You’ve instructed Johnny not to throw things at people. He chucks a toy at his sister anyway, hitting her in the face. Now you face the big dilemma.
To spank or not to spank, that is the question.
It’s a touchy topic. I can understand why parents who suffered physical abuse as children may not want to spank their kids. Bad memories. Triggers. I get it.
But is spanking inherently violent?
Webster’s dictionary defines abuse as “improper or excessive use or treatment.” So the improper or excessive use of corporal punishment is a form of child abuse. It does physical and emotional harm to the child.
Child abuse is always a bad thing — but a properly administered spanking is not abusive.
Three important distinctions between spanking and child abuse:
- Motive — The objective of proper spanking is not punishment, but character development. Spanking is motivated by love for the child. Its purpose is to set healthy boundaries and relieve the weight of real guilt, not to harm the child.
- Attitude — Spanking used properly is not driven by anger or vengeance. Mom and Dad aren’t being mean. They’re demonstrating love, respect, and firm patience.
- Result — Abuse causes fear, insecurity, and physical harm to the child. In contrast, spanking clears his conscience, offers the security of consistent boundaries, and keeps the parent/child relationship healthy by relieving built-up tension. Long term, it helps develop self-discipline so that the child can make wise decisions in the future. (Enforcing your “no” now helps your child to “just say no” later.)
Here are some ground rules that we used while raising our kids:
- First, make sure the rules were communicated and understood before the offense.
- Ask, “What did you do?” As your child verbalizes his offense, he learns the healthy art of confession.
- Reassure your child that you love her.
- Administer a few swats on his rear, without a diaper in place. This will sting and the skin may turn pink temporarily, but the pain will not last very long.
- Comfort her and reassure her again of your love. (The parent who did the spanking should also do the comforting.)
- Lead your child in a prayer asking God for forgiveness.
- Have her make restitution if necessary (such as replacing her brother’s toy that she broke in anger).
Some additional principles:
- Spank immediately after an offense, especially with very young children. This way they connect behavior and consequence.
- Do not humiliate your child by spanking him in front of others. Protect his dignity by spanking in private.
- Do not spank while angry. Take a deep breath. Pray. When you are calm and in control, administer discipline.
- Spanking is not generally necessary beyond age 5 or so. By then, the foundations of character training should be in place.
Can you see how this approach to spanking reaps healthy benefits? It builds a child up rather than tearing her down.
“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” — Proverbs 13:24
Perhaps you’ve been reluctant to spank. Maybe you’ve tried it, but weren’t consistent. Maybe you used it as a “last resort,” and ended up spanking in anger.
Maybe you just felt too tired to get off the couch yet again to deal with misbehavior. Perhaps you fear your children won’t like you if you spank them. Or someone might report you to CPS.
May I encourage you? Your child’s character is worth the effort. You carry a greater weight of influence on him or her than anyone else.
By the grace of God, you can do this discipline thing.