A last resort…

I spanked my 2yo but only as a last resort. Or so I believed.

But you know what? When I quit spanking… My list of discipline options got longer! It had to – when I knew hitting wasn’t an option, my creative brain was forced to try harder. And, as the human brain is wont to do, it rose to the challenge!

One day, I found myself thinking, ‘What, in the scheme of things, can a toddler do, really, that deserves the punishment of last resort? Steal my grocery money to buy cocaine to on-sell to other more vulnerable babies?’ If it’s a last resort, surely it should be reserved for truly heinous crimes – things a toddler is completely incapable of? When I look at how much my son has matured in the last four years – without the ‘help’ of spanking – I realise that every time I hit him in those early days, every time his beautiful brown eyes showed a deep sense of betrayal, every time he said, ‘Don’t hit me, Mummy!’ – I was punishing him for… being 2. For being impulsive or exploring or experimenting or not remembering a rule… In fact, I was punishing him for being a *good* toddler… No wonder the ‘rod verses’, if they were intended to be taken literally, are about *youths*, not small children!

Not that my creativity is always at the top of its game, of course – I often find myself at a loss. At those times, my go-to plan is The Five Steps, or a hug. I should really make the hug my number-1 go-to plan. And while hugging, to get the creativity flowing, I want to try one of two words I got from Crystal Lutton (The 5 Steps is on her website): Instead of thinking about punishment or consequences, I will ask myself, ‘How can I help my child succeed?’ or ‘What is a solution to this problem?’

And, by God’s grace, an idea so often presents itself, and I realise once again that no matter how frustrated I may be, my child is not yet a delinquent in need of the punishment of last resort.

What are your top ‘first resort’ options for gentle parenting?

About Claire

I'm part-time stay-at-home mum to 3 children under 10. We're trying to raise them with the gentleness and creativity God uses with us. I'm also a part-time nurse and a volunteer breastfeeding advocate. We live not far from the beach or the bush in NW Tasmania.
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29 Responses to A last resort…

  1. Pingback: Last Resort? | Why Not Train A Child?

  2. D. says:

    Hi Claire. Just wondering how you avoid the passages in Proverbs that speak about using the rod to train children, not to mention the passage in Hebrews (12:5-11), which clearly states that the Lord disciplines those He loves. What is not literal about a rod?

    Thank you.

  3. D. says:

    P.S. — I do want to be clear in that I DO NOT agree with Michael and Debi Pearl’s teaching on spanking and military-like parenting. In my opinion, they border on abusive training and forget the passages that speak on parent’s not exasperating their children. However, I do believe that God has commanded parents to use the rod in a consistent, controlled and loving way in order that they may learn obedience and a submissive spirit.

    Thanks. 🙂

    • Claire says:

      Hi, D, thanks for your question :). I’m glad to hear you’re against Pearl-style ‘discipline’, which, imo, well and truly crosses the border and swims deep in the mire of abusiveness :(. And I fully agree with you that God expects us to discipline our children. However, the word ‘discipline’ encompasses far more than punishment – with a rod or otherwise. If you have a look around this site, you’ll find a lot explaining what we do with those verses, especially Betsy’s 3 part series on Spanking and Proverbs, Part 1 here, and also my thoughts on Proverbs 23:13 here and guiding with a rod. But the simplest answer I can give you is to say that no one actually takes those verses literally. To take them literally, you would have to hit your teenage son on the back with a thick rod. Which most people agree is abusive. The Bible doesn’t actually have anything at all to say about spanking – hitting younger children on the buttocks or hands with an open hand or smaller implement.
      So I don’t ‘avoid’ those Proverbs. They remind me of what a serious trust I have been given. But, since I don’t believe that God would ever advocate abuse, I seek a reading of these verses that is more in harmony with what the rest of God’s word says about how God’s people should treat one another, especially the ‘least of these’. (Part 3 of Betsy’s series goes more into this). So when I see the word ‘rod’ I see consistent discipline, marinating my children in God’s word and ways and consistent modeling of the fruits of the Spirit – and of humility when I fail ;).
      About Heb 12, this is a wonderful passage of encouragement to people who are being persecuted for their faith – not punished for doing wrong. This blog post by Dulce de Leche goes into it more deeply, including detail about the Greek.
      I hope that answers your question. If I have not been clear, or if you want to know more, feel free to keep asking 🙂
      – Claire

  4. D. says:

    Thanks for your response, Claire. I read the article you posted “Prov. 23:13.” I respect what you have to say and will offer my own thoughts:

    I felt as though it read mostly based on personal feelings, such as, “God is love and would a God of love really want us to spank (hurt) a child?” That is an argument based on emotions, not scriptural facts. It’s easy then to enter the argument that would a God of love really send sinners to hell? Relying on my emotions…that does not sound so loving, but then we turn to Scripture and see that God Himself has appointed unrepentant sinners to eternal punishment (hell) (see Matthew 25:41 and onward). That’s a scriptural fact, not my personal thoughts. Of course, I know that a loving God has given everyone a chance to repent (John 3:16) and turn to Him for eternal life, so I see that He really is a God of love.

    The Hebrew word usage for most of the Proverbs passages in relation to the rod is “Shevet,” which translates to meaning staff, stick or rod, twig, etc… And consider what Proverbs 10:13 says, “Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding, but a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.” Or “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the fool’s back” (Proverbs 26:3). Would this mean the whip and bridle are then not literal either?

    I agree 100% that all Scritpure must be taken into context, as well as using the whole counsel of God. Because of viewing the whole counsel of God, I see that He is loving and gentle with disciplining His own children. That is why there is a huge difference between using the rod in an angry, uncontrolled manner (abuse) verses using it in a controlled, measured and calm manner. Huge difference between yanking your kid into the bathroom to whip them verses gently talking to them about their disobedience and then using a controlled method to spank them on their bottom. Can you fully and truly talk to a 2 year old and expect them to verbally understand all your concerns for not running into the street? “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left[to himself] bringeth his mother to shame.” (prov. 29:15). You will notice the “rod” is still mentioned in the same verse along with reproof. As parents we can begin to talk them through situations that they might gain wisdom and discernment, but when they still chose to actively disobey, the rod comes into place. This is precisely why Solomon wrote many verses instructing parents to lovingly and consistenly take up the rod in order that a child would not be left to their foolish ways. This is why Solomon wrote that if you hate your child you will neglect the rod. That is why he wrote that children are foolish and it is the rod that will help drive it out. I simply cannot see how the word “rod” could be translated to mean words. That would mean I’d have to beat my kids up with all sorts of unkind, abusive words. And if I really do love my children, as God has called me to, then I could never allow the rod as a tool of abuse, but only use it as a training tool for obedience.

    Anyhow….we can agree to disagree. May the Lord richly bless you and your family as you desire to saturate them in the Word of God and live out the fruits of the Spirit. Thanks again for taking time to reply. 🙂

    • Claire says:

      Hi D., Sorry I’ve taken so long to approve your comment. We’ve had a lot of internet connectivity probs here, and not a lot of spare time…Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I think we both agree that what God says about how we bring up our kids is really important, and these questions are worth wrestling with. You’re right, we can agree to disagree. I don’t know if by that you meant that should be the end of our discussion – if so, feel free to ignore the rest of this reply 🙂
      I do want to respond to a couple of your thoughts, because I think we’re talking past each other a bit, and I would prefer we agree on what we disagree on 😉 Firstly, I think I failed to make my point clearly enough in the Prov 23:13 article – which was, that if a person unfamiliar with our culture were to read the words ‘drum it in’ and interpret them literally, they would be *wrong*. No one *ever* means that by those words.
      So what did Solomon *mean* by the phrase ‘beat with a rod’, ‘rod of correction’ or ‘a rod for the back’? One thing is certain, he didn’t mean ‘spank’ because that’s a modern concept. Translators who use the word ‘spank’ are guilty of letting their culture interfere with their translation.
      I’m guessing you haven’t yet read Betsy’s series, and I would really encourage you to do so as she goes into detail about the Hebrew words being used in these verses, including shebet. Or, if you want a more scholarly source, a great place to look for an idea of what a Jew would understand by ‘the rod’ is the book ‘Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me‘ by Samuel Martin, who is a Biblical scholar and theologian living in Israel (where spanking is illegal, by the way). Samuel Martin will email you his e-book for free if you email him at info@biblechild.org.
      Another place to look is the ‘other rod verse’: 1 Cor 4:21 – a verse which I am willing to bet you don’t read literally. I know I never did. Even when I was certain the rod in Proverbs meant spanking, it would never have occurred to me to think Paul was threatening bodily harm to the Corinthians. In fact, the context tells us what Paul thinks of as a ‘rod’ – because he is *already applying it* in the passage: verbal or written correction. Firm but loving – NOT ‘all sorts of unkind, abusive words’, as you put it. Paul is hoping he won’t have to use the rod any more in person – but he will if necessary.
      There’s another hint in a verse you quoted ‘A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the fool’s back’ – in actual fact, neither a bridle nor a whip are used by a skillful animal handler in ways that cause pain – quite the opposite – so why assume the fool needs painful punishment (whether physical or verbal) to be corrected? Here is a little vignette from my life that describes guiding with a rod. That said – the fool in Proverbs is an adult, not a child. Do you have someone who hits you when you do something foolish? Do you find it a helpful learning tool?
      Another proverb you referred to is interesting – it is easy to read it as saying that children are fools, but it actually says, ‘Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.’ That is, foolishness is rendered ineffective in a child’s heart, and parents have a window of opportunity in their children’s formative years in which to apply the rod – which is discipline – correction by authority (as we saw in the Corinthians passage above) – to teach them Godly wisdom that will last a lifetime. Don’t misunderstand – I’m not saying I believe children are sinless – I’m saying their hearts are malleable and are not held *under the sway* of sin or folly. Our job as parents is to provide our children with the tools and resources of wisdom so that folly will never have space to fill.
      It’s interesting that you raised the issue of road safety as an example. The main point of this blog post was to point out how dropping spanking from the end of my list of discipline options actually made the list grow, and road safety is a case in point: people often raise it in discussions like this one on blogs and forums, and every time, as I read the discussion that follows, I learn at least one new way to teach toddlers road safety that is gentle and effective. I actually discovered the method I use *by accident* (or I suppose I should really say by the grace of God) *before* I quit spanking. But if for some reason I find it’s less effective another time, I just have to surf the comment threads on gentle discipline blogs to find a dozen other options, none of which, importantly, are likely to encourage the toddler to run *farther* from Mummy to avoid a spanking.
      Well, there was a lot in your thoughtful comment, D., and I don’t know if I’ve covered it all, but hopefully you have a clearer idea now of what we mean by gentle discipline – its not about replacing the painful punishment of a rod with painful or shaming words, it’s about a paradigm shift in which we see discipline as being about teaching and guiding – daring to disciple – and punishment, whether spanking or otherwise, as a distraction at best and detrimental at worst. We seek to disciple our children with the gentleness, forbearance and patience that God uses with us. After all, when we deserved the punishment of last resort, He took it on Himself – and having been forgiven so much, dare we demand punishment of our fellow-servants (Matt 18:23-35)?

  5. D. says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. It isn’t that I want to shut the discussion down, but I really do believe we will continue to agree to disagree. 🙂 It’s kind of like the whole issue with God’s sovereignty verses man’s responsibility or how about Jesus being fully God, yet those who do not believe His deity will bring out the verses that support He relied fully on His Father and could do nothing without Him. And really, spanking is not a matter of salvation. Believe me, I don’t walk around boasting that I spank my children. It’s not a delight by any means, but it has produced delightful results. I also understand that there are some children that tend to be wired more compliant than others. With these children a simple no will do or offering another option is more than okay with them. There are, however, other children who are extremely strong willed. What do you do with the child who has been repeatedly told not draw on the wall with crayon, yet he/she proceeds to to just that. Do you band their crayons forever? Do you suggest they never draw again? Do you put them in time-out because you believe they will sit quietly and meditate on their crime? Do you simply distract them, begging they not go back to the container of crayons? If children were born ethically and morally neutral, then they would not need any correction or discpline, they would only need direction and instruction. We both agree that children are indeed born sinful, which automatically brings about the issue of the heart. Children are foolish; they do foolish things and already their hearts are turned against God and inclined toward sin and selfishness. A fool operates by his desires and if those desires are left to simple direction and words of instruction, it never really address the heart issue of their rebellion against God. Since God knew from the foundations of time how foolish we would be, seeking out only the things that please us, He gave parents a tool in order to guide that foolish behavior. The rod is for the child who refuses to place himself under mom and dad’s God ordained authority. Simply re-guiding, moving along to some other entertainment really never deals with the heart of rebellion a child carries in the first place. The child has not learned to submit himself under mom and dad and therefore He will struggle to submit Himself under God, whom he cannot physically see. Here is the clincher for me quoted from Shepherding a Child’s Heart, “The issue is not a parental insistence on being obeyed (or my insert: an obession with using the rod). The issue is the child’s need to be rescued from death – the death that will result from rebellion left unchallenged in the heart.” The rod is used to bring about wisdom and when it is used in the appropriate manner (not abuse, but love) it wil humble a child’s heart to allow them to see outside of themselves, but rather to their need for Christ.

    Personally am not concerned with what the modern culture thinks in regards to the Bible’s stance. If they don’t like the verses that speak against homosexuality, should I be concerned to change it and make it more palitable? No one likes to read about hell, so should all those verses be removed from the Bible? If the term “rod” is offensive to them and not the loving way they picture God, should I switch the meaning around to not startle them? Intrestingly enough, as you mentioned, if the rod was used for an older adolescent, would that not mean that it is just as an effective tool for the younger child? Because really, we both agree that the younger the child, the more moldable their character. The rod must have been used on the older adolescent becasue he failed to learn obedience by the other method (permissive parenting). As we read from Scripture, Solomon was not exactly a godly father, having taken hundrerds of wives and concubines, as well as worshipping other foreign gods. I believe he wrote in retrospect, realizing the foolishness of his former ways, warning those ahead, “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 Sheol.” (Prov. 23:13-14). So, indeed we see the rod was used, so that is indisputable.

    God who is the ultimate example of love, mercy, gentleness, patience, etc….. is the very God who poured out all His wrath on His only Son (who was sinless). He did this so that we would not have to experience the same sort of punishment for our rebellion. But we are unable to be saved from His judgement unless we first repent and recognize our rebellion against Him. So….what waits for the rebellious one who never submitted themselves to God? Punishment, more specifically hell. Likewise, if we intend to minimize the wages of sin for our children by simply showing mercy, we instead show them a God who is okay with our rebellion and since He loves us and is full of mercy, it need not be dealt with in harsh terms. Wasn’t Jesus’s death on the cross a harsh punishment? And so the rod is used in a simliar sense of teaching our children that sin is painful and it leads to death. We show them that rebellion has to be dealt with first by the rod, but then ultimately by repenting of our rebellion and accepting Christ’s perfect sacrifice.

    So….I am assuming that we might be no further ahead in agreeing to disagree. Again, spanking is not an issue of salvation. What matters is that we teach our kids that no matter what we do, it will never be good enough for God. God already payed the ultimate price for our sins (a free gift) because of HIs great love and mercy towards us sinners. I wish you only God’s richest blessings as you raise your family.

    You are welcome to reply, as we all have freedom to express our passion, though I gather both our minds are made up and both of us are convinced in our own hearts of what we believe. 🙂

    • Claire says:

      (note: the following is a reply to the practical/parenting aspects of your comment. wrt the theological points, see my reply to your PS)

      D., Because I believe very strongly in the thesis of this post, I am going to ask you to try an experiment:

      I would like you to do your best to really imagine youreslf in the following scenario. Let’s say you are fostering, and the rules are that foster parents may not use physical punishment, and especially with this particular child who has been physically abused by a carer in the recent past. In fact, you have been advised that punishment of any kind is a bad idea with his temperament and emotional issues. The 4 year old boy draws on the wall. You tell him not to. He does it again. What do you do?

      Give yourself 5 minutes. If you don’t come up with a plan you think is workable, try asking yourself the following questions:

      (Really. Give yourself 5 minutes ;))

      How can I communicate the meaning of my words to this child/ How can I show him that my words have meaning?
      How can I *help* him to obey me in this?
      How can I be proactive to prevent this in future? What is the problem here and what would be a *solution* to it?

