We spanked Caroline less than a half a dozen times before she was three, but I never felt right about it. David and I were convicted that we should not continue to spank her. I’m going to share six reasons why we changed our mind and stopped spanking. (Update in 2022 – We absolutely did the right thing with our child. I thank God that He opened our eyes and made us change course.)
Disclaimer: I realize good people who love their children disagree about this topic. I realize that specifically some Christians reading this are going to disagree with me. That’s fine. I’m sharing our family’s experience and our convictions. I’m not a parenting expert. I am a mom in process. I would not presume to tell you what to do with your child. I am simply offering my perspective with the hope that sharing our thought process regarding this topic might help other parents struggling with this decision.
So here are the six reasons.
The Bible does not require spanking
I could write an entire post or series of posts on just this one reason. I’m not going to do that today. I will link to some reading at the end that people might find helpful if they want to read theological explanations and expositions on why some Bible-believing Christians believe spanking is not required by the Bible.
What it boils down to for us is the fact that while Caroline is our child, she is also our (presumed) sister in Christ. I can read a great deal in the Bible (especially the New Testament) that talks about how we are to treat one another that is very clear. I find very little in the Bible that seems to teach the merits of spanking, let alone that it is required. The preponderance of evidence goes clearly away from spanking when one looks at the entirety of Scriptures.
Our child never hit us until we hit her
Caroline never hit us until we spanked her. This, to me, was profound. When we hit her, she hit us. And then, of course, we turned around and sternly admonished her it was wrong to hit and she could not hit us. The message we were communicating to Caroline was we can hit you but you can’t hit us. That makes absolutely no sense in any way.
I know there are people who will say that spanking isn’t hitting, but I respectfully disagree. We now have a very strong no hitting rule in our family. We also have a very strong rule that no means no. When someone says no, we all respect that immediately. (The same thing when someone says stop.) In these ways we believe we are preparing her for adulthood and hopefully instilling in her a very strong sense of personal power, especially as she will relate to men.
Spanking provoked anger in our child
There may be some children who can be spanked and not be provoked to anger. But I am firmly convinced that spanking does provoke some (or many) children to anger. The Bible tells us we are not to provoke our children.
The challenging thing is if a parent starts spanking early as is recommended by experts, she probably doesn’t yet have a firm grip on her child’s temperament. She can’t clearly tell if her child is one who will roll with the spanking to no (apparent) harm or if she has a child who is deeply wounded by the spanking. If a child falls into the group that is provoked to anger by spanking, how much damage is done before the parents figure it out?
(And, no, I do not believe that if a child becomes angry then we need to beat the anger out of her until she is broken and completely submits her will to us. No. Just no.)
Spanking provoked fear and distrust in our child
This is the reason that saddens me the most and the one that makes me wish I could go back and do it over. Spanking Caroline clearly provoked fear and distrust toward us, especially me. She may have been small, but it took a very long time for her to move past this after we stopped spanking. It sickens me physically to think about it. We only spanked her a few times and that was all it took.
Again, spanking some children is going to be disastrous based on their temperament. I truly believe that. Now that she is eight and I have a better understanding of who she is and how she is wired, I can clearly see why spanking would be so devastating to her and completely ineffective.
We considered how adults receive consequences
When adults make mistakes, they are not physically punished. They might lose their job, suffer financial loss or lose a friend, but they are not subjected to spanking or hitting in order to make them learn from their mistake. They suffer the natural consequences of their actions. Furthermore, hitting an adult is battery or assault. Hitting an animal is cruelty. Both can result in jail time. Yet somehow hitting a child is different.
As adults we learn from the consequences of our actions. We believe it should be the same with a child. Is this tricky when the child is younger and doesn’t have fully developed reasoning skills? Yes. Is it more work? Yes. Does it require more of the parent? Yes. Is it sometimes harder to measure the results in the short term? Yes. Does it work? Yes.
Spanking isn’t necessary
The bottom line is that spanking isn’t necessary. There are many other ways to disciple and discipline our child that do not require hitting her or inflicting physical pain. Yes, they often take much more effort and work. But I am so thankful we realized that spanking is not necessary for our child in our home.
