Corporal Discipline (aka Corporal Punishment and Spanking) is strongly supported by God in the Bible

Our response to an e-mail we received from someone who claims to be a Christian, and who considers all forms of spanking to be "child abuse"

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Occasionally we get e-mails from people who claim to be Christians, but who also express their concern to us that all forms of corporal discipline is "child abuse".  We want to share one we received in August 2005 that is pretty typical so that we can respond to some of the common mistakes these often well-meaning but misguided people make.  The e-mail we received will be in blue text.  Our point-by-point response will appear in black text.

I thought I had seen it all. I am a Christian, and a great believer in spirituality, peace, and in the love for children. Mom and I raised two beautiful boys, now in college. During their entire upbringing, sir/madam, not ONCE did we ever raise a hand, a stick or piece of wood, remove my belt, yell, scream, or otherwise treat my kids with disrespect.

We would agree that a good parent should strive to avoid responding to a child's disobedience in an angry way.  If this gentleman and his wife actually were able to avoid ever responding in an angry manner, then they are to be commended for that.  However, this reminds me of an excerpt from Dr. James Dobson's book (page 24) "The Strong-Willed Child". 

Furthermore, I have found that the parents of compliant children don't understand their friends with defiant youngsters.  They intensify guilt and anxiety by implying, "If you would raise your kids the way I do it, you wouldn't be having those awful problems."  May I say to both groups that the willful child can be difficult to control even when his parents handle him with great skill and dedication.  It may take several years to bring him to a point of relative obedience and cooperation within the family unit."

I know nothing about this man's children.  However, it has been my personal experience that people who claim to have achieved this super-parent status probably never had to deal with a truly strong-willed child of their own from birth to adulthood.  We have six children ranging in ages from 1 1/2 to 20 years old.  Two of them were very strong willed from the get-go.  Our children who were more compliant in nature have not engaged in anywhere near the number of direct challenges to our parental authority as our strong-willed children have. 

Parents who have very strong-willed children know exactly what I'm talking about.  They know full well that relying solely on the approach he describes will not work with these kinds of kids. We've seen too many times the results of that kind of parenting of strong-willed kids.  The parents are often guilt-ridden, ineffective at controlling their children, and are at their wit's end as to why they can't get their children under control and in compliance with their wishes. Or they exist in a blissful state of ignorance, unaware of how disrespectful their children really are because they have grown accustomed to accommodating direct challenges to their parental authority instead of dealing with it head on as God commands them to.  In short, because they have ignored God's advice for how to deal with defiance in a child, they end up living with far more frustration and problems than they should.  Their children also suffer a stunted spiritual growth.  Because they haven't learned to bend their wills to their parent's authority, they often will not bend it to God's authority either.  As a result they are less teachable and experience slower if not halted spiritual growth.

 

After reading the shameful stories your site gives on corporal punishment, I just had to pass this on to the MANY people I know around this great country of ours who discourage spanking children.

As Christians, we should first and foremost be concerned about what God has to say about the matter.  We see examples all around us of the foolishness of placing the opinions of fallible sinful secular "experts" over the infallible word of God.  We also see how many well-meaning Christians have been deceived by these doctrines of man that are in direct conflict with Biblical truths.  We only need to look at the large number of scientists who fervently believe in the evolution fairy tale as an example of why Christians need to be careful about NEVER following any belief system that is in direct conflict with God's Word.  For instance, in spite of the fact that about 90% of scientists today are atheists or agnostics, and that God gave us specific warnings about evolutionism, many Christians have foolishly allowed themselves to be deceived by their clever deceptions concerning the evolution myth.  They have compromised with the world instead of standing firm, secure in the knowledge that God does not make mistakes, and that his Word can be trusted in all matters (including matters of discipline).  The Christians who are "don't spank" advocates have fallen into that same spiritual trap.

