Spanking: Appendix for Raising Passionate Jesus Followers: The Power of Intentional Parenting
In Raising Passionate Jesus Followers; The Power of Intentional Parenting we discuss the biblical tool called “The Rod of Discipline” on pages 84-89. Please be sure to read those pages, as the book contains the theological basis for the rod of discipline, as well as suggestions for when this tool should be left out of a parent’s toolbox.
Because many parents have little or no experience with a God-honoring spanking, we have gone to great length to give you a step-by-step guide. Here, we have included the process, as well as how we chose to implement this tool in our home.
Phil and Diane
How Not to Spank
What Not to Do
Never spank in anger!
Don’t allow yourself to spank your child when your anger puts you at risk of overdoing it. Either wait until you are fully in control of your emotions, or just drop it.
Never spank in public!
Spanking is a private, intensely personal and potentially vulnerable correction between you and your child. In order to effectively soften a heart hardened by disobedience, a spanking must be devoid of the shame involved when someone else is watching.
Never use your hand!
Your hands are for loving and welcoming and soothing your child. You do not want them to cringe whenever you raise your hand. Also, using a designated object (the rod) allows you time to assess your judgment while you are retrieving it.
Threatening to spank is not the same as a spanking—a threat is all too often a way of using manipulation and escalating anger in order to control your child’s behavior. Instead, spanking should be reserved for a few clearly defined reasons and should be carried out with predictable consistency.
A loving spanking should not leave a mark or cause lingering pain or physical injury. In fact, a paint stir-stick works well when your children are quite young. But if the day comes when your child turns and laughs at you after a spanking, you may need something flat that is a little heftier to do the job.
Once, at a conference, one of the parents asked what to do if, after spanking his son with a paint stir stick, the boy laughed at him. Before we could answer, another parent responded, “At Home Depot, there is more than one size paint stick!”
When to Spank
Remember, the Word of God does not instruct us on the whys and whens of spanking. Therefore, take our words in this section as suggestions, not as emphatic law. You—both parents in unity—must decide when and if spanking is appropriate for your child.
That said, we chose to spank our children for just three reasons:
This is when you tell your sweet toddler not to touch something and he looks you in the eye, sidles up to the forbidden object, and defiantly grabs it.
He knows and fully understands what you said and chooses to disobey you. When your child draws a line in the sand, practically begging for a showdown, don’t disappoint her! She needs the security of the limits you, as her concerned parents, are imposing on her world.
Be aware, however, of the subtle differences between defiant disobedience and childish irresponsibility. While in-your-face defiance should be met with firm and immediate discipline, your child will sometimes forget, or misunderstand, or be developmentally incapable of obeying instantly. He is impulsive and immature with an attention span of about thirty seconds.
You’re rushing around trying to get him ready for school and you throw out a sharp command: “Go get your backpack and put your shoes on and wait for me by the front door!” He goes to his room to grab his shoes but can’t find his backpack. While he’s looking for it, he comes across the Lego creation he started building with his dad the night before. He sees the perfect piece to add and before you know it, he is completely lost in the creative world of his imagination.
Is this direct disobedience? Of course not! He’s just a child being a child, in need of gentle correction rather than an impatient scolding or a spanking. You are not trying to raise perfect little soldiers! You are giving your children the tools they need to obey God.
Later, as your children grow in maturity and cognitive capability, you can teach them that delayed obedience is disobedience. In other words, they must do what you say the first time you say it, without warning after warning. By training your older child in this way, you will not have to use escalating anger and pressure to get your kids to obey you.
"Our son, Matt, was a curious toddler. He had typical little boy’s compulsion to push any bright button or lever in sight. One Sunday morning after church, I boosted him onto my shoulders in order to keep close track of him while I talked to people out in the foyer. Way up high on the wall was a bright red fire alarm, right within his reach. Of course he grabbed it! And then he watched enthralled when the fire truck came with lights flashing and siren blaring.
Now, was that disobedience? No! That was a curious boy with no idea that his little fingers could inadvertently summon so much commotion, a kid being a kid." –Phil Comer
Ask God for wisdom to discern the difference between direct disobedience and kids just being kids. And ask your kids in a friendly, non-threatening way: “Do you mean to be defiant?” This gives them a chance to explain the rest of the story, lest you misinterpret the situation and rashly rush to a negative and wrong conclusion.
Jesus loves children! Kids being playful ought to bring a smile to adults who often forget what it’s like to have fun. We, as their parents, should enjoy our kids, not hammer them!
The next two reasons we spanked our children will be encountered when your children are a little older—likely not before they are four or five.
When our children acted or spoke disrespectfully to us, we considered that cause for the rod of discipline. We didn’t allow them to roll their eyes at us or tolerate stomping off and slamming doors. Nor did we allow ourselves to indulge in such infantile behavior—towards each other or towards our kids.
Instead, we worked hard to train them to say whatever they felt they needed to communicate to us in a respectful manner. It was our deep desire that our children know that they could speak freely with us, so we’d remind them, “Say it nice!” Sometimes this entailed teaching them how to rephrase their words or to be more sensitive to timing. These are communication skills that will help them in every relationship for their entire lives!
When we discerned that their motives were not disrespectful, however, we tried to give fair warning that they needed to watch their words lest they drift over the line into disrespect.
