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

    Hundreds of hurting people visit here every day, most of whom are searching for comfort after loss. Please reach out for emotional support as you begin the healing process. Be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to grieve. Let it out. May God be with you.

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    "Be completely humble and gentle;
    be patient, bearing with one another in love."
    Ephesians 4:2
  • 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. [...] Related Resources: Authoritarianism and Isolationism Among Us Parenting Freedom: Discipline Biblical Discipline: Conclusions Why Not “Train A Child”? Avoiding Millstones [...]

    2. [...] Related Resources: Authoritarianism and Isolationism Among Us Parenting Freedom: Discipline Biblical Discipline: Conclusions Avoiding Millstones AwareParent Forum TTUAC Review Leave a [...]

    3. [...] Parenting Freedom: Discipline [...]

    4. TruthSeeker says:

      Thank you so very much for taking the time to write this excellent article. It is the most thorough, most well-researched article I have ever come across highlighting the reasons to not spank. Too many Christians today still believe in this sad way of punishment, and I believe it’s people like you that will so lovingly help to change that. I hope it will be read by many and that those people will be wise enough to listen to the truths presented.

      God bless you! :)

    5. Angela says:

      Amen!!! Well said!!!

    6. dawn says:

      Great article. I feel like I am on the verge of a shift on this issue and it is very difficult to know how to respond to well-meaning Christian friends and our church, who are very much into the authoritarian parenting methods and PUSH every Tedd Tripp seminar that comes to town to the point where you feel like you’re not a good parent if you don’t go. I’ve had pastors actually make refutations of the “worldly advice” you give here regarding the definitions of the original Hebrew in proverbs. There is this almost idolatrous affection for the rod and an attitude that you are in sin if you don’t use it b/c you are violating scripture. Thank you for writing such a well-reasoned and thought-provoking article that gives me some real information to back up my growing conviction.

    7. D T Owsley says:

      Excellent and wonderful blog and material! I’ll pass it along on my blog and Facebook

    8. [...] Is Spanking Biblical? By Carol [...]

    9. Kelly says:

      Really, really excellent resource! I hope you publish a book someday! I just found your blog, but I can already tell I will be a frequent visitor. Thank you!

    10. Jennifer says:

      Wow, you have done a MAJOR service to the Christian community. Thank you SO much.. Thank you for sharing the fruit of your prayer and study with the rest of us. It confirms so much of what God has put on my husband and my hearts, but didn’t have a rebuttal for some of the feedback we’ve received for our position “not being Scriptural!”. So much more to say, but I will let this sink in first. God bless you!!

    11. [...] Chrsitian Child Discipline:  Is Spanking Biblical? No! [...]

    12. [...] in the Christian community. I’ve added a site, Parenting Freedom, to my blogroll. Please read this blogger’s explanation of why she and her husband believe that spanking is not Biblical. I wholeheartedly agree with [...]

    13. Erin says:

      Thank you SO MUCH for this incredible post! I have linked to you on my little blog.

    14. Ana Maria says:

      Wonderful article.
      Do you know if in the Fort Worth area there is a church that believe that spanking is not biblical. I have not found one.
      Ana maria

    15. carol says:

      I am sorry, but I do not know the answer.

    16. Carole says:

      Thank God for His work through everyone who has helped this site become a reality! My Husband and I have been praying for help and I was lead here tonight… We were both spanked as children. We have been blessed with two Sons (9 and 1 year old) and I have started spanking our almost 1 year old Son. It has been hard understanding the feelings we have all been experiencing through this important development for both our children and us.

      I’ve sought help from church, only to realize, that it’s still spanking wheter its in anger or love… a paddle or paint stick. It just didn’t fit. This site has been invaluable and I am so grateful for His amazing blessing through everyone who has contributed.

      I remember the feelings and realizations our Father has helped me with when I became a believer. The word of God is the undeniable truth. From my journey of being disciplined by spanking to being the spanking giver, I can tell that my nerves are out of whack and I’m growing distant from my children. I miss valuable teaching moments filled instead by mutual stress, pain, and tears.

