Culture,  Politics,  Theology/Bible

Addicted to Violence or to Love?

California Assemblywoman, Sally Lieber, is sponsoring a bill that would make it illegal for parents to spank children under the age of four. Ms. Lieber does not have children, but she has compared spanking to wife-beating. So far, the reaction to her proposal has been overwhelmingly negative. Surprised that so many people would oppose the measure, Lieber said this:

“I have to question why our society holds so tightly to physical discipline among the very young. We’re very addicted to violence” (source).

It’s unfortunate that Ms. Lieber would liken spanking to the “violence” of domestic abuse. A stinging fanny hardly compares to a brutalized wife, and I don’t think the distinction is lost on the majority of parents who will be offended by Ms. Lieber’s blanket indictment.

But Ms. Lieber’s proposal poses a particular challenge to Christians who desire to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). A spanking ban would pit the laws of the state against what Christians have held to be the clear teaching of the Bible. Far from being an act of violent abuse, corporal punishment is presented in the Bible as an act of love.

Proverbs 13:24 24 He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

Proverbs 22:15
15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13-14
13 Do not hold back discipline from the child, Although you beat him with the rod, he will not die. 14 You shall beat him with the rod, And deliver his soul from death.

Proverbs 29:15
15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

The “rod” in the book of Proverbs refers to an instrument of physical discipline that is used to correct and teach a child. It is not an instrument of abuse, but one of love and nurture. The Proverbs teach that a stinging fanny is a lot less painful than a broken life. A person who will not lovingly administer a spanking to a disobedient child sets the child up for failure in life and godliness. Much more harm is done by withholding this kind of discipline than applying it. Thus, biblically speaking, to withhold the “rod” is tantamount to child neglect and abuse (Longman, Proverbs, pp. 291-92).

So the wisdom of Solomon contradicts the spirit of the age reflected in Ms. Lieber’s proposal. If her proposal were to pass, this is one instance in which Christian parents would have to practice civil disobedience because it is better to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).


“Proposed Spanking Ban Sparks Debate” – New York Times

“A spanking ban: are we gonna get it?” – Los Angeles Times


  • dorsey

    I heard Ms. Lieber interviewed on NPR. According to her logic, it’s too difficult to define the line between discipline and abuse, so the obvious solution is to eliminate both. Even the NPR interviewer sounded incredulous.

    As she spoke, she displayed little real passion for the issue. It came across as if she was just looking for a cause that would get her picture in the paper. Personally, I think she deserves a good spanking. 😉

  • Jada Bown Swanson

    You know I am of the mindset you have to discipline your child in ways that works for you and for that child. I am not opposed to spanking at all and we spank our kids at times. However, I am seeing that this really is not effective with both of them at all times for all offenses, just as it wasn’t effective for me as a child. Taking a way a privelege or grounding me was far more effective.

    I think the big thing here is to educate parents on many styles of discipline, spanking being one of them, and to know their children well enough to know what method is going to get through to them. KWIM?

    I think there are many parents who only spank and don’t even try to investigate other options, or they spank in anger and don’t explain to their kids what they did wrong, why it was wrong, and the consequences (whatever that discipline is) they will receive.

    Take for instance if my son tells me a lie, which thankfully at this point it rarely happens,but when it does I tell him “God is truth, we want to be like God, therefore, we tell the truth.” Then you have to find out why he was lying, did he hit his sister? did he get candy when he wasn’t supposed to? Was he covering for a friend or his little sister (this happens a lot)? Did he break something that is special to mom or dad?

    I don’t think spanking is the end-all, be-all form of discipline, but I don’t think spanking should be outlawed either. I think parents need to be educated on how to be parents. Just b/c you can have a child (by natural means or adoption) doesn’t make you a parent. Kids don’t come with instruction manuals, and parents don’t always know what to do, especially when it comes to disciplining.

    This is where we as a Church, as well as Christians, need to begin talking about parenting and how to be a paerent: discipline, communication with our kids, the difference in being a friend to your kids and being a parent to your kids, etc.

    Okay, I am saying to much, just to say, this: I don’t agree with her at all, but we do need to distinguish b/t what is spanking-discipline and spanking-abuse and to know our kids and the various forms of discipline that we can use as parents and what is effective with our specific children, and one form doesn’t work with all kids.

    Okay, I am done.

