Note: This was originally written on November 22, 2016. I always have my husband edit my posts.
God is good! So many Christians believe that He punishes us when we sin. He definitely corrects us which isn’t pleasant, but He doesn’t spank, hurt, or smite us down or I really shouldn’t be here as I have been really sinning in my anger lately. Today is an example of God’s love.
We went grocery shopping today and got stuff for Thanksgiving. With everything we’ve been going through with grief, our cat being in the beginning stages of kidney disease, and other stresses, my husband asked me this morning if he could just make turkey and his mom’s amazing oyster dressing, and mashed potatoes because he just wasn’t into making the whole feast with sweet potatoes and green bean casserole. Of course, I said that was fine because we’re both at our limits. Maybe Christmas we’ll have the whole feast. We’ll see.
So we get everything at the store and come to the van. My husband puts me in the van and I started freaking out. I cussed. My Sara ring, the ring he bought me on the first birthday without my beloved first kitty Sara, was GONE! I didn’t feel or hear it fall off. I was so upset and sick to my stomach. My husband looked ALL over. It was nowhere to be found.
On the way home, I had a meltdown. I yelled at God. I said some very hateful things, and called Him names I’m ashamed of. My angry outburst was not as intense as the other night when I said some even more horrible things to God due to fear and anger about the possibility of losing our cat after having lost my mother-in-law and my grandpa all in the same year, but still, it was very nasty and I felt Him being sad. But I was so angry that I didn’t care at the moment. I got defiant and said that I would just go buy a new ring. I just really let Him have it.
When we got home, my husband looked again for the ring. Gone. I felt sick. I couldn’t cry. I just felt sick. He called the store to let them know that I had lost my ring. But I had no hope. It’s gone.
After putting stuff away, he takes me to the bathroom. As he was getting me up, I saw the ring in my underwear. I couldn’t verbally get it out that my ring was in my underwear due to having to focus on standing and holding on to my husband. It fell out and I said, “my ring, my ring!” He thought I was talking about another ring.
So he gets me back in my wheelchair where he can understand me easier and I told him that it was my Sara ring. It was in my underwear and fell by my “potty chair.” He went in the bathroom, and sure enough, there was my Sara ring! We both thanked Jesus!
Then I got on my iPad and checked my messages and my tattoo artist asked if I wanted to get tattooed next week. She broke her ankle right before my appointment in October to get my memorial tattoo for my mother-in-law and couldn’t do it, so I have been waiting and praying for her. I was concerned that she might not be up to it until after Christmas. I had gotten my first tattoo in honor of my grandpa the day after my birthday, and I wanted both tattoos before the holidays to keep my grandpa and mother-in-law close to me as the holidays will be tough again this year. See here to read all about my first tattoo. I was going to ask next week to see what she thought, but I will be getting tattooed on Tuesday!! Yay! Thank You, Jesus.
Finally, I received a message from Safe Families, a local Christian organization that helps children and their families during crisis situations, and they said that want to see if they can figure out how to partner with me for parent coaching. Thank You, Jesus!
After being so awful to Him again, He blesses me and let’s us know that He is here! He forgives. And maybe He disciplines us in a manner that truly humbles us through blessing because I didn’t deserve any blessings at all!
And perhaps, we should be mindful of the way He disciplines and forgives us as we discipline our children. He definitely loves us no matter what and fathers us gently!
Just re-reading this brings me to tears. I don’t deserve His love.
It is very important to set realistic limits with children, but most parents don’t understand what a realistic limit is for a young child. I start with three main rules from which all limits should be derived. The rules are the following:
Respect for others.
Respect for ourselves.
Respect for property.
These rules are the basis for all relationships to thrive. The reason why we should only have three basic rules on which to base limits and boundaries is that giving children too many rules to follow, especially at a young age, will only frustrate and overwhelm them. These basic rules are easy to understand and will make sense to children, though young children will require much guidance and reminders to help them cooperate with these basic rules.
It is important that while boundaries and limits are a bit flexible, that they are also consistent and hold firm. Some parents may set boundaries and limits based on the three basic rules, but then they allow their children to break right through them.
