To Spank or Not to Spank?

Christianity Today has chimed in on the spanking debate yet again and is just short of abandoning spanking all together as a valid form of discipline for Christian parents (via Thou Shalt Not Abuse: Reconsidering Spanking | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction). Here are a couple excerpts:

But it is a mistake to portray Christian critics of spanking as feckless liberals, just as it is wrong to label Christian advocates of spanking as abusive fundamentalists.

Some Christian parents will advocate corporal punishment until the peaceable kingdom arrives. But such means should be employed miles short of abuse, without anger, and as an absolute last resort. Given the risks involved—children’s bodies are more fragile that an angry adult can fathom—we encourage parents to explore more creative and effective ways to train up our children in the way they should go.

I’m all for ongoing education and humility on issues concerning how best to administer discipline to our children – we all have something to learn from others. A proof-text doesn’t excuse abusive behavior, but the definition of “abusive” has shifted so much that it is now relativized. The fact is that we all have different upbringings and discipline out of our knowledge and experience. We also have varying degrees of sin in our children to deal with, and on top of that, varying personalities and levels of culpability. I’m the first to admit that things aren’t as black and white as we would like. We do a disservice to our children when we fail to take into consideration all of these extenuating factors in our administration of discipline.

My take is that it’s generally unhelpful when folks come out saying, “You MUST consistently spank in _________ (fill in blank) circumstances”; or, “You MUST NEVER spank on any occasion”. We MUST however administer discipline that effectively communicates the negative consequences for sinful behavior. CT has been pushing more and more to an abandonment of corporal punishment in the name of hospitality and with legitimate concern for the unfortunate cases where abuse really does take place in the home. I appreciate their concern, but wish they would leave it alone a bit more. After all, it is nearly impossible to quantify the sins avoided because of corporal punishment. We only see the abuse and also tend to think that good obedient children are that way just because they were born that way. Corporal punishment has deterred greater evil for some.

I am pretty convinced that I would have faced a tougher life if I was not disciplined as a child, but it’s impossible to prove because I can’t redo my life without discipline to see how it would play out. After all, what if my life was redone without corporal punishment and I was actually better? We would then seek to vindicate non-corporal punishment. It’s much messier and not as simple. We must discipline in obedience to God’s Word with prayerful dependence upon His perfect hand of discipline to affect the hearts of our children in ways that the best of parents never can. Our discipline is merely a means and not an end in itself. Without God, anything we do is in vain. Let’s make sure we are humbly dependent upon Him as we administer the loving and yet difficult task of discipline for our children.

© 2012, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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