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Should I spank my child?

Should I spank my child? Spare the rod? A closer look at why you should NOT spank

I’ll be honest I’ve been avoiding updating this post for a while because I didn’t want to get into a debate, but when I saw a post last year on Instagram outlining the detailed steps to spank your child I couldn’t ignore it any longer. My heart ached for the poor child on the receiving end of this punishment.

“Much harm has been done in the name of love, but no harm can be done in the name of respect.”

Magda Gerber

For years (probably more like centuries) parents have been spanking their children. Most often with their hand but some with belts, sticks or worse. So where did this start? Why do they feel it is effective?

Why do parents spank their child? 

Most people quote “spare the rod spoil the child.” Did you know that isn’t even in the bible?! It is a quote from a poem by Samuel Buttler written in the 17th century. He wrote the poem as a satire against the politics and Puritans of the time. If you look deeper into the meaning of that part of the poem you probably wouldn’t even wish to quote it because it is humorously indecent metaphor suggesting the best way to curtail amorous passions, or to prevent conception. [1]

There are some verses in Proverbs too that are often quoted as reasons for spanking such as: 

Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24

Foolishness is bound in the heart of the child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Proverbs 23:13

Spare the rod, spoil the child is not even in the Bible.

The premise is that by applying a negative punishment the child will learn not to do the undesirable behavior again. Now think about that for a moment. If you were hit, would you associate the two at all? Would you be okay with being hit every time you messed up now as an adult?  Would any of that help you become a better person and have a loving relationship with God? Um… no!

And yet spanking and other forms of punishment are done in the name of love, obedience and the Bible. These verses have been misinterpreted and misused for far too long. It is time we took a closer look at the implications of spanking and also what these verses really meant.

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What are the effects of spanking?

According to Psychology Today

 “Spanking is correlated strongly and quite exclusively with multiple negative outcomes for children. The negative outcomes often appear only after the spanking has begun, and the effects of spanking remain significant and sizeable”

 the article [3] goes on the state that

 “From a Psychoanalytic Theory perspective, being spanked is bound to elicit feelings of resentment, hostility, fear, and shame in children. Such feelings may be suppressed due to fears of retaliation or rejection on part of the parent, but are bound to emerge later in the form of neurosis or chaotic emotional expression.”

The New Your Times also has a good article in which the American Academy of Pediatrics warns against the harmful effects of corporal punishment in the home. [4] It is associated with increased aggression and defiance. Certainly the opposite of what parents are hoping for. Spanking is often prescribed to be done after everyone is calm. A child who is hit later does not relate it to the behaviour they had done even if you lecture them. 

What does the rod in the Bible mean?

1) It is the symbol of the shepherdʹs guardianship of the sheep; 

2) It can be thrown with great accuracy just beyond the wandering sheep to send the animal scurrying back to the flock; 

3) The shabat can be used to ward off an intruder and protect the sheep from any animals which may attack; 

4) The sheep are counted as they ʺpass under the rod;ʺ 

5) It is used to part the wool in order to examine the sheep for disease, wounds or defects which may be treated

So security, guidance, protection, evaluation and diagnosis. There is no evidence that beating was involved.

How should we interpret Proverbs verses?

The whole book of Proverbs was meant to instil wisdom to the reader. It was intended for a young man to learn responsibility for his actions. There are many more verses about parenting in Proverbs and all point towards learning responsibility and that parents should train, and guide their children. If we took all of Proverbs literally then Proverbs 23:1 implies we should punish ourselves for over eating (Thanksgiving would look a lot different if people did that).

The Bible is very clear that we should treat others with love and kindness. So then this too should apply to our children. I wrote more on gentleness in the Bible here.

These verses reminding parents to guide, lead and support their children. The word discipline also is misinterpreted far too often. The origin of discipline is Latin for training and instruction. So if we take in everything we have learned your could read Proverbs 13:24 more like this:

Those who spare guidance and protection hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to train them.

Should I spank my child? What is the best way to discipline your child?

Honestly you will have to decide what you feel is best for your family. There is enough research and evidence that show Authoritarian or Permissive parenting are ineffective and lead to rebellion, resentment and lack of a close relationship with your child. Authoritative parents are kind but firm. They hold loving limits but a great deal of empathy and understanding. 

Gentle, peaceful and respectful parenting are all names given to parents who chose to move away from the traditional methods of punishments, time-outs and rewards. These parents seek to form close relationships with their children, focus on problem solving and mutual respect. 

As a Christian I believe that the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 should apply to all relationships in my life, including my children. So I seek to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful and demonstrate self-control.

If you’d like to learn more about Biblical guidance for your peaceful parenting journey then join us for the Gentle Parenting Summit October 4-8

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For more information about spanking please read or listen to the following:

Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me by Samuel Martin www.biblechild.com

Tending Sheep Podcast: 

Articles:

https://connectedfamilies.org/ (has a free pdf on their perspective on spanking)

https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/what-does-spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child-mean.html

References:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudibras

[2] https://www.faithtrustinstitute.org/resources/articles/Rod-of-Guidance.pdf

[3] https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/insight-therapy/201802/the-spanking-debate-is-over

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/05/health/spanking-harmful-study-pediatricians.html