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Should I Spank My Kids?

Easily one of the most common questions I am asked all the time in ministry is the question that comes from parents, “Should I spank my kids?” They ask the question because they want to be faithful. They want to be good parents. They ask the question because, wanting to be good parents, they know that spanking is controversial out there in the world. And they know that spanking is hard inside the home. Any parent who loves their kids wants to be careful before they do anything that would make their kids sad or would make them cry. And so, this question, should I spank my kids, is one that just comes up again and again and again. I want to address this problem by first saying that there are 100 million things to say about this that I’m not going to be able to say. And so, we can save some of these things for later. But right now, I just want to take the question at face value and answer it in a straightforward way. My best answer to the question, should I spank my kids, is probably. Should I spank my kids? My answer is you probably should.

Should I Spank My Kids? Probably.

Let me tell you why the answer is probably and not yes or no. It’s probably you probably should. The reason you probably ought to spank your kids is because spanking is the one parental intervention regarding discipline that is most clearly indicated in the Bible. There are a lot of passages that talk about this. I’m just going to point one out to you. It’s Proverbs 23:13-14, which says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you’ll save his soul from Sheol.”

Now, the Bible uses the word “rod” there. This is not necessarily prescribing a specific instrument that might be in your mind when you think of the term rod. But the idea of a rod is really what a parent does to physically correct a child as a consequence of sin. This is one passage in the Bible. As I mentioned, there were many more that we could talk about. But here, spanking is clearly encouraged and regulated. Spanking is encouraged for disobedience. The encouragement comes, and they don’t withhold discipline from a child. When your child sins, when they disobey, they need to be corrected. It doesn’t go without saying that spanking is for sin. It’s for disobedience. It’s not when they had an accident. If they mess up, if they have some kind of accident, we’re not in trouble for accidents. I have accidents all the time, and nobody is spanking me, so we don’t spank our kids for accidents. We don’t use spanking as an opportunity to vent our anger and our frustration. This is a specific corrective for sin and should be reserved as such. Spanking is clearly encouraged for disobedience.

And it’s also regulated for safety. One of the reasons that I mentioned this passage and not many of the others is because this is one of the passages where there are some regulations built into the use of spanking. There’s the child safety in mind here. Proverbs 23:13 says, “Don’t withhold discipline from a child. If you strike him with a rod, he will not die.” What this is saying is that when spanking happens, as it should, from a loving parent who wants to love his or her child, to correct them in sin to spare them from the ultimate consequences of sin. No one’s at risk here. No one’s in danger. This is not a parent that has lost their mind that is in a rage that is coming unglued and wailing on their kid. That’s not what’s in view in the biblical idea of spanking. In the biblical idea of spanking, if you spank the child, he will not die. That actually goes on in verse 14, which says instead of you striking with the rod, you’ll save his soul from Sheol. What the Bible understands is that there are consequences for sin. There’s no such thing as a sin without consequence. The ultimate consequence for sin is eternal death and hell, and the gift of God from parents is to teach your kid the consequences of sin before they experience the ultimate consequences of sin. That means since spankings don’t save our kids. Jesus does. Faithful spanking will always point to Jesus Christ. Will always say hey, do you know that Jesus can forgive you of whatever sin you’ve committed when you trust in him so spanking is not supposed to be anything ultimately harmful. It’s supposed to be ultimately redemptive, pointing to the consequences of sin and pointing to the salvation that can come by Jesus Christ. If you have a parent that is hurting their kids or is at risk of hurting your kids, then you’re not talking about biblical spanking anymore, you’re talking about child abuse, and that’s a totally separate matter.

When to Not Spank Your Kids

Should I spend my kids? I’ve said the answer is probably, and that’s because of verses like what I just read, but there are times when it is not possible or wise to spank, and this is also why I say probably not, yes, absolutely. Think, for example, of foster care or some adoptive situations when you are taking care of a child that is not yours. Most places have rules for how you must treat those children, ad that does not include the ability to spank. There are almost always limitations on what’s called corporal punishment. If you’re underneath those rules for any sort of reason, you need to follow them. We could imagine some parents saying, well, the Bible says I’m supposed to spank my kid, and so I’m going to spank the kid, even if they’re not mine. And even if they told me not to. Well, the reality is once you are cooperating with the governing authorities to care for a child that isn’t yours, your relationship to that child has changed. And so, you need to follow the rules that you said you would follow. And if you’re not allowed to spank kids that aren’t yours, you shouldn’t do it.

Another limitation on spanking is angry situations. Listen, if you have been a parent for longer than five seconds, you know what it is to be overwhelmed with frustration at your kid. And if you are overwhelmed with frustration, if you are sinfully angry, it would be better not to correct your child with a spanking and to let them get away with murder that time than to sin against them yourselves. So, if you are too angry, if you are sinfully angry, you need to pray for grace to have the presence of mind that acknowledges I’m not going to spank my kid right now. I’m going to let myself calm down. I’m going to talk to my spouse and get some help. We’ll talk about this later if we need to. But I am not going to add to my kids’ sin, my own sin, sin against them in my anger and potentially damage them and harm them in some way.

And so, I say, should you spank your kid? The answer is probably, yes, you should because that’s what the Bible emphasizes. But there are times when it’s not wise, in those times when it’s not wise to do it for all sorts of reasons, then I could make a really great case that there is a biblical model of loss of privileges that can also be deployed to help show correction. In fact, as kids get older, those loss of privileges winds up being a lot more important than even the correction of a physical spanking. But those loss of privileges, particularly with really young children, will probably be rare. And so, you’ll want to encourage obedience to Scripture, which encourages parents, in most cases, to spank their kids to save them from the grave.