Spanking and Trust

Recently Ms Drama had some dry skin patches on her lower back. One night I was rubbing some lotion on the dry spots for her and without warning she flopped onto my lap, lying over my knees, her body completely relaxed. My instant reaction was shock, and after a moment I realized why.
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I remember being 9 or 10 and asking my mom for help with my clothes. The zipper on the back of my dress was stuck and I couldn’t reach it with enough strength to pull it open. It proved difficult for my mom too, and when she couldn’t get it open she asked me to bend over so she could see what she was doing better. My body couldn’t do it. I heard what she was asking me to do, and my head told my body to bend over so she could get to the zipper, but my back went rigid.

I was afraid.

My mom repeated her request and I tried to stiffly move forward a little bit, she realized what was happening and laughed “I’m not going to spank you, just bend over so I can see the zipper.”

Rationally, I guess I knew she wasn’t going to spank me, I hadn’t done anything wrong. But my body still fought. I did the best I could, but I could hardly move and the whole time she was fixing the zipper. Every muscle in my body was clenched in anticipation of being hit. My mind told me that I should trust my mom, but the muscles in my body told me that I couldn’t.

In contrast, my little daughter who has not been spanked in over a year, trusted me completely. When she flopped over my knee I went stiff from the memory of many spankings from long ago. She, on the other hand, was completely at ease, knowing that I was going to help her and not hurt her.

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There are many Christian authors and teachers that promote the idea that spanking is a necessary or at the very least helpful part of “godly” child training. Many people try to paint the Michael Pearls and Elizabeth Kreugers of the world as the “Extremists”. But one of the most famous and well known proponents of corporal punishment is Dr James Dobson, author of “Dare to Discipline” and “The Strong-willed Child”. He is often called “America’s most trusted parenting expert”, which is kind of scary considering his approach to parenting.

A common theme in Dr Dobson’s writings, is the portrayal of the child as sin laden, selfish and destructive. In fact the whole point seems to be pitting the parent against the child, as the parent you must win at all costs. Discipline is a battle after all, are you up to the challenge? Dr Dobson recommends spanking children from the age of 18 months using an implement (Although on page 47 of “The Strong willed child” he talks about not spanking an 8 month old through their diaper?) and he is indefinite on when spanking ceases to be “effective”. His teachings on spanking for “attitude” could very easily lead to “marathon” spankings since he advocates spanking the child again if they are “crying for too long” or “crying to punish the parent”, since the parent has to “win”, this could devolve into the parent spanking over and over until he child has managed to pull together a docile enough demeanor.

To read more direct quotes from his books that summarize the parent vs. child mentality, check out this page.

This mentality is perpetuated by many other christian authors. I’ve heard Tedd Tripp’s book “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” touted as being “more grace based”. The title sounds sweet, but it’s just a repeat of all the others. He advocates spanking with an implement at an early age (also presenting spanking as the only effective discipline), giving specific instructions on how to spank children and babies based on their perceived motivations. And of course, he promotes the idea that the primary motivations of children are dark and fallen.

Tripp argues that the goal of spanking is not punitive, but corrective. Which is actually the same exact argument that Michael Pearl uses. He also links every behavior to a “heart issue”, as if childish behavior is some sort of internal spiritual problem. Yes, he argues for “changing a child’s heart” vs. “gaining conformity of behavior”, but he claims that spanking should be used to “restore relationship” (with God, and parents). As if the physical discipline of children somehow “redeems” the child of it’s faults? The whole premise is that god demands obedience and that we must make it clear to our children that “defiance” to authority is not an option.

Read here and here to get some more information on “Shepherding a child’s heart”.

Discipline and spanking are usually closely linked in Evangelical christian parenting books, the terms are often used interchangeably. Gentle discipline techniques are not emphasized. And in reading most “biblically based” parenting books that advocate corporal punishment, you get the distinct impression that without proper spanking, children will grow up completely undisciplined and unruly and most definitely not interested in becoming a Christian. A decline in spanking is what is wrong with children’s behavior today! They all seem to shout. I would argue that a decline in general attention for and communication with our children is the more probable cause.

Of course, there are rules. One general rule that seems to apply universally in these books is “don’t spank in anger”. Another is that you are just establishing who is in charge, not “ruling your children by fear.”

