This week we’re tackling an incredibly sensitive and divisive subject: spanking as a form of discipline. Four women have agreed to share with us the reasons why they chose to spank their children, or why they opted not to. This series is not meant to convince anyone that spanking is either right or wrong, but rather to give us each the chance to hear from mothers who have chosen different from us. It also gives us the opportunity to thoughtfully reflect on (and possibly re-evaluate) how we’ve chosen to parent our own children. Find all installments from this series here.
I will be totally honest, I hesitated to write on the subject of spanking for obvious reasons.
In this cultural age, the idea of spanking has been tossed around and made to be something that I know it was never intended to be. When you use the term, often it creates an image of physical harm, neglect, and extreme discipline in someone else’s mind. It has been equated with abuse, which was never what it was supposed to be.
And while there have certainly been cases when people have taken spanking too far, I do believe that in many instances, it is a loving, and appropriate, form of discipline.
In raising my own children, I agonized a bit when they reached the age of them exercising their own will and my having to correct them. I knew that it was a fine line to walk of allowing them to grow and flourish and become the person that God intended them to be, while also guiding them and teaching them in the hopes that they would become adults who love and serve Him.
What I eventually realized is that as a mother, it is my job to model Christ-like love to my kids. And in doing so, I must deal out discipline to them that is loving, appropriate, and filled with grace. When I’ve thought about the consequences I have experienced at the hand of God, sometimes they have been painful. Pain, in the case of discipline, is often a very effective deterrent for disobedience.
Now hear me clearly, I am not advocating in any way, shape, or form for hurting your children for the sheer purpose of hurting them. I am not giving the okay to beat your kids. There is a massive difference between spanking done properly and abuse.
Instead, I am advocating for a form of discipline that allows the parent and child to have an understanding of each other, in the sense of boundaries and limits, in which when the child crosses a clearly set boundary, there is a consequence.
Spanking is not a discipline method for every sort of misbehavior. In my opinion, this is something reserved only for cases of direct disobedience. Spanking is also not an all-ages discipline. There reaches an age of a child when spanking becomes ineffective in comparison to other methods. I am a huge advocate for natural consequences being the first, most effective means of discipline, but there are cases when that isn’t appropriate.
For example, if my child has decided to start running off on me when we are in public places, particularly parking lots, the natural consequence would be to allow them to receive whatever injury would come from that behavior. Of course, we know this is extreme and not acceptable. Instead, my response would be to safely gather my child, and assuming that a clear warning was given before, to administer a spanking either in the enclosed car, or when we arrived home.
Now, when I say spanking, I am not meaning that all that’s involved is a swat on the bottom and move on. Instead, there is a whole process that I personally follow that I would recommend in order to properly discipline as well as grow the relationship of my children and I. Modeled partly on the list that Chip Ingram provides in his article, The Biblical Approach to Spanking, this is the basics of how we approach spanking in our home.
1) Warning is given.
I want to make sure that my children are warned ahead of time what is expected of them and how I will respond in a case of disobedience. For example, my two-year-old has been asked not to run in the kitchen because it is unsafe. On the first occurrence, I would say to him, preferably at eye-level so that I know he is hearing me, “Please do not run in the kitchen because it is not a safe place for running.” Then, let him continue on with his day.
2) Gauge your heart.
Children can make frustrating choices, particularly if they seem to repeat the same ones over and over again. I don’t know about you, but many times I have been frustrated out of my mind and have raised my voice or said things that I regret. This is NOT the appropriate time or tone for a spanking. The last thing that you want to do is spank out of anger. Your job is to lovingly dole out discipline, so if that means you need to take a moment to gather yourself, do it. Spanking out of anger only damages, it does not guide and teach.
3) Make it clear what they have done wrong.
I never want to punish my child and have them wondering why. This eliminates the effectiveness of the discipline completely. Continuing with the same example, I would excuse my child to their room and have them wait for me. I will give them a moment, and then meet them in their room and ask, “What did you do wrong?” Of course, a two-year-old will not be able to answer as well as a four or five-year-old can, so you could say something along the lines of, “Did you run in the kitchen after Mommy asked you not to?” This helps them make the connection between their behavior and the consequence.
4) Administer only enough of a spanking that it stings.
As Chip said in his article, a good gauge is to take whatever you are using to administer the spanking and flick your wrist. It should hurt, but not extensively.
5) Receive your child in love afterwards.
I always offer my child my lap immediately after a spanking. Generally, they come to me with a few tears and I hold them quietly for a time, allowing them to feel the emotions that come with receiving a discipline.
6) Talk it through.
Once they have calmed, ask them if they are ready to talk with you. In this moment, I generally reiterate what their choice was and how disobedience not only hurts my heart, but God’s heart. Depending on the age of my child, I will talk a little bit about how God says that we are to choose obedience, and that obeying brings blessings. Make sure that when you are talking, your child is receptive to you. If they are still resisting and not wanting to listen, give them some more time to process.
7) Pray and model forgiveness.
This is something that I struggled to implement because for a long time I didn’t know how to pray in these situations. However, I know that their sin is not only against me, but against God. Older children can be guided to pray and seek forgiveness from God, younger ones can listen as you pray. As you have them seek your forgiveness as well, be ready to forgive bountifully. Model to them how you want to be forgiven when you wrong someone else.
8) Pick up and move on.
Now is the time for a hug, a kiss, and to move on with your day. As soon as you leave that moment, no more talking about the issue, no more rehashing it with them. Of course, if the issue continues, you will need to stay consistent, but aside from that, it’s time to continue on and leave it in the past
All in all, I do believe that spanking, when done in love, can be a wonderful and helpful form of consequence in a child’s life. If you would like more information on discipline techniques, I would highly recommend the entire series on discipline written by Chip Ingram on Focus on the Family, as he makes a great effort to point each aspect of discipline back to God and the design for parenting.
What about you? How do you feel about spanking as a form of discipline?
Do you spank as a form of discipline in your family? Why or why not? Differing opinions are always welcome, but kindness and respect are expected when commenting.