Spanking Fixed It For You: It’s Okay to Change Your Mind about Spanking

by | May 20, 2022 | Parenting Young Kids | 30 comments

Voddie Baucham on Spanking and Changing Your Mind
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I never spanked my kids.

Well, there’s a funny story about Katie, but I’ll leave that for another time. 

What I did do, though, was write a column in my weekly paper about twenty years ago bemoaning the fact that the Children’s Aid Society was taking children away from their parents merely for excessive spanking, when everything else was okay.

When you looked at the description of what was done to those kids, it wasn’t that different from what so many of my generation grew up with.

So I didn’t spank, because I couldn’t picture hitting my kids, but I also defended those who did. 

Two things changed my mind: Research into spanking, and understanding more the heart of God.

When I looked into the very few verses in the Bible that people use to justify spanking, and realize that (a) they weren’t talking about toddlers, but teenagers, though none of us would spank a teen (I hope!); and (b) they weren’t necessarily talking about hitting but rather guiding and discipline, I realized that we were misusing the Bible.

I also knew that you could discipline well without spanking because that’s what we did!

Enter this week’s Fixed It For You, this time from Voddie Baucham:

I ran another quote by Voddie Baucham (there was a creepy one about fathers and daughters a while back too). 

(For further context of this quote, you can read more and watch the video here. And the context is even worse. He goes on to explain how a child being shy is a sin that must be punished.)

And here’s the update that went along with it, both on Instagram and Facebook:

Did you know that a HUGE study of 160,000 children showed that spanking was either NEGATIVE or NEUTRAL, but never POSITIVE?

You can end up healthy and well attached DESPITE being spanked, but never BECAUSE you were spanked.

There are other methods of discipline that are far more effective and that help you CONNECT with your child. Spanking focuses on hurting them because of the past; healthy discipline focuses on building connection as you guide them and empower and teach them to make good choices in the future.

Positive discipline that connects reflects the heart of Jesus. Hurting our kids hurts relationship; proper discipline should build and repair relationship.

I find it so sad that Christianity is really well-known for encouraging spanking in the extreme.

God does not work this way with us; is this the view of God we want to give our kids?

There are much better ways. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, listen in to the amazing podcast I did last week with Wendy from Fresh Start Families!

Episode 145 of the Bare Marriage Podcast!

We had some great feedback, and I was thrilled to see how many people, when sharing the study, used some of our arguments from the podcast two weeks ago where we were explaining that your experience does not contradict research into 160,000 kids. An anecdote does not trump a meta-analysis of 160,000 children.

What bothers me, though, is how vehemently so many Christians defend spanking, as if by criticizing spanking you’re rejecting Christ Himself.

I honestly didn’t get that much pushback; I think the message is getting out there, and I’ve posted on this enough lately that people are starting to rethink. And that’s the good thing–we’re allowed to change our minds! As we learn more about God; as we understand more about how He made us to connect; as we understand more about parenting–we can change our minds!

I did. So many have. And it can be hard to change your mind when you DID spank your kids, and regret it now. But so many people shared how they have talked to their kids about it and it’s opened up beautiful conversations and it’s mended a lot of fences, and that’s wonderful.

But I just find myself so sad by the people who think I’m attacking God and spreading darkness by saying, “Hey, how about we don’t hit our kids, and instead learn how to connect and guide our kids in a way that builds attachment and relationship?”

Like, what in the world is wrong with that? How could that possibly be anti-Christian?

And if you think it is anti-Christian–then what exactly do you think is Christian?

One woman inspired a huge thread when she wrote that I was placing “human wisdom above Scripture”, and that “If the Bible says discipline is loving and good, then that is true.”

After dozens upon dozens criticized her arguments, saying that ummm…..you don’t have to spank to discipline, she said:

I read all the comments and my only reaction is, May God have mercy on His church! The world has so quietly crept in and spread its lies that Christians can’t even see the difference between light and darkness. For a Christian to believe that God is all about love and no discipline is unbiblical. For those who asked for verses, please use Google or your Bible app. There are so many verses that support what I am saying.

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I find two things interesting here.

First, we had told her over and over again that there are other, better forms of discipline–but she refused to engage with that. We pointed her to last week’s podcast which explained how to discipline in a way that connects (and how this type of discipline probably means you say no even more often!). 

But when you’ve been raised to think spanking=discipline, it’s hard to get rid of the association.

