corporal punishment: to spank or not to spank

“In other words, you are training your child as if she were a puppy, and doing it in a fashion that would get you in trouble with animal cruelty laws.”

I made the mistake a few days ago of commenting on someone’s blog about disciplining children.   One of the responses I received is above.  And here’s another one:

“Hitting is hitting, isn’t it? Why is it ok for me to hit my child for hitting his brother but not ok for him to hit his brother?”

Apparently my views are unpopular.

sadly, life's not all flowers and rainbows. even for baylor.


But aren’t all views unpopular when it comes to this matter of discipline in the family?  It’s a difficult subject to breach, because everyone’s got an opinion.  We’ve all been on the receiving end of some type of discipline — and all who are parents have been on the giving end.  Christie and I are currently trying to work all of this out.  Here are the horrible things I said that made me such a very unpopular monster of a father:

“growing up i was spanked by my parents, and am glad that i was. it helped me to understand right and wrong — and that there were consequences to these actions. i was not beaten severely or injured, but it hurt. and i began to associate two things with pain: 1) direct disobedience toward my parents or other authority figures and 2) evil and sin (eg. lying, cheating, forging my mom’s signature on a report card in elementary school).

i don’t think spanking is the only way to go; i personally feel consistency is much more important than is the form of discipline. i have a 16-month old daughter, and she understands that some things are wrong for her to do. i pop the top of her hand with my palm if she does those things which she knows she shouldn’t. i feel i’m teaching her lessons that will benefit her greatly in the future.”

I don’t think that’s so bad.  I don’t beat my daughter; I give her hand a little pop.  And right now those pops are reserved almost only for those things which are dangerous (ovens, cleaning supplies, etc).  But I’m certainly open to better parenting methods.  And if what I’m doing won’t work — or will cause problems for my daughter — I certainly want to stop doing it and get with another program.  One kind man offered me some insight:

“I will note that you have a completely wrong idea regarding the judgment capacity and impulse control ability of a 16 month old. You are not accomplishing anything beneficial and if you are relying on behavior control vs. controlling her environment, are perhaps adding unnecessary risk.”

Apparently he also wrote me up in his little book of bad parents.  And probably put some checks next to my name.

But maybe he has a point. Have I misjudged my 16-month old’s ability to understand what she’s not to do?  Is she literally incapable of refraining from doing such things? I want to know.

Because it seems to me to be working.  Baylor very rarely now touches electrical outlets, the oven, cleaning supplies, and other dangerous things.  She does occasionally play in toilet water, and she often places her toys in Christie’s drink glasses (but she doesn’t get her hand popped for those things).  I want to protect her from some of those dangerous things which we can’t easily remove from her reach.  [It’s difficult to baby-proof a house in Africa — or anything in Africa for that matter.*]

baylor was not spanked for eating this licorice jellybean. i promise.


One of the difficulties with these conversations, though, is that nearly everyone’s advice is from anecdotal evidence only.  “This happened to me…”  or “Well, my experiences are…”  And that’s fine; we’ve all got our opinions and are certainly entitled to them.  But I’m struggling to know if there’s some truth out there.  What do we actually know?

So… offer some advice if you will.  Share your experiences — anecdotal as they may be.  How do you deal with discipline?  How early did you start with your children?  What works and what doesn’t?  [Those of you with gray hair are doubly expected to answer.]  And I’ll thank all of you in advance for your help.

* I can’t tell you how many times Baylor’s picked up animal poop here.  Dog poop we deal with in the U.S.  But she’s wanting to play with cow poop, chicken poop, goat poop… all kinds of poop.  It’s like she’s studying it.  The other day she was chasing a goat, and it was pooping with every step.  There was Baylor running behind hands out as if she was trying to catch it.  Even in our house we have to deal with the poop of lizards.  And of course when we run out of water, we can’t flush our toilets…  It’s a hot mess, I tell ya’.



Filed under family

80 responses to “corporal punishment: to spank or not to spank

  1. “You are not accomplishing anything beneficial and if you are relying on behavior control vs. controlling her environment, are perhaps adding unnecessary risk.” — Now see? To me, behavior control is the obvious choice because it is impossible to control her environment. You can lock up everything potentially dangerous in your home, but then she is only safe within the confines of your home. My kids are older (10 and 13), but I still find myself reminding them that you cannot control the people or the environment you find yourself in, you can only control how you react to it. Attempting to control environment is a losing battle and doesn’t teach kids to make appropriate choices when you’re not around. Just my 2 cents.

    • thanks, katdish. i’m with you. i very much believe my children (currently only one, but i generally picture us with more) should be able to behave and do what’s right in anyone’s house — not just in ours. i’m not against any effort to control environment, but i do lean away from it.

      so for me, discipline is not at all in question. it’s the slapping of hands and spanking that i’m willing to question.

  2. I would never publish any opinion at all regarding corporal punishment on the Internet. This stuff is permanent and subpoenable.

