What The Bible Teaches About Spanking

The phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” comes from Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” The Lord uses discipline to reveal our sin to us. This is also how parents reveal the truth of our need for a Saviour to their children. When a child does not feel the consequence of his sin, he will not understand that sin requires punishment. The Lord provides a way to salvation and forgiveness through Jesus, but that means little to those who do not see their sin.
Learning accountability
Furthermore, correction shows us that we are not above reproach and that we are accountable for our actions. Our natural pride blinds us to our need for a Saviour, and discipline reveals the truth of our wretchedness (Rev 3:17). Since salvation is the most important choice the child will ever make, it is imperative that parents are leading them to Christ, and discipline is critical to this process.
Proverbs 23:13 says: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” In the context of verse 13-14, “die” means spiritual death of hell.Children who respect authority and feel sorrow for their sin are much more likely to ask Jesus to forgive them and be saved.
Discipline drives out a sinful nature
All children are born sinful (Rom 5:12-19). Their natural self is destructive and unrighteous. That does not mean they aren’t infinitely valuable and worthy of love (Ps 127:3). It means that they are not born with any natural ‘goodness’ in them. That is why all children need discipline.
Proverbs 22:15 says: “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Discipline is critical for wisdom (Prov 29:15), and a child who obeys his parents will be wise (Prov 13:1). Even adults who do not heed correction will feel the consequences of their foolishness (Prov 10:13).
Physical discipline
Some people believe in discipline, but not in physical discipline such as spanking. However, the Bible is the final word on what is truth; it is not mere opinion or theory. The word “rod” indicates a thin stick or object that can be used to give a small amount of physical pain with no lasting physical injury. A child should never be bruised, injured, or cut by a physical correction. The Bible warns that parents should never abuse the power and authority they have over their children while they are young because it provokes the children to righteous anger (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21).
Physical discipline is always done in love, never as a vent to the parent’s frustration. It is also just one part of discipline and should be used when the child shows defiance to a clear limit, not in the heat of the moment.
Look at God’s example
God instructs parents to parent their children the way He does. Hebrews 12:5-11 tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves to perfect their righteousness. God only disciplines His own, which proves that Christians are His beloved children.
Notice that David says that the Lord’s rod comforts him in his time of trouble (Ps 23:4).
The blessings of discipline
Finally, we know that no discipline feels good while it is happening, but afterwards the rewards are rich (Heb 12:11). Godly character, fruit of the spirit, and peace are rewards of God’s discipline. The same is true for our human children. Children who have learned how to take responsibility for their actions are much happier people (Prov 3:11-18).
The importance of the rod of correction is that it steers the heart of a child toward Jesus and forgiveness of sin He offers. When parents trust God’s methods over their own, they will see the blessings for their children and themselves.
Some claim that physical discipline (corporal punishment) such as spanking is the only method the Bible supports. Others insist that ‘time-outs’ and other punishments that do not involve physical discipline are far more effective.
What does the Bible say?
The Bible teaches that physical discipline is appropriate, beneficial, and necessary.
Do not misunderstand – we are by no means advocating child abuse. A child should never be disciplined physically to the extent that it causes actual physical or emotional damage. According to the Bible, though, the appropriate and restrained physical discipline of children is a good thing and contributes to the well-being and correct upbringing of the child.
Discipline encourages repentance
The Bible strongly stresses the importance of discipline; it is something we must all have in order to be productive people, and it is much more easily learned when we are young.
Children who are not disciplined often grow up rebellious, have no respect for authority, and as a result find it difficult to willingly obey and follow the Lord. God Himself uses discipline to correct us and lead us down the right path and to encourage repentance for our wrong actions (Ps 94:12; Prov 1:7; 6:23; 12:1; 13:1; 15:5; Is 38:16; Heb 12:9).
Keep in line with the Bible
In order to apply discipline correctly and according to Biblical principles, parents must be familiar with the Scriptural advice regarding discipline. The book of Proverbs contains much wisdom regarding the rearing of child-ren. Of course, discipline must have as its goal the good of the child and must never be used to justify the abuse and mistreatment of
Loving and comforting
Discipline is used to correct and train people to go in the right way. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Heb 12:11. God’s discipline is loving, as should it be between parent and child.
Physical punishment should always be followed immediately by comforting the child with assurance that he/she is loved. These moments are the perfect time to teach a child that God disciplines us because He loves us and that, as parents, we do the same.
What about other forms of discipline?
