Spanking, Beating, Whipping: The Bible and Disciplining Children
By Betty Miller
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24 (KJV)
He who spares his rod (of discipline) hates his son, but he who loves him diligently disciplines and punishes him early. Proverbs 13:24 (AMP)
The practical wisdom found in these verses in the book of Proverbs covers the subject of child rearing and corporal punishment. Children who are not properly disciplined, are among the most miserable of children. Unruly and spoiled children are not the blessings that the Bible says they should be to parents. When a child is given no boundaries, they feel lost. If they have been given boundaries, yet those boundaries are not maintained, it causes great harm to a child, as they will not only be in dangerous territory, they will also lose respect for authority. This is where we find so many of the children and youth of today. They are rebels, who not only disrespect authority, but openly defy all authority figures such as teachers, policemen, clergy, and their own parents. The blame rests upon the parents of these children, if they have not heeded the advice given in this and other verses found in Proverbs.
This brings us to the subject of how we should discipline a child who disobeys the rules. There has been much debate on the subject of corporal punishment (the spanking of a child). Corporal punishment simply means bodily punishment while the definition of spank in Webster’s Dictionary is: (1) to strike with something flat, as the open hand, especially on the buttocks, as in punishment. (2) to move along swiftly or smartly, a smack given in spanking. This is what the Bible says about spanking:
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15
Withold not discipline from the child, for if you strike and punish him with the (reed-like) rod, he will not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. Proverbs 23:13-14
First of all, discipline of children should begin at an early age, whenever a child begins to defy the parent. Remember the old saying, “He who spares the rod, spoils the child.” Notice that the Bible says that all children have foolishness in their hearts. The Bible definition of a fool means one who is a rebel, so this is saying that all children have rebellion in them and when it surfaces, it is our duty as parents to drive it out of them. We are to do this by punishing them with a whack on the buttocks with a small reed-like rod. This rod could be a switch from a fruit tree branch or a willow tree branch or a small wooden spoon. It is not to be a large heavy rod or anything that would cause permanent physical damage. The purpose of a spanking is not to cause any lasting bodily harm, but to cause spiritual correction. A spanking should be swift and cause short lived pain that makes a point. That point is that the small pain they feel now will prevent them from feeling great pain by the act they are committing, which could cause them loss of their lives in some cases. (For instance, if a child tries to run across the street, they could be run over and killed.)
Spanking vs. Child Abuse
Some people say that all spanking is child abuse, but this is totally wrong. The real abuse to the child is not to spank them when they need correction. Of course, some parents, who themselves are out of control, can abuse their children by beating them in angry rages. This is child abuse; however, it does not justify doing away with spanking children if it is done properly, and for the right reasons. Parents who beat their children, need help themselves. They are sinful people and they not only will abuse their children by beating them, but will hurt them in other ways as well. Many times, these same children are left to go hungry and uncared for. They have no love. These kind of homes need the love of Christ so that the whole family can be healed. We are not to spank our children with uncontrolled anger, and thus hand out unjust punishment.
Discipline your son while there is hope, but do not (indulge your angry resentments by undue chastisements and) set yourself to his ruin. Proverbs 19:18 (AMP)
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Godly discipline will keep children from being dysfunctional later in life. We are told as Christian parents to train our children in the ways of the Lord and when he grows up, he will not depart from that training. Notice it says “train” not “teach.” Many parents teach their children right from wrong, but have failed to “train” them to obey. Spanking is part of the training. Many parents yell and threaten their children, but never follow through with the proper punishment and therefore their children get their own way. A disciplined child will bring great delight to parents, while the child left alone will bring shame to the home.
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left undisciplined brings his mother to shame. Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your heart. Proverbs 29:15, 17 (AMP)
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4
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