Spanking…..The Post I Finally Had to Write

I read once that you have to be willing to write something now and then that makes you nervous, otherwise you aren’t writing anything really interesting.

Well, I think I can check that off my list today because I’m addressing something that makes me nervous to write about.  Religion.

I am a religious person, and I don’t have any qualms relating that, but because I work professionally with people in a variety of settings — public schools, private schools, religious schools and families from varying sects, etc. —  I don’t usually make my religious beliefs the foundation for what I teach.  I do however always make sure that what I teach is in sync with what I believe.

So I felt personally challenged the first time someone responded to my no-spanking stance by essentially saying, “I’m a Christian, and I believe in the Bible.  That’s why I spank my kids.”

I’m also a Christian, and I also believe in the Bible, and I feel my views on discipline are in sync with those religious views.  I had thought before about writing a post on how I resolve the two, but decided not to step into a religiously based discussion.

Then I saw this news report about a seven year-old girl who was recently beaten to death by parents who, I believe, really thought they were following the Bible.  Watching that video caused such a visceral reaction for me, that I knew it was time to write that post I’ve been nervous to share.

Spanking as a Broken Tool

I was spanked on occasion as a child, and I certainly don’t think I was abused or mistreated.  While I am not one to assert that spanking is always child abuse, it’s easy to see how it can become such.  As the statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics points out, spanking is a tool with diminishing returns.  Intensity must increase in order to garner the same response.  It’s a slippery slope.

In my ebook, Parenting with Positive Guidance, I talk about spanking as a broken tool.  It’s something many parents cling to and it may appear to work from time to time, but it’s just not the most effective discipline tool.  And it’s not one we have chosen to use in our home.  (Read more about why here.)

Spare the Rod

Generally, when parents claim the biblical decree to spank they make reference to Proverbs 13:24, which states that “He who spareth his rod, hateth his son…” 

Rather than use only a select few verses of scripture to guide my parenting, I prefer to examine the full works.  I certainly desire to observe this verse, with a meaning I’ll share in just a moment, but I also draw parenting inspiration from other verses as well.

Ephesians 4:31-32 for example, where we are extolled to put away anger and wrath and rather be kind and tenderhearted.

First Corinthians 13:4-7, defining charity, which “suffereth long and is kind“, seems to epitomize parenthood as it encourages patience and pure love in spite of frustration and even provocation.

And not least of all, I look at the recorded life of Christ as an example to be emulated.  The encounter in John, chapter eight exemplifies how those who clung to Mosaic law brought an adulterer before him and encouraged him to participate in stoning her.  It was scripture.  It was law.  But Christ refused, inviting those who were perfect to cast the first stone.  He corrected her with words and with love, rather than punishing her with pain.

What is the Rod?

As I mentioned, I don’t disregard the counsel given in Proverbs.  But in its introduction, in the sixth verse, it states that the proverbs are to be understood and interpreted.  I don’t claim to be a biblical scholar, but I do know that the term “rod” as used in scriptural writing can mean many things.  I’ll discuss three here.

God’s Word

Scripture, or God’s word is often referred to as a rod or staff.  Clearly, Christ-centered parenting would include teaching the Gospel and the use of scripture.  For a Christian to spare this rod would certainly be neglectful parenting.


The rod is also used in scripture to reference a type of authority, like a scepter.  Ignoring one’s parental responsibility and authority is in essence, an abdication of parenthood, and would likely be condemned by scripture as well.

The Shepherd’s Staff

In the pastoral time of King Solomon, the word rod could be used to refer to the staff of a shepherd.  This could be used as a club to beat the wolves who would harm his flock.  But it could also refer to the shepherd’s staff that was used to gently guide his sheep.  And it is the image of the Good Shepherd who tenderly guides His flock, that I prefer to use as a guide to parenting.

And so it is within this context that I personally believe one can be a good Christian, a good parent, and raise children with discipline and love, even without the use of spanking.

Top photo byRyk Neethling.



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