Why We Don't Want to Spank Anymore - Modern Alternative Mama
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Why We Don’t Want to Spank Anymore

admin July 2, 2011

I’ve written before about our family’s approach to discipline — a combination of gentle discipline and spanking — as well as our desire to walk a line between Biblical Child Training and Attachment Parenting.

But over the last several weeks things keep smacking me over the head and causing me to reevaluate this approach.  First, there was the post on Keeper of the Home where Sharon wrote about how her ‘legalistic’ approach to behavior produced well-behaved children…who were not professing Christians.  She shared her revelations as to how shepherding a child’s heart was really more important than a child’s outward behavior.

Then, there was an experience we had while out of town — facing family members who do believe in obedience.  Being confronted with it, we were turned off by it, finding it to be too simplistic and also unrealistic, especially for such young children.

And then there was our pastor’s message last weekend, which focused, for awhile, on why so many Christians homes raise “Pharisees” without meaning to — they’re too focused on teaching children to behave well and do good things, rather than to come into relationship with Christ.

And then there was another blog post from a Christian mother about how obedience isn’t her goal…good judgment was.

All of these were really along the same lines and challenged me to think about how I really want to raise my children and why.  It also struck me as ironic that I was reading or hearing these things, agreeing with them…and then, turning around (especially on bad days) and saying “Stop hitting people!” while I hit them.  I wonder how much of my son’s physical outbursts are really due to his personality (some…both my kids are really physical in a lot of ways, not just when angry) and how much was due to the way we treated him.

I don’t want them to grow up saying, “I wish you hadn’t hit me.  I didn’t learn anything and it hurt me, physically and emotionally.”  I don’t want them to grow up thinking I’m mean, or that I disciplined them in anger, or being afraid of me somehow.

This is requiring a total shift in my thinking.  My husband’s totally on board.  But I want to share this thought process with you, so you can see where I’m coming from (it’ll help me to write it out, too…and go back and read it on rough days) and maybe it can even speak to your parenting — I don’t know.

Why We Spanked

We were both raised in households where we were spanked, my husband much more so than I.  I was probably spanked 3 or 4 times, ever — my husband was spanked several up until he was older, I think almost a teen.  Neither of us had particularly negative associations with spanking.  We both thought we probably deserved it, at least most of the time.

And so, our perception was, that was how loving parents disciplined their children when they needed to, in order to raise obedient children.  This was before we had children or when our first was very young, when “obedience” seemed really important to us, and when it was the message we were getting from many of those around us.

Our Downfalls

However.  “Proper” spanking is supposed to be calmly, gently, lovingly.  It is supposed to be done out of a desire to correct a child, not out of anger.  It is supposed to be used sparingly, for serious offenses.

We are incredibly passionate people.  We are prone to strong moods.  We get frustrated, we get angry.  When we fight with each other (not very often), there may be harsh words and tears before we get anywhere, because ‘venting’ first is our style.

So when it comes to children, that passion is not so good.  We get frustrated that they don’t obey.  We lose sight of why they even need to obey, and if their behavior is really age-appropriate or not.  We get angry.  And sometimes, that leads to spanking.  In anger.  Which, let me tell you, never does a thing to change any behavior.

Our passion leads us to lose sight of the end goal.  Instead we focus only on what we want the child to do, and the fact that the child is not doing it.  It might be a power struggle.  The child might have a need we’re not meeting.  It might not be a fair request.  But when we have spanking as a tool, even if we manage to calm down (or remain calm) before administering it, we know we have something to fall back on.  But then if we’re angry and we start towards a child…they flinch.  (They don’t, normally, only if they’ve done something wrong and we look angry.)  This is not something we are proud of, at all.

But, we decided that in choosing to spank, we were not looking at what the end goal should be, what our children really needed and what was appropriate for them, and we were losing our ability to be patient and creative in handling them.  *We* can’t handle spanking them, at least not all the time.  (No, we did not always spank in anger and doing so was never our goal.)

Biblical Research

Some reading we’ve done suggests that perhaps spanking is not really Biblical.  “A rod” is mentioned once or twice, but there’s no section spelling out exactly how to discipline or punish a child.  “Train a child up in the way he will go” is mentioned, and I think that (while not necessarily specific) is more important than ‘the rod.’

