Heath Lambert: We are thrilled to be joined by Stuart Scott, a Professor of Biblical Counseling at The Master’s University, the Membership Director at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, and a fellow with ACBC. We’ve asked Dr. Scott on the podcast, this week, to talk to us about a very controversial issue; that issue is the one of parents spanking their children. If you do not believe that is a controversial practice, it is because you have not read any mainstream magazines on parenting. The word is out that it is wrong to spank your kids, yet, in the midst of that, we have the Bible which teaches that parents are to use the rod in the correction and discipline of their children. The command to use the rod in spanking, however, does not guarantee that any individual parents’ particular practice of spanking is without error.
We wanted to ask Dr. Scott about some common mistakes that parents make when they spank their children. The Operations Director of ACBC, Sean Peron, caught up with Dr. Scott to ask him some questions about it. Here’s their conversation.
Sean Peron: Stuart, we get a lot of questions from listeners and counselors about spanking, and we want to know, what does the Bible teach about spanking, and is spanking something that parents need to be concerned about?
Stuart Scott: Well, it sure is. It’s a blessing to be here and to even address this issue. First of all, just what does the Bible teach about spanking. In Ephesians 6:4 parents are told, “do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline training and instruction of the Lord.” So, our responsibility as parents is to do that as faithfully as we can with the help of the Spirit of God, for the glory of God, and parents need to be reminded that there’s no guarantees that our children will respond to that process the way they want them to. One of the words God uses here in the disciplined training is the word paideia; it is a family term which means there are several things about disciplining that are involved, like structure rules, guidelines, restrictions, correction, and even spanking and rewards.
There are many tools in this discipline training toolbox; even throughout Scripture there’s a reap what you sow discipline, there’s additional work we see in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, there’s loss of privileges, loss of rewards, and the Bible even talks about the rod of men, people outside your family; even a nation could be disciplined, and the corporal chastisement, which we think of, as spanking. But it’s in Proverbs most, all of the references to the spanking are in Proverbs, which is kind of interesting because it’s not so much a command, as much as, it’s in wisdom literature, as an extremely wise thing to do. So, parents must not neglect any forms of discipline to try to help their child to not pursue foolishness but instead make wise choices. The Bible teaches that if a child is more in the defiant end of a parent’s instruction a certain amount of pain can be a very helpful deterrent to their sinful choices and should be administered.
Spanking isn’t for everything, it’s more for the defiant, rebelliousness of a child, and it’s something that we should be concerned about here in the United States. In 52 countries, it’s illegal. So it’s 52 countries right now, it’s illegal to spank your child. It’s not illegal yet in the United States, but if you’re in foster care as a foster care parent, you dare not spank the child. If you’re under court order, not to spank, you dare not spanked. Parents who are even living in the countries where it’s illegal, there are other methods of discipline other than spanking, is just an extremely wise thing to do. So, I think there should be a concern in our culture that we do it privately, and we don’t do it out of anger, but our secular culture likes to call it hitting or striking your child or abusing your child, even, so we do need to be concerned how we talk about it and how we administer it.
Sean Peron: You mentioned spanking out of anger, is that common, or what would you say are the most common mistakes that parents make in this regard?
Stuart Scott: Yeah, and there are several. Anger is one of them. Spanking out of anger is probably one of the more common ones, and that’s more out of what you want as a parent and they’re not willing to heed your instruction, so you get angry and spank. Some parents tend to use spanking for everything; they think there’s just one tool in the discipline process. Some parents fail to get all the information. Heard the message last night from Dr. Lambert that there are parents that are slow to hear and swift to speak; they quickly get angry, and that can happen in parenting, you don’t get all the information, so you’re slow to hear and your swift to speak, rather than the other way around.
Also, they give in to the fear of man, “what will other people think,” so that may curtail what they do. Even being afraid of what the child might think, that the child might not like them after they spank, so they don’t do it. So, some parents, abandon it altogether and then some parents, they do whatever’s easiest, they don’t have a process, they discipline their children and they just do it with whatever comes to their mind and that doesn’t fare well for a child, they can get pretty fearful of what parents are going to do.
Sean Peron: What corrections can we as biblical counselors offer parents who are making these mistakes?
Stuart Scott: First, know what the Scripture teaches about it, that is in family terms of discipline. There are several tools in the discipline process, just realize Scripture doesn’t command just one way of sharing something, that’s helpful. Then praying for wisdom, the Lord will grace you as a parent with wisdom, what to do, what’s the best thing to do here for the child and the age of the child. Spanking really shouldn’t be done after 11 or 12 years of age, they are now more of a young adult. Talk to other godly parents and get some counsel there, that’s wisdom as well. Read about it, and probably one of the best things is have a controlled process where the child knows what’s coming, how it’s going to be administered and there’s no surprises. Pray first with the child, ask questions, “what did I tell you to do? what did you do?” Explain what God says, and what you must do in grace and love. Explain the details as what I’m going to do, administer the rod in a few swats, follow-through, and love and acceptance. Maybe talk to them later about what they learned about that what they are going to change, and if possible, pray for an opening to talk something about the gospel of Christ and His grace and love.
Sean Peron: You mentioned multiple tools as far as discipline goes, what are the other top one or two methods of discipline that you would recommend to people who are in those other countries that might be listening or our foster parents.
Stuart Scott: Well, removal of privileges, things that children really like to do, when you remove those that can be very painful, especially if other siblings are able to do certain things and you can’t. One guy told me that’s why he bought his daughter a cell phone so that he could take it away because it’s so painful, especially in the teen years. So, you’re trying to think what is more painful, even time out, that can get a bad rap if it’s a planned timeout with a purpose in it to be separated from other children and other people, that is very painful for some individuals. Some children, they just hate being alone and isolated, but it’s not just to sit there, but sit there with a purpose. Think through what you did and if you’re going to change and then you can come back in. Additional work can be also a discipline, that they didn’t do something right and they were told how to do it, you not only have to redo it but some additional work. So, things like that.
Some people make people write things out; I wouldn’t give them, “you have to read the Bible,” “you have to write down these verses,” don’t make something that should be more encouraging to do, a discipline.
Sean Peron: That is helpful. When you’re on the street and you’re teaching the Bible, people know you, and someone comes up and they’re skeptical. They are against spanking, and they’ve heard you talk, maybe it’s at a CDT, and they got questions and they come up with this, “do you spank your kids?” What do you say?
Stuart Scott: You know, those questions always come loaded, right? They come loaded as in, there’s a lot more behind that question and you’d like to know what experience have they had? Have they been a part of something that totally turns them off to the whole idea of spanking, and especially in the area of, “do you hit,” almost kind of in trapping you, “do you hit or abuse your child?” A good friend of mine who’s now with the Lord, I say good friend, I mean, I just totally respected him and knew him. Dr. Bill Goode, who was one of the first directors of the of NANC at the time, or ACBC, but he was counseling a guy who was going to appear in court and was going to be asked, “do you, hit your child?, you spank your child,” and try to entrap him, and Dr. Goode’s counseled this young man not to say, “yes, I do” or “no, I don’t,” but instead give a contextual answer.
This was the contextual answer when he was asked, “do you spank or hit your child?” The man said, “when I raise my child, I encourage a lot, I play a lot, I pray a lot, I teach a lot, and I use cause and effect a lot. So, when I do spank, I do it lovingly, slowly prayefully and thoroughly, so I don’t have to do it often,” and I thought that was pretty a wise answer; a contextual answer, it’s not, do you just do this one thing with your child? So, with that, if someone asked me that kind of question out of the crowd, I would want to give a more of a contextual answer rather than a yes or no about spanking.