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Child’s Corporal Punishment: Christian vs. Secular Discipline Research Paper

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Updated: Dec 14th, 2019


There is a common saying that injustice anywhere is a great threat to justice everywhere. Corporal punishment is banned by various institutions, including the mental institutions and in military as well as in prisons. However, corporal punishment is also a very common practice in most schools across the world.

Corporal punishment has been defined differently by various organizations but in this paper, corporal punishment is defined as the intentional infliction of pain on a child’s body as a method of rectifying an offense. It is a form of practice, which is heavily embedded on our culture and prevails in most of the homes and in the schools. Most of the parents justify this practice using religion and the traditional old saying “spare the rod spoil the child” (The Bible, 1984, p. 449).

Children are punished for a wide range of indiscipline (Cloud & Townsend, 2001). Obviously, teachers, parents and/or a child’s guardians are responsible for training and disciplining kids. However, parents hold different views regarding to instilling discipline in their young ones.

Some parents support the biblical model which accepts corporal punishment: In the Bible, it is recoded that “the rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother…… discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart” (The Bible, 1984, p. 461).

This paper discusses the Christian view on corporal punishment as compared to the secular views. The paper will also attempt to investigate contemporary societal influences in regard to disciplining of the child. Although the justification for the practice lies in the realm of the religion (Christianity in this matter), perpetuators of the practice is a matter which concerns the public policy; therefore, concerns the legislative and the courts.

Reasons for Punishment

Corporal punishment as defined above is a form of punishment intended to cause a certain degree of discomfort and pain to a child with the aim of disciplining and correcting a child. The pain can be inflicted using various means, including hitting the child with a rod, kicking, shaking, pinching, pulling and whipping. In some countries, the child may be forced to stand in the sun for hours (Save the Child, 2003).

Children can be punished for varying reasons, including minor disorderliness such as chewing gum in class, talking back to a teacher, sleeping during lesson time, and school dress code violation among others. Fox (2003) classified the misbehavior into levels starting with level I, which included indiscipline such as failure to complete assignments, disturbances in the classrooms, and lateness.

Level II is the acute misbehavior which includes all behaviors whose degree of seriousness tends to distract peaceful environment. Some of the indiscipline categorized in this level includes dishonesty, truancy and disrespect to a teacher or a staff. Others would include failure to abide to the corrective measures, extortion, vandalism and or physical/verbal altercation. Last category is the level III which is called expulsive misbehavior.

This level of muddled state includes continuation of the previous described acute misbehavior in level II. Others may include possession of drugs or distribution of drugs, admitted in various acts of sexual activity, possession or use of weapons. More so, involvement in absurd activities such as setting fires, bomb threats or even posing threats to the staff or the colleagues (Fox, 2003).

Definitely, such disorderliness will require the child to be guided towards the best pathway. The main question here is, is inflicting pain to the child’s body the main solution? Are there alternatives to corporal punishment? If allowed, to what extent should it be practiced? This paper intends to configure answers to the above matter and in establishing the way forward in regard to child’s corporal punishment.

Research done has indicated that there is significant damage on children as their parents continuously try to manage their disorderliness. Several injuries arising from the corporal punishment have been reported with some resulting to permanent damage and others to death. Some of the reported cases have included reports on broken limbs, damaged body organs such as the eye.

Other findings indicate a correlation between corporal punishment and depression. Others show low self-esteem, negative psychological adjustment and poor relations. However, the most unintended message to the kid is that violence is an acceptable behavior and is the only way a stronger force coerces a weaker party to attain one’s desire.

More so, corporal punishment is associated to the increase rate of dropping out of school. For example, 14% of Nepalese interviewed said their reasons to drop out of school were because they feared their teachers (Save the Child, 2003).

Christian view to Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment in the schools and homes is administered by a grown up (a teacher or a parent) using a cane to strike a child. It is a form of corrective measure based on belief and assumptions that this is the best way to deter the inappropriate behavior of the child (Save the Child, 2003).

The support of this approach of instilling discipline lies squarely in the Bible. There is ample support for beating children from the Bible. The Bible is the most influential and enduring source of support for physical punishment and for disciplining of kids. The most frequently cited scriptural references are in the Book of proverbs.

Reports from Christian parent’s network argued that it is the parent’s solo responsibility to ensure that a child is disciplined while still young (Anon, 2004). This is reinforced by what is recorded in the Bible: “he who spares the rod hate his son, but those who love him are diligent to discipline him” (The Bible, 1984, p. 449)

Such institutions urge the parents to punish their sons by causing pain but should not leave marks. Parents should ignore their concerns about hurting their kids. Some Christians argue that God has put the rod as a test of the parents’ loyalty to him. At times it has been noted that parents avoid spanking a children to avoid the more heart rending and wailing of the child which often begins even before hurting the kid (Anon, 2004).