- If you would like to read more about not spanking from a biblical and scholarly approach, I suggest starting with the free ebook you can download right now: Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me – Christians and the Spanking Controversy by Samuel Martin.
- There are many articles online as well including this secular one I just saw: Spanking the gray matter out of our kids.
- We also had a lengthy discussion in the comments of this post that I wrote about spanking: Highly-sensitive children, shy children, spanking and Voddie Bauchum.
I love this. I started out thinking that spanking was the only Biblical response to sin (both perceived and real) in my child, and have since changed my mind for many similar reasons.
Ashley – I’m so glad you found answers that work well for your family! It’s good to “see” you again! 🙂
Stephanie G. Cox, M.S.Ed
Thank you so much for sharing this, Sally! I’m so glad you opened your heart to your daughter and to God. Sadly, many parents stick with spanking/hitting. Corporal punishment is always harmful even if we can’t see the harm. And God never intended for children to be spanked/hit. Thank you for helping get the Truth out. God bless you!
Well written, Sallie! These are pretty much the reasons we decided not to spank. I would only add that if we as adults hit each other in the way we hit children when we spank, we could be charged with assault. That alone would give me pause even without all the above listed reasons.
Thank you for sharing.
I loved this article. I’ve felt for a long time that hitting and spanking a child is the way a grown up person acts out the unresolved inner pain of his/her childhood, that gets triggered by the child’s natural ways. This can be very painful for an adult who was silenced into obedience through spanking and other emotional scars.
It’s crucial to find peaceful ways to communicate with our children.
Thank you for sharing this.
So what would you do if a child hit you or another child (especially a baby sibling)? Or if he consistently tries to run out in the street? Or bangs on a computer keyboard that you can’t put out of his reach? I don’t want to spank but haven’t been able to think of good alternatives for some situations.
How old is the child? What is the child’s general temperament? How many siblings and where is he/she in the birth order?
Honestly, there are so many factors when trying to decide the best way to approach disciplining each child. Every child is so different.
Fully agree with your article for the same reasons you mention. As Christians, spanking never felt right to us either. I’ve always considered the “rod” is meant to guide our children, not to hit them.
WOW, I couldn’t agree more. Thank you so much for sharing. 2 and 3 stick out the most. We learned the hard way that my son was becoming extremely angry every time we spanked and those around us were telling us to “spank until he was no longer angry” Sadly I attempted at one point and his anger got worse. I felt horrible. I was raised that way and that’s not how I wanted them raised at all. I was giving in to what was habit.
For my daughter who is special needs (didn’t have a diagnoses at the time or the help we needed for her behaviors) we attempted spanking as well. She handled it far differently than her brother. She ran to a corner shaking and screaming and wouldn’t even so much as look at me.
Mind you I hadn’t beat her or even taken her clothes off or left marks. But, she didn’t understand that. For us, that was the final straw.
It’s taken time and work to not resort to a spanking and to learn new methods. But, at almost 4 and almost 5 we are constantly complimented on how well behaved both children are. How well they sit when we go out to eat, how polite they are when my almost 4 year old son holds a door open (willingly ) for another person. And their manners are amazing. And it’s not because I’ve forced the manners on them. But, because we are living it by example and letting them be children while validating their emotions, feelings and still setting rules but not being as rigid and using physical pain to enforce them. So, thank you so much for posting this and letting me know we aren’t alone.
Somehow I missed responding to your comment and I don’t even know if you will see my response. But wow. Thank you for sharing this. Your stories about your son and daughter are great examples of why I think spanking can be so damaging for some children. I’m so glad for your family that you realized that and loved your children enough to not spank them.
Thank you! This is encouraging. We don’t have our first kid yet, so thank God I’m deciding against spanking now. I’m almost done reading through the book you linked to. It’s really fascinating!
I’m glad you found this post encouraging. I know the Lord will give you wisdom as you seek Him in your parenting. I’ve made a lot of choices I never would have expected, but I know God is showing me how to parent my child, the one He gave me. Don’t be afraid to swim against the tide if you believe God is leading you to do so.