To spank or not to spank…that’s probably one of the most frequent debates I have heard about parenting. Parents ask me frequently for my opinion on the issue. It is an important, but seldom talked about by those who teach on parenting. Many think the government should address the issue. Others think this is only a matter left for parents.
I suppose I should not be surprised when I am addressed with this question, since I frequently teach on issues such as parenting, marriage and the family, but I never know exactly how to address it. This post addresses some of those reasons.
Here are a few of my thoughts about the issue of corporal punishment:
- This is a personal issue, a difficult one at that, and one I do not feel comfortable solving for parents. A parent can and will only enforce consistently those discipline strategies he or she agrees with personally.
- This is an important question, but not at all the most important question about parenting.
- The bigger issue is having an overall plan for parenting. I know too many parents trying to solve this question, but they have never fully thought through a strategy for where they are leading their children and how they are going to get them there. I would rather we spent more time talking about the adults we want our children to be someday and how we can better steer them in that direction. Discipline deals with the issue of discipleship. Building character in our children.
- The goal of parenting is far more important than the methods used in parenting. In our parenting we tried many different methods; some worked and some didn’t. The key of our parenting experience was that we were intentionally thinking through the goal and working towards realizing that goal in each of our boy’s lives.
- Each child is different. The strategy and methods for disciplining each child must be different.
- You should never spank, or do any discipline, in anger. Cool off first
- The child should never be able to question your love after the moment of discipline has passed. That’s with any discipline.
- I did spank, but it was rare and always intentional. It seemed to work at the time. At a certain age it was the best method for one of our boys to discipline him through a strong-willed period. The cliché “this hurts me more than you” was really true for me, but it worked with this child. It wouldn’t have as well with the other.
- The Bible verse that is often questioned is Proverbs 13:24, which says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” This verse is often interpreted as referring to spanking, thinking the Bible uses the imagery of the rod and staff of a shepherd. The shepherd’s methods to train the sheep were always for the sheep’s best interest, and always what worked for the sheep and its predators.The verse, however, as are all the Proverbs, is a principle, and, therefore, I think it refers more to the principle of effective parenting than it gives us a mandate to spank.
- The mother and the father should agree on the form of discipline. If they do not, they should perhaps get help to come to a sense of agreement. Mothers and fathers should recognize that each plays a unique role in the process and one handles discipline differently than the other. I was much sterner on my boys than Cheryl was and she was much more of a nurturer than I was, but both were necessary.
- For me the end goal of my discipline was spelled out in the Bible, in principles such as Proverbs 29:17 which says, “Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul.” I was less concerned about process and more concerned about progress. Discipline is to disciple the child…prepare them for life and adulthood.
Again, I don’t have all the answers here. Most parents are doing the best they know how. My best advice is to be intentional. Have a goal and have a plan. For each child. What parent would not want to see the principle of the verse above come true in their child’s life some day? Good parenting should do what works best to accomplish the goal of parenting.
Those are my random thoughts. Anything to add?
(Last thought. This is the kind of post, dealing with controversial issues with strong opinions on both sides, that seems to bring out the mean people. Let me be clear I’m not looking for a fight or argument. And, if you’re mean…be nice here. )