Is It Right To Spank A Child?

13 Oct

Every person was influenced by someone. It is natural because we usually meet a lot of different people during our lives. We used to observe, follow and learn for instance from our parents, friends and teachers. I have become friend with American missionary who came to serve to Slovakia. After few months of relationship the man who studied twelve years theology, enriched by experiences from mission trips, decided to dedicate him to me, to teach and mentor me.

Once after supper we were sitting together with his wife and four children by table in the kitchen. We had nice time, talking and laughing, sharing updates from our lives. One  of his children who loves me and I love him too, started to hit pane of glass in the door and the noise was interrupting our cozy time. The child is probably the cutest child I have ever seen, he is one of those you would never want to hurt. After couple kind admonitions and requests to stop, we could still hear the noise and even see a smile on his face while clearly saying “No”. The father said the answer “no” is not an answer he can reply with to his mom when she is asking him not to make a noise. But the answer was still “no”. And then a lot of things happened really fast. The father took table tennis bat, led the child into room, and after ten minutes of conversation I could hear spank and crying. I still can remember how I felt. It brought me a lot of memories from my own childhood when I got spanked and also I felt really sorry for my small friend. I did not know what to say and what to do. I stayed confined.

Questions, questions and more questions

This situation has brought a lot of questions to my mind. Is spanking of children right or wrong thing to do? How much does it influence their behavior, their view of parents and a way that the world works? Does it teach that it is right for people to hit people? Is it not an act of violence? Just when we turn on television we see a lot of stories of people who become dangerous criminals and they were regularly threatened and punished in childhood. Is it a coincidence that these people just turn up to be violent or it is a result of the act of spanking? What if the parent is angry and is out of control and uses spanking, as a quick way to stop misbehavior, does not that cause a child to fear and stop trusting to the parent? In the past parents were trying to do their best to raise up children, but don’t we know more today about how to educate and prepare children for life? Don’t we spank only because we were spanked? All parents want to have a smart and successful child, study researcher Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire claims: “I am convinced that spanking does cause a slowdown in a child’s development of mental abilities.” So whose fault is it that children do not reach their potential?

Next question might pop up if they actually know why they feel pain? A lot of times it can be because of their bad behavior or lack of obedience, but what if it is actually only way they are able to respond in the situation? Is it not necessary for children to remember to not do it again, and that this is not a good thing to do and that there is a better way to do this? Many parents believe it is an effective tool how to make child adopt good habits. They are defending by saying that you there are possibilities to cause same side effects verbally or lack of quality time to the child. Marjorie Gunnoe, professor of psychology after her studies concluded: “I think of spanking as a dangerous tool, but there are times when there is a job big enough for a dangerous tool. You just don’t use it for all your jobs.” So  when it is right time to spank? When to spank that it would be helpful? According to her research spanked children up to six years perform better at the school and were bolder and could carry more work as their peers who have never been psychically disciplined.

Here we can find two opinions that are going against each other. One is against spanking and the other one supports spanking. Wasn’t there enough space for trying to figure out “how to spank”? Or we just need to be more trained in that? What about thirty states in the world where it is illegal to spank children? Did they grasp that it is not possible to do it in useful way without abusing and bad consequences or just have found out other ways of disciplines and rules of doing it?


And now some answers

Before I will move further I would like to focus on question if spanking of children can actually bring something good to the life and process of growing up and bringing up of child. I  think it is really obvious that parents misused and abused their authority, which testify a lot of tears, bruises and ruined lives of children. As we glance into the Bible, specifically into the book of Proverbs, there are  some verses written by king Solomon who was given a wisdom and understanding beyond measure. (1. King 4:29)

“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.” (Sheol means death)

(Proverbs 23:13-14, ESV)

By first glimpse to the text written above we could conclude without any hesitation that to spank, hit or smack children is all right and actually it is helpful for the child. To prove or falsify the supposition I will go deeper and try to find out what does the Hebrew words means. What is their root and how they were used? First let’s take a look on the word “discipline” that can be also translated as “instruction”  or  “correction“.  “Scripture teaches that children are neither good nor innocent (like blank slates) from birth;  rather, they are conceived with a sinful, wayward nature.So from this statement we can see, that we need to teach them what is good, how to act, they are not able to recognize what is good or bad.