      It may be a long journey, but “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” ~Philippians 4:13

      Someone recently told me that changes can’t happen over night, but I believe they can! If we believe, His work will continue in us… we have to believe He makes us better.

      If we can take on the challenge of ministering to our child(ren), we can accomplish reaching the hearts of older children as well! Personally, In order to fulfill His plan, He has truly made me feel that I need to start with a child. How can I possibly understand an adult if I have trouble with a child?

    17. M Kay Keller says:

      Thank you for the time you have taken to address this issue. As a young mom I read James Dobson’s book on how to raise children and quickly realized it did not feel right. My deepest regret of being a mother was that I tried any of his suggestions. Over the years I have felt outrage at how people justify and rationalize abuse against children by misquoting the bible. Having read it and studied it with a Strong’s Concordance which helped me understand the root words, I could not understand the misinterpretation of the bible verses people used to justify and raltionalize such bullying behavior towards defenseless children who only wanted their parents love and approval.

      Thank you1

    18. Alaskan says:

      This is terrific. I’m impressed. I am neither a homeschooler nor a churchgoer. I started reading expecting to read yet another treatise on why it’s a good idea to brutalize children as early as you can get away with.
      As a beaten child that has grown up to distrust the world and struggles with submission and anger issues, this is huge and refreshing. Good for you.
      I have two lovely children that I raised as you describe. My children have not grown away. I don’t believe that the social norm of adolescent parental rejection is natural and organic; I think it’s artificial and culturally-induced. It’s not a cultural norm in Europe and Asia. It’s just American.

      I have family (homeschoolers) who spanked babies, put newborns on rigid feeding schedules, taught them to communicate by sign language instead of speech. They have inappropriate boundaries and socialization, which becomes harder to deal with as they get older. What one could forgive in a 4 year-old is really awkward for a 13 year-old.
      The eldest is 21 and has not yet achieved a high school diploma.

      This is wonderful and I very much appreciate it. I hope there are more like you out there, and that you might be an influence of reason that spreads.

    19. Nicole says:

      Wow wonderfully written! Thank you for putting so much time into this subject, I have been searching for information like this for a while now. Blessings to you and your family!

    20. Hollie says:

      Beautifully written! I am a Sociology graduate student writing my master’s thesis on Religious Fundamentalism (group membership, authoritarian parenting/personality) and Attitudes toward spanking. But I am also a Christian. This article has helped me express my thoughts to my Christian friends! I hate that conversations with Christians tend to end with “its in the Bible, look it up.” This is so frustrating. I believe in the Bible and I also believe in information!

    21. Laurie B. says:

      Excellent! This is exactly what I needed! I have struggled with both family and friends who believe that the rod refers to a literal stick and that the bible endorses spankings. Thank you for this. I knew what the rod truly referred to, but didn’t know how to find proof of that. Good job!

    22. WOW ~well done Carol!

      We don’t beleive in spanking either, just gentle discipline.

      I have gotten “into it” with others on the issue!
      I was apauled when at MOPS (Mothers Of Preschoolers) lead by the Baptist church there was a “ASK A MOM”
      panel of pastors wife. The pastors wifes answer to ALL the questions the young moms had in regaurds to their sweet young babies and children was “SPANK” in the name of the bible! As a Catholic with different views was just sickened!

      Your post is so in depth, leaving nothing out! Great job!

      Peace and Blessings,

    23. RagingIconoclast says:

      Something to think about:

      In the U.S. Military, if a service member forces a prisoner to be nude as punishment, hits the prisoner with a phonebook, whips the prisoner with a belt, or does anything physical to a prisoner as a form of punishment (NOT in self defense), they often lose rank and their career.

      If an employer even pushes an employee, they can be charged with assault.

      If a teacher or employer uses their authority to coerce a male or female to remove their clothing, they can (and likely will) be convicted of sexual harassment.

