Disciplining Children with Corporal Punishment
Watchtower recommends corporal punishment, such as spanking children, citing Scriptural verses including Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:13,14 and 29:15. As this is now illegal in many countries, more recent Watchtower articles tone down their interpretation of what using the rod entails.
Watchtower 2008 Apr 1 p.14
No wonder, then, that Proverbs 13:24 says: "The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline." In this context, the rod of discipline represents a means of correction, whatever form it may take.
Watchtower 2004 Jul 15 p.31
A rod is a symbol of authority. At Proverbs 13:24, it refers to parental authority. In this context, employing the rod of discipline does not necessarily mean spanking a child. Rather, it represents the means of correction, whatever form it may take. In one case, a rebuke kindly given to a child may be sufficient to correct improper behavior. Another child may require a stronger reproof.
Close to Jehovah (2002) pp. 100-101
In the Bible, the word "discipline" can mean "upbringing, training, instruction." Children need discipline; they thrive under clear-cut guidelines, boundaries, and limits. The Bible associates such discipline, or instruction, with love. (Proverbs 13:24) Therefore, "the rod of discipline" should never be abusive-emotionally or physically. (Proverbs 22:15; 29:15) Discipline that is rigid or harsh with no sense of love is an abuse of parental authority and can crush a child's spirit.
Satisfying Life (2001) p.5
In addition: "The rod and reproof are what give wisdom; but a boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame." "The rod" refers to parental authority that must be applied lovingly to prevent children from going astray. Wielding such authority does not involve abusing the child in any way. The counsel to parents is: "Do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted."
Awake! 1997 Aug 8 p.10
"The rod and reproof are what give wisdom; but a boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame." (Proverbs 29:15) Some shy away from the word "rod," thinking that it implies some kind of child abuse. But it does not. The Hebrew word for "rod" referred to a staff, such as the one a shepherd used to guide-not assault-his sheep. So the rod stands for discipline.
Book for All (1997) p.24
But parental authority-"the rod of discipline"-should never be abusive. (Proverbs 22:15; 29:15) The Bible cautions parents: "Don't over-correct your children, or you will take all the heart out of them." (Colossians 3:21, Phillips) It also acknowledges that physical punishment is usually not the most effective teaching method. Proverbs 17:10 says: "A rebuke works deeper in one having understanding than striking a stupid one a hundred times." Besides, the Bible recommends preventive discipline. At Deuteronomy 11:19 parents are urged to take advantage of casual moments to instill moral values in their children.-See also Deuteronomy 6:6, 7.
Awake 1991 Sep 22 p.7
Michele agrees with Proverbs 13:24: "The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline." Use of the rod, representing authority, may involve a spanking, but many times it does not. Different children, different misbehaviors, call for different disciplining. A rebuke kindly given may suffice; stubbornness may require stronger medicine: "A rebuke works deeper in one having understanding than striking a stupid one a hundred times." (Proverbs 17:10) Also applicable: "A servant [or, a child] will not let himself be corrected by mere words, for he understands but he is paying no heed."-Proverbs 29:19.
Insight on the Scriptures - Volume 2 (1988) p.818
Parental authority. "Rod" is used also to symbolize the authority of parents over their children. The book of Proverbs makes many references to this authority, the term symbolizing all forms of discipline used, including the literal rod used for chastisement. The parent is actually responsible before God to exercise this rod, controlling the child. If the parent fails in this, he will bring ruination and death to his child and disgrace and God's disapproval to himself also. (Pr 10:1; 15:20; 17:25; 19:13) "Foolishness is tied up with the heart of a boy; the rod of discipline is what will remove it far from him." "Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol itself." (Pr 22:15; 23:13, 14) In fact, "the one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline."-Pr 13:24; 19:18; 29:15; 1Sa 2:27-36.
Watchtower 1987 Oct 1 pp.16-17
Imperfect people need discipline. They need it from childhood onward. God's Word says: "The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline." (Proverbs 13:24) Many child psychologists dispute this divine wisdom. Years ago one asked: "Do you mothers realize that every time you spank your child you show that you are hating your child?" Yet their permissiveness produced such a deluge of juvenile delinquents that a Brooklyn court judge made this caustic comment: "I think we need the woodshed for some young folks. But that is not considered fashionable now. Now we are told you must not strike a child; you may be stunting a genius." But their permissiveness produced no crop of geniuses-only a lawless wave of teenage criminals.
Now winds of change are in the air. Burton L. White, authority on child development, says that your strictness will not cause your child to "love you less than if you were lenient. ... Even if you spank them regularly, you will find they keep coming back to you." He stresses the child's primary need for overflowing "irrational love." Dr. Joyce Brothers reported on a study of hundreds of strictly disciplined fifth and sixth graders who believed that the strict rules "were an expression of parental love." The Journal of Lifetime Living said: "The child psychologists, wrangling over scheduled versus demand feeding, spanking versus non-spanking, have found that none of it makes much difference so long as the child is loved." Even Dr. Benjamin Spock, author of Baby and Child Care, took part of the blame for the lack of parental firmness and the resulting delinquency. He said blame rested on the experts, "the child psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers, social workers and pediatricians like myself."
