attachment parenting, homeschooling, gentle discipline
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    Friday, December 21st, 2012 10:23 am

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  • Christian Child Discipline: Is Spanking Biblical? (No!)

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    Essay ~ Bible Verses ~ Quotes ~ Blog Posts ~ Books

    The Duty of Christian Parents

    As Christian parents, we have a responsibility to nurture and discipline our children. Like most parents, we want well behaved children, but even more importantly, we want our children to grow up in the Lord. Our main goal as parents is to pass on our faith to the next generation.

    “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38,39

    There are countless ways we can (and do) fail our children. We can be too strict or too lenient. We can neglect them or treat them harshly. We can push them away so they become attached to other adults or their peers. We can be bad examples. We can fail to tell them about the Lord. We can ignore God’s commands.

    “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:5-9

    Thankfully, there are just as many ways God can bless our children through our example.

    “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22,23

    To help us in the daunting task of parenting, God welcomes us to talk to Him in prayer, He has given us His Word in the Scriptures, and He has sent the Holy Spirit to teach, encourage, and enable us to be good parents. Many of us were also blessed with mothers and fathers who taught us good parenting by example.

    As we look to the Bible to learn how to be good parents, the first thing that stands out is the Golden Rule.

    “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

    Here are a few verses specifically about parenting:

    “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

    “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Colossians 3:21

    “But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7

    Scripture frequently reminds us to be gentle and patient.

    “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

    “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

    “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12

    “What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip (KJV says rod), or in love and with a gentle spirit?” 1 Corinthians 4:21

    It seems that we should nurture and discipline our children in gentleness and love. But wait a minute. Doesn’t the Bible say something about spanking?

    Clarifying Vocabulary

    Before we go any further, we want to communicate our understanding of a few terms.

    Discipline – To train by instruction and practice, especially to teach self-control to. To teach to obey rules or accept authority. (Some dictionaries include punish in the fourth or fifth definition.)

    Train – To coach in or accustom to a mode of behavior or performance.

    Punish – To subject to a penalty for an offense, sin, or fault.

    Spank – To slap (to strike or hit sharply) on the buttocks with a flat object or with the open hand, as for punishment.

    These days, the socially acceptable term for corporal punishment is spanking (which is not in the Bible). In different times and among different cultures and countries, other words that describe the infliction of pain on disobedient children are beat, strike, hit, whip, swat, slap, smack, flog, paddle, etc.

    Our personal understanding of the term “discipline” is to teach, disciple, coach, and nurture. We often hear other people use the word “discipline” to describe things like spanking, time-out, and loss of privileges. We believe those practices are more accurately defined with the word “punishment”. We would guess most people recognize spanking as punishment, thus the term “corporal punishment”. The child does something wrong, then he is punished. Spanking is the “penalty for the offense”. Punishment is generally meant to cause pain and make the child feel bad. Time-out is often done as punishment as well. Spanking and time-out are usually unrelated to the child’s sin.

    Is Spanking Really in the Bible?

    The controversy over spanking stems mainly from six rod verses in the Old Testament: Proverbs 13:24, Proverbs 19:18, Proverbs 22:15, Proverbs 23:13, 14, and Proverbs 29:15. At first glance, people read these verses in the English text and base their opinion within the context of their own culture and traditions, thus assuming that the Bible tells parents to spank their children. We urge you to set aside your preconceived beliefs about spanking and dig deeper into these Scripture verses.

    Translating words from the Bible to be accurately understood by the changing cultures can be an issue with verses. Here is a different example of a cultural interpretation problem.

    “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

    The author of How Would Jesus Raise a Child? says that, “the word hate – in Greek, miseo – as used in this passage, meant to give one thing a lower priority or preference than another. In this context it did not mean to despise as we use the word hate today.”(1)

    It seems that many people who believe it is Biblical to spank neglect to examine the original languages of the Bible and the cultural understanding of those ancient times to confirm their interpretation of the rod verses. Most of the sermons and studies we have read that attempt to classify corporal punishment as Biblical, stick to the English translation, and may refer to various commentaries to defend that position. We should be cautious about using commentaries that define words based on their usage instead of understanding the usage based on its definition. The former method makes them foreign to the original language. It is best to read the explanations of the original language by looking up the word in a Hebrew lexicon. The source you use should have definitions which capture the feeling and meaning of the word and include examples of where that word is found in Scripture.

    Have a look at the rod verses in the original Hebrew roots, and even examine words that you might assume you already understand. Keep in mind that just because a word may have more than one definition does not mean that all definitions are acceptable in every context.

    Child (Na’ar) in Proverbs

    In modern day English, we use a variety of words to describe the different stages of a child’s development. The progression of terms even begins in the womb with words like “embryo”, “fetus”, and “unborn baby”. Following birth, we use “newborn”, “infant”, and “baby”, some use the word “nursling”, then comes “child”, “toddler”, and “preschooler”, and then “school-aged”, “prepubescent”, “pre-teen”, “tween”, “adolescent”, “teenager” and “young adult”. We rarely use the word “child” to describe a “teen”, except when people of ANY age tell “how many children” they have.

    When we examine the original text of the Old Testament, we find a similar, and very detailed collection of words that accurately describe the development of a child. The author of the book, Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me, compiled a list of the NINE Hebrew words that concisely describe this beautiful progression of life.(2)

    yeled (yaldah feminine) – newly born, baby

    yonek – suckling, nursing child (nursing without solids, birth to approx. twelve months)

    olel – still sucking, nursing, but one who is also starting to eat bread (nursing with solids, twelve months to three years)

    gamul – completely weaned child (usually between the ages of three and four) [In our culture, which does not encourage extended breastfeeding, that would mean the child no longer uses bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers, and thumb sucking]

    taph – little children, age of closeness to one’s mother, clinging to mother (between four to six years)

    elem (almah feminine) – becoming firm and strong, pre-teenagers

    na’ar (narah feminine) – youth, he who shakes off, or shakes himself free, younger men (na’ar) and women (narah) who have yet to marry (after and including the teenage years)

    bthulah – young women just immediately prior to marriage, virgin

    bachur – ripened one, young warrior, marriage starts to become reality

    It is significant to note that the words referring to the youngest stages, yeled, yonek, olel, taph, (as well as bthulah) are never found in Proverbs!

