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Biblical Rules for Spanking Your Children

Bible Sex Facts

©1996 J. F. Cogan

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These guidelines are designed for parents that are already convinced that moderate corporal discipline is the Biblical and logical thing to do. If you feel that children should not be spanked ever and at all, the purpose of these guidelines is not to change your mind. Please don't waste our collective time with long e-mail dissertations about how it's wrong to "hit" a child and Jesus would never spank children, etc.

If you feel spanking is wrong and you never plan to use it, click to go to the section of this page that talks about Behavior Modification. Many parents use a combination of corporal punishment and behavior modification to achieve improved behavior in their children.

These guidelines are included with the children's section of Bible Sex Facts because it is likely that persons who read this section will have an interest in proper child rearing techniques. There is no real or implied relationship between sex and spanking your children.

First, let's look at what the Bible says about spanking in the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 13:24. He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

Proverbs 22:15. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13. Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.

Proverbs 29:15. The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.

New International Version, Copyright ©1983 B.B. Kirkbride Bible Co. Inc. and The Zondervan Corporation. Used with permission. Scriptures used from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright ©1973,1978,1984,1987 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

The meaning of the Biblical word rod. The use of the word "rod" in Proverbs refers to corporal discipline as described below. Do not assume that you are encouraged to beat your children with a stick! However, do not assume, either, that the meaning of rod is always pastoral, as in Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

What Is Corporal Discipline. The word "corporal" pertains to the body. Therefore, corporal discipline is inflicting temporary discomfort to the body. There are many other forms of discipline which parents may use, such as behavior modification, restrictions, or time out, that do not involve discomfort to the body.

Corporal Discipline Limitations. There are a few No-No's to observe when using corporal discipline:


Is corporal discipline working? If it's not, perhaps you should try other techniques There is a philosophical difference between discipline and punishment. The purpose of discipline is to improve future behavior. The purpose of punishment is to provide a negative reward for past behavior. Try to think in terms of discipline and not punishment.

To be able to control your children in your home, you must:

  1. Establish rules and limits. Your children may act like they don't want limits but many humans thrive in a controlled environment. Make sure they know and understand the rules of the home.

  2. Enforce established rules and limits. Don't make empty threats. You may say, "The next time you run in the house, you will sit in the time-out chair 2 minutes." But if you say it, make sure you do it. Count on one thing: you will be tested..

  3. Understand and be able to use the basic principles of such behavioral techniques as contingency contracting, positive reinforcement, behavior shaping, and delayed reinforcement.

Behavior Modification

Contingency contracting:

A contingency contract is based on an if/then statement. The classic contingency contract exists between an employer or employees. If you do the things listed in your job description, Then I will give you a pay check or even a bonus..

Positive reinforcement:

This involves the process of rewarding positive behavior while ignoring negative behavior. Of course, you never wait for positive reinforcement when dealing dangerous, or immoral behavior. Use more instant interventions.

Behavior shaping:

Sometimes a child cannot meet your rules and standards. Therefore, you must accept, and reinforce his/her ability to perform/conform on a graduating scale. Use this technique in connection with positive reinforcement. Harry is a new student in the community who has never been to Cub Scouts before. At first, you might reinforce him for not disturbing others while he is out of his seat. Later, you reinforce him for being in his seat even though he is not attending to what you are doing. Over successive sessions, you can gradually increase the requirements for reinforcement until he performs on the same level as the other students.

Delayed reinforcement (token economy):

A token economy is based on delayed reinforcement. Again, the employee/employer relationship provides an example. When an employee comes to work and performs the tasks listed in the job description, the reinforcement comes at the end of the pay period in the form of a pay check or envelope. When working with younger students, instead of using edibles (Fruit Loops) for immediate reinforcement, use tokens for delayed reinforcement. You can make tokens out of small squares of colored construction paper. These tokens may then be exchanged for prizes or privileges.

Time out:

You will find the need for a time out area where students can go whose negative behavior cannot be tolerated. This may be a corner of the room (a time-honored tradition) or a chair. Keep time out periods short. You might use an egg timer to keep track of the time. You may need different time-out areas for different children. Use the rule of thumb: one minute for each year of age. Of course, in the adult world, the ultimate time out is prison.

There must be consistency among all adults in a child's life if behavior modification is to be effective.

In order for behavior techniques to be effective, your program must be consistent across all care-giving adults. This includes parents and baby-sitters. Behavioral techniques have less chance of working if all adults involved are not using the same reinforcement procedures. This is especially true for students with serious behavior problems. Involved adults must confer on the various techniques which will be used. These discussions must include should things as: what we use as reinforcers, what is the reinforcement schedule, how shall we word the contingency contract, on and on.

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