I don’t think it’s that simple though. Who defines anger? And why is a calm business like infliction of pain more acceptable than an “angry” one. The calm spanking sounds much more callous, and frankly a bit scary. (Even our legal system recognizes the difference between a crime of passion and pre-meditated harm.) How does this foster trust when the child knows that the parent can hurt them so calmly and seemingly without feeling? Is this method really encouraging communication between parent and child when the parent feels obligated to hurt their child and the child feels pressured to please the parent or else be spanked?

Is pain really an effective “fear free” way to establish authority? I would argue that the reason a parent can get short term compliance by spanking a child, is because they are afraid of getting spanked again. Sounds like fear to me. And hasn’t this approach been used before historically? Look at the Inquisition for example. Obviously I am not talking about using the methods of torture they used, but the mindset is the same. Use pain to force compliance and get results. Get people to recant their heresy and say what they were supposed to believe. And yet, did that method really work? Yes, maybe some people “converted”, but many recanted later, and some went to their death rather than change their minds. Why do we think that spanking can open the door to a life of Christian faith?

I’ve shared my journey as a parent who quit spanking. But I don’t really feel ready to share much of my own experience of being spanked as a child, or having siblings that got spanked. Here are several stories from people who grew up being spanked the “Christian way”, I resonated with all of them. Please read them to understand a bit more of the child’s perspective of corporal punishment.

My Experiences with Spanking

Processing Spanking

How Spanking changed my life

Regarding Punishments

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Lastly, if Jesus died to take the punishments for our sins, why do Christian parents punish their children? Is it a belief that somehow His sacrifice wasn’t enough for children? Or maybe they don’t qualify for His forgiveness until a certain age? Yes, sometimes there are consequences for some actions, but when did spanking become that consequence for children? Why did these parenting books seem to have so much “biblical” basis for corporal punishment? I know that I used to believe them, and I felt like I was being “unchristian” if I dared to think otherwise. So for anyone who has had those same struggles, I wanted to share a few series on the biblical reasoning for gentle discipline.

A Christian Father and Dr shares why his religion does not let him feel comfortable with Spanking

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03792937108732259684 priest’s wife

    I hear you! How do you prefer to discipline? We are still reeling from an experience with a free-range kid (that's what the mother calls it) who stomped on my 10-year old's head while the mom was looking on. She just smiled.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03034292023591747601 PersonalFailure

    In one post, you break my heart and give me hope.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    priest's wife- I've written quite a bit on how my perspective towards discipline has changed. Check out the "Discipline" label on the side page to read more specifics. These 3 posts in particular might help you.

    Permission to Live: Escaping the corporal punishment mentality:

    Permission to Live: Books on Discipline:

    Permission to Live: What to do when you don't spank?:

    This ladies post is also very insightful in explaining the difference between gentle discipline and permissive parenting.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07632005486245515873 Calah

    Ahhh. Thanks for the post. I was brought up Dobson-style and have been following "The Strong-Willed Child" to the letter, all the while feeling like there was just something off. I honestly do not know what to do now, because after reading your post on giving up spanking I also gave it up. I see a difference (my kids don't flinch when I raise my hand) but now I feel really lost and confused about discipline, since my whole method was based around spanking. So thank you for these links. I'm going to take a while to read them and re-think our discipline methods. I do think that spanking has it's place (say, when a child runs out into the street without looking or sticks a fork in a toaster and you just MUST emphasize how serious it is that they don't do that) but I really don't think it has a place in everyday discipline the way I used to.

    Really, thanks.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08135229596877003069 Michelle

    Once again, I am floored by this dark, underworld of spanking.

    Don't get me wrong…I was spanked…and I realize how much trust was lost between my parents and me and my siblings through our "Board of Education" (yup…big ol' 4X4 board that both of my parents could wield pretty handily…plus a small little board that whipped through the air pretty quickly and stung mightily on an 8 year-old bottom)

    It's just that my parents never read any books encouraging them to spank (to my knowledge). I think they just didn't know any gentle discipline because they never experienced it. AFter the divorce it was worse with my mom…I haven't processed my abusive years enough to write about them yet, though.

    I'm so glad you write about this, though. It is so helpful to me and I'm sure to many others.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06700181081812245514 Hermana Linda

    Very well done. Thanks for the link. I will be linking to this as soon as I get a chance. Meanwhile, the Spanking Is NOT God's Will series continues to grow.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Calah- I had the same confusion about what to do if I wasn’t spanking. And it took a little bit of time for my children to adjust to a new type of discipline. I actually used time-outs a lot in those first months while I weaned myself off the instinct to spank. (Time outs are very rare these days, and I no longer isolate the kids if I need to use a time out.)

