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June 02, 2007

The Bible Does not Tell Parents to Spank

by flowermama

When I was younger, up until sometime in the first year of my first daughter's life (she is 11 now), I thought that Christian parents needed to spank their children in order to be godly parents. I'm a theologically conservative Christian, I grew up attending a fundamentalist school from kindergarten through four years of college, and I thought that, biblically, parents were supposed to spank their children. Of course I planned on spanking. There was no question in my mind about it.

When my firstborn was about eight months old (that was when we first got on the internet), I started really looking into attachement parenting. I found other Christians online who practiced attachment parenting, and I found out that many of them didn't spank their children. Choosing not to spank made sense to me -- when I was trying so hard to build a healthy attachment with my child and to build her trust in me by treating her gently, wearing her in a sling, breastfeeding her, sleeping with her, etc., why would I want to purposefully take my hand or an object and strike her?

I studied the issue and realized I felt that God had led me not to spank. Verses stood out to me which said, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance. . . " (Gal. 5:22, 23b), "Love is patient, love is kind" (see the rest of I Cor. 13 for more about what love is)", ". . . we proved to be gentle among you as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children" (I Thess. 2:7), "do to others what you would have them do to you" (Mat. 7:12), etc. It felt *right* not to spank, yet still part of me worried about those "rod" verses in the Bible. Part of me secretly wondered "what if I was wrong?"

These days I feel sure that the Bible does not command parents to spank. In fact, I've realized that the Bible says nothing about spanking. If your Bible uses the word "spank" that is because people translating that version of the Bible decided to translate it that way. It's a cultural interpretation of the Hebrew words from which it is translated.

What we do know without a doubt that God commands parents to discipline their children. However, discipline does not = spanking. God doesn't tell parents what specific discipline methods to use. The term "rod" means discipline in general, but it is not telling us what particular form of discipline to use.

In the so-called "spanking verses," the word "rod" is translated from the Hebrew word "shebet." A shebet is a shepherd's staff (see Psalm 23:4 where it says, ". . . thy rod and thy staff they comfort me") or a king's scepter (Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary explains that "the use of the sceptre originated in the idea that the ruler was as a shepherd of his people"), and it sybolizes authority. A shebet was used to guide sheep and to protect sheep and fight off predators. The Hebrew word "shebet" does not mean "hand," "switch," "paddle," "wooden spoon," or any type general type of implement. And we certainly wouldn't hit our children with a literal rod. Importantly, we see through use of the word "shebet" that God has given parents the authority and responsibility to discipline -- a word which means teach, to disciple -- their children.

Posted by flowermama at June 2, 2007 02:20 PM


I appreciate those Scriptures you quoted and the spirit behind your quotations. But it seems that Proverbs 23:13-14 uses the word "rod" in context with "beat". Now, I'd like to clarify the meaning of "beat"! It seems pretty strong. But I don't want to rule out suffering in my life or in the life of my child. I want his rod and his staff to truly comfort me, in a deeper way than our society usually understands. I posted on a similar subject today, in a post I called Gentle parenting through vegetarianism.

Posted by: Michael Davidsen at June 6, 2007 10:49 PM

Thank you for this post.

Posted by: Anya at June 19, 2007 09:15 AM

We strive to be Christlike. I just can't picture Christ striking a child.

Posted by: Jane at June 24, 2007 09:51 PM

It's fine to see that you are taking the teachings of God and Christ in a positive light, however, I have to say that occasionally it IS necessary to strike a child (NEVER on the face or body, but the bottom). I am not condoning violence ot children but it can be used as a reinforcement as children often do not understand verbal warnings and making a child stay in it's room or sit on the naughty step is (to me) psychologically damaging which I class far higher than a simply smack on the bottom. It's the shock value that ingrains in the child the image of the wrong doing.
I have 2 boys a 5 year old and an 8 month old. The younger has never been smacked, the older has on, maybe, 5 or 6 occasions. Those included: pulling hand out of mine and running across the road, taking books off shelf and pulling pages out, opening window in bedroom and attempting to catch our cat that was on the roof!!! others I can't remember. Point is all were situations where he needed to know that they were BIG no-no situations and I felt a smack was appropriate. Trying to explain that climbing on the roof is a bad idea to a 5 year old is not going to prevent it, a good smack will.

Maybe, I've gone off topic a bit but I just wanted to say that smacking a child is sometimes needed and to avoid it is doing a disservice to the child.

One other thing too.... I'm a dad, my wife has never raised her hand to either of her sons and I have noticed that on occasion they will be a little more cheeky to her than to me (they are still very young of course and enjoy teasing the both of us) but it does seem that they behave better around me than around her. We both love them dearly but usually the eldest does what I ask him to after the 3rd time but after the 5th (or more) with my wife.

Maybe it's not any indication, maybe it is.

Ach, let's see if people agree with me or if you all think I use evil violence towards children.

btw <<<< calvinist

Posted by: Michael at July 9, 2007 09:59 AM

i feel exactly the same way. i thought "rod" meant discipline in general, but i didn't know how to back this idea. now i do. thanks so much.

Posted by: ivy at August 8, 2007 03:25 PM

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.


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