But the second and even more interesting observation is this:

She is saying:

Light = Spanking your child 5 times before breakfast and being excited about hitting and hurting your child

Darkness = Disciplining in a way that connects with your child to guide them, grow the relationship, and help them make good choices because they want to, not because they’re scared of you.

Obviously, if you think about it for a minute, this is entirely illogical.

But that’s the problem with so many evangelicals especially today. We’ve bought into all of these “extras”, and think they’re essential for the faith. We hold on to them as if we’re holding onto Jesus Himself.

And it makes us leave all reason behind. It makes us check our brains at the door.

When we equate one interpretation of one thing in Scripture that’s not even central to the gospel with the gospel itself, then if we lose that one thing everything will fall apart, like a huge Jenga game. And so we can’t change on anything.

You’re telling me WHAT goes WHERE?!

Talking about sex with your kids doesn’t always go smoothly. 

That’s why we created The Whole Story, our online course that walks parents through the tough conversations and does the hard parts for you!

I believe this comes down to how we see the Bible.

If you believe the Bible, as it has been interpreted to you, and as it has been translated, is the equivalent of God’s Word, then you can never, ever question anything you’ve been taught. You can never grow!

But think about how many times Jesus said to the people: “You have heard it said…But I say to you…”

The point is that as we know Jesus, our views of things are going to change. That doesn’t mean we let go of the gospel! That means we UNDERSTAND the gospel better.

  • What your church has taught you about Jesus is not the same thing as the gospel.
  • The Bible translation that you use is not the same thing as the gospel.
  • The books that you have read giving their opinion on what it means to be a Christian are not the same thing as the gospel. 

But when you think it’s one big package, and your denomination is right about absolutely everything and can’t be questioned–then you can’t grow.

To think that you have to spank your kids five times before breakfast is the equivalent to the gospel?

That’s mind boggling to me. But if that’s the attitude you have to the things that you are taught in church, then there is no room to be a Berean, like in Acts 17, and examine for yourself what people say against the Scriptures and what you know of God.

And honestly, if you think Jesus would gleefully spank a kid five times before breakfast…then we don’t know the same Jesus.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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30 Comments

  1. Kohnen Rachel

    I loved your response to the cantankerous commenter. In sum – Discipline guides, excessive punishment can cause secrecy on part of the child.
    My 17 year old son is a rule breaker. I’ve worked so hard to guide him to be a morally upright, strong minded individual because I believe he can be a force for good in the world. We talk very honestly and openly about everything. He has a friend who is punished and controlled – this friend is amazing at keeping secrets! He lies, hides, sneaks around…and I can see how these habits were formed.
    As for spanking? In 1987, a female friend at school lied about bringing a cough drop. The male teacher got a female witness and paddled my friend. I KNEW that was awful. We both felt shame and humiliation that day. And 3 years later when said male teacher went to prison for child molestation (of boys from my class), well…that started my shift. When James Dobson’s The Strong Willed Child told me to spank my 18mo child for crossing the newly cleaned floor – because the kid wanted to be with me! – I knew he was wrong and that there had to be a better way.
    Thanks for being a loud voice for Jesus!!

    Reply
  2. Andrea

    My uncle is one of those people who likes to say he was spanked and turned out fine. But my grandmother (his mother) told me privately that my late grandfather (his father) used to grab him by the hair and slam hid head down against the table and that he pulled on his ear so hard once that the lobe separated from the skin on the side of the head and he bled. So I just came here to say that when you hear people making that kind of claim – “I was spanked and I turned out fine!” – they might be hiding stuff much worse than a few light swats on the butt. There’s a reason why people get defensive about their parents (their own trauma really) and the ones who were spanked lightly don’t usually have a need to get defensive.

    Reply
    • Angharad

      Not necessarily true. I think people who were raised in caring homes where light smacking was used as a ‘last resort’ punishment are always going to get defensive when they hear their loving parents labelled as ‘child abusers’ (I also think that when you call a parent who maybe smacked their child 2-3 times in their entire life an ‘abuser’ it also belittles the suffering of children who were truly physically abused)

      I think it would be helpful if emotive words like ‘abuse’ got taken out of the discussion. We need to remember that in the past, just about every parent smacked their child – indeed, you would be seen as an unloving or uncaring parent NOT to smack, since it was seen as not caring about your child’s welfare.