    • not that i’m just wanting to test and see what i can get away with and what i can’t… but i do live in rural tanzania. not beating my wife makes me the minority. i’m not sure exactly how the kids are disciplined. but i doubt anyone’s going to get onto me for popping my daughter’s hand….

  3. Okay so I reckon i was a really rotten parent whose two daughters turned out okay and normal and loved. Oh yeah, I smacked their hands when they reached for something that they shouldn’t touch. And doggone it, I spanked their behinds when they said or did something against which they had already been warned. SO SUE ME! Now, ask them if I abused them (they are 35 & 31). I would rather smack a hand than have them touch a hot oven or put their hand on a knife or break glass that the host/hostess forgot to move. I agree with Kat about controlling the environment. God gave us a place to spank…and it is not the face or the arm. Perhaps if we had not removed godly corporal punishment i.e. spanking and discipline of a different kind as they get older, we would not have the situations we have in homes, schools, and work these days. sorry for the rant Brett. This sort of gets my dander up. 🙂

  4. i don’t think there is a blanket answer to this question. i know men who should never have spanked their children, because it always turned into a beating. i know children who respond better to a firm word than a firm hand. do i think spanking is wrong? no. do i think it works well for every parent and every child? no.

    • it does seem to me, shawn, that all kids — and all parents — are different. and so, appropriate discipline should be as well.

      what do the amish do for discipline up in your parts? are their kids as well-behaved as they’re made out to be on tv and whatnot?

      • Hey, sorry I never got back to you on this…74 comments? Awesome post. The Amish are strict disciplinarians and I would imagine that all spank their kids. Their children are very well behaved, especially in public settings – I have a feeling this is a combination of the consistency of their discipline as well as the fact that they are not overly stimulated by watching too much tv, etc.

  5. Brittney Harrison

    I like that in the picture with Baylor and the flower, it looks like she has been beaten. I know that she fell on the cement, but I laughed really hard, and showed it to my roommate.

    In my less than knowledgeable opinion, regarding the fact that I don’t have children, however, I did work in a daycare for 4 years. Watching how children act when their parents aren’t around, and knowing the parents’ form of discipline-I agree with consistency is key.
    Personally, I will pop my child’s hand. From observation of all ranges of discipline, that is what resonated with children the best. I completely understand people’s issues with spanking. But searching for truth, isn’t that the whole game of parenting?

    • it was kind of an awkward photo to post. i didn’t notice, though, until christie pointed out to me that it looked like we’d hit baylor in the eye.

      did you get spanked much when you were a kid? i guess i don’t really remember, since you’re so much younger. i got lots of spankings — from mom and dad both; and i deserved all but one. but that’s a pretty good track record….

  6. well i don’t have any kids, oh wait sorry i was dreaming there, consistency is the key in my humble opinion, and what works for one does NOT always work for all. i wrote a paper a number of years back on spanking, you can find research to support or debunk it’s effectiveness, but amy and i have found consistency is key, and the mode of discipline must change as they age. for ex. i won’t spank my ten year old, it won’t do any good, but he might lose his beloved ipod for a week or something, i applaud you buddy, it’s tough raising kids, but you have to help them along…and make sure even at 18 months you let them know why they got the pop 🙂

    • for everyone else reading, this is a guy with a lot of kids. we graduated high school together, and he had like 12 children before we graduated college.

      consistency, andy, is one of the few things i know for sure we’re aiming for in discipline.

      and W has an ipod?! does he have a cellphone too?

  7. Kasey George

    I started spanking AE when she was 12 months old. She had a clear understanding what a stern “no” meant and usually dropped what she was doing and walked away. There were those times when it was too tempting to walk away, and when it became direct disobedience she got spanked. I have only spanked her 5 times. Spanking is my last resort, and its never more than 1 pop on the bottom to get my point across. Its more about consistency in our house. If we say “no” she will not get away with it no matter how tired I am. 16 month olds are really smart. They know how to “play” the parent. Every parent has to work with their kids to know what form of discipline works best. Right now, mine is screaming her head off because I said “no” to her playing with the computer outlet. Thats all the direction she needed this time. Its your decision and no one elses. We plan to join the class at church, “Growing kids God’s way”!

    • social workers are allowed to spank?? just kidding.

      it seems like baylor’s about where AE is in discipline. a lot of the time all she needs to here is a firm “no” and she stops doing what she wasn’t supposed to have been doing. though these days it’s sometimes followed by a complete and total hissy-fit with crying and screaming. but when we’re at home, i don’t really mind that much.

      it’s our flight back to the states in august that i worry about. baylor has to sit in one of our laps. i have no idea how that’s going to work….

