How to Discipline a Child: To Spank or Not to Spank
A funny thing happened on the way to adulthood. I got spanked. On my bottom, butt, derriere, rear-end, leg, calf, arm, back and face. Occasionally even an elbow. A rose by any other color, it bore resemblance to swatting, smacking, slapping, thrashing, walloping, whacking, cuffing, belting and hitting. Wooden spoons, belts, pieces of rope and my all-time favorite… willow branches or switches as they were called. One Christmas I even received a stocking full of said switches, (yes, I got better presents!) to remain me of the clear and present danger that awaited me if I stepped out of line.
I was pretty much a walking spanking machine.
Permission was granted and accepted by my grade school principal, middle school shop teacher, grandfather, grandmother, aunts, uncles, mom and dad to spank away. Nothing was clearer than a sandwich sign hanging off my chest indicating I was “fresh meat” for anyone who needed to swat some misbehaving kid. In fact if I did something naughty it was considered permissible for even a stranger walking the grocery store to haul off and “give me a good one.” In fact, my parents encouraged it. “Thank you” was often uttered to confirm the consequences I doubt deserved.
Years later as I survey the cultural landscape of American society I see a far different world.
Children call 911 on parents exercising the parental option of correcting perceived misbehavior. Local and national media carry stories of parents arrested, booked and convicted of parental abuse. Am I bold or stupid to suggest corporal punishment? Possibly you think I’ve gone mad to even write or speak about such a controversial subject.
Most often we speak out our personal pain or lack of understanding. Punishment is no excuse for abuse. Discipline should not be confused with punishment.
There are huge differences. Punishment leads to fear.
Appropriate discipline gives a sense of security. The goal of punishment is to inflict enough pain to prevent a child from repeating that act. The goal of discipline is to teach a child. Physical pain is not a prerequisite of learning.
Punishment forces boundaries on children. Discipline teaches boundaries that children can choose. Punishment focuses on external behavior. Discipline focuses on the heart. Punishment limits a child. Discipline liberates a child to reach his or her potential.
So how do parents get their children to be well behaved? Parents use different strategies and you can witness their efforts at any family restaurant, or local store. The hit or miss success of punishment reinforces parenting methods that don’t teach self-control or (self discipline) to the child.
Here are a few examples of unproductive parenting tools we’ve all witnessed somewhere, sometime, (or maybe even used):
These parents don’t want to use any type of force – verbal or physical. They feel everything the child does must be of his or her own free will. So they resort to begging, “Please, will you eat your food?” When the child doesn’t respond, the parent will say, “Pretty please, will you do it for mommy or daddy?” The cajoling continues until the child gives in or the parent is exhausted. Politely requesting that a child complete a task is not wrong; the problem is when it appears to be begging or optional, that’s when the child will exercise his or her free will. Don’t beg your kids to obey you.
Some parents approach it like a military sergeant would. Their attitude is: Do it or else. In this camp, all conversations are reduced to orders, ultimatums and threats. Parents speak strongly and forcefully and the children are expected to get in line, or else. Children obey these orders, but only because they fear punishment.
Here are some examples:
- “We’re going to get some discipline in this house!”
- “Eat your food, or there will be no dessert!”
- “Clean up your room or I’ll throw your toys away!”
- “Do your homework, and I mean right this minute! If you don’t, I will spank you.”
Other parents use guilt to get their children to mind: “I can’t believe that after I work my fingers to the bone and bring you to this nice restaurant you repay me by playing in your salad.” Why can’t you pick up your toys, Mommy or Daddy worked so hard today! I don’t know why I do for you the things that I do. I spent $500 buying you school clothes and you can’t even bring yourself to carry the laundry up the stairs.” Implied, but not said, is, “You’re a bad person and a major disappointment to me.”
These parents believe in logically persuading their child it is in the child’s best interests to comply. They will not come right out and make their kids do anything they just try to talk them into it:
- “Don’t you want to eat your corn? It’ll make you strong.”
- “You’ll feel so proud when your room is clean.
- Don’t you think cleaning your room is the fun thing to do?”
Another common persuasive technique is to also refer to heroes: “I’ll bet Iron Man, LeBron James, or Barbie eats all of their cereal.” Of course, the totally ineffective derivative of this strategy is to use a sibling as the shining example.
“Your brother Johnny gets good grades.
Your sister keeps her room clean.
It’s the old standby—bribery: “Hey James. Here’s $10 bucks.” “Finish your mashed potatoes and go clean your room. “If you make all A’s on your report card there’s another $20 in it for you.” The premise is to figure out what the child wants and use it to motivate them to take action.