      It would be better to say ‘in the past, we believed smacking was the only way to discipline children, and loving parents believed it was for their child’s long-term benefit. Now we know that there are better, more effective ways of discipline.’ People may well listen to that, whereas they would react negatively to ‘anyone who has ever smacked a child is guilty of child abuse’ because they feel it is judging their family.

      Reply
      • E

        Love that last paragraph!

        Reply
      • Sarah

        Absolutely agree, Angharad. Smacking was a last resort in my family when I was growing up, and hence I was always resistive when the subject was brought up. There is a world of difference between what I grew up with (one light smack if I was really naughty, perhaps twice a year?) and what some people went through (hours of beatings using belts, regularly, reinforced with Scripture readings!) I wouldn’t smack if I became a parent, and my oldest brother, now a dad of three, doesn’t, but I’d never have thought through my position on it at all if I had only heard the narrative that people who smack are abusive – I’d have dismissed it out of hand as untrue because my experience of it was not traumatic.

        Reply
      • Plocb

        I prefer the term “perpetuate/continue a cycle of violence.” Because in most cases, parents are just passing on the lessons they were taught, as we all tend to. Some day, hopefully, beating your children will be as looked down on as beating your servants or your wife (both acceptable once).

        Reply
  3. Codec

    Calling shyness a sin.

    Y tho?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It really is mind-boggling. But what’s worse is that Baucham said all of this stuff publicly, and he was still considered an expert on parenting and family and someone we should listen to.

      How could he have said this and people not thought, “that disqualifies him from teaching on the subject?”

      Reply
  4. Laura

    “What bothers me, though, is how vehemently so many Christians defend spanking, as if by criticizing spanking you’re rejecting Christ Himself.”

    This applies to other areas as well. Many Christians defend patriarchy or complementarianism and when I disagree, they think I’m rejecting Christ. OR if I disagree with Christian nationalism, I’m rejecting Christ.

    The thing is that I’m rejecting their views, not anything to do with Christ. I cannot find a verse where Jesus talks about spanking, endorsing patriarchy, or favoring a certain country.

    Also, not questioning anything keeps us stunted in our spiritual growth. God already knows our questions before we ask them, so I’ve gotten to a place where I ask Him. No shame in that. It’s religious leaders that don’t want you to question anything. They are threatened by the questions; God is not.

    Reply
    • Nathan

      > > “What bothers me, though, is how vehemently
      > > so many Christians defend spanking, as if by
      > > criticizing spanking you’re rejecting Christ Himself.”

      It’s the same basic philosophy that leads so many of us to believe that you disagree with ANYTHING that a self-proclaimed Christian author or expert says, then you disagree with God.

      Or maybe it’s just social inertia. We’ve always done “X”, so “X” must be good.

      Reply
  5. Devra

    I admit my perspective on spanking has changed, and I do believe it’s because I understand Yah’s heart better.
    I was spanked as a child, never abused. Rarely got more than one swat at a time, rarely more in one day. I would have said until recently it was a fine upbringing. God-focused, safe, loving. But I’m now in my late 40’s, raising six of my own and I’m having to learn to get to know my parents from scratch. It makes no sense how little of a relationship we have.
    I want something different with my children and I want it emulate Yah’s relationships with us, His children. My God is just, yes he’s been wrathful at times, but ultimately, he wants our love. Choosing to discipline with relationships in mind has turned our parenting style on its head. And honestly? It’s harder. Spanking is quick and often doesn’t carry much beyond some words and maybe a reconciliation if parents even do that part right.
    There is definitely a space for me to more fully understand what scripture IS talking about with “the rod of correction” but I’ve definitely got a growth mindset there.
    I will be sharing this post!

    Reply
  6. Jane Eyre

    I think people sometimes “defend spanking” when it is something done maybe two times over the kid’s life. I remember a woman saying the one time she spanked her kid was when the four year old kept trying to crawl over a balcony at a baseball game or something.

    But if you are spanking your kid on anything resembling a regular basis, you have problems.

    On a gut level, I think people are often “telling on themselves” when they defend frequent spanking. A lot of what I hear is projection: they, the parents, don’t listen to “no” unless it is painful. So as dysfunctional adults, they can’t imagine that a kid has it together more than they do.

    Reply
  7. Ruthie

    Do people know the link between the word discipline and the word disciple? How did Jesus treat and interact with his disciples in the Bible? How does the Lord treat you and interact with you as his disciple? How does God discipline your his children throughout scripture? How does God discipline you as his child?