      • pentamom

        Just a little something to think about, right now, you may not mind Baylor having a hissy-fit, but you are actually trainer her to respond that way when she is displeased with not getting her way if you allow her to respond that way. Kids are amazing little creatures and really can be “trained”. It won’t take very long before that won’t be an issue anymore when she sees that responding that way when she doesn’t get her way also comes with consequences. If you do it now, it won’t become a pattern and habit that isn’t as tolerable when she is older. And I hope that was ok to say. Anyway, that has been my experience.
        She is an adorable little girl that the Lord has given you. 🙂

        • thanks for the advice, pentamom. i suppose i’m of the mindset that at this age not getting what she wants — even when throwing a little fit — is itself training that the fit doesn’t accomplish anything.

      • Kasey George

        ew yeah… good luck with that. AnnElise does well if she knows she restrained… maybe a sling or something will work well or if she’s being fed, but thats a really long flight. i also meant to add that i would never spank annelise in front of anyone except for daniel. i feel really uncomfortable when people spank in front of others and i don’t want to put that on someone else’s mind. i also would not allow anyone else to spank my child except for daniel. these are just what i feel comfortable with, not saying its right or wrong. and being a social worker i was a minority in my beliefs, but we would never take that right away from the parent unless there was clear evidence of loss of control/beating and even then all we would do is have the court rule for parenting classes/anger management counseling while the kid stayed with parents. ***For everyone else reading this, we worked our butts off to get the kids back in the home, even when kids were found in really bad circumstances.

  8. randy morgan

    oh, man, i am so dogmatic about this issue! and i am in line right behind bill: if admitting to using corporal punishment is “permanent and subpoenable,” then subpoena me. please!! i would love to be the parent that defends the biblical model for child rearing in the world’s arena–the courtroom.

    god (himself!) told noah, “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (gensesis 8:21). that sinful bent must be trained (“to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior of a child by discipline and instruction”) out of a child, and the responsibility for the training of that child lies squarely with his/her parents. proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.” that’s the only training method god gives us.

    like bill, my son is now grown but i spanked him hundreds of times. i never hurt him, not once, but spanking was my choice for teaching him several important lessons (consequences, responsibility, authority, etc). perhaps this biggest thing was that he learned that humiliation (gasp!) is associated with sinful behavior, and that there is someone in his life that loves him so much, that sinful behavior will not be tolerated under any circumstances. he was 16 (and as tall as me) the last time i spanked him, but he submitted to it because he trusted me.

    also, i started spanking my son as soon as i saw (in his eyes) that he knew what he was doing when he disobeyed. you are right on, brett. god’s word is true. the pop-psychology loving critics are wrong. and i invite you to email my son and ask him what he thinks (he spanks my 2-year old granddaughter, by the way).

    • You won’t win in the courtroom. My point is that if you want to retain the privilege to spank your child when necessary, it’s not very wise to put information out there that can be used against you in court. Trust me, it doesn’t take much to make it to where you’ll never even SEE your child again, let alone spank them. If you think that’s worth going to court and shooting off at the mouth in defense of what you believe to be the Biblical model (and I’m not so dadjim sure that it is) then go right ahead and be brash.

      Sometimes folks just need to remember that the Internet isn’t a private telephone conversation, that’s all I’m trying to say.

      I know a man who was a pastor and may soon be labeled as a child abuser, lose his church, and never be able to minister again over something MUCH less impacting than a spanking. In the event that he had bragged on the internet in the past about a preference for corporal punishment, I can guarantee you that his chances of ever parenting his kids would disappear forever.

      If you want to lose the opportunity to even be in contact with your kids or grandkids simply to shout from the rooftops that you believe spanking to be a Biblical model and that no one can deny you that right, go ahead. The court of public opinion is not on your side, and the courts of the land are rapidly following. They may be wrong, they may be right. But they are the courts, and they can impose some horrible judgments.

    • randy, i emailed your son. he said you hit like a girl.

      just kidding. thanks for your thoughts, and for sharing your experiences. i was pretty sure i remembered reading a post on your blog once about disciplining children.

  9. Gingles

    i’ve found two kinds of people who oppose any kind of corporal punishment. 1) those who have experienced such punishment outside the bounds of love and 2) those who escaped childhood without much discipline and think turned out just fine. we subscribe to a similar method as yourself and have had great success. success to the point that when she goes to touch something she shouldn’t – she wags her own finger back and forth like she’s seen us do (so stinkin cute). if i thought there was even an off-chance that my child will fail to differentiate between hitting (which requires anger) and hand-pop discipline (which requires love)…i wouldn’t do it. but what do i know…