      After you’ve tried this experiment, please tell me what the results are. Then (if necessary ;)) I’ll tell you what I might do in the same situation 🙂


    • Claire says:

      PS I did not say that I believe beating an adolescent boy with a rod was ever either sanctioned or common practice. I don’t believe it was, and I don’t believe that is what these Proverbs are advocating. I believe that beating with a rod is, and always was, a metaphor for disciplinary action (teaching, training, correction, reproof, restriction) taken by an authority. I believe this because they don’t make sense any other way (you *can* kill someone by beating them; you can’t save anyone from death/Sheol by beating them), because it is more consistent with His instructions on how we are to treat our brothers and sisters (“the fruit of the Spirit is… gentleness…”, “as far as it rests with you do your best to live at peace with all men”, “whatever you did to the least of these you did to me”), because there are no instructions in God’s law telling us how to correctly beat our children, and because Jews don’t read it literally (the Talmud doesn’t even mention rods when it discusses corporal punishment – it says ‘*if* you must, use only a shoelace’).

      Besides, ‘a rod for your own back’ isn’t even literal in English – we use it as a metaphor for natural consequences.

  6. D. says:

    P.S. I should also add that I don’t believe in using the rod as a cruel way to make my kids pay for their sins, as if I am God myself. Rather the rod is a means of correction and restoration, prayerfully the ultimate reconcilation of man to God.

    Thanks. 🙂

    • Claire says:

      D, I’m not sure I understand what you’ve written here. Surely nothing can restore or reconcile us to God but Christ? If spanking is necessary to show children their sin and need for a saviour, is it necessary for adults, too? I am truly trying to understand, because what I’m seeing here and in your comments about rebellion sounds to me like heresy – if spanking could deal with our rebellious hearts, then we don’t need the cross or the Spirit working within us… OTOH, if Christ’s work on the cross is sufficient to save and sanctify adults, why is it not sufficient for children?

    • Claire says:

      Some thoughts: The Bible doesn’t say “It is spanking that leads us to repentance” – it is “God’s kindness” that does that.
      The Bible doesn’t say “It is God who retroactively punishes you (in a controlled, loving way) when you fail to do according to his good pleasure” – God “works in us to will and to do according to his good pleasure”.
      The Bible never tells us to make our children obey us to teach them to obey God. Biblically, it’s the other way around – children are told to “obey your parents because this pleases the Lord”. As ArmsOfLove puts it (quoted on the Gentle Christian Mothers forum), “Children don’t learn to obey God by obeying us. They choose to obey us when they are obeying God.”

  7. D. says:

    Hi Claire,
    Wow, I certainly didn’t plan on opening up this can of worms with my first comment! Maybe I should have asked this instead: Are you not comfortable enough to simply chose not to spank, yet still leave the Proverbs verses to stand on their own, as their literal meaning? What makes me concerned (and why I even left a comment since I don’t like “debates”) is how easy it becomes to center truth around emotions and then try to line up Scripture accordingly. I believe the Bible teaches God is a God of balance. He tempers His mercy so well with His discipline. He demostrates His deep love, yet shows wicknedness will not go unpunished. He shows us we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ, then He reminds us that our faith without any works is dead. He tells us that we have riches and blessings in Him, yet He promises that all those who desire to live godly lives will face suffering. He tells us to bear with one another’s burderns (weaknesses) in patience and love, yet we also see how often Paul had to be stern with different churches that were erring. You will agree that there also needs to be a balance between permissive parenting and not being dictorial.

    The issue with spanking is not that it is a commandment that must be adhere to, but it is a tool (approved of by God) to use in regards to a child’s foolishness (not accidents or misunderstandings, but willful disobedience). I opt for verbal reproof/a warning unless I have specifically stated my desires and yet they still chose to disobey. God has given parents much liberty to train our children and I see no need to take away from the Proverbs verses about the rod as a means to defend why you (or any one else) have chosen not to spank. Just as I could never take away from the plenty of other verses that speak about not exasperating our children, being longsuffering, showing mercy, etc… The Bible is vague on other methods of discipline in order that our children may see what they have done is wrong. You have made a choice not to spank, which I respect; not to mention, it’s not a major doctrinal issue. My concern has less to do with your personal choice not to spank, but more to do with how you have shifted the Scriptural intentions of the rod verses in Proverbs to fit the idea that all spanking is wrong (and has been labeled as abuse).

    In regards to balance, the rod has the same place. It does not need to be used for every offense, but it is permitted to be used when the child has specifically chosen to go against what they were instructed. Just as removing privileges is not going to be the way we as a parent would respond to discipline every single time. My children do have a choice: to obey or disobey. I don’t hover over them and follow them around like a hawk to make sure they will make the right choice. I talk with them, explain my reasonings, clearly lay out my instructions and then I let them decide. Actually Ephesians 6:1 reads, “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” and Colossians 3:20 “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Meaning, as they obey mom and dad, they are consequently obeying and pleasing Christ. Meaning, when they disobey mom and dad, they are disobeying God. Meaning, as they learn obedience to mom and dad, they are also learning what it means to be obedient to God, whom they cannot visually see.

    Claire, if you chose not to use the rod, your children can and will grow up loving the Lord all the same. My intention was never to say: my children will be saved because they were spanked and so-and-so’s children will not. My whole point was that spanking IS an option (approved by God’s Word) and that those rod verses mean exactly what they state. I stand by everything I have written and I definitely DO NOT believe that we can save our children (as in ultimate salvation which is in Chirst alone), but we can certainly point them to the reality that sin leads to death and they need a Savior. Making a child aware of their foolishness and their need for God is one step closer to them understanding what salvation is all about.

    I’m sorry if you felt “judged” by any of my comments. That was not my intention. I am the first to agree that spanking is not a written rule persay, but I strongly affirm that God has given His approval for its use. Again, the whole issue is balance. Is it any more wrong to spank a child out of frustration than it is to explode with irritation after the fifth time telling your child no? Both are wrong. Both need to be repented off. I am always wary of biblical issues that hinge more on emotions than on God’s solid Word. That is mostly why I choose to comment on your blog (which I found by total accident!) 🙂 In the end, God sees each of our hearts laid bare before Him and it is certainly not my place to try and convice you that you have to spank. My only desire was to point out that spanking really is a God-approved tool and that it doens’t have to be linked to abuse when it is used in balance.

    Thanks for the discussion and for letting me share. It definately gives food for thought! 🙂

    • Claire says:

      D, firstly, I haven’t felt judged by you, and I hope you are not feeling judged by me :). We all do what we believe is best for our children and I have no doubt that you enjoy a wonderful relationship wit your children and are raising them to love God and each other. I will keep going with this conversation because, again, we seem to be talking past each other, and I don’t like being misunderstood ;). I seem to be failing to clearly make the point that none of us advocate permissive parenting. I don’t actually agree that there needs to be a balance between “permissive parenting and not being dictorial.” I believe, very strongly, in firm, consistent discipline – I am against permissiveness. But I don’t believe in using punishment as a discipline tool.
      It’s quite hard actually for me to answer your question, D. (“Are you not comfortable enough to simply chose not to spank, yet still leave the Proverbs verses to stand on their own, as their literal meaning?”) You seem to be assuming that I chose not to spank because I didn’t like doing it and then tried to make the Bible agree with how I felt. You are wrong. I quit spanking when I became convinced it was not sanctioned by Scripture. I have explained the logic by which I conclude that the Biblical rod is a metaphor for discipline. You are welcome to disagree with my interpretation but please believe that this interpretation is my firm belief and not based on ’emotionalism.’ (I could just as easily say that because you spank you have a vested interest in believing that the rod means spanking and it is your emotional response of denial that prevents you from looking at these verses in an unbiased way. Please understand I’m not saying that – I’m just pointing out that we should both be free to interpret these verses as we believe is true without having other people accuse us of ulterior motives – let’s both assign positive intent, please). However, I will point out that you, D, do not “leave the Proverbs verses to stand on their own, as their literal meaning” – the Proverbs talk about beating a young man on the back with a rod. That *and only that* is their literal meaning. From what you have said, I’m pretty sure that is not what you do when you spank. Therefore, you are also applying interpretation to these verses and not treating them literally.
      So in that sense, no, I am not comfortable to let the Proverbs stand literally – I believe that beating my children (of any sex or age) with a rod is wrong. I’m pretty sure you do, too.
      D., you say that the Bible is ‘vague’ on other forms of discipline – but I find the opposite. For example, it is very clear on how and when to go about teaching our children God’s ways (Deut 6:4-7, for example) and we have Jesus’ example of how to go about discipleship (the word discipline is related to the word disciple, hence the name gg chose for ths blog ;)) but where in the Bible does it say this: “[spanking/the rod is] to be used when the child has specifically chosen to go against what they were instructed”? Where does the Bible say how many swats and for what actions and how hard? Where does it tell you to cuddle and make up afterwards? Actually, if you look at what the verses have to say, without adding in the cultural assumptions we grew up with (I was spanked the ‘right way’ by loving Christian parents, btw), you could just as easily make a case that it is wise to beat our children every evening as part of their bedtime routine (or before every meal; or once a week on Sundays whether it’s needed or not, like Good Queen Bess’s bath) in order that foolishness be driven far from them and they not die. Please don’t take that as mockery, it isn’t meant that way. I’m simply pointing out (with a little humour to lighten the mood) just how vague the instructions around the rod actually are.