Another way the "don't spank" Christians cause great spiritual harm is to set a very bad example for their own children and others on how to interpret the Bible.  Just has God went out of his way to tell us that the biblical "days" of creation are normal 24 hour days, so too was he clear on his advice to us about using spankings when appropriate.  When parents set a bad example for their children by engaging in eisegesis in their Bible interpretation, and they don't follow well established methods of hermeneutics, it's no big surprise that children who are exposed to this kind of interpretation learn from those examples and start misinterpreting the bible in other ways.  It can lead to a slippery slope that causes all kinds of wrong applications of scripture, the watering down of the truth in churches that these kids will eventually lead, and compromising that turns their otherwise sharp sword of the truth into a dull sword that is far more ineffective or even useless.

 

There are so many ways to discipline your kids WITHOUT spanking them.

We agree.  Parents should have a variety of options available to them including spanking. There have been many good Christian books written on the topic and we encourage parents to read them. However, there are times when corporal discipline is appropriate and necessary.

 

I was always able to reach my boys just by communicating with them.  Kids need to be allowed to make mistakes growing up. 

Talking with a child and staying in touch with what he/she is thinking is a very good idea.  However, God says that children should never be allowed to engage in direct defiance of parental authority (Proverbs 29:15, Titus 1:6, Ephesians 6:1-2, Colossians 3:20).  Unfortunately many Christian parents who ought to know better dismiss blatant defiance as mistakes their kids are making, as "boys will be boys", etc.  To the Biblically trained eye, these children and their parents are easy to spot.  They have become so accustomed to accommodating their children's disobedience, and to responding to it with weak and ineffective actions, that more often than not they no longer even realize a defiant challenge and blatant disrespect even when it should be obvious to them.  

We see this all the time, even in church leaders who ought to know better.  Some churches have been so poisoned by the "don't spank" message and the guilt it causes parents that they allow men into church leadership positions who are clearly disqualified from being there because of the behavior of their children.  One pastor I talked to a year ago told me that as far as church leadership qualifications are concerned, the Bible verse that is probably the most ignored by churches today is this one. Many churches are paying a heavy price for ignoring this command from God:

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;  Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;  One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)   
1 Timothy 3:2-5

 

You can't justify "hitting" (and make no mistake about it, spanking is just plain HITTING!) any child, whether they be a 2-3 year old, or a teenager, not for any reason you "claim" is a bible and God-giving reason.

I mean no disrespect to this man, but it is obvious to me that he really doesn't have any idea what the Bible actually teaches about spanking.  Nobody who has truly studied the Bible thoroughly on this matter, and who has approached their Bible study from the approach of exegesis instead of eisegesis would make such an uninformed statement.  To equate biblical spanking with "hitting" (in the way he uses the word) demonstrates a profound ignorance about the scriptures on this matter.

 

Do you know what the experts say? (And, by the way, MANY are also Christian people!) 

The problem of some Christians elevating the opinions of fallible scientists to the same or higher level than the word of God has already been mentioned previously.  But I'll expand on it a bit more here. It is a sinful practice that unfortunately leads many well-meaning Christians into wrong doctrines, wrong applications of those doctrines, and into direct conflict with God Himself.  The hard truth is that today, many Christians turn first to science and scientists for answers.  If the Bible disagrees, they assume the Bible to be wrong, or they engage in hermeneutical back flips to try to make the Bible somehow agree with the conclusions of scientific studies, etc.   This is NOT the approach that God demands this his children take.  We are to first seek out what God has told us on all issues, use sound hermeneutics and exegesis to interpret its true meaning, then trust that God knows what he's talking about regardless of the conclusions of science or sinful, fallible scientists.  Failure to trust what our all-knowing God says, and choosing instead to place our trust and confidence in the opinions and conclusions of fallible sinful men who don't know everything is always a recipe for spiritual disaster.  Christians who are involved with this "don't spank" movement need to recognize that they are involved in an evil cause that like evolutionism, is in direct conflict with their God.  They need spend a lot of time in serious Bible study and prayer, get their attitudes straightened out, and get into this fight on the right side of the issue. For more information, see our Misinterpretations of these Bible verses link:

 

Spanking a child is simply nothing more than child abuse. 