    When we read the word “child” in the rod verses in Proverbs, we naturally assume it means child! That’s what the King James version says, that’s what we read in parenting books, and that’s what we hear in sermons. A child is a child!

    Is that what the Bible REALLY says? In order to be certain, we must look at the original text. In three of the rod verses in Proverbs, the English word we see is “child”, but the original Hebrew word is na’ar. It means the “one shook lose” and refers to the young adult or teenage years. None of the words translated as “child/children” in the book of Proverbs actually refer to those under the age of ten or twelve. This is significant! The rod verses are NOT directed toward little children.

    (Note: In the Old Testament, na’ar also very accurately described Baby Moses. To save his life, they put him in the river. Definitely “shaken off”. It is not a word that would describe a typical baby. The same word was also used for Samuel when he was weaned and taken to the temple. Again, “shaken off” and not a typical experience for a young child.)

    When we look at the original Hebrew word, na’ar, we see that it means male youth, young adult (shaken off). Not even taking into consideration other aspects of the verses that may be misinterpreted, have a look at these verses with this translation of the word na’ar.

    Proverbs 22:15 “Foolishness [is] bound in the heart of a na’ar (teenage boy/young man); [but] the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”

    Proverbs 23:13 “Withhold not correction from the na’ar (teenage boy/young man): for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.”

    Proverbs 29:15 “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a na’ar (teenage boy/young man) left [to himself] bringeth his mother to shame.”

    We believe all the parenting experts who site the Proverbs rod verses in English as a mandate to spank young children are ignoring the actual text (e.g. Pearl advises spanking as early as four months, Dobson at age eighteen months, etc.)

    When we examine the evidence, we believe those who rely on the rod verses in Proverbs to argue that parents are Biblically mandated to spank young children, especially those under the age of ten or twelve years, are mistaken. You can’t take a word and try to make it fit another word, even if your purpose is traditional, cultural, acceptable, and legal.

    The actual age of the “child” in the Proverbs rod verses is about the age when most authors and parents decide a child is too big for a spanking, at which time they have to find new ways to “discipline” the child.

    When you read the book of Proverbs, you will notice that the material is targeted toward young males, certainly not babies and toddlers or even young children. The themes discussed in Proverbs are generally appropriate for only more mature adolescents and those preparing for marriage. Most of the topics found in Proverbs would not even be appropriate to discuss with small children.

    Rod (Shebet): Literal and/or Figurative?

    Those influenced by our North American Protestant culture generally see the word rod in Proverbs and interpret it as a switch, wooden spoon, or small flexible object to be used to spank children. The Hebrew word that best describes those instruments would be choter, but that is not the word used in the rod verses. In contrast, the original Hebrew word in the rod verses is actually shebet which is literally defined as a large walking stick held by the head of the family, a shepherd’s crook, or a king’s scepter.

    In order to understand the type of instrument we are talking about in the rod verses, have a look at this picture of a shebet.

    Do parents who believe in a literal rod have the right to substitute the shebet with a wooden spoon, glue stick, paint stick, spatula, strap, or hand, etc.?

    In our English translation, if these verses are interpreted literally, then the rod or shebet is a large walking stick (not small stick, switch, or hand) to beat (not sure of this) the back (not buttocks) of a young male adult (not a little child).

    Also in Proverbs, the shebet seems to refer to a literal rod that seems to be literally used to hit the literal back of a fool. Do those who advocate spanking children also beat the fools in their communities and churches? The shebet can be used to kill that fool, while at the same time in our rod verses, it says it is impossible for the shebet to kill a na’ar. What about the many times throughout history that parents have beaten their children to death with or without a rod? How can this verse be interpreted truthfully?

    “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.” Proverbs 23:13,14

    The more modern NIV uses the word punish whereas the older KJV uses the word beat.

    As commented by the author of Biblical Parenting, “If this verse is instruction to strike a child with a stick then it’s lying – because you can kill a child by hitting them with or without a ‘rod’. In the original language the word you cite as ‘punish’ is actually ‘beat’ and is the same ‘beat’ as in ‘the sun beat down on Jonah’ and means a constant presence. The point is, the word ‘beat’ is not always used to refer to hitting. It is, however, appropriate to render its use in the verse in question as a constant, if not always pleasant, presence of authority. Tell a child ‘no’ and see how pleasant they think it is. We are instructed to be a constant presence of authority in our children’s lives.”(3)

    If beating a child with a literal rod can save his soul, then why did Christ have to die? Maybe the Christians in Syria, in the middle of the third century had a good point. They said the rod in Proverbs is a “metaphor for the Word of God, Jesus Christ.”(4)

    “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21

    In some Old Testament verses, shebet is clearly used symbolically. In regard to parenting, the shebet could be figuratively recognized as a symbol of parental authority.

    “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24

    According to the author of Biblical Parenting, “The rod of authority was the symbol of authority that meant a person had the responsibility to discipline (teach) those under their authority. For someone to spare (or set aside) their authority to properly discipline their child would reveal that they hate them. While the rod was no doubt used by some to strike others physically, for there are limitations and consequences for those who do harm with such an act, there is no instruction to strike a child in the Law and this verse cannot properly be understood as addressing “spanking”. The important part of this verse is the authority and responsibility to teach that was symbolized by the rod held by the man.”(5)

    “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15

    Some people read this verse and think that the children are so foolish, we must beat them often and hard. Have a closer look at this verse. When something is bound, it is confined or tied up. It is not free. In this verse, maybe it is the foolishness that is tied up. This verse comforts parents with the hope that they have time to nurture and discipline while the child is young and tender. Parents should use that time to strengthen and build the parent/child relationship. This verse is even more interesting when you consider that most adult believers profess to have been saved in childhood.

    “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

    Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says, “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear.”

