I am the mother of eight children and am regularly complimented on the behavior of my kids. Recently, I’ve thought a lot about this issue of spanking and how some people (the media, in particular) completely skew what it means to “train up a child.”
“Mom, do you want me to take the baby?” “Dad, I made your coffee.” “Mom, I’ll get the younger kids’ lunch.” “Dad, we cleaned your car.” “Mom, I made you some lemonade.”
All the above quotes are things I hear every day. My children are obedient. Yes, my children are spanked when needed. And no, my children are NOT abused. Rather, because they are lovingly corrected, they love to serve their father and me. It is a real blessing to us, and others always notice. I will never understand what makes a person harm or abuse a child. It is a sad reality that has been around for centuries. It is my opinion that when a parent doesn’t spank his child for wrong behavior or attitudes, he is loving himself more than his child. I don’t like spanking my kids. I’d much prefer to play, smile, and have fun, but I’ve found when I allow a bad attitude, ugliness toward a sibling, or disobedience of any kind to continue, the behavior only gets worse. A spanking administered correctly brings relief to a child. I never cease to marvel at this reality. Nevertheless, I am tempted, as any parent, I’m sure, to skip the spanking in hopes that a verbal rebuke will suffice. While sometimes this might be enough (or an alternative such as loss of privileges), often it is not.
I’ll show you what I mean. I have several boys, and occasionally an older brother entertains himself at a younger sibling’s expense. I call that bullying. I find myself saying, “Stop that. You know better.” or “You wouldn’t want someone to do that to you.” Recently, one of my boys was having a particularly good time teasing his younger brothers. I remember thinking, even saying, “I need to spank him soon.” Instead, I said, “Be nice” or something similar. After several days of this, I finally did what I knew I should have done sooner, all the while shaking my head at my unwillingness to inconvenience myself. Spanking is not fun for me. But that spanking instantly resulted in sweet relief for all concerned. My bully son was suddenly thoughtful, playing with his younger brothers instead of mistreating them. He was helpful to me, serving me and his siblings. It was as if his guilty conscience was saying, “Thank you for finally spanking me. I feel better now.” On his own, he just couldn’t stop being mean to his little brothers, and it left him unhappy with himself.
The spanking gave him the extra motivation he needed to act as he knew he ought, and it resulted in him liking himself better. This same scenario plays out over and over in my home, and it always makes me smile. They get off track and I lovingly guide them back on.
On his own, he just couldn’t stop being mean to his little brothers, and it left him unhappy with himself.
I know that some who are opposed to spanking would say our kids obey because they are afraid of the rod or afraid of their parents. To that I say, yes and no. They are not afraid of us in the way you suppose. They do not cower in fear, worried their transgressions will bring them severe pain, just as I do not cower and tremble when I see a police officer on the side of the road. I do, however, have a certain amount of “fear,” which I would equate to respect for that officer, remembering the “pain” of previous speeding tickets. Thus, I maintain my speed within the posted limits. Likewise, my kids are constrained to stay within our limits. But it doesn’t stop there; they genuinely want to please us. And I so enjoy a glass of lemonade!
On the flip side, when I don’t spank and instead attempt to talk them out of a misdeed, they are grumpy and almost mad or unhappy with me! A strange phenomenon indeed. So while I don’t enjoy giving spankings, I will continue to do it because I heartily enjoy the results it yields.
“But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD: he is their strength in the time of trouble” (Psalm 37:39).
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Thank you for writing this article. I often struggle with the words to explain why what we do works. You said it so nice, I pray many non-spanking parents will read what you wrote.
I think I was very much like the "well-behaved" child you refer to, when I came out from the womb. I was quiet and would sit still at the same spot for hours. People around me were worried that I couldn't play or show any joy. They saw it as an unhealthy behaviour. I was born this way. Your children weren't. I wasn't curious about the world around me. Your children probably were and hopefully still are. Children don't behave as we usually want to, because they are children. They test limits. They make mistakes. They do so, because they still experience the world around them. It's a healthy behaviour.