To equate parents who lovingly discipline their children in a way that God says they should with child abusers is not only slanderous, it is in direct conflict with the 9th commandment which says:

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Exodus 20:16

 

It teaches them violence, it doesn't cause them to respect their parents or teachers or principals, it teaches them to FEAR them. It may have some reward in the short term, however, the long term affects of spanking and corporal punishment is devastating!!

Again, I mean no disrespect, but this is complete nonsense.  It sounds to me that he has been exposed to way too much of modern psycho-babble about this issue.  I know of many parents who have used corporal discipline on their children and they haven't seen anything like this happen.  Five of our children are boys whose ages are 5, 8, 13, 17 and 20 years old.  If what he says is true, these boys with all the "abuse" we have allegedly inflicted on them with an occasional spanking should be beating each other to a pulp on a daily basis.  Yet in all these years, I can't recall even a single fist-fight between ANY of our boys.  In fact I have to struggle to think of any incidents where any physical aggression was used such as pinching or pushing.  There have probably been no more than 5 - 10 of those kind of incidents in the past 15 years.  

Our oldest son is an Eagle Scout and a member of the National Honor Society.  He won an academic scholarship to a Christian college and it starting his sophomore year there.  He is also a deeply committed Christian who's love for the Lord and for his family is obvious.  I do remember a situation where our 17-year old stood up to five of his friends when he was in 4th grade because they had teased a girl on the playground to the point of driving her to tears.  He didn't want to fight them, but he was prepared to do so if they didn't leave her alone.  They taunted and teased him but he refused to back down. Today he is a young man who is trying hard to be a committed Christian. He has never been in a fight and is well respected by his teachers and fellow students.  It's pretty much the same story with our other children.   

I have been around so many kids over the years while raising my own. I have been coach, friend, big brother, temporary dad, shoulder to cry on, someone to talk with, for over 20 years. I have seen more abuse based on spanking than I could ever have imagined! I have had teen boys come to me crying because their fathers whipped them with a leather strap or belt simply because they disagreed with dad about something minor, or, in the case of a so-called private "Christian" school, spanked for a minor violation of a school rule! Like chewing gum, public display of nothing more than holding hands with their girlfriends, growing a moustache (that boy was nearly 18!), hair too long, violation of the school dress code because he wore white instead of required blue socks, being 5 minutes late to class twice, etc.

I had to take in two boys, ages 13 and 11, one time because their father spanked them so many times, they had bruises and welts all over their buttocks, backside, and legs. This father thought it was his God-given right to discipline his boys the way he was taught to do so (and thank you James Dobson for that one!). Their mother had passed away many years prior to that, and I came to know these boys through my son's soccer league. I can't tell you the feelings and the tears I had inside when these boys came to me for help. They needed love, not hitting! Fortunately, the courts saw fit to take them away and place them with LOVING and supportive foster parents. The boys thrived in an environment where NO SPANKING was ever done. Their grades went up, their self respect went through the roof, as did their self confidence! I keep in touch with both of these boys, and I can tell you they are happy, successful, loving, and GOOD kids thanks to those foster parents, and NO thanks to the ABUSIVE FATHER!

Several years ago I served as a reserve police officer on a large metropolitan police department.  I remember one of my field training officers telling me that usually within 3-5 years, most police officers will develop a cynical attitude towards the public.  Later I talked with several other veteran officers who had not become cynical.  I asked them how they were able to avoid becoming so negative towards the public when most other veteran officers were.  There were three factors that helped them to stay positive.  One of them was that they deliberately exposed themselves to positive people and positive situations that had nothing to do with police work.  I suspect a similar situation here. This man has had so many bad experiences with truly abusive parents, that he's become highly cynical on this matter.  His cynicism has completely blinded him to the fact that corporal discipline, when done in a manner prescribed in the Bible, is appropriate and very good for the child.   

