Is Spanking An Acceptable Form of Discipline?
by Sylvia Cochran
So where does the truth lie?
Is spanking the Biblically approved right that ends all wrongs?
Is it a root cause for the violence in this world?
In an effort to truly understand spanking, its advantages as well as its disadvantages, the Christian parent will be wise in consulting Scripture to its fullest!
Proverbs 23:13,14 “Don’t fail to correct your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death.”
Little Tom, Dick, or Harry pulls on Fluffy’s tail, and the cat will promptly reply by scratching the offending hand. Dick or Jane think its fun to jump off the swing, and promptly end up with two bloody knees. Odds are, the kids will no longer pull the cat’s tail or jump off the swing. They learned a valuable lesson because of the pain inflicted as a consequence of their actions. In a similar vein, a proper spanking administered at the signs of willful disrespect against parental authority represents a consequence that will aid the child in respecting her/his boundaries.
This act of parental discipline will cure little Harry of rolling his eyes at dad, who is admonishing him not to cross the street. It will prevent teenaged Harry from “making out” with his prom date in the back of the VW, because he remembers the admonition of his dad, whose leadership he has grown up to respect and obey.
What is the best way to spank children? How does one spank properly?
- Never, ever spank in anger. If you feel like you’re about ready to lose it, step back! Spanking in anger will do nothing to teach the child, but instead, it creates a sense of dread in her/him that has nothing to do with training.
- Never, ever slap her/him in the face. What some call euphemistically a “slip of the hand” is actually a form of child abuse and has no place in a Christian household.
- Never, ever shake your infant. Infants are not candidates for spankings or similar modes of discipline. Shaking an infant may actually kill her/him. A child under the age of 15 months should never be disciplined by a spanking.
- Never, ever pull on your child’s arm, or jerk her/his shoulder. Nowhere in the Bible does it discuss this kind of discipline, and the hospital emergency rooms are full of children with broken bones, dislocated shoulders, and ashamed parents.
- If you spank, do so only to the buttocks, and only use one or two swats.
- If you spank, do it only as a last resort for the major infractions.
- Never, ever spank for the little follies a child engages in, the mistakes s/he makes, the errors in judgment s/he confesses, and/or the accidents that happen in the course of being a child. A broken vase is no reason to spank your toddler. Instead, it may be a good time to reevaluate your decorating sense around a small child.
- If you spank, do not spank with your hand. Instead, use a small instrument such as a small wooden spoon. You do not need a big instrument of punishment to get the point across.
- If you spank, you are the one who is to perform this task. Do not delegate it to a friend, relative, church member, etc. In the same vein, if you do not spank, do not allow a friend, relative, or church member to do so when the child is in her/his care. You are the parent, the buck stops with you.
- Never, ever spank a child who suffers from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A spanking has a totally different effect on her/him than it would on a child who does not suffer from this illness.
- Never, ever spank a child who has been physically/sexually abused. The potential for (psychological) harm far outweighs the benefit of deterring an inappropriate behavior in this way.
- If you spank, be consistent. If little Tom knows that his chances of getting a spanking for deliberately spilling the soup on his mother at home are great, but in a restaurant are non-existent, he will begin playing the odds. Either be consistent or find alternate methods of discipline that you are more likely to use inside the home and out.
- If you spank, recognize that it is not a cure-all. The actual discipline is affected in the aftermath of a spanking, and prior to its occurrence, when the child is brought to the understanding of the wrongdoing. The actual infliction of physical pain is a reminder of the lesson learned, not the lesson in itself.
“Wars, And Rumors of Wars”
Many a parent is cowered into non-spanking submission, not because they decide their child would not benefit from this form of discipline, or because they realize that while God allows for corporal punishment, they have been able to achieve the same effect with a stern look, a serious warning, or other means. No! Instead, they have fallen victim to the “old wives’ tales” concerning spankings, that crop up now and again in the form of official-looking studies and documents.
Here are some myths spanking opponents offer, and some efforts that were made to debunk them.
- Spanking leads to spousal abuse. Not so according to John Rosemond, Ph.D. In his book To Spank or Not To Spank: A Parents’ Handbook, he states that while some of those who were abused as a child may, in turn, abuse their spouses, the data did not suggest that the same could be said for those who were spanked.
- Spanking causes depression and a lowered mental capacity. Not so according to Dr. Diana Baumrind of the University of California, as quoted in The New York Times. In an address to the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, she cautioned against mixing in the case studies dealing with children who were spanked and those who were physically abused. Similarly, Dr. Robert Larzelere of the University of Nebraska Medical Center stated that a review of 38 studies that dealt with children who were spanked (not abused!) prior to reaching the age of 7 evidenced no harmful effects.
- Spanking causes/encourages hitting of others. A favorite amongst anti-spanking advocates, yet nothing but a fallacy according to researchers at the Center for Family Research at Iowa State University. They found that “childhood aggressiveness has been more closely linked to maternal permissiveness and negative criticism than to even abusive physical discipline.” (Olweus, Dan. “Familial and Temperamental Determinants of Aggressive Behavior in Adolescent Boys: A Causal Analysis.” Developmental Psychology. 1980; 16:644-660.)
- Spanking is a form of violence. Not according to the Bible (Proverbs 3:11) or Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. 1987; p. 1316. Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Inc. In it, violence is defined as the “exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse”, which does not have a place in a Christian household, and most certainly is not the object of a spanking.
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