An Instructive Word is Better Than a Spanking

Proverbs 17:10 “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.”

When I was a new mom, I devoured parenting books. At that time, nearly 10 years ago, most of the Christian books seemed to focus on spanking–when to spank, how to spank, etc. These books gave the impression that the key to rearing upstanding Christian children was all in spanking correctly and consistently for each disobedience. It never seemed to be the magic key for me, so I was thankful as the years went on to find more well-rounded parenting advice elsewhere that affirmed how God was leading me as a mommy.

As far as spanking goes, society is pretty divided about it. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend spanking children, but a recent CNN report indicates that the majority of their readers are in favor of spankings. Contemporary Christians tend to be somewhat divided about the issue, largely due to debate over whether “the rod” in Scripture is a literal rod or a figurative one that describes discipline in general, and due to the fact that the Bible is not nearly as descriptive on spanking as many of the popular books are. The American College of Pediatricians supports the practice of spanking under careful control. I think their guidelines are wise and such control and restraint should be the norm for anyone who chooses to spank their children.

I think there is a place for restrained, occasional spankings by parents who can handle that kind of power wisely, but, contrary to what I read in some of those parenting books, I do not think that a spank alone will ever change the heart of a child. A spanking may be effective for immediately changing a behavior, but, in order to affect our children’s hearts and help them gain wisdom, we need to take the longer route of teaching them–of gently explaining how their behavior affects others, how it hurts them, how it fails to reflect the love and grace God has shown to us, modeling the behavior we want to see, walking them through correct responses when they are prone to fail, etc. It’s not the quick and easy route, for sure.

There is so much more that could be said about how to win the hearts and confidence of our children so that they will value our instruction. This is not at all an exhaustive essay on what I think about spanking or reaching our children’s hearts. And I am in no way an expert or a super-parent, so take my opinions with a grain of salt and search the Scriptures for yourself. These are just a few ideas that I was mulling over as I studied this verse in Proverbs. If you have constructive comments that will sharpen me, feel free to leave them in the comments!