Parents who discipline out of relationship can often avoid confrontational discipline that ends in a spanking. Rather than a shouting match, godly parents work with their child in order to help him correct his own behavior. By giving a warning with a history (he well remembers the times you followed that warning with a spanking), your older child will often make the choice he deems in his best interest!
We also extended a warning when they had a bad attitude, giving them a moment to decide whether to cheer up or give into their mood. Reminding your child with gentleness is a way of appealing to what you know is the truest truth in the midst of your child’s bad attitude.
What an incredible boost in life you can give your children if you will do this kind of intensive training while they are young. They will learn early, when their problems are relatively simple, that they are able to control their feelings rather than letting their feelings control them.
The third thing we spanked for was deceit.
Again, discernment is imperative if you are going to use spanking as a means of disciplining lying. You will need to be absolutely sure your child knows he is lying. Young children will often exaggerate or make up stories. But when your child blatantly lies to you, either to cover up or to avoid getting into trouble, a strong response is needed.
This is not a minor misbehavior, but a deviously addictive sin that, if left unchecked, may lead to a failing of integrity throughout his life. Again, however, a spanking in response to lying would be rare. First, we do all in our power to bring out the truth, making our homes a safe place in which to make mistakes.
Many young parents object to spanking their children because they have never understood the difference between a carefully controlled, God-honoring spanking, and an angry swat on the backside of a disobedient child.
Such well-intended parents may believe that spanking is the same as hitting. Far from it! A spanking is a legitimate biblical tool that, if used properly, can be an effective means of softening a child’s heart into obedience.
Because of such widespread misunderstanding of the difference between a spanking and hitting, we will walk you through the process most honoring to God and to our children. See for yourself how far from an angry outburst this way of discipline can be.
Here are some steps you can follow:
Consider carefully if this is the appropriate disciplinary tool for the situation.
This is why it is so important that both parents think and talk and pray together about what they believe they should and should not spank for. By deciding in advance of the misbehavior, you are not forced to make that call in the middle of a meltdown. That moment when all your buttons are being pushed is not a good time to hear the heart of God in regard to when to use this tool!
Tell your child why you are spanking him in clear terms.
For a very young child, saying something as simple as, “Mommy said no!” is enough. As your child gets older, this may be the time for you to ask questions. Do not assume you know the whole story! Injustice can lead to bitterness and deep hurt.
You are using this moment to teach your child that disobedience and bad attitudes and deceit are always a choice. No one can make us lie or disobey or speak disrespectfully. Those are choices we make.
Ask him to tell you why he needs a spanking.
This enables your child to verbally take responsibility for what he has done wrong rather than blame someone for his own choices. Warning: He won’t like this step! But someday he will thank you for the freedom that comes when he is able to ‘fess up quickly’, thus avoiding the harsher consequences that come to those who never admit they are wrong.
Gary Chapman, author of the bestselling book The Five Love Languages, teaches that emotionally and relationally mature adults have learned to take responsibility for their own wrongs. Teaching your child to use phrases like, “I know what I did was wrong” will help him move into the kind of maturity that will benefit him throughout his life.
Spank him in a private, controlled atmosphere of firm love.
Use a designated object, nothing that could harm him in any way or leave a mark or a bruise. We used just one swat when our children were first learning what a spanking entailed. When they were older, three quick swats—no more. If they kicked and struggled to get away, they knew we would add one more swat. This keeps everything predictable and under clear control. We are not talking about beating your child into compliance! They learn quickly that this is not an out-of-control, angry situation.
A spanking is not a quick fix; it is a tool that, if used carefully, trains your child to obey.
Comfort your child with physical and verbal affection.
Tell your child that you forgive him and believe in him. Hold him close; to a child, physical affection is proof that you are not mad at him.
Dr. James Dobson notes, “Parental love after discipline is essential to demonstrate to the child that it was his behavior, and not the child himself, that the parents rejected.”
You want him to instinctively know that when God disciplines us He is not rejecting us, nor is He mad at us.
When you tell your spouse about it, do it in private. Do not heap shame on him again. You are teaching him that forgiveness is not a long, drawn-out suffering. We reject the idea of penance—the unbiblical concept that we have to work off our guilt in order to reconcile our relationship with God. Instead, we are a people who believe in God’s astounding grace.
A carefully executed spanking is a beautiful way of honoring forgiveness. Once the discipline is done, the deed is forgotten.
Pray with him.
But please, do not make him pray. That is just too much to expect and may lead to performance-based faith—pretending. Because our goal is raising children who are passionately in love with God, the last thing we want is to encourage fake praying!
And remember, your child is listening while you talk to God about him. This is the time to thank God for this child and all the beauty and value you see in him.
Never bring it up again!
Just as God chooses to “forget” our sin, so we model His kind of love by refusing our own tendency to rehash the past misdeeds of our children. As Corrie Ten Boom famously declared, “God takes our sins-past present and future, and dumps them in the sea and puts up a sign that says NO FISHING ALLOWED.”
Sometimes this forgetfulness entails lightening up when it’s all over by doing something fun. “Let’s go get an ice-cream!” became a common cry when one of our children needed reassuring that a spanking was a consequence, not a rejection.