Look at the examples provided in the Bible, too.  The prodigal son — he wasn’t punished for straying and disobeying; the father prayed for him and rejoiced in his return.  Look at the way Jesus treats children — always gently, even when they’re running in the streets and clamoring to get to him.  This, despite the disciples sometimes trying to discourage the children!  Jesus seems to accept them where they are.  He also uses parables to teach adults…and is never harsh with them, even when they have disappointed Him.

There is a Biblical model of gentleness, of being in relationship, of expressing disapproval and training a child carefully.  There is not a model of harsh punishments.  There is not a model of discipline and correction from someone who is removed or distant from the person being corrected.

 

Children Are Not Perfect

Somehow, we’ve been duped into believing our goal is to raise our children perfectly.  We think that if we can only start with them really young, be very consistent, and not make the same mistakes our parents did, we can train all those annoying traits right out of them.  And sure…there are certain traits (like laziness, or treating other people poorly) that we do want to train out of them.

But children aren’t perfect.  They’re always going to have those quirks that make them who they are.  Perhaps they’re spacy and tend to forget what they were doing…does that require punishment?  No…gentle reminders and help to focus.  Or perhaps they challenge authority and enjoy negotiating.  Is that something that really requires punishment?  No, I see a lot of positive in that…they won’t be easily swayed by peer pressure.  And as they get older, we can show them why, sometimes, they may need to obey authority.  Of course, we also show them maybe when they shouldn’t.  As for negotiating, I’d much rather face a child who can get straight to the heart of why I’ve said no and address that concern head-on and logically, than a child who simply throws a fit because I said no.  The former is a skill that could serve the child well later in life!

No matter how good a job we do, our children will end up with annoying traits and quirks.  It is just part of being an imperfect person.  We are not supposed to, or able to, train that out of them.  Once we accept that our childre just have certain quirks, and we are willing to let those go, deciding what’s really important becomes a lot easier.

Training is the Goal, Not Punishment

I’m not raising children I am raising people.  These people will spend a comparatively short time under my roof, and a long time as adults.  I’m not trying to have perfect children; I’m trying to raise functional adults.  So when I’m deciding what is important, I have to keep that end goal in mind.  Whether or not they obey me today just ‘because I said so’ is really not that important.  Whether or not they grow up to make good moral choices and love the Lord is very important.

With that in mind, training them to become good adults is my primary goal, and anything I am choosing as a tool to help us get there must meet that goal.  Arbitrary rules and punishments for not following them are not helpful.

I’ve chosen, instead, to focus on simple rules, like:

  • Don’t make unnecessary messes.  If you do, you must clean it up.
  • Treat your belongings gently and with respect.  If you don’t, they will be taken away.
  • Treat people gently and with respect.  If you don’t, you will need a moment to calm down and then to apologize.
  • Don’t take things that don’t belong to you.  If you do, you will have to return it and apologize.

There are others, those are just examples.  And there are sub-rules under there which, at their young ages, help them to understand ‘what it means’ to follow these.  For example, we don’t allow food outside the kitchen ‘because it will make a mess.’  We don’t rip the sheets off beds, or pull all the clothes out of drawers.  And yes, if they do any of these things…they do have to clean them up.  At first they said, “But I don’t want to clean up.  I just want to make messes.”  And we explained that if we make a mess, we have to clean it up…and so do they.  Now it’s becoming more a part of our routine to take time to clean up any messes we’ve made.

The ultimate goal of discipline or punishment is, frankly, to force your will onto others.  You have decided what the rules are, and you have decided what to mete out for not following your rules, whether arbitrary or not.  If the rule doesn’t have a reason…why is it a rule?

As I’ve adopted this thinking, I’ve actually spent a lot more time training my children.  When I see them break a rule (and I try to always give them the reason why it’s a rule), I have to get up and stop them and reinforce why we don’t do that.  I might have to do it 50 times.  “No, we don’t climb in the baby swing, you’re too big and you could get hurt.”  I have to be creative, patient, and involved in what’s going on.  I can’t just sit there and yell, “Get out of the swing!” then spank if the kid doesn’t listen.

I have to spend a lot of time being very deliberate.  When I see misbehavior I have to stop what I’m doing to address it instantly, even if what I’m doing is necessary, or more fun, or I don’t feel well….  I can’t ignore it or yell about it or punish it.  I have to solve whatever the problem is and help the child(ren) see the problem with the behavior.  I have to spend time separating them, encouraging them to use their words instead of hands or feet, and actually listen when the other is using words.   I have to be in constant, deep relationship with them to accomplish this so that they will listen, and trust me.