  • rachel


    what you have written sounds well and good…even reasonable, but is that what we are called to do: .evaluate different methods of punishment to see which is most effective?…
    nothing has ever occurred to God, He did not fail to see options that may be available at some point in the future, nor did He give principles and commands as suggestions for HIs children…i will not claim to be a sinless mother always spanking with perfect motive and method, but as Denny already quoted in the original post, scripture gives clear direction to spank children…i think it seems most effective at the early ages of rebellion, and am convinced that our Creator knows better than we what is right to do concerning ALL areas of life…He has withheld nothing from us and though we cannot always see how things will work out in the end, we are still accountable for obeying our Father as we exact obedience from our children…obviously discipline goes far beyond corporal punishment…teaching a child and rearing in the instruction of the Lord is so important (maybe that is what you referred to)…but time out, taking away privileges etc. simply is not what God told us to do fwhen correcting little ones….spankings should hurt but abuse clearly is not an acceptable action…spanking in fact is the opposite of abuse…it is the most difficult act of love i know….
    i just think it is presumptuous to assume that we have methods available to us that are better than the commands of the Lord, and to say that one form of discipline doesn’t work with all kids is to say that God only gave us part of what we need….though we cannot be assured that even perfect child rearing will lead our children to a saving relationship with the Savior Jesus Christ, we can be sure that if we as parents submit humbly to HIs divine order and command, He will continue to change us… His will will be done….what a joy to be a part of the perfect plan to redeem His people and sanctify us…

    grace and peace to you as you seek HIm in all things

  • Jada Bown Swanson

    You know what Rachel, I just tell it how it is for me and my family. As a pastor’s wife and minister myself, I say this in all honesty, I think you are completely over-spritualizing my post. Yes, God gives us commands, and I follow his commands i.e spanking my children, but you know what else God gave me a brain and the ability to use it and the gift of discernment and wisdom.

    Therefore I can, with God’s help and guidance, be discerning in how I discipline my child. And when I do spank my child, which I do for certain offenses, but not all, (b/c not all offenses warrant a spanking, at least in our household), I make sure that I am not spanking out of anger and that my child knows that what he or she did was wrong and why they are being punished.

    And I stand by the fact that spanking is not the ONLY form of discipline for all children. I mean there are hundreds of ‘good’ Christian authors books on discipline i.e. Lisa Welchel’s book “Creative Correction” but I guess we shouldn’t read that b/c it is not mentioned in the Bible. And what about all the books from Focus on the Family? They mention other methods, should we ban those, too?

    Heck no!!! I never said that spanking is bad, but God has given my husband and I intuition to know how to be a parent and how to raise/discipline our children. And spanking is not always the form of discipline that is most effective. This comes from prayer and asking God how to help us be better parents, as well as reading others words that they ‘say’ God has given them in re: to being better parents, disciplining kids, etc. and talking to other GODLY Christian parents who have come to the same conclusion.

    If that makes me a bad Christian, a bad pastor’s wife, a bad minister so be it. I stand by it.

    From a Bible-believing Christian who has a differing view. PEACE!

  • rachel

    i did not intend to humiliate you or your good intentions regarding discipline toward your children….i did not accuse you of being a bad Christian, a bad pastor’s wife or a bad minister…i only wanted to make the point that, though God does give us the ability to reason through decisions,..i read Denny’s blog not to sound off my own opinion but to glean information and suggestions to evaluate where my walk is with the Lord…i hope to have an open heart willing to learn and serve… it is clear to me that the opinions of man are not important for me to know….taking a second look at God’s word to see that i understand the full counsel of it, does help me keep a focus on the goal of sanctification….it is not our place to question HIs instruction…though many books have been written regarding parenting (many of which i have found helpful-Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Biblical Christian Parenting) they are still opinions of men intended to supplement the word of God…
    f the tone of my post seemed antagonistic, i apologize…i do believe we must hold to the standard of God’s command and regard HIs word to be the only instruction we need…as for Lisa’s book, i have not read it, but i don’t NEED anything in addition to God’s word to discern God’s WILL for my life….HIs will is HIs word….i am sure that the Creator knows the best way of correction for His children…
    I do insist, as well, that i don’t need confirmation through prayer or intuition or support from other people i consider Godly parents to know that God’s word has been revealed and i am accountable for that…not only regarding the issue at hand, but for all things…i know my heart is deceitful and i cannot trust myself to make the “best decision” for the moment…i need only trust HIm….
    lastly, as to over-spiritualizing this post, my goal is to be Spirit filled at all times and i am working toward that end…i desire that Christ would be my life, not merely part of it (if that is even possible)…

  • Jada Bown Swanson

    Well Rachel, we agree to disagree on how we live out our Christian life. And you didn’t humiliate me, far from it, you just caused me to stand by my beliefs even more as I feel the Holy Spirit leading me and my husband to raise our family.

