Do not listen to those who quote sixty-year-old sociological studies and ignore 2,000-year-old wisdom. The former studies have an agenda and they replicate about as well as a coin toss. Their job is not to inform nor to make you a better parent. Their job is to give you a sense of superiority while you abdicate your responsibility.
Yes, you should spank your children. And yes, you should do it with a clean conscience. Spanking is not “hitting,” and those who conflate the two, especially if they make a big deal about not spanking, are trying to cover up their own guilt.
How Often to Spank
A lot of the time, people who bring up spanking picture a reign of terror where you are constantly swatting kids on the bottom and constantly nursing a sore hand.
But if you spank right, spanking will be rare. Sure, there are times when it might not seem that way or you need to go on a “reign of terror.” And every child is different. You may go weeks or months before you need to spank.
Most of a child’s spankings will come before they are 5 years old. If you are faithful in this short timeframe, one that will pass faster than you realize, then the rest of your parenting job will be much easier and much more enjoyable.
Spankings are there because you can’t argue with a toddler. And if you tried to calmly explain things they wouldn’t understand or internalize most of it. But toddlers understand pain. Very clearly. It is much more humane to give them a quick spanking than subject them to emotional manipulation in the form of long lectures and guilt trips.
Yes, the Rod Can Be Used for Striking
Whenever “the rod” is brought up in the context of the Bible, people are quick to point out that the intended context is a shepherd’s rod and that it was strictly meant for guiding and protection.
But let’s look at the verses.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.Proverbs 13:24
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.Proverbs 22:15
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.Proverbs 29:15
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.Proverbs 23:13-14
The last one is explicit and leaves no room for doubt.
The goal of the rod is to inflict temporary pain with no damage. Very, very temporary pain. You will not ruin your children. They will not die.
But it is a matter of life and death. If you do not discipline them now, the world will discipline them later, and the world has no mercy.
Spanking in the proper context is an act of love for the child, an act of love for that child’s siblings, and an act of love for anyone who interacts with that child in the future.
Know Their Frame
All that being said, know their frame. They are but dust.
And as they get older, it’s ok to give them second chances. Tell them to step back and try again and get it right this time. If you know they are acting out because they are hungry, show some mercy and get them something to eat. Or if you know they are tired, just send them to bed.
Though not all of the time. They also need to know it’s not okay to act like a brat, even if they don’t feel good. Exercise wisdom and do not provoke them to wrath.
Spanking is Humane and Efficient
The revolt against spanking is another symptom of our sentimentality and false righteousness. A single spanking can save hours of lectures and guilt trips. Ask a kid what he would rather have: a single spanking or being grounded for a week from something he loves.
The same principle can be seen in our criminal justice system, writ large and cranked up to eleven. In the name of being humane, we are inhumane. Ask any inmate whether they would rather get ten lashes or ten more years in prison and see which he would prefer.
Only Spank in the Context of Love
Whenever you exercise discipline you are writing a check. Don’t find yourself writing checks with no money in the bank. You put money in the bank with time, attention, and affection.
If the only time your kids get any attention from you is when you are disciplining them, they will get a perverse view of fatherhood and discipline. They will either see you as a tyrant and eventually rebel or think of themselves as unworthy of affection. Or both.