It’s hard to know exactly how to discipline your children. I started learning more about discipline and began wondering if spanking was biblical. This blog contains what I’ve discovered.
Is spanking your children Biblical? The Bible does not forbid spanking. The Bible does encourage disciplining your children, but it does not prescribe specific means of discipline. One biblical proverb encourages parents not to spare the rod lest they spoil their child, implying that physical discipline is biblical and acceptable. The Bible always emphasizes discipline as a form of loving and raising your children rightly.
Let’s dive into Scripture to find out what the Bible says about discipline.
Is Spanking Biblical?
The Bible doesn’t condone spanking.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.Proverbs 13:24
The rod is a figure of correction. This includes the appropriate physical discipline of the child. The parent who refuses to discipline his child may feel they avoid it out of compassion for the child, but they are mistaken.
The Bible says there is actually harm, potentially so great that it could be said that he hates his son.
The Wisdom Literature of the Bible, the Book of Proverbs continues to say that the rod & reproof is necessary because it actually brings wisdom.
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.Proverbs 29:15
God designed us to learn through correction. As Christians, often times God uses suffering to teach us something. Even Jesus himself learned through suffering (Hebrews 5:8).
We should not despise or look down on God’s use of either the rod or the rebuke. No one, not even a child (disciplined in a proper way appropriate for them) is above learning through discipline.
Discipline is the order of God’s government. Parents are his dispensers of it to their children. Let correction be first tried, and if it succeeds, let the rod be spared. If not, let the rod do its work.Enduring Word Commentary – Bridges
As crazy as it sounds, suffering in the moment, grows you in the long run. If one never has gone through any suffering in their life, they won’t grow. This is what shapes us for the better.
Hebrews 12 speaks about the Lord discipling his children.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.Hebrews 12:7-8
The Bible sets an expectation that parents will discipline their children. God disciplines us as His children. We are to discipline our children.
Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!Hebrew 12:9
Children learn to respect their parents when they are disciplined.
Discipline is not bad. Children learn and grow when they are disciplined.
Focus on the Family outlines 5 principles to follow before spanking your child – read it here.
God Wants Us To Train Our Children
We can see that the Lord wants us to train our children, and to teach them His ways.
The Bible says train your children in the way he should go.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6
As a parent, one is to train their children, so that when they get older they will know right from wrong, and how to live according to the way God has originally intended us to live.
Every child from a young age knows how to do wrong. They don’t have take a class on how to lie or misbehave, it is natural for them (because we are born with a sinful nature).
The job of the parent is not to simply let him grow up in any particular way (that could make light of sin nature), but to train him “in the way he should go.”
According to Enduring Word Commentary, the way he should go has at least two senses that complement each other.
The Book of Proverbs often presents the concept of the way – being the path of wisdom and life in contrast to the way of folly and destruction (such as mentioned in Proverbs 22:5).
A more literal rendering of the Hebrew at once answers this question. Such translation would be: ‘Train up a child according to his way.’ In every child there are special and peculiar powers. The true business of training a child therefore, is that of discovering what those powers are, and developing them…. Herein is revealed the need for individual work. No two children are alike.” (Morgan)Enduring Word Commentary
We are to know our children, and because every child is different, each will struggle with different things and excel in different things.
We should take our individual child’s needs into account when parenting and teaching them the way they should go.
All children are to be taught the Lord’s way, and that can look differently for each child.
Parents first and for most, must dedicate their child to God: and nurse, teach, and discipline him as God’s child, whom he has entrusted you to care for.
When he is old he will not depart from it: This is a wonderful principle that the Holy Spirit may quicken to a promise for parents troubled over their adult children. When a child is trained in the proper way, though they may depart for a season (and a long season), in principle they will return and not depart from it.Enduring Word Commentary
Fathers are not to provoke their children to anger, but bring them up with discipline and instruction from God’s Word.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.Ephesians 6:4
The Bible says if we love our children, we will correct them, and we will not spare the rod when the time is come to discipline them in that way.
With this being said, parents have an extremely heavy responsibility. If they expect their children to walk in the way of the Lord, they must also be a living example of the Word of God themselves.
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.Titus 2:7
This verse applies to all Christians. In everything we do, we should glorify God and model the good works God has for us. If we cannot live according to Scripture ourselves, how can we expect our children to?
When our children are young they will follow in our foot steps and model what we do. We are to take into consideration the entirety of the Bible, studying it, and then ourselves obeying God’s commandments for life.
We aren’t to just take bits and pieces from the Bible of what we want to hear, but read it in context for what is to be applied for all areas of life.
In order to understand how you are to go about disciplining your child, we must understand what the discipline of the Lord is.
Understanding The Discipline Of The Lord
The Bible says that the Lord discipline’s his children, and the one he loves. He knows it is for the benefit of his children in their growing process.
