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Too Young to Spank?

June 15, 2006
A happy young child smiling

When is a child too young to spank? The answer is obviously dependent on your definition of the word “spank.”

Some parents practice spanking in a manner that is inappropriate for any child at any age. They strike out in anger and seek to punish the child for the offense the bad behavior has caused them. This is unacceptable at any age, but it is especially egregious when directed at very young and immature children. Spanking at any age should only be administered by those who have a proper philosophy of spanking and are not emotionally-driven. Our booklet Biblical Chastisement thoroughly discusses the philosophy of the biblical rod, but there is an additional point that we must make regarding age-appropriate chastisement.

First, let’s get our terminology about spanking correct. Terminology is particularly important, because our subconscious is highly influenced by the definitions we assign to the terms we commonly use in the training or our children. For that reason, no matter the age of the child, we do not speak of “corporal punishment,” as do some, but rather of “corporal chastisement”—a biblical term found in the New Testament in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews. Emotionally stable parents, when disciplining their children, do not view themselves as instruments of the wrath of God falling on deserving young sinners. Parents emulating the nature of God have no desire to punish (to execute retributive justice) small children. A teenager who commits a violent act may need punishing, but a small child, not yet having developed a moral perspective, cannot do anything that deserves punishment. The application of punishment assumes responsibility and accountability. Punishment is not about training or correcting behavior; it is about returning “an eye for an eye.” The concept behind the principle of punishment is, “You caused pain and suffering in others, so you will receive pain and suffering as a means of paying for your wrongdoing.” So, let’s ask the question again, “When is a child too young to spank?” If, based on your terminology, you mean “spanking to inflict punishment,” all young children are too young. Until a child is old enough to know right from wrong, good from evil, heaven from hell, obeying the law from breaking the law, he is too young to punish.



Before we address the issue of age appropriateness, we must make clear the vital principle that proper biblical chastisement, at any age, is not the infliction of pain so as to create a deterrent. It is true that some ten-year-old boys may be forced to obey out of the fear of a painful spanking, but in most cases, they will be motivated more by either their passion to disobey or by a learned desire to obey. Older children (ten and older), like most adults, live more by their own values than they do the fear of police or parents; whereas, young children (under three years old) are not usually intellectually mature enough to remember and calculate the possibility of consequences for their actions. They pretty much live by whim and habit; they are not that calculated and premeditated in their thinking, which is why fear of spanking is not a very good deterrent. Furthermore, obedience rendered out of fear of spanking serves no purpose higher than preventing the child from doing the bad deed again. It does not train and it does not build character. The best child-training manual ever written says, “The rod and reproof give wisdom” (Proverbs 29:15). Reproof is delivered in words. Reproof is designed to impart wisdom and understanding. Reproof corrects the child’s perspective and gives him a reason to obey that is higher than fear. The rod alone may create fear but reproof creates wisdom.

However, just as the small child is not mature enough to remember to associate disobedience with the pain of spanking, neither can he receive the words of reproof, for he does not yet possess a command of the language, nor can he effectively think in terms of philosophy or principles. In short, the small child under three years old is not fully capable of profiting from either punishment or reproof. Are we parents then left without recourse? Of course not! God has provided us with the instrument of training, with very occasional use of corporal chastisement, provided it is not related to punishment.

While we can reasonably agree that the small child is too young to be punished, and we can understand that he is too immature to profit from reproof, are we to leave the child to himself until he gets old enough to discuss his fleshly actions and riotous ways? “…a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15). Too young for corporal punishment and too immature for reproof? What’s left to us is “Training.” “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Biblical training will incorporate the principle of the rod as a reinforcement to parental commands. By the term “rod,” I mean spanking. The Bible never uses the word “spank,” but it is bold in its use of the word “rod” in regard to child training. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). Notice, it is a rod of correction, not a rod of punishment. The rod that corrects is the rod that trains.

We have made the point here that children under three (give or take six months or so) cannot profit from corporal punishment, but we have made the point elsewhere that small children do profit from the application of the training rod. How are they different? In both cases, the child is being swatted with an instrument. There is a great deal of difference in both the severity and the number of “licks,” and also in the parents’ expectations and perspective. For that reason, we cannot arbitrarily specify a suitable age and declare that it is fitting to spank a child beginning at that point. Children differ, spankings differ, circumstances differ, and parents differ.

strong in spirit

A six-month-old boy is capable of throwing a fit, demanding to have his way, but he is not being “a bad boy.” He cannot be declared morally bad with his limited intellect and zero moral perception simply because he acts in a socially unacceptable fashion. Although he can make it uncomfortable and inconvenient for his parents he cannot be blamed; for to consider punishing a six-month-old is absurd—a total failure to grasp reality. But all of his demanding behaviors and disruptive outbursts become a heavy (sometimes embarrassing) burden for parents to bear, often leading them to ignore him, or worse yet, allow him to develop a deeply imbedded selfish attitude. It is obvious to any parent that the six-month-old can be demanding and angry. He can demand his way, even when it is not good for him, like crawling on the floor in a restaurant, or eating what he ought not. He can demand to have your glasses, which he will immediately destroy, and scream defiance if you do not comply with his lusts.

These “partly wise” parents know that the little blustery ball of bouncing boy is intellectually beyond the profit that comes from punishment or precept, so they allow him to practice his intimidating tactics for the next year or two until his language skills develop and they are unavoidably convinced that he can now understand rebuke and appreciate responsibility. But by then he has perfected his pernicious ways. When parents are finally convinced that it is time to crack down and make demands, the child is able to crack back and win. By the time parents realize he can reason, he is beyond reasoning. He is a hardened, hedonistic heathen, steeped in fleshly practices and convinced that the world is centered around him. In the first three years, he has developed a worldview that puts him at the center and makes gratification the chief end of his life. By default, he has learned that people exist to please him; after all, that has been the order of things for all three years of his life.

Sometimes, parents suspect that their one-year-old knows more than is obvious. It is as if he has the devil in him. They began this journey not believing in spanking, but now they feel like striking the “little brat.” The sudden rise of their rage shocks them: “What kind of monster am I to feel like hitting my child?” They should be shocked. Such unchecked feelings can only lead to abuse. Parents with convictions and some degree of self-control find themselves jerking the screaming child up by one arm, sitting him down a little too forcefully, with their monster screaming back in anger. Their red faces and the haste and anger with which they deal with the child testify to their sense of helplessness. But they resist taking the dreadful step of spanking. When they hear about someone else “spanking” a one-year-old, they are offended, for they know that if they were brought to the place where they lost control and spanked their child, it would be a definite act of violence against the little one. They have a concept of spanking that was derived from their own frustration and anger, which in some cases is added to what they remember as a child when their father or mother had even less self-control than they do, and they ended up on the receiving end of violence in the name of spanking. Their own experiences have left them with a warped perspective. They see all spanking through the scarlet of their own colored glasses. Theirs is a common and painful experience, but there is another way.

It is the way of peace. It is a path without anger or loss of control. It is the method of training, the walk of discipline. First, the parent must be trained to exercise personal discipline, and then he is capable of constraining the child to walk in discipline—sometimes by application of the rod of training. The child grows up emotionally secure, with no self-loathing, wrapped in a bright beam of love, and walking securely on the ground of self-respect. It is a journey that ends with exceptional adult children who bless their parents.

“When is a child too young to spank?” Based on my definition of “spanking,” I can answer the question. A child is too young to spank when spanking is not profitable to the child. Of course, the same applies to a child of any age.