Additionally, the incidents he described that are true abuse situations in no way resemble the biblical approach to spanking a child.  They are like day and night.  Claiming that they are one in the same is a gross distortion of the facts, and as mentioned before, demonstrates a profound ignorance of what God's Word actually teaches on this matter.  There will always be people who twist God's word to justify some sinful behavior.  But that doesn't mean the Word itself is in error.  We should not make the serious mistake of throwing the baby out with the bath water.  

 

I just hate seeing the incredible naivety you folks have. God and the bible NEVER meant for us to hit or spank our children like you advocate. Please, I beg you..STOP IT!! Instead teach your followers how to work with their kids, how to communicate without hitting and without yelling, teach them how to love and support your children and to take the time to LISTEN to them when they come to you.

We have links on our "corporal discipline" page that provide links to excellent materials that address a full range of discipline options.  We believe this gentleman and people who believe as he does should spend some time viewing those tapes and reading those books to see what God really has to say about this issue.  I suspect that if they do so with an open mind they will begin to understand how modern psychology has helped to push us far off the path from where God intended for us to be on this matter.  I believe that the very best resource to start with is a videotape titled "What the Bible has to say about spanking".  

 

I just wish you could see the incredible amount of child abuse that comes from the emotional and physical damages done to these kids. I could show you THOUSANDS of stories and pictures of damaged kids. All the name of discipline, all in the name of the so called way of God and the following of the Bible..ENOUGH!

Thank you.

(Name withheld to protect the person's privacy)

Look hard enough and you'll see many times more than that the number of well-behaved, well-adjusted and spiritually blessed children who had parents that chose to believe God over the foolish secular "experts".  What we don't need is more of this unwise bashing of God's Word on this issue.  Instead, our churches should be working hard to make sure they're teaching parents how God really wants parents to train and discipline their children, including the issue of spanking.  They should also be publicly challenging the "don't spank" advocates inside and outside of the church with the intent of exposing the foolish advice they dispense for being the spiritual poison that it is.  

With all due respect to this gentleman, I think he should think long and hard about whether he should be engaged in a battle like this against his Lord and creator.  The Lord's truths and wisdom often fly in the face of what an ignorant and uniformed world believes.  

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. 1 Corinthians 3:19

His time would be far better spent promoting Biblical materials that teach parents what God actually wants them to do in terms of how, why and when they spank a child, as well as on other training and discipline matters.  He and other Christians like him should also be encouraging their local churches to get these materials in their library and to encourage their members to study them. 

To those parents who are struggling with this issue, we encourage you to visit our link about corporal discipline.  Get these materials listed in the reference section and get yourself educated.  Learn what God actually wants you to do in terms of training and disciplining your children.  If you need to use a spanking every now and then, then don't let these nay-sayers make you feel guilty about doing it.  Here's what God has to say about that:

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.  Proverbs 19:18

To those parents who are truly abusing their children, or who have anger problems when dealing with their children's defiance, please consider these words of wisdom from our Lord on that matter in the Bible verses:

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, provoke not your children [to anger], lest they be discouraged.  Colossians 3:21

You are doing tremendous harm to your children and God will hold you accountable for it.  This man who wrote to us is right in that in many cases, this kind of true abuse does carry a high risk of causing your children immeasurable psychological, spiritual and sometimes physical harm.  You need to take concrete steps to stop this behavior NOW.  Seek out the help you need from qualified Christian pastors and/or counselors.  There are also excellent resources for you at the bottom of our "Corporal discipline" link. 

To those parents who love their children enough to completely submit to God's authority and Word on all matters pertaining to their children's training and discipline (including spankings), rejoice in knowing that you will be rewarded for your efforts:

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

Praise be to our Lord that he gave us his holy inspired Word in the form of the Bible so that we would not have to be ignorant on these matters.  

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