It’s exhausting sometimes, and nearly constant on some days.  And sometimes there’s “nothing” I can do, because the reason for the behavior is due to illness, being overtired, over-stimulated, hungry, etc.  The other day my son threw a massive fit about eating lunch because he was so overtired — so I had to hold him on my lap to keep him calm so he’d eat, then put him to bed (he would not go to bed without eating — we took him upstairs and he kept saying “door, help, eat”).

But when I listen, when I intervene gently, they seem to ‘get it.’  I’ve introduced the language “being under control” to them, and any discipline is usually related to helping them to get themselves under control.  “When you shove your brother in anger, you are not under control.  Come over here and sit down with me until you can calm down.  You need to use your words, not your hands.”

It is a struggle, but it is a process.  They will not learn overnight.  They will not remember the first time…or the tenth…or the hundredth.  But consistently and lovingly reminding them, and meeting their need (whether it’s to snuggle, separate from each other, sit with me for awhile, remove offending object, etc.) will teach them, in time, to control themselves.  I have to remember that when I am getting frustrated that they “just won’t listen.”  No…they won’t…they are kids!  They will forget.  Curiosity will get the best of them.

But as I continue to explain the rules, and enforce natural consequences, they will ‘get it.’  My daughter knows better than to touch knives now because she knows they could cut her and it’s not safe.  She will tell me this if she sees me putting them away or using them, and warn me to be careful too!  And isn’t that the goal?  That they fully understand and absorb the message, the underlying reason, and take it to heart?  That they believe in following the rule because they understand why they need to?  That they learn to absorb methods of judgment about good and bad, safe and unsafe, so that when they encounter new situations, they can make appropriate decisions about what it is best to do?

I always have to keep in mind my goal: training.  Not punishment.  Not even discipline.  Training.  If my reaction isn’t serving a training purpose, it isn’t appropriate.

Final Thoughts

It’s just been on my mind and heart lately to be much more intentional about what I do in my life.  I spend more time showing my children the garden, how to cook, and more.  My son follows me around says “See, see!” until I show him what I’m doing.  It’s ironic to me that it’s happening now, at the end of my pregnancy (35 weeks already!), when I’m already tired and preparing for monumental changes.  But it’s good, too, because I’ll be starting out as a different parent to #3.  I know a lot of stuff about the early months and years that I didn’t know before.

In life in general I must have clear goals in mind, and I must be intentional towards reaching those goals.  I will fail, I will have bad days, I will say and do things I shouldn’t in anger.  That’s why I need God’s grace.  But my goal is to be intentional.  I believe that always keeping this in mind will help me to be a more patient and creative mother, and to stay on top of the things I know I should do!

Have you ever thought heavily about discipline or training?

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42 Comments

  1. awesome post. this has pretty much been our philosophy. this process is not always easy or convenient, but the results are worth it! i have 4 teens now, and they are good kids. i'm proud of them. before we began having children, i decided my job was to prepare my children for adulthood and to help them learn to make good choices. that decision impacted my style of discipline. it's a lot different than teaching them to be obedient and compliant. my oldest is graduating from high school next year. i have a feeling he'll be ok. =) God bless you and your family. take care, and thanks so much for sharing this! i have shared it with my twitter and facebook friends.

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  2. Thank you for this honest post. I am absolutely against spanking. But, I do not condemn parents who spank. I want to support parents to be the best parents they can be (that's what we all strive for, after all) I also believe that eliminating spanking comes from within the parent-the shift that you describe. If we, as parents, can support and listen without judgment to one another, sharing our experiences and evidence-based research, that is what will help others feel safe to shift their boundaries at their own pace.

    We all make mistakes and fall back on our old patterns. Having a supportive environment to make those mistakes, knowing you're accepted no matter what, will help us all on our path toward raising our children to be the people we hope for them.

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  3. My only response is 'Amen – let it be so.' I am really against hitting children and really for loving them. This is beautifully written.

