Smacking. It’s a hot potato, especially among parents of faith, some who believe God requires it of parents, some who believe the complete opposite.
Harriet Connor, author of Big Picture Parents: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Life, takes a balanced view to the smacking question, believing that the question of child discipline is up to each individual parent. The key, she says, is to make loving decisions in the context of the whole message of the Bible.
The writer believes that whatever your take on smacking, it’s unhelpful to base your view on just one or two specific verses of the Bible.
“We do get caught up on the tiny details, the one verse here, the one verse there, instead of what the whole Bible says, what the big picture is,” she said.
“I realised that discipline, in the Bible, means much more than just punishment. Discipline includes all the things we do to help our children to grow up into our values. Discipline is actually more like ‘discipling’. It’s modelling, teaching, training, encouraging. And then there’s the more negativing disicpling: the correcting, or boundary setting, or letting children experience consequences for their actions.
“Whether or not you smack is one tiny little part of how we train our children in our values and character, the things we think are important.”
No One Correct Answer, Says Author
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While people of faith take different views on smacking, it’s important not to assume that your way is the only way, says Harriet.
“It is a difficult issue for Christians,” she said. “One one side you’ve got Christians who point to some verses in Proverbs and say that if you’re not smacking then you’re disobeying God. Then you’ve got Christians who listen to the advice of modern experts and think maybe smacking is ineffective and open to abuse.”
She encourages parents to look at what they have in common.
“We all want our children to grow up to independence and to be able to make their own wise decisions in life,” she said. “How we choose to get their exactly can be left up to each family.
“Some people choose to see the concept of the rod in proverbs in a more figurative sense, that it represents discipline as a whole. And whether or not we do that in a physical way I think can be left up to individual families.”