    Feel free to ask about specifics if you like, and I’ll do my best to share what has worked for me. (Check out the links I left in the comment for priest’s wife, there is lots of information in those too).

    I understand some parents use spanking for dangerous situations, but for me after living with the Dobson/Tripp/Pearl mentality for so long, I found the only way to keep from using spanking more often was to eliminate it entirely as an option.

    Michelle- I hear you. Many parents spank because it’s all they know. And I am a strong believer that the issues in the parent’s lives influence the discipline of their children.

    The Christian promotion of spanking bothers me, so many young parents (like me!) read these books and believe that they will get good results by following a step by step program on how to punish their children.

    Linda- Thank you for continuing to run your blog! What a great resource!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04738076740941616678 Rebecca

    I love these articles, even though I suspect they have to be difficult to write at least on some level.

    As a teacher (I say that a lot here, huh? sorry it's my frame of reference for working with children), we are not permitted to spank (obviously?) and so I see daily over and over again that there are other much more successful ways to handle discipline with children. Nothing upsets me more than hearing a professional say "they just need a good spanking from their parents when they get home." Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for sharing your story and links.

  • http://www.parenting4christians.com Jhona@Parenting4Christians

    I like reading your article and I also read some of your articles. It opens the eyes of parents out there that spanking is not the only way to discipline a child. Keep it up.
    Jhona

  • Anonymous

    My Lord you had a hard childhood. I am a great beleaver in firm discipline (with 4 under 6 I have to be) but I don't believe physical punishment is nessesary or acceptable except in very exceptional cases. – Sarah

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02474415590995348479 Rachel

    The mindset of "Us vs Them" and the "sinful child" is what really turned me off from spanking. I'm not perfect and sometimes I fall (as all do!) but I'm finding that it's easier to love my child if I think of us as a team.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08641509566095727946 Amy

    The mentality behind "Christian" spanking is so scary, and I am grateful that I was not brought up with this ideology. "Is it a belief that somehow His sacrifice wasn’t enough for children?" Makes me shudder. Thank you so much for writing about this; you really are a light for others.

  • Anonymous

    I was spanked – and so i spanked till i watched my eldest kid beat up her friend and came across these articles . Thank you – Its been a week so far

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for your honest thoughtfulness here. Just one quick point that is mostly off topic :) The Inquisition is one of those things that basically no one (even me!) researches and just assumes that it was some terrible thing by the Church. I recently learned that while of course there have been rotten people everywhere, including involved in the Inquisition, as a whole the courts of the Inquisition were actually known as the best and most just courts of the day! So individuals would have actually preferred being tried in those courts rather than most of the other legal systems/ courts of the time.

  • Anonymous

    I haven't yet gotten to a point where I believe spanking is *never* warranted. However, I greatly appreciate the various perspectives on training and disciplining children. My church is currently working through materials by Tedd Tripp, and I've met him on several occasions. Some portray him as a cold and calculating advocate of violence. I can say with complete confidence that's not the kind of man he is. While we may have different opinions on how to accomplish parenting goals, I believe his heart is in the right place.

    I can also say I've made significant efforts to NOT use spanking as frequently, if my children are willing to be won in other ways. This Sunday my 4yo became defiant and unruly during the worship service, I took her out, and actually following what Tedd Tripp says I told her she was sinning by disobeying, and I couldn't just let her be defiant, I needed to teach her to honor Mommy. She went from tears of anger to tears of repentance, and hugged me, and the defiance melted away. No spanking.

    So, I guess I am saying I'm starting to work through other tools in my parenting toolbox, and I appreciate learning more.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Rebecca- They are difficult to write in a way, because I have regrets of using spanking on my own children, and it’s hard to articulate clearly when you feel passionate about something. It frustrates me as well, to hear people claim that a child “just needs a spanking”, because in my experience that has proven to not be true. And as someone who was spanked as a child, I cannot remember learning anything from spanking, other than how to say what my parents wanted to hear.

    Sarah- I have also found it important to be clear in teaching my children boundaries because I have soon to be 4 aged 4 and under. If all of them were running wild life would be kind of crazy! So far I have not come across an exceptional case where physical punishment would teach a child better than other choices.