We must remember when setting limits and boundaries with our children is to make sure the limits and boundaries are logical and reasonable. If the limit does not make any sense to the child, he or she is more likely to fight the limit. Most children will cooperate with the limit, though they may test us at times even if they understand the reason for the limit. An example of giving a reason for a limit would be, “Please walk in the house so you don’t trip and fall.”
How many of us heard our parents say, “Because I said so,” when we wanted to know why they were either making us do something or not allowing us to do something as children? Did it make us want to cooperate? For me, it didn’t make me want to cooperate. It just made me angry. I believe that mutual respect dictates that we provide a simple reason for our limits.
Many times, we as parents, get into the habit of saying, “no,” “don’t,” and “stop,” so much that our children begin to tune us out. I mean, who wants to constantly be told what they can’t do? This doesn’t help young children learn how to interact appropriately with others. I have found that saying, “Be gentle with your baby brother,” is often more effective than saying, “Don’t hit.” Another example is saying, “Walking feet,” instead of saying, “Don’t run.”
Even if we have no choice but to phrase something negatively, it is very important to follow it with something positive that they can do. For example, say, “You may not draw on the wall, but you may draw on this piece of paper.”
More examples of setting realistic limits are:
“You may have a cookie after supper.”
“Please pick up your toys so nobody trips over them.”
“I need you to finish up so we can get ready to go.”
“Please sit on your bottom so you don’t fall.”
“You may not hit Jack, but you may hit the pillow.”
“I need you to use your words.”
“I need you to poop in the toilet.” (Not in the closet.) 😊
Many parents say, “You need to…” but the child is probably thinking, “No, I don’t need to brush my teeth and go to bed,” so it’s better to say that we need them to do things. Another thing is that it’s easy to give the limit in the form of a question. For example, “Do you want to get ready for bed?” Most young children will say, “No!” Therefore, if it isn’t a choice, then it’s better to say, “It’s time for bed.” Or, “I need you to get ready for bed.”
Also, giving children lead times will help make it easier for them to cooperate. Say, for example, “In five minutes it will be time to clean up and get ready for bed.” Be sure to get on the child’s level and say this. In fact, getting on children’s level whenever a limit or boundary is being set will help the child feel respected, making cooperation more likely.
If possible, when setting limits, give children choices such as “Would you like your Hello Kitty pajamas or your Mickey Mouse pajamas?” Or, “Do you want to walk to the bathroom or would you like me to carry you?” “Do you want to race to clean up with me?” Anything that gives children some control over the situation is a good thing.
Now, what if you set a limit and the child won’t cooperate? Simply say, “I see you’re having a hard time cooperating, so I will help you.” Giving help or making a choice when the child isn’t able to make up his/her mind isn’t punishment. Children need to learn that there are times when we must do things that we don’t want to do. Just be sure to validate their feelings when they get upset about the limit. Please see here for posts about validating feelings.
There’s never a reason to punish a child for not cooperating as he/she will experience the natural consequences of his/her behavior. See here for tips on using natural consequences.
I will be writing a post about using time-IN instead of time-out soon.
It’s important for me to point out again as I close, children are NOT “little sinners” that need the “devil beat out of them” as so many Christians continue to believe. They’re beautiful human beings that God created that need our help to navigate this world. Jesus drove demons out verbally. He befriended and corrected sinners. Then, amazingly, our Almighty God chose to suffer and die on the cross for all of humanity’s sins. He was sinless. Grace, mercy, gentleness is for children too. Jesus even held children up as an example for *us.* So may we discipline children in the way that Jesus disciplines us through setting realistic limits.
I tell the story of both of my kids in regards to running into streets/parking lots to a lot of people because that question comes up so often. I found peaceful parenting when my first was about a year old. We don’t do any punishments or rewards with our kids. I don’t yell at my kids and I don’t use the word “no” very often. It’s not that I let them do what they want (we have some pretty firm limits on certain things), but I had learned that children will begin to tune out the word “no” if they hear it to often so I try to use different ways to tell them when we can’t do something.
