To Spank or Not To Spank


Spanking is a controversial subject today. Some people advocate the spanking of children as a legitimate means of parental discipline. Others try to equate spanking with hitting or child abuse. They say that if you spank a child, you teach the child violence and the child will end up hitting others.

We used spanking with our children when they were younger as a means of discipline, along with other disciplinary tools (reprimand; loss of privilege; time-out; etc.) Even at a young age, they were able to understand the difference between spanking and hitting. And now that they are older, I am happy to report they do not exhibit any violent tendencies.

I believe spanking has a place in parental discipline, but we should have some guidelines to follow. Here are some principles that I encourage parents to observe when spanking a child.

Principles to observe when spanking:

  1. Do not use spanking as your only means of discipline. It is best to reserve spanking for open defiance or disrespect from a child.
  2. Never spank in anger.
  3. Explain to your child what you are doing beforehand.
        – Tell your child that you are going to spank him or her.
        – Tell them why you are spanking them.
        – Tell them where you will spank them and how many times.
  4. Be sure to affirm your child afterwards.
        – Affirm them verbally (tell them you love them).
        – Affirm them physically (hug and/or hold them).
        – Make positive eye contact (for reassurance).

Here is a chart I have given to parents in the past to help them understand the difference between spanking and hitting/or abuse. Spanking is different from hitting in the act, manner, intent, attitude and results.

                                    Spanking vs. Hitting or Abuse

Spanking Hitting/Abuse
Act One or two swats to the buttocks or hand Striking repeatedly (or kicking,
punching, choking)
Manner Controlled; intentional;
with forethought
Uncontrolled; reacting to
the moment
Intent To correct wrong behavior To vent anger or frustration
Attitude Love and concern Anger and malice
Results Behavioral correction Emotional and/or physical injury

How about you? What are your thoughts on spanking and the discipline of children? Feel free to share in the comments.

Related post: 8 Great Family Rules to Help Any Home


  1. Margaret says:

    We used spanking as discipline for our children. All four of them have grown up to be wonderful, responsible adults, caring and loving their own families. I think it is a discipline that is sometimes necessary, and it does not seem to have caused any lasting harm!

    I was also spanked as a child. In an old childhood diary, I had written. “Mummy spanked me today. She should not have done so”. Yes, I really wrote that, but looking back on it, I’m sure she did the right thing!!

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Aaah, yes, spanking stories.

    I remember stuffing paperback books down the back of my pj’s once to soften the blow, but somehow Dad figured out they were there and removed them beforehand.

    Then there was the time when I was going to get a spanking that I went running around the house with my hands over my bottom crying out, “You can’t find it!” Dad found it.

  3. Neil says:

    Excellent guidelines on a controversial topic. This topic is back in the news in the Houston area because a 2 yr. old was killed by the horribly wrong kind of physical discipline. It is sad to see some legislatures considering anti-spanking laws.

  4. Barrie says:

    I did like your chart and I believe that it would be helpful for parents who want some good guidelines. I too came from a background where I got spanked. I can tell you from first hand experience that it did not do me any harm and I am quite sure that whenever my parents chose to spank me, I was well deserving. The key to parents is not to spank in anger. Sometimes people strike others out of frustration but I believe that existing laws can and do take care of most of those situations. I think this new attempt in Massachusetts is overstepping the bounds of parenthood.

  5. Jim says:

    The issue of whether to spank or not is a non-option for biblical christians. We are commanded to discipline our children and failure to do so demonstrates our hatred of them.

    Using our hands as tools of chastening is a bad idea. The hand is for loving and when used to spank sends a confusing message. Similarly a wooden spoon is also a poor choice as it tends to leave undesirable marks. There should be a proper switch like object that has the specific purpose of carrying out the task assigned to it.

    Most children realize why they are being spanked if the punishment is administered immediately after the rebellious attitude or actions have taken place.