Here’s how this works. The parent requests the child do something. The child refuses or ignores the request. The parent then notices the child has not complied. The parent requests again. The child again ignores or says no. The parent becomes more and more tense. Screaming, yelling, intimidation and a power struggle soon follow.
These parents manipulate the child using their own emotions as a subtle form of power and control. “I can’t believe you did this; it hurts so badly I can’t stand to be around you.” They withdraw love when the child doesn’t do what was expected.
So What Should You Do?
Parents often try these different methods to get children to act the way they expect with varying degrees of success. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. The inherent flaw with all of these discipline techniques is over-dependence on external rewards and punishments and not on the internal motivation.
Whether a child obeys or disobeys, parents have a choice to reinforce or discourage the behavior in a loving manner. The issue isn’t whether a child should be spanked or will disobey. The true issue is how far will they go. Granted they must have clear expectations of what their behavior should look like. Ultimately we should ask ourselves, what do loving parental responses look like?
The solution to effective discipline is not what usually comes instinctively to us as parents. Our tendency to over-react to our own parents’ “mistakes” often causes us to do the opposite of what our parents did. Your parents spanked, so you decide to never spank.
Discipline handed down in a loving manner and teaches self-control to all parents. When you are tempted to fall into unproductive discipline tactics consider changing your tactics and adding a whole lot of love and unconditional acceptance.
It won’t be easy, but if you determine to change, and allow God to help you, you can begin to truly discipline your children instead of just punishing them.
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I feel like I AM making all the same mistakes as my mom! Just today I could feel like I was turning into her with how I acted towards my two and a half year old.
I would say out of the list, I did at least 4 of those techniques. And the worst is I withdraw my love and affection from my daughter during these discipline episodes.
How do I change something that is so ingrained in me? How do I not become my mother? How do I love my child unconditionally and not choose favorites between them?
I honestly need help here and I am desperately seeking advice,please!
I don’t want to hate her,or shun her , or abuse her, I want to love her but I don’t know how.
Hi Lucy: It’s so hard to change things that we have been taught or learned our entire lives. But with the help of God we can unlearn and change how we think and behave. I admire you for seeing your mistakes. That’s the first, important step! Surround yourself with others who want to be good mothers. Pray every day and don’t believe the lie that you don’t love your daughter. You know you do. It’s just sometimes our actions speak stronger than our heart. Keep loving, seeking and praying.
so your saying god is the answer? what if you don’t believe in god what do I do now?
Yes, God is the answer. In a world gone mad and crazy, why not believe in God? Everything the human race has tried has failed. People, money, sex, fame it’s all fleeting and hasn’t changed anything. Why not give faith in God a try?
What youre saying is fully genuine. I know that everybody should say exactly the same issue, but I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can untndsdaer. I also love the photos you put in right here. They match so effectively with what youre wanting to say. Im certain youll achieve numerous people with what youve obtained to say.
Thanks for your response and support!
My 7 year old son only gets in trouble when he is at his fathers house he recently has gotten suspended from school from taking knives to school that we’re giving to him by his father. He knows he should not have taking these to school but how do I punish him for something that his father thought wasn’t a big deal but he needs to be punished and I’m so conFussed I’ve been to the courthouse to change the custody agreement and that is going to cause issues once the papers are served I need help what can I do to make him know that this was not a good thing at all we have a school board meeting to determine if he can return to school or not please someone give me some advice
I so sorry to hear of your situation. These things are hard. First, I encourage you to abide by the rules of the school and your community. It’s a hard lesson for young children to learn but we all must obey the rules. It’s an equally tough lesson to learn that some rules have tougher consequences than others.
In regards to your custody situation, having two sets of home rules is also difficult. Continue to find ways to communicate with your son’s father about how both of you can establish some common rules and discipline. Let us know how we can help.
My 11 year old son will be 12 in August….this past November I married by best friend…..my son loves my husband and even calls him dad….says he is the best dad in the world. My sons biological father has not seen or talked to my son in almost 5 years. before i dated my husband, my son would ask me when I’m going to find him a dad…..he was so excited and happy my husband (fiancé at the time) had talked to him about marrying me and the three of us becoming a family. Well within 1 year my son and I moved out of my moms house where we lived since my son was 3 years old, and into my husbands parents house 30 to 45 minutes away, and my son started a new school and my husband and I got married. Actually all that change has been in the last 9 months. My son is very smart, knows right from wrong…….but he doesn’t listen to us, disrespects us, talks back and argues when he thinks something isn’t fair, will say things as he walks away, doesn’t follow direction or do what he’s told, lies about every little thing….always “forgets” things like homework or things we’ve just told him…..recently got kicked out of class for being disruptive, doesn’t discipline himself when it comes to doing homework, if he doesn’t want to do it he won’t or he will do it half asked….he lazy and doesn’t want to put the effort in. He can be a total “brat” one minute and the very next moment he’ll tell us he loves us and ask for hugs and kisses…..then can go right back to having an atittude. We’ve taken things away,emptied his room of all games and toys, given punishments, even bribing him to get him motivated and it sometime works but most of the time fails. My husband says the only thing left to do now is use the belt…..but I’ve never done that before. I don’t know what to do anymore…..we’re all stressed out.