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  4. I have been thinking about this lately, too, and something has repeated itself through my head. When looking at parenting from a Christian perspective, we often focus on the fact that children are conceived and born in sin, and because children are sinful, they must be punished. This perspective fails to consider sin in context, though. First of all, we must remember that it is not just children who sin. Parents are also sinful. Secondly, no amount of punishment will ever take the sin out of your child, or out of anyone. The Christian belief is that people do good when they are walking with the Lord and filled with the Spirit. Good comes from thankfulness, and is worked in us by God, a possibility that came about through mercy and grace, not repeated punishment. Train up your child in the way he should go must therefore first and foremost mean, train your child to walk with the Lord. Christ provided a living example of how to lead people to God. And He never spanked.

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  5. I'm so encouraged reading this, as I am on this path as well. I was getting "hits" too about this whole discipline thing- and was firmly cemented after reading "Thy Rod and Thy Staff" by Samuel Martin. Also, this compelling blog blew me away: http://dulcefamily.blogspot.com/2011/04/sons-of-adam-daughters-of-eve.html
    God is speaking to so many hearts across the world about this subject, and to know that I'm not the only one swimming up current is heartening!

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  6. Great article! It's so hard to have the patience to train children and not just react to what they're doing. I'm working on that.

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  7. I love this post! Thank you for taking the time to describe your thought process and how you came to your conclusions. I love the way God is leading you – and it's very similar to my own process as well. Once we decided to stop spanking, it is like you say – so much harder, so much more work, but so good and it feels right. I can go to bed at night without regrets and feeling good about my interactions with my children. I'm so happy that my post helped in some small way, that's very encouraging, and I think it is important for us to keep posting about things like this. Many blessings to you and your beautiful family,
    xo,
    Leslie

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  8. Another good thing to do is to tell children what you want them to do rather than what you dont want them to do. If they are doing something you dont like, tell them what you want them to do instead, rather than saying dont do that….I do use spanking occasionally. Mostly if something my daughter is trying to do is dangerous and she is not listening to me, I will give her a small smack on the hand. Usually I try to take into account what her needs are first that could be causing the behaviour and try to address those. Otherwise she gets a consequence that is appropriate to the behaviour (eg if you wont listen to mum when walking then you have to go in the pram). If she has a persistent behaviour that is not acceptable I use time out. Otherwise like you I try to keep the rules simple and minimal. I also find that what food you feed your kids does make a huge difference to behaviour, and also that all kids are different and that what works for one kid wont necessarily work for the next.

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  9. The only time I feel a quick swat is justified (either on the hand or on the bottom), is for a very young child who is doing something dangerous–just to get their attention. Maybe they like to run out in to the street without looking, or try to stick things in electrical sockets, and they are too young to understand a talk about why that's dangerous. A quick swat and a firm "No!" seem to get their attention well.

    Other than that, I try to never, ever spank my kids. I love what you said about not having a rule if there's no reason for it. All the time I see parents telling their kids no and I'm just left thinking, "Why???" I also hate it when we're at the park and parents are sitting on a bench screaming at their kids from across the park to stop doing something. I always try to get up and go speak with my child calmly and softly if there's a problem. (Not saying I'm a perfect parent by any means, but I just try not to yell at them if I don't have to!)

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  10. I have a 5 and 2 year old and it is like fireworks around here sometimes. Just a hard time of life in many ways for them and me too. I have found a lot of good advise on positive parenting techniques at this website:
    http://gratitudeandgaiety.blogspot.com/2011/06/positive-parenting-is-not-permissive.html

    She often uses really helpful examples which is great.

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  11. I really appreciate this post – I went through a lot of the same thought process when I became a mother. My husband and I were also both disciplined physically growing up, and I always thought I would too, but after I had a baby I cannot imagine hitting my daughter. You're right, it doesn't make sense to hit a child while telling them they should not hit. I view my daughter misbehaving as a teaching opportunity. I would rather her learn how to deal with her emotions than to be silent out of fear.

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  12. I found your post from pinterest and really really loved it. I plan on printing it out and rereading it for myself. It's so hard in this day and age to find a balance. I've been trying to find a good christian book without spanking in it and I am just striking out–there's nothing out there!!

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  13. I disagree with the idea that Jesus was never forceful, always gentle, never harsh, always sweet. Most people conveniently forget the story of the money-changers in the temple. When Jesus found cheats and thieves working inside the temple, he over-turned the tables, he threw money in their faces, and he got a whip and WHIPPED them. It was a situation where they needed a harsh, extreme reaction because it was an extreme situation. This, in itself, is not a commentary on spanking or child discipline, but merely a refutation of the idea of a meek and mild, quiet Jesus-figure.
    Jesus was also quite harsh with his words from time to time. Not overly harsh, but what was appropriate to the situation. He called the Pharisees wolves, and white-washed tombs, called them hypocrites. He was very bold in his words, and never held back in saying the truth in ways that the listeners needed to hear it.

