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WILLIAM - We have a 15 month old little girl that we love dearly and we see she can have quite and attitude at times. We feel the only way she seems to respond to correction is by spanking her on the hand or leg. What does the Lord think about spanking and does the scripture "spare the rod and spoil the child" refer to spanking our children? Thank you for all you do.

JOEL - Actually there is no scripture that says "spare the rod and spoil the child". This saying is an interpretation taken from a few Old Testament scriptures.

"He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Prov. 13:24)
"Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die" (Prov. 23:13)

You can interpret what you will from those scriptures in regards to punishment. There are many instances in the Bible of God "spanking" His children when they were disobedient (The Flood, plagues, Sodom and Gomorah, etc). He seemed to calm down a bit though somewhere between the Old and New Testament as Jesus came on the scene. But even Jesus admisistered a little punishment to the money changers in the temple. I don't recall Jesus ever saying that it was OK for anyone to spank their child; but then it's possible He never had to raise any kids during His mortal life ;-)

There are many opinions about spanking by both members and Church leaders. I will offer a few quotes and some information on the subject to help you decide for yourself. Gordon B. Hinckley has said:

"In terms of physical abuse, I have never accepted the principle of "spare the rod and spoil the child." I will be forever grateful for a father who never laid a hand in anger upon his children. Somehow he had the wonderful talent to let them know what was expected of them and to give them encouragement in achieving it.
I am persuaded that violent fathers produce violent sons. I am satisfied that such punishment in most instances does more damage than good. Children don't need beating. They need love and encouragement. They need fathers to whom they can look with respect rather than fear. Above all, they need example.
I recently read a biography of George H. Brimhall, who at one time served as president of Brigham Young University. Concerning him, someone said that he reared "his boys with a rod, but it [was] a fishing rod".
(Raymond Brimhall Holbrook and Esther Hamilton Holbrook, The Tall Pine Tree: The Life and Work of George H. Brimhall [n.p., 1988], p. 62). That says it all. (In Conference Report, October 1994, pp. 73-74.)

In "Eternal Families" (by Daniel K. Judd, Douglas E. Brinley), Dr. Glen L. Lathem, LDS author of marriage and family relations books said the following:

"A common error irate parents typically commit is hitting a child, including spanking, as a means of discipline. I tell you this without reservation: never hit a child in anger, or as a means of punishment or of controlling behavior. The message delivered by years of research on the long-term negative effects of spanking and hitting is unequivocal. An adequate representation of this research was published by The Harvard Educational Newsletter under the title "Corporal Punishment: Paddling Against the Stream" (May/June 1994, pp. 5-6). The following excerpt emphasizes what needs to be said about this matter: "When we paddle children, the message we're giving is, I'm bigger than you so I have the right to use violence against you.' We think we're teaching one thing when we're actively doing another. It's the hidden message kids hear the loudest."
The enduring and venerable adage "Spare the rod and spoil the child" has inadvertently heaped mountains of misery on children in the guise of discipline masquerading as good parenting. It has its origin in a biblical scripture found in Prov. 13:24: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." It is not my intention to take on the book of Proverbs, nor to question the wisdom of Solomon, who may have written this proverb, but a lot has been learned through science in the last three thousand years about teaching children to behave well. I'm sure if Solomon were alive today, being as wise as he was then, he'd counsel us to learn wiser and more fitting lessons from science. He would probably even quote his father, David, who said, "Thy rod and thy staff comfort me" (Ps. 23:4).("Eternal Families" (by Daniel K. Judd, Douglas E. Brinley)

On the other hand here's an opinion from Gene R. Cook (1st Quorum of the Seventy):

"I believe that sometimes punishments are a necessary part of discipline. But before administering any kind of punishment, parents should consider their motives for so doing. They should do it because they love their children and with the intent that it will humble them and turn them to the Lord. If it will do these things, the punishment should be administered. If not, the parents should seek a different form of discipline.
We have not been too prone to spank our children. When they were younger and we were not getting their attention on something, we occasionally did spank them. We used an old racquetball paddle that the kids gave me for Christmas one year. Later the children wrote "paddle whacker" on it, with lots of other funny comments. We determined to use it when it was needed to get someone's attention. And on those occasions, it was very effective, especially with the younger ones. Fear and respect for the "paddle whacker," however, were always more effective than the pain from the "paddle whacker." (Raising Up a Family to the Lord by Gene R. Cook)

A study on violence in Utah County that compared results with a national study was revealing. According to the research, spanking occurs at a ten percent higher rate in Utah County than the national average (82% national, 93% Utah County). In addition, half of the parents stated that if they saw someone do to their children the sorts of things they themselves did, they would call the police!
(Linda Bradley, A Study of Physical Discipline Practices in Relationship to the Legal Definition of Child Abuse: A Study of 100 Utah Valley Families' Discipline Practices, unpublished Master of Social Work research project, Brigham Young University, 1983.)

These results were echoed in the study "In Search of a Peculiar People: Are Mormons Really Different?" Statistics from the 1987 National Survey of Families and Households were used to compare LDS families with several other religious groups. Again, the percentages of spanking, slapping, or yelling incidents among Latter-day Saints were slightly, though not significantly, higher. (A possible explanation is the greater number of small children in LDS families than the national average.) (Tim B. Heaton, Kristen L. Goodman, and Thomas B. Holman, In Search of a Peculiar People: Are Mormons Really Different? unpub. ms., BYU.)

LDS Author Victor L. Ludlow said the following:

"The most common form of discipline is through talking and reasoning together. If talking does not produce the desired results, the next line of action is usually withdrawing some privileges, particularly those associated with the type of infraction. Sometimes physical punishment may be administered, such as slapping the hand or spanking, but it is seen as a means of last resort. Some firm control and discipline is required in rearing children, but instead of simply punishing for disobedient behavior, parents should try positive reinforcement, reasoning, rewards, restrictions, and other appropriate means with their children. (Principles and Practices of the Restored Gospel, by Victor L. Ludlow)

And from LDS author Steven R. Covey:

"I don't believe that the crucial factor is the method or form of discipline or punishment (spanking to some parents is a natural consequence) so much as it is three things: (1) the quality of the relationship between the individuals; (2) whether there is a clear mutual understanding of exactly what the rules are and what the consequences are if there is disobedience or obedience; (3) and consistent follow through with what has been agreed upon." (Spiritual Roots of Human Relations, by Stephen R. Covey)

So there you have it; opinions on both sides of the issue. In my opinion the actual spanking of a child may not be as much an issue as the condition of the parent's heart as he or she disciplines a child. Whatever the case I think the counsel from the following scripture should always be applied:

"Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;" (D&C 121: 43)

Every kid is different, so a parent must determine which form of discipline is best for each child. But in the end how anyone chooses to discipline their children is a personal thing between the parent, the child, and the Lord. You would have to ask the Lord yourself for your own personal situation.

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