Does the Bible Advocate Beating Children?

dennis the menance being spanked

Dennis being spanked by his Dad with a hairbrush

The Bible speaks, you decide. And please, no revisionists; a rod is actually a shepherd’s crook used to gently guide the sheep (children) along. The Bible says:

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Ephesians 6:1-3

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Colossians 3:20

In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding. Proverbs 10:13

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. Proverbs 23:13,14

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back. Proverbs 26:3

The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. Proverbs 29:15

My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth, Proverbs 3:11,12

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? Hebrews 12:7-9

spanking

Man spanking his son

These verses are often used to justify the brutal, violent beating of children and teenagers. God demands obedience and those who refuse to obey should be beaten into submission. Through the centuries, countless Christian parents have used paddles, whips, hair brushes, books, belts, or anything else that was handy, to beat their children. Better to beat them than lose them to the devil, right?

Most of us who were once Bible-believing, sin-hating, devil-chasing Evangelical literalists now see that our disciplinary methods were abusive, cruel, and ineffective. It’s hard to look back at how we “disciplined our children as unto the Lord” and not feel regret and shame. I know that’s how it is for me.

I was a stern taskmaster. I believed the Bible laid out the pattern I had to follow IF there was to be any hope of my children turning out well. I can now say that my children turned out well DESPITE the whippings I gave them. Their love and respect for me and their forgiveness of me overwhelms me. I don’t deserve it.

They know I was just doing what I thought God commanded me to do, but knowing that I inflicted unnecessary pain on my children is heartbreaking. I am often asked if I think all spanking is child abuse. In general, yes I do. I think there are better ways to discipline children than by hitting them. While I make some allowance for slapping a toddler’s hand, I do not think hitting, punching, or slapping a child is the best way to get them to obey.

Yes, the Bible says ___________________and we who desire to live in a less violent world must be willing to say that the Bible is w-r-o-n-g. The authors of the Bible likely reflected the way children were disciplined during their time, but we have come to the place where we now know that beating children, for whatever reason, is not only unproductive, but it is also abuse.

If you are a parent with young children, how do you discipline your children? I am an old man, the product of an era gone by, an era when violence against children was the rule and not the exception. If we truly want to live a nonviolent way of life, it must begin with our treatment of those who are innocent, weak, and vulnerable. If you had to give discipline advice to a young father or mother, what would you tell them? Please share your advice in the comment section.

071816

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3 Comments

  1. Silver

    I have a toddler, who is in the midst of the “terrible twos” (they are not that terrible actually). We don’t hit for any reason. I will give time outs when they are needed, but more often I try to reward good behavior and use natural consequences to teach behavior (when they are something that won’t cause permanent harm to my child).

    Reply
  2. Fraternite

    I also have a toddler (nearly 3!). He only gets his hand smacked when he is wilfully nasty despite being told to be nice.

    We don’t like time outs in principle because they isolate, and because they practically seem to escalate the situation rather than deescalate it. Usually the threat of the handsmack is good enough to provoke an apology and hugs, which is probably the best possible outcome.

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  3. Becky Wiren

    When my adult sons were little, I did spank them. I tried not to ever do it when angry etc. And I did comfort them. BUT…if I could go back in time I wouldn’t spank them. If I ever have grandkids I never plan to spank them. Ever.

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