      I’m guessing you didn’t try my experiment, D., so I’ll discuss the child drawing on the wall thing now :). First, a cute anecdote: A couple of years ago, on the way to the airport, my then-2yo was bored and whinging. I tried to cheer her up by saying, “Do you want to draw on the plane?” “Yes,” she said, then after a few moments’ thought… “No, ah dwaw on paper.” 😀 Sounds like a pretty compliant child, doesn’t she? But a few months back my now-4yo picked up a ballpoint pen a drew all over the wall :(. She obviously knows the rules, so this was an act of defiant disobedience. Or maybe she was being a normal 4yo with the lack of impulse control that God designed 4yos to have, or maybe she was exhibiting the absent-mindedness she seems to have inherited from *both* her parents (sigh) and just didn’t think. I had only just got up and hadn’t any food in me so I was grumpy and I think I may have yelled at her 😦 You are right, this is no better than spanking 😦 I hope I apologised.
      What I would ideally do is take a deep breath and remind myself that she is four, she will grow out of this. If I punish her for doing something I honestly don’t believe she will still be doing at 10, then I am punishing her for being four. Spanking a child will not make them mature any more quickly. OTOH, if I think it really was a deliberate act of disobedience, then hopefullly I will remind myself that God has not asked me to discern my child’s heart, I cannot read her mind – only he can do that, and only he can solve that. My job as a parent is to teach my child right behaviour.
      So how can I help her learn that here? First, we clean the wall together – I am modelling and teaching that when we make a mistake (whatever our motivations) we clean it up. I might also point out to her – in a neutral, non-judgemental way – some of the consequences (to others and herself) of her action – eg that Mummy has to take time cleaning it up and this means I will have less time to play with her later. Then I make a mental note to keep pens out of her reach and only allow them under direct supervision until she has shown herself to be more responsible. That way, I can catch her every single time she goes to draw in the wrong place and redirect her to the right place. If she objects or determinedly chooses to draw on inappropriate surfaces, then she has finished drawing for the day and I take away the pens/crayons. *Even if* I spanked her, or otherwise punished her, *I would still need to do this* because we all know that a single spanking is not always enough to teach a lesson. If I don’t want my walls drawn on, it is my responsibility to remove the temptation until my child has learnt/grown out of it.
      I don’t actually give my kids the choice to obey or disobey – as Crystal Lutton points out, that is actually permissive, since the child can choose to disobey, if they’re willing to accept the punishment. My kids get a choice: they can obey, or obey with help. Sometimes that help is taking away the temptation. Sometimes it is guiding them through it. Or many other options.
      But how will they learn that they are sinners who need a saviour? I am teaching them every day that they cannot always obey on their own – and when they can’t obey they need to ask for help. And I’m teaching them that when they mess up they need to apologise and ask forgiveness. And hopefully I’m modelling that I can’t do it, either – and they see me going to Jesus for help and forgiveness. And I am teaching them God’s word and as they grow they will discover that they are not living up to it, just as I do – the power of theh Spirit working in us. It isn’t my job to convict of sin, it’s the Spirit’s job through the Word.

      D., can I very gently ask you a personal question? In a non-judgemental way… You have said that you don’t believe that I need to hit my kids to raise them right. If you don’t think kids need to be hit – if they can be disciplined well without that – why would you hit them? Are you suggesting that I’m some kind of wonder-mum and you just aren’t up to the challenge? Because you’d be wrong. You sound to me like the sort of person who has the determination and commitment to be a great gentle parent – a much better one than I – if you chose to go down that path.
      Once again, I am not judging you or thinking you are an abusive person. I know you are a great parent and love your kids and want to do the best you can for them. I am far from perfect in my parenting and in no place to judge others or the journey that they are on. But I can and will celebrate and comunicate the great difference gentle parenting has made in my life.

      Blessings, Claire

  8. D. says:

    If you want some reading material that is backed up by the Greek/Hebrew language on this matter, here is a link: http://sharperiron.org/article/biblical-perspective-spanking-part-1

    There are 5 parts, but it writes what I could never express.

    • Claire says:

      Thanks, I’ve taken the time to read these (well, parts 1-4 – I couldn’t find part 5). I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know I’m as little impressed by his reasoning as you are with mine :). I note also that he comes to a different conclusion from you – he thinks spanking *is* necessary for all children – or the very vast majority. And he finishes part 4 with his personal experience – which is of course perfectly legitimate, as far as it goes – that’s what this post was, after all ;)… but he seems to be defining folly as childishness (did you read the quotes from Clay Clarkson about the nature of folly in the book of Proverbs that someone posted in the comment thread?)- and because he’s never tried positive discipline, he’s unaware that his children would have grown out of those things even if he’d never spanked them. And this is why we are so passionate – especially those of us like myself, who have experienced the difference in our lives and families when we switch from punitive to gentle discipline. It’s just so sad that people are hitting their kids when they *don’t need to* – and believing that God has recommended it and it’s for their childrens’ good. We have experienced the difference that parenting with grace makes, and we don’t want others to be making the same mistakes that we did, if we can help them to see a better path – as others have helped us.

      PS I was looking back through our conversation and I noticed something I wrote in my first reply which sounds like I said spanking is abusive. I actually meant that beating with a rod is abusive. Sorry for the misunderstanding.


  9. D. says:

    I’m pretty sure we can be friends even if we disagree. 🙂 I don’t think we’re talking past each other at all. I feel both of us are strong in our convictions and set in our beliefs. While Duet. 6 addresses the issue of what we ought to teach our children (loving the Lord God first) and how often (all day long), it does not specify the use of time-out, grounding, removal of a toy/object or distraction for means of instruction/correction. In that sense, we are given the liberty to chose which correction it will be, according to what instance. Yes, the Bible is not clear on how many swats to give or for what specific offense. But it does make it clear in Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” If it did not mean the literal rod, why would it not read “Whoever spares instruction hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”? Proverbs 22:15 reads, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” If it did not mean a literal rod, why not read, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but reproof or discipline drives it far from him.”? And by the way, “the rod” was used for almost every single bible translation, so I’m not bias in using my favorite.

    As I mentioned before, the Proverbs verses are not a part of the ten commandments nor a pre-requisite for salvation……so I do believe that one can be saved and raise godly children without chosing to spank. To answer your question: The reason we have chosen to spank our children is because we do believe it is approved by God and it has been needed in our home to address purposeful, (meaning, deliberate disobedience) foolish behavior. It has been a quick way (in the sense of not lingering over the same issue for the whole morning and afternoon, distracting, negotiating, removing, etc…..) to deal with the offense and bring about peace. If the Bible didn’t speak about using the rod (for the specific reason of removing foolishness) then I would have no Scriptural basis for it. And if the BIble didn’t speak about how the Lord has to discpline His children, sometimes it resulting in pain, then none of us parents would have permission to do anything that might remotely hurt our kid’s feelings (like taking away crayons), even if our intentions were for the best.

    Children should never have to respond in fear to any form of discpline : regardless of spanking or yelling, threatening, playing on their emotions in a negative way (example: “When you hit your sister it makes mommy feel sad; if you wan’t mommy happy, then don’t hit”). Instead, their response to discipline should be out of a healthy respect for their authority, just as we submit to God in the fear of the Lord. I humbly admit I have spanked in anger (and subsequently repented of it to God and my kids), but I can also attest to the fruits of spanking out of love and self-control. My kids see I love them, they accept it without trembling, fighting or any screaming; we talk about it, we establish why it was necessary and they leave in peace, happily returning to play.

    This is your quote that I would like to address: “What I would ideally do is take a deep breath and remind myself that she is four, she will grow out of this. If I punish her for doing something I honestly don’t believe she will still be doing at 10, then I am punishing her for being four. Spanking a child will not make them mature any more quickly. OTOH, if I think it really was a deliberate act of disobedience, then hopefullly I will remind myself that God has not asked me to discern my child’s heart, I cannot read her mind – only he can do that, and only he can solve that. My job as a parent is to teach my child right behaviour.”