Let me give you an example of the application of the “rod of training.” A six-month-old throws his food bowl on the floor because he doesn’t like what is in it. This is the early stage of self-will and defiance. If the little guy gets away with it and if his parents don’t constrain him to do otherwise, then they are normalizing such behavior. Furthermore, they are allowing the seeds of defiance to grow in the child’s soul. Rebuke here would not be effective, nor would punishment. The child would not make any connection between his action and any suffering that you inflicted. If he were spanked hard enough to create significant pain, he would become so distracted with the pain and so fearful and emotionally disturbed that he could not be trained to any end. Remember, the child is simply expressing his will by dumping the food in the floor. I have had food set before me that I felt like dumping on the floor, but it would have been socially embarrassing to take that action. The child has no social consciousness, so he does whatever he feels like. Dumping it is not a great offense for a six-month-old, but he will not always be six months old, and it won’t be cute for long. It will make you downright mad when he is three years old and flings a whole plate of food into your lap.

So we watch him, knowing his propensity to selfish compulsion. When he seizes his bowl with intentions of dumping it, swat the offending hand with a little instrument (light wooden spoon, rubber spatula, flexible tubing less than a quarter inch in diameter, or any instrument that will cause an unpleasant sting without leaving any marks). As you swat the offending hand, say “No” in a normal commanding voice. The tone is more important than the word―not angry―but decisive. Children understand the temperament in your tone before they are born, and will recognize it. This swat is not punishment. Probably, it will not even cause the little guy to cry. He will be shocked and stop any action in which he is engaged. Explain to him that he is not to throw his food onto the floor. If he again makes an attempt, swat his hand again and say, no. The third time is the charm. He now knows that “No” uttered in a commanding tone, is something serious. He will not try that stunt again—at least not for this meal.

Understand well, if he has already dumped his food onto the floor, it is too late to swat him. He will not make the intellectual association, and any spanking would then be “punishment” for past deeds, entirely counterproductive for a small child. If you didn’t catch him as he was attempting to spill it, then you must put the plate and food back in front of him and be ready to respond when he tries it again. This is training for the purpose of discipline. The child will actually profit emotionally from this exercise, for he is constrained to act in ways that will make him more loved and cause him to find wide approval from everyone he is around. A child with unacceptable habits becomes a rejected child, then a dejected child, and eventually a self-loathing kid who feels that he can never please anyone and that no one likes him. I am sorry the psychologists and secular child advocates don’t get it, but then if all parents practiced child training as I have suggested, there wouldn’t be any need for abnormal psychologists or child protection agencies. A lot of people would move on to more practical kinds of work, and there wouldn’t be any more crime or war.

Yes, we spank our little ones, but only as we define spanking, not as others might imagine it to be. We obey God in applying the rod of training, not because we are gullible and blind religious fools, but because the Word of God has made us wise beyond our secular peers. We know what is good for our children. We know it from experience, our own and the experience of our forefathers who walked in wisdom applying the rod of correction to our backsides. Some of us don’t remember any of the much-talked-about “cruel beatings” that are attributed to our “strong disciplinarian” forefathers. We remember loving parents who cared for our souls. They applied the rod with firmness and dignity. To us, they represented the law of God, and they stood for everything that was good and wholesome. They called us to the higher path and chastened us when they felt we needed a little reminder to walk by the rule of law rather than by our passions. Today, we thank them, just as our children now thank us. Since our Heavenly Father chastens us (Hebrews 12), could we do otherwise than to emulate his child-training methods?

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102 comments on “Too Young to Spank?”

    1. there is a big difference between discipline and obedience. no one said we should go back to the days when children were expected to be seen and not heard but i do believe we should go back to the days when parents had a right to punish bad behaviour. is it any wonder we have children ganging up and beating people or teenagers who think its ok to attack the elderly, when parents no longer have the rights to discipline their children appropriately. im a daycare worker and i see too many children with behaviour issues every single day because their parents treat the children like kings. i dont believe in beating children or anyone for that matter but with a little education and a clear definition of the difference between discipline and abuse the world would be a much better place and children would be much safer and better behaved.

  1. I think that some of the information here is correct, in that deterring a small child with surprise is a good thing – a small pop on the backside made with the hand usually will do the trick. However, hitting an infant with a wooden spoon or instrument is scary – I don’t think you can find Biblical backing for that behavior. Besides that, I think that you’re taking a lot of the Biblical context away from the usage of the word “rod.” Scripture is full of rich metaphor; I think that when God and the authors of Scripture were imparting the wisdom pertaining to the “rod,” they were simply saying that it is important to discipline your child, for their sake. I don’t think this is limited to hitting them with a rod specifically. And never ever before they are at an appropriate age of understanding.

    1. Proverbs 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
      14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

  2. Just an FYI: according to the dictionary, the words punish and chastise are synonyms. Using chastise instead of punish does not change the actual meaning of what is being done. It may make it sound better, but it’s not any different. I am by no means against corporal punishment, but I do not believe in punishing a child before he has any moral perception. To say that a 6 month old child cannot be held responsible for his actions due to the fact that he HAS no moral perception then to turn around and say that the parent should not comply with the 6 month old child’s “lusts” is contradictory. Spanking a 6 month old child because they do not like their food and throws the bowl on the floor is ridiculous. They are allowed to have likes and dislikes the same as everyone else. Who are we to determine what they like or dislike? As adults, we DO try things we don’t like out of politeness or adventure, but a 6 month old does not understand those things as yet, and it is unreasonable to expect them to act as little adults.

    1. You've completely missed the point. The child is not corrected for disliking the food, the child needs to be corrected for throwing the bowl on the floor. If you're going to make an argument against something, at least make it a logical argument.

      1. Well, if you want to train a child not to throw a bowl on the floor I prefer to tell them that,” we don’t throw bowls on the floor, that makes a mess. We use bowls on the table.”

        Many years ago when my children were infants, then young toddlers, I was “trained” by an amazing, loving, child-care provider and then a wonderful YMCA child-care facility. Tell the children what you want them to do. Demonstrate it. Model it. Live it.

        I did not want my children to hit. “We don’t hit people. We touch kindly, we touch gently.” I didn’t reserve the right for myself to hit…

        Young children respond remarkably well to being told what behaviors are desireable rather than to have pain inflicted on them for failing to clearly understand the social norms of our society.

        Of course, you could just smack them until they stop…apparently Mr. Pearl is firmly convinced that that is God’s will.

        1. What nonsense. I would love to see the two year old demonstrate the kind of COMPREHENSION you claim to have seen! So many of the responses to the Pearl’s teachings is simply ADULT REBELLION to the Word of God, to truth, to common sense and it is cowardly, weak and immature. Every day I see the fruit of such parents in the world! Miserable, disrespectful children, making everyone else around them miserable while the hapless dimwits they have as parents try to talk to their little demons they created! It is pathetic. I have watched children absolutely humiliate their stupid parents in restaurants, food stores, Walmart, public pools, beaches, and just about anywhere else, especially in church!

  3. When a 6 month old flings his bowl of food on the floor, he learns. He learns about gravity. He learns what sound the bowl makes when it hits the floor. They learn about cause and effect. Babies are BRAND NEW human beings. They are experiencing everything for the very first time. They are not being naughty. They are simply finding out how the world works.

    1. becky your a child care worker arent you? either that or a cotton wool parent. sure babies learn when they fling their food on the floor, they also learn using toys, and better yet they learn when they throw food on the floor and you laugh it off that its ok so they continue to do it, then they think hey maybe i’ll throw something else and something else until you end up with a 5yr old throwing chairs. when does it stop being learning and start being bad behaviour? technically i can make a case for the 5yr old throwing chairs, she was learning cause and effect, she was learning ways to deal with anger and frustration albeit inappropriate, she was learning scare tactics and she was also testing boundaries…still learning, but that doesnt make it ok. learning is not an excuse for bad behaviour. if your 6month old wants to learn about cause and effect and gravity, get them a ball.

