Spanking In The Age Of Abortion

spanking painting Conrad,_Giorgio_(1827-1889)In the early days of advocacy for abortion, proponents said that ending unwanted pregnancies would eliminate unwanted children and therefore child abuse. Instead of eliminating abuse, however, the disregard for the life of a fetus seems to translate into a disregard for the well-being of children.

Child neglect and abuse and accompanying activities such as child pornography, pedophilia, and sex trafficking have risen to horrendous proportions.

In 2007, 1,760 children died as the result of child abuse and neglect. (“Child Protective Services,” Wikipedia)

As a result, the government has stepped in with stringent laws and burgeoning social service agencies in an effort to protect children from battery and other forms of abuse. Nevertheless, the problem continues to grow.

Once thought to be a problem involving only a few thousand children a year, child maltreatment has since been identified as nothing less than a national emergency. (“Child Maltreatment”)

Estimated child fatalities per day due to maltreatment have risen from 3.6 in 2000 to as high as 4.8 in 2009 (Child Help).

Interestingly, and also ironically, the attitude in western societies toward corporal punishment has turned decidedly negative. Once, “taking a child out to the woodshed” was an understood and accepted, even expected, form of discipline. For some, part of the process included cutting the switch by which they would receive their spanking. Other parents relied on something more immediate, like a belt. Still others, even some school administrators, kept a special paddle for the occasion.

Spanking actually has roots in Scripture. The book of Proverbs contains a number of passages indicating that corporal punishment is part of forming a child’s character. Take Proverbs 29:15 for example:

The rod and reproof give wisdom,
But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

Or how about Proverbs 13:24.

He who withholds his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

These and other such passages undergird a Biblical view of child discipline that includes spanking.

As society has moved away from the authority of Scripture, however, it has also moved away from corporal punishment of children. Time out, yes; spanking, no. Hitting, the critics say, only teaches children to use violence.

Into this environment of increased child abuse and decreased corporal discipline, football player Adrian Peterson, running back with the Minnesota Vikings, was indicted for reckless or negligent injury to a child because he spanked his son with a switch.

tree-branches-1438732-mHelpful as always, ( 🙄 ) the media, thinking the public ignorant of what a switch is, re-defined it as “a tree branch.” I don’t know about you, but when I hear “tree branch,” I think of a fairly sizable, sturdy piece of wood, along the lines of a baseball bat at least.

A switch is nothing like that. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as “a slender flexible shoot cut from a tree.”

Still, apparently Peterson marked his son. I haven’t learned the precise details of this case, but I suppose someone—medical personnel, perhaps—reported the injuries to the Child Protection Agency. A grand jury was convened and Peterson ended up being charged.

Sports reporters are horrified since this allegation of child abuse comes so closely to the released video of Ray Rice punching his fiancée in a hotel elevator.

I think that’s unfortunate.

I don’t want to see an instance of spanking lumped in with spousal battery. One of the verses in Proverbs says

Do not hold back discipline from the child,
Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. (23:13)

Unfortunately, we’ve lost sight of this truth. In summary, this is where we are:

* In the name of “preventing abuse” we legalized abortion.

* Nevertheless, abuse is on the rise.

* To counter abuse, we have constructed an elaborate system of laws and organizations to enforce them, often separating families needlessly and placing children in the foster care system.

(Sadly, reports show that more children are abused in foster care than in their own families.)

* At the same time, psychologists have persuaded a good number of people that spanking is not beneficial and might even be harmful.

Adrian_Peterson_VikingsI don’t know if Adrian Peterson inappropriately used force to discipline his son. I have no doubt that he was acting to correct him, though. His actions are not in any way comparable with Ray Rice’s and shouldn’t be lumped into the conversation about domestic violence.

Instead, I think it would be a healthy thing if we opened the discussion about spanking as a legitimate means of discipline. I think it would be helpful and healthy to discuss the difference between spanking and beating and to look at the pros and cons of this kind of discipline.

Above all, parents need to understand their role as disciplinarians. They need to accept the responsibility for training their children. Instead, too many parents shirk from this aspect of their duty. They may not neglect a child by withholding food or clothing or education or social interaction. But by refraining from discipline, they are sending the message that they do not care what their child does and therefore, do not care about their child.

I’ve also seen parents who put up with a child until they lose their temper. Then a child is in serious danger, vulnerable to verbal, emotional, or even physical abuse.

