To Spank or Not to Spank?

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The NFL season has begun but it has been tarnished by several scandals. Ray Rice has been suspended indefinitely for knocking his wife unconscious. Now in the aftermath, Roger Goodell is under crossfire for the way he has handled the case. Many people are calling for his head because they view this scandal as the final straw.

However, there has been another scandal that has gotten less attention in the media, but I think is just as important. On September 12, 2014, Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges, and subsequently deactivated for Minnesota’s week-2 game against the New England Patriots. Amid child abuse allegations, on September 15, the Vikings reinstated Peterson and he was scheduled to play against the New Orleans Saints. Then on September 17th, Peterson was placed on the NFL’s exempt list, which requires that Peterson remain away from all team activities.

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To be honest, when I first heard Peterson’s case I thought to myself, “people are just overreacting. We are living in a soft society where any form of discipline is frowned upon.” But then when I heard how he disciplined and saw pictures of the wounds, then my opinion changed on this issue. Peterson was not charged for simply spanking. He was charged for leaving bruises on his son’s back, buttocks, thighs, and tearing his scrotum with a switch. He put leaves in his son’s mouth while he hit him with a switch because he was crying too much. His son also had wounds on his hands because he was trying to defend himself from the repeated hits. I was very surprised to hear that Peterson would do this in light of the fact that one of his child was beaten to death by his child’s mother’s boyfriend. So I thought he would understand that hitting a child is an important matter and should be done carefully.

In response to this incident, people have been giving their opinions on spanking. Many are saying that a parent should never hit or spank his/her child. Instead, time outs, or reasoning with them is the way to go about it. Some respond by saying that spanking has always been a part of their family history and has worked for them. And within this debate, Christianity has been brought up. You see, one of the reasons why Peterson hits his child is because he is a Christian. Christians would quote, “spare the rod, spoil the child,” which is a paraphrase of Proverbs 13:24: Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

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So does this mean that Peterson was right for hitting his child as a Christian? It is important for a Christian to look at the whole scope of the Bible. Yes, parents need to discipline their child. We might know a friend who was never disciplined and have seen the effect of spoiling a child. They will grow up without any idea of consequences. The purpose of spanking is to show a child that their sinful actions have painful consequences. Also, Hebrews 12:6 tells us that God disciplines those he loves, and chastises every son. Discipline is supposed to reflect God’s heart to your child. This means that a loving parent will bring pain in order to teach his/her child the consequences of sin. God will “spank” us at times to correct us and Christian parents are to do the same. Raising a child without any discipline is neither loving nor good for your child.

So does this mean that Peterson was right for hitting his child as a Christian? Not the way he did it. Ephesians 4:26 says to be angry and do not sin. And this is where I think Adrian Peterson and many parents fail. This is why looking at the Bible, as a whole, is so important. Biblically, Adrian Peterson was not justified in hitting his son the way he did. That was not discipline. That was abuse. Why? He hit his son out of anger. The reason why I say that is because his son later said that, “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face,” and expressed concern that he would be punched if he reported the incident. Punching a child in a face is not a picture of discipline done out of love. Beating a child with a stick resulting in multiple bodily injuries on his hands, thighs, butt, and scrotum is not discipline done out of love. It is a picture of anger.

If you spank your child out of anger, it can lead to injuries and even death. And that is not the purpose of discipline. God doesn’t beat his children. He lovingly spanks them to correct their ways. Spanking is a measured deliverance of a non-damaging act of mild pain that makes the child feel the seriousness of what he’s done. This means that any form of discipline (time outs, public embarrassment, yelling, spanking) are wrong if it is done out of anger. The purpose of discipline is not to vent out your anger and frustration but to lovingly correct your child the way God corrects us.

Growing up I was spanked multiple times. Sometimes it was done out of love but at times it was done out of anger. And I can say that I knew the difference even from a young age. I am not going to pretend it is easy to always have self-control and to never discipline your child out of anger. I am not here to judge Adrian Peterson because all of us are capable of the same, if we don’t control our anger. The root issue with discipline is not about “to spank or not to spank.” The root issue is whether you discipline out of love or anger. What are you thoughts on spanking? Were you spanked as a child and would you do the same for your child?

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