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Who Will You Believe About Spanking?

God wants parents to use discipline to show children the seriousness of sin and the great solution found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

May 22, 2024

In recent years, corporal punishment has received a resounding rejection from most Americans. The “Gentle Parenting” movement has erupted in reaction to wrongful uses of spanking, and it has caused many to forsake spanking altogether. Large organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations have released statements condemning “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.”

The American Psychological Association (APA) has stated that “Physical discipline is harmful and ineffective” and “a new APA resolution cites evidence that physical punishment can cause lasting harm for children.” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement citing “new evidence” which “suggests that it may cause harm to the child by affecting normal brain development.” No parent wants that.

New psychological research papers written by “professionals” with doctorates from “respectable” institutions are cited as evidence. The threat is that if you spank your child, you will warp them permanently. These organizations want you to believe the use of corporeal punishment could cause your child to have a mental disorder.

“The new AAP statement includes data that show that kids who were spanked in their early years were more likely to be more defiant, show more aggressive behavior later in preschool and school and have increased risk for mental health disorders and lower self-esteem,” says pediatrician Karen Estrella, MD.”

There is one significant problem with these claims. They are not true. It is a lie that biblically sanctioned spanking causes permanent damage or mental illnesses in children.

How can I speak so dogmatically about why the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are wrong? Because they do not get to decide what is best for children. God does. They have no authority to decide what is true or not. These organizations can make as many statements about spanking as they please, but that doesn’t make any of them true. No group of individuals can change facts.

God’s Good and Loving Discipline

What does the God of the universe say about spanking? The Almighty loving God who wants what is best for families has sanctioned corporeal punishment as one tool for parents to use to raise up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1–4).

The Bible does not endorse abuse, nor does it sanction spanking done in anger. Physical violence is fundamentally different than loving biblical spanking. It is a slanderous accusation to equate physical violence with biblical spanking. The Bible forbids a sinful and abusive use of the rod. God hates abuse in any form and forbids it.

Proverbs 22:8 – “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.”

God is opposed to a rod of fury towards children. God is for a rod of love that is measured, controlled, and done in care. God’s painful discipline is not at odds with his love and should never be mistaken as abuse. Consider how God speaks about loving discipline in both the parenting relationship and its divine significance:

Hebrews 12:6–11

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Spanking is an opportunity to be clear on how the solution to our sin is only found in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Spanking gives parents an opportunity to share the gospel and can instill a proper respect for authority and morality. The logic is simple and plain in the Scriptures, “We have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?” (Hebrews 12:9)

The irony is the APA and AAP think spanking is automatically cruel, but it is them who are cruel. To leave a child to parent himself is neglect. To leave a child to himself without effective correction is unloving. Consider the following verses from Proverbs:

Proverbs 29:15 – “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”

Proverbs 13:24 – “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

Proverbs 23:14 – “If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.”

Proverbs 22:15 – “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”

Spanking is designed to be a means of love and grace to awaken us to the judgment that is to come, to provide moral clarity, and to point to the need for a Savior. God wants parents to use discipline to show children the seriousness of sin and the great solution found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Biblical spanking is designed to bring about salvation, and it certainly will not cause a mental illness.

Jesus vs. Pop-Psychology

Which studies will you believe? Will you believe the American Academy of Pediatrics, or will you believe God, who is the Creator of all? Will you believe the American Psychological Association, or will you believe Jesus, who loves the little children? You can’t have both on this issue. Ephesians 6:1-4, Hebrews 12:6-11, and Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:14; and 29:15 are fundamentally at odds with the statements made by these organizations. On this issue, it is Jesus vs. pop-psychology, and you cannot serve two masters.

If you have never learned how to practice loving biblical discipline with your young children, you can start with this short booklet called Help! My Toddler Rules the House by Paul Tautges.

This blog was originally posted at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, view the original post here.