Parents need to learn how to discipline their children. But who is teaching this? Once grandparents critiqued parents in their job. Wives tempered their husbands or husbands tempered their wives. Now we have so many of the supports removed from a parent that they have little chance to learn how to discipline correctly.

Wouldn’t this be a good role for the church to take up? Ought we not provide help for parents who are struggling with strong-willed children or children reacting to their unstable environment caused divorce or overly active children or children seeking the love and attention of their busy two-career parents?

At a minimum, I’d hope we can at least discuss spanking and not react to corporal discipline as if it is no different than domestic violence.

Published in: on September 16, 2014 at 5:00 pm  Comments (28)  
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  1. I agree the horrors of child abuse have increased. I do also agree with spanking as a form of discipline. I also know where we live we see the deaths of children from beatings almost daily, certainly weekly.
    The reports, however, have stated Adrian, “was found hitting his four year old in the scrotum and breaking the skin.’ Also reported, ‘There’s a fine line between spanking as a form of discipline and as a form of abuse and a lot of it just depends on intent and severity. A little swat on the butt is not gonna constitute as abuse, but if there is broken skin, those types of things are gonna constitute as abuse.’ That’s a true statement, but the photos and the facts as alleged in police reports demonstrate that this was not a spanking, it was a horrible beating of a 4-year-old with a tree branch.”
    Yes, I agree, there is an extreme difference between spanking or loosing your temper as a parent and beating a child. At no time did God’s word of “do not spare the rod,” refer to the beating of a child. If Adrian Peterson is found to have been beating his child vs spanking him in loving discipline than he should absolutely be found guilty and in my opinion it would be no different than spousal abuse.


    • I certainly agree, but many have already concluded he was beating his son because . . . a TREE BRANCH, for goodness sake. But it wasn’t a tree branch. It was a switch.

      And he’s said he was disciplining his son as he’d been disciplined. Which brings up the point of parents needing instruction about what is or isn’t acceptable when it comes to discipline.

      There isn’t any evidence that he was acting in anger. Maybe he was. We simply don’t have the facts about his particular case.

      But here’s the point: many parents don’t understand that it’s possible to discipline, even to spank, without being angry. The anger, in my thinking, is problematic, no matter what form of discipline a parent takes.

      If we are to have a discussion about spanking, the first thing I think that needs to be clarified is that beating and spanking are two different things.



      • Agree; spanking and beating are two separate things. Agree; anger is not good and parents are told to not exasperate or provoke their children. Agree; a lot of parents need to be trained. Agree; not all the facts are in on this case. Note: I always thought of a switch and never envisioned a large branch.


      • Glad to know everyone wasn’t envisioning a bat-sized object when they heard “branch.” Makes me feel better about the media’s choice of words—a little better. 😉



  2. I’m all for spanking. I think it’s a good way to discipline a child. I have, however, seen the pictures of this man’s son and what he did was abusive in my opinion.

    Unfortunately, the media uses cases like these to say we ought not spank. It’s a shame. Rather than outlaw spanking we need to teach parents how to spank the right way. Because “spankings” like this kid got come from parents who are angry. And often that anger comes from frustration because the parent has been ineffective in discipline.


    • I hope no one thinks this post is an apology for Adrian Peterson. I have no idea whether he intended to harm his son or if he was angry when he took the switch to him. I do know what he’s said about the two instances that have been reported and each time he was disciplining the child for something he had done (or said).

      Was it excessive? In our day and age, we certainly think so, but I’m certain there were times in human history society as a whole accepted this kind of treatment as appropriate discipline.

      I’m thankful the times have changed in this regard. I’m glad we think marking a child when taking a switch to him is excessive. And I do think parents need to be taught how to properly discipline their children because society doesn’t have the framework in place that it once had to help parents know what’s right and reasonable.



  3. I’ve seen the pictures; they were posted online for the entire world to ogle, Rebecca. This child is only four, but he’s going to have scars from how Adrian whipped him. Some of them were still oozing blood and fluid several days later when he was returned to his mother who lives in another state.

    While I reserved the right to spank when and as appropriate in terms of discipline when my children were younger, I never ever left a mark on them, and I made an effort not to discipline in anger. I also preferred/used other forms of discipline including time outs, taking away privileges, grounding; whatever I thought would be most effective in catching my wayward child’s attention and reminding them that they had a responsibility to behave appropriately. Spanking doesn’t work well as a deterrent for every child, nor is it the only appropriate form of discipline.

