A series of questions about spanking


  1. At what age does a father stop spanking his boy? I mean do you spank until he's 21 if he's still living with you?
  2. Do you spank a 13-year-old boy any differently from a 5-year-old boy?
  3. Clothed behind versus bare behind
  4. How often does one spank the boy? If indeed he's incorrigible, do you spank seven days a week?
  5. Where should you spank: his bedroom, your bedroom, or someplace else?
  6. With what should you spank: a hand, a belt, a paddle, or something else?
  7. What if the boy is amused by your discomfort or by your attempts at spanking? In other words, what if he is challenging you?

I hope you see, I'm just so unsure of everything, and as a result,  frozen. I think my not having been spanked certainly doesn't give me any experience, though I do wish I had that in retrospect, I didn't so I guess  I have to move on.


Because spanking fell out of favor as a form of discipline back in the 1960s many people are in the same boat as you are. There are things that people who experienced spankings personally take for granted, but those who have not been spanked are confused by them and are afraid that they may go too far. Yet, despite the concerns, people are becoming aware that total avoidance of spanking doesn't work in all cases.

When does a parent stop spanking their child?

The potential for receiving a spanking remains so long as the parent has authority over his child. I can't put an age limit because circumstances will greatly vary from household to household and even from child to child in a household. As an extreme example, some people are mentally disabled and never grow up. They remain as children their whole lives. Usually, their misbehaviors can be controlled by other means, but the potential of receiving a spanking for extreme misbehavior will remain. However, if a child decides to leave home right after high school, then they are on their own.

Families who have used spankings consistently from childhood will tell you that the need for spanking a child quickly diminishes as the child grows up. Children do learn. While the potential remains, it is almost never needed in the teenage years if the child has already learned to behave himself. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). Generally, people who are facing the difficult task of spanking a teenager have come to that point because they missed the opportunities to train their children when they were younger. Things quickly progress to getting out of hand, and the parents are faced with the reality that stronger measures are needed. It is so unfortunate because if they knew then what they realize now the predicament would not exist.

Do you spank an older child differently than a younger child?

Most definitely yes! A toddler will quickly respond to a light flick of a switch on the back of a hand. Small children will break down and cry just from the act of their parents getting a switch. Sometimes just the act of being spanked is enough to stop a bad behavior even though you know that it couldn't have hurt much. However, with an older child who is openly defiant, stronger measures are needed. A spanking will be laughed off as nothing (because they are "tough") unless carries a significant sting that lasts a while.

Does spanking have to be done on a bare behind?

No. For small children, a spanking through clothing is quite effective. A small toddler wearing thick diapers might not feel it on the behind, but, as mentioned before, a light switch on the back of the hand is often all that is necessary anyway for children of this age.

If, however, you find that the spankings are not effective because the child is able to ignore them or that you are finding yourself using heavier blows or more strikes to get any effect, then having the child lower his pants prior to a spank will dramatically increase the effectiveness of each swing. A completely bare bottom is not necessary. You will discover that you do not need to strike nearly as hard or as often to get the punishment done. This, in turn, means it will be less likely that you will cause harm to the child.

How often should you spank?

Only as often as necessary. It will depend on the child and his behavior. Some learn their lessons very quickly while others are quite stubborn. A spanking should not be given for every little offense. There are many ways to give discipline to a child and you need to be flexible in determine which method will work best in a given situation. See "Notes on Disciplining Children" for ideas. However, when an offense warrants a spanking, a parent needs to be consistent. It should not matter whether the child had just been spanked an hour ago to five years ago. The punishment should be delivered as a consequence of the crime, however often that crime is committed.

Once again, if it seems that you are spanking more often than in the past or that it is not making the desired effect, then change the delivery. Increase the number of strikes. I recommend not going beyond forty as this was a requirement that God gave to the Israelites. It remains good advice. Also, make the blows more effective. Some parents strike so quickly that all the blows fade into one dull ache. Space out the blows so that each one is felt individually. Finally, if necessary, remove the padding that softens the blows. The effectiveness of spanking is in the sting from the switch and not the heaviness of the blows.

Where should you spank?

The Scriptures state "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Punishment is more effective the sooner it is given after the wrongdoing. This is especially true with a small child because his memory is not well developed. A punishment given several hours after doing something wrong will not be associated with the wrongdoing. The need for immediate punishment lessens as a child grows older, but the general principle remains. The sooner done, the more effective it will be.