    • There’s a third kind, maybe even a fourth. Oh, yeah, five. 🙂

      3 – Those who realizes that pain initiates an anger response and respect that the Bible says “provoke not your children to wrath.”
      4 – Those who have seen children who respect out of love and not out of fear and realize that this is possible, even though it is the harder type of parenting.
      5 – Those who have witnessed (or even felt) the situation where a parent spanks a child ONLY because the parent feels that he is expected to by someone who is NOT the child’s parent. The absolute best way to make me angry is to utter the words “If that was my kid, I’d bust their butt.” Such presumptuous know-it-all imposition is wrong in dozens of ways. Way too many parents discipline physically simply because THE CHURCH insists that God requires us to spank our children. That’s bull. “Spare the rod, spoil the child, amen?” Yes, the Bible says that, but that’s not all it says. Besides, that’s in PROVERBS, which is a book of wisdom, not a legalistic book of commandments. In my opinion, it’s referring to correcting the child, not mandating that a Christian MUST spank their child in order to fulfill a Biblical model. MUCH more is said about loving little children than about spanking them, yet we really like to fall back on that one little verse.
      6 – Those who realize that a VERY high percentage of spanking is done while the parent is ANGRY. Said parent may claim to be doing it in love and to be doing it quickly so that the child associates the pain with the offense, but I maintain that nearly all spankings are done by an angry parent. Next time you see a parent spanking a child, watch closely. That parent is just about guaranteed to be angry and embarrassed.

      Note – a pop on the hand does not qualify as a “spanking”. Yet, it tends to make Daddy’s hand an instrument of pain, and I do NOT want my children to see me this way.

    • gingles!! it’s great to hear from you. i’m sorry it had to be over a conversation about popping our little girls’ hands.

      i read out loud to christie the line about the finger-wagging; she appreciated it a great deal. we both laughed. i can’t wait to see you guys. we’ll be coming through texas in october; i’ll get you actual dates as soon as i have them.

  10. pentamom

    Dear Brett, this subject is so dear to my heart. From the time my babies were little I sought the Lord on training up my children in the way they should go. It goes so far beyond the do’s and don’t’s, which are important and can’t be neglected, but it is training them as the Lord trains us “that we may share in His holiness”. That must always be our motivation. I am not talking about macro control, but knowing the desire God has for us in His word of righteousness and holiness. All too often parents wait until the bad behavior becomes full blown before they begin any type of training. I began when they were babies. And don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a monster, I was loving, “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” I had 5 children and never had squabbles or fighting and hitting each other. I am serious. I know that many might think this is a mighty claim, but my children had really sweet spirits. I could go anywhere with joy and not a burden. I also never possessed that attitude of “I can’t wait till their father gets home so I can have some time to myself”. I asked my husband, “am I crazy, am I remembering this wrongly?” He agreed, we didn’t have those problems that many face in kids fighting and quarreling etc.

    For example: If my child displayed, even as an infant, a defiant attitude, I would look them in the eyes while holding their hands and firmly, but lovingly say, “No”. If they shrugged or tried to pull away (and I’m even talking pre-verbal) and let out an “eh”, I would do it again. If it happened again, they would get a swat on the thigh (but it isn’t a swat where you slap the child while looking at them in anger, I’m sure you know what I mean). And that is with any behavior that isn’t in keeping with the direction Christ would want us to go: rudeness, arrogance, disrespect, covetousness (I want that toy, he’s not sharing). All of those attitudes show up in these little beacons of joy. The problem is, in thinking they can’t be corrected. If I am holding my child and they want down. I don’t want to let them down but they keep squirming. We make the mistake in allowing them to decide what they will do. If I have to leave the room and talk to my child and correct them for “insisting” I let them down, then I will. In services, if my child would fuss, I’d put my hand over their mouth and say, “shh”, but not in a way where I’m embarrassed or having to control, but that they need to learn to be still and quiet when it’s necessary. If they don’t, I calmly (all too often I have seen parents yank their child away and pull them out in a huff), even if they are kicking and screaming don’t be embarassed because this isn’t about us, it’s about training) walk them out tell them this is a time to be quiet or they will have to be spanked (nothing severe and not in anger, it can just be an authoritative slap on the thigh enough to say this is serious). Then follow through. Children learn quickly when they take your guidance serious. As they grow older, and you know the scriptures, you will be able to share godly reasons behind why they should/shouldn’t do this or that. Anyway, this could be so much more elaborate, but suffice it to say to keep in mind, “train them in the WAY they should go” whether it be behavior, attitudes, however the Lord may highlight. I’m sure you as a missionary know more of what that WAY is than most. But I believe a lot of parents run into the problem when they don’t know the WAY themselves. And don’t threaten. There has been times where I was tempted to let something go because I was in the middle of something. But then, I realize discipline can’t be based on a matter of convenience or laziness on my part. Another draw back can be in thinking they will they will cry and scream, so I am tempted to not discipline. But surprisingly, when I was faithful, the thing I anticipated didn’t happen. The fruit was obedience instead. I never bought into the concept of the terrible twos and we never had them. I hope this wasn’t all too presumptuous of me to share and I hope it helps.

    • thanks, pentamom, for coming by the blog. and for sharing your thoughts and ideas. i really appreciate it. and it’s not presumptuous at all. it’s been helpful to hear your experiences.

  11. pentamom

    Oh, one other thought on that controlling your environment: The Lord COULD have left that tree of knowledge of good and evil out of Adam and Eves reach, but he didn’t. Jesus learned obedience by the things he suffered. We all learn through discipline.