      If one of my employees raised his voice to me or swore at me, and I took off my belt and whipped his/her butt, I would arrested and accused of assault and sexual harassment.

      But it’s okay as long as they’re children, right? Because no adult has EVER made sexual advances towards children.

      Your iconoclastic panache and gentle lampooning of an outdated, hypocritical, double-standard more was brilliant.

    24. Sarah Parent says:

      Thank you so much for all of your work! I recently wrote a blog post entitled “Spare the rod. Save the Child.” in honor of Spank Out Day (today). I am floored by the number of parents who validate physical violence and coercive parenting strategies by citing Christianity as the basis. Your post has come in very handy to share with those who misunderstand / misuse the scripture.

      Here is my post on spanking / coercive parenting:

    25. Tina N. says:

      thanks for this article, i have been enlightened, i just spanked my child for misbehaving and my parents got so angry, i became angry too for their meddling, i was shaking in anger and at the same time remorse for spanking my son, i was groping for answers and since my laptop in on i immediately google for answers, thank you so much that i have come across your website, i was crying when i read through all your articles,i made a mistake and it was clearly pointed out to me…from where i came from spanking is a part of our culture,but now i realized that its counter productive…i hope and pray that i will be able to train my son not by spanking anymore but by gentleness and love,thanks.

    26. Linda says:

      Very nice article. I have raised three to teens (one 18 and two 14 year old twins) and never spanked once. They are well behaved and have never been a problem. It’s interesting to me that if you hit anyone else (your spouse, a neighbor, anyone really) it would be considered assault, but it’s ok in the name of “discipline” to hit a child. In my mind (as a Baptist Christian woman) the “rod” of correction is guidance and not physical punishment. Too many people hide behind the name of religion to harshly discipline their children. It will affect them for a lifetime.

    27. [...] This isn’t a “to spank or not to spank” question, please don’t misunderstand me. Christians of good conscience and careful study of the Bible parent both with spanking and without spanking. [...]

    28. Libby Anne says:

      Love this! Such an eye opener! I hate it when people use the literal Bible to support a point without understanding the depth and richness of the Bible when looked at with more nuance!

    29. Rae says:

      Thank you so much for this article. I know that I was led only by the Holy Spirit to this blog…I can not even tell you how else I got here to this article. For several years now, I have prayed about this subject..I have 2 girls ages 6 and 7 we have never spanked our 7 year old…she has never “needed” to be spanked, if you will, however, just writing that makes me cringe..we have however, spanked our 6 year old. She is quite defiant and disobeys, lies, manipulate, etc…alot. Daddy does most of the spanking..I tend to breakdown after “popping her leg” it breaks my heart, I have always felt it was wrong and only taught her to “hit” as well. Well, that she does..”hit” her sister all the time, her behavior has not gotten better from the spanking…to be quite honest it has progressed and my husband and I discuss this alot. He knows my feelings on the spanking thing…I was spanked alot as a child (all 5 of us children were) with the belt, hand, fly swatter, wooden spoon, you name it- it was used. I never felt love..ever after a spanking-always resentment and pain, rejection. It has affected me all of my life. I find it hard to trust people, I am quick to anger, really strugge with submission in my marriage, yell at my children alot. I pray about this subject constantly and have asked God to show me what and how I should be disciplining my girls. Asked him to help me understand what the Bible says about spanking, etc…and felt like I was disobeying when I wanted to NOT make spanking a part of the discipline in our household especially when our Pastors in the past have told us that spanking is biblical. so confusing. Well, like I said, The Lord placed this article in my lap tonite. I wept as I read it. Then brought my husband into the kitchen, had him sit down and I read it to him. We both agreed that it begins with us…we speak and speak about how we are raising our children to Love the Lord and we are setting a terrible example for them! yelling at them, “popping” or “spanking” them…etc…we agreed that the change has to start NOW! and it will. Thank you for your hard work and research you put into this article. I can not tell you how it has blessed me and my husband. I will share it with my friends as well. Thank you Thank you.