So anyway, when my first was a little over two, we were leaving a building and my hands were full. She was always great about walking with me but this time she took off out the door running towards the car, (which was parked right outside the door) but she was headed to the back of the car because she knew I was putting stuff in the back. It’s a little used parking lot but at that moment someone came tearing into it at a rate of speed not really appropriate for a parking lot and it scared me to death that she would run out from behind our car, the other driver wouldn’t see her, and he would hit her. There was no way I could catch her. I shouted “STOP!!” She immediately stopped, turned back to look at me, and came straight to me.
There was no fear in her eyes, only trust. She knew I wasn’t going to hurt her and she also knew that mom never uses that voice to talk to her so this must be super important. At that moment, I was so thankful that I don’t yell at or spank my kids.
Fast forward a few years and I have another crazy little toddler (also two years old, also being raised without punishments). We had to leave somewhere and she wasn’t happy about it so she was crying and sat down on the curb with her arms crossed because she was angry. I was standing just a few feet from her giving her a little space to calm down. In typical unpredictable fashion, she jumped up from the curb and took off into the street but on the opposite side of a car from where I was. She was angry and there was a car coming down the busy street that I knew had no way to see her in between the parked cars and was going too fast to stop. I was even more frightened because this kid is so hard-headed and persistent but there was no way for me to reach her so I did the same thing. “STOP!!”
Exact same reaction as my first daughter. She immediately stopped, turned to look at me and came to me. I don’t know if the result would have been the same had my parenting styles been different. Maybe it would…..but I have my doubts. I think peaceful parenting saved my kids’ lives. I also think that even if spanking would accomplish the same thing, why use it if a peaceful alternative works just as well or better?
I recently heard a sermon about children that didn’t sit well with me. I held my breath through it waiting for the pastor to get to “discipline” a.k.a punishment in most Christian circles.
While he didn’t come right out and talk about spanking/hitting children, his words and phrases implied spanking such as:
”This is gonna hurt me more than you.”
“When a football player gets a penalty, they get it and then move on to the next play.”
“Sixty seconds of pain helps prevent sixty years of disappointment.”
And he cited James Dobson a couple times in his sermon which anyone familiar with Dobson knows that he advocates spankings and other harsh punishment for children.
It’s sad that he even mentioned the children in the sanctuary looking like, “oh no, not discipline” as true discipline should not make children squirm in their seats. As I have pointed out a great deal throughout my book and this blog, yes, discipline can be painful as children learn how their actions affected another person or when they don’t get something that they really wanted. But discipline never inflicts pain on a child!
So, does 60 seconds of pain really help prevent 60 years of disappointment?
In my experience, no, it does not. Yeah, I was abused, but even people who were spanked/hit “lovingly” experience disappointment throughout their lives. Why? Because disappointment is a part of life.
If anything, being spanked and punished makes it harder to deal with disappointment because it doesn’t teach us how to handle it in a healthy manner. For example, spanking/hitting a toddler for either not accepting a limit or getting very upset about it doesn’t teach them how to handle disappointment. It just makes them more upset and confused. They either lash out more, which will end in more spanking/hitting and/or other punishment or it teaches the toddler that his/her feelings don’t matter. This can lead them to lash out as adults or repress their feelings as adults when disappointment comes their way. It can lead to real problems in their lives.
The pastor used an example for this “sixty seconds of pain” concept of a child that was permissively parented and ended up in prison. Yes, permissive parenting also sets up children to not be able to handle life’s disappointments in an unhealthy way. If they always get what they want in childhood, then they will probably get very angry as adults when things don’t go how they want.
The problem is that trying to imply that if you don’t spank/hit children they will become criminals is very erroneous. The fact is that the majority of prisoners were physically punished as children! Violent parenting makes children feel powerless. This can lead some to use aggression as adults to get what they want as that is what their parents did to them.
The rest of the prison population is usually permissively parented.
Pain makes us angry, sad, confused, and anxious. Why would you set up children to experience pain from you in order to “prevent” sixty years of disappointment? It makes no sense.