    Commenting on these verses, the author of Biblical Parenting says, “Now not only is there no recorded event of this ever happening, it’s the only reference in the LAW of what God would have a parent do with a stubborn and rebellious child. And because the child is referred to as a drunkard and a glutton it’s quite obvious that we’re not talking about a three year old… And I’ve NEVER heard someone who advocates spanking (not in the Bible) also advocate killing their child for being stubborn and rebellious (in the Bible). The fact is, the Rabbis understood this passage to underscore the grave importance of parents picking up the rod of authority and properly disciplining (teaching) and chastising (verbally correcting) their children.”(6)

    The word beat in Hebrew is nakah and most of its definitions are rather extreme. Which definition is appropriate in these verses? On what basis should it be assumed that a literal firm slap is the intended meaning? Perhaps it should be one of the more severe definitions and interpreted figuratively?

    Joan Vasquez has written a study of the rod which can be found on her web pages along with details of her parenting journey.

    In our understanding, the only verses in the New Testament that are ever interpreted to defend spanking are found in Hebrews 12. These verses differ greatly depending on what translation is used. We personally see nothing that contradicts our belief that parents are responsible to discipline their children. We are linking to these posts on Hebrews 12 that definitely gives us food for thought.

    Regarding the Shepherd’s Rod

    Gregory K. Popcak, MSW, LCSW comments on a shepherd’s rod,

    “A shepherd would never beat his sheep – they are too precious and delicate. Also, could a ‘rod of violence’ be used to bring comfort, as in ‘Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.’ God’s truths do not contradict each other. A shepherd uses his rod to gently guide his flock – not to strike them. (A note on sheep husbandry; it is known that the fright of sudden noise alone can induce in sheep a shock which suppresses fertility. A sheep’s guardian, whose job it is to protect the economic value of his herd, is aware of the sensitivity of his flock’s constitution.)”(7)

    If the rod is indeed a shepherd’s rod, then isn’t it likely that it was used to guide the sheep and perhaps beat off predators? And would the staff be used to draw the sheep to the shepherd? How important to use the rod to literally or figuratively beat off the predators and enemies! We have lambs to protect! Let us use our parental love and authority to lead and guide them on the straight path. Truly, “thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”


    Keep in mind that these verses in Proverbs were written by a father to his older son. Also, each Proverb tends to stand alone with little or no context. Since Proverbs is a poetic book of wisdom sayings and imagery, it contains many similes, metaphors, and hyperboles. It is easy to see the hyperbole in this example:

    “When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” Proverbs 23:1-2

    A hyperbole compares one thing with another with great exaggeration. In this example, I understand that it is wise to not eat too much. It is not a command to slit my throat. And when I read the rod verses, I learn it is wise to discipline (teach) my child. It is not a command to beat my child.

    As adults in our culture, we are completely desensitized to the common practice of spanking. We recall times when our relatives were joking about spanking (which is a sign of shame, not humor) and our young children didn’t know what they were talking about. During the two occasions when we explained spanking to our middle two children at ages four and six, we could see how easily the rod verses might be considered hyperbole. Our children were in complete shock and disbelief to hear that some parents actually hit their children. What an incomprehensible act!

    Whether or not the verses actually are hyperbole, they still send home the message that nurturing children is a serious responsibility, not to be taken lightly.


    We aren’t going to pretend we know all the answers, and we certainly aren’t going to claim we know exactly “what the Bible says”. We simply feel led to draw attention to areas where we see reason to question the interpretation of the rod verses as a Biblical mandate to spank our children.

    To us, the most likely explanation is the conclusion reached by Christians in Syria, in the middle of the third century. The rod in Proverbs is a “metaphor for the Word of God, Jesus Christ.”(8) It seems the most consistent with the rest of Scripture.

    Rather than relying on the English or on our family traditions, we will continue to research this and in particular, study the meaning and feeling of the Hebrew words in depth.

    To learn more, read Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy by scholar, Samuel Martin of

    Punishment or Grace?

    We are all sinners.

    “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

    We and our children deserve death.

    “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

    That is what Christianity is all about. Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins. He took the punishment we rightly deserve.

    “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9

    Through faith, God has given us salvation and forgiveness of sins even though we do not deserve it. That is what grace is all about.

    How are Christians treated by God when we stumble and fail and sin? By grace, we can be secure in His forgiveness and acceptance, and we can trust that we will receive loving guidance and direction.

    In the new covenant, we believe God does not punish His children. Sometimes we, as Christians, are given tests to shape our character. Our struggles may build our faith and remind us to put our hope in Christ. Trials may occur so we will use what we learn to help others. Sometimes our pain is caused by assaults from the enemy.

    Some Christians label their struggles and trials as punishment. We have often heard people say that somebody must not be “living right”, so that is why God punished them with a disease, accident, or hardship, etc.

    “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” John 9:1-3

    Many lifestyle choices may, but not necessarily, result in pain and suffering, even to the third and fourth generation. For example, poor eating habits, gluttony, and lack of exercise may eventually result in obesity. The consequences of obesity may be heart disease or diabetes, and even premature death. Children may suffer the consequences of the lifestyle of their parents. Sometimes God, in His grace, spares us from the consequences of our sin. He may also choose to protect us from the sins of others.

    We may not always be spared from the natural consequences of our sinful actions, but as His chosen people, we are not subject to a swift application of punishment for our every disobedience. As adult Christians, when God points out our wrongdoing, we feel guilt, shame, remorse, and ask for forgiveness. God extends grace, and we know our sins are taken away, and we can start anew with a desire to do better. We were not punished for this to occur. We were disciplined under grace. Why do we, as parents, often deny this grace to our own children? Why do we often claim the right to inflict punishment upon our Covenant children who are our brothers and sisters in Christ? People who were punished as children may struggle with the concept of grace.

    And how do parents who spank their children explain the gospel to them? “Isn’t it wonderful how Jesus took the punishment for your sins? I still have to spank you because I love you.”

    Author and scholar Samuel Martin reminds us, “When parents sin, they ask God to forgive them, repent and know they are forgiven. When children sin, they are judged, tried, condemned and punished.”(9)

    Spanking is a punishment for the violation of a law.

    Galatians 5:4 says “you are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by law; you are fallen away from grace.”

