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.
Read: Time In Vs. Time Out … and is Time Out Damaging Kids?
(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?
Interesting discussion. Somehow this always feels like a ‘taboo’ topic to me and I don’t want to use spanking for my daughter. But as a child, my mom used it in extreme situations where she wanted us to know that our behavior was completely unacceptable. She did it only till we were a certain age and it did not scar us for life or anything. I actually think it sort of worked for us, because we knew she was the boss and not us:
A Mother Far from Home says
Yeah, it’s a tough one. I think the “extreme” situation is key for many people. It does feel incredibly taboo, though doesn’t it?
Kelly Ford says
We spank for disobedience. Not for childishness, though, obviously. So we have to look to the heart of our child and their motives, but then, we should always be doing that anyways :-). Our spanking method is as follows until the age of 3:
give child a direction, if they say no or refuse, give warning that they must obey, if they still refuse we tell child that they must obey mommy and daddy, spank with a spank stick (paint stick) and give direction again. after the initial spanking, we move to time out for the remainder until they comply. If we are correcting an action, we tell them “no touch” (or whatever), then if they go back to said item, we spank their hand or leg with a paint stick. The spanking is NOT hard, but enough to get attention at these younger ages, particularly.
Around age 3 (when they are better able to comprehend they “why” and reason with us):
we give direction, if they refuse we give them a warning of what it means if they do not obey. If they still do not obey we send them to their room to think about their choice while they wait for us. We then go in and talk to them about Gods circle of blessing (from Shepherding a childs heart) and talk to them about why they are outside of Gods circle of blessing and how we love them so much that we want to help them to stay in that circle so they can receive all of Gods blessings and how God commanded us to correct them, just as He corrects us. We try to identify with them that we, too, struggle with making right choices all the time and that God corrects us, too. Then we tell them they are going to get one swat or two or whatever and administer it on their toosh or leg and then love them like crazy, tell them that we all get more chances to make better choices and that we hope they will make better choices next time. That we are proud of them adn they are a good boy/girl and that all good boy’s/girls make bad choices sometimes.Then we pray. Then we move on. OH, and if they disobeyed, we encourage them to ask for forgiveness of whoever they wronged (and talk about the difference in saying Sorry vs asking forgiveness). Yes, its a long process. And yes, its worth it to see our child understand that choices come with consequences, good and bad…. while the stakes are LOW and its only a spanking they have to live with ;-)
Um, but btw, my son (second child) who is not quite 2 is one of “those” strong willed kids which is why we do one spanking followed by time out until he complies. If we spanked every time he refused (after the 1st spanking) we’d spank 30 times a day sometimes. BOOO. Praying for God to temper his steadfastness for His glory!
A Mother Far from Home says
I think the heart of the child is where it’s at. Were they innocent, flagrant, insubordinate, childish or death defying! I wish there was a clear key to the heart of the toddler, like say, before they are able to tell you an explanation. Sometimes I have a hard time discerning, ha!
A Mother Far from Home says
For some reason I only saw the first few lines of your comment earlier. I think that seems like a good method that shows you mean business, but they are loved unconditionally and at the same time showing them why you are doing what you’re doing. It’s funny how each child is so different too! I think that one of mine will also be one of “those” who is very very strong willed. I think that a strong will, in itself, is actually a good thing but I believe it’ll keep us parents on our toes to do exactly as you said, to temper it for God’s glory :)