    Rachel- Exactly! I used to feel awful when I
    would make the same mistake that I had punished my child for earlier in the day. Working as a team, and respecting my children as individual human beings has been life changing for me.

    Amy- Thank you.

    Anonymous- I found that my children stopped being violent towards each other and others when we quit spanking. It was a bit rough transitioning at first, but so worth it in the long run!

    Anonymous 2- The Inquisition was created for the purpose of trying people in court for faith decisions and trying to sway them from their heresy. They were free to use force to try to change people’s minds. They did have rules, for example, they were not supposed to shed blood, so they found ways to apply pain without causing bleeding. Such as breaking bones, or using fire to cause wounds that would instantly cauterize. Here is a quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia “Though the Church was content with a spiritual sentence on the part of its bishops and was averse to the shedding of blood, nevertheless it was aided by the imperial severity, inasmuch as the fear of corporal punishment drove the guilty to seek a spiritual remedy.”
    My point in referencing them, is that they used corporal punishment (or punishment of the body) to gain “spiritual results.” (And yes, the protestant courts of the time were doing the same thing!) I believe those methods have been historically proven to be ineffective in changing a person’s faith walk/ belief system aside from getting external results driven from fear.

    Anonymous 3- I have also heard that Tedd Tripp is quite genial in person (you can read more about that in the articles I linked about him). I feel that my parents had their hearts in the right place when they sought to train me using spanking. But I do not feel as though it was productive in the way they had hoped for. I learned to do what they told me out of fear of what could happen, I was afraid to talk to them about my feelings because I had learned that children’s emotions and feelings did not matter.
    It was difficult at first to try to change my discipline tactics while I was surrounded by people who feel differently. Good for you for looking into it!
    I found that while I was still spanking my children, they were less likely to respond to other forms of discipline. It took a little bit of time for them to adjust, but I have found that their behaviour is as good or better than before I switched to gentle discipline, and the connection and trust I have with my children is much stronger. It takes some work, but it is worth it!
    If you are looking for more ideas on things to try instead of spanking, you can check out the “Discipline” on the side of my blog to read more about my discoveries. Another great place to start is Why not train a child .

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09738612207150868577 Mike and Christie

    As always a great perspective and thought provoking post.

  • Anonymous

    I think to be honest that for children respect is a dard concept to grasp and an element of apprehension – call it fear is necessary. I have 4 boys who will one day be bigger and stronger than me and to control them I need that. But I have only ever used physical force to , for example stop them running into the road. Spanking is not a way of instilling Christian virtue – ever as far as I can see ! Sarah

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Sarah- I may be confused here, but are you saying that you feel that using fear is nessecary because someday your children will be bigger and stronger than you? Will they still be afraid of you when they are bigger and stronger?

    Kids may have a difficult time defining what respect is, but I think they can tell when when they are respected. I've found the more respect and empathy I give to my children, the better they are at giving respect and showing empathy themselves.

  • Rebecca in CA

    Beautiful post! I love my dear parents, who spanked me albeit rarely, but I still have a difficult time showing affection to them physically and I have to work on doing that consciously with my own children. I quit spanking when my oldest was around 3, and had spanked her quite a bit up until then. It was difficult making the shift–I felt pretty lost, and like you I tried time-outs for awhile. The whole thing seemed ridiculous and I was finally able to shift out of a punitive mindset–though I still struggle with that. But my child had to learn to trust me, and I had to learn to become trustworthy and respectful towards her. Once you have been trying to control using fear, it takes some work to move into working with the child in an atmosphere of love and trust. St. Therese of Lisieux said something like, "fear made me shrink, but with love, I flew"…it is very inspiring to hear about her childhood, how gentle her parents always were.

    Now my oldest is ten, and she is a lovely, respectful, helpful, compassionate person, for whom I thank God every day. My eight-year-old is sensitive and sweet, and my five-year-old is a funny, creative little thing who is also blossoming in a lovely way–and they have all been through akward, rough stages, and have weaknesses, but all of this is good and natural, and God knows He puts up with my own weaknesses with great patience. I look at my two-year-old and can hardly believe that I would ever have laid a hand on a child that age–she is so perfectly innocent and sweet. I noticed I have a great deal more ability to feel emotions of affection for her, and this also happened with my oldest when I stopped hitting her. I think that is one of the most difficult things about spanking–you actually kind of resent children when you hit them regularly, and that makes it difficult to imagine being able to deal with them in a really loving way; you can't really imagine what that would even look like. Enough of my ramblings…beautiful post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17617227847364562989 NC Sue

    I'm not a mom – apparently not part of God's plan for us – so I can't say I'm certain what I'd do with a child who seriously misbehaved. But I remember having a flashback to spanking when I smacked my leg to kill a mosquito & saw a distinct red handprint there. It was almost like being back in my childhood where there was some physical and lots of emotional abuse. I think that's something to consider when choosing how to discipline a child.