    Galatians 5:18 says “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

    Although the story of the Prodigal son is intended to be an example of relationship and not about extending grace when dealing with a child’s disobedience, it is interesting to see that the father does not find and beat his son, but rather allows him to experience natural consequences. And what happens when the son finally comes home? The father celebrates with a party!

    As Gregory K. Popcak, MSW, LCSW says, “Some punishment. Is God a pushover? No. He simply does not add any harm he could do to us to the harm we have already chosen for ourselves. The father of the prodigal concentrates on a more important motivator: building a relationship that is so strong, so undeniably loving, that the son will never want to ‘leave His house’ again. Through the wisdom of Christ’s new mandate (John 13:24), we must learn the methods that will allow us to deal with our children’s transgressions the way God deals with ours. To do less is to diminish in our children’s eyes, the very love of God. To do less is to live out the role of the servant in the parable, who forgiven his debts by the just King, exacts punishments upon those who owed him. (Matthew 18:21-35) When God reaches out to us with arms of love and forgiveness, but we treat our children to physical punishment, we are acting the part of the ungrateful servant. Will not God be faithful to his word and ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us?‘ Matthew 6:12)”(10)

    When you consider your upbringing, maybe you are thinking, “But I deserved it. It was for my own good.” In our state of original sin, we deserve separation from God, but that is why He extended grace to those who believe in Jesus Christ. We don’t have to pay the price over and over again. God sent His only Son, to be our living sacrifice. We can be forgiven.

    “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.” Acts 16:31

    Do we accept our children on the basis of their behavior or simply because they are our children, and we love them?

    “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21 NIV

    Historical Influences

    For some reason, when people quote “spare the rod, spoil the child”, they assume it comes from Scripture. Rather, it is satire from the Victorian age that criticized the same practice that it is now used to defend!

    You probably have also heard the common phrase, “Spankings should be done in love, never in anger”. That was originally the subtitle of a popular sadomasochist book for married couples.

    Isn’t it rather ironic to hit “in love”? Christianity makes sense. It is logical and reasonable. Spanking is violence, and violence is not love. We believe that parents who physically punish their children teach them fear, not respect. Isn’t that the whole purpose of spanking? It is supposed to encourage children to choose obedience rather than punishment by instilling fear in their hearts. This is the ultimate in behavior modification. Just like a slave, a child may only behave obediently to escape punishment, not because he desires to please his parents out of love in his heart. Sometimes children lie to avoid punishment. If we punish our children, don’t we as parents, treat them as slaves rather than sons? Do you recall being punished as a child? Afterward, did you feel love and appreciation toward your parents, or did you stew in resentment and hatred?

    We are not arguing that spanking doesn’t get results. Most methods of behavior modification are effective, but usually come at a cost. We recognize that children from loving homes certainly can grow up to live normal and healthy lives even though they were spanked occasionally in childhood. We compare spanking to other regrettable parental expressions like impatience, yelling at children, or unkindness. Children usually recover and forgive quickly, and thankfully, most of the time, they are not scarred by our mistakes. But that’s not always the case.

    Children may suppress their pain in order to cope with the fact that the same parents who “love” them, choose to hurt them “for their own good.” “I only spank you because I love you.” Spank, talk, hugs and kisses. The child has no one else to turn to for comfort, so it looks like submission has kicked in. How confusing to a child. Can you see how this dysfunctional ritual could cause problems in future relationships?

    “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

    Certain Christian “child training” methods are of the “train to please” sort. They are comparable to the German culture before and during Hitler’s rise to power. The German people were raised to obey – immediately and without question – also in the name of God. This is not to say children should not be taught to obey – of course they should – the difference lies in forcing obedience with the threat or application of punishment, as was the custom of the Germans. For an interesting perspective on this subject, read books by Alice Miller. She has researched this extensively, and her conclusions are not only interesting but very sound and logical.

    Speaking for a fictitious person, Dr. Alice Miller says, “I believe that to mistreat children as I was mistreated – to punish them, to forbid them to weep, to speak, to defend themselves, to revolt against brutal treatment – is the greatest crime there is.”(11)

    Spanking Statistics

    In an essay by Gregory K. Popcak, MSW, LCSW, he compiled the following list regarding corporal punishment.

    * In study after study, spanking has been found to increase deceitfulness, noncompliance, oppositional/defiant behaviors and violence in children.
    * Research consistently demonstrates that corporal punishment creates and maintains “willful defiance” and other unmanageable behavioral problems. (Thus, the notion “willful defiance” deserves corporal punishment is exactly counterproductive.)
    * Children who are spanked have lower average intelligence scores and demonstrate poorer school performance. This is not because they are less intelligent, but because they are more reluctant to demonstrate their intelligence for fear of being “wrong” and, as a result, harshly judged.
    * Spanked children show less creativity and are less inclined to take healthy and appropriate risks; yet are more likely to take inappropriate risks.
    * Children who are spanked demonstrate a diminished ability to say ‘no’ in personally demeaning or dangerous situations (including drug use and sexual situations) – especially when encouraged by peers.
    * Spanking has been shown to significantly increase violent/bullying behavior (especially in boys) and shyness (in girls).
    * Children who are spanked have higher rates of constipation of bowels, depression, substance abuse, suicidality, anxiety, and irrational fears/phobias.
    * Long-term studies indicate that girls who are spanked show a greater risk of ending up in abusive marriages; boys who are spanked have a higher than average chance of becoming abusive spouses.
    * Adults who were spanked as children tend to be less happy in their marriages.
    * Adults who were spanked as children tend to reject the religion of their parents.

    The Report on Physical Punishment in the United States
    What Research Tells Us About Its Effects on Children

    * There is little research evidence that physical punishment improves children’s behavior in the long term.
    * There is substantial research evidence that physical punishment makes it more, not less, likely that children will be defiant and aggressive in the future.
    * There is clear research evidence that physical punishment puts children at risk for negative outcomes, including increased mental health problems.
    * There is consistent evidence that children who are physically punished are at greater risk of serious injury and physical abuse.

