Catholic Commute S02E37 Spanking

What, When, Why, How, and How Not To for Spanking

Spanking is a highly debated discipline strategy these days. Many people in particular are quite opposed to spanking, and there is some data to suggest they may be right. The biggest problem is that it’s almost impossible to have an open honest discussion because the issue is so heated. To top it all off, Pope Francis recently waded into the discussion and has provoked even more heated responses.

In this episode I break out four different aspects of spanking:

  1. What is spanking, and how does it compare to other types of discipline?
  2. What can a spouse do to reduce the amount of (or avoid entirely) spanking?
  3. What are some reasons why some people think spanking is OK?
  4. What are some things that you should NOT do when spanking?

My hope with this episode is to really create some open honest gentle-worded discussion about this topic. A lot of parents are struggling with this, and we all need the help!

If you’d like to be part of the discussion, please send me an email at

Click on “Continue Reading” to read the show notes:

St. Dominic Savio.


Dominic was a bright kid who met St. John Bosco at the age of 12 and attended his school. As an ordinary and fun-loving boy, he sometimes got into trouble for laughing too much in the classroom. He loved to play games, but also devoted long hours to prayer.


One day Dominic encountered two boys arguing and on the verge of a dangerous fight. They were going to throw stones at each other until Dominic intervened.


Dominic pleaded “You must stop this. It is not right!”


One of the boys shouted, “You can’t stop us.”


“Not until I split his head open …” the other added.


“I am not stopping the fight,” shot back Dominic, “but I am asking you to accept one condition … Before you start the fight you must look at this crucifix, and throw the first stone at me.”


Taken by surprise, the boy began to tremble. “No!” he protested. “Never! I have no argument with you, Dominic.”


“Neither of you is ready to hurt me because I am your friend, yet you want to commit this sin over a stupid remark made at school. Christ, who was innocent, died for us rather then seek revenge from those who hated him.” Dominic stood, silent, crucifix in hand. Both boys dropped their stones, ashamed before his courageous stand.


Dominic was a beacon of light to his classmates and helped many of them turn their lives around and back to God. He died at the age of 15 due to a severe, unidentified illness, and was later canonized for displaying such heroic faith at a young age.


He is known as the patron saint of “juvenile delinquents” and is a great intercessor for all youth, especially those who have fallen in with bad influences, or gone astray.


Here is a short prayer to St. Dominic Savio, invoking his intercession in your hour of need.


Dear Saint Dominic Savio,

we ask you to look upon all young people

and inspire them to love God as you did.

Pray that we may all share your aversion for sin

and achieve a life of sanctity.

Jesus always spoke of his love for children

and we know that your requests will be well received.

We humbly ask that you

bring our petitions before the Lord.


[Mention your intentions here…]


Saint Dominic Savio,

Pray for us.


My goal is not to announce a definitive solution, but instead to start an open and calm discussion.


Please send feedback – if this topic doesn’t generate it, then I’m not sure what will. 😉


Quotes and Perspectives: (these sources are not fully vetted, just provide a spectrum of the ideas out there. I’m hoping everyone will hear their own starting point.)


Proverbs 23:13-14Do not withhold discipline from your children;

   if you beat them with a rod, they will not die.

14 If you beat them with the rod,

   you will save their lives from Sheol.


Proverbs 13:24 Those who spare the rod hate their children,

   but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.


Tired mothers find that spanking takes less time than reasoning and penetrates sooner to the seat of the memory. Will Durant


Alvin Poussaint, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School:

“Researchers have also found that children who are spanked show higher rates of aggression and delinquency in childhood than those who were not spanked. As adults, they are more prone to depression, feelings of alienation, use of violence toward a spouse, and lower economic and professional achievement. None of this is what we want for our children.”


Ken Gallinger, “Ethically Speaking” columnist for the Toronto Star:

“Spanking is an act of violence, so ethically, it could be justified only if there was absolutely no other way to improve the way kids act.”  1


American Medical Association, (1985): “Infliction of pain or discomfort, however minor, is not a desirable method of communicating with children.”

Mark Benedict, Christian Family Foundations: “I also believe the scriptural reference to the “rod” best corresponds to a switch or perhaps a flexible paddle.”

Dawn Walker, Canadian Institute of Child Health: “Children need discipline but not hitting.”

Sharon “I have heard terrible stories of children becoming spoiled, drug using, atheists if they aren’t spanked.”

Dr. Benjamin Spock: “If we are ever to turn toward a kindlier society and a safer world, a revulsion against the physical punishment of children would be a good place to start.”


Boris Sidis, from a lecture on the abuse of the fear instinct in early education in Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1919.

“As long as the child will be trained not by love, but by fear, so long will humanity live not by justice, but by force. As long as the child will be ruled by the educator?s threat and by the father?s rod, so long will mankind be dominated by the policeman?s club, by fear of jail, and by panic of invasion by armies and navies.?

Spanking vs. Other Forms of Corporal Punishment

  1. All good discipline imposes something undesirable as a lesser consequence compared to the natural consequence.
  2. All discipline will fail if it is done through anger/fear rather than love
  3. Our society has disproportionately criminalized physical pain above other pain. – Dr. Jordan Peterson our society has been feminized. Boys vs. Girls for resolving conflicts.
  4. Emotional pain can often linger far longer and do far more harm than physical. E.g. an overly aggressive father likely is better for children than an absent father.
  5. Within corporal punishment, spanking has specifically been given a worse image than other types, e.g. pinching.


5 Ways to avoid Spanking – Maybe one spouse believes in spanking the other doesn’t, or just wants less

  1. Be consistent
  2. Be Creative
  3. Agree with your spouse on a plan
  4. Remove temptations when possible
  5. Don’t wait for the storm to get up to full speed


5 Reasons why some people believe it is a right thing to do

*NOTE: This is only in the context of a loving spanking*

  1. Safety situations are scary, people often aren’t willing to risk lives on a slower approach
  2. Especially for younger children, some situations have few alternatives that actually solve a problem, rather than try to “run the clock out.”
  3. Dr. Peterson – don’t let your children annoy you.
  4. Faster method to get good results means more positive time overall.
  5. Similar to the scruff of a kitten’s neck, God gave humans a big fat-padded surface.


5 Things to NOT do when spanking

  1. Spanking in anger/rage generates fear, not learning
  2. Spanking that is disconnected from the action is counterproductive
  3. Spanking out of vengeance is selfish and immature
  4. All discipline must be continually re-evaluated. “Is it accomplishing the end I want it to, in the way I want it to.”  If not, change!
  5. Spanking should never be chosen out of laziness.


Pope Francis:


“One time, I heard a father say, ‘At times I have to hit my children a bit, but never in the face so as not to humiliate them,’ ” the Pope said. “That’s great,” Francis continued. “He had a sense of dignity. He should punish, do the right thing, and then move on.”


He’s emphasizing dignity, not saying spanking is mandatory or wrong.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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