  • Anonymous

    This post has not convinced me that spanking is always bad. I'm not an advocate of spanking necessarily, but I think there are a lot of points brought up here that haven't been challenged that ought to be. My parents didn't spank me much, only a couple times, but my husband's parents used spanking often. Neither of us has scars or emotional and psychological wounds. In fact, my husband really values his parents' methods of parenting, and appreciates how they raised him. I'm sure that spanking done the wrong way CAN create these wounds and CAN be degrading, but only if it's done the wrong way. Spanking in itself is not an abusive or degrading thing, in my opinion. Also, I don't think that the claim that spanking says that Christ's sacrifice wasn't sufficient holds up. The priest gives me penance during the sacrament of confession – he's not saying Christ's sacrifice wasn't sufficient. Also, I see spanking almost entirely as disciplinary and formative, not something my children get to "pay for" their wrong doing. I've never seen it that way. We use different forms of discipline, but during each, including spanking, we try to explain to our kids the reason for it, the difference between right and wrong, and that we want to teach them what is right and good. I know little of Dr. Dobson, but I really like Dr. Ray Guarendi's approach. His books are very helpful and enjoyable to read. Again, I'm not saying all parents should/have to spank, only that I think spanking can be good and helpful sometimes.

    Pilgrim

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Rebecca in Ca- Thanks for sharing your story. Similarily I stoppped spanking when my oldest was almost 3. And like you say, it had already effected her trust of me. The idea that my children were people that deserved respect was stunning for me. I am forever grateful that I broke out of the punitive mindset, because my ability to love and enjoy my children was majorly inhibited by it!

    NC Sue- I've had similar moments, and I've struggled with how I ever let myself use spanking when I had memories of it getting out of hand as a child, and had even resolved to NEVER spank my children while I was still a child. I explained those feelings away as "childish foolishness" until I let myself finally deal with the issues in my past.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Pilgrim- I was spanked as a child, and I have no physical marks and I would argue that I am a normally functioning adult. I clean, cook and do laundry. I take care of my children and have a good marriage. I value that my parents were actively involved in my upbringing and did their best to love me and teach me right from wrong. I spanked my own children, and at the time I saw nothing abusive about it. I spanked them calmly when they disobeyed me, and I never left lasting marks.

    Looking back, I cannot think of a single positive thing that spanking was teaching my children. Yes, I got compliance, but not because my children understood right from wrong, they understood what got them in trouble or not. As a child growing up, my parents did their best to spank “the right way” and I did feel degraded. It was embarrassing, and it was scary to feel completely helpless in the face of pain. All spanking did to “form” me, was to shape what I did based on what I knew my parents wouldn’t punish me for. It also taught me it was safer to not try at all than to risk displeasing them.

    What is “the right way” to spank? Spanking raises a lot of questions. How young do you start spanking? When is “too old”? Do you spank with a hand or an implement? How many blows? Do you remove the child’s clothing or not? What if the spanking doesn’t work, do you spank again? (And again?) What if the parents disagree on how to spank? Which actions qualify for a spanking? Do you allow grandparents or babysitters to spank? Do you spank in private or in front of siblings?

    We seek other ways to resolve problems when we have conflict with our spouse, why do our children qualify for less respect? I would never model hitting my spouse or friend to teach them that they did something wrong, why would I do that to my children? In the end, I do not feel that spanking is formative or disciplinary. It is punishing the child for not measuring up. It has no teaching qualities, other than fear. I cannot think of a “right” way to spank. Even doing something “the right way” does not guarantee positive results. (For example, I cannot remember my father ever raising his voice, but that did not change the fact that some of the things he said were hurtful, even if he never meant them to be so.)

    You are correct, penance does not mean that Christ’s sacrifice was not sufficient, but penance is not a punishment. Penance is a spiritual exercise to draw us back to God, much in the same way we would seek to make amends when we have hurt another person in our lives. Neither of those scenarios involve inflicting physical pain.

