The Changing face of Discipline: Modern Views of Corporal Punishment

The face of discipline has changed dramatically over the last few decades. A keener awareness of child abuse and a growing concern about violence have both had a profound effect on public opinion about child rearing. Disciplinary methods have shifted in manner and practice as a result of altered perspectives about punishment.

Incited by Dr. Spock’s ideologies, we have shied away from the “hickory” as a means of attitude adjustment in children and opted for more “humane” forms of redirection that include positive reinforcement and timeout. Instead of negative words, we reframe our language in the affirmative in order to spare the child any possible ill effects of hearing words like “no” and “don’t.”

In his 1992 book, Spare the Child, Philip Greven attacked the Biblical foundations of corporal punishment, citing it as the cause for mental problems such as multiple personality disorders, depression, and anxiety attacks. He even suggested that the Bible doctrine of the “Rapture” is a concoction of the troubled mind of those of us who have been victimized by physical punishment. School districts across the country have followed suit, outlawing the use of paddles, while some districts resist such trends. Opponents of corporal punishment are now attempting to superimpose these ideals on the community, desiring to make the use of corporal punishment illegal in the home as well.

While neither Spock nor Greven would advocate the use of the negative to induce the positive, there is, however, diabolic fallout when this form of logic is allowed to run its full course. The best example is a medical analogy. No parent would withhold a lifesaving surgical procedure from a child simply because the operation would cause pain. Any sensible parent would conclude that such pain is a necessary endurance in saving the child’s life.

This is precisely how the Biblicist views spanking. It is a means of “saving a child’s life” by deterring them from evil choices. Unfortunately, like so many positive things that get touched by the wicked hand of a morally degenerating society, spanking is misused and abused as a means of discipline. Many children have been victimized by individuals who were exercising a spiritual concept in an unspiritual context. Hence, a reactionary fog has settled on our cultural landscape and we now can no longer clearly see the positive effects of this disciplinary practice when used appropriately and within the context of prayer and counseling.

Admittedly, there is a wide range of disciplinary methods that can be employed when raising children. These should include a blend of positive and negative reinforcers that help children clearly see the line between right and wrong that is constantly being faded by the weathering of immorality in our world. Furthermore, we should be careful administer all discipline in ways which foster a spiritual relationship with God.