    The goal of discipline is restoration to the parents and other siblings and this definitely should result in the display of affection and love. Spanking in the absence of love is quite detrimental indeeed.

  6. John Ayan says:

    Spanking, ah yes! I remember having to spank our daughter once in her short childhood at about 5 or 6 years of age. I think we both cried after. I believe I spanked her bottom once and it was like the end of the world. I think she turned out okay!

  7. Jeff says:

    When I was growing up, the “Board of Education” which looked like a gigantic paint stirrer with nice rounded edges was kept in plain view of all us kids up on a brick ledge behind the refrigerator. Sometimes it would disapear because either myself or one of my siblings would convienently knock it off that ledge so it would fall behind the refridgerator and we thought that Dad could not get it. It always reapeared when it was needed! I think I turned out fairly well and I don’t have any emotional or physical scars from the spankings I recieved as a child and I have a great relationship with my parents. I do have a question though. If this law goes through and I need to disipline my child, can I along with the rest of the parents in the state of Massachusetts get the phone number to the lady that is sponsoring this bill so we can call her 24/7 for advice on how to disipline our child. I think a few thousand phone calls an hour to her house would help her to get her “no disipline” program off to a good start.

  8. Ms. Green says:

    I believe corporal punishment is essential in certain instances of extremly beligerent, defiant or hostile behavior. Part of the breakdown of behavior in schools, I believe, is the direct result of parents not disciplining their children properly at home, and thus a spirit of defiance of authority sets in. And if a child does not learn to respect and obey authority at home or in school, he or she will eventually end up in the penal system – no doubt about it.

  9. Ray Fowler says:

    Neil – I wasn’t aware of the Houston case. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    Barrie – I know I deserved most of the spankings I got, as well as quite a few that I escaped!

    Jim – You bring up a good point with restoration being the ultimate goal behind parental discipline. Thanks!

    John – I think she turned out okay, too!

    Jeff – Yes, we would sometimes try to hide the “board of education” as kids too. But it never seemed to work. (Ours was more like a ping pong paddle.)

    Ms. Green – I agree. Discipline begins in the home, and when parents do not discipline their children, there are wide repercussions throughout the rest of society.

    Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment!

  10. Tony Rose says:

    I highly recommend Tedd Tripp’s book Shepherding A Child’s Heart for a comprehensive Christian guideline on this subject. It will revolutionize your view on why spanking is necessary, and how to do it.

    Great post.

    Here is the book on Amazon:

  11. Ray Fowler says:


    Thanks for the book recommendation. I believe my wife has read this one, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

  12. Tony Rose says:

    You’re welcome. Run don’t walk to it and read it!

  13. Tony Rose says:

    Just posted this parenting humor on my site and thought you’d like it in relation to this post:

  14. Ray Fowler says:

    Hi Tony,

    That’s a cute post and a darling picture of your daughter.

    All the best,


  15. Brett says:

    I remember when my son said that didn’t hurt after giving him a spanking. I had used a paddle on him. When I went to check he had stuff paper towels down his jeans. I made him take down his pants and then used the paddle and never did say the spanking didn’t hurt again. The Bible means works.

  16. Ray Fowler says:

    Brett – Okay all you kids out there reading this. Never under any circumstances after a spanking tell your parents, “That didn’t hurt!” (I speak from experience.) Thanks for sharing, Brett.

  17. Sasha says:

    Wether you take a ten dollar bill off of your neighbor’s counter or rob a bank you are still committing a crime – just to a lesser degree. It’s the same with spanking a child. Even smacking a couple of times is scary to a little kid and has no place in a loving relationship between a parent and a child. Having a strong, loving bond with your child is what teaches them about God and about life in general. Punishments are negative and set your child against you, provoking them to anger and more misbehavior. The deeper the connection and love, the happier the child. Happy children don’t generally misbehave all that much – no need.
    In most of the Western world, they have now outlawed any kind of cp and most of those countries don’t have half the problems that we do.