  12. carsonmcneal

    here’s an interesting article from the Dr. Sears website:
    It’s a lot of information but some of the things most relevant to the conversation going on here include the section on slapping hands (which does mention one study done on the issue), “Hitting is not actually Biblical” (which does not claim that it is unbiblical, but just that it is not mandated by the Bible in order to be a godly parent), and guidelines for parents who choose to spank.
    And here’s a thought I have on discipline. Often times children misbehave because they haven’t learned how to deal with certain emotions or situations in life. Spanking (or any discipline technique that doesn’t take the time to figure out what is going on in their head) teaches that the way they are acting is not ok, but does not teach them the correct way to deal with the emotions that lead to their behavior. Obviously there will be times when they do know the correct way and don’t choose it, but that is not always the case. Here’s an article that I think illustrates what I’m trying to get at:

    • carsonmcneal

      sorry this came from Holly, not Carson. I didn’t realized he was the one logged in. Oops.

      • he didn’t approve of what you said — and made you go back and type that disclaimer? jk.

      • thanks for the links, holly. i checked them both out. i found some of it very useful — while disagreeing with other parts of it. i think one of my least favorite arguments against spanking and the like is that it models hitting. [i’m not suggesting you meant as much in your comment.]

        i suppose in a way it does model hitting: a child might think he’s able to hit his sibling? but any form of discipline could be misconstrued as something a sibling can do to another. and we don’t want children attempting to discipline other children. but this seems to be an issue not of what we model, but of knowing who is in authority — and children aren’t and should know as much.

        as for the hitting of children being biblical or not, there is indeed a perfectly acceptable interpretation of “the rod” that doesn’t involve corporal punishment. shepherds used their rods to hit animals that would attack their sheep, but in regards to the sheep themselves, the rod was used for directing and guiding. [i’m torn in my interpretation of those texts. well, i say i’m torn — really, i just haven’t studied them much.]

  13. JMF


    Whip boys, don’t whip girls. That is the correct answer.

    That said, I whipped my dogs when they were puppies and mischievous. I really regret it now. I’m sure they learned to some extent, but they’d have learned better if I’d simply spent more time in learning how to train them. It isn’t their fault that their owner is ignorant of good parenting (owner) skills.

    I think certain human boys need whipped. Others don’t. Others it will ruin their life. Case by case basis.

    • jmf, i’m currently trying to learn how to discipline dogs as well. i’m not nearly as concerned about it, but i am. i have two young puppies that are brothers. i’ve taught them to sit, but i think they might just think that sitting gets them food. i’m pretty sure what i need to do is pen one up while i train the other; but i haven’t taken the time to do that yet. i’ve been trying to deal with both of them at the same time.


  14. Oh my goodness. I LOVE those pictures of Baylor! She is a beautiful girl.

    Our kids are currently 3,4,5,6,7,8 & 9. So, we are currently in the thick of it. This gives me very little wisdom (or nostalgia about how wonderfully I rasied them back when….). All I can say from experience, is that kids respond differently to different discipline techniques. Some children may respond well to being spanked, while it may enrage others, or make another fearfully cower. It all depends.
    It also depends a lot on the parents and their ability to maintain control and compassion. Sometimes, the very act of spanking itself may fuel the fire, causing the parents to become more angry than necessary, and therefore spank in a way that is too harsh and becomes inappropriate.
    We have gone through periods of time where we used spaking frequently, and times where we have completely abstained from it, depending on what our family dynamic seemed to call for at that season.
    A flick or swat on the hand as in “no, no don’t touch” is also not the same as a spanking on the bottom is for an older child. And the word “spank” can mean many different things to different people. Belts, wooden spoons, boards?
    There is no way to give a right or wrong answer on this one, other than seeking wisdom.

    • “Sometimes, the very act of spanking itself may fuel the fire, causing the parents to become more angry than necessary, and therefore spank in a way that is too harsh and becomes inappropriate.” Very true. Human psychology is incredibly complicated, but I really think that many parents spank out of fear or anger.

      And the popular presumption amongst Christians seems to be that those who don’t spank “let them get away with anything!” That’s several kinds of unfair and presumptuous, too.

    • it is so funny reading the ages of your kids. it looks just like counting. that’s a whole bunch of young’uns. thanks for sharing your wisdom with me. even if your homemade yogurt recipe uses store-bought….

      so, speaking of different kids responding differently to discipline, can i ask you a direct question? do some of your kids get completely different forms of discipline than the others? does it at all fall along boy/girl lines — or even have a tendency to do so?

    • What a time commitment it is for you to reply to all of these comments! I came to check my e mail and there are about 150 from my subscription to this post. 🙂 You are a busy man!

