Is Not Spanking Withholding the Rod?

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The One Degree Podcast



Digital library of theological trainings with guided notes

Exegetical Bible reading plans and studies with daily videos going deeper

Monthly Theology Couch Chat discussing a theological hot topic


We’re talking about a hot topic in this episode: spanking… We’ve randomly mentioned our take on this debate in other episodes, so now we’re going to dedicate a whole episode to it! Really, we’re going to be talking about the difference between punishment and discipline. What is the goal of parenting?

This is gonna be a good one, so let’s get to it!

What is the goal of parenting?

You might be wondering why we’re starting here… We need to remember who we are as parents and what our goal is.

Our goal is to make sure our kids understand the gospel and see it lived out in our lives.

They should see how you are different than the world, their friend’s parents, etc… They should know the gospel and see how it has truly impacted every aspect of your life. 

Raise a child in the way they should go…

Our goal is for children to become followers of Christ (even though we can’t control that) and to do everything in our power to preach the gospel and live it out. 

This means being counter-cultural. Oftentimes, there are two different rhetorics. The older generation doesn’t ask for forgiveness and demands obedience no matter what. Instead, as a parent, you need to humble yourself and be willing to be transparent. We apologize to our kids when we mess up, even our toddlers. We take the time to lovingly correct them when they disobey, rather than take the easy way out. Model what it looks like to be a follower of Christ to your child.

The other swing of the pendulum is very hands-off and doesn’t try to teach a child obedience, but independence. There is no discipline or expectation and it is always okay for your kid to say no. But the Bible does teach that children are to respect and obey their parents. We teach obedience, but we build trust with our kids and teach them why to obey.

What is the difference between punishment and discipline?


Punishment is punitive and tries to eliminate bad behavior. It is a penalty for an offense. 


Discipline has the same root word as disciple. A disciple seeks to become more like who they are following. The goal is to not just eliminate bad behavior but to promote positive ones. It takes more time and energy. 

Here’s the thing… both are necessary. 

Lots of people argue that punishment is never okay. As parents, our primary method of parenting should be discipline, but occasionally, punishment should be used. There is a place for both of them to be lovingly utilized.

In general, discipline takes a lot of time and effort, so it’s easier to either punish or ignore.

Some people (especially in the Christian world) just spank away any behavior they don’t want. Hit their sibling- spank. Come out of bed in the middle of the night- spank. 

We’re going to get to spanking in a second, but spanking for every unwanted behavior (especially for things like coming out of bed, opening the fridge when they aren’t supposed to, or doing something that isn’t inherently wrong but is unwanted) does not cultivate healthy emotional safety and maturity and honestly is teaching a kid they cannot come to you. It’s also essentially just Pavlovian conditioning.

On the flip side, some people (especially nowadays) never actually discipline their kids in the guise of love. For example, if your toddler is lightly hitting them, you ask them to stop, but they don’t. You ask them again, they don’t, and finally, you either just ignore them or it reaches a point where you explode. Children need to learn to listen, and part of that involves discipline. 

But we should never punish!

Let’s address the rhetoric that we should never punish!  

Let’s say that you have a teenager and they drive drunk. You make sure they’re safe, and you have loving, disciplinary convos with them…. But you also take away their car privileges!

Maybe with a toddler, they draw on the walls. You have disciplinary restore time (more on that later), but she has the crayons taken away as punishment.

There is a gray area where discipline and punishment overlap.

Do we spoil the child if we fail to spank them?

The impetus of this question stems from Proverbs (Proverbs 13:24 and Proverbs 23:13-14). Proverbs is about instruction and guidance, specifically towards wise living and wanted behavior.

Outside of Proverbs, the Bible doesn’t really give any direction on how to discipline, but it makes clear that parents are to discipline their children. 

Even in these verses, it doesn’t say that a parent has to use corporal punishment. It’s more so saying that you need to discipline your kid. Do not neglect disciplining.