  18. Ray Fowler says:

    Hi Sasha, I guess we will just have to disagree on this one. I believe spanking can be a healthy (and sometimes necessary) form of corrective discipline administered by parents who love and affirm their children. I believe hitting or abuse will likely provoke anger and more misbehavior, but not loving, controlled spanking for disobedience or disrespect. At least that’s the way it has worked out in our home. Thanks for stopping by and commenting again.

  19. Tony Rose says:

    The only problem with your view Sasha, is that you and God disagree.

    A happy child will always misbehave anyway because folly is bound up in his heart, and God alone has instructed us in His way to remove it.

    Sin infects everyone and no one is happy all the time. Kids who get their way all the time will misbehave the minute they do not. All cultures testify to this truth.

    The sad part of your view Sasha is that our culture has deceived you into thinking all spanking is “scary.” No, that kind of spanking is called abuse. Spanking in a Biblical way is not “scary.”

    My father spanked me when I was young but by the time my sister came along my mother believed as you do and all spankings stopped. Today her life is a wreck because she never learned that wrong behaviors have consequences.

    My mother thinks it is a horror that I spank my kids because she thinks as you do, but can’t understand why they love, respect, and want to spend time with me. They would never say their dad is “scary.”

    My mother blindly can’t see the contrast between my sister’s kids who aren’t spanked, who are following her same path of non-consequence learning. That’s called willing deception and it is a rejection not of my and my way, but of God and His way.

    If you are open minded to another view, I highly recommend reading Ted Tripp’s book “Shepherding A Child’s Heart.”


  20. Becca says:

    I am a 22 year old woman, and I was spanked once by my father when I was seven because I went off the street without his permission and stayed out too late playing with a friend. He spanked me as I walked in the through the front door after telling me what I did wrong. It was one smack, and it literally changed my life. It still hurts everyday.
    Spanking was always sexual to me, and parents using a sexual act as a disciplinary action makes no sense to me. My relationship with my father is a constant struggle, I love him very much, and I know he loves me, but him hitting me was not necessary. Even now, I can burst into tears if friends, my significant other, my parents, or coworkers say something mean. I’m a sensitive human being, my parents were always aware of that, and yet my father couldn’t control his anger enough to see how damaging spanking would be to me.
    I do not agree with spanking in any circumstance. I will never spank my children and I’ve made it perfectly clear to my parents that they will never see their grandchildren again if they so much as joke about spanking. I’ve old my husband that I love him more than anyone but I would divorce him if he lost his control and spanked any child of ours.
    I would have learned the same lesson a decade and a half ago if my father had hugged me and told me he was terrified when he didn’t know where I was. And his lesson wouldn’t have haunted me for the rest of my life.
    My point is KNOW your children, understand if they will not benefit from a spanking. Spanking IS hitting. Just because the law allows parents to strike a child in a designated area doesn’t mean that you’re not still hitting someone. Don’t kid yourself. And if you’re a father, don’t ever spank your daughter. Your daughter adores you, and a man who can hit a woman(your little girl is a woman) is, in my father’s own words, “The lowest scum of the earth.”

  21. Ray Fowler says:

    Becca – Thank you for sharing your story and experience with us. My heart hurts with you for the hurt you have experienced, and I am sorry you still carry the hurt today.

    As an observation, you describe your Dad as losing control and hitting you in anger. This is different from spanking as I have defined it. As I explain in the article above, hitting is an act that is uncontrolled, reacting to the moment, done out of anger and resulting in emotional and/or physical injury. That sounds exactly like what happened to you. Spanking is different. It is a controlled act administered with love and concern intended to correct wrong behavior. Many children have experienced spanking with no ill effects, but hitting or abuse is never acceptable.

    Once again, thank you for your comment, and I pray that God will bring you healing from the hurt you have experienced.

