What’s a “good” spanking like? (To spank a child – or not? – Part 2

Many adults were never spanked and others were abused.  So I understand how it can be very difficult to know what a “good” spanking should be like.  I’m going to give you some quick guidelines we’ve learned that keep you from underdoing it (not really disciplining effectively) or overdoing it (abusing your child).  Here we go…

  1. Make sure love and concern are at the heart of your discipline – Motivation is everything.  Why are you spanking in the first place?  Is it because you are irritated or put-out personally?  Then hold off on the spanking until you get your attitude straight.  Are you spanking because you are upset at the sin of your child?  Then continue.  That’s a loving response.  You want to help them, guide them, enable them to move into the realm of self-control so that their urges and spontanteous desires don’t control them.  That’s behavior that honors God.  And that’s a good motive for physical discipline…
  2. Use a “rod” or something similar (in a normal, applied-to-the-rear-end situation)- We typically will use a “rod” (the handle of a wooden mixing spoon) when giving a spanking.  It’s not heavy enough to damage the child, but is firm enough to give a healthy sting.  We’ve found that when the rod comes out, the kids begin to realize the seriousness of their offense… and the seriousness of our concern to curb their attitude or behavior.  There are ocassions where the rod is not available and we have to improvise.  Your hand will do in a pinch…  In a situation where something needs to be done right away (a small child sticking something in the electrical outlet) don’t take time to go get the rod… swat them then and there.  For small children, a slap on the hand or swat on the fleshy, fat part of their thigh will get their attention quickly…
  3. Sooner rather than later – Don’t let too much time pass between the offense and the spanking, especially with smaller children.  Their memories are not all that good yet, so they need to be able to associate the spanking with something that has recently occurred.  Another aspect of this, with all children, is that the “shock value” of a swat or spanking that comes immediately after an offense will help to communicate the “no nonsense” attitude you have about what they’ve done.  They know you mean business – and there’s nothing ambiguous about it.  You won’t become one of those parents who counts to 3 or threatens or draws things out.
  4.  Make sure the offense is clearly understood – Depending on the age of the child you have to go about this in different ways.  With very small children – a firm “NO” when pointing to the electric outlet will do most of the time… and do this as you swat their hand, and afterward when you are comforting them.  With older children, you will need to talk about it to make sure they understand.  If they are disciplined but don’t know why, you’ve pushed them toward embitterment, not wisdom.  What I suggest is that you talk BRIEFLY about the offense to lay the groundwork, then have the spanking, then talk more extensively about it afterward as you comfort/hold the child.  Speak to the reality of the issue.  Things like, “You did a bad thing…” aren’t sufficient.  You need to say, “YOU hit your brother… that means YOU were not being loving to Him and God wants YOU to love YOUR brother (see how it’s personal?).”  Kids don’t always put 2 and 2 together, so we have to make sure they see the REALITY of what they actually did.  Their self-esteem will be able to handle it if you follow up properly… which leads to the next point…
  5. ALWAYS follow up with comfort and reassurance – Once the actual discipline is over take them immediately into your lap or hug them (depending on size of the child).  They need to know that this offense has not permanently divided them from you.  They need to know your love in a tangible way that they more easily recognize (even though the spanking is an act of love itself, they won’t immediately see it as such).  Hold them close like this as you talk about the issue.  Hold them close as you reassure them of your love and your confidence that with God’s help, they can change this kind of behavior.  Don’t downplay what they did – it is not “alright.”  They sinned.  But they are repenting and can move on with the help of God and you, their loving parent.  On another note: Often parents will say to me, “Spanking just doesn’t seem to work with my child…”  and when I probe a bit deeper, I find out that they are administering the spanking and then walking out of the room.  Your child will begin to question your love for him if you do this…. he’ll become angry and obstinant instead of teachable.  He’ll begin to see himself in opposition to you instead of the two of you being on the same side.  Take the time to stay and comfort/reassure your child.  You’ll see the effectiveness of the spanking increase. 
  6. Require effective apologies – if the offense was toward another person, have them apologize.  Don’t allow them to say, “I’m sorry…” with their eyes turned down and a timid voice.  Chances are that they really aren’t if that’s the case.  Have them look the other person in the eye and say SPECIFICALLY why they are sorry.  “I’m sorry that I hit you.”  Some feel that this is too humiliatiing, but it’s actually the completion of the process of repentance -making things right with those who were hurt. It’s also a healthy and appropriate dose of humility – teaching a lesson about admitting your own wrongs…
  7. Make sure it hurts – What use is physical punishment if the child has no reason to avoid it next time?  I’m not saying you beat your kids black and blue, but I am saying that it needs to smart enough to make them think a second time before committing that sin again.  Sometimes a mom with a heart-the-size-of-Texas feels so sorry for her kid and is so sad about having to spank him that she’ll just give him a little “love tap” instead of a real spanking.  I understand the sympathy – but what she probably doesn’t understand is that she’s taking it easy for HER SAKE, not his.  It’s actually doing damage to her child by teaching him that the consequences for his wrong actions aren’t so bad that he should avoid doing the wrong behavior next time.  This too can be the heart of the problem when people tell me, “I’ve tried spanking – it just doesn’t work on my kid…”
  8. A spanking should always be “controlled.”  – There is no excuse for a 200 pound man to be wailing away uncontrollably at a 65 pound kid!  That’s abuse, not a spanking.  You need to be in full control of yourself when you spank your child.  Let’s not be naive – you can be hopping mad at your kid for a very legitimate reason when it comes time to spank.  So how do you avoid going overboard?  Do you decide “I just won’t spank when I’m angry”?  I don’t think that’s healthy or right.  Your children need to see your anger at their sin (not at them personally) in order to get a full-blown picture of the wrong they have done.  God gets angry at sin (and He let people see it all throughout scripture), so why shouldn’t we?  Here’s what we do:  We set a limit for ourselves.  For us, a spanking consists of 3 firm swats (see the previous point) – never more, never less.  We hold each other accountable, we let our kids know it will ALWAYS be 3 swats, we hold ourselves to it strictly.  We understand that NONE of us is “above” beating our kid instead of spanking them… so we put up a safeguard to prevent us from doing so.