Disappointments happen from birth and its our job to get on their level and say, “I’m so sorry you are sad, frustrated, and disappointed. This is the way it has to be but I am here to help you.” Teach them healthy ways of expressing their disappointments by giving them words, encouraging art expression, using music, petting an animal, reading a book–anything productive that truly helps them.
The number one thing we can do to prepare children for disappointment is to show them that we are there for them and will listen to them. Teach them that they can always count on us and God. Because sixty seconds of pain will never prevent sixty years of disappointment.
As I have been corresponding with people who are on the fence about gentle discipline, it hit me that God is a relational God. Everything He does is to get us to become closer to Him. That’s why it makes me sad that so many Christians believe that He does bad things “for our good.” That doesn’t make us feel closer to Him unless we have some sadomachistic tendencies going on in us.
When it comes to disciplining our children, I find myself covering the same issues with punitive parents who just don’t understand what discipline really is. So I am going to cover it again here.
Discipline looks at the whole child instead of focusing on behavior. When you understand the child and where he/she is in his/her development, you can set appropriate limits and figure out the whys behind behavior. Children are so much more than a set of behaviors or “sins.” They are complicated, competent human beings that need our guidance. They are new to this world and have immature brains and bodies. This should not be used against them, but it often is.
Going from using external control such as spankings, time-outs, and taking away privileges in an arbitrary way to using internal motivation by meeting needs, setting limits, allowing natural consequences of choices to happen, validating feelings, allowing appropriate choices, giving alternative appropriate behavior and/or ways of expressing feelings, using time-in to settle down with the children and connect instead of isolating them is tough. It takes a lot of work and patience.
We use the Fruit of the Spirit A LOT when we choose to discipline rather than punish. But this is true discipline. To grow heathy fruit, we must cultivate it, water it, and give it plenty of sunshine. We must also do our best to protect it from the enemy, usually bugs and other animals. We don’t beat the sprouts and fruit as that would ruin it. So why do it to our children by beating them?
God is a relational God, so using discipline is focusing on keeping our relationships intact with our children. You may think that your relationship with your children is fine despite using punishment, but it isn’t what it could be as all children want to please their parents. They may behave out of fear instead of out of respect. We want our children to behave because it is the right thing to do! We want our children to have healthy relationships with others and with God. Only true respect can teach children respect. We must model respect to our children by respecting them and other people! They are learning from our actions more than our words
Also, I am sure I have covered this in other posts, but I know people learn through repetition too so I will cover this again. Fear and respect mean two totally different things.
The definition of fear is “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.”
The definition of respect is “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.”
Notice fear contains the word “evil” in its definition but respect doesn’t. And throughout the Bible God tells us to NOT be afraid. Therefore, to be reverent means to respect, not afraid.
Since God is a relational God, shouldn’t we do everything in our power to treat our children in a manner that produces a healthy relationship with us? We work hard to have good marriages by treating our spouses with love and respect. Why should it be any different with our children? God is over us and yet He calls us His friends (John 15:15, James 2:23, Romans 5:10). May we treat our children how God treats us.
People who spank seem to believe that if they don’t spank, the only other alternative is to let the kids run wild, rule the roost, and become tyrannical delinquents.
But for those of us who have stopped spanking, we know how hard it is to “do” something without hitting.
Just recently my 10 y/o and my 8 y/o had a conflict. The 10 y/o was mostly at fault. She’d called her little sister a name and pushed her. When things like this happen, it triggers the old spanking circuits in my brain. Everything inside me wanted to scold her, yell at her, and punish her…to make her suffer for having done wrong.
So I called her to come talk to me and gave myself a quick “pep” talk as I waited for her.
I resisted the urge to scold and punish…and chose…to discipline instead.
I asked her questions about what happened and I gave her examples I hoped she could relate to. She told me her little sister, “was being rude and irritating me so I called her a baby.”
I asked her if calling her a baby helped the situation. I asked her if when she got mad at her little sister for being rude to her, if calling her a baby was polite. I asked her if calling her a baby taught her little sister not to do what she’d done to irritate her again. And I asked her why she did it. Her answer was typically childish. In her mind she did it because her little sis had irritated her. (I know grown-ups who think this way).
