Question: "How should Christians discipline their children? What does the Bible say?"
Answer: Decades ago, the spanking of children was a commonly accepted practice. In recent years, though, spanking (and other forms of corporal punishment) have been replaced with “time-outs” and other punishments that do not involve physical discipline. Spanking of children has actually been deemed illegal in some countries. Many parents fear spanking a child and being reported to the government and having their children taken away. Do not misunderstand – we are by no means advocating child abuse. A child should never be disciplined physically to an extent that it causes physical damage to the child. According to the Bible, though, the appropriate and restrained physical discipline of children is a good thing, and contribute to the well-being and correct upbringing of the child.
Many Scriptures do in fact promote physical discipline. "Don't fail to correct your children. They won't die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death." There are also other verses that support physical correction (Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 20:30). The Bible strongly stresses the importance of discipline; it is something we must all have to be productive people and is much easier learned when we are younger. Children who aren't disciplined grow up rebellious, have no respect for authority, and as a result obviously won't be readily willing to obey and follow God. He uses discipline to correct us and lead us down the right path, and to encourage repentance for our actions (Psalm 94:12; Proverbs 1:7, 6:23, 12:1, 13:1, 15:5; Isaiah 38:16; Hebrews 12:9). These are just a few verses about the good of discipline.
Here is where the problem lies; a lot of times parents are either too passive or too aggressive when it comes to raising their children. The ones who don't believe in spanking sometimes lack the ability to correct and discipline properly, causing their children to grow up unruly and defiant. This hurts the children the most in the long run. "To discipline and reprimand a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child" (Proverbs 29:15). Then there are also some parents who can misconstrue the Bible's definition of discipline (or they may just be abusive people) and use it to justify the abuse and mistreatment of their children.
Discipline is used to correct and train people to go in the right way. "No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening - it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way" (Hebrews 12:11). God's discipline is loving, as should it be between parent and child. Spanking should never be used to cause lasting physical harm or pain, but a quick swat (on the bottom where there is the most padding) to teach the child that what he did was wrong is acceptable. Never should it be used to vent our anger and frustrations, or be uncontrolled.
"And now a word to you fathers. Don't make your children angry by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction approved by the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Raising a child in the “discipline and instruction approved by the Lord” includes restrained, corrective, and yes loving, physical discipline.