      1. Even this article explains the difference between 5yr old and 6month olds. also you used an awful logical fallacy.
        “An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of “argument” has the following form:

        Person A makes claim X.
        Person B makes an attack on person A.
        Therefore A’s claim is false.
        The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made). ”
        so says the niktor project. It doesn’t matter if she’s in child care. In fact, it could be used as an ethos viewpoint (if she were) to strengthen her argument. My guess is that she isn’t and is just a reasonable person. And again., completely right.

  4. This is a wonderful article. My son is 18 months old and I came across your book about 6 months ago. It immediately sat well with me. I read some of the comments on here and I don’t think that those posting negatively understand the spirit behind a training swat. It is calm. You are not angry, nor do you show it on your face. You speak firm, as if you were telling a dog to go outside. You are not yelling, but your voice is filled with resolve. You are serious and not to be trifled with.

    Before implementing training with my son, I unknowingly trained my son in many behaviors that fed his self-centered side. I allowed him to throw food on the floor, I laughed when he said “no”, when he exerted his will over mine my wife and I would say “look how independent he is”. I valued his independence as something of great importance. I now see that a child that is allowed to get his way is really being trained to be a self-centered egomaniac. I was raising a potential criminal, and definitely someone who was not being trained in “the way he should go”. I noticed that even though my son got his way, he was often whiny or unhappy. Now that I have implemented the training discussed in this article, my son is amazingly happier. It’s hard to believe, but it works. He is VERY affectionate with my wife and I (which he was not at all before). Our house is definitely one that could be defined as joyful. My wife and I have had to change many things about ourselves to make this work, and it has not been easy, but it definitely been worth it. Thank you Pearls for sharing what our society no longer values.

  5. Do the Pearls have any child psychology credentials or any other credentials for that matter? How did they become an authority? Did Michael go to seminary? I don’t understand how their methods have become so popular.

    1. Wow, the fact that you asked if Michael Pearl went to seminary shows ignorance on your part. Read a little of his background and you’ll get a better picture of Mr. Pearl’s education background. Please do a little research on people before you go making assumptions, and implications. Asking about his credentials also shows a good bit of naivete. Who exactly would you source for credentials. The APA? Take a class in psychology and you will understand that little of it is based on actual science, and most of it is conflicting opinions, case studies, and an evangelistic attempt to spread their politically correct worldview. We Christians are no longer living in a society that tolerates our world view. When it comes down to it, you have to ask yourself who you agree with – the secular humanist point of view (which is much more popular) or the Word of God. Noted child psychologist Dr. James Dobson is a good source who might have the credentials you’re looking for.

      1. Neither of the Pearls have any childcare/education training at all. None. They cite the fact they have children as training enough. Well I don’t know about you but I know plenty of parents who are appalling. Having children doesn’t necessarily make you an expert in the best ways to raise them.

  6. I wager that most of the people shocked at training an infant just can’t imagine themselves being there to prevent the behavior in the first place. They do not notice a problem before the bowl is on the floor.

  7. Very good article! Important to remember that a swat should only be administered if it’s a situation that you can physically correct your child in. You cannot physically make your child stop crying and it is therefore futile to attempt discipline. In the case of throwing their food on the floor, they are physically acting in an inappropriate manner and you can physically correct that and train them in proper behavior.

  8. My children are older now and thank the Lord someone directed me to this website back when they were little. I immediately implemented the strategies demonstrated by the Pearls and now I have amazingly wonderful kids that truly stand apart amongst their peers. I have seen close-up and first-hand children of their ages whose parents have not trained their children as I have and the difference is striking! I haven’t had to “discipline” in about 2 yrs now and it is wonderful. Another family we know very well has extremely out of control kids who are permitted to do and say as they please. I watched one day as the 6 yr old swore at her mother for ‘asking’ her to pick up her toys and put them away. The mother did NOTHING in response and I was horrified. Then, this 6 yr old girl, threw one of my daughter’s bikes, leaving it in a heap near the garbage dumpster. The mother said nothing so I said “You need to pick the bike up and put it away properly”….to which I too was sworn at and met with refusal. The mother still stood there – pretending she didn’t hear it. I again told her she needed to place the bike properly in the rack and she informed me that I was not her mother so she would do nothing of the sort! I then informed the mother (and the child) that she would not be playing with my children until she learned to respect other people’s property and adults in her life. I would NOT be treated with this type of disrespect and that for at least the next 2 weeks, she would not be playing with my children. The young girl then began throwing a major fit, screaming at her mom and blaming everyone but herself for this “punishment”.
    My kids told me they really didn’t want to play with her anymore because her behavior was pretty rotten when they played together. I encouraged them to pray for her while we had this time apart from her. I am so very thankful for your wisdom, Pearls because when I started having my children I was afraid to “spank” due to being abused physically by my “Christian” parents and I wanted to learn the true Godly way to discipline. I just has to keep in mind that the major difference from their spankings and my discipline was true lover from parent to child.

  9. Thank you for your training books and articles! My daughter is almost 7 mos old and I decided to try to train her not to roll over on her changing table when I’m changing her. She has been rolling over almost every time I change her for about 2 mos. I have turned her back onto her back and said “no” repeatedly, but that, of course, has not worked. So last night I swatted her leg with a flexible pen only once, two to three times while changing her and said “No”. The results are amazing to me. She has not tried to roll over once today. It’s almost like she never formed that habit in the first place. I thought it would take a lot longer to train her and that I would have a bit of a task on my hands. But it was so easy and so effective. Now I’m excited to try training her in other areas and to get my husband involved too! Thanks again!

    1. Thank you for your training books and articles! My daughter is almost 7 mos old and I decided to try to train her not to roll over on her changing table when I’m changing her. She has been rolling over almost every time I change her for about 2 mos. I have turned her back onto her back and said “no” repeatedly, but that, of course, has not worked. So last night I swatted her leg with a flexible pen only once, two to three times while changing her and said “No”. The results are amazing to me. She has not tried to roll over once today. It’s almost like she never formed that habit in the first place. I thought it would take a lot longer to train her and that I would have a bit of a task on my hands. But it was so easy and so effective. Now I’m excited to try training her in other areas and to get my husband involved too! Thanks again!

      This is sick. You should never be excited to hit your child.

    2. You are excited to hit your baby? Excited to train her (like an animal)?
      And why in the world would you smack her for rolling over? That’s a natural part of development that is very important for babies.
      Why not just change her on a mat on the floor? My daughter wiggles all over the place, not to be naughty, but because it’s PART OF BEING A BABY.
      It makes me sad and sick to my stomach that anyone can think it’s ever ok to hit, especially such a little one.

      1. Try re-reading the article for what it is actually saying instead of through your biased lenses. Training children is done calmly (not excitedly) and you are not trying to hinder a child’s every natural action, only to properly train the child not to do certain things when they are inappropriate.

      2. @Shi and Izzy: I so agree with you. I spanked my younger son twice (on the same day, for starting a fire in the corner of our living room). The result was that he went on to be fascinated by fire and set several more in later years. I was lucky that he stopped at the age of 10. I have always regretted hitting him instead of taking the time to teach him properly.

        Children are not less than dogs and I would never train a dog by hitting it; I don’t even use a leash and yank it around. I know that is also accepted behaviour, but I have learned better.

        Children are a gift to us and if we do not know how to teach them, we shouldn’t be bringing them into the world. I have noticed for years that people brought up with violence, and especially this form of ‘calm’ violence, instead of actual teaching, usually end up being ‘calmly’ violent parents later on.