So I asked her if she could have done X, Y, and Z (different examples) instead of calling her a baby. I used some funny examples too that made her smile. But with the examples of other choices she could have made, I helped her then to see that because her sister did something, it did not make her make the choice she had to call her sister a baby. SHE made the choice after her sister irritated her. She could have made 1,000 different choices but she chose to call her sister a baby. She chose to be mean.
At the beginning of the conversation she thought, “I called her a baby BECAUSE she irritated me.” At the end of the conversation she understood, “I called her a baby because I made that choice when I felt irritated by my sister.”
As we talked, tears came to her eyes several times usually when I asked the right question and I could see she came to the right conclusion. But the whole time her eyes and attention remained focused on me.
Then she told me some things that have been bothering her about what her older siblings have done to her, and more tears came. We talked about those things and I encouraged her not to follow their examples.
It took 10-15 minutes to get through this conversation and in the end…she sat down on my lap and hugged me, thanked me for helping her, gave me a kiss, and told me, “I love you.”
A few minutes later…all on her own…I heard her tell her little sister in all sincerity, “I’m sorry I was mean to you.”
THIS is what happens when you don’t spank your children.
Had I still been a spanking parent…this would have ended in 30 seconds with a few whacks of a paddle, resulting in tears of pain and an obligatory apology. But instead it took 10 minutes and ended in tears of thankfulness and understanding.
NOT spanking is more painful for the (usually busy) parent in that it takes a lot longer to handle things…and takes a lot more mental energy, willpower, maturity, thoughtfulness, and creativeness on the part of the parent…but the results are worth the effort.
There are a few points I want to cover in this post. I know I keep saying this stuff in different ways over and over again, but until the abuse of children ends, I will never stop speaking out for children. After all, children are human beings!
So let’s get started!
The first thing that struck me as I half watched the video of the kindergartener about to be paddled/hit at that school in Georgia was the paddle was almost as big as him! A small child got hit by a big wooden paddle. Am I the only one who sees a major problem with this? I can’t even imagine how painful and scary that was. We had a paddle with holes in it at my house growing up and I was terrified of it even though, thankfully, I was never hit with it. But I saw it used on my siblings.
Hitting a small child with a big paddle can cause major injury. And from the testimonies I have heard from people who were paddled at school, the staff don’t hold back much when hitting the children. This is very disturbing. And even if they flick their wrist first, most children have lower pain tolerances than adults do. I can guarantee that kindergartener was in a lot of pain after the spanking/hitting which is not a good thing!
Imagine having to sit the rest of the day in a hard desk after being hit hard by a wooden paddle that was almost as big as you! Could you focus? Could you learn? Of course not! Research shows that pain and fear inhibit learning. Plus, Kindergarteners should be playing, not sitting in desks!
Corporal punishment should never be used with children! It is time to ban it in all schools and homes! It is not your “right to hit your child with a paddle, wooden spoon, paint stick, tree branch, or hand.” Can you imagine how scary school is for the children in the nineteen states that still allow corporal punishment in schools? It does not make children better behaved either.
So, how would I handle a child who spit? I would explain that spitting is gross and would have given him alternative ways of handling conflict after hearing what happened from both children. I would guide them through conflict resolution. And I would have told the child that he may spit outside on the ground or in the bathroom toilet.
It’s all about being willing to discipline (teach and guide) instead of punishing them.
After all, paddles are for boats, NOT for hitting children!
My husband and I recently took a family trip to Florida. It was an absolutely wonderful trip. I got to meet a couple of my gentle parenting Facebook friends and their children during the trip.
It was interesting though because there were a few conversations about parents not “controlling” (I hate the word “control” when it comes to children. Children are not for controlling!) their children by a few people who don’t completely understand about gentle parenting. It did seem though that what they described, children running around a restaurant with no boundaries, was permissive parenting.
Sadly, many people mistake gentle parenting for permissive parenting. These two styles of parenting are completely different! Let me define them before I talk about why permissive parenting is hurting the gentle parenting movement.