    I can’t and don’t condone how this child was treated. The images made it clear that what happened to him was abuse, not discipline.

    You can see them for yourself here:


    • Krysti, your comment makes me think you missed the point of my article. As I said to Sally, this is in no way an apology for Adrian Peterson. (And I too have seen the pictures).

      In fact, I think we should use this situation to talk about what is appropriate and what isn’t, when and how corporal discipline ought to be used and when and how it should not.

      As it happens, Scripture clearly agrees with what you said about using other forms of discipline besides spanking. In fact that first verse I quoted from Proverbs says as much: “The rod and reproof give wisdom.” Reproof is verbal correction.

      Here’s the thing. You said, “The images made it clear that what happened to him was abuse, not discipline.” But you don’t know what Mr. Peterson’s intent was.

      Ray Rice meant to slam his fist into his fiancée’s face, to retaliate, to escalate the fighting they’d clearly been doing. I don’t think he meant to knock her out, though. So the results and his following actions (dragging her out of the elevator) got everyone’s attention. What horrified everyone was seeing him actually deck her.

      From what Adrian Peterson has said, he intended to discipline his son, to teach him not to push his brother (if I remember correctly). Excessive? Inappropriate? It certainly seems so, but the intent is not in the same camp as that of people who hit out of anger.

      Now it’s possible Peterson was angry. It’s possible he’s lied about why he took the switch to his son. I’m confident the facts will come out.

      But in the process, I hope we will talk about the difference between beating a child and spanking him. I hope we talk about disciplining in anger and how wrong that is. I hope we talk about how the lack of discipline is contributing to abuse. And much more. This is a serious topic and needs some time and attention. But if we end up saying, spanking is a form of domestic violence, then we’re headed for trouble.



  4. Hi Becky, I think you should retract this horrifically under-researched post. Apart from the enlightening comments above about the facts in the Peterson case, you haven’t referenced a single study that shows that any form of physical violence is beneficial. Perhaps you should start your real research here:


    • Hi, Violetwisp,

      I actually thought of you when I was writing this article. I was pretty sure you’d disagree.

      I’ll say again, this article in no way is intended as an apology for Adrian Peterson. It’s intended as a reminder that spanking is an appropriate (and sometimes necessary) form of discipline. That, I believe, is our point of disagreement.

      I don’t think it’s appropriate to strike a child so that he’s marked, but from what I’ve read, Peterson was disciplining as he had been disciplined. In other words, he didn’t know it was excessive or inappropriate. We’ve taken from parents the “infrastructure” by which they can learn these things.

      I don’t think the answer is to say all form of spanking is wrong, though I expect you would disagree with that.

      Another point I’m making is that by removing appropriate discipline, we are actually fostering more abuse.

      Thanks for commenting.



      • I don’t think it’s appropriate to strike a child so that he’s marked.

        Shame we can’t see marks on the mind.


        • Arch, I’ve thought something similar. We seem preoccupied with protecting children physically without thought about their mental, emotional, or moral well-being (providing condoms, for example, so they aren’t as apt to contract STDs, but neglecting the emotional impact of promiscuous sex).

          When it comes to spanking, though, there is not only the testimony of God in the Bible about its positive, even affirming, consequences, there are also any number of people like myself whose parents spanked and did not receive “marks on the mind.”

          In fact, there’s evidence indicating that spanking doesn’t have adverse effects on children. I’d suggest it isn’t the spanking, though. I suggest it is the message the spanking communicates to children—something beatings or allowing children to go their own way can’t communicate—namely, that the parent loves the child too much to let him do wrong.

          A 2010 study found that spanking children under 6 years of age may have its benefits, with spanked children in the study performing better in school than kids who had never been spanked. The spanked children were also found to be more likely to volunteer and go to college.



          • A 2010 study found that spanking children under 6 years of age may have its benefits, with spanked children in the study performing better in school than kids who had never been spanked. The spanked children were also found to be more likely to volunteer and go to college.

            Sounds like the Stockholm Syndrome to me, where the abused identify with their abuser. Were those children’s motivations ever investigated, to determine whether the idea to work harder in school, to volunteer and to attend college were theirs originally, or their parents?

            Had I the time, I could find two studies for every one, suggesting that spanking is psychologically harmful. Frankly, I would accept the word of a competent child psychologist over the “testimony of God” anytime.


          • The researcher of the study is Dr. Marjorie Gunnoe. As she says, “Spanking research is a lot better now, but philosophical convictions still play a major role in the way research is done.” So I have no doubt that you’re right, Arch. You could find studies to support the position that spanking is harmful.