        I was raised with ‘spanking’ by my dad, luckily not by my mum. I obeyed dad out of fear, but not because I had learned why or why not to do any particular behaviour. I learned that later on. I did not want my children to fear me in that way and they did not. Yes, it took more thought, time and thinking to train them properly, but it was worth it. They have turned out to be adults I respect as well as love and the eldest has five children who are being raised non-violently and they are a joy to be with.

        The idea of hitting a baby for any reason makes me sick, too. Any adult should be able to figure out a way to teach a child of any age. This is very scary stuff, especially as I read posts from new parents who are overjoyed to be given a shortcut to parenting that condones their own need to inflict pain on the helpless among us.

        I am reminded that our Master said that whatsoever we do to the least among us, we do unto Him. There were people who struck Him, hoping to change His behaviour and make Him conform to their expectations and standards. Luckily for us, He turned the other cheek, forgave them and showed us a better way.

  10. I fully agree with everything said here. I do however have a 6 month old to the day almost and a lot of the training wouldnt apply to me with my 6 month old. I mean we arent going to have a bowl in front of her until 8 months, she isnt sitting on her own yet, and she wont be crawling or eating with a bowl in front of her until 8 or 9 months of age. I do agree that there are other things that you can do though, everyone is different so the things they need to correct will be different. I have a 2 year old that just turned two, but he is super advanced and is ready for us to say, you did this and this is why your getting spanked. Normally I agree that a 2 year old wouldnt be ready, and some 6 month olds would be ready to have a bowl in front of them. You as the parent have to do what is applicable to your child at the time. If your child is capable of throwing down a bowl because he/she doesnt like the food, they are capable of associating that a smack on the leg comes when they try. However some 6 months olds are not cordinated enough for this at all. My daughter would want to eat the food, but would grab it and drop it on the ground out of the lack of hand coordination. The Pearls are not saying to spank your child for not being coordinated enough. Its when your child is demanding or exerting their will that is when the rod comes into play, not when they are just being babies. My son who is now 2 is more stubborn, but he didnt have any need for a spanking until he was 9 months old. My daughter who is 6 months old however is already needing correcting spankings here and there, and she is really laid back and easy going. Every kid is different. The bible however is the same, and a rod is not figurative, its just that a rod. Its used all over the bible, and never in a figurative passage. We correct our children and babies out of love, not out of anger, and spite. As long as you arent angry and you are filled with the spirit than you cant go wrong!!

  11. An important point is missing here and that is that teaching through physical actions rather than through words alone teaches a child that physical action is an acceptable and indeed necessary part of the way to solve problems. When that child becomes a teenager and young adult and starts to move in the world on their own, one of their first instincts will likely be to resort to violence when a difficult situation arises, because they have been taught that physical action, rather than words, is the way to address problems. This is a big problem with these teachings that must be addressed.

    1. @Rae – Your logic is fatally flawed. Statistics show that about 90% of Americans adults were spanked but only a small percentage of those resort to violence and many that do were not spanked and others abused. Contrary to the popular myth, the child training philosophy of the Pearls and NGJ teaches consequences not violence.

      1. You say 90% of people were spanked as children but few of them become violent…Do you have stats to back that up? Because I know an awful lot of kids whose parents were abusive and it was because there parents abused them, etc… My parents were beaten as children, and beat us as children, and although they said they “spanked because they loved” having lived through it I know it was not done in love but anger and frustration, and is a method proven to be less effective than other methods (like time outs, etc). My friend used to spank her toddler occasionally because she thought since her daughter was strong-willed it might be more effective than other methods, but she found her daughter reacting to it in odd ways – thinking it was okay for hear to beat on the pets in the house for instance for being “naughty” – it was creating a fascinating with hitting and, well, violent approaches to situations. My sister used to spank but has turned away from it except for extreme situations of willful wrongdoing for the same reasons. The church I grew up in encouraged a culture of spanking because it was believed to be “biblical” (based on one text), and it was frankly an abusive culture – kids were constantly dragged out of church to be spanked for one too many wiggles – because kids were seen as “naughty” “sinful” and spanking would help get that out of them. I understand the spirit of this article – you’re trying to counteract a modern tendency of permissive parenting, but you go to far by implying that spanking is the only “biblical” way of doing things. In psychological terms, there’s typical understood to be permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative parents. Authoritarian parents are the opposite of permissive parents – they make their kids obey, come hell or high water, and it tends to create anger and bitterness in the kids. That’s how I was raised. Authoritative parents have rules, and enforce them, but are also willing to explain things to their children and treat them as individuals, not little things to get to behave properly. Spanking works for some kids, but certainly not all or even most of them – you have to put the child’s personality first.

    2. Prison is a physical punishment. So is a taser. So are handcuffs. In adulthood, crimes are met with physical punishment and nobody is complaining. The idea that giving misbehavior a physical consequence causes violence later on is misinformed. Children do not understand long lectures on social graces or manners, so a simple, physical consequence for their action makes it undesirable, just as prison makes robbery undesirable. I was lovingly spanked by parents who set the best example possible for discipline. They only spanked for lying and direct disobedience, and I knew where the boundaries were and very seldom crossed them. I never even felt abused, nor have I ever struck anyone since growing up. I am incredibly grateful for parents who followed the Bible’s pattern and did not simply let me have my way.

      1. Do you avoid giving your children shots because you fear they’ll stab people later? Do you refrain from using car seats because they might tie somebody up? I give my children more credit for comprehension as they mature.

  12. I agree with other parents that 6 months old is extremely young to be hitting a child. I respect James Dobsons perspective on spanking much more and he has said that a child younger than 18 months is too young to be spanked. I don’t want my babies flinching at me when I’m around them. I’m an on fire believer of Christ but perhaps I come from the more compassionate perspective of a bereaved parent, like our heavenly Father.

    Someone gave me a few Pearl books, but from what I’ve read in the books he seems anti-fellowship/church, and has beliefs that man can become sinless on earth which is clearly not scriptural. We will always be sinful as long as we are in the flesh.

    1. @Christina – This training does not result in “flinching” babies but in well trained toddlers that will require fewer spankings (after 18 months) which in the long run few is the more compassionate perspective. We respect James Dobson and frequently recommend people in need to Focus On the Family, but do disagree with him of this particular issue.

      I am not sure what you read that could be construed as anti-fellowship/church unless it was taken out of context. Mike rarely misses a gathering of the saints. The same would be true on the topic of becoming sinless. I suggest that you listen to the Sanctification/Sin No More audio for better understanding of this topic.

  13. You are aware, aren’t you, that you could get exactly the same result, in your example, by holding back the hand and firmly saying, “no?” I also take issue with the assumption that the child will turn into a “hardened, hedonistic heathen” if your suggestions are not followed. I am raising a really good kid, working on his Eagle Scout, and I NEVER applied physical discipline. It is the other things that are more important: consistency, clarity of expectations, tone of voice, etc. Those are the true golden rods of discipline, and if a parent fails with those, it doesn’t matter whose ideas, methods or advice they are following.

    1. @DW – From experience, your result is the exception that would prove the rule for the use of spanking. And you have no idea how much better your results could been if you had used this child training philosophy which is consistently successful and not the exception. All the things that you mentioned are important parts of the philosophy, with spanking being an additional part.

      1. speaking from reiviewing every experiment/study/all the info known involving human brain function and the training of children as well as animals, you are actually wrong. And the bible concurs, seeing as how Jesus taught with parables, not by hitting the pharisees

  14. Please don’t train children like dogs. Be loving and affectionate. Give them hugs and kisses. Be patient. Explain what you need to explain and keep them safe. Why is it so important to you that your baby doesn’t spill food on the floor? It’s nonsense that that leads to grown-ups who spill food on the floor or who are badly behaved. You are simply inflicting pain on your child because your child is doing something you find inconvenient. Give your child respect and room to experience life while keeping them safe. My children are lovely, strong, confident and kind. There has never been any need to inflict pain; only to explain. Use your words, parents!

