Ten days ago, CNN breathlessly announced that the “era of spanking is finally over.” They based this breakthrough on the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has decided that spanking is a form of child abuse.
The AAP praises hospitals across the country who are implementing no spanking zones. Most school districts have followed suit. Two localities, Stoughton, Wisconsin and Madison Heights, Michigan, have turned their entire cities into no spanking zones.
But the American College of Pediatricians, a professional organization whose members are as credentialed as those in the AAP, beg to differ. They state that the AAP’s policy statement “continues to rely upon poorly designed, biased studies” and is more of a “rant against spanking.”
The ACP (the good guys) correctly criticize the AAP for its selective and quite biased scholarship. “[I]instead of considering all five summaries of available research on physical punishment published since 2000, the Policy Statement relies on the one opposed to all spanking, even though 96% of its evidence came from correlations and associations, rather than evidence of true causation.”
Young children (between the ages of two and six) may need the application of the board of education to the seat of learning when more restrained measures don’t work. When spanking is administered in cases of defiant disobedience and not childish irresponsibility, it teaches a young child a valuable life lesson: there is a correlation between disobedience and pain.
In the case of defiant and contrary children, “spanking...has been shown to result in less defiance and less aggression than 77% of alternative measures (including time-out) with these children.”
The perspective of the ACP is solidly scriptural. Solomon - an experienced and wise father - tells us that, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child; but the rod of discipline drives it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). Our children are born as sons of Adam, with a sin nature inherited from their parents that inclines them toward sin. They are fallen creatures by birth.
If you doubt this, ask yourself one simple question: what do we have to teach our children - to be bad, or to be good? They are quite adept at figuring out the “bad” part without any help. The folly with which they come into the world is wrapped around their hearts and must be unwound if they are to grow into responsible adults. The proper use of spanking is one of the tools that shakes that folly loose so they can embrace wisdom as they grow.
Now to be sure, discipline must be measured, controlled, and appropriate. In our household, we only spanked for acts of defiant disobedience. When we spanked our children, we made sure they could verbalize back to us why they were being spanked, so they knew it wasn’t arbitrary but was for a deliberate act of disobedience to a known standard.
Our “rod” - we wanted our hands to be reserved for acts of love and care - was a wooden spanking spoon, which was remarkably effective on a bare bottom. It didn’t wound or bruise or break the skin, but it smarted like a bee sting. We limited a spanking to five administrations of the rod, which was usually sufficient. We always administered spankings in private since the purpose was not to humiliate the child but to correct him.
When the spanking was over, and their will had been broken, as evidenced by tears, we cuddled with them, asked them to apologize to us, and forgave them. The same parent who administered the discipline was the same parent who administered the comfort.
Contrary to the worldly wisdom of the AAP, spanking properly administered is not child abuse at all. In fact, it is a form of child abuse to withhold spanking from a child who needs it. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24).
Most people can almost instantly recognize a child who hasn’t been properly disciplined in the aisles of their local Kroger. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15), not to mention bringing aggravation to other shoppers.
But loving discipline, on the other hand, yields fruit that is sweet to the taste. “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart” (Proverbs 29:17).
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that we don’t spank our children. God recommends that we do. I think I’m going with God on this one.