There are actually three parenting styles. These three parenting styles are authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. If parents physically punish their children, they are authoritarian, even if they do some of the things that authoritative parents do such as listening to their children at times or offer some choices to the children. This is because authoritarian parenting stresses obedience without question, first-time obedience, strictness, and the use of punishment, especially corporal punishment, with their children.
Authoritarian parents also have very high (usually beyond what the children are developmentally capable of) expectations for their children. While authoritarian parents, in general, love their children very much and simply want the best for them, these parents tend to focus more on keeping control of their children than on using effective discipline strategies that respect the actual needs of the individual child.
Authoritative parents are firm but gentle with their children. They take the time to learn about child development and know at which stage their children are developmentally in order to gain a better understanding of their children’s behaviors.
Authoritative parents set firm, realistic boundaries and limits for their children based on the developmental stage of their children. While these parents stick to their guns on some things, such as bedtime and not allowing their children to eat cookies before suppertime, they always listen to all of their children’s feelings and validate those feelings.
In situations where negotiation can occur, such as allowing five more minutes of playtime before having their children clean up, these parents do so. These parents also give their children simple choices when appropriate, but they are not afraid to let their children know when something is not a choice and cooperation is absolutely required. When children don’t cooperate, authoritative parents will gently but firmly help their children cooperate. And these parents use natural and logical consequences with their children instead of punishment.
Permissive parenting, on the other hand, is the direct opposite of authoritarian parenting. Permissive parenting is just as harmful and abusive to children as authoritarian parenting, even though these two parenting styles are on the two polar ends when it comes to parenting styles.
Permissive parents do not set limits or boundaries for their children. And when these parents do set limits and boundaries for their children, they often don’t consistently enforce them. Some permissive parents allow their children to “walk all over them,” to have whatever they want, and rarely do these parents give their children appropriate consequences when necessary.
Other permissive parents outright neglect all of their children’s needs. They do not even give their children appropriate and necessary care. All of permissive parenting, as I said above, is abusive because either type does not provide children with what they need to thrive. It also exasperates and frustrates children not to have any discipline just like spanking them does. Permissive and authoritarian parents break God’s charge for parents not to frustrate or exasperate their children in Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21.
So when I hear about parents letting their preschool children run around in a restaurant, I cringe. Everyone there was probably thinking, “Parents today let their kids run wild. I wish they’d spank those brats.” Spanking/hitting those preschoolers would not teach them how to behave in a restaurant. Rather, spanking/hitting them would teach fear which is not a good thing.
Plus, referring to children in a derogatory manner is never good. But permissive parenting brings out the authoritarians with force.
So, how would a gentle (authoritative) parent handle this situation? First, they would have been practicing in a fun, playful way how to eat at a restaurant. They would have been modeling manners from the time the children were infants.
Second, they would know that young children can’t sit quietly for long periods of time and would have brought crayons and paper for the children to color. They also would have engaged the children in the family conversation.
Third, they would have ordered the food as soon as possible so the children didn’t have to wait as long.
And finally, if the children would have gotten antsy and started running around, the gentle parent would have stopped them and perhaps they would have left early.
Yes, gentle parents allow their children to be children, which for authoritarian parents, this may look like permissiveness because the children aren’t being “controlled,” but it isn’t. It’s respecting the children for who they are.
I had the pleasure of going out to eat with a gentle family while in Florida and the children were excellent! They were allowed to play quietly at the table. They were included in the conversation. Not once did they act up.
Respected children are better behaved because they are seen and treated like the little people that they are. Their needs are met. They are taught right from wrong without it being scary. They are aware of limits and consequences.
Permissive parenting does not treat children as little people. Children are not taught right from wrong. And they crave limits and consequences.
Worse yet, people mistake permissive parenting with gentle parenting!
If these people could hang out with children who are gentle parented, they would never confuse it with permissiveness. They also would be against spanking/hitting and other forms of punishment because gentle parented children are amazing!