    As well, I did a Bible study back in college that I believe Denny himself probably did, as it was offered at the church we attended while in college. It was called “Experiencing God”. In response to not needing prayer or confirmation from others, well, the way I see it God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways. (taken from the study written by Henry Blackaby).

  • Bryan L

    I doubt the verses in Proverbs are speaking of just a spanking. It’s more like flogging. It talks about beating the child in 23: 13-14. This wasn’t just some stinging fanny. The OT also prescribes putting to death a child that curses their parents (Leviticus 20:9) and having the men of the town stone a child who is rebellious and doesn’t obey his parents (Deuteronomy 21:18). So is this something we should also put into practice? I’m just pointing out the fact that if your going to throw some verses out there like that, lets look at what the author most likely meant by them (or what the readers understood him to be talking about) and then lets look at some other verses in scripture as well.

    If anything the verses in Proverbs are giving some good general wisdom that parents need to discipline their children and parents that don’t aren’t doing their child any favors. I don’t think the Bible is privileging beating/flogging a child with a rod (much less corporal punishment) as God’s preferred method. I agree with Jada that a parent should have many different methods for disciplining a child and should use wisdom on when each should be applied.

    Bryan L

  • Debbie

    i would highly recommend Lisa’s book because she puts in all verses that have to do with a certian action. I have to vouch for her because she is my cousin from my grandmother and her’s being sisters. She is a very godly woman and has three kids and has a wonderful husband who is an associate pastor. One has Attention Deficit Disorder. i don’t know if you all remember when she was acting, she was Blair on ‘The Facts Of Life’. She turned down two episodes that had to do with premarital sex. That is what practically took the show off the air.

  • Erin Landrum

    Hmmm…interesting debate on the spanking issue. I have three kids who’ve all been spanked, but the older they have gotten the less it has been necessary or appropriate to do so. I think that one of the most important thing that any Christian can do for their children though is to lovingly discipline them, and to be consistent in how they apply it. You also have to measure the effectiveness of the discpline as well, you’re not only after outward conforming to God’s requirements or house rules, but also commanded to deal with heart issues (pride, selfishness, etc). Unfortunately, the church has more examples of how not to discipline your children rather than ones that spur us on to keep up the difficult and sacrificial work of consistent and patient training.

    This leads to me another thing, if my child sins and I discpine he/she, then the whole point of the act is repentence and then reconciliation. When God forgives us our sins are as far as east is from west. I have often wondered if grounding or the taking away of priviledges holds sin over a child’s head. Instead of taking their repentence and reconciliattion seriously, some times parents can just keep reminding the child of the sin by the suspension of activities. Not that sanctions aren’t appropriate in some circumstance, but I think many times it places an unbiblical burden on the soul of a child.

    I guess another thing that I remember is that if I don’t take care of those temper tantrums early and train a child while he is still young, then the issues don’t just go away when they become teenagers, many things are in fact amplied. Modesty doesn’t start at twelve and neither does self-control. A toddler taught to patiently wait for the blessing to eat and a four year old taught to respect his sister by opening doors and pulling out chairs may both have a better transition to adulthood because parents have been consistent. It’s my personal goal when people say to me, “you just wait until they ALL are teenagers,” to stimulate myself to action so that, Lord willing, I will have young adults who are confident in their faith as well as blessings to their church and family. I just keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that unhappy teenagers are made solely by peer pressure or raging hormones.

  • Shane

    In response to an earlier post, I think that Br. Burk’s and Rachel’s comments were right on. To insist that the writer meant something different than what most conservative Christians find to be true is ludicrous. I currently have 2 children one 4 and one 2 months. My 4 uear old understands that when she does something that is disobeying the rules that she is disciplined. When our children grow up is the real world going to sit them in time out or take away their toys when they get into trouble…Heavens No!!!!!!
    I think any God fearing, Bible reading Christian should stop wounding our children for the future and start disciplining the way God instructs.

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