    Questions About Prodigals

    We are deeply concerned about intergenerational faithfulness. We would like to know why some children distance themselves from their family and/or their faith when they get older. As we look at the many families we have known, it seems that the parents who have been the most “intensive” on correction, are more likely to have lost sheep. Could it be that the parents didn’t recognize the unique bent of their children?

    In Proverbs 22:6, God has given us the tremendous responsibility to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The author of Biblical Parenting explains how this verse is archery language.

    “Archers would fashion their own arrows and each one was unique, with its own bent – like children. It was the archer’s responsibility to know the bent of his arrows well enough that he could adjust his shot so they would fly straight and hit the mark. We need to know our children so well that we see God’s unique design in them the way they need so that when we shoot them out into the world they fly straight and hit the mark God has for them.”(13)

    Is it possible that the parents neglected to maintain a strong attachment during crucial times? Needing to be grounded in attachment, perhaps the children looked to their peers to fill the void.

    “We’ve come to believe it’s natural for teens and parents to be alienated from each other. It isn’t… If our kids have become rebellious, their parents pushed them.”(14)

    It seems that the public school system plays a large part in leading children astray. It is set up to promote peer dependency which will most certainly have a negative influence on impressionable children.

    “94% of homeschoolers keep the faith and 93% continue to attend church after the high school years. But a shocking 75% to 85% of Christian children sent to public school drop out of church, and do not hold a Christian worldview after high school graduation.”(15)

    What does cause prodigals? Is it parenting? Is it the child? Or is it the luck of the draw? We really don’t know. We do know that without grace, all would be lost. We pray that God will continue to draw us toward Him and in His grace, protect our children from our mistakes.


    “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

    “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” Deuteronomy 7:9

    “I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:5-9

    More Concerns

    When I first read the books To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl and Standing on the Promises by Douglas Wilson, I, like any good sheep, was convinced by the arguments, especially the quotes from Scripture. In order to accept this new paradigm, I had to shake off my old mothering feelings, and replace them with a robot-like mentality. I remember feeling exactly like that – a robot. I had to remove myself from feelings of compassion and sensitivity. I had to take on the mind-set, “This must be right. It’s what the Bible says.” As a mother, the choice to spank my children made me feel like the police. I was ever alert and aware and on the watch for signs of any disobedience. If I did what Pearl recommends, I could have even set up ways to trap my children in sin. (Thankfully, I felt very uneasy about the spanking paradigm, and I was only under the influence for one weekend, and spent the following year in research and prayer.)

    We disagree that spanking will change the way a child feels in his heart about his sin, but we do believe that prayer, teaching, daily guidance, and gentle discipline help train a child in the way he should go. Spanking is not a means of instruction, it simply teaches children to hit the weak. Spanking confuses children and gives them a distorted view of the nature of God the Father toward His chosen children. It does help them see the punitive nature God has for his enemies.

    We would say that children usually fear their fathers more than their mothers. That is why spanking promoters insist that mothers should get tough. They are too soft. In the 2nd chapter of Titus, we are told that young women are to learn how to love their children from older women, not men. Mothers are blessed with a special intuition and unique connection with their young. There is even a biological reaction that occurs in the mother when her baby cries.(16) Mothers are soft for a reason. They are designed that way. Deep in their hearts, they know that their young should be treated with love and compassion, not violence.

    How long will Christians continue to beat their children in the name of God? Perhaps as long as people unconsciously use their own children to avenge the punishment they themselves received as children. Have you ever experienced an instinctive, knee-jerk reaction to spank when your child disobeys or does something extremely annoying?

    Dr. Alice Miller says, “Adults not mistreated in childhood do not feel the need to mistreat their defenseless children. They can’t even imagine it, even when they are nervous and stressed and therefore respond to challenging queries with impatience. There are so many other ways to relate to children – productive, respectful and creative ways.”(17)

    Having children brings out long-buried emotions that existed when the parents were children. It is really weird. You tend to overact about things that wouldn’t make other people blink. You never have to deal with these issues before you have children, and we would even suggest that most parents don’t ever recognize what is happening right before their eyes. We think this awareness is key in beginning the process of changing parenting habits, but it can be a long road.

    It seems when people have been physically punished as children they generally react to their own children’s disobedience in the same way that they were taught. Instead of hurting your children the way you were hurt, gather the courage to feel and to resolve your old pain.

    As a child, you had the right to receive respect, love, gentleness, kindness, and encouragement. You should not have been treated with impatience, harshness, humiliation, manipulation, or violence. When your child does something to “press your buttons” recognize it as a symptom of repressed feelings. It is not about your child’s behavior, it is about your reaction. Don’t inflict your long denied feelings on your children. Dr. Alice Miller says, “People who know and feel what happened to them in their childhood will never want to harm others. They will protect life and not want to destroy it.”(18) Learn to recognize the truth that was suppressed.

    The above research and our understanding of covenant theology have led us to the conclusion that parenting with grace is truly the will of God. We believe, in light of the Scriptures, that punishing children is not Biblical. It is wrong.

    “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40

    Making the Paradigm Shift

    When I was a little girl in grade two, I began to notice that I couldn’t see as well as other children. I went for years struggling with poor eyesight. It wasn’t until grade seven that I faced my problem and told my parents. I remember the first time I put on my new glasses. I could see clearly!! When we began the transition from parenting with a punitive approach to a more gentle and connected style of parenting, we had to make a complete paradigm shift. It was like getting new glasses! Although it took time, we began to see our children in a new light. As the months and years pass, we are learning more gentleness, more patience, and we find it easier to understand law versus grace. We recognize the huge gap between autocratic and permissive parenting, and we are thankfully learning balance in the form of gentle, connected parenting.

    The closer our walk with the Lord, the easier it is to do His will. The parallelism in parenting is similar. The better our relationship with our children, the more they want to obey. It is all about relationship. Replace old habits with new skills. Learn to listen, both to the Holy Spirit and to your children.

    “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

    Positive correction generally has an obvious relationship to the child’s wrongdoing. Depending on the child’s age and circumstances, here are some possible methods of correction: problem solving, providing help, redirection, taking a break, do-over, try again with new words, making amends, removing cause of problem, providing comfort, prayer, having patience for the Holy Spirit to change hearts, forgiveness, etc. Correction can be natural or logical, and many times it is appropriate to spare children and protect them from natural consequences, especially when they are young.

