Should I give my seven-year-old a spanking for getting an F on his report card?




Yesterday my seven year old son came home from school with an F, on his report card. I told him the last time if he gets another F, I was going to get a spanking. Is that the right thing to do?

When I received this note (what you are seeing is a severely edited version), I immediately marked it down as a lie. There were many details which were just plain wrong, such as a seven-year-old (first grade student) in school in the middle of July. "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). I was puzzled, though, by the motivation. Was this person just getting kicks from sending lies to preachers? Are they a part of the anti-spanking crowd seeking ammunition against spanking by giving a ridiculous scenario? Or, could they be mentally unstable people who get their jollies from reading about spanking?

Who knows? However, I did decide to use a small section to talk about the issue of proper or just punishment. Spanking is recommended in the Scriptures as one of several avenues available to a parent to correct misbehavior. If you read through the passages listed in the Topical Index on Spanking, you will note that the type of behavior being corrected is described as:

  • Stubborn and rebellious (Deuteronomy 21:8) - refusing to change, disobedient, bitter, provocative
  • Devoid of understanding (Proverbs 10:13) - acting without reason or heartless
  • Him who forsakes the way (Proverbs 15:10)
  • A fool (Proverbs 17:10) - Literally means "fat," indicating a person who is lazy and uncaring
  • Destructive (Proverbs 19:18)
  • A scoffer (Proverbs 19:25) - A person who mocks others. Someone who refuses to believe despite adequate evidence.
  • An evil heart (Proverbs 20:30)

Thus I have always recommended that spankings be reserved for cases of violence, willful rebellion, or where there is no other obvious means of punishing available for that particular disobedience. Spanking, by itself, is an deterrent, but it is insufficient to change a child's behavior. "The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother" (Proverbs 29:15). Spanking must be accompanied by rebukes -- corrective teaching. It is not enough for a child to know that something is wrong. He must also be told what is right and how to achieve what is right.

The case described is a perfect illustration of how to be a foolish parent. A small child is told "not to get an F," no mention is made about why the first failing grade was received or what steps were taken to remove distractions or give aid so that an F need not be earned. The entire focus was on the punishment and not the misbehavior that needed to be remedied.

Receiving a poor grade means a child needs to be taught how to learn. Spanking in this particular case accomplishes absolutely nothing.

See also:

Raising Godly Children in a Wicked World
Questions and Answers regarding Child Rearing
Questions and Answers regarding Spanking