The Bible cautions against such a behavior from the parents and instead gives the following advice, “do not withhold discipline from a child, if you beat him with a rod he will not die, if you beat them with the rod you will save his life from Sheol” (The Bible, 1984, p. 457).

Christian Network report further explained that most of the parents fear hitting their child due to the state child protective services which according to them are hostile to Biblical parenting and often mock the values of the traditions’ moral upbringing. However, it has also been noted that Christians fear God and would rather obey him rather than fear the state agents (Anon, 2004). This is emphasized by the following verses in the Bible:

Proverbs 22:15 “folly is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod discipline drives it far from him” (The Bible, 1984, p. 456); Proverbs 22:6, “train up a child in the way he should go and when is old he will not depart from it” (The Bible, 1984, p. 456) and; Proverbs 29:15,17 “ the rod and reproof give wisdom , but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother…… discipline your son and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart” (The Bible, 1984, p. 461)

As Peterson (2008) explained, the verses were attributed to Solomon. The verses are consistent with God’s punishment to his people whenever they strayed. He further argues that if God demanded human sacrifice by Abraham of his son; would He hesitate to endorse physical punishment for disorderliness.

In this point of view, parent-child relationship imitates that of God with his children. Corporal punishment advocates argues that if God, the perfect father would discipline His beloved children, then it is of our best to save the children by dealing with the same approach. This implies that children are totally expected to surrender to the adults (Peterson, 2008).

However, in the New Testament, there is no place where Jesus in the New Testament does he support the use of a rod to discipline a child. When he touched upon this issue, he expressed a different attitude toward children instead of the use of physical punishment: “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great milestone fastened around his neck to be drowned in depth of the sea” (The Bible, 1984, p. 683).

Some parts of the New Testament also connotes to the physical punishment, for instance, in the book of Hebrews, the following was recorded in regard to discipline: “my sons do not regard lightly the discipline of the lord nor loose courage when you are punished by him for the lord disciplines whom he loves and chastises every son whom he receives” (The Bible, 1984, p. 835).

However, the New Gospel brought by Jesus never advocated for hitting of child in any occasion or for any reason. Corporal punishment is contrary to his teaching. His disciple, Paul, also echoed his perspective on a child’s punishment and expressed his love and compassion for children. This was recorded in the book of Ephesians:

Children obey your parents in Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother for this is the first commandment with a promise…… and fathers do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (The Bible, 1984, p. 813)

According to Paul, there is a need for nurturing and caring approach in guiding their children from misdeeds. Jesus rejected the old practice of corporal punishment, which was endorsed in the Old Testament and favored the compassionate and caring approach in correcting the children.

Jesus came with new gospel from his God. The gospel had evolved to embrace God, who loved his children and by grace forgives his children for their mistakes. His teachings were that of God, who forgives freely and welcomes the prodigal son, one who make sun shine to just and unjust and for only love, trust and cooperative obedience (Peterson, 2008). With this opinion, most churches oppose corporal punishment.

For instance, petition number 41037 adopted at the United Methodist Church General conference in 2004 arguing that corporal punishment was humiliating and a degrading event to children and would at times result to injuries. They also argued that corporal punishment is often used in poor children and in minorities as well with those who had disability.

They opt for alternative methods for correcting children to encourage positive behavior without necessarily inflicting pain to kids. They also petitioned corporal punishment by parents’ and caretakers’ number 41038-CS-R9999, which echoed the previous described (Anon, 2004).

Secular Discipline Regarding Corporal Punishment

Activists on Corporal punishment have been linked with psychological problems such as low esteem, humiliation and depression, which are harmful to a kid’s health. Some of the data estimating the prevalence of the corporal punishment include surveys in Barbados in 1989 shows that 70% of parents approved for corporal punishment and of these 76% were endorsed beating children using belts or straps.

Investigations in 1996 on Egypt showed that a third of the children in that nation were disciplined by beating with straps with a quarter of the reported cases having injuries. Korea’s survey by Child Protection association in the 1980s 97% of the kids in the entire nations had experienced corporal punishment.

Kuwait’s investigations in 1996 indicated 54% of parents having severely punished their children with 9% going to an extent of burning the child. Pakistan’s 1998 investigations showed that 600 primary school teachers of North West province had over 70 reports of serious injury, which arose from corporal punishment incidences.

UK studies in 1990s findings showed that three-quarters of the sample parents representatives admitting of spanking their kids below the age of one year with large sample which admitted that they frequently hit their kids. The most-recent investigations are those by UNICEF across 35 countries in Europe and Central Asia in 2001. 60% of the sampled kids reported violence and aggressiveness within their families. Clearly, corporal punishment is a severe problem in the entire world (End Corporal Punishment, 2009).

