Sitting in front of the cameras, a media agitator asked, “Then is spanking a last resort?” I answered, “No, that sounds like it is an act of frustration, a desperate response to failure. Loving, thoughtful parents employ corporal discipline when it is the best tool to use to achieve character building in our children.”

This principle is not only lost on the progressive, but many Christian parents are also guilty of spanking “as a last resort.”

Keep in mind that our goal is to get the child to the place where he happily chooses the right course of action. We want him to walk in the light of fellowship. So we engage in character training. The foundation of character training is to make good character lovely to the child. That is achieved through example. When the child is part of a community of love and goodwill, his community impulse kicks in and he seeks to conform so as to be a part. He doesn’t want to be the odd man out, so he emulates the prevailing temperament. He sees that all of the rewards of life are obtained through peace and temperance.

Many children are generally stubborn and reject the fellowship of the community because they feel they have already been rejected, and they observe that the way to get what they want in the community is to gripe and complain and take it before any of the other selfish people do. You cannot spank that child into goodwill or a compliant spirit. You can use the rod to intimidate him or steer him to do what you want—as long as you are paying attention—but you will not reach his heart, you will only harden it.

But in the community of love and goodwill our children are still not perfect because they, like every person since Adam fell, are possessed with a fleshly body that wars against the spirit. The tendency to selfish indulgence, laziness, pride, intemperance, etc. dwells in them. So in the best community of loving fellowship the child will occasionally devise a path to pleasure that disregards the good of others—like grabbing or stealing goodies, shoving other children out of the way, raising his voice to make a selfish demand, refusing a direct command because he is lazy, or any number of kid-like things. At that point he is shutting himself off from the smiles and fellowship of the community. This is the point where the previous fellowship comes into play. He is having to give up one thing for another—fellowship for selfish expression.

Your response must first be one of teaching. Provoking questions are good.

  • Why did you do that?
  • What do you expect to achieve?
  • How does that make your sister feel?
  • Why should you be first or get more?

When you detect repentance and the restoration of peace, then allow him to make restitution, forgive, and move on. A spanking will not be necessary. But if he doesn’t see the seriousness of his infraction, a spanking is in order. It emphasizes his “de-fellowshipped” (I just made up a good word) condition.

There are other times when you have a rowdy boy who is regularly so excited that he does unacceptable things. You have instructed him before. It is a waste of time to ask him any more questions. He knows the score. A quick lick across the rump or a sit-down spanking may be the thing the little outlaw needs. You know it is not going to cause him any emotional distress. You sometimes wonder if he is practicing his interrogation resistance technique and is thrilled at his ability to withstand hardship. Every child is different. Contrary to progressive thought, boys and girls are different. That is why each child has his own set of unique parents, one male and one female, so with their combined insight they can provide customized training for each child.

When a spat or spanking is in order, it is not a last resort; it is a God-given tool to put the finishing touches on an eternal soul.

See the revised section on spanking in the 21st-year edition of To Train Up a Child.