      Yes, our kids absolutely get different kinds of discipline. From my point of view, where I am raising a slew of them right on top of each other in age, it is less about whether spanking is right or wrong – and more about if it is profitable and beneficial to the child given the situation. That said – I am MUCH less apt to spank my girls than I am my boys. They are far more sensitive and respond quite well to a furrowed brow or a verbal correction. The boys are less likely to even HEAR my verbal corrections. They *may* get spanked more frequently. Ahem.

      Corporal punishment on adopted children is a whole different ball of wax. A parent must be very careful in discipline techniques while working to build love and trust. I’m learning many lessons about this the hard way.
      Adoption is not for sissies. That’s for sure.

      It is always fun, informative, and thought provoking to read your blog.

  15. Is there even one Biblical narrative where a parent strikes a child in any way and is commended for it? To say spanking is following the Biblical model is to take a world of information from six words. Because “Jesus wept” are we supposed to cry all the time?

    • i don’t know of one.

      but deuteronomy 21 doesn’t look good for those attempting to say God didn’t / doesn’t approve of corporal punishment. he certainly commanded the israelites to do some harsh things:

      “If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.”

      but don’t hear this as me saying i’m for stoning children. or even suggesting christians must use spanking with their kids. i’m just looking at where the bible does speak to the issue.

  16. I guess I’m not making any friends. Sorry if I’m being obnoxious. I just despise that piece of culture that says “You don’t spank your children? You must not believe the Bible! You’re going to hayull and you’re sending them too!”

  17. wow. that’s a lot of response. thank you, everyone, for writing. lots of great advice and ideas in there. i’m going to bed now, but intend to give it all a little closer look-through tomorrow morning. and i’ll make some more personal comments then.

    and baylor’s eye is not bruised in the first picture from a beating. she was running on some concrete at the gold mine (where the pic was taken) and got going too fast, tripped, skidded a bit on her brow, and then somersaulted right over. it was actually pretty impressive.

    and this has nothing really to do with anything, but i just thought of it: baylor can now run faster than i can swim. sometimes when we play at the pool at the gold mine, she wants to get out and play on the side. so i stay in and just swim parallel to wherever she goes — in case she falls in, etc. well, i can no longer keep up with her when she’s in a sprint. [at least not while also keeping my head out of the water to watch her….]

  18. Emily

    wow, talk about a topic that will get anyone (parent or not) riled up. i don’t have a helpful comment except to say that i LOVE the pictures of Baylor with the captions together with the post.

  19. my daughter is younger than yours and I imagine we’ll be a blue tooth house (I’m so clever oh my oh my). But to me it’s one of those things you don’t know til you’re in it. … “we want to have 5 kids!” “talk to me after the 1st one”

  20. Milynda

    I am going to raise my children the ole southern way – spank them often and for everything. Well, not really. I do believe in discipline…finding that specific button for the child and then showing restraint in pressing it. I am also one of those that don’t think that my children are my friend, buddy, homey, or chill mate. I will be the cool mom not because my kids get away with everything but because they are just good kids. This coming from someone who does not have children.

    I believe that discipline is part consequence and part teaching. And for as much as I am disciplining my child, I am also learning discipline, patience, and compassion. No matter what my child does, I need to demonstrate Christ to them. I pray for the perfect child (the one that is completely obedient, eats their vegetables, goes to bed without complaint…) and then recognizing that my child is human and flawed, I pray that I will be wise with my decisions on discipline.

    • milynda, i never prayed for the perfect child because i knew i wouldn’t get it. my mom put the old one-day-you’ll-have-a-kid-just-like-you curse on me far too many times.

      thanks for commenting.

  21. I’m with Emily there. I’m not a parent and so I read these comments purely for entertainment…and whoa nelly! Such a controversial subject.

    The only thing I feel moved to say…because I am not really into controversial stuff – I think folks DO get riled up and then actually listening and taking into consideration what others say is not taking place…so what is the point? BUT, I’d like to tell the Bernard fellow that while he makes several decent points, he is railing and raving at a thread of comments that have not claimed he or anyone else who does not spank is going to hell. It is one thing to say “people often say this…” but it is not overly applicable if no one in this particular thread is of that opinion or has stated such.

    So, if you want to be heard and not thought of as obnoxious or someone with anger issues, I’d focus on what exactly is being said, not what others have said or might say or you have heard someone say once. I may be naive, but I’d like to think the whole sending people to hell for disagreeing thing is falling out of favor…

    Just sayin’… That’s what this non-parental reader took from it.

  22. My apologies. I’m sorry for coming across in the wrong way.

    But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong. So don’t write off my points just because I’m a bit emotional and do a bad job of communicating.

    I could say a lot more, but it would like come across wrongly as well. Thanks for tolerating me.

    I’m sorry.

    Y’all have a great day. I’m done.