    Sometimes bold, brutal honesty is necessary, and sometimes extreme care is necessary. Jesus used what the situation called for. Using his meek and mild manner as an example is moot, because he wasn't always placid.

    As for raising children, I agree with the idea that spanking should never, ever be done out of anger. Spanking should always be immediately followed by a hug to show that the child has been forgiven and it's all over.

    The Bible, as we all know, says " Spare the rod, spoil the child". Other verses in Proverbs liken raising a child to shepherding a sheep. Most people don't realize that if you try to use a shepherd's crook to gently push a sheep to guide it where you want to go, it will push past your crook. It will decide where it wants to go while completely ignoring the crook's gentle push. Shepherd's use their crook to give sheep a firm whack when they get out of line. Only then do the sheep follow direction. Our post-agrarian society is unaware of this principle.

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    • Laura, while Jesus did have a whip in hand, the text doesn’t say he actually whipped anyone. He drove them out. In a broader sense he turned the place upside down which is what he came to do. Anyway, if he did actually whip them he would be a hypocrite for its pretty clear Jesus was all for some non-violence. Turn the other cheek doesn’t preach so well when you just whipped the hell out of some thieves.

      Also, not sure why you or anyone else would would want to take too much parenting advise from someone who rejoiced in bashing their enemies babies heads into rocks.(psalm 137:9) The bible also says to stone disobedient children but I think we have progressed as a society.

      You can’t justify any kind of violence whatsoever through Jesus. Not even spanking.

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    • I have heard many people bring up Jesus and the money-changers when discussing discipline. Before I found positive parenting and gentle discipline, I remember even using this argument myself. But the fact of the matter is, the money-changers and the Pharisees were not His children in the sense of believers being children of God. You never, ever see Jesus being harsh or forceful to a changed heart follower of His – a child of God. You only see him react that way to those who were calling legalism godliness or are trying to use God for their own purposes.

      For God’s children, Jesus spoke the truth to them about sin (example: the woman at the well), but always gave them grace. Are there often natural consequences to a believer’s sin? Of course. But Jesus does not “spank” us or give harsh discipline when we sin. Our sins are atoned for, we are redeemed, we are as Jesus in the eyes of God, and we receive nothing from Him but grace. I hope to parent in the same way by His grace.

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    • You should open up the Bible again. The verse “Spare the rod spoil the child” doesn’t actually exist. A good concordance is very helpful 😉

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  14. I absolutely needed to read this. Thank you.

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  15. Be extremely careful that you are not making Jesus out to be what you would like Him to be. I wholeheartedly agree with Laura's assessment and her mention of Jesus whipping the money changers. I think sometimes when the Bible doesn't agree with our culture we figure the Bible must not be saying what we thought it said. Please please don't let the world influence the way you live your life! Be Biblical without apology and guard against allowing the devil to make you doubt God's Word. If we claim to be Christians, it is our duty to live like one and follow the Book that we say defines our lives.

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  16. Beth, I am a Christian, and I interpret the Bible to mean that we discipline, not that we necessarily spank. I don't think the author is at all doubting God's word, but rather she is questioning man's interpretation of certain Scriptures. I would caution all to think for themselves and not just blindly accept others' interpretations and biases. There is a lot I could say about culture and the evolution of religion because I am a religious studies student. Here's what I will say: Just because someone interprets a Scripture differently than you doesn't mean they are doubting God's Word or living contrary to His teachings or making God into their own image. I always tell people that questioning your faith or the Scriptures doesn't mean that you're turning your back on it; it means you're taking it seriously. Back to the topic at hand. God disciplined people using different methods throughout history. Spanking isn't more righteous than any other form. Sometimes he used mercy. Sometimes he used timeouts. He disciplines those he loves. The Bible didn't say he spanks those he loves.

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  17. I was merely cautioning against the dangers there, not accusing her of doing anything, Hope. I don't think anyone SHOULD spank all the time, but I find it very hard to believe that all the numerous passages in Proverbs could mean anything but spanking as a God blessed form of discipline. If there is another interpretation to these passages, I would love to hear them. I agree that Jesus dealt with people in different ways at different times. Absolutely true. And I believe we should learn from that example without a doubt. However, to throw out spanking all together is, in my opinion, not following the whole counsel of God.
    I love the positive, loving approach mentioned in the blog. Too often parents discipline out of anger or frustration and end up being extremely negative. So I think in a sense, Hope, we agree. Culture has changed religion. I appreciate your input.

