Whether spanking works or is the best approach depends not only on the child and the circumstances, but also on his or her age. When my kids were little, for example, I sometimes felt it was more effective to administer a spanking than to try to reason with them. I can remember giving four-year-old Tucker an impassioned and encouraging talk on the need for self-control. It was designed to bring about a great change of heart in my son and had been a deep and meaningful conversation...or so I thought.
The moment I finished talking, my son piped up. "Mom," Tucker began, "only one word makes sense out of everything you just said."
"Oh, which one was that?" I asked, curious.
He furrowed his brow. "I forgot."
A spanking might have been kinder than my long-winded lecture, and definitely more memorable!
Thankfully, as my kids have matured, my "talks" and other modes of correction have had some impact. But in their early years, discipline was certainly a challenge. For example, when my children were toddlers and constantly getting into things, it seemed my only alternatives for discipline--other than spanking--were distracting or confining them. And I didn't like either of those choices. Diverting their attention from something off-limits was a superficial cure. It only postponed the need to teach them that we can't always have everything we want. Besides, it kept me hopping! Yet the other alternative--keeping them confined to their playpen for half the day--seemed even more cruel than a slap on the back of their hands.
So I chose to spank. And for many years it worked, even on Tucker. Using corporal punishment while my children were young actually afforded our whole family more freedom in the long run, because it established boundaries and reminded the kiddos who was in charge--freeing me up to try other, more creative corrections as they matured.
What Does the Bible Say About It?
God's Word frequently addresses the subject of raising children. Corporal punishment is no exception. For example, Proverbs 13:24 reads, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." I wholeheartedly agree, and I'm sure you do, too--if we love our kids, we should correct them.
I believe children also understand this (though they may not admit to it!). Somehow, they intuitively know spankings are good for them, and that they receive them not only because they deserve it, but also because their parents love them. Let me see if I can convince you.
One evening, when Haven was only two and a half years old, Steve and I left the kids with a baby-sitter. Our instructions were clear: The girls went to bed at 7:00, Tucker at 8:00. When we arrived home at 8:30, the children were in bed, but even from the family room, we could tell that Haven wasn't asleep. There was screaming coming from her bedroom. She was in the midst of a full-blown temper tantrum, and the baby-sitter, Shawna, said she'd been acting that way all evening.
When I went to talk with Haven, I expected to be met with more screaming and crying. But instead she said, "'Pank me."
"Did Miss Shawna spank you?" I queried, confused.
"No. 'Pank me," she urged once again....
"Do you want Mommy to spank you?" I asked, my jaw dropping in astonishment.
"Yes!" said Haven, and she jumped out of bed for her correction. Afterward, she locked her arms around me in a bear hug.
As this story reveals, correction can reach the heart of a child. And it should! Corporal punishment is most effective when our kids know what God says about discipline. It helps them to understand why they are being punished.
For this reason, I've quoted Proverbs 22:15 to my children about a hundred times. It says, "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him." The companion verse is Proverbs 29:15: "The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother." My kids know from these verses that spanking not only drives out the foolishness in them, but it also produces positive benefits, such as bringing them wisdom. This helps us all focus on the good that will result from an otherwise painful situation.
Putting the Principles Into Practice
Unfortunately, knowing and doing don't always go hand in hand.... Recently my older daughter defied her grandmother's instruction to put the Popsicle back in the freezer until after dinner. I stopped my work and called to her.
"Haven, meet me in the bathroom!"
A few minutes later, I found her there.
"Now, Haven," I began, "why are you getting this correction?"
Her head hanging, she mumbled, "Because I went ahead and ate the Popsicle even though Grandmother told me not to."
"Why was that wrong?" I persisted.
"Because Grandmother is my authority and I need to obey her."
I continued. "Why do you think she told you not to eat the Popsicle?"
Haven stared at the floor. "Because we're going to have dinner soon and it might ruin my appetite."
"Haven," I told her, "I'm going to need to spank you because Proverbs 23:13-14 says, 'Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.' There may come a day when Grandmother tells you not to eat something because she knows it could make you sick. You must be in the habit of obeying her. Do you understand?"
"Yes, ma'am," she said quietly.
I beckoned her toward me, where I was seated on the toilet lid. "Now, lean over my lap."
She bent over, submitting to my instruction.
After I spanked her--eight times for her age--I invited her to sit on my lap. Cradling her in my arms, I said, "Haven, I love you and forgive you, but you need to ask Jesus to forgive you for not obeying Him. Remember, He is your ultimate authority."
Haven nodded and, at my urging, bowed her head. "Dear Jesus," she prayed, "please forgive me for disobeying Grandmother. Thank You for forgiving my sins. Please fill me with Your wisdom and help me to obey. Amen."
After the prayer, we kissed, hugged--and moved on.