Spanking: Godly Discipline or Outdated Cruelty?
- 2006 20 Oct
According to a recent article in USA Today, there is one thing the nation's most successful CEOs have in common -- they received their share of spankings as children.
Although the article stated that "[m]ost CEOs believed spankings played little or no role in their success," the CEOs also acknowledged that the practice taught them valuable life lessons. David Haffner, chief executive officer of Leggett & Platt, said the spankings he received as a child made him "disciplined, detailed and organized." Joe Mogolia, with TD Ameritrade, said he learned from his parents that "tough love is better than soft love."
Also cited in the article is a recent study by sociologists Eve Tahmincioglu, titled: "From the Sandbox to the Corner Office: Lessons Learned on the Journey to the Top." Chapter One of the book is called "Less Carrott, More Stick." And in the book, Tahmincioglu contends spanking taught the 55 executives she interviewed "to respect authority." "They feared their parents, but loved them as well. Their parents would follow through with a spanking when the children misbehaved. Today there is no follow-through," she argued.
Fans of the Andy Griffith Show may remember that delightful episode, "Opie and the Spoiled Kid" -- the one where a spoiled boy moves to Mayberry and tries to run all over everybody, including Andy and Barney, the town's local law enforcement. When Andy impounds the boy's bike for his misbehavior, the boy's father protests until he discovers his bratty son would rather he end-up in jail than for him to lose his bike. This prompts the father to sell the bike and accept Andy's advice that the boy needs a good visit to an "old-fashioned woodshed." Hmmm ... don't believe that would fly on any modern national television broadcast.
USA Today notes that modern child psychologists "wince" at the idea of administering corporal punishment. Dr. Robert Fathman of the Ohio-based group End Physical Punishment of Children (EPOCH-USA), says, "If you bring a child up and you're spanking them, they're more likely to hit an animal, a pet. They're more likely to hit another child."  Other psychologists like Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, however, strongly disagree, contending:
"[I]t is possible -- even easy -- to create a violent and aggressive child who has observed this behavior at home. If he is routinely beaten by hostile, volatile parents or if he witnesses physical violence between angry adults or if he feels unloved and unappreciated within his family, that child will not fail to notice how the game is played. Thus corporal punishment that is not administered according to very carefully thought-out guidelines is a risky thing. Being a parent carries no right to slap and intimidate a child because you had a bad day or are in a lousy mood. It is this kind of unjust discipline that causes some well-meaning authorities to reject corporal punishment as a form of discipline. Just because a technique is used wrongly, however, is no reason to reject it all together. Many children desperately need this resolution to their disobedience .... When he lowers his head, clenches his fist, and makes it clear he is going for broke, justice must speak swiftly and eloquently. Not only does this response not create aggression in children, it helps them control their impulses and live in harmony with various forms of benevolent authority throughout life." [ Written in response to an question submitted through the Focus on the Family website]
Still more important than what the experts say about spanking is what the Bible teaches. Some may find it a surprise, but the Bible commends corporal punishment in King Solomon's words: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24). Some religious leaders, however, say the word "rod" in this text wasn't meant to be taken literally. In an article titled, "Children and the Rod of Correction," Dr. Dave Miller of Apologetics Press effectively addresses this misinterpretation:
"Lest someone get the idea that Solomon used the term 'rod' figuratively, without intending to leave the impression that parents should actually strike their children with a rod, he clarified the target: 'Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell' (Proverbs 23:13-14). A proper balance is obviously needed between verbal reproof and encouragement on the one hand, and the application of corporal punishment on the other, as seen in the following words: 'The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul' (Proverbs 29:15, 17, emphasis added). The immense importance of the interplay between positive instruction, encouragement, and nurturing, in conjunction with appropriate physical punishment, cannot be overestimated nor successfully discounted."
It's interesting to note that the "interplay between positive instruction, encouragement, and nurturing, in conjunction with appropriate physical punishment" in the life of today's children is often neglected. It seems many children are subjected to one or more extremes -- either they are completely neglected and left to raise themselves, tortured and physically abused by twisted or insensitive parents, or over indulged by well-meaning ones with far too much "sweet-talking" and not enough action to back up their commands. Is it any wonder America is raising one of the most rebellious and violent generations in its history?
Children need to be taught a healthy fear (reverential respect and awe) for God and authority figures in life. No one can better administer these lessons than parents. And sometimes, though it should always be a last resort, there is no better means to get that lesson across than to do what the parent's of yesteryear used to do -- take the youngster for a visit, so to speak, to an "old-fashioned woodshed."
Spanking may not make a child into a famous CEO, but when it's affectionately and appropriately applied, it very likely will make him or her into an emotionally well-rounded, disciplined, and morally responsible individual.
What is your view on spanking? Discuss this topic in our forums.
Rev. Mark H. Creech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
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