When I was growing up, I was certain that spanking was the preferred form of punishment for children. This was due to my continued reception of this ‘Biblical admonition.’ Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’?  Actually, Ben Franklin said that quote in ‘Poor Richard’s Almanac. Over the years people have believed that it is God’s truth.

So what does the Bible say about spanking? Spanking is not a biblical term, but the use of the word ‘rod’ in biblical language means ‘spanking.’ Though the Bible says very little about spanking, it says quite a bit about discipline and instruction of children. And at no point does the Bible propose that the ‘rod’ or any kind of physical punishment is the first step in correcting a child.

1. Bring up children in the way they should go.

The first step of discipline in the home is to make sure the child knows the right path to take. God instructed parents as follows: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up…” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). It is important for parents to teach children the right way to live. We teach our children to eat right, brush their teeth, use manners, etc. We should teach them to live a godly life.

2. Stay in a close relationship with your children and share godly instruction with them.

Parents should pass on their wisdom to their children. This is best done by maintaining a good relationship. Let your children be close to you. Spend time with them. Encourage and affirm them. They will desire to learn from you because of this intimate relationship. It is not just quality time – it is quantity time. You cannot delegate this relationship to anyone else. Solomon remembered David, his father, when he said, “When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, ‘Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live.'” (Proverbs 4:1-4).

3. Practice discipline – Punish only if needed.

There is a difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline is to train a child in self control and submission to authority. Punishment is to cause pain for doing wrong as a deterrent. Punishment may be a part of discipline, but a small part.

Some Bible verses may help us in the area of discipline and punishment. “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death” (Proverbs 23:13-14).  Work on discipline, and be willing to use punishment. For parents who are hesitant about using the rod, they need to be reminded that the rod does not kill (we are not talking about abusive spanking) but the lack of discipline will kill.

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24). If you love your child, you had better pay attention to discipline. It may even be necessary to spank. Without discipline, your child will surely die.

Here a a few principles I have found effective in child discipline:

  • Spanking is for disobedience – not for clumsiness, embarrassment, or mistakes.
  • Don’t spank in anger. All you do is get angrier and angrier.
  • Talk before a spanking. Tell the child exactly what was wrong.
  • Follow up a spanking with touch. Hug your child and reassure them they are loved.
  • Pray with your child. Use prayer to talk with God about the offense, repentance, forgiveness and better behavior.
  • Never hit a child in the face. Your child has a natural cushion for a spanking.
  • Use a paddle, not your hand. Your child should never be afraid of your hand.
  • If you’re going to spank, do it immediately after the offense.
  • If you’re going to spank, do it firm enough to hurt but not to leave welts or bruises.
  • If your child changes the behavior, don’t spank. Isn’t that why you were going to spank them in the first place? Even if you promised a spanking, it’s okay to change your mind.
  • Spanking after the age of 9 is generally unproductive. Other methods of discipline are more appropriate.
  • If you have gone ‘too far’ in your discipline, ask forgiveness.
  • Take individual differences into account. Some children are disciplined by looking at them. Others need to be shown. Not all kids need to be spanked. Some kids need more spankings than others (myself included).

Do you have any other ideas for discipline of children?

See other article: The Hardest Job in the World – Being a Parent