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Spare Me

With the NFL now in socially conscious post-game review, every superstar's ill-mannered fumble is headline news. Once we let (Cow)boys be boys. Now we hold every boorish and overpaid running back accountable to (gasp!) the rules.

No longer waiting for the snap, the blitzing press is piling on. Caught on instant replay, Baltimore's Ray Rice is due his penalty for punching his girlfriend. Over in Montgomery County, it appears that Minnesota's, Oklahoma's and Palestine's Adrian Peterson was unnecessarily rough while physically disciplining his children. The Vikings and the NFL have certainly been guilty of unenlightened procedure as their decisions about Peterson's playing status have jumped off sides, back and forth.

Blood and Scars

If pictures of lines of bloody whelps and scarred heads on his children are accurate, then Peterson is also due his penalty. But why is good parenting also being penalized? In the rush to judgment all spanking is being flagged.

Blaring the headline, "Adrian Peterson Controversy: Is It Okay to Spank Your Children?" People magazine concludes,

In the wake of the child abuse allegations brought against Adrian Peterson, the question of whether to use corporal punishment has once again taken the national spotlight.

Times have changed. What was once seen as acceptable punishment is now widely regarded by experts (as) "ineffective, even dangerous."

Is all spanking "Ineffective, even dangerous?" Only in the grasp of an out-of-bounds parent. Playing within the rules, good parents can and should spank their children.

Spare the Rod And...

• Proverbs 13:24 - One who spares the rod hates his son, but one who loves him is careful to discipline him.

• Proverbs 22:15 - Folly is bound up in the heart of a child: the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

• Proverbs 23:13 - Don't withhold correction from a child. If you punish him with the rod, he will not die.

• Proverbs 29:15 - The rod of correction gives wisdom, but a child left to himself causes shame to his mother.

• Ephesians 6:4 - Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

• Colossians 3:21 - Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

This Makes Sense

Spirituality, psychology, practicality and legality huddle together. Encouraging appropriate spanking, these passages do not encourage cruelty. Where is the line and how do parents hold it?

As is the case with every passage of scripture, passages about corporal punishment have to be balanced with other passages that address the same subject. In this study, the "rod" passages are balanced with the "do not provoke/do not embitter" passages. Too much reliance on corporal punishment without also using a wide range of other good parenting tools will breed resentment. Every parent's playbook should also include "present" and engaged parenting, explanations of expectations, reminders about expectations, reminders about reminders, rewards, the "look" and the "tone," time-outs, limits on privileges, and etc.

The "physical" in physical discipline must be balanced with a heart of compassion and mind of propriety toward these guidelines:

• When spanking their children, parents should remain emotionally controlled. Rage and "the rod" are not compatible.

• The rod includes small smooth switches, a few pops with an open hand on thighs and bottoms, rulers and wooden spoons used judiciously, and similar means on similar places.

• Do not wail away with bulky leather belts, heavy paddles, and items grabbed in the heat of the moment. If you're whelping, you're not helping.

• Public spanking in this age of close scrutiny is unwise. Was it ever wise to make a thrashing scene in the middle of WalMart? Private punishment preserves everyone's dignity.

• Start young or don't start at all. Gentle disciplining pops begun very in early childhood establish expectations that can be reinforced with other gentle spankings later on. Exasperated, "last hope" beatings of previously undisciplined and almost grown teens are pointless.

• Monitor your internal and external language. Words like discipline, spank and gentle convey entirely different meanings than beat, whoop, and thrash.


Our society should never have winked at the NFL's North Dallas Forty moral abandon of years past just as we should not empower the thug culture in professional sports today. Similarly, churches should never condone cruel child punishment and should instead champion the message of propriety in child discipline. Even so, broad-brushing all spanking with the alleged extremes of Adrian Peterson is an overreaction.

Spare me the breathless equivalence of any corporal punishment with all child abuse. In the current Adrian Peterson game, one talking head actually compared spanking children with beheadings by ISIS terrorists. Even little children know the difference between gentle discipline and raging public wailings. Adults who were gently disciplined as children certainly know the difference and are not scarred.

The battle has never been between parents and children, but between wisdom and foolishness. Wanting the best for their children, wise parents can and should drive folly out of their children with gentle corporal punishment. This kind of discipline is channeled through the wisdom of appropriateness and not through the temper of fools.