    Basically, gentle and connected parenting is when we concentrate on relationship and attachment – with God and with our children.

    “We do not need greater force to bring our children into line but more natural attachment power.”(19)

    “When attachment runs deep and strong, the parent’s wish is the child’s command.”(20)

    Addressing Basic Needs

    According to Jan Hunt, “In many, if not most cases of ‘bad behavior,’ the child is responding to neglect of basic needs: proper sleep and nutrition, treatment of hidden allergies, fresh air, exercise, freedom to explore the world around him, etc. But his greatest need is for his parents’ undivided attention. In these busy times, few children receive sufficient time and attention from their parents, who are often too tired and distracted to treat their children with patience and understanding. Punishing a child for responding in a natural way to having had important needs neglected is really unfair.”(21)

    Nutrition plays an extremely important part in the behavior of a child. Sometimes children misbehave because they are simply hungry or they have low blood sugar. Sometimes they are eating processed, artificially colored, and artificially flavored foods that are making them stressed and unbalanced.

    “Forget tougher punishments and hiring more police. The solution to crime and violence is on your plate… Healthy food can reduce aggressive behavior.”(22)

    Our children eat lots of fruit and some vegetables, but these days, even good food is lacking the vitamins and minerals of yesteryear. Food is now grown more quickly, more cheaply, and for maximum yield, at the expense of nutritional value. We believe it is important to add certain nutritional supplements to their diets. These include essential (good) sugars, essential oils, and phytonutrients. Please contact us if you are concerned that you and your children are lacking these essential nutrients. They sure make a difference in our family.

    We also keep our eyes open for behavior that is uncharacteristic of our children. They may be feeling “wacky” or stressed out. We find that cranio-sacral massage therapy helps restore balance.

    What We Like about Gentle and Connected Parenting

    ~ It is non-punitive AND non-permissive.
    ~ It is for all ages – birth to maturity (and even works well with old folks).
    ~ It is for all children whether they are obedient, disobedient, strong-willed, compliant, high-need, content, healthy, hungry, tired, sick, have conditions like autism, ADHD, chronically ill, physically handicapped, mentally handicapped, adopted children, foster children, etc.
    ~ It is for all parents, no matter how they were raised. Most experts recommend that people who are angry or have been beaten a lot or abused should not spank.
    ~ Parents aren’t at a loss when their children are “too old” for a spanking. Parenting with grace only gets easier as you continue to build the connection and relationship.
    ~ Children can learn from the parents’ example and use it in THEIR relationships with siblings and friends.
    ~ There are no worries about marks and bruises and visiting the doctor.
    ~ There are no worries about children telling other people about how their parents beat them.
    ~ It is not something that has to be done in secret and behind closed doors, unlike these recommendations about spanking from the Home School Legal Defense Association.

    1. Do not spank your children or anyone else’s children in public or outside the confines of your home. The windows and doors of your home should be secured when administering corporal discipline. Spanking should be done in private.(23)

    ~ We believe gentle and connected parenting results in “lovely” children.

    1. Full of love; loving.
    2. Inspiring love or affection.
    3. Having beauty that appeals to the emotions as well as to the eye.
    4. Enjoyable; delightful.

    For more on this topic, choose from the following:
    Essay ~ Bible Verses ~ Quotes ~ Blog Posts ~ Books

    Educational Materials

    We have dozens of books and links on child discipline, and some have been very helpful, but we feel we should be cautious about recommending even our favorites! On the one hand, authors seem to be “right-on” when it comes to some issues, but misguided on others. Sometimes there are basic theological errors in the books and articles. Sometimes the authors still include things we would consider as punishment. Sometimes Christianity is blamed for child abuse when the problem actually lies with incorrect Biblical interpretations. As you can imagine, human authors are not perfect (myself included), so it is crucial to always read with discernment.

    Here are some books by modern Christian authors who believe spanking is not mandated in Scripture:

    Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy by Samuel Martin ~
    Biblical Parenting by Crystal Lutton ~
    Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson ~
    The Religious Nature and Biblical Nurture of God’s Children by Jack Fennema
    The Complete Book of Christian Parenting and Child Care by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N. ~
    Families Where Grace Is In Place by Jeff Van Vonderen
    How Would Jesus Raise a Child? by Teresa Whitehurst, Ph.D.
    Parenting with Grace by Gregory K. Popcak, MSW, LCSW and Lisa Popcak
    Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel
    You Can Have a Family Where Everybody Wins by Earl H. Gaulke
    Loving Our Kids On Purpose (Good case for grace in parenting/alternatives yet does not eliminate spanking completely.)

    At this point in our research, we have come across material that indicates that the following respected Christian theologians did not condone corporal punishment: Augustine of Hippo, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Dr. Karl Barth, and Rev. Dwight Moody.

    Additional Literature

    The Child in Christian Thought by Marcia J. Bunge
    Spare the Rod by Philip Greven
    Beating the Devil Out of Them by Murray A. Straus
    The Protestant Temperament by Philip Greven
    For Your Own Good by Alice Miller
    Raising Your Child, Not By Force, But By Love by Sidney D. Craig
    How to Really Love Your Child by Ross Campbell, M.D.
    Tired of Trying to Measure Up by Jeff VanVonderen
    Healing Grace by David A. Seamands
    Spiritual Parenting by Hugh & Gayle Prather