    I’m getting really tired with Christians equating discipline with spanking.

    I’m also tired of the assumption that because in the last several generations spanking has been encouraged and the default way of disciplining that it has ALWAYS been this way and being against spanking is somehow a frightening liberal slippery slope to hell in a hand basket.

    There is very little evidence to suggest that spanking was normal in Israel/Jewish society in biblical times. In fact, there’s more evidence to the contrary. It isn’t until the Roman empire sort of adopts Christianity as it’s chosen religion that we see spanking become normalised. Because of Roman culture. Because a Roman paeter familias (male ruler of the household) was supposed to beat his wife, slaves, and children into obedience.
    Most Christians now are horrified at this societal norm and construct and can see that it is not biblical or of the Lord in relation to wives and slaves. We know this is evil. So why are so many Christians in a completely different context clinging to to the idea that children must be be harmed in order to be a decent human being?

    Reply
    • Rhonda Hubbard

      That’s great info. I never thought of it that way (spanking coming from the Romans, it was probably a hold over from their pagan days)

      Reply
  8. anon for now

    The whole topic of spanking makes me sick in the pit of my stomach. (Yes, I was spanked as a child. Yes, my parents were loving and I agree that we need to tread lightly with the emotive word “abuse.” Yes, they were TRYING. God knows, I have a better clue now, that I am a parent myself, of just how hard they WERE trying.)

    “Something” has never set right in me with the concept of spanking. It just…the quickest way to say it is “makes me sick.” But, that’s being “emotional” “irrational” “soft-hearted” “anti-order/discipline” oh God. So much CRAP. (I HATE the “soft-hearted” gut punch. Its always thrown at women like somehow its a PROBLEM that we have tender hearts. A FLAW in our makeup. Ok, bud, how bout I be as “tough” as you? How’d you like to make love to a “tough guy”???)

    THANK YOU for posting this. That Baucham quote made me sick. To Train Up a Child, despite its smiling-Amish-children-cover (no offense to the Amish! they didn’t write the book), made me ILL.

    My biggest fear of having children, when I was first married, was not how will I feed them, how will I afford them, but it was, “dear God, I’m going to have to face the spanking topic and I don’t want to do that to my children!”

    Now that you’ve interviewed a woman on this issue, can you PLEASE interview some MEN on this so I can share this with men who need to hear it from other godly men? (Because, they love us women, but we are sometimes just “too softhearted” GAH!!)

    Reply
  9. Tammy

    Boy we love to go in one side of the ditch or the other in other words go to the extreme. I had a friend who would not spank her toddler so instead she had to call his name a dozen times before he would listen and this happened constantly. I found it very annoying and frustrating. He was just being a typical toddler and pushing his boundaries constantly. Let me be clear I am very against abuse there is just no justification for it but when your toddler refuses to listen to you I don’t think there is anything wrong with a LIGHT tap. And yes there is something wrong when you have to spank your child five times before breakfast and how sick is that to actually get pleasure out of spanking or disciplining your child but if you aren’t firm with them they will run all over you. Then they grow up with no respect for authority which causes even bigger problems. So love your children enough to discipline them and if need be give them a light tap if they need it when they stubbornly defy you if you don’t you are going to be exhausted because their going to run all over you.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      But Tammy–you’re equating “being firm with them” with spanking. It’s actually quite possible to be firm with kids without spanking–and, indeed, research has shown that this works much better.

      I was a firm parent, and I never spanked, and my kids turned out great. But they obeyed because they WANTED to, because they had a great relationship with us, because they knew we cared, because we were attuned to their needs, because they knew they could trust us.

      Reply
    • Cynthia

      It sounds like she may not have figured out other effective methods to replace spanking yet.

      For that situation, I found it was useful to go up to a child, get down to their level and get their attention without yelling. That way you know the child actually hears you and you have a more calm and quiet atmosphere. (I remember as a child getting in trouble at school when I genuinely didn’t hear.) you can also play games with very young tots, asking them to do something and then clapping and giving a hug when they do it.