    We disagree in the sense of when our children are old enough to understand our instructions and face accountability. In the example you gave about your 4 year old drawing on the wall…..it is obvious you assume she is incapable of handling instructions, processing them and therefore chosing to obey. It almost sounds like she is too innocent to understand any wrong doing. On the other hand, I believe children are more intelligent and mature than we give them credit for. My four year old boy dresses himself, puts away his own clothes, makes his bed (albeit a bit sloppy, but i’m not a perfectionist!) and tidies his room each morning, all with me simply asking, “Please go do your chores.” He can also figure out how to smooth talk his sister into getting the toy he would like or rephrasing a question in hopes I will change my mind!….So why is it so hard to assume that he wouldn’t be able to understand and process my instructions not to color on the wall? Why does my two year old daugher hide in a corner to sneak some snacks she’s been told not to touch? She knows exactly what she is doing is wrong, so she has chosen to eat in secret, hoping not to be found out! 🙂 Say there is a three year old who likes to hit other kids (not from personal experience in our family, but observation from other families). Do you excuse it with “its just a stage” and she will grow out of it by four or five? Do you remind her 20 times, repeating, “gentle hands,” redirecting constantly and finally packing up the playdate since she seems too young to understand? Or do you remember that that same three year old had no problem immediately obeying mommy to come to the table for her favorite snack. She really is quite bright afterall. Most four year olds know their alpahbet, counting, some writing, how to express their dislike for certain things, etc….so why would they not be able to learn how to use a crayon properly, instead of attributing it to the fact that they are only four? I don’t have to be God to figure out that when I told my child not to draw on the wall and later found him drawing on the wall…..he made an active choice not to follow instructions. Expecting any less means I assume my child is not smart enough to realize the difference between right and wrong. I’m not pretending to discern his heart’s motive in drawing, but I am holding him to a certain level of accountability and the consequences that follow. You chose to do the same with your daughter (consequence being she had to help you clean up with less time to play with mom – which I am sure she was not thrilled about), while I would have chosen to spank my son, knowing that he IS clearly old enough (and intelligent enough) to understand my instruction not to color on walls. Then I would have helped him clean the walls, mentioning that God would have us take care of our property to enjoy it longer. Then he can use as many crayons as he would like, when he would like, but ONLY ON PAPER! 🙂

    It’s very important in our home to talk with our children all the time about why God wants us to obey, but I remind them of the choice Eve was given in the garden (obey or disobey) and the awful consequences that ensued. Since our children are born sinners (and don’t automatically have the Holy Spirit in them), they need our guidance into what truth is and why we should want to obey God, but they also will need some space to apply it practically. Therefore, I don’t believe in hovering over my children all the time to ensure they will “obey with help.” I’m not opposed to doing that, but realistically with three little kids, I simply cannot keep an eye on each of them at the same time, to make sure they “obey with help.” They must learn what it means to obey when mom is present or not. That is true obedience – when no one is looking, but they acknowledge God is. And while I never purposefully tempt my kids, neither do I believe in removing everything around the home that might possibly cause them to stumble (and disobey) at some point in their life. Realistically, our children need to begin to understand that there are consequences for their choices (that is part of our training for them) and they must begin to learn what it means to resist temptations, fighting it with the Truth (from God’s Word) that we have given them. I talk to my children about the situations of life, the response the Bible teaches (the blessings of obeying and the negative of not obeying) and I do expect them to grow in wisdom and maturity because of our conversations. Anything less would mean I think my children are incapable of understanding the difference between obedience and disobedience and therefore always need me to be present. My 2 year old understands and she clearly knows there is no drawing on the walls allowed and she clearly understands the consequences. I’m not sure why my older children would not be capable of understanding.

    I don’t necessarily agree with your thoughts on grace parenting, which likely is a reference to no spanking. Here is a quote: “Grace in the Bible means unmerited favour. That is God’s unconditional love for mankind which we do not deserve.” I can tell you that I have grace toward my children because no matter what they do, they will always be loved, even if their actions may not seem to deserve that love. Hence, grace has little to do with a refusal to spank, but more toward how much we favour and love our children, in spite of their foolishness. I’ll go back to the verse again that says if I love my child, I will not withold the rod when needed. It’s becoming more and more popular not to spank; spanking is now considered abuse. I’d be an idiot to continue in my strong convictions if I want to be favored among my peers. But I’m not looking for accolades (or recent studies to support my findings); I’m honing in on God’s Word. He has allowed spanking to be one form of effective discipline, measured by other Scriptures that forbid doing it from anger, lack of self-control, exasperation, etc…

    It’s noteworthy to put attention to the fact that in Hebrews 12, it references back to the book of Proverbs about discipline (“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son whom he receives.” Why does this passage use the word both discipline and “chastise,” if the idea was meant to simply correct? Then the author of Hebrews goes on to say that earthly fathers must discpline their children as well. Furthermore, the author reminds us that discipline is painful, but it produces the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who were trained by it.

    Wowzers! That’s a long-winded bit….hope you can make it through….you might need a cup of coffee. 🙂

    • Claire says:

      Yes, that was a long comment! I will have to reply to it in a series of short comments over the enxt few days, as I am also in the process of applying for a new job and don’t have heaps of free time 🙂 I agree that we can be friends even as we disagree 🙂

      And I’ve just realised it’s later than I thought. I need some sleep, so my first instalment will be tomorrow 🙂 Nighty-night…

      • Claire says:

        …and then yesterday was icredibly busy and I didn’t get back at all… and I didn’t get the job application finished in time, either :/. Guess I didn’t want it enough or I’d’ve found the time somewhere…

        So, my first instalment: Why use the word ‘rod’ when you could just say ‘consistent teaching with a wide range of methods’? Well, because that’s how proverbs work. When was the last time you heard someone say, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ and they were actually talking about mending? It’s possible, of course, but on balance the chances are they’ll be talking about something that doesn’t involve needles and thread. Even if they do mean actual mending, they certainly don’t expect to achieve it with only a single stitch, or expect a literal 1:9 ratio of work done to work saved.
        Or, to use an example closer to home: When my aunt told me I was making ‘a rod for my own back‘ by sharing a bed with my baby DD, she didn’t mean that some authority figure would come along one day and spank me, or impose some other unrelated ‘consequence’ (aka punish me) to teach me the error of my ways. She meant that somewhere along the line, the natural consequences of my actions would have me regreting my foolish choice. (As it happens, she was wrong ;))
        To put it another way, do you believe there really were two women in the streets of Jerusalem trying to entice young men to the relative values of Widom and Folly (Prov 8-9)? Do you believe Jewish people held knives to their own throats at dinner-parties (Prov 23:1-2)? Do you think it would be possible to find an ancient near-eastern price list carrying both a noble wife and rubies (Prov 31:10)? Would you expect to find young men wearing jewellery engraved with their parents’ wise words (Prov 1:8-9)? It is human nature to use picturesque language, including hyperbole and metaphor. Proverbs, especially, by their nature, will include both.

      • Claire says:

        Instalment 2: On how smart kids are
        I agree with you whole-heartedly that kids are often underestimated, but your reasoning for what should or should not be expected shows a lack of understanding of how chidren’s brains develop. I’m sure you’d agree that children have lots of brain development to do – otherwise they wouldn’t need parents, but could look after themselves, right?

