Can spanking hurt a child's feelings?


My son was very rude and would not explain his behavior. I must mention that it has been over a month since the last time that I spanked him. At that time I gave him a bare-bottom spanking in front of everyone. It was every effective, so I used the same method this time. I hope that it doesn't hurt his feelings. Can it hurt his feelings?


Generally I do not recommend giving a public spanking for several reasons. First, the world is filled with zealots who have the mistaken notion that spanking is harmful to a child. Rather than giving them an excuse to interfere in the operation of the family, I recommend that spankings be done privately. Second, the Bible warns against vengeance. "Do not say, "I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work." " (Proverbs 24:29). Children are especially prone to get one child in trouble solely for the purpose of seeing him get into trouble. It leads to children turning into tattletales. For this reason, spankings should not be done in front of other children.

In regards to sparing his feelings, the Bible says, "Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction" (Proverbs 19:18). Punishment must be delivered in a timely manner. Delay too long and the opportunity to create a change can be lost. In addition, a properly administered spanking will not cause lasting harm. "Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell" (Proverbs 23:13-14). Does that mean the child will like being spanked? Of course not! "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11). Don't get caught looking at the short-term, disagreeable task of having to punish a child. Your aim must be long-term. You are trying to mold a child in the direction he must go in adulthood. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

Those who object to severe punishments, such as spanking, often will cite Ephesians 6:4, "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." They state that their child gets angry with them when they spank them, so they don't use spanking. The thing is, though, a child often will get angry over any punishment. Take away a privilege and you will see the child respond with fury. Send them to their room for a time-out and they will wail and stomp down the hall. If we take the argument to the extreme that no punishment should cause anger, then a child would never be punished. The Scriptures state clearly that punishment must be momentarily painful, so we must conclude that Ephesians 6:4 is being misunderstood.

An interesting article, called "Raising Kids" by James Q. Wilson published in the October 1983 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, reviewed numerous studies looking into what causes some children to go into a life of crime. A major factor that is repeatedly brought up is how a child is raised. Parents who are indifferent or hostile to their children or each other prevent a child from bonding with them. Without that bond, a child grows up not caring what other people think about their actions. In addition, such parents are often lax or erratic in disciplining their children.

Lax discipline means that a child is never restrained from taking the wrong course in life. It is the sin with which Eli was changed. "In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them" (I Samuel 3:12-13). This is not to say that Eli ignored his sons. We have at least one of Eli's scoldings recorded for us. "Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons! For it is not a good report that I hear. You make the LORD'S people transgress. If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?" Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the LORD desired to kill them." (I Samuel 2:22-25). Too often the lax disciplinarian will substitute words for action. Eli told his sons they were in the wrong, but he did nothing about the situation.

King David made the same mistake with his son, Adonijah. "Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, "I will be king"; and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. (And his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, "Why have you done so?" He was also very good-looking. His mother had borne him after Absalom.)" (I Kings 1:5-6). The writer pinpoints the cause of Adonijah's desire to rebel against his father in his old age, David spoiled him by never making him accountable for October 27, 2015he decided was automatically the right course of action.

Laxness in parenting is also demonstrated in how they follow-up on their disciplinary actions. In the article previously cited we find, "A particularly noticeable characteristic of the parents of many of the delinquents in the study was carelessness or laxness in matters of supervision. They were less concerned than other parents tow watch over or to know about their children's doings, whereabouts and companions, and they failed to enforce or to formulate fixed rules about such things as punctuality, manners, bedtime, television viewing or tidying up."

Erratic parents are those who put off punishment until they had too much. Discipline is not longer a matter of correcting bad behavior and rewarding good behavior. Instead, if a parent is in a good mood, nothing happens, but if they are in a bad mood, watch out! The least little thing will set them off and the punishment doled out is rarely in accordance to the offense. There are no fixed rules regarding right and wrong. Everything is based on the parent's current mood. Instead of objective, just punishments the parent uses punishment for personal vengeance.

A child growing up in such a situation, lives in constant turmoil. He never knows if it will be a good day or a bad day. Since there is no connection between action and punishment, he never knows when he might cross over the constantly moving line. Naturally aggressive children raised in such an environment grow up mad at the world. They take their frustrations out on those around them. The article cited warned that punishment "to the extent that it is random or erratic (in the child's view), it may lead him ... to believe that violence is a normal and acceptable method of expressing one's feelings." It is this type of bad parenting that Paul was warning against in Ephesians 6:4.

Avoiding this is straight forward. Rewards and punishments must be decided based on a fixed view of right and wrong and not personal mood. In order for it to mold behavior, it must be used in a consistent manner. For example, if a child is consistently punished for whining to get his way (say sent to his room for ten minutes), the whining will soon stop. However, if a parent gives in to the whining, even just once in a while, the child will continue to whine because, you never know, this time they might get their way. It is exactly the same phenomenon that occurs in gamblers. Infrequent "wins" keep them coming back for more even though the losses far exceed the winnings because you never know, the next time might be their lucky day. Inconsistent punishment can result in more frequent punishments because the bad behavior is never repressed.

Hence, all punishments should be given because of a predefined course of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Punishment should be given because an unacceptable behavior occurred and not because the parent is in a bad mood or because the parent cannot not tolerate it anymore. Similarly, punishment should not be avoided because you want to avoid a scene or because you think you might lose the child's fondness for you. No child enjoys being punished, but when they see consistent, just reactions to their actions, they will respect their parents and learn to be accountable for their deeds.

October 27, 2015