Yes, all children have their not so nice moments, but hey, so do I. What I see in children who are respected is that they have empathy and can eventually put themselves in other’s shoes as that is how their parents teach them. They also don’t need to act up to get attention because attention is automatically given to them. And they don’t regularly get put in situations where it’s too much for them to handle.
Permissive parenting creates self-entitled and struggle in life just as spanked/hit children do. They don’t learn self-control either which can lead them down a bad road.
Gentle, authoritative, attachment parenting is truly the best way to raise children. Yes, there will be times when gentle parents lean toward authoritarianism or permissiveness depending on the situation, and that is okay. But people should be able to look at a family and tell if they are gentle.
I’m asking all parents to please look at your parenting and make sure you are in the authoritative, gentle, respectful parenting style. Stop making people confuse the three parenting styles. Make authoritarian parents want to come to the middle and become authoritative.
Respectful adults come from children who were respected throughout childhood!
It turns out that I am in awesome company when it comes to being accused of being from satan when it comes to teaching and promoting peace, love, mercy, forgiveness, and healing. Jesus Himself was accused of being from satan after healing a blind and mute man in Matthew 12:22-37.
Let’s look at that passage:
“Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.
If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.
He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.
You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:22-37, NASB).
Here Jesus did something awesome by healing a man and what did the people around Him do? They questioned who in the world He was. Then the Pharisees concluded that Jesus must be “satan.”
I love how Jesus answered them by pointing out:
“And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, ‘Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.’” (Matthew 12:25-28, NASB).
What Jesus was saying was that satan cannot and would not drive out his own demon. Also, it is interesting that throughout this chapter whenever Jesus did something good and right but contradictory to the Law, the Pharisees and other teachers of the Law of Moses got angry and accused Jesus of doing the devil’s work. I find this interesting because there is no good in satan.
Yes, satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) because, after all, he was once an angel full of God’s light before he got proud and fell, but there is no good or light in satan. Satan comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Jesus, on the other hand, comes to give life abundantly (John 10:10).
So, why would supposedly “God-loving Christians” accuse other Christians who are trying to teach Truth and peace regarding how God wants us to treat our children of doing satan’s work and/or of being heretical? And why do they actually boast and laugh about hurting their children in Jesus’s name?
I believe the passage above has our answer. Let’s look at the end of that passage.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:33-37, NASB).
As I discuss in great detail in my book, most Christian pro-spankers were “lovingly” spanked/hit by their parents, and thus, have the message literally ingrained in their brains that having been spanked/hit in Jesus’s Name was good and right. They have denied and repressed the physical and emotional pain of being hurt by their parents.
Therefore, as this passage points out, a good tree will bear good fruit and a bad tree will bear bad fruit. We can force our children to behave exactly how we want them to behave, but this does not guarantee that they’ll have pure hearts and will bear good fruit. In fact, spanking/hitting children tends to make them angry and resentful. As Greven (1992) states:
“Anger is a child’s best (and often only) defense, for it arises out of a powerful sense of self, a self being violated and abused by painful blows and hurtful words. The child has been hurt on purpose (bolding for emphasis by author) by an adult in order to teach a lesson in discipline, but the child experiences this pain and reproach as an assault upon the self as well as upon the body. Often the result is not only anger but also hatred and a powerful desire for revenge, which often takes the form of imagined mutilation or murder of the person who inflicted the pain. These powerful emotions are permanently stored in unconscious memories, but sometimes people also remember them quite consciously, years after the events that provoked the feelings” (p. 124).
The devil is our accuser. He is the one who puts us down and tries to get God to be mad at us.
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down’” (Revelation 12:10, NASB).
So when angry “Christian” pro-spankers hurl accusations at those who are trying to help them see and understand God’s amazing love for all of us, especially children, God’s love does not shine through them. Only anger and hate comes through. The Bible makes it very clear that we are to love and bless each other and leave revenge up to God.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21, NASB).
Yes, we are to gently correct each other of sin according to Galatians 6:1-2, but the key word is gently, because accusing people and inflicting pain on them only causes fear and defensiveness. Jesus told it like it was with the Teachers of the Law, but He was always gentle. And no, He did not hit anyone with the whip He made to drive everyone out of the Temple. He loved people.