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  18. It’s wonderful what you’re learning and applying to the training of your kids: recognizing your own tendencies and need for the Lord’s grace, the need to instruct and listen to your kids, to respond to them in gentleness, to seek their salvation rather than just good behavior. These things are all biblical. But please don’t think that some parts of the Bible rule out other parts. The rod/spanking isn’t a contradiction to those things. Your experience of it (you admitted to struggling to apply it without anger) may not have been biblical. But that does not mean that IT is not biblical. And I also agree with the comments that Jesus was gentle when needed and harsh when needed. And this is why we need to seek Him in every situation for how to respond to our kids–because only He is so wise.

    I beg you to reconsider your statement that the rod/spanking isn’t biblical. It is not at odds with the goals you have for your kids. It is a God-given tool to help you get there. It is a tool that perhaps you may want to take a break from if you feel you haven’t handled it well. That may be very very wise for you, and be a blessing to your whole family. But I hope you won’t throw it out altogether…or lead others to do so.

    Grace and peace!

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  19. Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. – Proverbs 23:13-14

    This sounds like spanking to me, I don’t know about you. A good book to read is To Train Up A Child by Michael&Debi Pearl. While I know this isn’t the most popular book on the market, I do believe it’s because people are afraid to read it and implement it and see it actually WORK. My 15 month is the happiest, most well behaved child I’ve ever met, and people are constantly amazed with him. It has taken a few months to get there, after I realized I wasn’t spanking appropriately (even though I thought I was doing it according with the Bible; I needed the wisdom of more experienced&prayful parents). If you are having spiritual confliction with “spanking”, pray for God to show you how to do it correctly. If you do it correctly, spanking is an extremely rare occasion. And you never feel like pulling your hair out. I know so many children from homeschooling families that spank correctly and their children are as close to perfect as it gets. (I realize that no one is perfect, btw, but if you’ve never met WELL behaved children you have no clue. 8 children that can sit through church without single shush is a lovely sight lol.) Pray for patience and make sure your relationship (no matter how young!) is where it should be because without those 2 keys discipline is very hard indeed!

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  20. The Bible says “spare the rod and spoil the chid” it also tells us that if need be we should “spank” our child “within and inch of his life” if need be.
    So, as Christian mothers, where do you draw the line betwen Bible and trying new things.
    I spank only in dire situations, so for instance the safety of my child or another child, and often find that simply redirecting and such works fine. However, I often wonder about this… any thoughts?

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  21. I caution you to be careful on this new quest of yours. It seems to me that you may have started on a slippery slop of regarding an outside philosophy on parenting as better or higher than the bible. Spanking less or trying an alternative form to discipline isnt a bad thing but omitting spanking all together does not seem biblical to me.
    Also as a clarification the bible does not say spare the rod, spoil the child. It says, (KJV) Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

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    • Rachel, my ultimate goal is to teach my children to know and love the Lord. I don’t look at the Bible necessarily as a literal set of rules on how I must do each and every little things. Those “laws” of the Old Testament don’t bind me. Jesus washed away the old laws and standards that we once had to follow. The vast majority of spanking-related verses are found in Proverbs — an OT book. I believe that God calls for us to discipline our children lovingly, and to train them up to know Jesus, to understand why they need Jesus, and to help them come into relationship with Him. If I do that — regardless of whether or not I spank — then I have done my job as a parent. The exact method on “how” it happens does not matter. I follow the way that God seems to be leading me, and in the past several months, He’s constantly hitting me over the head to be more gentle and understanding with my children. I’ll follow where He seems to lead me. 🙂

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      • Just wanted to point out that the verses in Proverbs are not “OT LAWS” that were washed away when Jesus took our punishment for us. They are words of wisdom that still apply today as God’s Word is still the same yesterday, today, and forever.