      1. I couldnt agree more. My child also has never experienced physical pain caused by her parents. She is wonderful. 5 years old and classified as ‘exceptionally able’ at school. She’s playing the piano in a concert today to raise money for charity. I don’t doubt thar most would be proud to have a daughter like mine.

  15. I confess, I came to this article expecting to disagree completely an indulge my outrage. Instead I found there was quite some wisdom in your distinctions around the tone and approach you recommend (calm, not punishing the child for the offense the parent feels). I do think you can achieve the same result by grabbing their hand firmly and saying ‘no’ rather than hitting, particularly using an implement. But, having said that, I will grant your intention and attitude is well meant. I respect where you are coming from, but I fear people who were already angry/abusive may take your approach as justification.

    I’m no saint and have certainly raised my voice angrily with my kids. But more often I have been firm but fair. I believe I am doing them a favour in the long run by setting firm boundaries and teaching them to be thoughtful of others. I personally don’t want to spank/chastise them, but I can see where you are coming from.

  16. Although I am one of those women who are “to be avoided like the plague” (from “To Train Up a Child”) because I work outside the home as an active duty Army officer, I read your entire book when friends and family recommended it. I listened when you said not to go forward with the training unless my husband and I were completely resolved and at peace about it. I have to say that this post is clearer than anything you said in your book about age-appropriate discipline. It gave me the clear picture that I kept searching for in your book, but never found, about what this training looks like.

    As a Soldier, I value discipline greatly–the kind that allows you to be a discerning, responsible moral agent, but also allows you to “just shut up and do it” when given a command because the situation is life and death. I see the most value for your training methods where these kind of life-threatening situations occur. Before we can reason and dialogue with our daughter, we hope to be able to get a swift and consistent, obedient response when we tell her “No,” because she is in danger. I liked the story in your book about your daughter and the brown recluse spider. Our daughter just began crawling and does not seem to remember “No” 30 seconds later, even when I catch her in the act, and still goes after the thing I’ve removed from her.

    My husband and I will continue to prayerfully consider your methods. For many reasons, in good conscience I cannot accept your interpretation of Holy Scripture regarding gender roles, but as a God-fearing woman who was raised by parents who spanked me with calm and love, your sense of responsibility for children’s character development does resonate with me. I would even argue that without proper early discipline, the prospect of men and women working together without all kinds of impropriety, abuse and tomfoolery is not possible. My successes in the Army are only due to the character my parents guided in me; for some of my peers the Army Values are just talk, but for me they are touchstones for Biblical character traits.

    I’m just not sure that the “rod” in Scripture always means what you conclude it means. I was always taught about the rod in conjunction with shepherding imagery, as a model for our relationship with God, but never concluded that the rod translated from it use with sheep to children literally. Is it our very creatureliness that leads you to believe that we need a physical component in training? It seems so in line with (gasp!) Pavlovian psychology. I have noticed that infant pottying methods use what psychology calls operant conditioning, and provide an example of training at a very young age. We have loved training our daughter in this gentle and enjoyable way, using cue sounds to establish communication with her about her waste elimination needs. I just know life won’t always be so simple, and I want to help her develop impulse control for tougher situations, in a way that doesn’t damage her spirit.

    I think you called that maintaining good fellowship with one’s child in your book, and that impressed me as conferring an adult-like respect on the child that might help them rise to their zone of proximal development morally, emotionally, and behaviorally. The world would be better if more people in a position of authority over someone treated their subordinate with this Christlike regard for the other–servant leadership. It really think it brings out the best in people. I will keep reading until something makes more sense, I suppose. I think the helter-skelter narrative style of the book really turned me off, so I am happy to find your more cogent thoughts expressed here. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Thank you for more clarification between training and punishment. I do believe a baby is too young to punish, but can still be trained. I have seen the difference between children who parents waited until they were old enough to punish, before they even started real training, and children whose parents trained from the beginning.
    The difference is phenomenal.

  18. The bible discusses the use of “the rod”. Correct me if I am wrong, but the bible is referring to the rod used to guide sheep. Gently, a shepherd guides his sheep. He doesn’t smack them on the bottom with his rod. If he were to hit his sheep, they would panic and run off. The bible is telling us to GUIDE our children, not to hit them with sticks. Someone misinterpreted this sentence long ago, and like sheep, we have followed them down a dark path the God certainly would not approve of- God would be sad to know we inflict pain on our children and use bible verses to justify it.

    1. Excellent comment, thank you.

      I recently acquired a small flock of sheep. My experiences with them so far have profoundly enriched my understanding of the kind of relationship God desires to have with us, and how he feels about us.

  19. I appreciated this article very much. I am a mommy to a 5 year old, 3
    year old and 3 month old and your ministry has truly helped my family and the raising of my children for the glory of God. Thank you.

  20. My parents never once hit me and I’m a great person. They taught me the difference between right and wrong. I do the right things because they are right, not fear of punishment. Hitting your kid is a shortcut. Lazy parents cut corners.

    1. Sane, you don’t sound so great with your comment. I believe the author is addressing the age whereby the kid is too young for reasoning but yet requires disciplining. That is where the jolt comes in. We should look at it more like conditioning and not punishment. If you start having kids of your own you will understand perfectly the dilemma parents of older infants face.

      1. Tim, I may not be a parent, but I was involved with taking care of my little sisters. My mothers taught me that a firm, “No.” usually was a shock enough to stop the bad behavior. My mothers also taught my little brothers this. So when my sisters (at about 9 months) would do something like try to hit while playing, the older sibling would stop playing and firmly say, “No. Do not _____.” If they did it twice in a row, the third time they were put into the corner, on their chair, with a timer for 10 seconds.

        My little sisters went through a phase around 2 years old, where they would get frustrated, and then would try to hit something to show their frustrations because they didn’t have the vocabulary (they felt) to verbalize it. I remember Amelia one day got frustrated because she didn’t know the word for what she wanted. Her fists tensed up, she raised a fist, and then she walked to the time out corner, and sat herself down. For a few minutes she shakily breathed in and out, and when she calmed down she came out of time out, went up to me and apologized for thinking about doing something bad. She was able to see that not only is it bad to do something that you’re not supposed to do, but it is also bad to think about doing something your not supposed to do.

        I think a time out gives a child a place to calm down and take a minute away from the world, as well as a good way to train children.

      2. B.F. Skinner (the psychologist who developed operant conditioning in its most advanced form) was explicitly adamant that punishment is not only completely ineffective as a form of conditioning, but that it in fact induces individuals to the perform the behavior it intends to extinguish when the authority figure is not present. It would behoove these authors to update themselves on 20th century behavioral modification techniques.

  21. I must say I find the example of a 6-month old baby flinging the bowl of food to be a strange one,perhaps no other “socially unacceptable” behaviour came to mind?
    Most,if not all 6-month olds,will not have the proper hand-eye coordination to eat with a spoon,so there’s no reason to let the bowl be within their grasp.The only problem here would be expecting too much of your child’s abilities,certainly not an opportunity to start “early training”.

    It’s true what is stated in one of the other comments,that firmness of resolve and consistency is essential to teaching a child what is acceptable behaviour..I just fail to see where the need for spanking or swatting comes in,especially in regards to a very small child. If the ability to control one’s feelings,that would be needed to correctly apply the “chastisement” mentioned, is present already,there should be no problem in just denying the toddler the object/action and enduring the resultant flurry of objection.Never giving in will quickly teach a child that you can’t get everything you want,right now.
    Of course,most parents will, at some point or other,lose their patience with the child during this constant “training”,that upbringing is. In my opinion,that’s where the problem with spanking comes in..there is a world of difference between screaming at a small child in a fit of rage,and spanking “just a little too hard”. The first will give most normal parents a very unpleasant feeling of remorse..the latter,well..