A spanking is between the parent and the child because the child broke a rule of the home. I don't recommend spanking a child in front of other children. It can promote a desire on one child's part to purposely get another child into trouble just to see him punished. Instead, take the child off to a private area. Let him know why he is being punished, give him the spanking, and then let him know that you love him but expect better of him in the future. If others are around, they will know he was punished -- perhaps they will learn from it -- but at least they didn't get any "entertainment" from it.

What should be used for a spanking?

The Bible talks of using a rod (see "Notes on Spanking"). The Hebrew word shebet from which this is translated refers to a small branch or a scion (those growths that spring up from the base of a tree). It is not referring to anything big. When asked, I recommend finding a small, straight branch from a bush or a tree that is about 18 to 24 inches long and about the size of your little finger in diameter. It should not be so thin that it will make a whipping action when used, nor should it be so dried out or dead that it has no give and shatters during use. If there are any side branches or knots, they should be whittled smooth.

The effectiveness of a spanking with a rod is found in the sting of the blow. You don't need a lot of force to make it felt, nor will you need a large number of blows. Thus a rod is less likely to cause bruising or tearing of skin than other implements. Another point in favor of the rod is that the act of having to get the switch gives the parent a chance to catch his breath, thus the punishment is delivered more fairly.

Many parents use their hands, especially when a swift reminder is needed. For small children, the punishment becomes associated with the parent directly. It is more desirable that the punishment be associated with a neutral object. For older children, the problem is that it takes a greater force to make an effect because the hand is a wide, flat surface. Parents find that their hand appears to be sorer than the child's bottom (which might be a good thing if a parent is prone to excessive punishment). Many women find that they are not able to give a good spanking to an older child because they don't have the arm strength or the tolerance for slapping in their hands. This is the primary reason most parents stop spanking older children. It appears to become ineffective and it hurts the parent too much.

Another implement is the paddle. It works quite well, but because of the wider area, its effectiveness comes from the strength of the blows. Many women have a difficult time producing a hard enough blow and many men must restrain themselves from giving too hard of a blow.

A belt is popular because one is almost always readily handy. However, because of its flexibility, there is a problem with abrading the skin. It takes some "skill" to deliver a swat that is effective, but not too hard.

What if a child laughs off a spanking?

Usually, this is a problem parents face with teenage boys. There comes a time when a boy decides he is a man even though he continues to behave like a child. When discipline was not consistently given in the past, a child eventually takes a "gamble" that he will be able to do as he pleases and get away with it.

Unfortunately for society, many parents do let them get away with things that should have been punished. There are a variety of reasons:

  1. The parent doesn't want the hassle of punishing the child, so it is easier to pretend that it wasn't a big deal.
  2. The parent is concerned that they will get into trouble if they spank the child (see "Is spanking a thirteen-year-old child illegal?").
  3. The child has worn the parent down by continuing to misbehave despite the spanking.

The primary point every parent must face is that no disciplinary measure works if it is not given. Unless there are consequences to enforce the boundaries of behavior, anything and everything will go.

Related to this, no disciplinary measure works if it is inconsistently given. A child will quickly learn to gamble that they might get away with misbehavior because it has happened in the past. Even if the odds are highly likely that they will be punished, many children will gamble on the possibility that this time will be the lucky time. It is exactly the same illogical reasoning that causes gamblers to waste money at casino knowing that the odds are impossible to walk away with more money than you had when you entered.

Inconsistency also increases the desire to challenge the system in teenagers, especially boys. They figure that if they can outlast the parent, then they will get their way. Unfortunately, many parents prove them right.

In answer to these points, a parent should look at discipline being delivered. Does it fit the crime (is it a good consequence related to the misdeed)? Is it being delivered in a timely manner? Is it suitably severe enough? Even when the answers to all these questions are honestly "yes," deliver the punishment anyway. The constant annoyance of being punished will break through the walls of the most stubborn child. The parent should show more patience in delivering a needed consequence than a child in receiving the consequence. This is the point of Proverbs 26:3 (see "Could you explain Proverbs 26:3 and 19:29?" for details).


By being frozen into inaction by your uncertainty, your son is learning that defiance and stubbornness is the way to get to do anything you want. What kind of adult will he become?

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