Hi: On the surface it might appear that change in both of your lives might be effecting your son and leading to discipline problems. I encourage you to consider his frustrating behavior as separate from the multiple changes. Teach your son the meaning of discipline versus punishment. See my book “iParent” for more clarification on the differences between discipline and punishment.
Spanking without dialogue for a boy of 11 is a “recipe for disaster.” I urge you to find other alternatives.
I have a 8 year old boy and we have alot of trouble with him expecially when his dad is gone for a week to work. I get phone calls from school church babysitters how he is not being good acting out in class not listening and continues to do so after they have warned him many times. He will do good then he back at 1. I have tried many,things spankimg being grounded taking things away from him. I dont think he thinks about his actions before he does it. I even had a teacher ask,me if he was border line adhd . I dont know what else to do on getting him to listen when he is away from home.
Hi: It is frustrating for parents when our kids don’t behave. You mentioned that his problems increase when his dad is gone. All children need both a mother and father’s influence in their lives. Parents should strive to work together on discipline, homework, eating habits, watching television, etc in order to create an environment where boundaries and discipline are clearly defined. Talk as a couple and work hard on being on the same page.
today I went to pick up my son from school, and he acted strange, he’s only 5 years old and he acted like he doesn’t know me or want to come home with me. I asked him nicely to hold my hand and go home, after his little scene in front of the whole class and teacher he finally decided to come along but specified he didn’t want to hold my hand, he will just walk along. Thought his behavior was really weird and I told him that I will spank him when I get home if he’s going to act like that again.. that was really mean and embarrassing. Then he start crying out of nowhere and said he doesn’t love me and he only lives dad. ( wich at the moment is out of town for a month for work) then I called dad and asked him to speak to his son about his behavior.. he didn’t do much effort.. only told him that he needs to listen to his mama and that we both love him very much. When I got home I was heartbroken and he kept insisting he wants a new mom and acted very strange and different twords me. – I panicked.. told him to take his shoes and back pack off and kicked him out of the house and asked him to find himself a new mom then… he stayed and cried by the door for 5 min.. and he calmed down, still didn’t attempt to walk back in. I got out and explained him, that everything I do for him is out of love and nobody else would do that for him.. explained him that I bought him toys, clothes, tv, a bed to sleep in and food to feed him.. so he can be happy and he’s not appreciative.. told him that other kids don’t have what he has and other kids don’t even have a mom.. he apologized at that point, but I don’t know if he learned anything or he just wanted to get inside.. his behavior is different every time he’s somewhere else and not me.. he doesn’t listen, cryes and throws a fit if he doesn’t get what he wants and hates me if I tell him for instance ” hey this toy is not yours, give it back to the kid it belongs too because you have other toys at home” I feel like I’ve tried everything and I’m failing .. my mom spanked me when I was younger and I hated it and hated her at that time.. but that make me who I am today. I do t regret that.. I was never “abused” just disciplined ..
– I guess my question is.. is it wrong to discipline my child by spanking once in a while or like the Bible says in “proverbs 13:24”
– or what should I do?
Allow the Spirit of God to move in your life on a daily basis. When confronted by tough decisions (like how to react to your son) instead ACT or move in the spirit of God. Sound confusing? It’s simply just taking a moment and asking God for wisdom in how to discipline your son. The answer will come… may God’s spirit guide you each and every moment. It’s not easy being a parent… we need His help.
Dr. Lon Flippo
I am a mother of two and Dr. Lon’s wife. I read your post above. My advice to you would be to take a step back. Do not take it personally. Children go through phases and appear to ‘reject’ one parent or the other. It is a way of asserting independence and discovering who they are — as an individual apart from mom and dad. It’s a normal developmental stage in our independent Americanized culture. That said, if he is disrespectful in the way he speaks to you or responds to your instructions, you could discipline him by removing privileges, such as no TV, computer time or gaming time for 24 hours. The verse you quote refers to a rod. The literal meaning of the word “rod” in this context could mean the opposite of inflicting pain to secure compliance. Indeed, it could mean helping a child to narrow the boundaries of his or her behavior by learning right from wrong. If read this way, the rod refers to a shepherd’s rod, which is used to pull the sheep back into the fold. No violence or pain is used. Internalizing values is a much more powerful way to learn than “physical punishment,” in my opinion. Others are firm that the rod refers to “spanking” or physical discipline.
