Most moms would probably say that spanking is saved for extreme offences so the parent can communicate their point with grave importance. Whether spanking is or isn’t effective isn’t what I’m here to debate, although I’m happy to hear your opinions on the matter. Oh, I love opinions. When opinions are said with great force they just seem so… true, don’t they? I’m also not here to debate whether spanking is abusive or not here. Although I’d love to hear your opinion on that too.
I’ve heard some interesting thoughts on spanking recently and wanted to put them down all together as some food for thought. Some consider spanking bending your child over with a paddle. Some consider a smack on the bum spanking. For the purposes of this article, you can interpret it however you like.
(1) Matters of safety. The wise man who gave us the Birth Order Book says that he believes spanking is effective to communicate matters of danger and safety. For example, if you tell your toddler not to go into the road and they do, this is grounds for spanking. In his view, because it is not used in other cases, it easily communicates the gravity of the offence they’ve just committed. Throwing food on the floor, not worthy of spanking. Trying to use the kitchen knives to play operation on their siblings, spanking worthy. I believe this has some wisdom. Young toddlers are yet incapable of reasoning or understanding the dynamics of why, in fact, going into the road is dangerous. According to Leman, spanking on this occasion would more or less convey “you may not understand, but trust me, I mean it.” (Quotations mine for emphasis). If you choose not to spank, the discipline response for such actions (whether childish or foolish) must be significantly and noticeably more severe than normal so they understand just how important it is.
(2) Wisdom is stronger than physical force. As in most areas of life, wisdom wins out. “But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it” (Luke 7:35). Most often if we use the brains God gave us, we can find a way to punish without paddling. If spanking – or any other punishment – is repeated numerous times with no result, then it is high time that we start thinking on alternatives. It’s simply ineffective because they don’t mind it or it isn’t severe enough that they regret their choices. Some kids will say “ahh, a paddling, that’ll hurt for about ten mississippis and then I’m done.” As a boy in Anne of Green Gables said, “If you get punished, that means you don’t have to repent.” That, my friends, is not the goal. It’s not better to simply punish, it’s better to train and discipline and mould a repentant heart.
(3) Does it communicate that violence is okay? I’m sure there are as many opinions to this as there are types of Jelly Bellys, but I don’t think that paddling condones violence. Here me out. Do you think the government has a right to imprison convicted criminals? Yes. Does that mean, then, that you think it’s okay to kidnap and hold another individual hostage? Of course not. Why? Because the government is in authority over the citizens of its country, and the citizens know it full well. If you choose to spank or smack a hand or paddle or put in time out or take away a privilege from your son, does that mean your son is allowed to do that same thing to his siblings? No. Why? Because YOU are the parent, not your son. He must not assume that because you do something that means he is allowed to do it. You have certain privileges based on your authority as a parent, and using those privileges is perfectly valid. You can drive, use power tools and drink alcohol. Does the fact that you exercise those prerogatives mean you are communicating to your 4-year-old that he can also do them? Hardly.
(4) Spare the rod and spoil the child. Various verses from the Bible speak about not sparing your children from the rod (Prov. 13:24, Prov. 22:15, Prov. 23:13-14, Prov. 29:15). However, rod in this case [the Hebrew word shebet] means a stick for walking, writing, punishing, fighting, ruling, and is frequently used in passages referring to shepherds who lead their flocks. Simply put, sparing the rod means withholding discipline from your child. Period. When the discipline requires the shepherd to smack the sheep’s left side with the rod to get it to move back with the flock to avoid the wolf, fine. When it means that the shepherd simply walks in front of the flock with his rod visible to the sheep as a signal to follow, okay. This scripture neither condones nor approves spanking, per se. It is instructing the parent to take the discipline and training of their children seriously, and not leave children to their own devices lest they destroy themselves. I think that, my friends, is something we can all agree on.
Fine, maybe we’re not any closer to an answer on the ins and outs of spanking, but perhaps we’ve opened up the topic a little bit. Were you spanked as a child and vowed never to spank your own children? Were you spanked as a child and think it was a good tool of correction you use with your own kids?