Please hear me again – there’s no sense in which I am advocating abuse.  Children have a right to be treated fairly and with justice.  A loving spanking is not abuse.  It is a motivator toward right attitudes and behavior that will serve the child for the rest of their life.

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55 thoughts on “What’s a “good” spanking like? (To spank a child – or not? – Part 2

  1. Pingback: To spank a child - Part 1 « the passionate follower’s journal

  2. Here’s a thought: how about NO spanking, period. The real challenge is to see if you can teach your child everything he/she needs to learn about life without resorting to corporal punishment. There are a lot of creative ways to do this, and they need not involve hitting or even punishment/rewards/manipulation. It is not easy, but it is definitely worth trying.

  3. Hey Mamma Bear – thanks for joining the conversation!

    My interest is not to do what SEEMS best to my (or your) puny human mind, but to do what GOD says is best, and He’s pretty clear on this one! Spanking is not the ONLY tool in the toolbox, but it’s one He speaks of quite openly and clearly! And I can tell you from personal experience (both being a parent and a child who received spankings), it’s not the evil thing that many people think. When administered correctly (see my posts) it is very effective and creates a child with a conscience of their own.

    I’d be willing to wager (though I’m not a betting man) that a child who is properly disciplined via spanking will be MUCH more considerate, self-controlled, and wise than one who is not – because his/her heart will have been trained by the use of spanking, as God intended.

    • Funny story- Berkley released a 10 year study in 10/2011 stating that children who experience corporal punishment are 10 times more likely to door poorly at school, be incarcerated and suffer from low self esteem and have trouble communicating and maintaining close relationships. You can justify it with whatever scripture you want but really I would be entirely curious to see how your children compare to Mama Bear’s 15 years from now. Maybe you should spend some time thinking about the long term affects of spanking on your children in comparision with the instant gratification of obedience out of fear.

      I would prefer for my children to obey me out of love not out of fear!!!

      Furthermore, I come from a childhood where a wooden spoon was used and have anger, resentment and a broken relationship with my “so christian” parents. My husband came from a childhood where he never experienced corporal punishment and has such an amazing close connection as an adult to both his parents.

      I would urge you to consider this before raising a hand to your children!!!

      • Hi MJM… thanks for the comment. The problem with such “studies” is that they are unable to differentiate between “types” of corporal punishment – meaning the manner in which the corporal punishment was applied (lovingly VS harshly). So, everyone gets thrown into the same category as those who use “corporal punishment” and the results are skewed as a result. My desire is not the abuse of any child. My desire is the wise application of the scriptures to everyday life, and what results is truly God-sized.

        Thanks again for your comment.

  4. Pingback: What is a “spankable” offense? (To spank a child - or not? - Part 3) « the passionate follower’s journal

  5. Once again, I agree. People like Mama Bear above, often say that the alternatives are not easy. I submit that, as the father of a sixteen-month-old boy after my own heart, the hardest thing I DO is spank him! It is MUCH easier to let it slide, or remove the remotes, phones, and other harmful implements.

    I don’t have time to try to reason with a baby about touching the stove.

    But I have seen how effective it is when properly done, and all my friends envy the fact that I don’t have to continually run after him begging him to stop doing something he shouldn’t be doing. I have seen how he doesn’t commit the same offenses over and over and over again. Now, my “NO” is usually sufficient to stop him.

  6. when my children mouth off they get slapped across the face.its item for item. when my 10 yr. old stold he got his hands whacked up with a stick. do you think i should start spanking them on the tush?

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