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  22. Thank you so much for this! We have never spanked our children and there have been times when I’ve wondered if this was the right path to take. Everyone around me seems to think spanking is ok but I’ve never once felt ok with the idea. My girls are 4 and 2 1/2 and, while they’re certainly not perfect, they’re well behaved girls (most of the time). I get complimented a lot while we’re out, grocery store etc., on how well behaved they are.
    It’s nice to hear from someone who chose to spank and then decided that wasn’t the right thing for them to do. We don’t just let our children run wild without boundaries. We set boundaries and when those boundaries are crossed there are consequences….time out, taking something away, not being able to participate, etc. I also feel like positive attention goes a long way! Our children seem more happy to listen to us if they’re emotional needs are being met. They’re less likely to seek out negative attention by misbehaving.
    I also agree with your stance on the old testament. I agree that there is a lot we can learn from the old testament but that we are no longer “bound” by it. Because of Jesus Christ we have a way of communicating directly with God and it becomes way more personal. If we feel like God is laying it on our hearts to not spank our children than I think this overrides what the bible says in the old testament. Anyways, this is just my thought on it. Anyways, thanks again for this post and reminding me that I need to focus on the end goal!

    Reply

  23. I appreciate a lot of what you have to say here, even though my and my husband’s approach to discipline over the years is the opposite of your journey. We were both determined never to spank our children — he was spanked perhaps only once as a child, I was multiple times. We felt our experience on the receiving end of it was totally unprofitable, and although we didn’t talk about it much until we were expecting our first child, both felt we would never, NEVER spank our children.

    But shortly before our first child was born, we saw what Biblical discipline could really look like — and it certainly wasn’t what we had experienced when we had been spanked. There is a crucial distinction between spanking out of a sincere desire to correct the child, for his benefit, and spanking out of anger. We had only ever known — personally and seeing other people in public with their kids — corporal punishment out of anger.

    But then we saw some new friends and their children, and were amazed at the love, and the efficacy. More recently we’ve met more people who were raised in homes that sincerely followed a godly approach to discipline — including spanking — and they all feel that they benefited from it, spiritually.

    Part of the problem with the public perception and the usual practice of spanking is —
    1. It should NEVER be out of anger. Even the Pearls emphatically state that no matter how much the child needs discipline, you must never spank if you will do it out of anger.
    2. It should be age appropriate. Many spanking advocates come under fire for the ages at which they encourage beginning spanking and physical training — out of our own experience, I can vouch for the fact that a four month old simply cannot make the connection between touching a forbidden object and the sting of the rod that follows. Older children can — sometime before a year old has been our experience — and can quickly learn.
    3. It should not be thought that the absence of spanking is gentle parenting. A close friend once contrasted her practice of spanking her daughters with her sister’s practice of “the look” — you know, “Oh, when they just see that LOOK they know they’re in trouble and they quit.” Just as spanking should be done without anger, it’s not okay to manipulate your kids emotionally, or show them how angry you are with your face to keep them in line.
    4. It should be situation appropriate. In our family, we use spanking mostly for misbehavior that the child was fully aware was wrong. In initial instruction, we use verbal cues (if the child is old enough), physical “helps” (one of our daughters is sensitive enough that touching her hand and saying “no” is often enough), and then switches (a flick with a finger or small object on the hand — a quick, brief sting is the goal).

    Horse training has been pretty elucidating to me in child training as well. Children are not horses, and vice versa, but many of the principles are the same with very young children — the correction must be immediate, or it is meaningless. Nagging is more abusive than a quick correction that is strong enough to get the job done. You WANT to ask politely, but MUST be prepared to be firm if that doesn’t work. Know the difference between deliberate disobedience and confusion.

    Reply

    • Heather, thanks for your thoughts. I agree that people don’t understand what a spanking “should” look like, and therein likes a lot of confusion. I also agree that the absence of spanking is not necessarily positive parenting — positive parenting is a whole different perspective and “way” of running your home. Plenty of people don’t spank but use time outs, “looks,” (as you point out) and a number of other very punitive measures. I think that positive parenting confuses a lot of people, honestly, because they do see it as an absence of discipline, which is not the case.

      It’s funny how different kids are. One of mine, you could be physically restraining and, if the situation were serious, SCREAMING “no” and the kid would not even care. Another, a tiny tap or a very stern look and the kid bawls like their life is over. That’s why we can’t say that one discipline method works for everyone! 🙂

      Reply

  24. A friend just sent me the link to your blog and I have enjoyed it for about the last hour now!

    Just wanted to encourage you and thank you for your openness and honesty here!
    I feel encouraged by reading and its been great to be reminded of why we do what we do!