        I’m a nurse who doesn’t like dealing with acutely ill people :/… My compromise has been to spend a fair bit of my career working in rehabilitation, where people are largely stable/ improving. We help a lot of people who have suffered strokes or head injuries, which gives a unique perspective on the workings of the brain. It’s quite common for people who’s brains have been injured to lose not only physical abilities, like the use of one side of their body, but also various mental abilities, like understanding language, speaking language – and executive functions. Including, very commonly, impulse control. The need to support people in growing independence while keeping them safe while under our care can be a tricky balance (rehab has a lot of similarities to parenting ;)). Impulsiveness can make this balance even more difficult. If I write in a patient’s notes that she is ‘impulsive’, this is no indictment on how smart she is. She still has the same intelligence in unaffected parts of her brain that she had before her stroke. She may know and understand the risks, say, of trying to walk in her room without supervision. She can repeat back the rule, to press her buzzer and wait. She may even do so most of the time… But if she’s tired after physio, perhaps, or needs to use the bathroom, all that flies out of her head and she gets up without supervision. She is not being ‘naughty’ as some nurses put it. Her ability to control her own behaviour is impaired. How much of her impulse control will return, and how quickly, is unpredictable. We can only wait and see – and do our best to help her stay safe in the meantime. Depending on the patient and her abilities, this might mean putting a sign in front of her that says ‘Ring the bell!!’ – or using a chair alarm that rings when she stands up – or using some kind of restraint – or making sure her walking aid is in reach because she has reached the point where we feel she is safe in her room… and what we do may depend on how good a day she is having. The point is that impulse control is a brain function.
        And children are not born with it fully developed. I takes many years to reach adult levels. And it is unfair to expect them to always be at the top of their game: If they are hungry or tired they will have less ability to control themselves or remember, just like the stroke vicitm. The reason may not be that obvious, either. They might be fighting an infection or having a growth spurt or about to make a developmental leap in another area or experiencing some stress or other. We expect backward steps in potty learning, why not in moral development? (By the way, I do expect my children to learn and understand the correct way to use crayons. Removal is necessary only in the short-term, until they have shown that they have re-internalised the rule – most likely a couple of weeks at the very most, maybe only a few days).
        So a 3yo who can come for a snack when asked – that’s actually working *with* his lack of impulse control. Expecting him to stop himself from hitting *every single time* – that’s the opposite. The ability to do the former does not imply the latter. So, yes, if you have a hitter, you may need to stay right with him and physically stop him from hitting each time, remind him that hitting hurts, replace it with some other action – hugging himself is an idea I came across on the GCM forum the other day – or ‘gentle hands’ or hitting an inanimate object – encouraging them to use words – it will depend on the child, the age, and what the parent deems acceptable – and if the child is having a bad day, then the only workable solution may be to leave and try again another day. Parents who have raised larger families and switched to gentle discipline after many years of spanking report that their gently-disciplined children learn just as quickly as their older, spanked children. I would expect this to apply to hitting as well.
        In fact, the idea that children need to be hit to learn seems to me an example of underestimating children. When you sin, like when you spanked in anger, did someone spank you? Do you wish to do better because you want to avoid a spanking, or because you are motivated to be the best parent you can be – for your childrens’ benefit? Children absolutely do need to be taught the consequences of their actions, and to take responsibility for them (in age-appropriate ways and levels) – but do you want them to grow up doing the right thing because it is right, out of concern for their neighbours and from a desire to please the Lord, or out of a selfish fear of the possible consequences to themselves? For example, do you want them to observe the speed limits because they have been put in place to keep everyone safe, or because they want to avoid a fine? I want the former. So I want to focus my kids on the actual consequences of their actions – which may only negatively affect others – and trust that their God-given empathy (which also has a developmental trajectory) will, in the fulness of time, lead them to respond appropriately. Imposed, unrelated punishments distract from those real consequences and focus the child on their own pain.
        Also, by offering help rather than imposing punishment, I am preparing them for what they can expect from their brothers and sisters in Christ (and modeling how they can behave towards them) throughout their lives: “We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord”(Rom 15:2).

        I probably need to learn to be less long-winded… Tomorrow (hopefully) I’ll have a bit to say about authority and obedience, and then a few miscellaneous comments, and then I’ll be done 😉

      • Claire says:

        Instalment 3: On obedience…
        Part of what I wanted to say here is a blog post in itself, so I wrote one: Authority, Obedience and Nelson Mandela
        Secondly, the 2yo who ‘knows she’s done wrong’ and therefore hides… I would think that is an unlikely explanation for your 2yo’s behaviour. Her impulse control is, of course, even less developed than a 4yo’s, so stopping herself from taking the cookie she wants is a mammoth task. She may have held back for 2 whole minutes before her desire for the cookie won out – maybe even more – which would really be an amazing achievement… So, when the cookie finally wins out, she goes to plan B: hide – not so much from a guilty conscience (although there may be an element of that, too) but simply because she doesn’t want you to stop her from eating the cookie.
        Also, another thing children are not born knowing is the extent and limits of the power of language. They can only learn this by experiementation. So on the one hand, they will try to use ‘words as magic‘ thinkin that their words can change the world, or the past. On the other hand, they believe – or suspect – that words have meaning only when the speaker is present, or can see them.
        When my eldest, Little Bear, was 2 or 3, his grandfather put his glasses down on a table. He went to pick them up, and Grandad said ‘don’t touch’, so he didn’t. A little later, he left the room and Little Bear went, again, to pick up the glasses. I said, “Grandad said not to touch them.” He turned to me, his expression innocent, not a hint of cheek, and said, “But Grandad isn’t here.” They will need to learn by experience that your words are true even when you are not present. I teach them by a) making it impossible to get the cookie I have forbidden; b) if they do try to do the wrong thing when I’m absent – when I find out – make it happen; make my words come true. c) tell them, eg. “I said you may not have the cookie. What I say is true, even if I can’t see you” (wash, rinse, repeat). I mentioned this observation to my mother-in-law, who took it a step further, practively: “You may not climb on the new water-feature. Even if there’s no one there to see you, you still can’t climb on the rocks” Why didn’t I think of that? It worked, too – but they were a bit older than 2 ;).

      • Claire says:

        I’ve just realised, D., that you’ve written more replies. I’ll finish what I was planning before I look at them, ok? 🙂
        So, instalment 4 – miscellaneous (and I apologie in advance for any typos – nak):

        “Children should never have to respond in fear to any form of discpline…” Very true. Another esperiment for you: show your spanking implement to your children and ask them to tell you how they feel when they see it. Or, if you use your hand, or a wooden spoon that they also use for baking, ask them how they feel when they know they will be spanked. 🙂

        ‘Grace-based discipline’ is Crystal Lutton’s term, used to describe the specific method of gentle discipline epoused on the aolff,org website. You’ve got me curious now as to how she would define grace, but I think for our purposes compassionate discipline would be a reasonable translation. AFA grace being loving our children even though they don’t deserve it, I don’t consider hitting people to be a loving act (eg as defined in 1 Cor 13 – it is not patient or kind, for a start), therefore it is not part of grace-based discipline.

        I think comparing a small child’s obedience to their parents with Adam and Eve’s choice in the garden is placing a burden on their shoulders that they are not intended to bear. Adam and Eve were adults, and they walked with God in the garden, and He is perfect and they were not tainted by sin… seriously, there is no comparison… That said, if we talk about Adam and Eve’s choice, we talk about the choice to trust God’s voice or the serpent’s. Obedience flows from trust.

        “But I’m not looking for… recent studies to support my findings… I’m honing in on God’s Word…” Why not? If your interpretation of God’s word is correct, then scientific evidence can be expected to support it. There are no studies that show spanked children to be better off than gently disciplined children in the long run, either in terms of compliance or any other measure of wisdom, including aggression as adults. Given how much research has been done in this area over the years, surely there comes a time when we need to reconsider our interpretation of God’s word? (God can’t be wrong, but we can ;))

        “He has allowed spanking to be one form of effective discipline, measured by other Scriptures that forbid doing it from anger, lack of self-control, exasperation, etc…” There are no scriptures placing constraints of any kind on the use of the rod, unless you count the one in the law that says not to give more than 40 lashes because it’s too humiliating – but that one clearly doesn’t apply to children ;).

        Hebrews… Start your reading of Hebrews 12 at v4 (or earlier). I will have more to say on this in a follow-up post on Mac Maharaj and Nelson Mandela, if you’re interested. You could also read Dulce de Leche’s post on this passage.

        “It has been a quick way (in the sense of not lingering over the same issue for the whole morning and afternoon, distracting, negotiating, removing, etc…..) to deal with the offense and bring about peace.” – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Rom 12:18 – I am the authority in this relationship, therefore I am the one who sets the tone. “As far as it depends on me” is a very long way ;). If the peace of our relationship has been lost, I take responsibility for that – I don’t place it on my children’s shoulders. And I can think of no healthy relationship where the first step to restoring peace is to hit the person I am at odds with, or to let them hit me. Moreover, biblically, we can expect our children to imitate us (“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children”) and that is not a lesson I want them to learn. In any case, it is not quicker to hit, then hug, then teach, than it is to skip the hitting step an go straight to the hug and teach steps. I see no reason why either of us should be lingering over the same issue all day :).

