At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
Withhold not correction from the child: For if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not dieProverbs 23:13
When it comes to spanking our little ones, conscientious parents should of course look to Scripture for their guidance and protection. Not only is it guidance and protection for them as parents, but it is also protection for the child.
It should go without saying that godly discipline should be judicious and calm, and not the result of mom or dad flying off the handle. We are told to correct fellow Christians (which would include our children) in a spirit of gentleness, considering ourselves, lest we also are tempted (Gal. 6:1). The one who corrects a fellow believer must be “spiritual,” Paul says. That means when a parent is irritated and annoyed, they are not qualified to discipline their child, although they are (through the irritation) motivated to do so. And when they are qualified to do so (not being annoyed), they are not motivated. It is quite true that the discipline of children should not be the result of parental exasperation.
But with that said, parents are required by Scripture to maintain their qualifications for correction. They are told to “withhold not correction,” and the correction being spoken of is a beating with a rod. This is plainly a pretty serious situation because the child spoken of here (na’ar) is not a toddler, but rather rather “a lad.” He is of an age where it might be thought by his mother that a beating might kill him, although Solomon assures us that it will not. It might sound like he going to die, but he is not going to die.
And so when it comes to parental discipline, we have the foundation for an a fortiori argument, a “how much more” argument. If it is legitimate to beat your 16-year-old son with a rod (because he was joy-riding in the neighbor’s car without permission), then how much more would it be legitimate to switch that same boy 14 years earlier in order to head off that incident entirely?
There is a movement out there called Gentle Parenting, which wants to draw attention to the fact that many of the passages in Proverbs are not talking about discipling preschoolers. This is quite true, but if Proverbs commends bending the trunk of the tree when it fifty feet high, then wouldn’t the Lord also commend bending the sapling? And besides, does anybody honestly think that Gentle Parent advocates are really urging us to withhold corporal punishment until the teen years? Not likely.