September 16, 2014

Spanking: The Measure of a Moral Society

“His son, Diamond, learned to drive all the sooner that he had been accustomed to do what he was told, and could obey the smallest hint in a moment. Nothing helps one to get on in life like that. Some people don’t know how to do what they are told; they have not been used to it, and they neither understand quickly nor are able to turn what they do understand into action quickly. With an obedient mind one learns the rights of things fast enough; for it is the law of the universe, and to obey is to understand.” –George MacDonald, At the Back of the North Wind

“It’s my butt!” declared my three year old granddaughter in defiance to her dad’s gentle reminder of where her misbehavior was leading her.

Her dad, in fact, is our first born…of eight boys. Trust me, we know something about spanking, both the prescription and effectiveness when administered with grace and wisdom.

Listening to a business owner recently rant against our state’s current governor and her auguste opinion that he didn’t spend near enough money on education, I asked her if she’d been in a classroom lately. “What does that have to do with anything?” was her sharp retort. “Well, we can spend all the money in the universe on education, but if the population isn’t teachable, what use are those dollars except to offer expensive day care services?” I asked.

A society against spanking is a society bound for moral decline.

The Prescription.

One definition of a prescription is “the action of laying down authoritative rules or directions.” In a culture increasingly dominated by the credentialed, licensed and approved, parental authority, particularly regarding training and discipling of their own children, is coming under fire. The recent news story focusing on NFL football player Adrian Peterson’s “whooping” of his four year old son, leaving visible cuts and bruises on his legs, back and buttocks, have the media again pleading for more governmental control.

The ongoing attempt to unmoor America from its Christian roots is behind much of the cultural elite’s usurping scripture’s moral authority. Replacing trust in the precepts and commands of the Bible with the media’s one-eyed focus on crafted “reality” is getting easier as society is lured into accepting that the only thing worth believing in is the stuff between our teeth (or on our smart phone)!

Let us consider the moral foundation for correcting bad behavior in children that is a parent’s moral responsibility and how corporal punishment is a legitimate tool for effective character building. Answering the enemy in the gate is the duty of leadership.

Rather than a barbaric act of violence from one human to another, it is an act of faith. Consider these questions:

  • Do I believe it is an effective deterrent to sin and rebellion?
  • Do I believe it is an effective tool of instruction?
  • Do I believe other parents are as committed to their children’s moral, emotional, mental, physical, social, and spiritual development as I am?
  • Do I believe I am more capable of training my child than a government agent or institution?

Biblical Injunctions:

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him." –Proverbs 22:15 ESV "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." –Proverbs 13:24 ESV

Wisdom or foolishness. When it comes to character, it’s not much more complicated than that. Discerning between the two takes a certain level of maturity that most young parents themselves don’t always start out with. With plenty of mistakes in disciplining our first born we learned to distinguish between acts of rebellion, e.g., he knew what was right but chose disobedience; and honest mistakes, e.g., carelessness, immaturity, lack of skill, tiredness, illness, etc. Recognizing that real evil exists in the human heart is not only reasonable, it is absolutely essential in effective child-raising, community development and nation building.

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

There were just a few commands we considered "capital offenses” (such as striking a sibling out of anger, stealing, lying, defiance, etc.) and would result in a spanking. It was largely the spirit of self-will in the child that triggered this serious commitment to his correction. Our standard of obedience centered around the Three C’s: cheerfulness, completeness, quickness (okay the last one is purely alliterative). We’d take the child away from public view to test his spirit and avoid humiliation, ask him what’d he’d done wrong and ask what was the right thing to do. Often that was the only “rod” of correction he needed: the stern upbraiding of mom or dad to bring a brokenness and repentance. Personality plays in as well: some of our boys were just more strong-willed than others. But the goal was brokenness and repentance and ultimately good behavior. After the tears or confession came, we’d hug them, tell them they were forgiven and rejoice at the restoration of our relationship. Then we’d take them back out to review and work out the right way to deal with the situation that caused the rift, including apologies and atonement.

By using the “rod” to soften the heart the child is able to listen to life-giving instruction and become better for it!

“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 will save his soul from Hell." –Proverbs 23:13, 14

"No soul is saved that would not prefer hell to sin.” Thus says the 19th century Scottish author & preacher, George MacDonald. To be terrified at the destructive potential to steal, kill and destroy that resides in the heart of each of us should be cause for sober reflection and greater determination to be rid of it. It is precisely why God himself moved among us, died to show His own commitment to sin’s destruction and empowers each of us, parents in particular, to show that determination in themselves and their own children.


Spanking is a training resource provided by a loving Creator in recognition of each individual’s propensity to sin. Internal restraint instilled through fear of punishment administered by a loving devoted parent builds self-control, good choices, positive productive character and healthy self esteem. And ultimately, good citizenship.

The old adage “this is going to hurt me more than you” is true to the true in heart. To be committed to instilling a heart of obedience in our children because we recognize it is a “fundamental law of the universe” and will serve them better than anything else we could ever do or provide for them is no laughing matter. Nor is it easy. But that commitment is what makes us grow in our own character, discernment, grace, joy and peace. And enjoy the fruit of our effort:

“The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him." –Proverbs 23:24

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