This is a really good article. I agree: a spanking clears the air, and relieves a guilty conscience. I think it is comforting to a child to know they are NOT in control. I would think that it would be scary and overwhelming to a child to have too much control, and to feel like their parents can't help them and teach them how to behave, feel peaceful, and happy. I have always thought I would spank my kids, but since having my baby, I've been on the fence, and spanked him a few times (one to three swats), and usually felt bad about it. But this article is very sensible, and gives me some guidance as to how spanking should be implemented.
I talk to my son. Each and every time I feel his behavior is going beyond the limits I've set for him, I sit with him and have a serious, authoritative discussion about his actions. I take the time to do this so I can have an intimate and appropriate bond with him without having to physically chastise him or humiliate him. In my line of work I've seen and read about hundreds of adults who developed sexual scars from what their parents' believed was loving, corporal punishment. The backside of a human is an erogenous zone and doling out physical punishment in and around this area throughout childhood as sexuality is developing is a highly dangerous path to forge. Perhaps the reason the child feels "relief" is simply because his mother finally took the time to pay him some much needed attention, albeit sadly in the form of physical violence. And like it or not, folks, striking another human being with force and intent to hurt them is indeed violence. This child feels most loved when his mother hits him. I find this incredibly sad and feel sorry for the man he will become.
I think the point the article is making is that children do not have the internal controls to discipline themselves and they (albeit subconsciously) want and need their parents to do it for them. The children also are beseiged by guilt (when they are misbehaving) and when they are punished they feel relief. I, for one, do not see positive results very often from spanking my children. I must be doing something wrong because my kids seem to get more aggressive when I spank. I have been watching "Super Nanny" (Jo Frost from England) lately and I have come to the conclusion that IT IS POSSIBLE to use another form of punishment than spanking to mold and guide our little ones. "Super Nanny" is on the same page as the spanking approach BUT she uses "the Naughty Bench" instead of the spanking. I think the procedure is this: First, warn the child that if they don't stop the behavior they will go to the Naughty Bench. Second, (when they do it again) take the child to the bench, which is away from any fun and activity. Third, come down to the child's level and explain again why this behavior is unacceptable and that he is going to sit on the bench for ___ minutes (one minute per year of child's age) as punishment. Set the timer and ignore the child until the time is up (if they run off or get up you put him back on the bench and set the timer all over again so that they complete the full minutes). Fourth, go to the child again (at his level), explain again why he was punished and elicit an apology. Fifth, you say, "I forgive you," give hugs and kisses and move on with your day! You can see it work time and time again on the program...it works like a charm! I was still skeptical but when I tried it with my 4-yr-old I became a believer. Now, I am not saying spanking is wrong but I think you can effectively discipline children without spanking too.
Why do we parents think we can REASON with toddlers and preschoolers to get them to obey? Discipline (including punishment) is the only way to train their behavior. As kids grow and develop we can gradually deal intellectually with them and, if we were successful in training them in early childhood (they will now have some measure of internal controls), they will be able to reason the WHY behind us not wanting them to engage in certain behaviors. Most of us (I did it too) try the reasoning in early childhood and the ultimatums in the teenage years when it's usually too late. I thank God for the Pearls and their common sense teaching.
Thank you so much for writing this. I'm sick of seeing proper parenting demonized. A spanking is needed to help children behave.
God bless you, you sound like a very caring yet firm and fair mother.
My parents almost never disciplined me and let me misbehave alot in my teens and before long I burned out and had a breakdown.
Keep up.the good work. TM
I always wish articles like this would provide a play-by-play & describe in detail how the spanking is administered. I couldn't stand displeasing my parents so I didn't require a lot of discipline as a young child. They (thankfully) did spank me when I disobeyed all throughout my childhood, but they nor I remember the exact way they did it when I was 2-4 yrs old. So now that I have an almost 3 yr old who seems to love to test limits, I have been trying to spank as I remember being spanked, but I'm not sure I'm doing it the best way. We tell her that we will have to spank her if she does/doesn't do a specific thing and if she does/doesn't we say ok, we have to spank you now, spank, then say we don't like having to do that, repeat what caused it, what should have happened, hug, etc. But I must not be doing something quite right because she continues to push the limits & do the same things. Outside the home is always more difficult, but I have taken her to the bathroom to do it. I suspect there are nuances to when we make a spanking the consequence, how frequently disrespectful behavior gets a spanking, etc.? More examples of how "successful" spanking families have handled various bad behavior would be so much more helpful.