            Try this one, though, by Dr. Diana Baumrind from UC Berkeley from 2001: “I am not an advocate of spanking,” said Baumrind, “but a blanket injunction against its use is not warranted by the evidence.”



          • And yes, I understand that our differing worldviews color our view of the value of what God says in the Bible. But for a moment, consider how I see it: the person who made us, who has infinite knowledge, says spanking can have benefits in the life of a child. Who wouldn’t listen?

            From your perspective, assuming you think like violetwisp, I suppose listening to what God says is like listening to the wind. I’d hope, though, that you’re still willing to look at the empirical evidence.



  5. Reblogged this on violetwisp and commented:
    This post is a prime example of the Christian evidence-based approach to viewing the world!


  6. Children are not for hitting.

    Children Learn What They Live
    By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

    If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
    If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
    If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
    If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
    If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
    If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
    If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
    If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
    If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
    If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
    If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
    If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
    If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
    If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
    If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
    If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
    If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
    If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
    If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.


  7. archaeopteryx1, no disagreement from me: children are not put on earth so adults will have a punching bag. I also agree that children are more likely to thrive in an environment that teaches justice, truthfulness, respect, friendliness, and patience.

    However, from this list it would seem that Dr. Nolte thinks education is all it takes—that and refraining from being a bad influence. I would disagree with that approach. Children not only need to learn what the right thing is, they need to learn not to do the wrong thing, and that means correction and discipline.

    Discipline doesn’t always meaning spanking, certainly, but when done out of love, it can be one of the most positive, impactful parenting tools.



    • …but when done out of love, it can be one of the most positive, impactful parenting tools.

      I can’t agree with that. I’ve raised five children without spanking any of them, and they have all grown up to be good, productive, well-educated, professional people. I led by example – it works.

      And you can call me arch, everyone does.


      • Arch, I think it’s great that you’ve had such a positive parenting experience. No doubt, your kids are the beneficiaries. However, I tend to think that since you did not spank, you can’t speak from personal experience about the non-benefits of spanking.

        Others can.

        Note, I’m not saying parents must spank. Maybe some people would disagree with me, but I think there are any number of fine ways of disciplining. I personally view spanking as a last resort, reserved for direct and deliberate disobedience. But that’s the kind of thing I think is helpful to discuss. Along with whether or not spanking benefits children and benefits their relationship with their parents.



        • I tend to think that since you did not spank, you can’t speak from personal experience about the non-benefits of spanking.

          Oh, I think I can – I was spanked. I decided it ended with me.

          I personally view spanking as a last resort, reserved for direct and deliberate disobedience.

          Why would a given child “directly and deliberately” disobey? Until a parent determines the answer to that, he/she has no hope of ever understanding his/her child. They’re using spanking as a “quick fix,” to the problem, as opposed to working to discover what the real issue is, and possibly coming to a common agreement with their child. In other words, it’s a lazy person’s solution to a complex problem.


  8. “I haven’t read all about the facts of this case…” Stop. Maybe go do that first before creating an ignorant blog post around it? Next, abortion wasn’t pushed for in order to decrease child abuse. That was hardly anybody’s argument. Maybe an after thought of some who thought it sounded good. And the abortion can’t work very well if the person doesn’t have it now can it? Also, any thinking person knows co-occurence and correlation do not at all equal causation like you’ve alluded to here with abortion and child abuse. Lastly, yes psychologists are evil. Always undermining the genius ideas of organized religion when they’re harmful- those liberal devils.

    What an ignorant and lazy article. The Bible condones and merely mentions so many lovely things, so they must blindly be good, right? “Ought not” the church take up beating with a switch? And spanking, as I’ll-informed and lame as it is, is nothing compared to the abuse you’re confused about. I don’t understand the organization or arguments of this article and I don’t think you do either.


    • Rebecca: I wrote my comment last night in anger. I’m sorry for being unnecessarily hostile. I disagree that you wrote an article that started off by you admitting you hadn’t properly researched your opening topic. Since the facts of any case may change your opinion, and since as an author you can easily Google the details, I think that is wrong. Did you know AP shoved leaves in his child’s mouth? He made him eat leaves why he beat him. Spanking, and tough discipline, while i disagree with it and we know it is fraught with problems, is one thing. But intentionally HUMILIATING a 4-year-old into submission is completely different and crosses a line. Also, this child calls him “Daddy Peterson” because he visits him sometimes on AP ‘ S breaks. He’s not at all a full time, loving father. He’s got kids in many different time zones. He barely even knew he HAD one of his kids who was murdered last year. That’s how much this man LOVES his children. He also has a “whooping room” in his house with belts and switches etc. So look into the details maybe next time. You’re an author so you can take the time to do that.