    Noteworthy Links

    Arms of Love Family Fellowship
    Suffer the Little Children ~ Joan Vasquez
    Biblical Discipline: Conclusions ~ Laurie Moody
    Christian Families on the Edge – Authoritarianism and Isolationism Among Us ~ Rachel D. Ramer (Christian Research Institute Journal Volume 26, Number 1, 2003).
    Bible (Christians and the Spanking Controversy) ~ Samuel Martin
    PROVERBS 22:6a: TRAIN UP A CHILD? ~ Ted Hildebrandt
    Heart of a Child ~ Linda Lee Nelson
    Gentle Christian Mothers ~ Gentle Discipline
    Christian History Corner: To Spank or Not to Spank? ~ Chris Armstrong
    Spanking Hurts Everybody ~ Robert R. Gillogly
    Avoiding Millstones ~ Rebecca Prewett
    The Total Depravity of Infants ~ Rebecca Prewett
    Mothering in the Shadow of the Cross ~ Rebecca Prewett
    The Importance of Attachment: The First Relationship
    And the Bible Sayeth, Train up a Child in the Way He Should Go ~ Dr. William Sears
    Parenting Reflections, after reading Charles Hodge
    Islam and “The Rod”
    There is no place like home ~ Ellen Hrebeniuk
    Should I Spank My Child? ~ Grace P. Chou
    Parenting in Jesus’ Footsteps
    Spanking Linked to Anxiety, Aggression,2933,175522,00.html
    Parenting style can change child behaviour
    Project NoSpank
    Parenting Without Punishing
    Our Heritage of Child Repression
    The Center for Effective Discipline
    Open Letter to Roy Lessin: Author of “Spanking: Why, When, How
    A Sermon Critique ~ Heather Micaela
    Whew, here goes – spanking and why I believe it is wrong
    Spare the quarter-inch plumbing supply line, spoil the child

    Gentle Parenting Message Boards

    Mothering by Grace
    Gentle Christian Mothers
    Gentle Christian Families

    Practical Materials for Gentle and Connected Parenting

    Once you understand the significance of parenting with grace, then comes the difficult work of learning new parenting skills that will help change your practical application of discipline from that of a punitive nature to one of gentleness. This next list contains books that may give you a practical start in following through with your new paradigm shift in parenting. Since many of these authors still include ideas that we would consider punitive, we encourage you to learn to recognize the difference between tools that are punitive versus those that are gentle. For example, many so-called positive parenting authors rely on “time-out” as a discipline tool. We believe “time-out” is generally punitive, so consider replacing that practice with positive “time-in”. Please read with discernment.

    Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté
    Parent in Control by Gregory Bodenhamer
    Discipline Without Distress by Judy Arnall
    Active Parenting Today by Michael H. Popkin, Ph.D.
    Kid Cooperation by Elizabeth Pantley
    How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
    Connection Parenting by Pam Leo
    PET Parent Effectiveness Training by Dr. Thomas Gordon
    Biblical Parenting by Crystal Lutton
    Loving Our Kids On Purpose (Good case for grace in parenting/alternatives yet does not eliminate spanking completely.)

    Here are some links with alternatives to punishing children. We have not read everything at these sites, and we don’t agree with some things we did read, but hopefully you will find some helpful ideas.

    Positive Discipline Resource Center ~ Joanne Davidson
    Arms of Love Family Fellowship
    Discipline Overview ~ Jay and Jessica Wigley
    Gently Disciplining ~ Jay and Jessica Wigley
    Christian Parenting Decisions
    AP Hearts ~ Discipline
    General Discipline ~ Keri Baker
    What’s Up With That ? ~ Judy Arnall
    Alternatives To Corporal Punishment ~ Judy Arnall
    Twenty Alternatives to Punishment ~ Aletha Solter, Ph.D.
    Positive Discipline ~ Dr. Jane Nelsen

    Links Regarding Books that Promote Spanking

    Gentle Christian Mothers ~ Unprepared for Parenting
    GCM Unprepared for Parenting Message Board

    Links Specific to Growing Kids God’s Way ~ Gary Ezzo

    The Cultic Characteristics of Growing Families International
    by Kathleen Terner and Elliot Miller
    TulipGirl discussing Ezzo
    Voices of Experience
    Timeline of Ezzo Controversy 1966-2005
    Babywise TriFold Brochure
    Ezzo and Attachment Disorder
    Rebecca Prewett’s Family Corner
    What is Babywise and Ezzo parenting?
    A Critique of GKGW ~ Dr. Kent McClain
    Ezzo Debate Board
    Aware Parent
    FreeFromEzzo Yahoo List
    Case Studies of BW Moms
    Gary Ezzo and Babywise

    Links Specific to To Train Up a Child ~ Michael and Debi Pearl

    A very comprehensive list of recent Pearl links is found here:
    On the Pearls and Parenting
    Pearls Po-Russki
    Biblical Relationships or Behaviourism
    Children, Good and Grown
    Why Not Train a Child?
    More News On Sean Paddock
    On Perfectionism and the Pearls
    The Pearls: The Basics
    On Original Sin
    To Train Up A Child Review
    TTUAC: One Family’s Experiences
    Another Family’s Experience
    Chapter-by-Chapter Review of TTUAC

    Links Specific to Shepherding a Child’s Heart ~ Tedd Tripp

    Shepherding A Child’s Heart
    Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

    Links Specific to The New Dare to Discipline ~ Dr. James Dobson

    Instructions for Dehumanization-or-When Do We Protect Innocent Lives?
    “The New Dare to Discipline” by James Dobson

    © 2001-2010 This website and its contents are copyright and intended for educational purposes only. The information, research, experiences, and links contained herein have not been compiled by a physician and should not be considered as medical advice. Opinions expressed in the reference books and links may not in all cases reflect the beliefs of

    End Notes

    1. Teresa Whitehurst, How Would Jesus Raise a Child?, p.45.
    2. Samuel Martin, Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me, p. 18-32.
    3. Crystal Lutton, June 4, 2001.
    4. When Children became People; The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity.
    5. Crystal Lutton, June 4, 2001.
    6. Ibid.
    7. Gregory K. Popcack, MSW, LCSW, Ten Reasons I Can’t Spank.
    8. When Children became People; The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity.
    9. Samuel Martin, Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me.
    10. Gregory K. Popcak, MSW, LCSW, Ten Reasons I Can’t Spank.
    11. Alice Miller, Breaking Down the Wall of Silence – The Liberating Experience of Facing Painful Truth, revised edition, (New York, NY: Meridian Penguin Group, 1997), p. 35.
    12. Gregory K. Popcack, MSW, LCSW, Ten Reasons I Can’t Spank.
    13. Crystal Lutton, Biblical Parenting, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Millennial Mind Publishing, 2001).
    14. Kathy Woodard, Rebels Without a Cause, August 22, 2005.
    15. Brian D. Ray, Ph D., Homeschoolers Grown Up, 2004.
    16. William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N., The Baby Book – Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby – From Birth to Age Two, (New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 1993), pp. 5, 49.
    17. Alice Miller, Breaking Down the Wall of Silence – The Liberating Experience of Facing Painful Truth, revised edition, (New York, NY: Meridian Penguin Group, 1997), p.92.
    18. Ibid., p.140.
    19. Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté, Hold on to Your Kids, p.91.
    20. Ibid., p.102.
    21. Jan Hunt, Ten Reasons Not to Hit Your Kids, EPPOCH (End Physical Punishment of Children).
    22. Visscher, Marco, online article.
    23. HSLDA


