In his book Teach Them Diligently: How To Use The Scriptures In Child Training, Lou Priolo gives good advice for parents on the topic of spanking:
“…if you, like so many Christian parents I’ve known, are spanking your children without (simultaneously) ministering the Word to them, you are not spanking them biblically.” … “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15)
Is spanking the only authorised form of discipline?
Priolo upholds that spanking is primary and is “the only specific means the Bible designates when it addresses the discipline of children.” But he emphasises that the Bible’s explanation of child training also includes communicating doctrine, bringing about conviction in the child, and correction (making things right), as well as discipline.
“Christian parents may, therefore, within the confines of Scripture use other forms of discipline to augment the use of the rod.” “Certain other forms of discipline that involve reward and punishment (accompanied by doctrine, reproof, correction and disciplined training in righteousness) may also be used in an ancillary fashion.”
Developing a biblically-based procedure for spanking
Here are selected guidelines from Priolo. The whole book is helpful reading.
Is your communication “always with grace”? “Unrighteous anger that leads to personal attack or animosity between you and your child has no place in biblical discipline.” “The anger of a man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)
Does your child understand in biblical terminology how he has sinned against God? “You cannot solve a problem biblically until you first identify that problem using biblical terminology.”
Do you use a practiced and predictable method? Parents should never lash out or spank on a whim. Priolo directs such parents to the story of Balaam and the donkey, noting how Balaam struck the donkey 1) out of haste, 2) with a selfish motivation (the donkey embarrassed him), and 3) while out of control. Consistency is important in helping the child.
Spanking (properly applied) eventually becomes less necessary, while the biblical instruction, correction and training should increase as the child grows older.
In Australia, corporal punishment in the home is still legal. A 2007 Queensland survey reported that 71% of parents surveyed had smacked their children occasionally, and a 2006 survey found that 69% of the respondents agreed with the use of spanking. That said, I wonder whether Christian parents are properly applying both rod and reproof to their children?