To spank or not to spank? That is certainly a question that can be controversial. First of all, I want to be clear up front: by the word spanking, I’m referring to legitimate discipline that both hurts and is lovingly instructive. Biblical spanking is commanded of parents, but it has nothing to do with abusive or harmful actions of any type. Spanking, according to the Bible, is something God instructs parents to use in their tool box of parenting. Proverbs 13:24 says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” Proverbs 22:15 puts it this way, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.”

In order to gain a clear perspective on what the Bible teaches, it’s necessary to take a look at the word rod in the Hebrew. It is the word šēbeṭ (שָׁ֫בֶט)—kind of pronounced like “shave it.” It occurs dozens of times in the Old Testament. It can simply refer to a stick, or it can also refer to a scepter (such as a king would use). Normally, the Hebrew word typically refers to one of two things: a tool made of metal or wood and was a small instrument used for beating seed, and also at times as an instrument to hit (see Exodus 21:20). This rod was something many would carry around as a tool to do many things. The word šēbeṭ (שָׁ֫בֶט) could also refer to a weapon of some sort, like a javelin or a club. In these instances, it was often still translated as rod. This is what shepherds used. The rod was both a comfort (Psalm 23:4), and a tool of correction and discipline.

So, what’s the point? The point is that God commands parents to lovingly discipline their children in a way that hurts and is also instructive. Obviously, just striking a child in anger is not what God intends, and is actually a sin. Unfortunately, some parents (who were abused as children) simply refuse to spank their own children out of an emotional reaction. The problem is that God commands us to inflict a certain degree of pain on our children (both physical and emotional) when they disobey. This is where theology comes in. This is how God deals with us. Hebrews 12:10-11 says, “They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Here’s something else to chew on: your view of spanking is directly connected to two key theological beliefs, 1) your view of Scripture, and 2) your view of human depravity. If you believe that human beings are essentially “good” by nature, then your view of parental discipline will certainly be different than if you believe that human beings are cruel, violent and selfish by nature. If God’s Word is truly inerrant and infallible (which it claims to be), then we need to take it seriously, even the parts that make us uncomfortable.

Whether or not we like the idea of spanking a child is not the issue. The issue is what does the Bible teach? Secondly, if human beings are truly sinful and depraved (which the Bible clearly teaches), then children are by nature corrupt, foolish and wayward. As such, they desperately need loving, biblical correction. They need discipline—they need several forms of discipline, including spankings. Once again, spankings should be always be done in a manner that is calm, clear, and consistent. But, they should hurt. The opposite problem is “half-way” spankings, which a lot of parents lapse into. To ‘half-spank” a child (a common diluted version of spanking) is both ineffective and actually counter-productive.

Our experience is that when spankings are used in a positive, loving way, they are very effective.
My father-in-law gave Becky and I this advice early on, “If you spank hard, you won’t have to spank as often.” We certainly found that to be true. Parents who choose not to use loving spankings are missing out on a powerful tool for raising their kids.

SO…what does spanking have to do with theology? Turns out a lot! Just like all of life, everything goes back to theology. Ask yourself these questions: What is your view of God? What is your view of His Word? What is your view of human sin? What will you choose to do when it comes to spanking?