I would reserve spanking, if you choose to do it at all, for very serious infractions or when the child is endangering himself. For example, if he consistently disobeys and runs into the street, you may need to spank. That is, if you’ve exhausted natural and logical consequences, such as: “Since you ran in the street again, you cannot play outside.” The closer the discipline is related to the behavior infraction, the more likely a child will connect the discipline to the behavior and learn from it.
You are not a failure if you care enough to seek advice from other other parents. Spanking is the most controversial subject in the church and our society. The definition of abuse varies by national and state law. I tell parents to never spank with a stick, spoon, belt or any other item. Use your hand so you know how hard you are hitting the child. If spanking leaves a mark of any type, I would consider it abuse.
Good luck and don’t be weary in your parenting efforts. You are fighting the good fight as a parent!
I have a five year old that does not listen to me …i hate getting on to him but i dont know what to do….my mother / his grandmother tries to be his mother and thinks she is able to raise him better than me…. so he goes against me when she talks to me about how i am teaching him in my way right in front of him…whipping doesnt work / corner doesnt work .. nothing works … but it is hard to discipline my child when i have two other mouths in my ear in front of him saying i am doing it wrong…they let him get away with way too much…and that means i have to deal with it..and i am on my own in this ..he dont have a dad….so i feel like i have no say so… i have a 1 year old daughter as well.. and i dont want it to seem like i have favorites…but my mom and dad dont say anything with me and her… just me and my son…so it makes my heart distant from my son most times….and i love him i want that relatonship with my son….i want him to be good..help me learn how
Listen to God, not people. Hear his voice guiding you day by day to be a great parent. He wants the best for you and has already gifted you with all the skills you need to be a loving parent.
I’m an only child and my parents didn’t spank. I can admit that I never minded boundaries because there weren’t man consequences… maybe some yelling but that’s all. This lack of discipline lead me down a very destructive path of young adulthood. So I committed to being a parent that would issue spankings when warranted. I was certain would keep my kids in line and teach them to honor and respect boundaries, the law and people. Boy do I feel like a horrible parent after reading this! So I have a 20 year old who is now married and out of the house who got spankings up until she was about 12 (maybe I should get her some counseling?), a 7 year old that has had her fair share of spankings, a 3 year old that has only ever had a single spanking and a 1 year old who now will never know what it’s like to get spanked. How do I “unspank” my 7 year old??? How do I initiate recovery from the negative affects she may have already developed from this type of discipline? Just when you think you have this whole parenting thing figured out….
God is bigger than our mistakes. Give your parenting to him and lead the Holy Spirit guide you in daily parenting decisions. It’s a day to day decision to be the best parent we can be. It goes by so fast, enjoy every second.
I have a five year old daughter. She is really smart, however recently she has not been listening. she screams at me when she does not get her way. I try to be calm and explain what shes doing wrong but then she talks back to me and that is when I begin to raise my voice at her. Most of the time I send her to time out where she starts throwing stuff, slamming doors, and even screaming her lungs out and it usually results to her calming down and falling asleep. I don’t know what to do. I feel very overwhelmed at times that I’ve even cried infront of her a few times, and she does not show much emotions there’s times where she does appoligize but she acts up again. I need help. I need tips. I also have a boyfriend who ive been with for almost 3 years and she yells at him too. I feel like im in the middle sometimes.
Expressed emotion is not wrong as an parent, but we must be careful it does not replace action with feelings. You must parent with discipline and appropriate boundaries. Find the most effective way to discipline her and stick to it, don’t waver from day to day. It’s worth the struggle for her to see certain behaviors are inappropriate. Finally, don’t allow your daughter to get in the middle of your relationship with your boyfriend. Both of you must show a united front. Pray daily for the God’s Spirit to guide and lead you. Blessings and peace to your family.
hey I am little disappointed with my daughter’s behaviour. She is 10 years old and she wants to flaunt every new thing to her friends by carrying it to school. Thats accepted but she hides it from me and she keeps hiding things. i am worried what if she keeps hiding things from me forever 🙁
Tell her everyday your love is not conditional. Remind her to tell the truth (hiding is another form of lying), you will love her no matter what she has done. You might not like the action, but never break relationship.
