“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24). “Do not withhold discipline from a child…” (23:13). “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (29:15).
Is spanking child abuse? Maybe the way Adrian Peterson, Viking football star, did it. Discipline and punishment are not the same. Discipline is administered in love, not in anger. We are doing it for a child, not to a child. We are not getting back at them for disturbing our peace by fighting with a sibling. We are in full control of our emotions, speaking in a normal voice and conveying love, not irritation. If you are irritated at your child’s behavior, don’t spank. Give yourself a time-out so you can administer a spanking appropriately. A mom who understands this recently said to me, “If they don’t know I love them, I just lost them.” They need a firm, small object (like a ruler) with a gentle heart. Discipline is children-training, not corporeal punishment. It comes from our parental desire that children walk into their future with confidence, that they know who they are.
Child abuse is terrible. God will not hold parents guiltless who abuse their children. What we see at Cub’s is not deliberate, thoughtful, gentle, nor effective. It produces resentment and separation, not security and maturity. Parents who recoil from the idea of a spanking probably haven’t seen one administered with appropriate care. What we typically see is a vengeful parent embarrassed by children being children and using tone and volume to shame the them rather than giving them the gift of a deliberate spanking that will help control behavior. I would say, “Meet me in my study,” and they knew what it meant. I would quietly talk over what was violated, administer the spanking, then hug and pray together.
“No discipline is joyful at the time, but painful” (Hebrews 12:11). If it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t help. We are assisting a child to make a good decision the next time around: “I didn’t like the results of hitting my sister. Don’t think I want to do that again.” A spanking helps to restrain foolish behavior (more than a time-out), which is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15), and encourages positive behavior. We can trust Scripture to give us the truth. We just need to apply it in a way that makes it effective and leaves the event in the memory bank.
When I spanked Naomi once as a young girl (it didn’t happen often), she instinctively lunged toward me and hugged me as she cried. She felt my love. Had I shown anger, she would have been repelled rather than feeling welcome in my arms. Authoritarian parents who do not exhibit love will not get the results they want from a spanking. Nor will permissive parents who want to be close to their children but do not set strong boundaries or issue appropriate discipline. Authoritative parents who understand their training role and use spankings as one of the legitimate tools in their toolbox are building strong children who will likely become healthy adults, emotionally and spiritually. Children don’t usually come out of a timeout converted. They don’t say, “That was helpful. Now I understand why I shouldn’t hit my brother.” They are immature. Time-outs work better for adults.