    I understand that disciplining our children is in the interest of teaching them right from wrong, and what is right and good. But I do not see spanking as something that is right and good, so to me that would be like forcing my child to experience something wrong as punishment for something they did wrong. If I do not allow them to hit or spank people, how am I teaching them right from wrong when I am spanking or hitting them?

    I prefer Dr. Gregory Popcak’s approach to Dr Ray.

  • http://exlaodicea.wordpress.com berenike

    Don't these books ever mention the parents' sinfulness?!

  • http://exlaodicea.wordpress.com berenike

    Also you only got executed for stubbornly propagating falsehoods about revelation. You can see why preventing people from leading others astray from the faith was considered serious, given what Our Lord says about narrow gates ekcetra. You might not believe in that yourself, but if you did, and you caught someone who refused to stop trying to lead other people into damnation, you might, as ruler, think it not unreasonable to lock them up for life for the good of society (remember basically everyone in civilised Europe except the Jews was Catholic).

    If you're looking for readable reading matter, try James Hannam's God's Philosophers: about science, philosophy and life in the middle ages. A great read, and a good way into the middle ages if you're not that familiar with the period.

  • Katie

    I love your posts on discipline – they give me so much to think about. My husband and I were both spanked as kids, although sparingly, and we don't have really any truly negative memories from our childhoods. We actually both remember fearing our dad's "you're in trouble faces" more. My parents were overall very affectionate and attachment-esque growing up. I have friends who use spanking sparingly, and I don't see ill-effects in their children.

    When it comes to us, though, we just feel that it goes against our grain as parents. We feel that it is contrary to our efforts in discipline and what we are trying to teach our children. I have also witnessed parents who seem to tout attachment parenting as a reason to not discipline at all, so I think like anything, there are multiple extremes. Our family doctor, who we trust a lot, is very opposed to spanking, and he told us once that an attitude he and his wife tried to stick to when raising their children was to remember that discipline means to disciple your children. He said it helped them keep their focus on what they were teaching their children, not just reacting to what their children did wrong (although sometimes we do have to react). I too prefer Dr. Popcak to Dr. Ray (although I have a CD with talks from both of them on it – funny, huh?) I also really like Dr. Bill and Martha Sears, because they are so big on figuring out where your child is developmentally and incorporating that with your discipline. I have to pull their book out a lot to remind myself!

  • http://beemjago.blogspot.com Bee

    It isn't the spanking that's the problem – its disciplining in anger.If you discipline out of love for your children – AND THEY KNOW THAT! – then spanking isn't a problem.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Bee- I have to disagree with you. As I've said in other comments, my parents did not spank in anger, at least if they were angry I sure couldn't tell. They were calm and collected and patient. I knew (and still know) that my parents love me, and that they were only spanking me because they loved me and wanted me to grow as a person.

    Spanking was counter-productive in my life because it taught me to obey out of fear of pain. I learned far more when my parents took the time to talk with me and listen to my thoughts, then when they shut down communication by inflicting pain and embarassment. Spanking did nothing to teach me right from wrong, love and respect of others, gentleness and kindness, or how to make descisions for myself, all qualities I would love to see in my own children someday.

  • Anonymous

    Pilgrim – You and I certainly have different mindsets. I don't spank often, and like I said, I'm not insisting that spanking be used. Still, I found very little that I liked from Dr. Popcak's book – only a helpful piece here and there. After I read it, I mentioned it to a friend who told me a funny thing. Her friend from out of state RAVED about the Popcak book and called his method basically the only good option to parenting. After finally bringing his family to come visit her, she saw that they were some of the worst behaved kids she ever saw. Anyway, call me narrow-minded, but I found the Popcak book's suggestions to be often laughable, and difficult to take seriously. Don't get me wrong, I AM all for respecting my children. Thebook goes to the extreme of pandering to their whims and their disrespect to authority, in my opinion.

    At any rate, my whole point is that spanking never ever made me or my spouse feel degraded. It just didn't.

    Often, when we use spanking, it is after a child has done something he/she *knows* was wrong. We reiterate that it was wrong, and we discipline for it. There may be an element of fear involved if they refrain from doing that action again, but it is ALSO because they are being taught that it was wrong, and I don't see fear as altogether a bad thing. The fear of hell has certainly kept me from doing some things in my life. Is that perfect motivation? No, but it is motivation.