    Looking forward to more reading when time allows!

    Reply

  25. Emily, maybe you DS wouldn’t have outgrown that behavior if you hadn’t disciplined him at that young age. I have seen big kids who behave like you’d expect a two year old to behave. Sometimes you have to be harder on smaller kids (whatever harder may be in your opinion) to get their attention so you can teach them. When they are that small, they don’t always understand words and reasoning. I’ve noticed that with my kids, as they get older I don’t have to spank as much. By 5 years old, I’m pretty much home free. I can explain what they did wrong and make them understand consequences. But one rule I have always stood by is if I can’t find some small part of my brain that can find humor in whatever it is they did, I won’t touch them. I never, ever touch my kids out of anger, and I try not to speak out of anger. And being the imperfect person that I am :), when I do speak out of anger to them, I apologize. Like alot of the previous posters have said, discipline should be done out of love.
    So, I say all that to say, no regrets, Ms. Emily. You’ve done an awesome job! I”m sure your son is an amazing little boy! 🙂

    Reply

  26. While you have right to your own opinion and each person has to do what is right with their family, it is always best to not rely on our own reasoning and rely on God. He gave us the principles in which to train children. When we rely on our own human reasoning we error. God loves our children more than we do…he created them. He knows what is best, and if He thought it was best for us not to spank them he would have said that in His word, but it says just the opposite. The problem with children is not spanking it is doing it out of anger. The Lord says not to provoke your children to wrath. How do you do that? You win their heart. When you discipline them their heart is broken because they have disappointed you. A child that is properly trained loves their parents and disciplining them draws them to the mother and father not away.

    Reply

    • You still train them and discipline them…you just don’t hit them. God’s word never says “hit your children.” If my children grow up to know and love the Lord then I have done my job.

      Reply

  27. “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

    I’ve yet to hear a child say a spanking was comforting. Spare the rod, spoil (ruin) the child indeed. We could all stand a bit more comfort when handling our children.

    This is pure gold. Much needed, personally. And so well articulated. I want to print this out so my hubby can read it too. We are really struggling with our discipline methods (too much yelling, not enough training!!!). Thank you!

    Reply

  28. I’ve been thinking similar thoughts to you lately. I think it’s time to talk this over with Hubby and make some decisions around here. Thank you for writing this thought provoking post.

    Reply

  29. “Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol.” – Proverbs 23:13-14

    As others have said, this sounds a lot like spanking to me. Also, this is not OT Law…this is wisdom! Additionally, the Lord DOES discipline His children:

    “My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” – Proverbs 3:11:12, Hebrews 12:6

    From my own experience, I can say that I am so thankful that my loving parents heeded Biblical instruction and spanked me as a child. I was pretty rebellious and the Lord definitely used their physical discipline to straighten me out. The key is to do it the right way:

    (1) My parents never did it out of anger. In fact, they would make us sit in their room for several minutes before getting spanked. We used to think it was for us to suffer, but it was mostly for my parents to ensure their hearts were in the right place and so we could think about what we had done wrong.

    (2) My parents would always hug us afterwards to affirm their love for us and to ensure we were “broken” and repentent. If we resisted their hug, then it showed them that more discipline was necessary, because we were not sorry about what we had done wrong.

    I have one brother and one sister, and all of us turned out quite well (I’d say). My parents’ friends frequently made comments about how well-behaved we were. Just my two cents!

    Reply

  30. Jesus came to fufill the law not to take it away…not one jot or tittle. In fact Jesus kept all of the law perfectly..Jesus said if you love me you will keep my commandments. I am saying this in regards to all the comments on the old testament laws not being binding. Certain areas have been fufilled and were a shadow of what was to come. God never changes..his laws are his standards for rightousness that we have strength now to obey through the Spirit within us! If there is no longer any standard of right and wrong and we do not need to obey any law we are making laws for ourselves and our deceived. sin is lawlessness. we must be followers of our Lord and love him by whole heartedly keeping his commandments and that they are not burdensome to us!!
    jessica

    Reply

  31. […] have family who doesn’t like that we choose not to spank our children.  Several used to be upset about us placing limits on junk food.  We aren’t rude about it, […]

    Reply

  32. […] was pregnant with my third baby.  That was in the spring of 2011.  I wrote a bunch of posts about why we don’t want to spank anymore, moving towards positive discipline, and 9 examples of positive […]

    Reply

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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