Next word I would like to look closer to is to “strike“. Because of society that was surrounded by wars and violence there are more meanings of this word.הכנ (nākâ) to smite, strike, hit,  beat,  slay,  and  kill.”  It is used more than 500 times in the Old Testament. Just to think about it, did not the author have a word, which could better fit the expression of rebuking children, or did he mean it so serious? To answer the question we need to consider that the book of Proverbs is book of Poetry. “Writers of poetry use familiar words of the day to represent concepts that the people to whom they are  writing can create an image of what they are writing about.”

To move further the word “rod” in the text is stick, or shepherds staff for protecting a flock from becoming a prey and guiding wandering sheep. Just try to relate to this, I have one experience from my vacation at my grandma’s. She had a cow few years ago, and when I have been at her place I always tried to help her with everything. Once we went to get the cow from a field where the cow was a whole day. On our way back home we were passing by a field full of clover and the cow started to eat that. The cow liked it very much. But cows cannot eat a lot of raw clover because it may inflate their bellies and there is huge possibility that they will die. But how to move the cow when it is doing what it likes to, and it was huge cow! The cow did not know anything about consequences it could bring. But in the moment I hit her back it moved. I saved the cow! Of course we cannot compare a cow with a child but do not we have these sayings to learn from it?

Now I would like to move to the New Testament. The author of the book of Hebrews in chapter twelve verse eleven says: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.“  Now, God is in the role of Father, and there is no doubt that God does not love us, for look at the face of Jesus on the cross. I ponder, God who knows everything, He is  almighty, He is love, but still if He want us to move, to get better in something, to get rid of bad habits which cause only problems and troubles in our lives, He the loving father still allow us to feel pain. And from the text above we can see that “the emphasis is upon the fact that every kind of chastening, whether human  or divine, does not seem joyous.” So does it means that God, our Father want us to feel pain and is happy about it? Or fathers who love their children just want to beat them up? “The real object of the fathers in chastening is not that they find pleasure in the children’s pain. Gratified wishes, our Father knows, would often be our real curses.”


…Not so fast!

To sum it up, I think sometimes it is for welfare for child to just get spanked. Just  look at the example: If your toddler accidentally knocks his or her cup of milk off the table, this is childishness and shouldn’t be punished. On the other hand, if he or she looks you in the eye and  hurls the cup across the kitchen, it is foolishness and time to get the rod. Do not discipline in anger.” But I would like to emphasize that we need to be careful about spanking. To spank in wrong way might do bigger damage than right spanking makes it beneficial for child. To be a parent is one of the hardest jobs to do, and spent time with child, building up a relationship, to teach, to help them to explore, explain and discover new things with all patience and kindness, to make them laugh and play with them, to try to understand them, to seek their needs, to be a refuge for them, and to unconditionally love them is far more important than to mark their childhood with hitting or spanking them. These things need to become memories of their childhood! In the countries where is it illegal, I think it is necessary to keep the law. Just to be an example also for children, to show that the law has a value and it is not okay to break it.



I think I have good parents; I got spanked when I was child. I got spanked always because I deserve that and the way that I got spanked was not always right. Sometimes it was release of anger for my parents when I have done something wrong. Now, we recall these memories with smile on my face. I am thankful for everything what they have done for me. I am also thankful to my mentor for good example he tried to show me every time I have been with him. By writing the assignment I have realized and I am more aware of consequences that the spanking can bring. I have read a lot of studies and researches, which are contradictory what just means that we are humans who are making mistakes. People need to learn to self‐discipline, and only then they can discipline someone else.

 See a discussion to this topic on

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (1 Ki 4:29). Wheaton: Standard
Bible Society
Newheiser, J. (2008). Opening up Proverbs. Leominster: Day One Publications.
Harris, R. L., Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. (1999). Theological
Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) Chicago: Moody Press.
Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the
English reader. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
1 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
written by Jozef Jaroščiak
1 Comment

Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Ethics, Theology


Tags: , , ,

One response to “Is It Right To Spank A Child?

  1. Dennis Kreative Idea (@denniskreative)

    October 27, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Looking at the voting results…it seems the majority of voters approve of spanking. I’d be interested to know how many of those voters are parents.


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