Can other forms of discipline, such as time-outs, be used instead of physical discipline? Some parents find that their children do not respond well to physical discipline. Some parents find that time-outs, grounding, and/or taking something away from the children is more effective in encouraging behavioural change. If that is indeed the case, by all means, a parent should employ the methods that best produce the needed behavioural change.
While the Bible undeniably advocates physical discipline, the Bible is more concerned with the goal of building godly character than it is in the precise method used to produce that goal.
The subject of spanking is a divisive one, even among Christians. Several countries have banned the corporal punishment of children, yet many parents consider spanking an essential tool in discipline.
When the law forbids spanking, the question arises: if spanking is illegal, do parents have the God-given right to continue to use corporal punishment to discipline their children? When the subject of spanking is broached, it must be assumed that the corporal punishment in question does not occur in an abusive way.
What is best?
Some children respond to spanking quickly and completely when all other types of punishment fail. Parents of a strong-willed three-year-old who loves to run out into the street, understand they have two choices: spank promptly to curb the dangerous behaviour right away, or confine their child to a strictly controlled environment that may disrupt the entire family and restrict the child from more pleasant activities.
It is your responsibility
The Bible neither explicitly demands nor forbids the spanking of children. (Although the “rod” of Proverbs 13:24 could refer to reproof in general, corporal punishment cannot be excluded as an option).
Firm, decisive discipline is vital to the well-being of a child. It provides guidance and wisdom the child will need later in life. Fathers in the New Testament bear a responsibility to rear their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Eph 6:4.
Allow God to direct you
Christian families in many nations in Europe and even on U.S. military bases are faced with the challenge of disciplining their children without the option of spanking/corporal punishment. Parents who believe that spanking is a God-ordained practice necessary for the rearing of their child may spank privately, disregarding the ban as a matter of civil disobedience. Other parents may choose not to spank, submitting to their civil authority and trusting that God is wise enough to lead them to discipline in other ways. Both options have their merits (within context).

Fearing the government
Many parents do not spank their children for fear of being reported to the government and risk having their children taken away. What should parents do if a government has made physical discipline of children illegal?
A government should never contradict God’s Word, and physical discipline is, Biblically speaking, in the best interest of children. However, keeping children in families in which they will at least receive some discipline is far better than losing children to the care of the government.
Non-corporal punishment will most likely require a great deal more effort, time, and commitment, but it can be effective as well.
God knows His children well. May we know our children well enough to know how best to discipline them with patience, perseverance, and love. Pray and seek His guidance in each and every situation.
The Bible does not specifically use the term “child abuse.” There is no record of a single instance in the Bible where a child is being abused. What the Bible does tell us is this: children have a special place in God’s heart and anyone who harms a child is inviting God’s wrath upon Him.
When Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children from coming to Him, He rebuked them and welcomed little children to His side, saying, “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14. Then He took the children in His arms and blessed them (v16).
In your anger, do not sin
Children are abused and mistreated in several different ways, all of which are abhorrent to God. Too many children are the victims of angry beatings and other physical abuse as their parents take out their own anger and frustration on their children. Anger is almost always sinful, and anyone who abuses a child in anger commits multiplied sins. “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” Prov 29:22.
There is no place for unrighteous anger in the life of a Christian, as Paul reminds the Ephesians: “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Eph 4:26-27. Anger should be confessed to God long before it comes to the point of physical abuse against a child or anyone else.
What does it mean to ‘exasperate’ my child?
Psychological and emotional abuse is also forbidden in Scripture. Ephesians 6:4 warns fathers not to “exasperate” or provoke their children, but to bring them up in the “training and instruction of the Lord.”
Harsh, unloving discipline alienates children’s minds from their parents and renders their instructions and corrections useless. In addition, it often leads to sin against God, as it is difficult in the best of children to be angry and yet not sin. Parents can provoke and exasperate their children by placing unreasonable requirements on them, belittling them, or constantly finding fault, thereby producing wounds that are far worse than any physical beating can inflict.
Colossians 3:21 tells us not to “embitter” our children so they will not become discouraged. Ephesians 4:15-19 says we are to speak the truth in love and use our words to build others up, not allow rotten or destructive words to pour from our lips, especially toward the tender hearts and minds of children.
Love is a priority
So, even though the Bible does not specific-ally mention child abuse, it is abundantly clear how God feels about the issue. Anyone who suspects a child is being abused has the obligation to report it to appropriate authorities. 
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