    I certainly feel there should be a book named “How to train a parent” or some such,that would be recommended reading to any that wanted to practice this “training” on their child.

    1. “How to Train a Parent” – I love it, and RAAH, you are so right. Parenting these days has become lazy (as I believe spanking, yelling, etc are all forms of lazy parenting).

      Children, no people in general, learn best by example. Therefore, shouldn’t we be guiding our children and modeling the behaviors we would hope to see in them?
      If we teach them hitting is wrong, why on earth would one spank, slap, smack, etc?
      It’s hypocritical.
      Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me by Samuel Martin is an EXCELLENT book on the true Biblical meaning, understanding and application of the rod scriptures, and delves into the Hebrew understanding (and texts) of those scriptures.
      Spanking was NEVER what those scriptures meant.

  22. Hi – I understand your reasoning behind a 6 monther being reminded before throwing the bowl instead of after throwing the bowl. At what age would you say it’s beneficial to begin spanking, with your definition, after the deed has occurred? For instance, my 2 year-old & 4 year-old go to bed in the same room. If I sit in there & anticipate them getting out of bed, or standing/jumping on their bed, they never do it. But once I leave, they think they have free reign to do anything. I want to train them as soon as possible that I (and eventually God) will find out when they commit sins “in secret.” Every night, I’m in there 3-5 times spanking them & reminding them what they are or aren’t allowed to do when I leave the room. My husband and I are very calm & consistent, and therefore it seems like there should be some improvement! This has been very difficult for us and is a nightly effort. When we don’t have to spank them, we praise them the next morning very much.

    I’ve read many of your articles & appreciate your boldness to speak the truth to these parents who need it whether they think they do or not. They have done wonders for my parenting and the peace in our house because my children are simply not “easy.” The Lord has really been stretching me through them. It is God’s mercy to those here who have never needed to spank their kids (or at least thought they didn’t need to…). It’s obvious that you have done something right because your children love the Lord and are raising children with similar principles!

    If someone from NGJ has written an article about something related to this & you don’t want to delve into it again, could you post a link to it/them? Thank you so much.

  23. Rebecca S.

    Rather than respond in full myself, may I direct you to look up Peaceful Parenting ( and Parenting Freedom (.com).
    They are fabulous information sites that should have articles, etc on the bedtime dilemma you’re having.

    I do have to note though, that children not going to bed when they are told is NOT a sin.
    Sin is something we blatantly do against God, it is not what a child does, even when they don’t immediately comply or obey.
    They are testing the boundaries, learning them, but they are not sinning.

    Also, the terms “easy” and “hard” child are very wrong in my opinion.
    It immediately places a label on them.
    Children learn differently, act differently, etc.
    It has nothing to do with “God’s mercy” if the child obeys instantly. They will obey from fear of being hit/slapped/yelled at, etc, or they will obey because they have a respect that was built on trust.
    And who learns overnight? Or even in a few days? Children need constant guidance and direction from parents, just as we as adults do from God.

    Best to you!!

  24. Thank you for believing in what god gave us as wisdom in child rearing. this kind of teaching is hard to find and much in need.I was raised by christian parents who used the rod, and also talked with me and even prayed with me after a spanking.(use of the rod on the backside). I fully believe God meant what he said about using a rod,and i now use it with my children. They are wonderful children,but as all kids,need the rod and reproof from time to time,and as the children continue to grow, what a blessing the fruit of our labor is. Praise God for his infinite wisdom. Thank you again

  25. “…with their monster screaming back in anger.” Really?? A 6-month-old a “monster”? I think it’s all about perspective, and that perspective sets one up for trouble. If you view your child negatively, you are more likely to react to them negatively, rather than patiently. And, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given my child’s hand a swat for throwing food on the floor. He doesn’t throw it because he “doesn’t like what is set before him”. He’s not acting spoiled. He throws it because he gets distracted by the dog or cat that might be passing by, and thinks it’s much more fun to watch them eat it. Or, sometimes, if he’s throwing it, he’s just not hungry anymore. In any case, a swat to the hand has not remedied the behavior. A swat on the bum is only effective in the moment, and even then, only sometimes. I do believe God intended for us to physically discipline our children when truly necessary. For example, when something they do is dangerous, or they are being willfully disobedient. But in a child 6 months old, they are simply curious, not “exercising their will”. I can say this with confidence, having cared for many children, and having a 17-month-old boy myself. They are exploring their world, discovering. I admit, I still have a LOT to learn. I am always looking for new and better approaches, methods, and perspectives. But a baby is a baby is a baby. “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” – Isaiah 66:13

  26. I forgot to mention that I don’t think a 6-month-old is “angry”. Upset, hurt, frustrated, maybe. An angry monster? Hardly. Even my 17-month-old doesn’t get “angry”.

  27. I am in 90% agreement with this article, and with all due respect (and I do think great respect is in order) to the author. I think your examples could be improved upon to give people a better idea of what you’re saying. The food example is lost on most bc most 6m olds dont eat. (especially exclusivly breastfed ones who are more likely to start solids a little later) If you had said a 9m old capable of understanding the word no i would agree based on the scripture “children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.” I have four children, all of who have been “spanked” as soon as they could understand the word no. I do disagree, or possiably miss understand your idea of spanking before they can understand the word no. I dont see this as a pattern with God in scripture, and I don’t think the train your child scripture justifies it either. Do you have any other scriptural examples of “training” a child without the intelligence to understand the word no? I say this with a crawling 6m old who is constantly getting on the fireplace. I am guinely looking for an answer. Thx. We also generally start spanking closer to 9m old. Our two yr olds behave/obey beautifully..and the oldest is very aware tht he is under authority, ours and Gods. Advice appreciated.

    1. Perhaps block off the fireplace til he/she (?) is old enough to be taught to stay out of it. There were many things we had to remove when my LO was too young to understand: old books, big potted plants on the floor, etc.

      1. Laura that’s a great idea only its not possiable. 🙁 its angled and big. There’s really nothing we could put in front of it to block it. We have been picking her up every time she gets on it and saying no fireplace and placing her in middle of room. She never goes back right we shall see. She’s almost 7m now! Time marches on! Haha!

  28. Rebecca S. wrote:

    Every night, I’m in there 3-5 times spanking them & reminding them what they are or aren’t allowed to do when I leave the room. <<

    Spanking a child 5 times a night?! Does anyone else see what’s wrong here? At the very least, this “chastisement” is not working. At most, these parents are on a very slippery dangerous slope. More spanks, more often, harder, harder. If the child still won’t obey, where does it stop?

    I also want to bring out the part of the article where parents are told to essentially tempt their children so they can be “trained.” If things are going well, then cause something to occur so that the child can be “chastised” This is sociopathic behavior. Even the Bible says “Provoke not your child to wrath.” God forbid a day go by without “training.” And “chastising” a child for what you believe she is going to do? Because “punishment” is wrong?

    You can re-define words all you want. Not punishment, but chastising or training. Not hitting, but swatting. At the end of the day, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck …

    I feel sick to my stomach reading this.

    1. As with all of Micheal’s articles (or anyone’s writings), this should be read and understood in the context of the totality of his philosophy. This includes his admonishing parents that if spanking is not working then stop, spanking is ineffective outside the context of a healthy parent/child relationship, and if any disciplinary action is ineffective the reason is usually the fault of the parent. The effectiveness of the philosophy is evident is obvious in the positive results of those who actually practice it as oppose of falsely claiming to or merely a twisting it as and excuse to abuse.