The Rod of Discipline
"Rod" as used above does not necessarily mean spanking; it represents the means of correction, whatever form it may take. The New International Version says on this verse: "rod. Probably a figure of speech for discipline of any kind." A rod is a symbol of rule or authority-in this case parental authority. A parent gets no thanks later for his permissiveness and spoiling: "If one is pampering one's servant [or child] from youth on, in his later life he will even become a thankless one." (Proverbs 29:21) To abdicate parental authority by permissiveness brings shame and shows not love but indifference; to use the rod of discipline kindly but firmly reflects loving concern. "The rod and reproof are what give wisdom; but a boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame."-Proverbs 29:15.
Referring to Proverbs 13:24, the Keil-Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament explains: "A father who truly wishes well to his son keeps him betimes under strict discipline, to give him while he is yet capable of being influenced the right direction, and to allow no errors to root themselves in him; but he who is indulgent toward his child when he ought to be strict, acts as if he really wished his ruin." Moffatt's New Translation of the Bible at Proverbs 19:18 concurs: "Chastise your son, while there is still hope of him, and do not let him run to ruin." Kind but firm discipline from early childhood reflects parental love. Jesus said: "All those for whom I have affection I reprove and discipline." As for Jehovah, "whom Jehovah loves he disciplines."-Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:6.
Discipline may at times involve spanking, but often it does not.
Watchtower 1986 Nov 1 pp.22-23
Permissiveness breeds both juvenile insecurity and delinquency. "The rod and reproof are what give wisdom." (Proverbs 29:15; 22:15) To be effective "the rod and reproof" must be accompanied by love. Discipline applied unreasonably or in the heat of emotion can break a child's spirit. "You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted." (Colossians 3:21) The "rod" of discipline includes appropriate punishment, but if you make unreasonable demands, are overly critical, and humiliate the child, it is a misuse of this "rod" and may shatter a child's confidence both in himself and in you. He may "become downhearted."
But both "rod and reproof" are needed. Reproof requires more than chastisement; it involves the presentation of facts to convince another person. The Hebrew word for "reproof" is also rendered 'counterargument.'
Watchtower 1980 Feb 15 p.28
Of course, discipline must always be administered with self-control and not in a burst of anger. And it will not be necessary to use physical punishment at all times.
Watchtower 1979 May 1 p.30
The Bible is clear that discipline includes good teaching and example, but does it exclude spanking? No, for Proverbs 23:13 says: "Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod [or hand], he will not die."
Family Life (1978) p.131 Many child psychologists put a "hands off" sign on children, as did one who said: "Do you mothers realize that every time you spank your child you show that you are hating your child?" But in his Word, God says: "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him."
Family Life (1978) pp.143,144
Different children may need to be disciplined differently. The temperament and disposition of the individual child must be considered. One child may be very sensitive, and physical punishment, such as spanking, may not always be necessary. With another, spanking may be ineffective. Or a child may be like the servant described at Proverbs 29:19, one who "will not let himself be corrected by mere words, for he understands but he is paying no heed." In such a case the child would need corporal punishment.
With youngsters, temporary banishment from family companionship can be more effective than spanking. Extremes, however, such as locking a child out of the house, go beyond what love would dictate. Whatever the method used, children need to be shown that they must bear the consequences of their behavior. This teaches them responsibility.
Watchtower 1973 Sep 15 pp.556-557
Therefore disciplinary training may also include chastisement or punishment administered with the purpose of correcting the child. But should this form of discipline ever include spanking? Is there truth to the old adage: "Spare the rod and spoil the child"?
Worldly authorities on rearing children frequently say: 'No, the child should never be spanked. Avoid frustrating the child by using such strong measures to change his natural inclinations.' A New York Times editorial, April 5, 1972, said: "'Spare the rod and spoil the child' is a wrong-headed adage that continues to get approving nods from self-appointed upholders of 'the old virtues.' It is difficult to fathom why the administration of premeditated, painful punishment by a bigger and stronger person could instill anything other than the belief that force triumphs." But is this view correct? Is it a mistake to use physical punishment for the purpose of correcting a child's wrong course of conduct?
God is man's Creator. There is no higher authority. His Word is very clear on the matter. It says: "Do not hold back discipline from the mere boy. In case you beat him with the rod, he will not die. With the rod you yourself should beat him, that you may deliver his very soul from Sheol [the grave] itself." (Prov. 23:13, 14) The life of the child is at stake. If he is allowed to pursue a wrong course, it will lead to his own unhappiness and eventual death outside God's favor. Thus the Bible says: "The one holding back his rod is hating his son, but the one loving him is he that does look for him with discipline." (Prov. 13:24) It shows real love on the part of a parent to do whatever he can to correct his child, including spanking him. This is God's way. "For whom Jehovah loves," the scripture says, "he disciplines; in fact, he scourges [whips or lashes] every one whom he receives as a son."-Heb. 12:5, 6.
Why does God do this to his children? "For our profit," the apostle Paul said, "that we may partake of his holiness. True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness." (Heb. 12:7-11) Children, for their own benefit, need such discipline. It is part of the training that is 'according to the way for them.' (Prov. 22:6) The rejection by the world of such disciplinary training is largely responsible for the tremendous increase of juvenile delinquency and the resulting trouble and shame it has brought to parents.-Prov. 29:15.
Watchtower 1971 Sep 15 p.555 But parents that love their children should start without delay to train them in the theocratic way. (Prov. 22:6; 23:13, 14) Even as laws of instinct prompt mother bear to spank her erring cub, so God's law plainly stated in his Word requires human parents to discipline their young—not in anger or with irritating nagging, but reasonably and out of love.