  22. Christi says:

    I have posted on the 8 family rules and read this post today. This is a concern of mine when we take on our responsibilities at the children’s ranch. My husband and I use a switch to spank our children just as you described above. It has worked wonders and we very seldom have to use this means of dicipline. HOWEVER, we have been told that spanking will not be an option at the ranch. I am a bit concerned with this, but I also realize these children will be children with issues of violence and abuse and maybe spanking will not be a good means of dicipline. Do you have any suggestions? I am sure we will be receiving training but I would love to hear your comments since I am in complete agreement with what you believe.

  23. Dustin says:

    Comment deleted by administrator.

  24. Becca says:

    You’re comment was the rudest thing anyone has ever said to me. If you have a problem with me, email me at
    You are on a Christian website and yet you have the audacity to call a stranger a “nutcase”.
    The golden rule, please.

  25. Ray Fowler says:

    Dustin – I have deleted your comment to Becca because I feel it was disrespectful towards her. My comment policy can be found on my personal profile page here:

    “Please feel free to interact using the comments section. You do not have to be a Christian or agree with a post in order to comment. I just ask that everyone respect each other in the comments and tell us what you think!”

    Becca – I am sorry you were subjected to a verbal attack on my blog. I delete inappropriate comments as soon as I find them, but I was sleeping when this one came through. Thank you for your clear, clean, and direct response above.

  26. Ray Fowler says:

    Christi – You are in a similar position to foster parents or even school teachers who are barred from using any physical discipline. The principles are the same however. I like to think of them as the three C’s: 1) clear rules, 2) clear consequences, 3) consistent enforcement.

    1) You must establish clear and reasonable rules from the beginning that everyone understands. The 8 Family Rules are one example.

    2) You should explain what will happen when rules are broken. Perhaps a warning the first time, and then a consequence, and then a stronger consequence for repeated disobedience.

    3) You must be consistent! Without consistency, the whole thing falls apart. If you allow rules to be broken without consequences, then all the rules will be viewed as optional. If you only follow up some of the time, then the children won’t know what to expect when they misbehave.

    Of course all acts of discipline, whether physical or non-physical, should be followed up with loving affirmation of the child as outlined in step 4 of the post above. I hope that helps, and all the best. Keep me posted on how things are going.

  27. Raye says:

    I just came across to spank or not to spank and I really like the chart that specifies the difference. I will definitely blow this up and hang it my house for my significant other to see. I don’t allow him to lay a hand on my children because when he “spanks them” it is out of anger, etc., not just a few swats on the butt, uses sticks, shoes, does uncalled for things and he looks like a psycho so I get in front of him and tell him to bully me and not my kids cause atleast i’m about his size so I will definitely use this chart.

  28. Ray Fowler says:

    Raye – Thank you for intervening on behalf of your children. The behavior you describe from your significant other does not sound like healthy discipline. I hope this chart will help him to find a better way to help your children learn appropriate boundaries and respect for others.

  29. mark says:

    I am still grappling with the idea ahy many women like Becca oppose spanking. For me, it’s their position in the school system. They were admitted to the Teaching Certificate program after they responded in a certain way on the questionnaire! I wasn’t admitted, so I am a living proof. What doomed my application, was that I stood up against scatology in art, the removal of the word “God” from my graduate thesis, the teaching children that homosexuality is not sanctioned in the bible, that abortion is “a womens’ reproductive right, that spanking to prevent crime is a crime, etc. With all due respect, Becca, can you deny what I have said? Can you also deny that you answered on the Teacher’s Certification application, that “you are actively involved in a cappaign that all children be loved and wanted … except the aborted children”? You cannot. There are millions of women like you, who are now against spanking! They “man” the U.S. school boards, family courts, abortion clinics. They are the ones who swear that Bible is not for spanking. But they are wrong!

