Is Spanking Ever Appropriate?


Quick Answer

Yes. But only rarely and as a measure of last resort!


A Longer Answer

What does the Bible say about spankings?

The Bible says much about raising children, including using "the rod"—a word the book of Proverbs uses when referring to spankings—at least in the KJV.

In holding meetings on raising children, I accordingly often get questions about spanking, and am reminded of the numerous times the "the rod" the rod is mentioned in Proverbs, it being suggested that spankings play a significant role in the raising of children, particularly in the early stages of their life regardless of what I have been finding. 

From what I have heard and observed, it would also appear that some cultures use spankings quite a bit in raising children. In fact some young adult friends of mine from a particular culture that I won't name, told me their culture does the exact opposite of what I have been learning.

As mentioned, the Bible—the book of Proverbs in particular—speaks of using "the rod." However the Bible says more on the subject and parents would do well to carefully read and ponder what is said otherwise, particularly Eph. 6:4 and Col. 3:21. Both of these verses give significant warnings about the danger of administering discipline in such a manner that children become discouraged, angry and no longer care if they please their parents or not.

Apparently, where appropriate discipline can bring good results, inappropriate discipline can discourage a child who is attempting to obey and at some point brings hostility and anger towards the parents. Put in other words, the spanking that can be a blessing can also discourage and anger the child, and cause the child's heart to become hardened and resistant to obeying.


What does Ellen White say on the subject? 

When studying this subject, Ellen White also supports the use of the rod, but ONLY if ALL OTHER MEASURES HAVE FAILED, and to be USED SPARINGLY IF AT ALL.

When studying the subject it helps to know that Mrs. White uses several words to discuss spankings, but not the word spanking. So if you search for spanking you will be disappointed and get the wrong impression. However, if you look for quotes that use words such as  "pound," "pounding," "striking," "whipping" and "beat," you will discover that she had quite a bit to say on the subject, and it isn't what you expect.

Ellen White did not subscribe to giving lots of spankings. She suggests spankings should be avoided if at all possible! Not only does she give this admonition for others, but refers to raising children, some of whom were considered incorrigible, and how she had perfect success, sometimes spanking only one time.

Mrs. White's approach included talking with the children about God's expectations and her requests of them at the early part of the day; praying for the Holy Spirit to help the children to be obedient and kind, etc; then working with the children in gentle and loving ways through the day; choosing to never get upset and irritated no matter what was going on; deferring any discussion of poor behavior until later in the day after the child had had time to cool down and ponder what had been going on—though she apparently stopped whatever was going on; and having a discussion later in the day, when the children would invariably ask for forgiveness.

Ellen White was convinced that winning the confidence children, seeking the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, treating them in gentle ways, and much prayer, was the best way to bring about good behavior. 

By the same token, she strongly believed that irritation, passion, censure and spankings would bring about bewilderment, discouragement, anger and a hardening of the heart that would be hard to overcome.

Fortunately we have paragraphs here and there where she discusses how she raised her children—where we see her apply her own words.

Should we give credence to her words? Yes. In carefully studying her writings on the subject we find that she raised many children—even asked parents to let her raise some children who were mismanaged—and claimed to have perfect success with them. She was also specifically called to speak on raising children in the later years of her life and gave many talks on raising children. So, Yes! we should carefully study what she says on the subject.

Accordingly, as you read the Bible Answers and the Inspired Answers that follow, keep in mind what you have just read above, to properly understand the verses and quotations.


Bible Answer

Proverbs 22:6 (KJV) 6 Train up a child in the way he should go:
and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 29:17 (KJV) 17 Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest;
yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.

Ephesians 6:4 (KJV) 4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Colossians 3:21 (KJV) 21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

Proverbs 13:24 (KJV) 24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son:
but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Proverbs 22:15 (KJV) 15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child;
but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13 (KJV) 13 Withhold not correction from the child:
for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

Proverbs 29:15 (KJV) 15 The rod and reproof give wisdom:
but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.


