Question: "Should a Christian continue spanking his/her children if it is illegal?"
Answer: The subject of spanking is a divisive one, even among Christians. Several countries have banned the corporal punishment of children, yet many parents consider spanking an essential tool in discipline. When the law forbids spanking, the question arises—if spanking is illegal, do parents have the God-given right to continue to use corporal punishment to discipline their children?
When the subject of spanking is broached, it must be assumed that the corporal punishment in question does not occur in an abusive way. It is not extreme nor given in anger, but proportionate to the offense and part of a loving, responsible relationship. And the fact is, spanking is efficient and can be very effective. Some children respond to spanking quickly and completely when all other types of punishment fail. Parents of a strong-willed three-year-old who loves to run out into the street understand they have two choices: spank promptly to curb the dangerous behavior right away, or confine their child to a strictly controlled environment that may disrupt the entire family and restrict the child from more pleasant activities.
The Bible neither explicitly demands nor forbids the spanking of children. (Although the "rod" of Proverbs 13:24 could refer to reproof in general, corporal punishment cannot be excluded as an option.) Firm, decisive discipline is vital to the well-being of a child. It provides guidance and wisdom the child will need later in life. Fathers in the New Testament bear a responsibility to rear their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Mode of discipline is not specified.
Christian families in many nations in Europe and even on U.S. military bases are faced with the challenge of disciplining their children without the option of spanking / corporal punishment. Parents who believe that spanking is a God-ordained practice necessary for the rearing of their child may spank privately, disregarding the ban as a matter of civil disobedience. Other parents may choose not to spank, submitting to their civil authority and trusting that God is wise enough to lead them to discipline in other ways.
Both options have their merits. When rearing a fearless and stubborn three-year-old, spanking may seem like the only safe and responsible option. In most cases, however, spanking is not the only option; alternatives can be found. Non-corporal punishment will most likely require a great deal more effort, time, and commitment, but it can be effective as well. God knows His children well. May we know our children well enough to know how best to discipline them with patience, perseverance, and love.
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