However, the data may be underrepresented because the cases are underreported, and it is extremely hard to obtained information from the young ones. Anecdotal evidence indicated that corporal punishment is practiced everywhere in the society and that in the world, there are millions of children undergoing corporal punishment from those under their care. The punishment is inflicted everywhere, at home, in schools, detention and work places (Save the Child, 2003).

A total of 193 countries, including council of Europe member states have ratified and have committed themselves towards respecting the United Nations Convection on the human rights of the Child. Activists such as save the child oppose all forms of corporal punishment to the kids.

Evidently, corporal punishment affects and impacts on the Childs health. More so, according to human rights, hitting a child breaches human rights in respect to person’s dignity, physical integrity and equal protection from the law. The UN Convention on the rights of the Child (UNCRC) is one of the non-governmental organizations, which protects the child from all forms of physical violence and from any form of punishment and other such like degrading treatment (Article 37).

Article 28 protects the child form dropping out of school due to corporal punishment. Activists encourage States and Governments to explicitly prohibit all corporal punishment of children and ensuring all legal procedures violators have been appropriately implemented. Article 19 of the convention on the rights of Child protects the child from every form of physical or mental violence. Global initiative makes its responsibility to support all actions which will fulfill the shields right to protection from corporal punishment.

The initiative was launched in Geneva in 2001 with the aim of acting as a catalyst to encourage more action and progress towards abolishing corporal punishment in the world. The organization’s aims are to forge alliance with human rights agencies and other key organizations to make corporal punishment visible in the global village. The organizations are also dedicated in promoting awareness in raising child’s rights to protection and for public education and use of no-violent forms of discipline (End Corporal Punishment, 2009).

However, abolishing of corporal punishment has progressed. Actually, by 2001, 10 states had abolished corporal punishment of children. Today, corporal punishment is prohibited in schools and in penal systems in almost more than a half of the world’s countries. These states include Ethiopia, Korea, South Africa, Sri-Lanka, Thailand and Zimbabwe (End Corporal Punishment, 2003).

Evidently, physical punishment occurs in various settings, including homes schools and residential institutions. Despite the fact that most states have laws, which prohibit child cruelty, they have not interpreted corporal punishment in all settings. Most state shave adopted the UN convention rights on child and conventions forms part of domestic law, but it is inadequate to ensure abolition in totality.

More law reforms are required to abolish existing justifications, which can deter assaults’ laws from applying equal assaults to the children. Every country henceforth needs to send a clear message to the entire society that it is more crime to hit a child than anyone else (End Corporal Punishment, 2009).

A child is a humble being who is trying to understand their cruelty of the nature earth. Instead of physical punishment when they do wrong, a parent or care taker should try to understand the reason behind the resilience. A child needs a parent or care taker who will nurture them with love and security.

They should be guided in a structural manner. This may include adhering to standards of appropriate behavior and in designating the disorderliness. This should be coupled by the good role model from their parents (Clinton & Sibcy, 2006). The kids are delicate beings and need boundaries and consistent guidance for their security and for the development of long-term values. More so, children main interest is to be recognized, seen, heard and valued as grown ups.

Parents are encouraged to show them they are interested in them, especially in their daily activities. Lastly, the child should remain empowered. To help the kids learn the good morals, care taker and parents can give a regular attention and advice for the kids at all age. In doing so, they help the children understand the consequences of their actions. Lastly, the parent is obliged to behave orderly and appropriately and demonstrate the best way of resolving their conflicts constructively (End Corporal Punishment, 2009).


Parents are responsible for the training and the disciplining their children. It is evident that most of the Christians today oppose corporal punishment. Therefore, it is everybody’s duty to ensure that a child at your vicinity is protected through discussions, counseling and prayers. This should be administered by the parent or care taker in loving and caring manner under emotional control.


Anon. (2004). Child health care is a legal duty Inc. Child Health Care. Web.

Clinton, T., & Sibcy, G. (2006). Loving your child too much: Staying close to your kids without overprotecting, overindulging or over controlling. Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers.

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2001). Boundaries with kids. Grand Rapids, NI: Zondervan.

End Corporal Punishment. (2003). : A practical hand book for organizations and institutions challenging corporal punishment of children. UNICEF Publication. Web.

End Corporal Punishment. (2009). Prohibiting corporal punishment of children: A legal reform and other measures. Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children. Web.

Fox, R. (2003). Discipline means discipleship: Black hills Christian academy discipline policy. Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. Web.

Peterson, J. (2008). Spare the rod-save the child. Methodist Theological School in Ohio. Web.

Save the Child. (2003). Corporal Punishment. International Save the Children Alliance Position on Corporal punishment. Web.

The Bible. (1984). The Holy Bible; New International Version. New York, NY: The Bible Society.

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