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Does the Bible Command Parents to Beat Their Children?

dennis the menance being spanked

The Bible speaks, you decide. And please, no revisionists who hilariously say that a “rod” is actually a shepherd’s crook used to gently guide the sheep (children) along.

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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

These verses are often used to justify the brutal, violent beating of children and teenagers. God demands obedience, and children who refuse to obey should be beaten into submission. Through the centuries, countless Christian parents have used paddles, whips, hairbrushes, books, belts, extension cords, 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, respect, and forgiveness overwhelm 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 — which is actually beating — 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 now and again, I do not think hitting, punching, or slapping a child is the best way to get them to obey or conform.

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, it is also abusive.

spanking with belt

If you are a parent with young children, how do you discipline your children? I am an old man, the product of a bygone era, an era when violence against children was the rule and not the exception. If we truly want to live nonviolent lives, 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.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    Jeff Bishop


    “Holy Smokes” you just PROVED “GOD” is WRONG. –

    “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”

    Reference: “He shall not Die” – I’m calling FOUL on this one Bruce.
    How many children, both male and female, are KILLED by parental brutality? Ever heard of “shakin baby”?

    Not to mention the countless examples on the news everyday of Children being abused by parents, unto death!

    I am sure Cultist will find some “explaination”, but dead is dead and it happens all too frequently.

    • Avatar

      Jeff I was a shaken baby so I can tell you first hand it’s a horrible experience I vividly remember 80 plus years later. Mother and Father never shook or spanked me but my adult sisters did it to me. I was never beaten by my parents but I suspect my older sisters were which would explain their violence against me. Yes they beat their own kids later on too. But hey beating kids to make them good was in style then. Perhaps the world is getting better after all if violence is falling out of fashion. Sadly, inherited bad habits die out slowly.

  2. Avatar

    I must confess that I wasn’t averse to a sharp smack to my son when he was young. I knew at the time that it benefited nobody, and realise now that it was brought about either when I was cross or tired. Smacking relieves emotions in the parents, but let’s not pretend it’s entirely harmless in the long term.

  3. Avatar

    My Father and 6 brothers were ritually beaten daily to be sure they paid for their sins, known or not. My Grandfather was a church elder, regularly having the priest exorcise evil from the house. He was notoriously stern. The 7 boys were forced to kneel in their wooden shoes for beatings. It continued till my Father was 15 when he fought back. Putting Grandfather on his back, my father ran for his life to Germany, staying until he was 18. My Father was athletic and smart with moviestar looks but his self esteem was extremely low, a hopeless alcoholic with a violent temper, all typical of an abused child. His brothers were no better. It’s said parents who were beaten beat their children. To my father’s credit, I was never spanked. My father never forgave his father and didn’t want to be him. We got word in 1946 Grandfather died during the “hunger winter” of German occupation. My father only said “the old sonofabitch is dead”. I suspect my father blamed the Priest for the abuse and he often expressed hatred for him. He didn’t attend church here till his funeral. It’s a case study of apply the rod ruin the child. My father hated his father for it, just opposite what scripture teaches will happen. Late in life I understood my father was a victim of his father’s abuse and my Mother, Sisters, and I myself, inherited it. Thanks a lot Grandpa.

  4. Avatar

    Here is an example of how Biblical/Christian teaching has negatively affected the world. Some parents beat their kids “in the name of the Lord” but, sadly, too many others–who probably “got the devil beaten out” of them when they were kids–beat their children, whether or not they have a religious rationale for doing so.

  5. Avatar

    What would I say about beating children? “If I wouldn’t do it to a dog, I certainly wouidn’t do it to a child”—and I have never deliberately hit a dog. I’ve run into them a time or two by accident in a dark hallway, but hit them? Never.

  6. Avatar

    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

    I don’t remember seeing this verse before. Is it any wonder that there are conservatives who justify using violence against those that do not share their beliefs? If someone doesn’t believe as you do, just beat them, as they lack understanding. Don’t try to have a well-thought-out conversation laying out your well-supported arguments,just beat the person with a rod. Yikes.

    I thank my husband for how we raised our kids without beating them. He was not beaten by his parents, likely due to his father’s training as a social worker. Both of my in-laws grew up in Catholic families and attended Catholic school throughout their education. My father-in-law speaks of being beaten by nons and priests at school (apparently, one priest literally threw my FIL down the stairs once). My FIL was also hit by his parents, who apparently also had loud fights with each other which usually culminated in throwing of objects at each other. My mother-in-law speaks of an alcoholic mother who was verbally and physically abusive. So good on them for breaking that cycle and not hitting their kids, which was still an unusual concept in the 70s and 80s.

    I, on the other hand, was hit by my mom and grandma,my primary caretakers. My mom stopped hitting me when I was 8 and started hitting back. ObstacleChick was not a child who took well to being treated like an inferior.🤣 My uncle talks about how his mom (my grandma) would hit him every time he entered the house. She did it because she assumed he must have done something to deserve that. She didn’t do that to my mom or me or to my female cousin. My brother, though, was frequently spanked in my grandma’s care. She assumed boys were always up to no good, an idea reinforced by James Dobson and Focus on the Family, a radio show she listened to devotedly. My uncle is 74, his mother has been deceased for 15 years, and he still frequently talks about how she hit him every time he walked into the house. Those wounds are deep.

    Anyway, due to my husband’s upbringing and his degree in childhood development and education, we found alternate ways to bring up our kids and teach values. Hitting was NEVER used. We would discuss actions and consequences, and consequences would involve a fair revocation of a privilege. Young children are capable of understanding, in simple terms, why a behavior is unacceptable. It’s harder to parent this way – it takes patience, discussion,presenting a sound argument, but it’s worthwhile because it is a teaching moment. Hitting is easy, but what it teaches is the supremacy of violence by those in power, and to sneak and hide.

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