    Spanking does raise a lot of questions, like you said, but that is no reason necessarily not to spank.

    You say "Even doing something “the right way” does not guarantee positive results." – I don't think anyone has made that claim. And neither does NOT spanking guarantee positive results. And in the end, who would claim that their parents' methods of parenting were perfect? The imperfections in both parents and children make that impossible.

    Your comparison to spouses spanking another spouse or a friend spanking another friend is extreme and apples to oranges, in my opinion. The relationship of a parent to a child is different, and calls for different methods entirely.

    Again, I want to reiterate I'm not saying everyone has to spank. I just cannot agree with your conclusion that it is always bad all the time.

  • Anonymous

    FYI – I put my name at the beginning, but I just realized it may look like "Anonymous" wrote something directed to Pilgrim. To be clear, that last comment was BY Pilgrim. You could put my name at the end of you wish. Thanks :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Pilgrim-
    I ‘ve read through Pocak’s book and it isn’t my favourite. But I certainly prefer his approach to the Dobson/Tripp/Pearl books. I think it is hard to judge any parenting ideas based on one family’s implementation of them, and I will concede that there are probably parents who use spanking a few times a year and do not leave their children feeling degraded long term. That being said, I no longer see any positive aspects of spanking being used as discipline. I feel that my children are just as fully people, made in the image of God, and deserving of the same respect I would give any other person. Maybe spanking isn’t “bad all the time” but I think that if you use spanking at all, it tends to be progressively used more and more because the child doesn’t respond as well to other forms of discipline when they are used to being punished.

    I used to argue exactly what you are arguing, until I quit using spanking in my own parenting and watched the transformation in my children and myself. I don't think that my parenting will ever be perfect, but I know it has drastically improved since I changed my methods of discipline.

  • buckyinky

    I don't understand what you are trying to say here. Are you saying that because my wife and I spank our kids, we are not doing the right thing?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    buckyinky- I am speaking about my journey both as a child who was spanked "the christian way" and a parent who saught to spank my children in a loving way. This is my journey, and my discoveries and my feelings about the damage that spanking can do to the trust between parent and child. This post is about how spanking and raising a child in faith are not inseperable.

  • buckyinky

    Thanks for the reply. However, you are very easily misunderstood if you are simply saying that "spanking and raising a child in faith are not inseparable." When you link to articles titled "Why Spanking is Not God's Will" and "A Christian Father and Dr shares why his religion does not let him feel comfortable with Spanking" it seems that you are taking your own experiences and broadly painting the rest of the world with them. So you don't like the fact that your parents spanked you, you have bad memories of it, and you won't spank you own kids. That is fine, but what does this have to do with my own memory of my parents using spanking as a loving means of teaching me what is right? And what does your experience have to do with my and my wife's decision to use spanking as a means of discipline?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    buckyinky- I think the articles I've linked speak for themselves. What does my experience (and the experiences of many others some of whom I've linked here) have to do with your descision to spank your kids? That's up to you.

  • buckyinky

    I guess I was confused by what you were saying in this post. It seemed to me that you were telling me what your experiences meant for everyone, i.e., spanking your children is never a good thing for a parent to do. Instead, all you are saying is that you have had bad experiences with spanking, and so will not spank your children. I, on the other hand, have had good experiences with spanking, and so you are alright with my choice as a father to spank my children as a means of correction.

    With all due respect, you might have been clearer in what you are saying. It really seems like you are saying that because of yours and others bad experiences, therefore spanking is wrong.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    buckyunky- Honestly, I don't think you are confused at all. Like I said in the post, the links, the questions I've asked, and the comments I've replied to, I do not think that spanking is a good option. I cannot wrap my mind around a scenario where spanking could be a "good thing" or a "loving experience". I realize that other people will claim to have different experiences, and consequently come to different conclusions, that does not change mine.

  • JOHN

    SPANKING IS WRONG.PERIOD.

  • Emily

    Well, this post really got me thinking. I've spent the past week reading every link you posted and a couple books as well. I was really struck by how much I related to what you said about your childhood and how you felt/still feel as well as what the links described, even though I was never spanked as a child (I did get my hair pulled, but that wasn't the main method of discipline). I commented to a friend that I was confused by my ability to relate so well given the differences in my upbringing and she pointed out that abuse can take many forms. As I spent this week reading and reconsidering my ideas on child-rearing, I've really come to see the the root of the problem is the way one views children. It is simply taken for granted that children NEED to be spanked (or put in time-out, or yelled at, or have "privileges" taken away) in order to become "good" or "well-behaved" or "godly" or some other good-sounding attribute you desire to produce. But what if they don't? As long as adults don't really look at children for what they really are and how they really think, adults will continue to mistreat children "for their own good."