    30. [...] Related Resources: Authoritarianism and Isolationism Among Us Parenting Freedom: Discipline Biblical Discipline: Conclusions Avoiding Millstones TTUAC Review Why Not Train a Child? Free [...]

    31. Rebecca says:

      Thank you thank you thank you. I have struggled so hard with this issue over the years. I do not yet have kids, but have been on the fence of which side of this debate I was going to fall on.

      I was severely disciplined with spanking as a child, and it had longlasting negative emotional effects (depression and anger and authority issues, mostly). I also feel that this harsh childrearing (by loving and well meaning parents, no less) directly contributed to boundaries issues I had. In my early twenties this led to unhealthy relationships with friends filled with drama and manipulation. It also directly led to an abusive marriage. While my exhusband did not hit me, the boundaries issues led to severe verbal and emotional abuse, and eventually threats to physically harm me (this ended the marriage).

      In my twenties, I always said that I would NEVER spank my kids. While watching my sister raise her children, and being exposed to the glut of extreme right fundamentalist parenting lit out there, I had my doubts, however, about the biblicalness of not spanking. Also, I saw how hard it was for my sister to parent her boy through a very tough tantrum phase where he was extremely defiant. She had had a general no spanking policy herself (due to our childhood) until his defiance got the better of both of us.

      However, two things have convinced me that I will not and can not spank my child. First, watching my rage when confronted by my nephew’s naughtiness reminds me of the deep well of pain from my own childhood.

      And this article has been key for me for exposing the unbiblicalness of spanking. Thank you thank you again for confirming what my heart feels.

    32. jlb says:

      God, THANK YOU SO MUCH for this enlightenment!!! I am SO thankful I came across this blog!! Kids are people, they are growing adults who need respect and love!

    33. Patricia says:

      Strangely enough, the ONLY part of the Bible which advocates spanking is Proverbs, penned by a king who couldn’t even discipline his own life. solomon, so-called child REARING expert, built idols for his heathen wives, some of whom were Moloch and Chemesh, that demanded child sacrifice. What about Solomon’s own parenting skills? His son Rehoboam was one ugly customer who threatened to beat his laborers with scorpions. NOWHERE in any of the gospels or epistles does Christ or His apostles command parents to beat their kids. It opens a can of worms. How big can the paddle be? How hard? How many hits for a spilled glass of milk? Proverbs also recommends that foolish people be pounded in a mortar and pestle and beaten with rods. Why don’t Christians enforce THOSE laws as well?

    34. Margaret says:

      I’ve always been critical of Pearls, Ezzos, Gothard, etc.–My husband grew up Gothardized/whipped and it had disastrous results, when coupled with his dad’s undiagnosed brain disease. However, as an adrenally-fatigued mother on pregnancy bed-rest and with a husband with same mental illness/brain disease and completely adrenally fatigued and unwilling or unable to discipline himself, and five kids one on way to boot, I find this article so frustratingly impractical that it makes me want to tear our my hair! I have real-life problems, and occasional a spanking seems the only way out for me, when my daughter who has food allergies we’re trying to treat is so defiant or so hysterical, a slap on the behind is the only way to get her into reality. I am in theory in agreement, especially on Biblical interpretation, but I’ve had enough real-life harsh discipline in life from my Loving Heavenly Father to know that life is so very hard and defiance is so very very dangerous, that I am able to use occasional spankings as a part of a repertoire of discipline without batting an eyelash, unless it’s in fear that attachment parents will find me mean. I’m a pretty lenient person, so perhaps over-lenience is the problem, but we’re very very tired and very very struggling. My two cents, if any response would be grateful. In every respect I agree except in real life! MB

    35. Rebecca says:

      Thank you so much for all the time, effort, and Christian love that you spent to compile this information. I would never say that my parents beat me, but I was spanked and as a single mother of an 18-month-old the idea of spanking has never felt right. My daughter and I live with my parents right now so I expect there will be some differences of opinion on this issue and I beg your prayers for patience, courage, and love as we begin this journey.

