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Q&A: When Should I Spank My Child?

We built our own philosophy of spanking from Proverbs 6:16-18, which says, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes seven, which are an abomination to Him.”

By Dennis and Barbara Rainey

How do I decide when to spank my child?

Dennis: Plenty of people wonder what to spank for and what not to spank for. Barbara and I talked a lot about this.

For example, when our kids were growing up, we didn’t spank them for childish mistakes. On one occasion our daughter Ashley, who was about 2 at the time, took Barbara’s lipstick and ground it into our brand-new white bedspread. The bedspread served as an inkpad into which she proceeded to put her hands and feet and then walk all over the room. There were footprints and handprints everywhere—even into the bathroom on the mirror and walls. We didn’t spank for that.

In the process of parenting, we don’t have to feel the pressure to get it down to an exact science. Children are human beings, and each child is unique in her own way. Parenting is not an exacting form that we can pour our children into and expect them to conform to specific standards. We need to walk with the Lord and listen carefully to what He has to say in the middle of the process without being brittle and inflexible.

The Bible is a practical working guide for parents who want to hear what the Lord says about discipline. We built our own philosophy of spanking from Proverbs 6:16-18, which says, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes seven, which are an abomination to Him” (NASB).

From those verses, here’s a list of what I call the “dirty half-dozen,” the characteristics God finds most displeasing:

Haughty eyes. Sassiness or disrespectful speaking; this also includes disrespectful looks such as eye-rolling.

Hands that shed innocent blood. This is when a child hurts someone else because he’s angry and doesn’t like what’s happening. It includes biting, hitting, kicking, or anything else that damages another person.

A heart that devises wicked plans. In this situation, a child thinks up a devious plan or is deceitfully planning ahead as to how she’s going to con someone. It can include getting back at a sibling who has tattled on her.

Feet that run rapidly to evil. This describes a child who has a propensity to always do something wrong. The Bible wants us to be sure to discipline that child quickly.

A false witness. This is another form of lying.

Deceit, and one who spreads strife among brothers. This occurs in families, particularly among siblings.

Barbara: You don’t want a pattern of lying to develop, but if you don’t establish this early with your child, then you’ll be playing catch-up from then on. We let our kids know from the time they were little that telling a lie would automatically get a spanking in our house.

It’s not a bad idea to sit down with your children when they’re very young, even starting at 6 months old, and go through these verses with them and start talking about these problems. We attempted to say to our kids each time we spanked them, “If you learn the hard lessons now, you may not have to learn some painful lessons as an adult.”

There are plenty of foolish adults out there, and I often wonder if the reason is that they weren’t trained or didn’t heed the training of their parents when they were children.

Copyright by FamilyLife. Used with permission.

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