Sep 192014 10 Responses

Most Parents Who Spank, Shouldn’t

When I was in second grade, a classmate was sent to the office to retrieve the paddle. When he returned to class, he reported the principal did not have the paddle. The teacher never second-guessed his answer.

Later that afternoon, when school was nearly out, the teacher allowed us to go in pairs to retrieve our backpacks from the hallway. I never forget the look on my friend’s face when he found his backpack with a large paddle sticking out of it. Our other friend had retrieved the paddle, hidden it in a backpack, and returned to class. (See: Three Things to Do When Parenting Goes Wrong)

I don’t know how many swats my classmate received for his lie, but I assume it was many more than he wanted.

Now that I have my own children in grade school, I can’t imagine one of them coming home having received a paddling. I have no problem with teachers and school administrators disciplining my children, but I would not want corporal punishment to be an option.

My experience mimics the progression of society on the topic of spanking. It’s perception has changed from being an assumed form of punishment to now being greatly doubted as ever being appropriate. (See: One Thing Every Parent Must Understand)

I’m somewhere in between regarding the national debate of spanking.

I disagree with those who say spanking should never happen. They often fail to differentiate between good parents who are trying to discipline their children and bad parents who hit their kids at every chance. To compare the average parent with the worst of child abuse is dishonest and unhelpful.

I also disagree with those who believe spanking must be done, with many of this position holding the Biblical text as proof of its importance. There is no question that the Book of Proverbs tells of the importance of the rod when dealing with children. Yet I believe the wisdom writer is simply using what was the common form of discipline in his day to communicate the importance of discipline.

Parents are Biblically free to spank, but I do not think they are Biblically commanded to do so. The Biblical command is they must discipline their children. Whether or not they spank is up to them.

Yet there is one thing of which I’m certain when it comes to spanking—most parents who do spank shouldn’t.

They shouldn’t because they lack the ability to truly spank in a way that is to the benefit of the child. When they spank, they most often do so out of their own frustration and anger. (See: Obey Your Mother, Respect My Wife)

This inability to remove their own emotion, think rationally, communicate clearly, and spank with compassion should prevent most parents from using corporal punishment. Too many children are being hit in the name of discipline when it has very little to do with true discipline.

If a parent believes spanking can be effective, and they can execute the discipline in an appropriate way, I have no problem with them spanking. However, when a parent has difficulty controlling their anger, they should never risk misusing spanking because of their emotion.

For parents, discipline is not an option. We must discipline our children not only for their sake, but also for the good of society. Spanking is one possible tool in the discipline toolbox. It is a tool which many should not use, not because the tool is broken, but because we do not know how to properly use it. (See: Which Parent Are You)

10 Responses to Most Parents Who Spank, Shouldn’t
  1. Denise Stephens Reply

    Thank you so much for your wise words. I enjoy reading your posts and appreciate your candor and the fact that you don’t shy away from controversial topics.

    I would agree that spanking should be done only in an appropriate way, not in anger and frustration. I would like to add that every child is different. We have 3 children and each child reacted differently so we had to modify the discipline based on their personalities. Let me preface that we ALWAYS spanked them privately, explained to them the reason, and showed them our love and forgiveness afterward. Child one didn’t take it too seriously and in fact would try to diffuse it by saying something funny. Child two was relatively compliant and we didn’t have to spank him more than a couple of times and then he wouldn’t even go there. Child three had such a low pain threshold that just the thought of a spanking would make her absolutely terrified. She would arch her back and put her hands back behind her and scream before we even had a chance to give her a whack, which would then get me worked up. I quickly learned that spanking was bad for both of us in that situation and had to use other forms of discipline. There is no one right form of discipline for every child, nor for every parent.

  2. Allen Beachy Reply

    Well stated. I have spanked my children rarely, and less than my parents spanked me, but was always heartbroken when I was giving the spanking; and explained the reason and my regret to the child before and after the spanking. I never understood why my dad always said that it hurt him more than me when he gave me a spanking, until I had to spank my own children. It is important to never spank when one is angry, and helps to pray a bit before the spanking. There are simply times where it seemed to be the appropriate thing, and resulted in a settling of the child and their behavior, as they recognized the gravity of the situation and the clear line that had been drawn/crossed. As those lines and the importance of obedience are established early in childhood, I have found that spanking becomes less necessary, and other forms of punishment more effective and respected. From an imperfect parent.

  3. Phillip Reply

    If I may add a couple of thoughts…

    We spanked, while rarely, for ONLY specific offenses which we ajudged critical for the development of our children’s own self-discipline as they grew into adulthood and independence.

    Lying.
    Direct defiance.

    These were the categories for which a variety of discipline methods, including spanking. Both are so important for healthy relationships with: friends, family, co-workers, children, etc.

    Also… We ONLY spanked in a specific location of our home and with a very specific sequence.
    The offending/disobedient child had to be able to articulate what they did wrong to the degree that we knew they understood the error and the reason for the discipline.
    The parent had to then repeat those factors and restate the purpose of the discipline.
    Then we did the spanking itself.
    Then we restated our love for them and the goal of a great and self-disciplined life for them.

    This ritual was really important and brought communication to the surface, also requiring the adult to control emotion.

  4. Phillip Reply

    I also agree wholeheartedly with Kevin on this topic. Should’ve said that first.

  5. Teed Tabor Reply

    I see a problem with your argument. You say discipline is not an option. And that most people dont use spanking properly. Why do you suppose that other forms of discipline are better done improperly than spanking done improperly? Being spanked for the wrong reason is worse than being grounded for two weeks for the wrong reason? That doesnt follow. Both can be done in anger and anger does not invalidate discipline. I believe that other forms of discipline, like “grounding” are much overused.

    I DO agree that spanking can be done improperly. I do. I believe all and anythig can be done improperly. I do however think it much more merciful and effective, at certain ages, to discuss the issue with the child in love, spank the child, reaffirm the love between the child and parent, and let the child go on their way enjoying their day and be done with the issue rather than dragging the issue out in a prolonged grounding for a full day, days or even weeks as some parents do…..all to avoid spanking. My wife and I believe in spanking for safety issues and direct defiance……and allowing both the child and thei parent to move on with their day.

    Hey, thanks for your blog. Just kind of disagreeing with this one. I know youre not completely against corporal punishment, but unlike you, I think society is going in the wrong direction. Of course I dont advocate abuse. But I do remember back when I was in Jr High in the early 1980s when “paddling” was still done by the Vice Principal. I remember thinking even then, that the kids that got paddled “desrved” to get paddled. I mean, they really had to EARN it.

    Anyway thanks brother!

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