    36. [...] Click here for more information about why spanking is not actually commanded in the Bible. [...]

    37. [...] Parenting Freedom While I do not agree with every single thing on this page, the sections called “Is Spanking Really in the Bible?” and “Child (Na’ar) in Proverbs” and the sections about the rod are very helpful, well-researched, and well-thought out. [...]

    38. leah says:

      I was crying while reading this. It really breaks my heart that i am the cause of my kids’ behavior. I spank them every time they make mistakes. I was blinded but this article really opened my mind as a mother. Thank you so much for sharing this. God bless you more.

    39. Eve says:

      AWESOME post – so well written and meticulously researched! I am bookmarking this and sending it along to many of my friends. Thank you for the work and the heart you put into this!


    40. Glen says:

      Thank you so much. My wife have been led down the path of spank spank spank, and we have never felt right, or see any real great results from it. I live the idea of loving my children more, and punishing them less. Thanks for so much in-depth info on this very confusing subject!

    41. Wow! You have created a resource that any parent striving to be Christ’s image and a gentle parent should have!

    42. [...] to be understood in the literary, historical and cultural contexts in which they were given.  The Parenting Freedom blog has a cultural/language study that makes it plain that what the Proverbs are talking about, [...]

    43. [...] to be understood in the literary, historical and cultural contexts in which they were given.  The Parenting Freedom blog has a cultural/language study that makes it plain that what the Proverbs are talking about, [...]

    44. Rachel says:

      Thank you so very much for putting this together. May parents divorced when I was very young and my dad’s solution to anything wrong I did when I was younger was yelling and spanking. Not only is this article shifting what I think of biblical correcting of behavior, but it validates how I felt as a child. I doubted my dad loved me for many years because of how he dealt with me. Every mistake or misbehavior was taken personally, as if I were purposely trying to mess up things. I still think that spanking may have a place in discipline, though I haven’t done a lot of research yet, but it’s definitely a tiny fraction of a place, if it has one at all. I was also surprised to find out that it is not recommended for abused people to spank. I’d never hear of that before.

    45. Jess says:

      Thank you for sharing this. I just had my first child 17months ago. I was raised with corporal punishment, and fully expected I’d do the same with my own, until I met several families like yours, doing w/out successfully. That really got me thinking about the necessity for it. THEN…along came my daughter and even before she was born, I knew I could not harm the child inside me how I was harmed. Yes, I ‘survived’ but that doesn’t mean it was ‘good’ either. I refused to have a relationship with my parents for over a decade and still bear the scars (emotional; not physically, thank God) of living with them. Your blog and resources have helped me greatly.

    46. Karla Wasion says:

      This was fascinating! Thank you for your diligence in searching the scriptures. My children are grown and while we did believe in spanking when they were little, fortunately had to do very, very little of it. But this has really got me thinking, and I will use it when my children begin to have children of their own! Excellent stuff!

    47. Charles Terrizzi says:

      In genesis 21 Hagar’s son is referred to as both a yeled and a naar. You are forcing something into the scriptures. Your definitions are lackng.

      If you don’t like spanking help yourself…don’t commit blasphemey or you might get a divine spanking….He gives those out, unless you are not his…..

    48. Another great scripture is 1 Timothy 3:3-4 KJV which teaches that the man of god (in this case, a bishop) be “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;” and goes so far as to stipulate that he be “no striker.”

      That’s good enough for me.

      Great post, I quoted you on my new blog here …

    49. [...] question is easy.  Once you begin to delve into the Hebrew meanings, it soon becomes clear that the Bible does NOT teach us to spank our kids.  It DOES teach us to discipline them, but discipline is about making [...]

    50. Marie Carnine says:

      This is excellent. Thank you for all the time and effort that went into this article. It confirms what I believe and challenges other areas where I needed change. I will be sharing this link!


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