I think kids shouldn’t be physically abused on the quest to teaching what’s good or bad. I also believe that parents should discipline, guide, protect and love. Love doesn’t mean letting your kid do whatever they want or let them behave however they feel like regardless of where they are or who they’re with. You’d be surprise how smart kids are, even at an early age.
They pretty much know how their parents respond to certain behavior and they repeat it if that gets them whatever they want. Parent’s level of authority should be higher that the kids so they know who is in charge. Throwing things or slamming doors because they’re upset they didn’t get what they wanted is NOT OK! It’s OK for them to express their emotions up to an extent, if you don’t scream when you’re upset or slam doors to show your anger, then they shouldn’t either. This behavior shouldn’t be taken slightly. Kids need to learn that everything we do has a consequence, good or bad and their actions will make them happy or sad. Don’t feel bad if your kid is sad because you disciplined him/her. Remember you’re guiding and helping form a human being into becoming a respectful. well educated adult.
In my opinion I prefer to see a kid cry for being disciplined, than to see an adult cry for not knowing how to be a good person. It is not easy and each case is different than the other. Use the method that best fit your kid’s temper and don’t apologize for not being so complaisant. Don’t be a softy, your kids might reproach you later for their behavior. Remember what they learn from you, will be passed onto their kids by default. Love them and show affection a lot, praise them, but also enforce limits on their ‘wants’. If you want a tree to grow up straight, you need to trim some branches and sometimes even tie it to a straight stick to serve as a guide. This may not be THE perfect example, but it’s just to say that may hurt in the process, but it’s part of growing up. Life is not just roses, they come with thorns too.
I am doing a research essay for my English class and I am required to summarize part of my essay and post on a public site.
Spanking children is one of the top controversial subjects today. Is it an ethical form of discipline or is it considered child abuse? Many parents turn to spanking their children simply because other attempts to discipline have failed. Children need boundaries to be set and need to learn that consequences will be enforced if those boundaries are broken. The reason that this topic is controversial is because people consider any form of hitting abuse, even if it is just a swat on the bottom. Researchers argue that spanking children will cause later problems in life such as, aggressive behavior and/or mental problems. If researchers want to argue the mental state of children as they get older they need to dig deeper into the issue. What was overall lifestyle of the home? Was the child constantly living in a home that was filled with no love and aggressive behavior? Or was child living in a loving home where strict discipline enforced? If a parent is going to discipline by spanking they need to do it with love (even though that may seem difficult). The child should know that even after receiving a spanking their parent still loves them. This will make the child respect their parent more and reduce the risk of future incidents. If the spanking is done out of aggression it will be hard for the child to learn what they did wrong and only make the child afraid of their parent(s).
What do I do when my boyfriend’s family wants to give my stepson his way all the time? I feel like I have no authority over my house because of my boyfriend dad keeps on telling me not to punish my stepson what do I do?
All children need discipline. Punishment teaches rules and what will happen when you break them…discipline teaches boundaries and WHY we need to obey. Sit down with your boyfriend and make sure you are on the same page. After that, enforcing the discipline removes the discussion on punishment.
Spank or not?
I grew up with a father that was loving and caring but soft spoken. When I didn’t behave he talked to me first. Depending on what I did how I was punished. I got lines to write at time, if I used bad words I got soap. Some times if I did something I might of got the corner. I also was spanked at times. Yes a spanking can hurt your bottom but you live through it. Yes you cry but after my dad talked to me made sure I was ok till I was calm. To tell the truth he never harmed me in anyway. After it was over what ever e punishment was it was over. No hard feelings came from him or me. I grew up being respectful and responsible. Dad was a single father. To this day I love my dad and I’m actually glad he disciplined me that way. It taught me a lesson and I was better for it. I didn’t think that then but I do now. If you choose to spank just make sure it is done correctly and only by a caring and loving parent. Never spank in anger. I got a bare bottom spanking. That is more appropriate cause the parent sees the bottom so they don’t harm the kid in anyway. Yes it should hurt so a lesson is learned but like my dad taught me you need to pat attention to the child reactions also so you never go overboard. It’s ok if your child cries but let the child know you love them and want the best and always tell them that they are forgiven and never hold it over the child’s head. Having bad behavior is understandable but not acceptable. Never say you kid is bad but has bad behavior. They are a good person not bad. I’m still just 17 right now but I still support how I was brought up. No regrets towards my dad. I still happy as always. Like dad taught me he gives praise and criedit also. Tell your kids your proud of them.
Thanks for posting Elizabeth, it’s nice to hear from someone who sees a fresh side to things. You have a lot to offer. Thanks for contributing. You will be a great parent someday. Blessings, Dr. Lon Flippo