  29. Spanking a child 5 times a night, most nights?? And when you want them to settle down to sleep? Seriously? You seriously believe that to be good parenting???

  30. Current research and educated individuals in the field of child development would deem this article as “how to abuse your child”. Before you apply any of this ignorance to your children may I please suggest you cross reference it with a site supported by those educated in this field:

    1. Only selective research would deem this abuse. Do not stop with the site recommended above, but do your own research (I will not demean you by leading you to specific sites but will credit you with the intelligence to think and research for yourself). The most up-to-date studies are finding superior outcomes (after 10+ years) in young children (trained up until age 6) trained by the philosophy taught by the Pearls and NGJ.

  31. If you can so calmly apply a training swat, you can most certainly calmly apply a different distraction or training method that does not involve violence. This is justifying hitting and applying pain as a training method. HOW MANY OF YOU ADULTS WOULD RESPOND WELL TO THIS? Figure out a different way. They’re children and will err their entire childhoods and for the rest of their lives. There are other ways to teach. Makes me crazy. Just because it works doesn’t mean it’s right.

    1. Just because you do not like it and falsely equate it with violence does not make it wrong. There are many things that are proper in training young children that are not proper when interacting with adults or even older children.

  32. This article appears to suggest that the bible is the place from which to take parenting advice. This is fine if you’re sure you’re cherry picking the right bits. But how do you know he wants you to follow Proverbs 22 and not Exodus 21 and sell troublesome daughters into slavery? And why stop at spanking them? Why not dash their heads against stones (Psalm 137)? If you’re so sure which bits of the bible God wants you to follow and which bits you’re meant to take as a metaphor, does that mean you’ve been given a personal message by God about this or does it mean you’re accepting that some bits of the bible are now unjust because we’ve developed better morality since those ancient days. I’m not trolling. I genuinely want to know how you get to choose which bits of the bible to follow.

    1. It all comes down to studying scripture in obedience to 2 Timothy 2:15. It is not about personally picking and choosing but understanding the Bible as it is written, the context, and who is being addressed (general audience, specific audience, etc.). This is sometimes referred to as the normative/grammatical/historical approach. Just because something is mentioned in the Bible (slavery, homosexuality, polygamy, etc.) does not mean that it is endorsed by God. The Bible is honest history and as such does not whitewash the actions of man, even when those act are abominable, but it does recognize and record that it occured.

  33. Anyone who has studied children understands that when a 6 month old child throws food onto the floor from a high chair, they are displaying absolutely normal child development. The child is fascinated with the law of gravity. If a child is 15 months old, and he is trhowing food on the floor, you simply take the food away. Many children, who obviously cannot speak well enough at a year old to tell you they are finished or done with their food, will throw the food to the floor in an attempt to say ” I am done”. Remove the food, and remove the child from the high chair. Hurting a child to stop behavior is sickening. This runs along the same line as putting a 5 month old, who has just learned to crawl on a blanket. The 5 month old is curious about his environment. They are fascinated that they can now crawl, and want to learn about the world. “The blanket training” which involved hitting a child for moving off of the blabket, is again barbaric. If you do not want your child vrawling, then ut him or her in a playpen. I believe it wa also mentioned by the Pearls that a child should be trained not to cry, even at the age of 4 months. Are all of you insane? I never touched my children once to “train” them. All three grown children are respectable, loving, Christian adults, who have great jobs. They volunteer their time, have respectable moral values, and are role models to others. How did the millions of children who were never spanked or trained become morally acceptable citizens?

  34. Thank You!! My family has such a warped concept of punishment, discipline, expectations of behavior etc…
    My children are 13, 6, 4 and 11 months and I’ve been praying for a different approach that actually works! I only JUST discovered your ministry a few months ago and am nearly finished reading “Created to be his Help Meet”.
    Although I’ve been a Christian for more than 2 decades, the wisdom you’ve shared has been revolutionary for my life and marriage.

  35. I have three grown children, all homeschooled. I wish I’d never spanked a single one. I’m convinced that a child can and should grow up without spanking.

    1. Thank you, Kathleen – I honestly have come to believe it’s impossible to separate the act of hitting, a violent act, from frustration, doesn’t matter if it’s a small tap or slap – if the purpose of you hitting is to make it stop and it doesn’t work you’re going to do it again harder next time, and kids learn to see hitting someone you’re mad at is okay. At least for me, if I spank a child, I can’t detach myself from that act and do it impassively the act itself makes me feel frustrated and angry. (And here’s the rub: this article says the discipline must be done with love or it’s not appropriate, but it’s not sure why hitting a child would be at all effective unless a: it hurt and b: they felt frightened by it enough to not want to be hit again. If its gentle enough not to hurt, the kid would not see it as a “chastisement”). Parents have to set up discipline that is appropriate to the “crime” – so if a kid is screaming and damaging property, a time out is a pretty good discipline – no more fun until you stop misusing your toys and time. Spanking advocates are always going to be able to say that it’s more effective than not disciplining – because that’s a no brainer, kids with no boundaries and discipline go crazy. Kids who are spanked even abusively at times generally turn out better than kids neglected and given no discipline. but just because people “survive” the trauma of being beaten for being “naughty” doesn’t mean it’s the best form of discipline. Is it more effective than loving, structured, and consistent discipline using methods other than spanking? No way.

  36. Yea… um all 6 month old BABIES throw food on the ground… but I think it’s hilarious (read as ridiculously insane) that you think causing pain is necessary to teach them that it’s not right.

    You say “no” in a commanding tone and if they keep it up, you take the food away. Funny how I’ve done this for both my kids and not once – not once have I spanked them. They are 2 and 4 and we can take them out to restaurants etc and people come up to us about how polite and well behaved our children are. We treat them with respect – and expect them to do the same for others. We provide them with structure on a consistent basis and use the occasional “time out” when they need to calm down.

    The Bible is open to interpretation, perhaps that “rod” they refer to does not mean an actual ROD but a figurative one. But by all means, go on believing you have a right to cause physical pain to your children, because I’m sure your heart is not open to change in the first place.

  37. “I am sorry the psychologists and secular child advocates don’t get it, but then if all parents practiced child training as I have suggested, there wouldn’t be any need for abnormal psychologists or child protection agencies. A lot of people would move on to more practical kinds of work, and there wouldn’t be any more crime or war.”

    There probably is a GOOD reason why “all” parents don’t practice your child training techniques. That is a little too pretentious for you to even make a claim that broad. There are many other reasons why people need abnormal psychologists and child protective agencies.

  38. I hear a lot of fear in your blog. A fear of reasing kids who are acting sinfull.
    You tell yong parents to spank their kids. If they don’t do this, it’s their own fould, when their children will do wrong things when they are older. You use a lot of tekst from proverbs.
    But proverbs are the observations of the wise king Solomon. Not physical laws. King Solomon saw, that using a rod worked. It’s not God saying: you have to use a rod, or your children will become monsters.
    There are other ways of discipline we can use! Don’t forget them!

    My parents used spanking. Only when they were calm. And only tree times. And after this we had to hug to make it right. But also only when I was rebellious against them.

    I think it’s sick to spank a six old month boy, when he trows his bowl on the ground. Parents who do this, are to afraid that they will raise little monsters, when they don’t spank.
    Every six month boy will trow his bowl on the ground. Just take away his bowl and say: ‘no’. Do this every meal and he will learn not to trow his bowl on the ground. Spanking isn’t nessecary.