He still loves us and uses His gentle love to bring us to Him so that we may be saved.
“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NASB).
Christ does not hurt, accuse, insult, or punish us to make us come to Him. He offers love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness to us. He is the Prince of Peace.
However, satan hurts, accuses, insults, steals, kills, and destroys. Do you really think satan wants us to discipline (teach and guide) our children in a graceful manner without inflicting pain? Jesus created children. He knows how vulnerable the young brain is and how harmful spanking/hitting is to that young, vulnerable brain. Why would the Prince of Peace who, despite being absolutely sinless, suffered and died for all of humanity’s sins call us to physically punish our children for their mistakes?
Out of our mouths come the things that are in our hearts.
I leave us with a beautiful passage that describes exactly who Jesus is.
“Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes” (Isaiah 40:11, NASB).
Greven, P. (1992). Spare the child. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
So many Christians view “strong-willed” children in a very negative light. There’s a book by James Dobson entitled The Strong-Willed Child that I can’t stand. Dobson’s way of punishing these children include multiple spankings/hittings and other harsh punishments in order to break their wills. Equating love with pain has been proven to be damaging to children.
I’m well aware that Dobson claims all research proving spanking is “harmful” to children is somehow “biased.” As someone who has conducted my own scholarly research, I can assure you that strict guidelines are upheld. There are many more studies showing the harmful effects of spanking than the few small studies claiming “loving” spanking isn’t harmful. It makes me feel physically ill that many Christians use this horrible book on their children.
Yet, in the Bible, we see that God uses many strong-willed people to do His Will!
The most strong-willed person in the Bible that God used to do so much good for the kingdom of God, I believe, is the Apostle Paul.
We see in Acts 9:1-2, and even in the previous chapter, that we meet Paul first as Saul, a devout Hellenistic Jew and a Pharisee that enjoyed persecuting Christians. He approved of the stoning of Stephen in Acts 8:1. Needless to say, this Saul guy was one bad dude. And yet, God had a radical plan for Saul. In Acts 9, we see that as Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute even more Christians, Jesus got Saul’s attention in a big but non-painful way. Saul went blind. Jesus asked Saul why he was persecuting Him in Acts 9:4. Jesus told Saul to meet a man in Damascus who would tell him what to do. Saul, blind, obeyed God and look what happened:
“Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ’Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again'” (Acts 9:17-19, NIV).
From this moment on, Saul, who became Paul, lived his life for God, fearlessly proclaiming the gospel to all surrounding nations despite numerous beatings, imprisonments, and shipwrecks. Through the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote between thirteen and fourteen books of the New Testament—this is over half of the New Testament.
And anyone who is very familiar with the New Testament knows that Paul tells it like it is. He didn’t sugarcoat anything that God inspired him to write. He encouraged his fellow believers, but also rebuked and corrected them in his letters. Through Paul, God gained many believers into His kingdom.
God did not break Paul’s will. God molded Paul’s will into doing good instead of persecuting Christians. Had God broken Paul’s will, do you believe Paul would have clung to God through all the suffering he went through to share salvation through Jesus Christ?
Broken, compliant people are usually not strong people in that they find it very difficult to press against the tide. Strong-willed people have an easier time of questioning authority. They also have an easier time of pressing on when persecution occurs.
“We are struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12, NASB).
What I wish Christians would stop doing is viewing children as “strong-willed” and “manipulative.” And view them as intelligent, high spirited children who need much connection and guidance.
We should involve them in decisions about how the family needs to get things done. We also need to provide them with appropriate alternatives for limits. For example, “You may not go upstairs right now but you can help with making dinner.” Or “Yes, you may go upstairs after I finish vacuuming. I need you to pick up that toy.”
Having high spirited children can be very challenging. But they can be disciplined without punishment. These children need to be heard. They need some control over their environment. They need lots of connection with us. They also need to have a great deal of consistency. By taking the time to truly work with high spirited children, we can channel that strong will into doing good and, ultimately, God’s Will.