    One thing that I find appalling (and can't figure out why so many people accept as truth)is that "willfullness" is considered a bad attribute and "blind obedience" is a good one. This is just absurd. Intellect and free will are gifts that every person is given at their conception by God. Having intellect and will are the marks of being human! Why on earth would I seek to diminish them in my children? As CCC 1711 says: "Endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from his very conception ordered to God and destined for eternal beatitude. He pursues his perfection in "seeking and loving what is true and good."
    If we really believe that these are God-given GIFTS and that they are already ordered to seeking what is true and good, there can be no reason to seek to damage and control these gifts, but rather we ought to relinquish control and aid our children to further develop these gifts.

    If you're interested, the book I found most helpful is Alice Miller's "For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence." I think it's well worth reading.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Emily- Exactly! I agree with everything that you said. When I stopped seeing my children as inherently ordered towards sin and evil, everything about my parenting changed.

    I've heard about Alice Miller before, I really should check out her books.

  • http://barefootbetsy.wordpress.com/ barefootbetsy

    Excellent post! Thank you for the links as well :)

    ~B.

    (contributing writer on Dare to Disciple)

  • Anonymous

    I'm one of the people who found your blog via a friend linking the Jezebel article, which I thought was sweet so I came to read the whole story… I haven't actually finished it yet (reading Part 3), because I got distracted by noticing some of your tags. And I haven't even read all the links from this post, but I HAVE to say that I'm stunned and profoundly grateful to've found your blog. I grew up in what I'm finally calling a cult (authoritarian fundamentalist church), which my family left almost 15 years ago, but only in the last few months through intensive spiritual work at a Zen Buddhist center motivating me into therapy, have I finally started seeing all the ways in which the emotional, psychological — and yes, physical — abuse damaged me. I fervently believe in the Ineffable, but I don't know if I can call myself a Christian anymore, so I appreciate you not focusing on Jesus. And THIS post on spanking and its emotional effects… I need to ponder and feel this. :(

    - Joanna

  • http://michigalmom.com Alysia George

    I just found your blog via a comment you left on another blog (With Just a Bit of Magic). What a great story you have! I’m enjoying reading your posts. I was spanked very rarely as a child, but my husband and I both decided, before we had kids, that we would not spank them. We have four kids now, the oldest will be 11 in a couple days, the youngest is 3 1/2, and none of them have ever been spanked. We are not perfect, and neither are they, but they do know that their parents would never purposely inflict them with pain. They are by and large well behaved, and it is not unusual for strangers to stop us in public to compliment us on our family. Like you, I cannot comprehend any situation in which spanking would be “okay”, and I often feel like we are the odd ones out…most people seem to see spanking as their go-to disciplinary action. Luckily our parents are supportive and we do not feel the need to defend ourselves to anyone. But I usually just keep my mouth shut because I feel that I will offend others if I freely speak my mind. Thank you for sharing your story. I am happy to read posts from someone who has similar viewpoints in regards to raising children.

  • Justina

    I don’t think it’s that simple though. Who defines anger? And why is a calm business like infliction of pain more acceptable than an “angry” one. The calm spanking sounds much more callous, and frankly a bit scary. (Even our legal system recognizes the difference between a crime of passion and pre-meditated harm.) How does this foster trust when the child knows that the parent can hurt them so calmly and seemingly without feeling? Is this method really encouraging communication between parent and child when the parent feels obligated to hurt their child and the child feels pressured to please the parent or else be spanked?

    ——————

    As I read the above passage, I just…feel stunned with confusion.

    I was caned with thin rattan rods as a child — common societal practice in my small Asian country. And I always thought that I would have preferred it if my parents were NOT angry when they were punishing me — always defensively argued that their anger made them out-of-control and so calm caning would have been better.

    Now I’m not so sure. Now I don’t know if my “I was beaten – far worse than being spanked but my parents loved me and I turned out ok” argument is actually me trying to resolve my conflicted emotions. Maybe I can’t admit that my parents were wrong, despite all their best intentions.

    For the first time I feel that calm physical punishment is horrifying and I am just so confused.


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