September 21, 2023

The Corporal Correction of Children – Part 2

The Corporal Correction of Children – Part 2

Posted in In line with Scripture

“A servant will not be corrected by mere words; for though he understands, he will not respond.”

Proverbs 29:19

Spank Not with Words

Do we really need to spank at all? What’s wrong with a good tongue lashing? Surely we can appeal to the child’s sense of duty, reason, sense of fair play?

Well, no, we cannot. We are talking about children here, little ones up to around 8 or 10. (If spanking is done consistently to drive out the foolishness as explained in Proverbs 22:15, and done along with the training and teaching and example of parents, there should be little if any need to spank beyond this age.) Little ones of this age, and honestly even into teenage years, do not think straight. They simply haven’t got the experience of years to have a sufficiently developed sense of reason and fair play and duty. Besides, we are talking about a child who has just committed some breach of rules, exhibiting a life currently directed by foolishness, not reason. Mere words, you see, do not dislodge the foolishness and sin from the heart, whereas a spanking will (see Proverbs 22:15 & 20:30). While they are in the grip of this outburst of foolishness, they are unable to grasp your words of wisdom anyway. So don’t waste the wise words or your breath at this point. (They will be readily received immediately after the spanking.)

In addition, tongue lashings tend to be character assassinations, going deep, doing much damage. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18 RSV). And because tongue lashings do no obvious damage, we can more easily give full vent to our (sinful) anger, ranting and raving, getting it off our chests, giving them a piece of our minds. This is a bad example, on top of the damage angry words are doing to the child’s spirit and emotions. The Scriptures are clear: “The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20).

Some parents tend to do nothing. Eli the priest failed to restrain his sons, Hophni and Phinehas. They were a disgrace to all Israel, and all Israel knew what swine they were, so much so that it is actually commented on in Scripture that “they would not listen to the voice of their father” (I Samuel 2:25) and that Eli “did not restrain them” (I Samuel 3:13). They were so bad that God determined to wipe them (and their father Eli) off the face of the earth. Their unrestrained lives proved the veracity of Proverbs 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (and his father, too, as well as the whole family and possibly further afield as did these sons of Eli!) Maybe Eli was a non-violent type, and like his sons, had little regard for the Lord’s ways of doing things, preferring his own. Well, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 16:25) This is what it means to live by faith: to order our lives according to God’s word, even though we can’t understand it, don’t like it, and hope our friends don’t read certain passages until after they get saved.

Grounding, giving them “time-out”, making them stand in the corner, forfeiting pocket money, etc. do not deal with the problem of sin in the heart. This sin, this foolishness which just manifested itself in the unacceptable behaviour of the child, must be driven out, separated from the child. Restrictions such as grounding, etc., are hard to police, cause the offence to be remembered for far too long, and can cause resentment to build up alongside of the original foolishness which was not driven out by the rod (spanking) in the first place.

We fostered an 8-year-old boy for a year. Foster parents are not allowed to administer Biblical correction (spankings). The boy’s psychologist suggested we give him a lollie at the end of each day he stayed within the rules. This did not work. If he blew it early in the day, he would be as disobedient and abusive as he liked thereafter, knowing the worst that could happen would be the withholding of a lollie. His lawyer suggested we write down infractions in a wee notebook, like the soccer referees do. This had no effect whatsoever.

Then one day we were assigned guardianship over the lad. I told him that he would now be subject to the same rules as our own children: one spank with the rod across the backside when it was established that he had violated one of the family’s rules. Soon afterwards both he and our youngest son transgressed together at the same time. After questioning, establishing the facts, and explaining the rules again, our son took his spank. The foster boy was next, and like our own, he cried before and after the spank….and was very receptive to further instruction and reassuring cuddles afterwards. His first words to me after the spank and again first thing the next morning were: “Dad, you’re the best!” He also wrote a card of thanks for the spank and put it on my plate at breakfast. He was a totally different boy from that point onwards.

Our words need to follow the same pattern as God’s words: we should use them to teach, reprove, correct, train in righteousness, edify and impart grace (II Timothy. 3:16, Ephesians. 4:29), but not to whip children either as punishment or to enforce obedience.

From Keystone Magazine
July 2000 , Vol. VI No. 4
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389
email: craig