        I’ll go and read what you have to say in you other replies, now 🙂

  10. D. says:

    HI Claire,
    I have enjoyed our discussions. I appreciate your willingness to admit that you are not the perfect parent, which means that makes two of us!!  In my short journey as a parent, I see my need for His wisdom and strength each and every moment of each and every day. I’m a passionate person when it comes to Truth and I trust the Spirit to continue His work in me and if that means revealing to me that spanking is nowhere in the Bible and was simply made up through culture, then His Spirit alone will have to do the work. At present, I remain convicted and convinced that the Scriptures do indeed address spanking as a means for deliberate/willful disobedience.
    When looking at all the specific rod verses in Proverbs, I found this site helpful: (http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/7626.html) Proverbs 13:24reads, “He who spares his rod hates his son….” It is helpful to look back to the real Hebrew meaning of the word for “rod.” We know it to be Shevet, and it gives several meanings: rod, staff, club, sceptre, and tribe. Then we look to context to see how this word best fits the meaning. ‘He who spares his tribe hates his son? or He who spares his scepter (mark of authority) hates his son? Or he who spares (literally) the rod hates his son.’ Okay, let’s go to Proverbs 29:15 “The rod and reproof give wisdom….” it is important to look at the separation of these words. Rod is different than reproof. We can read, ‘the sceptre (mark of authority) and reproof give wisdom; or the tribe and reproof; or the (literal) rod and reproof….’ Moving on to Proverbs 23:13, “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.” I can substitute again, ‘….although you strike him with a scepter (mark of authority) he will not die; with a tribe he will not die; or with a rod and he will die.’ My question then becomes: how could anyone die by a mark of authority? And why the need to state that he will not die, if it simply applied to verbal correction, verses a physical punishment? Still within the context of “the rod” verses in Proverbs we go to 10:13, “On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found, But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.” Let’s apply the same principal to best understand the meaning, ‘…but a mark of authority is for the back….or a tribe is for the back….or a (literal) rod is for the back….’ Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” It can read, ‘the mark of authority of discipline will remove it; the tribe of discipline will remove it or the rod of discipline will remove it.’ Along the same lines for the use of ‘rod,’ Proverbs 26:3, “A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, And a rod for the back of fools.” It can read, ‘a mark of authority for the back of fools; a tribe for the back of fools; or a rod for the back of fools.’ Out of all these verses that I have quoted, the only interpretation that makes sense to stay faithful to the context of each meaning of the rod would be a literal stick. These verses support each other in the same context (addressing fools and foolishness in order to impart wisdom) and the physical discipline that is approved of. You will note in several of the examples I wrote out that the word “sceptre,” (authority) does fit in according to the context.

    • D. says:

      opps. I meant to say that in several of the examples I typed out, the word “scepter” does NOT fit in the context of dealing with fools and foolish behavior.

  11. D. says:

    Thought I’d break it up a bit…..

    While I don’t hold fast to spanking as the only consequence for every single offense, I do believe it is a God-ordained tool, permitted to be used when a warning and talking to have failed, just as Proverbs says, “The rod and reproof…..” While you and many other parents have felt convicted of spanking and sought the Scriptures to support your convictions, there are also families on the other spectrum. Parents who never intended to spank either because they initially felt (or were told) it was wrong, not an option or it did not cross their mind (by the way, I am not referring to our family). They too have sought counsel from godly people and been led to the Scriptures. They have fallen under conviction that giving repeated warnings, constantly removing objects, continually supervising in order to prevent disobedience, has hindered the child’s ability to learn obedience and be brought into respectful submission of their parents. Now….what can be said of either of those situations? Both sensed a deep conviction from the Spirit, both sought godly counsel and both looked into the Scriptures. You wrote that when you stopped spanking you realized there were a whole bunch of other options instead (does that mean you use to spank for every offense? Other options have always been available even to those who do spank for willful disobedience). You inferred that your children are now learning to obey out of their own desire, verses fear of the consequences. Can I submit that children can also learn the same from the rod and reproof (they go hand in hand), since they give wisdom?
    I think you will agree that God is able to redeem no matter what. He can make a godly man/woman out of a child that had no guidance or correction whatsoever in their home; just as he can from a home that uses “gentle methods” or from a home that believes spanking has its place for willful disobedience. Since both you and I have a relationship with the Lord, each of us has a responsibility to raise our children with the guidance of the Spirit, with the convictions He has given us and have faith that God can be glorified in our children’s lives, even with all of our sins and failures in raising them.
    I am thankful that God is a bit vague with the usage of the rod (in the sense of how many precise swats, for what precise offense), as well as with other cultural methods we have adopted (time-outs; removal of privileges; grounding; appeasal). Otherwise, we would parent according to a hard-and-fast set of rules, instead of living in constant communion with Him to understand His heart and His leading in our lives for how we ought to train our children. He has given us liberty within the bounds of the Biblical standard. Therefore, I know that I have permission to use the rod within the bounds of God’s word, when reproof has failed and foolishness (willful disobedience) continues.

  12. D. says:

    In response to your last installment (miscellaneous)….

    It’s funny that you should ask about what my kid’s response is to the rubber spatula, which we use both to bake and for spanking (separate ones, of course). While they don’t jump for joy when they know they will be spanked, they have absolutely no fearful associations with a spatula. The only thing they don’t like about the spanking is that it very temporarily hurts, but they don’t fear the instrument persay. Nor would it be uncommon for them to joke about it if we are baking and they make a silly quirk about it being their spanking spoon. 🙂 So I think that should answer your question that my kids do not rejoice in being spanked, but they don’t live in fear of the object.

    I’d like you to think for a moment of the Lord’s loving discipline of HIs children. Think about the Israelites and all the pain they suffered for their disobedience to Him. He always reminded them that they had a choice to obey Him and be blessed or to disobey and suffer the consequences. You will note some of the “consequences” were terribly painful. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. So the God of the OT is the same God of the NT. Some of the covenents of the OT have passed away when Christ died on the cross (such as animal sacrifice…..), but His very character and nature has and will always be the same. Therefore, it is necessary to understand that God’s discpline in the OT was not simply severe and over-the-top and then all of a sudden in the NT He’s all grace and love, overlooking sin. He’s always been full of grace and love, but willing to bring painful discipline into our lives as well.

    The whole point of training our children up for obedience to their parents (in addition to the fact that God commands it) is for that obedience to transfer directly over to Christ when they accept Him as their Savior. At what point do you finally hold your children accountable for obedience (since you said it’s unfair to put that “burden” on them)? When they become a teenager or an adult? Or (as I believe) you expect it from the get-go and work with them through the whole process, teaching them that as they learn obedience to the parent, they are also obeying God. Or as they obey God, they will naturally obey their parents (since He commands it).

    As for research…..do you personally know how it was conducted for the anti-spanking movement? Have you looked at the statistics to see how many people they asked, what ages, over what span of time, from all walks of life, from all religions? Whenever a study is conducted for the set purpose of disproving or proving something (as in the anti-spanking movement) it usually already starts out on a very bais mindset: let’s look for the people who hate their parents because of being spanked; let’s look for the people who turned out aggressive (and just happened to be spanked as well); let’s look for the people who have anything negative to say about spanking – how it ruined their self-esteem and their life. If you want a healthy and unbais study conducted on this topic you need to first define the difference between spanking and physical abuse (there are actually non-Christian psychologists out there that endorse spanking and recognize the distinction between that and abuse). Ask the children who were raised in either godly homes or homes where parents decisively knew the difference between a firm swat on the bum verses a slap to the head or out-of-control beatings. You mentioned you were spanked as a child. Do you hate your parents? Are you scarred for life? Do you have no self-esteem? Are you violent and a physical threat to the world around you? These are all the assumptions made for those growing up with spanking. Is it fair to make the assumption that you were horribly abused as a child since your parents spanked you out of love? The research on the topic of spanking already starts out on the basis that it is abuse, so no matter if you give one swat on the bum or bash your kid’s head in…..they say it is all abuse. Is that a fair study then to use the example of a child whose bones were broken in the process of “discpline” and then link that back to spanking? Or how about a kid who was beaten all day long, black and blue for one offense – is that a fair example to use for an anti-spanking study? My kids never have bruises on them. They might be a bit red from the spatula, but it goes away quickly. That is not abuse. I can’t understand where people fail to see this distinction!

