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Physical Punishment: Is it Abuse?

By Dr. Don and Debbi Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
God commands parents to administer physical discipline to children when they willfully disobey.

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Many Christian parents recoil in horror at the thought of spanking their children. They have bought into the world’s thinking that any form of physical discipline constitutes child abuse. The secular philosophy that a parent who resorts to corporal punishment as a child disciplinary measure is angry and “out of control,” has influenced their mindset.

They have “thrown the baby out with the bath water.”


They have seen spanking repeatedly misused, so they have dismissed the suggestion that spanking can be done lovingly and correctly. They are not open to learning the biblical method for administering the rod of reproof. In the words of an old adage, they have “thrown out the baby with the bath water.”


Despite the fact that many parents have closed their hearts to the possibility that spanking a child is an effective disciplinary tool, God’s Word is replete with scriptures that inform us otherwise. The rod of correction is the standard form of discipline in God’s child-rearing system, especially for younger children.

An especially pertinent verse is Proverbs 22:15,

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.

Christian parents cannot escape the numerous biblical references to the physical discipline of children.

Every child is born with rebellion and foolishness in his or her heart.

One of the keys to effective parenting is to learn how and when to administer the rod of reproof. It is vitally important to understand that a Christian who believes the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God has no choice as to whether or not he or she should implement spanking as a form of child-discipline. It is simply an issue of obedience to the Lord. The writer of Proverbs 13:24 addresses this matter forthrightly,

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

Children do not learn how to sin by imitating other people. They are born with a sin nature.

God explains in Psalm 51:5, that men and women have a corrupt nature,

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.


The world does not embrace this truth, choosing to believe instead, that children are fundamentally good and they naturally want to do what is right.


As they grow, the surrounding environment in which they live supposedly “influences them negatively.” Anyone who has had a part in raising a child, however, knows first-hand that no one has to teach him or her to tell a lie, or to behave selfishly. It is painfully evident that children are born with hearts prone to “folly” and rebellion.

Dr. Don Dunlap, a pioneer in the placement of Pastoral Counselors in the offices of Christian physicians, has conducted over twenty thousand appointments during his ministerial career. His counseling practice includes adults, children and families in crisis. Dr. Dunlap is committed to facilitating a network of telephone counselors. His goal is to provide help for the many people unwilling, or unable, to meet face to face with a competent counselor. For more articles by Dr. Dunlap go to Counseling and Advice on the Health Channel.

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