What is Peaceful Parenting?
Peaceful parenting is raising children without violence. Peaceful parents never hit, spank, or yell at their children. Instead, we offer gentle guidance through empathy, personal boundaries, and communication.
One of the main ways to parent peacefully is through emotional regulation. How can we expect a child to have better control of his emotions than we do as parents? We prevent blow-ups before they happen by learning about ourselves and our personal triggers.
Peaceful parenting is not permissive parenting. We set limits with our children, but we do so without harming them, physically or emotionally.
I’m told that peaceful parenting isn’t in line with the Bible, but I disagree. The bible preaches temperance. “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5 NIV). To all includes your children.
Yes, the bible also says children should obey and honor their parents. Ephesians 6:1-3 says:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
But look at the next line:
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Children are expected to obey their parents, and parents are expected to facilitate obedience by being honorable, good, and gentle with their children.
“Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child”
But what about “Spare the rod, spoil the child”? The line “Spare the rod, spoil the child” isn’t actually in the Bible. It’s from a 17th-century satirical poem by Samuel Butler called “Hudibras.”
However, a similar line from Proverbs 13:24 reads:
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”
The Bible speaks in metaphors. The choice of the word “rod” is significant. A shepherd uses a rod to fight off predators. He doesn’t beat his sheep with his rod. Shepherds also use the rod to guide their sheep, steering them in the right direction or out of danger.
The second part of the verse expands the use of the rod, which is to discipline children. The definition of discipline is “to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control.”
Discipline doesn’t mean punishment, rather it is about teaching and instruction. I love that the definition also mentions self-control. The only way to teach self-control in our children is to model the behavior ourselves. This includes not blowing up in anger yelling or hitting a child.
Just a few lines above “Whoever spares the rod” in the same verse, it says “the unfaithful have an appetite for violence.” The entire passage is about tempering your behavior, practicing self-control, and being a good person.
Using the rod to discipline children doesn’t mean physical violence. It means showing careful guidance and personal self-control.
As Proverbs 16:32 reads: “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.”
The Shepherd and His Rod
Another reason the rod is chosen as the metaphor is because it relates to shepherds and sheep, which is a metaphor frequently used to describe God’s relationship to his people.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1)
God presides over his people just as parents preside over their children. To be a shepherd is a sacred duty.
“The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
As a Christian, and as the shepherd of your children, you have a responsibility to care for your child with your life and to bring them up in a way that honors God. One of the best ways to do that is to show emotional regulation and self-control. Communicating with your children rather than hurting them.
“‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!’ says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:1)
Gentle parenting is Biblical parenting.
“Remind the people […] to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” (Titus 3)
Some claim that spanking is somehow different from hitting, but this just isn’t true. If a child spanked another child, you would consider that hitting, correct?
The term spanking is a euphemism. It’s designed to distance itself from the concept of hitting, just like the term “pro-choice” is designed to distance itself from abortion.
One definition of integrity is to call things by their names. The truth is that spanking is hitting.
“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Proverbs 11:3)
Another problem with spanking is that it doesn’t work. Studies show that children resume misbehaving again within 10 minutes after being spanked.
“Although spanking may result in a reaction of shock by the child and cessation of the undesired behavior, repeated spanking may cause agitated, aggressive behavior in the child that may lead to physical altercation between parent and child.”
There is also research indicating that spanking can have long term negative effects on a child’s brain, lowering IQ and increasing the risk of mental disorders in adulthood.
Spanking almost always manifests in anger. A survey shows 85% of parents “expressed moderate to high anger, remorse, and agitation while punishing their children.”
It is rare for spanking to happen in a calm and deliberate manner. Parents are getting angry and lashing out at their children. This is directly opposed to biblical teaching:
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” (Romans 12:19 )
It comes down to self-control.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
What Would Jesus Do?
In the end, ask yourself, what would Jesus do? Would he hit a child? Of course not. Jesus approached children with tenderness and kindness.
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” (Matthew 19:14)
Peaceful parenting is biblical parenting. Being gentle with children is aligned with the teachings of Jesus. Please consider ceasing the use of corporal punishment.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)