  30. John says:

    I’m a survivor of experiencing sexual abuse who chose to seek professional psychotherapy late in life. I suffered from a spanking fetish in deep secrete shame all my young life. Once in therapy I suffered PTSD flash backs where I vividly recalled multiple memories I’d blocked out by erotically sexualizing them where my mother calmly ritually unbuttoned my trousers and then lowered them and my underware and then order me to bend over her knees for a spanking. It wasn’t until in therapy I was able to makes sense that I was being sexually aroused by the undressing as a preadolescent boy, but in therapy I was able to break through the dissociative sexual emotional survival technique of being eroticised by the act. I later recalled internally detecting the “pleasure” in my mother’s repressed smile with her orders to submit to her punishment and the gleam in her eyes as she prepared me for my spanking. Many, not all adults have sexual feelings for spanking. Alot that do swear they never were spanked or don’t remember it. Experiencing sexual trauma from spanking doesn’t always mean the victim was directly spanked I learned in therapy, a child can indeed be traumatized by seeing or hearing the act, as fear of a threat can be just as real as the act to oneself.

    Christian religions refuse to believe most anything that contradicts their beliefs and or the “Bible”. Indeed my mother whom I’m convince was subconsciosly enjoying erotic sexual feelings which she repressed so she thought for the incestual taboos regarding it I’m certain felt obedient to her religious morals and Biblical commands all the while she spanked me. Most good parents who suffer from sexual spanking fetishes MUST separate in their minds sexual feelings they may have about spanking from their children. Sadly the their subconscious sexual needs motivate them and their social and relgious norms consciously reward them when they spank. So the cycle of ignorant covert unconscious and in some instances “conscious” sexual abuse passes from one generation to another. Is this a common occurance? No, but do a small percentage of children suffer adult sexual abuse symptoms for child spanking, yes. I believe in discipline which includes some punishment for children but NEVER spanking. I share an excellent lay person’s resource from a professional sexual and mental health expert to explain how this ignorant sexual abuse happens:

    I’ve referenced a fairly new book publication by a very impressive clinical
    sexolgy practitioner. It’s underpinnings are academic and scientific but it
    was written for the lay person. Titled, “Regression A Universal Experience”
    Copyrighted 2003

    The author, Averil Marie Doyle is a Clinical Supervisor for the American
    Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, The American Board of Sexology,
    and the American Board of Sex Educators, Councelors, and Therapists.

    But I’ll share just a few passages from the authors book to make my point that
    adult spanking exchanges are OK but anyone who is using those same acts on their
    children is risking altering their childs sexuality, and in doing so is taking
    away potentially their childs freedom to develope their own sexuality freely.

    I quote Dr. Doyle’s book,

    “Regression is a strange and disquieting experience. It is like reliving the
    past, through the perceptions and feelings of oneself as a child. All of us
    have had experiences from infancy through adolescence that we have been unable
    to integrate. At a preconscious level, the memory of those experiences still
    actively affects our thoughts and behaviors…Distortions and overreaction
    characterize the responses of the regressed person, who becomes childlike in a
    flood of confused feelings and sensations…These regressive sensations are
    often linked to physical touch, sensuality, and eroticism….As infants, we
    associate closeness, warmth, and touch with being cared for or loved. Touch and
    closeness can also be associated with fear and abuse. This occurs when infants
    are mishandled by their caregivers or when infants mispercieve the connection
    between caregivers and sensations of pain and pleasure they might experience in
    the presence of caregivers. Warmth and closeness can thus be linked or
    associated with fear,abuse,and pain. Infantile sensations of genital pleasure
    and pain create memory traces long before cognitive memories are formed.”

    “Sexual regression is not behign. There is little doubt that regression caused
    by erotic assault experiences, whether actual or percieved as such by the
    regression bearer, has significant and deleterious effect on psychosexual

    “Many unintented teachings are set in motion when rough handling, discipline, or
    corporal punishment is utilized in child rearing. Unfortuntately, parents, and
    caregivers are often unaware of the deleterious impact their behavior has upon
    the developing child.”

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