Proverbs chapter 3 it says,
My son, do not despise the Lord’s disciplineProverbs 3:11-12
or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
God correcting and disciplining us is actually a sign that we are one of His children, and that our faith is real. The discipline of the Lord in one’s on life shows that you are walking with God and that the Lord has great plans for you.
As humans, we are not perfect beings. We are very far from that, and need to be constantly reminded of God’s truth in our own lives.
As believers, we can expect that the discipline of the Lord is evidence that we are true children of God.
God wants to redirect us to the path he has for us. One that is away from evil, and towards the path of righteousness. Because we are stubborn human beings, and don’t always like doing things God’s way, the process back towards truth can be painful.
God can use discipline that causes pain to get our attention. As believers, we should expect to feel “the rod” of the Lord’s discipline.
The Lord chastens and seeks after those He loves.
Good parents don’t let their children do or get away with whatever they want. Rather, they are to be clear in establishing guidelines and rules for how they can be successful in life.
Parents are to be examples and teach their children in the way they should go. When rules are broken, there should be consequences to show that parents actually care.
The ultimate goal for God in disciplining us, is that we grow in maturity in Christ as His Children.
We are to grow in maturity as children of God. And we are to teach our children so they also can grow in maturity as adults and hopefully as believers in Jesus one day themselves.
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.Colossians 1:28
When it comes to parenting, the Bible is clear that disciplining often causes pain in the moment, but in the long run, is for the better of the child. Obviously this has to be done in the right way.
One can’t just discipline their child, without having a loving, trusting relationship with them first.
Positive & Negative Elements In Parenting
Because we are to model Christ in all that we do for our children, we are to not just discipline as first priority, we are to nurture our children by investing in them.
Obviously a parent’s love should come naturally for the mother who has been carrying her child in her for 9 months.
We are also to make sure we are showing that love to our children in a way they understand we are there for them no matter what.
No human is perfect; therefore no parent is perfect and we will make mistakes along the way.
In our own strength, we will fail again and again. Christ can help us in loving our children to the best of our abilities.
There is a positive element we are to show our children, and a negative element we are to show our children. Without both, we can’t fully display Christ and be the parents God calls us to be.
Nurturing Your Children
As parents, we are not to provoke our children to anger, but to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
Parents certainly have the opportunity to provoke their children to wrath, through an unkind, over-critical attitude that torments the child instead of training them. But Christian parents should never be like this (Enduring Word Commentary).
Parents are to first and forth most be examples of Christ by loving them which includes disciplining them with the right attitude and in the right way.
Potentially Disciplining in Anger Rather Than Love
First, when you are disciplining your child, you should have first control over yourself.
Then, by us being transformed by the power of Christ, we can bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
This does not mean merely scolding your children in the sense of admonition. It means to train and admonish.
Encouragement and rebuke must be combined with training and teaching.
Training is the same word translated chastening in Hebrews 12:5-11. It has the idea of training through corrective discipline. Admonition has more of the idea of teaching – both are necessary, though it may be significant that training comes first. Significantly, both training and admonition are used to describe the purpose of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 10:11).Enduring Word Commentary
Parents are to raise their children on the Word of God and correcting them on things that go against the Word of God. This doesn’t mean not ever showing grace, or correcting them for every little thing they do.
We are to be wise in what should be disciplined, and what should be given grace for.
I have seen both extremes. One where parents hardly ever disciplined their children and their children did not respect their parents or others in authority.
And another where it felt like they barely even let their child breath without correcting them for something. Both were extreme in their own ways.
We are to pick and choose our battles with our kids, and seek God’s wisdom, for what is really important to correct.
For the things that are important, we are to handle the situation with love in correcting; whether that is by taking away a privilege, or by using physical punishment in the form of spanking.
We also must think, what are the little things your children are doing that you as a parent, can let go? And what are the things done that are important to work through now?
Focus on the Family outlined when to and when to not spank your child:
Spanking may be appropriate when a child is:
- In an extremely unsafe situation
- Deliberately defiant and disobedient
- Severely disrespectful
Spanking is NOT appropriate when a child is:
- Simply being childish
- Had an accident
Read the complete article here.
The Right Way & Wrong Way to Discipline Your Child
Knowledge and wisdom is important when raising your kids. But just because you know something doesn’t mean that you know how to apply those things.
We must ask Jesus to give us wisdom when disciplining our children.
Wisdom is the ability to apply the knowledge you have, or answer the question, “What should I do?”
As Christians, our wisdom should come from God, not the world. We can get wisdom straight from the Word of God (Proverbs specifically is wisdom-focused literature), and through prayer by asking.
Start today to seek God’s way of living, and implement that to your kids.
Our goal in parenting isn’t raising perfect children but rather to develop kids who know how to make good decisions driven by Godly wisdomFocus on the Family
If you want to read quality parenting books – click here.