    Why do you put a bowl so close to a six-month-old anyway? My one year old boy isn’t able to keep his hands of his bowl yet. I give him the food with a spoon on just on the table, without bowl.
    I’m not afraid I will have a three your old monster trowing bowls over the table every meal, because I know he has learned by then that you have to let your bowl stay on the table.

    My one year old boy eats his bread with a fork. When he startes to play he likes to hit with his fork on our wooden table. He is not allowed to do this, because it makes littles holes in our table.
    I don’t laugh.
    I look serious and say: ‘no, you are not allowed to do this.’
    He laughs, and hits even harder.
    I take his fork and tell him he is not allowed to eat his bread on his own.
    He cries a little and is a little angry.
    I give him the bread in his mouth with the fork in my hand.
    The next meal it goes again this way.
    After a while he starts to hit with his fork again. I say ‘no’. And when he doesn’t listen, I take away his fork and start to feed hem.
    After a few days. He lissents when I say no, and stops hitting the table. Because he knows, I will take away his fork. And he wants to eat by himself!
    That is training!
    No spanking nesesserry. And when he is 3, he won’t hit the table anymore.

    Save spanking as an ultimate punishment. Not to train your kids. There are so many better ways! Training takes time. When you want to become a good footbalplayer you have to practise every day. You practise the rights things. That is training! If you make spanking part of the training. You have to spank every day! And you have to spank even harder, because children get used to it.
    Let your children practise the right behaviour, train this and compliment this.

    When you use spanking. Let it be rare.

    I hope you understand my English. I’m not an English of American person.

  39. While this is all well and good, why are we training a child? Isn’t the whole purpose of discipline to teach a child right from wrong, and be certain that they understand that there is consquences to said wrongdoing? Dogs are trained. Dolphins are trained. Human children aren’t. Maybe you didn’t mean that, perhaps it was simply a lack of a better word, i have no clue. But it sure sounds like it.

    Also, uh, spanking makes sense. Spanking with a rod? That’s really not necessary. Use your hand, that limits pain to a understandable level. If you need a rod for discipline, that child is too old for spanking.

    1. Humans are trained all of the time. Athletes train, as well as attorneys, physicians and any number of professionals. As a child matures and becomes capable of understanding right and wrong, the emphasis does shift from merely training for correct outward behavior to training, teaching, and building character. Michael addresses this in his book Training Children To Be Strong In Spirit.

      A appropriately size switch (rod) is preferable to using the hand. Using a hand to spank is far more likely to cause injury to a child that using an appropriately sized switch.

  40. Also, one other thing. I am a christian and I do believe in the bible, but I also believe that we know enough about the human mind that i require more than just scripture for evidence. I could easily find a dozen examples against this too. The bible can be interpreted way too many ways for that to be reliable. Add some science. Back with facts and figures. This is a hot topic, I’m sure studies have been conducted.

  41. Dear Pearls,
    Thank you for this article. It has helped my husband and I see some areas in which we need to correct our training strategies with our 13 month old son.

  42. L.R. Knost is one of my favorite authors and has changed my families life in the ways of gentle parenting. Her advice, compassion, and practical sense have molded me into the peaceful mother that I knew I could be and my child is in such a better atmosphere because if it. There is NEVER a need for spanking or hitting your child in any aspect of their behavior or life. There are so many alternatives that teach them real practical ways to deal with their emotions. I would never hit or spank an adult for doing something that I did not feel was appropriate behavior, why would I ever think of doing it to a child of any age who is learning to live in this world one day at a time. L.R. Knost has so many enlightening and supportive resources available through her website: and (her latest book).

  43. My parents used to beat the hell out of me and my siblingsfor the slightest of reasons. My mother was the worst, she used belts, paddles, anything she could get her hands on, including extension cords. I hated the extension cord because it made a terrible whistling sound and left very painful, deep cuts. All those beatings did was make me and my siblings bitter and angry. We are all over 50 now and still suffering the effects of that abuse.

    I have little to do with my parents. My father is dying of Alzheimers now and I have no sympathy for him. He was an evil, abusive old bastard and when he dies I hope he goes to HELL!

  44. I understand the concept of correcting a behavior such as grabbing or throwing as it is happening. Does the same rule apply for screaming? My ten month old daughter screams when she doesn’t get her way, but will obey the command “no” when I tell her not to grab or put something in her mouth. I just need to know what to do with meltdowns in the grocery store, etc. I know it starts at home. With screaming out in defiance, what do you do?

  45. I am EXTREMELY glad I live in a country where corporal punishment has been banned in schools since 1783, and at home since 2010. Your article is nothing short of advocating child abuse.

    1. And we are glad we live in a free country where individual rights are still respected. You do not mention the country where you live, but most likely it is one of the many countries that owes its freedoms and security in great part to this country. Only a small, narrow and closed mind would consider the content of this article to be advocating child abuse.

  46. You aren’t supposed,to take an eye for an eye. You are to turn the other cheek. 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

  47. Wonderful article. Suggestions for our 16 year old daughter who has run away for the 5th time? What would have been your first response, once finding her? What if she won’t speak to you?

    1. Well at 16 she is about 10 years beyond spanking, and is more adult than child. I suggest that you read Jumping Ship and watch the Teaching Responsibility and Movers and Shakers videos. You need to determine what you are doing as parents that is resulting in her thinking that it is necessary to run away and address that. To quote Michael from To Train Up a Child, “Parent, if you are having problems with your children, you can be assured that you are not alone. Your children are also having problems with you. You are going to have to make adjustments in your own life if you are going to help them with their problems.” “… the responsibility for making a significant change is completely yours.”

      1. I didn’t mention anything about spanking my daughter. But I will look into those articles. Thank you. I was asking about what you would suggest for a 16 year old who keeps running away. that is all. God bless. 🙂

  48. I have a specific question about an instance where I think training is required. My five-month-old daughter isn’t fond of tummy time. Her tolerance for it is actually shrinking. She fusses and cries, even puts her face down, until she is picked up, and then she’s immediately fine. Would letting her cry it out be the way to train her that tummy time is okay? Obviously, I want her to learn to crawl eventually! But maybe she will be okay with tummy time when she wants to crawl badly enough? I also don’t want to be training her that whenever she cries she gets her way.

  49. Wow! This is the first website I’ve found that calls attention to this important truth:

    Punishment is not about training or correcting behavior; it is about returning “an eye for an eye.”

    The secular conversation about spanking invariably refers to its “effectiveness”, presumably referring to its effectiveness in changing behavior. That has always seemed bizarre to me, completely ignoring the human, moral aspect of punishment. Kudos to you. Very insightful.

  50. Linda C. [email protected]
    I am sorry to disagree that a small child cannot/should not benefit from spanking. I began teaching my children from 6 months to sit quietly beside me in church. I was gentle, but firm in “reminding” them (after practicing at home) that any disturbance during the church service was not acceptable. They responded far better than I would have imagined and than the others in our church ever dreamed. By 7 1/2 months of age, each was sitting perfectly quietly, though I did not expect them to sit perfectly still. And I hardly ever had to spank them to accomplish this. In this and other ways I found that they would and could internalize right behaviour from wrong at a very early age. They were never allowed to cry uncontrollably, to have temper tantrums, etc. They were expected to obey immediately and with a good attitude (honor). True, it took a lot of my time and attention at first, trying to be lovingly consistent in discipline. But it paid off so, so well. I could take my 8 month old daughter to anyone’s house , put her down on the rug, and never worry a moment about her getting into something she shouldn’t. She wanted to please me, understood what it was that pleased me, and acted accordingly. What a joy it was and what an example to others.
    Thank you for your good teachings. Only in this do I take exception…..

  51. Thanks! I have been spanking my children since they could walk and they have all turned out fine!! Liberals always criticize me but i am steadfast in God #christiandad