The Theology Of Smacking Children


Smacking has traditionally been seen as an acceptable way of disciplining children, however modern society has opted for ‘timeouts’ labelling smacking as form of corporal punishment. Both are methods of disciplining children, of which, the Bible makes it clear that parents are to discipline their children (Pro 13:1,24, 19:27, 22:6,15, 23:13, 29:15, Eph 6:1-4, Col 3:20-21) in fact it is a model that God demonstrates as He disciplines His children (Pro 3:11-12, Heb 12:5-11). Therefore discipline is not the issue; rather the issue is the means by which discipline is to be administered to a child. Those who stand by smacking children often hold to the tradition view and idea that ‘I was smacked and I turned out alright’, whereas those against it cite studies of negative psychological effects as a result of smacking, or the numerous cases of child abuse where parents have crossed a line. Regardless of which side of the argument, a biblical understanding of the matter must be considered. 


The dividing verse in the argument of smacking children is found in Proverbs 23:13-14 where it states the use of a rod will not kill them; rather it will save their life. The rod in this passage is actually a rod, similar to that used by herders in ancient times to guide, correct and protect their flocks. However, it is important to note the conjunction ‘if’, which is a conditional clause that is often missed when reading this passage. The ‘if’ is there to convey to the reader that though this is a permitted action, it is not the only action that can be used to discipline a child. The Bible does not condemn the use of a physical discipline; however wisdom must be applied before administering it. The magnitude of the consequences mentioned in the verse when not using the rod gives the reader insight as to when the rod is suitable. Other methods of discipline (reproof, ‘timeouts’, ‘grounding’, etc) are more appropriate in other situations depending on their age, temperaments and maturity.


The arguments of those against smacking children cannot be overlooked. Both the negative psychological effects and child abuse are often a result of the parent/s failure to have self-control and/or an incorrect perspective when it comes to discipline. Using God as the model, parents are to discipline their children out of a place motivated by love (Pro 3:11-12, Heb 12:5-11). When love is present abuse cannot exist. Love also negates the anger or frustration that can result in an inappropriate use of smacking. 


Where does this discussion leave us? Looking at the Bible shows that smacking children is permitted but only when appropriate. It cannot be the method of discipline that parents opt for, but one that love and wisdom must abound in. When disciplining children some questions we need to ask are:

  • Am I angry or frustrated?
  • Is the use of physical discipline an appropriate response to the situation? 
  • Am I using excessive force when smacking my child?
  • Are love and wisdom being used
  • Does my child understand why I am smacking them? 
  • Do I understand why a loving God would use the rod of discipline on me?
  • Am i just disciplining my children or do i spend enough time encouraging and building up my children?

If you are a parent, your child is one of the most amazing blessings from God. Disciplining your children is not the easiest part of the job but is one that needs to be done. Whatever your opinion on smacking children is, discipline that is motivated by love and processed with wisdom will lead to your children to grow and mature into disciples of Christ. 

James SchleusenerComment