups, behavior specialists, and other so-called experts in the field. But I wouldn’t care. It’s my personal experience, after all. My parents may not be perfect but I never accuse them, even a bit, of child abuse. They did the right thing and I am one of three siblings who can attest to it.

Difference between spanking and beating

Children normally go through different phases of rebellious attitudes. They may lie, talk back, or even steal. And even if they’re aware of their limits, they still try to cross the line if only to test their parents’ ability to keep the set rules. It’s important then, for you, parents, to follow through on your word of warning. You should impose the corresponding consequence for each disobedience. Otherwise, your child may see your weakness and use it to get away with his wrongdoing.

Physical correction is done in a manner that doesn’t injure the child, cause him humiliation, or violates his right. Other than the temporary reddening of the smacked part of the child’s body, spanking should not leave bruises or serious marks. And every spanking is preceded by a warning.

“Whoever spares the rod hates the child, but whoever loves will apply discipline.” (Proverbs 13:24)

In contrast, beating inflicts injury on the child. Most often, it comes without warning and it's unpredictable. There are no clearly laid down rules and consequences in this case, too. Parents can sometimes do the disciplining act when they are angry. An abusive parent lashes out and uses physical force to assert his authority over the child. The angrier the parent, the more intense the pain he inflicts. Unfortunately. the child doesn’t know what causes his parents to set off. Thus, causing him to be constantly afraid.

Unpredictable moments of beating for no apparent reason instills a sense of violent behavior in the mind of the child. And here is where the danger comes in. When the child victim grows older, he will likely believe that it’s acceptable to develop antisocial behavior. And he will likely behave in a manner where he asserts that it’s right to hit someone to get his own way.

Having said these, I’m aware that there’s a thin line between right discipline and abuse. Sadly too, there’s no exact formula on child-rearing. Parents must have to be prudent in using the right method of correction. I believe that a parent who has had a well-balanced childhood knows the boundaries between spanking and beating.

The Biblical approach to spanking

The people in Biblical times must have known very well the essence of discipline for them to admonish the succeeding generations. Their advice is timely, indeed, even to this day! And they must have deemed it so important as to repeat the same instructions throughout the Old and New Testament.

“Folly is anchored in the heart of a youth, the whips of instruction will rid him of it.” (Proverbs 22:15)

Scripture teaches parents to implement a kind of discipline that is balanced, controlled, and reasonable. It emphasizes that spanking is and should always be a language of love. When you impose discipline with the right attitude, you’re actually letting your child know that you love him. A child left to himself will grow up badly behaved, creating conflicts within and outside his home. He is also likely to make bad decisions, causing pain and turmoil upon himself and others.

Having said all these, I hope I have given you a helpful insight about spanking. The decision, of course, depends on you. As parents or guardians, you know better the child in your care.


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      Tyler Shanna 

      5 years ago

      Having studied psychology, now working as an NGO around the world and also a torah and new testament believer, I totally agree with the writer. I was indoctrinated in the theories of attachment, sensitive parenting etc and fully trusted them . However over the years of working with children from different backgrounds, cultures and social class the theory has proved unreliable. Children come into this world with a small innate understanding (consciousness) of the world but this matures and develops overtime. As the child learns to navigate their environment they face challenges and obstruction which in most cases they may not want to tackle (due to the struggle, hardship and determination required). As a parent our responsibility is to help them reach the top of the mountain. safely and a little spanking serves as a deter ante from climbing back down. Positive discipline or sensitive parenting fails to instil determination and effort in a child, thus a child lacks the true principles of good and bad, all they have is an abstract notion of these concepts as they have no real experience. For such a child these concept are all intertwined together which creates a very confused fluid human being (accepts anything and everything). This is proven today by the little or lack of morality in the world especially in younger children brought up by in the new age/phenomena of science. Working as an NGO and having kids myself, I don't condone violence, abuse or neglect of children but rather attest to firm discipline issued with love and care. Children need firm guidance on the realities of life otherwise they fall to unnecessary evils/prey as the are ill prepared. This lack of readiness helps foster much manipulation as the child lacks backbone to stand on their own two feet. Their manipulation allows them not to commit a crime punishable in this society due to their learned craftiness but rather they commit new forms of crime which have no recourse implemented as yet. This means that they push boundaries of a moral society because they fail to fall in line with the rules of nature (they want things their way). Fortunately for them this manipulation works because over time parents have been dummed down by the system. The system establishes a ploy that makes adults believe that children are wiser than their parents due to their advanced skills in navigating new technology. This leaves adult paralyzed to condemn their children's behavior.

      Most adults who are frank with themselves would agree that been spanked as a child (which at the time was unbearable) was a really good training mechanism for the betterment of their future adult life. Most of us grew up with a little fantasy but we were fully amassed in the realities of life via spanking and we were therefore more able to cope with the world when we became adults. However today's undisciplined child will struggle as an adult (thus the drug taking, alcohol binging is heightened due to the need to seek pleasure which is similar to the same undying love given to them by their parents during early life). They are unable to deal with the harsh realities of life and thus the reason for the continued need to hide from unpleasant circumstances. Not spanking a child is a form of fantasy because the reality of life requires much discipline (not just discipline but the right type ) which allows for a more successful adult who understands that life is not a walk in the park. An adult that understands that life can be good today and a possible tornado tomorrow. As an NGO, I have worked with children who become orphans overnight and had to deal with the harsh reality of the situation and form new reasoning of life. And from a small sample it is very apparent that children brought up with sufficient discipline are more able to cope with hash changes in life than children who are brought up mollycoddled by their parents via less solid parental approaches. They seem to lack proper life skills and struggle to come to terms with reality and build more positive successful lives. Its all good and well to speak give to your child calmly and positively explaining things when they do small wrongs, but using the same procedure when they do massive wrongs or fail to comply is an injustice to the child's future (it harms the child) . But if you chose to bring up your child up in this way lets hope that nothing happens to you and your child is left in a vulnerable position that needs other less caring people to cater and care for them. In such cases children usually fall apart because for the first time they are living in the real world. Spanking helps children understand right from wrong and appreciate that life is not always a piece of cake . This allows them to compose their minds to the realities of adult life and foster behaviors that take this into consideration. On a religious stand point, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (proverbs 9:10) and this is exactly the same with good parents, when a child fears your wrath, they learn to build a more acceptable and righteous reasoning of life.

    • krillco profile image

      William E Krill Jr 

      5 years ago from Hollidaysburg, PA

      The 'rod' spoke of in this Bible verse is a measuring rod, or standard of behavior, not an actual (striking) rod. While spanking works and may not be abusive, it works at a great cost and an incredibly negative message: might equals right, and either pain or humiliation is an acceptable reprisal for people who do not do what we want. As clinical counselor who has worked with abused kids for over 30 years, and as a published author on treating abused kids with PTSD, I can say that 99% of the time, spanking is damaging to the child-parent relationship. Especially since there are far, far, better ways to discipline a child. The word 'discipline' comes for the word 'disciple'. A disciple follows the Master out of reverence and respect, not fear of a physical strike. I want my kids to do what I want because they do not want to damage our relationship, not because they fear me hitting them. I have two adult sons, and never, ever, have struck them. They are fine, self disciplined young men who have never caused me a bit of serious trouble and have never dishonored me. I also should mention that I too, am a devout Christian.

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