Inspired Answer

The Rod Is Sometimes Necessary

"If possible, avoid using the rod; but do not neglect this line of your duty. The Lord has placed upon fathers and mothers the responsibility to teach their children. They are the Lord’s property, and you are to bring them up in the nurture and in the admonition of the Lord." {Ms64-1911}

"Do you teach them that the kingdom of God must be seen in your household, and that the will of God must be done by them and you? Do you break the force of this petition by shaking them, by striking them in anger, by speaking harsh words, and by manifesting passion? Do not do this, but be merciful, kind, and tender-hearted. Let the will of the Lord be done in your family, not the will of the enemy. If mild measures will not avail, you must use the rod, you must give your children to understand that God must be honored in your house; but this work is sadly neglected."{RH July 16, 1895, Art. B, par. 3}

"There is to be no manifestation of passion. Who is it that is working them in their passion, when they have no reason? It is the devil. And what are you to do? Take them to God in prayer, and if they still continue, and the rod is necessary, then you are to give them the punishment until the devil is subdued in them. What we want is that our families shall be such that the glory of God can be revealed in our homes." {Ms229-1902.27} [Please understand that she is not advocating abuse or cruel punishment here; read the rest of the quotations. She herself rarely had to use the rod because other means were more successful.—Dan]

"Do you break the force of this petition by shaking them, by striking them in anger, by speaking harsh words, and by manifesting passion? Do not do this, but be merciful, kind, and tender-hearted. Let the will of the Lord be done in your family, not the will of the enemy. If mild measures will not avail, you must use the rod, you must give your children to understand that God must be honored in your house; but this work is sadly neglected. Do you wonder that God does not walk through the midst of us when we allow Satan to work his way in our households, and when we neglect the solemn obligations that God has placed upon us? Of what avail will be a list of church resolutions, if we have not the Spirit of God in our homes? Christ is watching to see who are training their families for the great family above. Suppose one of your little children whom you have failed to correct, should be taken away in one of its fits of temper, what would be the result? I leave you to answer the question." {RH July 16, 1895, Art. B, par. 3}

Avoid Spanking; Use Better Methods 

“Show my people their transgression.” [Verse 1.] There is lots of it in families and you cannot afford it. Fathers and mothers are quick to fly into a passion if anything disturbs them. These children are the fruit of your body, and you are bound under most solemn obligations to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In doing this work, they will have a chance to show their temperament; but take them right away from the family, and tell them, “Children, you have pained me exceedingly today. God has given me a work to do for you, and I want you brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” I do not want to see my children lost, for I should expect that I should deserve the same fate. {Ms81-1912.7} We want to bring up our children kindly, not by scolding and fretting, but take them right by themselves, and say, Children, we are going to talk with God about this matter now. After leaving them a time to think about it, bring the matter up and show them how the Spirit of God is grieved and how the angels of God cannot do the work that God wants them to do for their salvation unless they come into different temperament. Then talk with them kindly and bow in prayer. {Ms81-1912.8} If we have saved the souls of our children it is because we have made diligent work for the Master; and we cannot afford to lose one. We want the salvation of our children. Never speak a cross word to them. It does not convert them at all. To pound them in anger never helps the matter. Just kneel down, and with weeping tell them that God permitted His only begotten Son to come into this world that He might be our example, and by His grace save many. Many will follow on in the paths of the enemy and be lost, but if they will be lost, we cannot help that. But we can begin at the beginning, and God helping us, we can make reformations in our families that will be as enduring as eternity, and we want to say to everybody that this work must not be neglected." {Ms81-1912.9}

"Do not, I beg of you, have an iron rod in your house, for you will often rule unjustly if this is the case. You want Christ who has borne so much for you. He came into this world as an infant to go through life from infancy to manhood. But He did not commit sin, because the God of salvation protected Him; and when He began to work, it was with all faithfulness that He did everything. And the children would say to Him, Why do you take so much pains? He would begin to sing songs of heaven, and the first thing they knew, all would be singing. Now what we want is to sing the songs of heaven. We want to have pleasurable notes in our voices. What we want is salvation every day." {Ms77-1910.29}

