I recently received a message on Facebook asking for some insight on a parenting book that advocates spanking. I hadn’t read the book itself, but the issues raised in the message’s questions are worth thinking about so I tried to answer the questions as posed without reference to the book. Here are some excerpts from that Facebook exchange:
Message to me:
I have been searching all over for a Biblical response to Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd and Margy Tripp and haven’t been able to find anything. Are you familiar with this book? It is filled with all sorts of parenting proof-texts, on issues of authority and using “the rod” as a means of showing God’s grace to children.
I would also like to know your perspective of the whole doctrine of spanking… I remember reading that you didn’t spank your kids and they turned out fine and they love Jesus. We have a 3 yr old son, and we are re-thinking the whole Biblical premise for the use of the rod. Any or all considerations would be helpful!
——-, I wish I had some insights on the Tripps for you, but I confess I haven’t read anything they’ve written nor heard them speak. That whole theory of parenting advice (spanking as grace, fathers and mothers having defined and exclusive roles, etc.) is so foreign to how I was raised and how we raised our kids.
As for what to do if the Tripp teaching showed up at my church, I think the first thing I’d do is pray for the people who are being misled into such horrible parenting advice. I’d also set my eyes on Jesus knowing he definitely does not want me to treat my kids that way.
Have confidence that you are in the right, and know that they are wrong. It’s hard to deal with people who think they’ve found the latest answer to child-rearing, but the really sad thing for them is that they are buying into another set of rules and lists (as if anyone can have a perfect family in just 10 easy steps!).
One thing my wife and I learned early on (and we’ve held fast to in 20+ years of having kids) is not to let anyone else tell us what’s best for our kids. If we don’t feel comfortable with something we reject it, whether the advice is coming from a teacher or doctor or pastor or whoever.
I hope that helps.
Follow-up message to me:
How do you respond to the Proverbs doctrine of spanking? How can we look at Proverbs being mandates for our Christian parenting?
There is nothing in the New Testament that instructs parents to use corporal punishment on children. The last thing I want is for my son to fear me rather than trust me.
Using proverbs as proof texts does violence to the nature of proverbs. They state generally observed propositions, not laws mandating behavior.
We did a lot of talking with our kids, plus the occasional use of time-out. It is harder than spanking, but more effective in the long run.
[Parenting is an adventure and like all adventures there are times when it takes a lot of effort, but the right effort makes it all worthwhile. In my experience, spanking is wasted effort. Your thoughts?]