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    Sears, William, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N. The Discipline Book – Everything You Need to Know to Have a Better-Behaved Child – From Birth to Age Ten. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 1996.

    Sears, William, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N. The Ministry of Parenting Your Baby – Joyfully prepare for your baby’s first year of life. Elgin, Illinois: LifeJourney Books, 1990.

    Sears, William, M.D. “Train Up A Child in the Way He Should Go,” Mothering, March-April, 1999.

    Stettbacher, J. Konrad. Making Sense of Suffering – The Healing Confrontation with Your Own Past. New York, NY: Meridian Penguin Book, 1991.

    Straus, Murray A. Beating the Devil Out of Them – Corporal Punishment in American Families and its Effect on Children. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2001.

    Turansky, Scott. Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in you and your kids! Colorado Springs, Colorado: WaterBrook Press, 2000.

    VanVonderen, Jeff. Families Where Grace Is In Place – Getting free from the demands, expectations, and intimidations of well-meaning people. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers,1992.

    VanVonderen, Jeff. Tired of Trying to Measure Up. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1989.

    Whitehurst, Dr. Teresa. How Would Jesus Raise a Child? Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2003.

    For more on this topic, choose from the following:
    Essay ~ Bible Verses ~ Quotes ~ Blog Posts ~ Books

    59 Responses to “Christian Child Discipline: Is Spanking Biblical? (No!)”

    1. sad says:

      Here in KY ignorance concerning the Bible and spanking is a way of life for these poor children.Everyday, I hear/see adults physically threaten or actually beat their children. It breaks my heart. It is also allowed in the public schools where they commonly use a thick piece of wood leaving bruises.

    2. [...] pray about this situation, specifically that the pastor of  JoshGen will understand God’s will in this situation. For your sharing [...]

    3. wanda says:

      excellent article. My parents were spanked, I was spanked and I spanked my kids. It is only since I have grown spiritually that I see the deleterious results of spanking to child and parent. I can’t turn back the clock but pray that upcoming generations will not go that route. obviously, since children learn from modeling their parents, their first introduction to bullying might very well come from spanking parents. It is so sad that professedly Christian homes are in the forefront in promoting the un-Christlike trend of spanking…thus driving their children from Christ and the Church. Thanks for so eloquently and scholarly explaining the background to spanking. May God abundantly bless you and yours!

    4. Jim Jackson says:

      Thanks you for this thorough work. We have concluded similarly to you, but without the rigorous study. We will certainly share this with our followers at

    5. Rhed Ryder says:

      I want to thank you for your in depth research and profound wisdom concerning the subjects of spanking vs. Biblical discipline. I can’t put into words what reading this article has done for me.
      My brother and I grew up in a household with a hard working father, but an overbearing mother. I’m sure that, even to this day, my father has little idea about the abuse that my brother and I endured when he was at work.
      Our mother, a professing Christian, was short tempered, closed minded, and had no trouble using the Proverbs “rod verses” to take a leather bel to our backs.
      I suppose that, because of modern Christian culture I have always just accepted it as “normal”, even though in my heart I knew something was wrong.
      I literally wept as read this article because it freed me from something that has bound my heart for years- in fact, I didn’t realize how much.
      My mother was so wrong. Beating us was not what our Heavenly Father wanted her to do to us and it is not what He would have me do to my children, should I ever be blessed to have any.
      I wept because I know that my mother was beaten as a child and it opened my eyes to reasons behind why she is the way she is today.
      I also wept because I am so terribly saddened that we as Christians have a tendency to be so ignorant of the very words that we live by! We live by many Biblical principles under such false pretenses. I will now speak out and be an advocate for truth- to educate my fellow Christians on the importance of researching the origins of our Scripture. Our ignorance is breeding such hate towards our Scripture in those that do not share in our belief in Jesus. I pray that I can be a catalyst to ignite a passion for truth- that I can make a difference- that people will draw others to our Lord with truth instead of push them away with blind ignorance.
      God bless you and thank you again.

    6. [...] are interpreting these verses incorrectly. I’m not going to go into them all here, but this link offers a good summary. 2. UNDERSTANDING THE NATURE OF [...]

    7. [...] they think treating children roughly will somehow teach them gentleness. The Biblical phrase “spare the rod and spoil the child” is especially beloved, taken to extremes, and misunderstood by religious zealots with poor [...]

    8. I just want to thank you for posting this on you blog. I was raised being physically, verbally and emotionally abused and by my parents who were not together but grew up with similar Biblical beliefs and an urban Latino culture

      They used the bible as a justification for the type of “Discipline” they used. Which in all Honesty turned me a bit off from wanting to know God or even read the Bible. It was a big reason why I struggled going to Church or anything until I began reading the Bible myself after High School and becoming a parent.

      I always wondered about the verses used to defend physical punishment. When I read them I read them as a metaphor or hyperbole or even a miss translated word. That was going on prayer and personal feeling but I never looked deep into it myself… Thank you for doing such an in depth study on this Subject! I plan to share this with many!!!

      I think a lot of abuse stems from a misunderstanding of scripture, not knowing how to read literature (although the Bible is so much more then literature.) and cultural influence.

      This is so helpful in understanding about my parents and helping me forgive my parents, now knowing they read from KJV their entire lives and recently my pastor expressed to me it was a badly translated version.

      Thank you so much!


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