"Parents have not given their children the right education. Frequently they manifest the same imperfections which are seen in the children. They eat improperly, and this calls their nervous energies to the stomach, and they have no vitality to expand in other directions. They cannot properly control their children because of their own impatience; neither can they teach them the right way. Perhaps they take hold of them roughly and give them an impatient blow. I have said that to shake a child would shake two evil spirits in, while it would shake one out. If a child is wrong, to shake it only makes it worse. It will not subdue it." 26 {CG 252.2}

"Never give your child a passionate blow, unless you want him to learn to fight and quarrel. As parents you stand in the place of God to your children, and you are to be on guard." 23{CG 251.1}

"And I want to say to you, parents, Do your duty to your children, for there are a great many who neglect their duties to their children. Do not scold and fret at them; that will not save them at all; but take them right away and pray with them. Ask God to help them, and He will hear your prayers, and it will impress the children more than all the whipping that you could give them. It will help them, and God will unite your hearts with theirs." {Ms81-1910} Oh, let us seek with all our hearts to represent Christ in our lives. Begin at home, and let the home life be a sacred one where God can come in and where He can let the influence of His Spirit rest upon the children and where they will be under the influence of the Spirit of God. But if you show any passion, lifting your hand to the children, it would put the devil into them and they would not care what they did. Now the enemy is at work for the children, and let the parents work with all their powers and their influence to train the children. This is quite a company of children, and what intense interest should be in the minds of the parents. God wants you, children." {Ms81-1910} 

"I never found that it converted a child to shake him or to strike him in passion. I never found that it had any right influence upon him. I would a great deal rather you would strike the body than the mind, but both are degrading in their tendencies." {9MR 62.3}]

"And if they need correction, never do as I have seen some do in meeting—shake their children. It makes them mad. That does not convert them. I am night after night pleading with parents, telling them, Here is a family, and you are God’s representative to present to that family what they must do in order to inherit eternal life. You must yourselves give the example." {Ms81-1912.5}

"Previously, their fathers and mothers did not really understand what they should do to care for these children in their very childhood; that not a word should be spoken to annoy them, not to pound them in anger, and thus destroy all their influence over them." {Ms116-1909.4}

"Never manifest passion when your children do wrong. When the mother gives her child a jerk or a blow, do you think it enables him to see the beauty of the Christian character? No indeed; it only tends to raise evil feelings in the heart, and the child is not corrected at all. We need to consider as we endeavor to do our duty intelligently, that our children are to be brought into right relation to God, that they may have an entrance through the gates into the City of God and have right to all the advantages that heaven can give." {7MR 24.3}

"I have stood before a congregation in a large tent, and there was a woman that had two children, one on either side. Now, the children were amusing themselves innocently, but it seemed as though the mother had a quarrelsome spirit and she would shake that child, and shake it. Well, she did that the third time, and I stepped right down from the desk. I went to her; said I, “Are you a child of God?” She colored up. “Yes, I claim to be.” “Did you act like one when you shook that child and set it crying?” “Well,” she said, “I don’t know as I did.” “Well,” said I, “It is best for each individual to know what composes a Christian character. If you give loose rein, and I have seen you give loose rein in this tent, I want to tell you that you are to be converted, and we want you to be converted at this meeting. We do not want you to carry the spirit home that you have had here in this meeting.” {Ms182-1907.14}


Final Thoughts

Though Ellen White did not categorically rule out all spankings, she certainly did all she could discourage their use. That doesn't by any means suggest that she was a laissez fair kind of parent, allowing children to do what they wanted. She insisted on obedience, and insisted on obedience from an early age—frankly at any age that she received a child. But she took a gentle, winning, approach, and always succeeded. She also strongly asserts that spankings generally help the enemy of souls in the contest for the child, more than the parent. I hope the parents reading this will take serious what I share here. It should be known more.