I (Nathaniel) commonly hear Christians (especially older ones) say “If you don’t spank you’re not following the Bible.” Well… most of those Christians don’t actually use a rod, so I guess they’re not following the Bible either. We need to evaluate the heart of this passage. It goes back to the idea that the Bible is saying that as parents, we must not neglect disciplining our kids. God disciplines us because he loves us. 

The focus of these verses is discipline, within the context of that day and age, it was using a rod

For context, we have spanked in the past, but in the past year, we have moved away from it. We know parents that spank and do it well, we know parents that don’t spank and do it well. Let’s talk to both groups…

If you spank…

Make sure you never spank out of anger. 

Make sure there are clear boundaries that are being broken out of disobedience and that is the reason you spank. There needs to be consistency and clarity.

Often times we reach a breaking point and that’s when we spank. Some days, it can be right away if we are tired and stressed, other days it can be after a long time. This can be really confusing for a developing brain. And if we are spanking out of anger, it is clear we are not doing it out of love. Be consistent

Make sure that you are not using spanking out of laziness. A lot of people just want to get rid of unwanted behavior and spanking is the quickest way to do that.

A Christian website we really respect has this quote on their website: “Non-corporal punishment will most likely require a great deal more effort, time, and commitment, but it can be effective as well.” But this is the wrong mentality! We shouldn’t spank just because it’s easier.

If you spank, be calm and collected. Have a conversation surrounding it. Make sure you take the time to explain it to them, that you empathize with them, and that you truly want what is best for them. 

If you don’t spank…

Don’t use not spanking as an excuse to not discipline. 

Don’t take the easy, laissez-faire way out. You need to have a very clear plan of what your discipline is so it doesn’t become arbitrary. You have to have that same level of consistency and clarity of boundaries as you would if you were spanking your kids.

It takes time, so be willing to take the necessary time and play the long game. It can be so exhausting and takes so much repetition. But it bears fruit and is still effective.

We don’t spank!

It has already been alluded to, but we have decided not to spank our kids. To be honest, we both are quick-tempered and stubborn. So, we don’t think we’d be able to do it well- it is too hard for us not to spank out of anger. It was starting to be really difficult, so we made the decision to switch to no spanking.

Our next reason is that we have a teenage foster daughter who would definitely be triggered/re-traumatized if she saw us spank our kids. Just as the gospel needs to be contextualized, so does discipline and punishment.

We also feel it’s ironic to tell our kids not to hit by hitting them. It was humbling to see our kids try to spank each other if they did something wrong. Kids will model the discipline that you do to them to others (or their dolls).

We do “restore time” instead

It sounds really similar to “time-in” (a model we learned about when we did our foster care training). Sitting with the child for a consequence.

So, when our kids disobey, (draw on the couch, hit each other, etc…) they get what we call restore time

We sit them on a chair and kneel in front of them and we ask them, “Why are you in restore time?” “Are you supposed to draw on the couch?” “Are you going to draw on the couch again?”. And if they wronged someone, we have them apologize. We have them sit for a certain amount of time. We then end with a hug and kiss and tell them we love them. Sometimes, we have to give 5 restore times in an hour (again, it takes time, so stick with it), but we have seen the girls learn and grow from it. 

About a year ago, we decided to stop spanking because we felt as if we weren’t doing it properly, plus the girls started to try to spank each other when they would do something wrong. 

Even the language we use is important. We call it restore time rather than time out because we want to restore them to good behavior.

One Degree Shift

Decide what your primary method of discipline is/will be. Come up with a plan and stick with it (or adjust as necessary). If you already have a plan, come back to it and discuss how you’re feeling about it and why. It’s always good to routinely evaluate.

Regardless of what you do, make sure you take the time to explain to your kids why you are doing something, to never punish out of anger, to have clear boundaries that are consistent, to always let your kids know you love them, and be willing to apologize to your kids when you screw up.

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