Great questions! As Mike explains in the book To Train Up a Child https://nogreaterjoy.org/shop/to-train-up-a-child-21st-anniversary "...a spanking is made effective not by its severity, but by its certainty." There are more in-depth explanations on our DVDs The Joy of Training https://nogreaterjoy.org/shop/the-joy-of-training-dvds and Child Training 101 https://nogreaterjoy.org/shop/child-training-101-dvd. Here are several clips that illustrate what is being taught:
I grew up in the 1950s and '60s when child spanking was practically commonplace. As kids back then, I think most of us came to realize our bottoms were simply vulnerable to a good warming if we willfully misbehaved.
My particular situation was something of an exception. My mother and my oldest sister (eight years older) were my childhood disciplinarians. Not that I didn't have a father, but he simply wasn't all that involved in raising me. In any case, I was sometimes threatened with a spanking, and there were clearly occasions when I deserved it; for stealing, lying, being rude to my mum, and for recklessly playing with matches.
In each of those instances, I deserved very possibly having my bottom bared and given a good smacking. But rather than getting spanked, I was punished by the withdrawal of my mum's and my sister's affection. Instead of the obvious lesson in Actions & Consequences a well-spanked bottom would've taught me, I was left feeling bad about myself. Being quite a shy, sensitive boy (albeit still capable of naughtiness), I already had issues with self-esteem. Being punished by being made to think of myself as a disappointment wasn't terribly helpful.
Had I been punished even once with a good spanking, I would've had that experience to argue against the impulsiveness I was prone to in my teens. The 'playing with matches' episode happened when I was home alone in our new house on a holiday weekend. I chose to amuse myself by setting paper airplanes on fire in the basement. Great fun for a while.
Hours later, I found to my dismay that a real fire had broken out amidst a number of unpacked cardboard boxes! The only thing I could do was run to the neighbours, and they called the fire department. My out-of-town parents were also notified, though I can't claim to remember just what was said. At any rate, we were out of the house for much of that summer while repairs were made.
How it came to be known that I'd been so dangerously playing with matches, I honestly don't recall. The fire was officially said to have started electrically, but there was no getting away from the shame and guilt I'd brought upon myself. I don't know how I could ever have been more deserving of a good, sound spanking across my mother's lap; a spanking that would've formally acknowledged my inexcusable error in judgment , and a spanking that would've closed the book on my needing to be punished.
Such a spanking never came. To her credit, my mum did say in her later years that she would spank me if she had it to do over again. If a child ever truly needed spanking, there I was. Not that I was outrageously mischievous, because I wasn't. But just because I needed my punishment to be as clearly defined as the love I felt in my family. And in my day and age, a children's punishment didn't come any more clearly defined than an over-the-knee, bare bottom spanking.
Well said! I needed some inspiration to not grow weary in my training and this was such a breath of fresh air!
thank you for this post. spanking is NOT abuse
Ms. Chasity, you could have been my mom, you sound so much like her. Mom spanked me many times, but never abused me. She would explain why she was going to spank me and be sure I understood Before the spanking. When she knew I knew exactly why I was about to get a spanking, I was taken over mom's knee, spanked with her hand, in private never any spectators to a spanking by mom, and on the seat of my pants. A normal spanking from mom was usually 10 firm spanks, and never anymore than 20 spanks. Mom didn't spank very hard, her spankings were to correct unacceptable behavior, and for me they did. I never had to be spanked for the same thing twice, once was enough. As I now reflect back after all these years, I am thankful for the way my mom spanked me when it was necessary, and have nothing but respect for her for doing so. I am a better person, because my mother spanked me in a proper manner, when I needed to be spanked!
Thanks, this is wonderful.
I am a young single girl, but I do a lot of babysitting for others. I do not spank their kids, but I can tell when they need it! The exact situation was playing out in one home I was in last week; one boy was "playing" with his little brother, causing tears. I simply distracted and separated them, but as I'm sure you know that did not work. He got worse and worse towards his siblings, and I was worried and praying I was doing the right thing. We all survived 🙂 but yes I know a spanking would have helped him, not only to stop being onery but to feel better too.
I want to learn and think of these things in preparation for maybe having children of my own someday, if it's the Lord's will.
So, thank you! This article was helpful! 🙂