  23. Jane

    I’m not saying you are wrong or right. But I think if we want to be heard (which I think we all do), we must temper our arguments and opinions with gentleness and humility. Otherwise, no matter how reasonable our assertions, those we speak to cannot see beyond the anger and prideful belief in our own estimate of ourselves and our views. When someone talks down to me, makes fun of what I think, or disagrees angrily, I tune out their words. Although, Brett, along with many of his readers do seem to be able to look past those things…so that could just be me. 🙂

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  25. Dear Brett,
    I do have a lot of gray hairs; I just color them. You are not a terrible person! King Solomon said, “Spare the rod and you spoil the child.”
    I believe each generation is getting softer and softer with discipline. When I’m in the grocery store and see a child screaming because it can’t have a toy, the mom tells the child to stop but it doesn’t listen because it knows nothing will happen to it. As a result, the child has no respect for the parent because the parent doesn’t follow through with discipline.
    As far as knowing when to spank, my husband and I wondered when we would know when to start with our first child. She answered that for us when we told her not to touch something and she looked at us and back at whatever it was she wasn’t supposed to touch, (I can’t remember), and we could see the wheels turning in her head. She was making a decision. She went ahead and touched it and she got swatted. Terry and I believed that if we didn’t teach her about consequences when she was little, when she was older and wouldn’t be able to keep a job because she would have no experience answering to authority.

    I think you mentioned that we answer to authority in life. Cops, president, boss, our parents, God. We answer to people, whether we like it or not. Reminds me of one of my favorite books, “The Lord of the Flies”. The kids find out what happens when there are no rules. Even on the
    TV show “Lost” they knew they needed to appoint a leader.
    Anyway, sorry for the book-length answer but our first child is now 17 and is great. Boy, was
    she a problem when she was 3-4. People kept
    telling me to put my foot down and be
    consistent. I did and it paid off. Trust me, if you
    Discipline her now, by the time she is in her teens, she’ll be a great person!

    • thanks for the advice, holly. and funny you mentioned ‘lost.’ christie and i are just watching it these days. we watch an episode or two every night. we’re in season 3 now.

  26. Chris

    We started out spanking our daughter and sometimes swatted her hands on the advice of a good Christian friend. I was even provided with a brochure on the Christian “how-to” of spanking. I never felt good about it for many reasons, and eventually we began placing her in “The Green Chair” for the number of minutes of her age. If she fussed, we added another minute. She still hates that green chair to this day, and she’s 24. As she grew older, we developed a system of removing a privilege as discipline. I’ve also been a teacher of young children, and although I taught in schools where paddling was used, I believe there are better ways to discipline. It takes some thought and trial and error to come up with effective tools, but I believe it’s worth the effort. I know of too many situations where physical punishment was inappropriate or crossed the line. I firmly believe that if an adult is angry, they should never spank or hit a child. Also, when a young child escalates into a temper tantrum, they have lost control and don’t have the tools to reign themselves in. I have found that simply holding them firmly, yet calmly and with love – even rocking them – can help them calm themselves down. At least it has worked for me.

    • a green chair, huh? we’ve not done any kind of timeouts with baylor up to this point. other than occasionally making her sit still if she’s having a little tantrum. but we may give it a go at some point. any advice on when kids can understand having to sit somewhere as being discipline?

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  28. Becky M

    Hey, we met you guys when you were last in Dar (The Ocean and swimming at White Sands) and only pieced together afterwards that you and this blog go together! I started following when we were getting ready to move to Tz.
    Anyhow, just wanted to agree that different kids need different approaches. I was spanked as a kid, but never in anger, and as a parent I would definitely consider it one potential option in our range of discipline tools, as long as it’s not in anger and not in public. We’ve never actually needed to use it though, as we learnt early on that our daughter (4) is very sensitive to our tone of voice (not yelling, just a calm, serious tone of voice whilst looking her in the eye). Now when we see behaviour that we don’t want to see in her, she gets a warning that this is not the way to behave and if it happens again we have a spot she goes to sit in. If it’s something we’re very sure she knows is wrong (direct disobedience, hitting, disrespect towards me or Sid), she knows that we bypass the warning stage. We make sure she knows why she’s being disciplined and afterwards we often talk through the consequences of what she did on her relationships with God/us/others. I also make a mental note to explore what God’s word says about the issue with her later on when she’s more teachable. A good book I read is Ted Tripp ‘Shepherding a Child’s Heart’, which talks about the aim of discipline being to nurture a godly heart rather than to merely change outward behaviour.

    • wow. hey, small world. i definitely do remember. you sang on the praise team? and baylor and i swam in the pool with your husband and daughter. we love getting to go to the ocean when we’re in dar. and carley is coming to see us tomorrow — we’re picking her up in mwanza when she flies in, and she’s staying the week.

      thanks for all the great advice. and i hope my daughter is as sensitive to my tone of voice as your daughter is to yours.