      Reply
  10. esbee

    former teacher here…i saw how schools went downhill due to taking the paddle out of school, most times used only in the most dire circumstances and usually only given as one or 2 swats— yes one swat put my smart mouth and attitude in its place where 2 years of reasoning with me went in one ear and out the other.

    also in the case of teachers, every other normal form of discipline was deemed abuse such as writing sentences, sticking your nose in the corner, laying your head down on the desk, laps around the basketball court or picking up rocks off the playground, etc. — so what was left when a kid became unruly was to call it ADHD and give the kid drugs or call the police and take them off in handcuffs.

    and the big one, punish the teacher for when the kid goes haywire. yes, it happened to me. I got written up for a kid defacing his school work with nasty pictures.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re right–spanking works great to get immediate compliance, and if that’s all you’re interested in–then it works well.

      But it also causes long-term trauma; it increases aggression; it increases attachment problems; it creates worse relationship dynamics; and so much more.

      So we need to ask: Does children’s well-being matter? I’m glad that laws have decided that it does.

      I have great sympathy for teachers, and I think much of the way that we’re doing education is quite counterproductive. But the fact that we don’t spank is actually one of the good things, not one of the bad things.

      Reply
    • Maria

      Yeah, I hear you; I see teachers in my therapy practice, and they are sometimes literally traumatized themselves by what they have to deal with from students day-to-day. This (over?)reaction to true abuse is the same we’re seeing in places where criminals are called the victims, police are not allowed to patrol, and it’s the everyday person who suffers. If you can raise a kid with never a smack, that’s excellent. If you never have to give your child antibiotics that’s great, too. But let’s not absolutize either way: “Never give them antibiotics!” “If you’re not giving them antibiotics, you’re sinning!”

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Spanking is not antibiotics. Spanking has been found to be either harmful or neutral, never positive. Antibiotics are lifesaving.

        Parents owe their kids to choose the best form of discipline, and spanking isn’t it. There are other, much better ways that do not harm.

        Reply
        • Maria

          It’s an analogy 🙂 They’re both meant to counteract something harmful and can both be overused with harmful results.

          Reply
  11. Alice

    I think it’s worth extending grace to those who did spank and then learned from their mistakes.

    Reply
  12. Lydia

    What was your method for discipline? I have a 1yo and she is so testy. I’d love to hear effective ways of discipline that don’t include spanking for young children.

    Reply
    • Mum of 3

      Look up Janet Landsbury. She doesn’t give ‘Christian’ advice however I have found her resources to be so useful as attachment is the goal of it all and she gives practical examples of how to put things into action.

      Reply
  13. Boone

    I don’t hit my dogs. I don’t hit my horses. Why would I hit my children?

    Reply
  14. Em

    What I don’t understand…if Jesus was 100% man like Christian’s say they believe…then his brain developed the same way my kid’s brains are developing…he probably acted the same way little kids act as they are LEARNING how the world works. I don’t believe Jesus got spanked so why would I spank my kids??? If anything all the references of kids in Scripture would point me to learn FROM my kids.

    Reply
  15. Sarah Kourkoulis

    First, a little about me: I’m 44, single, never been married, and I have no children. I was raised in a very conservative Christian home, where my mom was a born again Christian, and my dad (a Greek immigrant) was not. He became a Christian when I was 19.

    In a twist on the typical story, my mother was the disciplinarian. The book The Christian Family was her guide, and it was very clear: spanking was the only way to discipline, and it gave guidelines.

    My father hated it, but since he worked 18 hours a day, she was the one who was responsible for raising us, and he rarely intervened. I remember a few times where he stopped her, but otherwise, disobedience meant a spanking. No more than seven hits (we knew people who didn’t have a limit), and never done in anger.

    She regrets it now. My dad did too. He’d never been spanked as a child, and wished he’d brought that to our family. I get all of that, and don’t want to dishonor either of them. They did the best they knew at the time.

    My thing is this: it definitely affected my perspective of God. Yes, I thought He was waiting with a stick whenever I messed up- my mother certainly was. The stick was on full display in our home every day. Yes, I thought He was often angry with me. Yes, I was desperate to make sure I didn’t do anything wrong. Yes, I stuffed emotions, and made sure I was a good kid, and inside…I was worried people wouldn’t love the real me.

    So, I’m new to this perspective, but gee whiz, I can see the truth of it. Because I’m learning that my Father in heaven loves me, delights in me, and shepherds me with kindness, gentleness, and mercy.

    One last thing: I have thought that God was TOO kind, and I needed to be tough to compensate. That, I’m seeing, is terribly unbiblical.

    I’ve been doing a lot of crying over this, but praying that somewhere, healing is happening.

    Reply

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