      Clearly there is a lot we disagree with. But I shouldn’t have been so snarky and I apologize. I felt compelled to make amends first thing this morning when I woke up, although I think a lot of what you say and allude to is very problematic. But we can disagree without me attacking your work.

      I see you’re a woman who writes science fiction and fantasy and that’s awesome. I love seeing women doing things they are passionate about that typically belong to men. I didn’t even know Christian science fiction was its own genre. Take care and good luck with your writing.


    • Thinker, thanks for sharing your thoughts and for your apology regarding the tone of the first comment. Completely forgiven.

      Let me clarify first that this article was never intended as a treatise about the Adrian Peterson incident. My statement that “I haven’t learned the precise details of this case” refers, as you can see in context, to how Peterson’s actions were discovered.

      I do, in fact, know that the son is reported to have said his dad made him eat leaves. It’s an allegation that needs to be investigated. Any inappropriate treatment of a child is wrong and does not fall under the banner of spanking.

      The point of my article is that we as a society need to separate what is known abuse from spanking, and we need to do a better job helping parents know the difference.



  9. Starting a new line, Rebbecca, the other one was getting a bit thin.

    First, Rebecca, yes, I am an atheist. BUT, unlike theists, who have a book full of guidelines, atheists are free-thinkers, and consequently, we do not all think alike. for example, I’ve disagreed with Violet on a number of issues, and likely will again, but that of course doesn’t mean I don’t like her, or at least respect her point of view, regardless of whether or not I accept it.

    Secondly, I didn’t come here to discuss religion – there are plenty of topics addressed to that issue – but rather spanking, but since the subject was brought up, I will say just one thing, to give some indication as to where I’m coming from. RE: “our differing worldviews color our view of the value of what God says in the Bible” – no god says anything in the Bible. A group of male authors TELL us what their god said, but no god actually penned any part of it. It then becomes a matter of how highly one values the authenticity of those authors, but that isn’t the topic of this thread.

    That said, I have three links I would like to submit on the subject of spanking, but I’m familiar with WordPress and quite aware that more often than not, any comment with more than two links will trigger a WP spam trap and the comment will go directly to moderation. Should that happen, please feel free to dig it out of purgatory and publish it.

    Mothers’ Spanking of 3-Year-Old Children and Subsequent Risk of Children’s Aggressive Behavior

    Physical punishment of children potentially harmful to their long-term development

    Children Who Are Spanked Have Lower IQs, New Research Finds


    • Researchers found harsh corporal punishment, meaning at least one spanking a month for more than three years, was linked to depression, addiction and other mental health disorders.


      • Arch, the reason I think the two studies I cited–one from UC Berkley and the other from Calvin College–are so credible is that they don’t draw a conclusion that all spanking at all times is beneficial to all children. Studies that draw blanket conclusions are suspect.

        I think it’s more important to look at who is funding a study and what the study hypothesis was. The one I mentioned from Calvin College, for instance, was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. And the hypothesis:

        Using data from 112 children age4-11 in the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), this research tested the hypotheses that the association between the frequency of spanking and subsequent child aggression would be stronger/more positive for older vs. younger children, boys vs. girls, Whites vs. Blacks, and single-mother vs. mother-father families.

        Studies like these simply cannot be dismissed out of hand, though that’s precisely what many do who don’t want to hear the evidence if it contradicts their presuppositions.



        • In the interests, Rebecca, of those for whom spanking is NOT beneficial, isn’t it better to say, “Don’t Spank,” than to say, “Please read the findings of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to see if your child falls within these parameters before deciding ‘To spank or not to spank’?”

          How many will do that?

          Gun laws, for example, are in place to protect the many from the few, despite the fact that percentage-wise, only a small number of Americans even own guns, and an even smaller percentage ever use them, and of those, a yet smaller percentage ever use them on a regular basis, while a still smaller percentage than that, ever MISuse them.

          (Before anyone jumps on the bandwagon and assumes that’s a blanket condemnation of gun-ownership – while I do not own one, I HAVE owned several, and fired “Expert” in the military, so no one should go there!)


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