I don’t know of a single good parent who likes spanking their kids. I don’t know how one could.
We surely hated it, but we didn’t know better: The Bible seemed to sanction it, our Christian parents had certainly spanked us lots of times, and it seemed to work, too.
After a while, however, as we continued to hate spanking (we actually really liked our firstborn–cute little Trevor), we realized that it was no more efficacious than other modes of discipline. Sure, it worked sometimes, but not always. And that was true of other forms of discipline we used that were not violent.
So that was that. We quit doing it while Son Number One was still small. Son Number Two got spanked a bit. Son Number Three has never been spanked. And all of them have become juvenile delinquents, defiers of authority, drug abusers, and violent maniacs–when they’re not going to university, church, or choir practice, that is.
On the Bible part, Dr. William Webb has painstakingly argued the most moderate case possible against spanking in his new book, Corporal Punishment in the Bible: A Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic for Troubling Texts (InterVarsity, 2011). You’d simply have to want to spank your kids to keep spanking them after reading this book.
On the social science part, lots of media are reporting on an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that concludes that, sure, whacking a kid can stop certain undesirable behaviours for a while (children do tend to leave off doing things that earn them sharp pain), but you reap what you sow. Guess what? Kids who are smacked tend to smack and they generally become more aggressive than their non-spanked peers.
UPDATE: Here is the citation: Durrant J and Ensom R. “Physical punishment of children: Lessons from 20 years of research” CMAJ 2012; DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.101314.
Evangelical organizations in both Canada and the United States have lined up on the wrong side of this issue, defending parents’ “rights” to spank their children as a religious freedom issue when they ought to be defending children’s rights not to be hurt by parents who don’t know better. If we are against honour killings, female genital mutilation, forced marriages, polygamy, and other violence against children sanctioned by other people’s religions, let’s stop the violence sanctioned by our own. Jesus showed himself to be particularly concerned about children, and we ought to be, too.
Here’s good news, Christian parents: Now you can finally stop hitting your kids. And let’s stop other people from hitting theirs.