    If you read Hebrews 12:6 the word “scourges” comes from the transliteration “mastigoo.” 3146 mastigóō – properly, to whip (scourge) with a mastigos (see 3148 /mástiks, a “whip”); to “flog (scourge) a victim, strapped to a pole or frame” (Souter); (figuratively) God sending severe pain in the best eternal interests of the believer (see Heb 12:6). http://biblehub.com/lexicon/hebrews/12-6.htm

    Does it get any more clear that because of God’s great love for HIs children, He will inflict pain when we are in need of it. Hence it goes on to say that earthly fathers do the same to their children for a time. My sister and I were both spanked and we have the utmost respect for our parents and we are so secure in their love for us. Becasue they spanked us with the Biblical principles in mind (imperfect as times, as we all are), we have no resentment nor can we ever link that to abuse.

    “As far as it depends on you…..” Yes, it is for the precise reason of being the authority in the home that it also depends on you to live peaceably with all men (that does not negate the need to address your kids when they have been dilebrate in their disobdeince against you; in order to live in peace you must address their disobedience). My kidsdo not resort to “hitting” each other because mom or dad gave them a spanking. The reason for this, I believe, is because we do not strike out like a child would if they are hitting. We use a controlled and calm voice, we take them aside, we explain, we spank (again, not lashing out in impulse), we talk more, we pray, we hug…… “Johnny, don’t touch the computer please.” Johnny touches it anyhow. “Johnny, remember what mommy said, ‘No touch.'” Johnny touches the computer again. Nothing happens but repeated warnings, leaving Johnny confused as to why mom told him not to touch the computer in the first place. What should mom do now? Pack away the computer? Send Johnny to his room? Offer him a treat, which is a mere distraction and does not address the heart issue that Johnny disobeyed and was then rewarded with a treat. If this happens in our home, one swat (maybe two at the very most, for two separate occasions) solves everything. I have made my words come true by discplining for their disobedience. Once the sin has been dealt with, we are free to move on to snack, without it being connected in any way as a reward for not listening.

    The way you write about “those parents” who spank their children, runs thick with your personal definition that all spanking is abuse. Please correct me if I am wrong or have misunderstood your quotes. When you say, “And I can think of no healthy relationship where the first step to restoring peace is to hit the person I am at odds with, or to let them hit me,” it is clear you assume any spanking to be an impluse of anger, lashing out without warning. Or as you also wrote, “I don’t consider hitting people to be a loving act (eg as defined in 1 Cor 13 – it is not patient or kind, for a start), therefore it is not part of grace-based discipline.” Is it loving or kind to take away your kids crayons if they are having fun with them, drawing on the wall? Somewhere along the line, we have to define what love and kindness is. And in the Bible we see that God’s discipline does not always “look or feel” loving or kind, but He has the best in mind. As His followers, can we not assume the same responsibility in our children’s lives? Again, you assume that as soon as the child has offended, we pull the rod out of our sheath and (without any warning) beat them. First of all they get a warning/reminder. There is no cold, impulsive striking out. If a social worker came to our home today, he/she would have no idea whatsoever that our kids have been “abused,” as you have inferred all spanking to be. They wouldn’t find any bruises, they wouldn’t find fearful, withdrawn children. They would find happy, playful and very inquizzative, talkative kids. They would only have proof that we spank our children if they point-blank asked, “Do mommy and daddy spank you?” Where is the abusive link to that?

    Ah….there is so much that we can go back and forth about. 🙂 God’s Word (not worldly studies or what Dr. so-and-so says) is the only authority. I’m not sure how one can take the rod verses in Proverbs and say there is nothing in the BIble that addresses physical discipline. Proverbs has other verses that encourage verbal reproof when addressing fools; why the need to use the rod verses as an added figurative meaning of verbal correction? Couldn’t the other reproof verses simply stand on their own? Not to mention the hebrew root word specifically implies it is a stick in the context of the rod verses. To me, the Bible has answered this dilemma, being able to look back at the original language. It shouldn’t be an argument of “Hitting can’t be loving,” but rather, what counsel does the Bible give to remedy the foolish and rebellious behavior of our children? It’s clear that using the rod is permitted.

    • Claire says:

      We are going round and round in circles. I thought I made it clear I always require obedience. You speak as if the only way to address disobedience is to hit your child – it isn’t. The way to address disobedience is to require obedience. Take the child away from the computer and give her something else to do. Over time she learns that what mummy says happens – and she learns to obey. You will say that this doesn’t address the heart issue of disobedience. No, but neither does spanking. Spanking is not a magic wand that reaches the heart. The only way to reach the heart is through teaching Gods word and prayer. You are doing those things. The spanking is an unnecessary distraction.

      I love and respect my parents and know they did their best for me. I am not assuming you lash out suddenly without warning, and that was not my experience. And a few years ago I would not have said that spanking had damaged me at all. I am only now beginning to realise some of the damage and to heal as I re-parent myself with grace. Among the harm done was: the belief that I deserved to be hit; suppressed anger at my parents; and the sense of entitlement that led me to spank my son for a period of time. I also grew up with a twisted view of God’s grace, judgement and punishment, similar to the one you have displayed in this post, and I am still discovering and learning about whole new understanding of God’s grace. Here is my current understanding:

      God’s discipline is loving guidance for his children, like a shepherd with his sheep, using his rod to guide them gently (never hitting them with it – a sheep won’t follow a shepherd who hits him) and protect them. In the Jewish culture, in which the fathers carried a rod (a thick walking-stick, not a spatula), their shebet, which symbolised their authority, you can’t really talk about being an authority in your children’s lives, and wielding that authority appropriately, without using the word rod. But actually physically beating your son with that rod, that wouldn’t be using your authority appropriately because then he *could* well die – hence it makes more sense to interpret that verse in light of the 6th commandment – obey your parents and live long in the land (not die). To put it another way, teach your children well (day in day out, like the sun beating down on their life) while they are under your rod (authority) so they will not grow up to be gluttons and drunkards and be stoned to death.
      God’s discipline (teaching and guidance) in the old testament is the law, given to teach wisdom, And it’s the prophets sent to remind and call God’s children back to him. The punishments God sends? By that time, those people are not his children, they are past discipline, they are put out of their misery before they destroy themselves and everyone around them. This is not about teaching/discipline, it’s about damage control. Even then, God is merciful – he doesn’t kill them all, he keeps for himself a remnant, he goes *with them* into exile (this is one reason I believe in time-ins, not time outs ;)).

      Hebrews 12 is about a different kind of discipline. The kind where you are put through an ordeal to strengthen you. Like a coach working an athlete harder than he believes possible. ‘You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood…stand firm…’ this is exhortation to people who are experiencing persecution. The Hebrews may well have been about to experience a scourge, or worse – for *doing right*. (I really must get on with that second blog post about Mac Maharaj). To compare it with punishment for wrongdoing… well, if I were one of the Christians experiencing persecution today, maybe actually shedding my blood or even about to lose my life, I would be offended by such a thought, quite frankly. The ‘discipline’ the fathers in this passage are giving is described here. Another of the negative effects of spanking in my life has been to equate the word discipline with spanking/punishment because that is what I experienced, but that really isn’t what is being referenced here.

      I agree, if I deliberately do something with the intention of hurting my child, that is not kind. That is a nice simple definition of punishment and that is what I try to avoid (although all-too-often I catch myself falling into my old punitive patterns :(). There are times I need to do things that my children don’t like because I am the parent – and I will seek the kindest way to do that. Because being kind is *my* obedience to God and therefore it is my modeling obedience to my children. If discipline can be achieved painlessly, then I will hope to find that way. If necessary teaching is painful for my child, I will strive to be *with* them in that (weep with those who weep) – empathy and comfort and acknowledgement go a long way. Like the Holy Spirit, the ‘one who comes alongside’.

      I have run out of time. I think it’s probably time we finished this discussion. As I said, we’re going round in circles and as you have said, neither of us is going to convince the other – we need to leave that in the Holy Spirit’s hands. I know you are a great parent, and your children are greatly loved. God bless you as you continue your parenting journey.


  13. D. says:

    I just got back from a little family trip away……Thank you again for all your thoughts and the time you put into answering each of my posts. I trust it was not “wasted” even if we do part ways, agreeing to disgree. 🙂 And we can totally agree on the part about leaving it in the Holy Spirit’s hands to convict/convince/affirm us of our parenting or any other issue in life.

    I appreciate how much you love the Lord and hold a high regard for His Word.

    “And now, may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to him. Jesus is the great Shepherd of the sheep by an everlasting covenant, signed with his blood. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.” -Heb. 13:20


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