When I was a kid, my parents spanked me if sweet reason didn’t stop me from misbehaving. The parents of most of my friends acted the same way. Today, however, spanking is controversial. Does the Bible say anything about the topic? Yes, actually; quite a lot.
First, the Bible offers a theological argument for disciplining children.
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in (3:11-12).
Discipline, here, is a broad term. It includes every action parents take to rear their children into holy, healthy, and happy kids – whether positive reinforcements or negative. We should discipline our children just as God disciplines us.
Second, the Bible shows us that love is the proper motive for disciplining children. God “loves” and “delights in” those he disciplines. That also should be our motivation when it comes to our children.
He who spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is careful to discipline him (13:24).
Third, the Bible reminds us that discipline is necessary because children must be reared.
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him (22:15).
Left to their own devices, without proper training by their parents, kids will not become the holy, healthy, and happy adults God wants them to be. Adults are made, not born; and discipline plays an important role in shaping them. Moreover, a well-reared child is a delight to those around him.
Discipline your son, and he will give you peace;
he will bring delight to your soul (29:17).
The rod of correction imparts wisdom,
but a child left to himself disgraces his mother (29:15).
To this point, I’ve talked generally about discipline. But Proverbs 13:24, 22:15 and 29:15 speak of “the rod” (or spanking) as a specific form of discipline. Should!parents spank? Maybe, but not necessarily@ Words are the first form of discipline and are often effective.
A rebuke impresses a man of discernment
more than a hundred lashes a fool (17:10).
Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence;
rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge (19:25).
If words are not effective, then what? At some point, might spanking become permissible? Two proverbs argue that spanking a child steers him away from future crime and even greater penalties.
Discipline your son, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to his death (19:18).
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 (23:13-14).
To spank, then, or not to spank?
My personal opinion, based on biblical teaching and personal experience, is that spanking can be an acceptable form of discipline. But it must be motivated by love; it must be preceded by words; it must be moderate, not abusive; and it must be a last resort.