I met you recently when you came to Dallas, TX to address our meeting with Primerica. Thank you for what you do.
My question is short and basic. What does the bible teach about punishment for children? My wife and I are expecting our first child. We are not in agreement with the idea of physical punishment. We need guidance to what scriptures says about spanking your children.
∼ Colter D.
First of all, may God shower blessings on you and your wife for recognizing that raising children needs much thought and discussion even before the child is born. It is wonderful that the two of you see the need for being on the same page and having clear, guiding rules by which to run your family.
Having said that, perhaps the two of you can look at spanking as one tool on a spectrum called ‘discipline.’ We encourage you to note the root of that word —disciple. You will, hopefully, be parents whose children follow in your path, hence the most important people the two of you should be focused on now are yourselves. You have a window before your child imitates you to step onto the path of becoming the best people you can be.
The Hebrew word used in Proverbs 13:24 that is usually translated as rod and may have led to the saying, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” does not necessarily have the connotation of spanking in Hebrew. While it can mean a physical implement used to discipline, it can also means leadership by teaching and guiding—discipline in the purest sense of the word.
At this point, we would suggest that you focus on how you will merge the traits of compassion (softness, warmth, affection) that a newborn needs and add to that the firmness and setting of limits that the baby will require you to add on down the road.
Meanwhile, work on yourselves to develop a shared bond of parenting and help each other develop the strength and devotion that God expects from those to whom He entrusts new souls.
As your skills grow, you may find that the issue of spanking never arises. If, on a rare occasion it does you will both agree that it is necessary for the child’s sake (certainly not as an expression of your own frustration or anger). It certainly should not be a tool that is needed under ordinary circumstances.
Enjoy the ride ahead,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin