Discipline In The Book Of Proverbs: "To Spank Or Not To Spank?" -- By: Paul D. Wegner

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 48:4 (Dec 2005)
Article: Discipline In The Book Of Proverbs: "To Spank Or Not To Spank?"
Author: Paul D. Wegner


Discipline In The Book Of Proverbs:
"To Spank Or Not To Spank?"

Paul D. Wegner

Paul D. Wegner is professor of Old Testament at Phoenix Seminary, 13402 North Scottsdale Road, Suite B-185, Scottsdale, AZ 85254.

I. The Dilemma

It does not take much reading in the area of childrearing to realize that the current debate on disciplining children is a hotbed of contention.1 In fact, on a current website the debate is largely divided between fundamentalists and evangelicals (those who believe in "inerrancy") on the one side and the rest of the scholarly world on the other.2 There has always been a wide variety of childrearing advice given to American parents, much of which has been contradictory.3 In his best-selling book on childrearing from the 1920s, John B. Watson, the founder of behaviorism, warned parents against displaying love toward their children.4 By 1948, a more balanced approach between loving and disciplining a child was promoted by Benjamin Spock in his classic book, Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, though very little is said about spanking.5 Even today several popular childrearing books take significantly different approaches: Thomas Gordon, a clinical psychologist and president of Gordon Training Institute, has written a very popular book entitled Parent Effectiveness Training which emphasizes good communication, but strongly discourages disciplinary measures. Gordon states, "If

parents could learn only one thing from this book, I wish it were this: each and every time they force a child to do something by using their power or authority, they deny that child a chance to learn self-discipline."6 On the other hand, James Dobson, a clinical psychologist, author, and chairman of the board of Focus on the Family, incorporates both good communication and nurturing of children with a more disciplinary response to misbehavior.7 He states, "Developing respect for parents is the critical factor in child management."8 In the realm of child management Dobson reserves room for corporal discipline: "In my opinion, spankings. .. should be reserved for the moment a child (between the ages of eighteen months to ten years old) expresses to parents a defiant 'I will not!' ...

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