  29. Julie R.

    Oh Brett! What a controversial topic you have chosen! We are spankers. My 9 and 6 year-old have been spanked and will continue to be when necessary. Which, at this point, because they have learned consequences for defiance and direct disobedience are painful, doesn’t happen very often. When my daughter was 2, we had a paint stirrer from Home Depot. Later we graduated to a wooden ruler. After consistently using it, all I had to do, if things were beginning to go south w/her behavior, was show it to her. Now she is my more stubborn child and required more attention and spankings. My son is a “pleaser”. He can’t stand to get in trouble, much less spanked. So he has gotten less spankings than her. Both my sister and I were spanked as children. Never abused. Never leaving marks. Just swift, painful punishment.
    I personally think “time out” is absolutely ridiculous! For most kids a “time out” is a break for them. And they got away w/whatever they were doing wrong. I guarantee they are not sitting on their stool in the corner “thinking about what they did wrong”. They are thinking a million other things. Not reflecting on their bad behavior. “Time outs” last too long and are almost as painful for the parent as the child. I believe in swift and memorable and move on!
    I completely agree w/being consistent. If I let them get away with something one day and the next spank them for it – yeah, they would be confused. Never spank out of anger. That is when it can go wrong.
    Also, if parents are worried that their children won’t like them, I guarantee they will love them more! Both of my kids adore me. Snuggle with me, hug me, tell me they love me all the time. Why? Because I care enough to make them behave and teach them boundaries and keep them safe. After my sis and I got over our tears from the pain of being spanked, we were hugging our parents and moving on w/our day.
    Good Luck, Brett! Parenting is tough! I do believe in spanking. And no one and nothing will ever make me change my mind on that!
    James Dobson’s “Dare to Discipline” and “Bringing up Girls” are wonderful reads if you want a professional opinion. 🙂

    • it has proved to be quite the controversial topic, indeed. thanks for coming by — and for the great comments. i have a feeling that spanking will be one of the punishments we use with baylor. for now it’s the popping of a hand, and even that only in dangerous situations. i’ve found pulling her away from something and holding her hands while i explain to her that she can’t do that usually suffices. i suppose it’s kind of like a miniature timeout, except that she’s having the hands she was using to touch the oven held tightly? i suppose we’re mainly using this method to teach her that things are off-limits, not to punish or discipline her once she returns to them.

      i also, though, would guess that timeouts will be used in our house. i can definitely see that it’s only a break for some children. but i know for me to be made to sit down and be still would have been (still would be) a bad punishment. but spanking certainly worked for me as well.

  30. 3D

    So much rationalization and reliance on magical thinking to justify beating your child, which many of those who have posted here are just itching to do. I’ll suggest an alternative you need to hear: Beating your child is wrong. Don’t do it.

    • 3d, you act as if people who spank their children (or pop their hands) just like hitting their kids. i’d suggest you attempt to understand their thinking before you simply dismiss it as magical and stupid.

      • 3D

        I did not “simply dismiss” what some posters have said here as “stupid”.

        I said that the arguments expressed here in favor of child beating were ‘rationalized’ (elaborate justifications — often very wordy ones — put forward to condone untoward behavior) and ‘relied on magical thinking’ (deploying religious feelings and the most primitive of doctrinal imaginings to condone untoward behavior).

        The arguments expressed here in favor of child beating seek to ritualize barbarism and thereby make it acceptable. It’s not a different tactic from what’s used for female genital mutilation and a long list of other practices that humans impose upon one another. That a particular practice might be ritualized, traditional and/or supported by religious teaching does not change that the practice inflicts harm and is wrong.

        Child beating is wrong. Don’t do it. And don’t enable those who do.

        • 3D – you’re absolutely right. Child beating is wrong. No parent or caregiver should ever engage in such behavior, nor should they enable or endorse it.

          It’s a good thing that utilizing spanking as a form of discipline and consequence is not the equivalent of beating.

        • Well, you’re obviously the expert. You must have a whole flock of your own offspring to have gained such vast experiential wisdom and insight. Best wishes on your child rearing ~

          • 3D

            Beating your child is wrong. Don’t do it.

            If you need alternatives to beating, they are available. If you need help in controlling your impulses, it’s available. It you’re confused because your religion leads down a path you shouldn’t take, just ask for help.

            Make the choice to commit the least amount of harm. Don’t beat your child, even if — somewhere inside you — you think it’s not so bad. Choose to not beat your child. Other means of discipline are simply better, and you don’t need me to explain why that’s so. Don’t beat your child.

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  32. I grew up as the youngest of 8 children. my parents were born and raised Amish and raised us just the same, (except they left the Amish church before I was born). So, for all intents and purposes…we were Amish with electricity and a car! Discipline was very cut and dry. If you disobey, you get a spanking. And we learned that very quickly and very early on. I’m not messed up, (at least I think I’m okay most days). I feel my husband and I have a joyful parenting experience with our 3 young children. Namely because of consistency and being together in our decisions of how to disciline. I cannot deny the fact that my childhood has alot to do with my parenting…how can it not? I am grateful for the way I was raised. Thank you for getting this one little conversation started.

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