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?
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.
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.
Once again I have seen another Christian leader try to claim that physical “discipline” (I hate when people try to call corporal punishment “physical discipline” as hitting a child is NOT “discipline,” it is punishment!) is a part of the “rod” verses of Proverbs. They just do not understand that the Hebrew meaning of the “rod” verses do not include the use of corporal punishment with children.
If they did, God would have provided more instructions on how, when, why, and at what age children should be spanked/hit.
I mean, inflicting pain on a child is serious business. Why would God leave it up to a bunch of sinful adults to figure out how to use corporal punishment? And these sinful adults don’t even agree on what is “abuse.” Here are quotes from the popular “Christian” advocates of spanking:
“The child may be more strong-willed than the parent, and they both know it. If he can outlast a temporary onslaught, he has won a major battle, eliminating punishment in the parent’s repertoire. Even though Mom spanks him, he wins the battle by defying her again. The solution to this situation is obvious: outlast him; win, even if it takes a repeated measure” (Dobson, 1970, p. 45).
“For example, a dime sized bruise on the buttocks of a fair-skinned child may or may not indicate an abusive situation. It all depends. In an otherwise secure and loving home, that bruise may have no greater psychological impact than a skinned knee or a stubbed toe. Again the issue in not the small abrasion; it is the meaning behind it” (Dobson, 1996, p. 25).
“After you have spanked, take the child up on your lap and hug him, telling him how much you love him, how much it grieves you to spank him, and how you hope that it will not be necessary again. Then if he is still not restored, you are to check your own spirit to see if you have handled him roughly… [or] brought unholy anger on this holy mission, and if you have, seek forgiveness from God. If your child is still angry, it’s time for another round, ‘Daddy has spanked you, but you are not sweet enough yet. We are going to have to go back upstairs for another spanking'” (Tripp, 1995, p. 149).
“On the bare legs or bottom, switch him eight or ten licks; then, while waiting for the pain to subside, speak calm words of rebuke. If the crying turns to a true, wounded, submissive whimper, you have conquered; he has submitted his will. If the crying is still defiant, protesting and other than a response to pain, spank him again” (Pearl, 1994, p. 80).
It is very scary to me that they say different things, but yet, advocate harsh, “loving” spankings. Also, dark skinned children must suffer much more pain than a lighter skinned child as bruises don’t show up as quickly on dark skin.
But since there is yet another “Christian” leader teaching parents to spank/hit their children in order to “Bibically discipline” them, I will explore the topic once again. I cover all of this in my book, Gentle Firmness.
This time we’ll focus on Proverbs 22:15 (NASB) which states:
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”
We know that the Hebrew meaning for “rod” is Shebet and that the rod was a large stick with spikes on the end of it. The shepherds never used it to hit the sheep. Shebet is also used in the Bible as a symbol of authority.
The problem most Christians have with this verse as well as the other “rod” verses that seem to advocate using corporal punishment with children is that the Hebrew word for “discipline” which is Muwcar includes “chastisement” in the definition.
What confuses most pro-spanking Christians is that the English definition for chastisement includes physical punishment. However, it means verbal correction as well.
When looking at the dictionary, there are many synonyms for chastise.
Let’s look at some of them: “Rebuke, Lecture, Scold, Reprimand, Bawl Out, Dress Down, and Lecture.” Yes, it can mean physical punishment, but it also means many other things!
Given the Biblical context in which chastise is being used here in Proverbs, we are walking on very shaky ground if we choose to interpret it as a command to spank our children. God rebukes us all the time. No, it’s not pleasant, but it’s not in a harsh tone and He immediately forgives us when we repent. And yes, if we choose to do our own thing against His will, He will allow, not inflict, pain into our lives. It’s called natural consequences.
Another issue with insisting on punishing and spanking/hitting our children and using the Bible to justify it is that Jesus suffered and died for ALL of our sins! How come adults can just pray for forgiveness and they are forgiven? But our children who are just learning don’t get grace and forgiveness until they “pay” for their “sins.” How is this Biblical or Christ-like?
Finally, sadly, some Christians do follow this verse to a “t” and spank their children for being children. Yet, when we really study this and other verses that seem to advocate corporal punishment with children, we see that there is no reference to spanking/hitting children. It is also important to understand child development as God created children to think and behave the way that they do. To constantly hit them for being “unwise” by adult standards is neither Biblical nor fair. And you can’t beat foolishness out of children any more than you can beat the devil out of them.
Jesus has raised children’s status and has called us to be like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, Jesus had plenty of time to teach about children and NEVER said anything about spanking/hitting them!
We are to drive out folly by teaching, guiding, protecting, and comforting our children. To do anything other than that, especially to take the above verse literally, would be to teach children that no matter what they do, they will never be able to measure up. Does this sound like the way to raise children up in the Lord?
References (I don’t recommend any of these):
Dobson, J. (1970). Dare to Discipline. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Dobson, J. (1996). The New Dare to Discipline. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
Pearl, M. (1994). To Train Up A Child. Pleasantville, TN: No Greater Joy Ministries.
Tripp, T. (1995). Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Wapwallopen, PA: Shepherd Press.
But do Christians show agape love to others, especially their children? In my experience, they often do not. They insist on condemning others and punishing their children.
Don’t get me wrong, I am far from perfect. I struggle at times to love people how God wants me to do so. I get hurt, offended, and judgemental. Thankfully, God lovingly corrects me when I mess up. He loves me with agape love.
Sadly, most devotionals for children teach that they must be punished for their sins. So do the child-rearing books by popular “Christian child-rearing experts” such as James Dobson, Michael Pearl, Ted Tripp, and Roy Lessin.How is this teaching children about agape love that God has for them? Jesus took the punishment for all of our sins, including children!
Obviously, these Christian advocates of spanking do not understand God’s unconditional love for us. Due to adults’ sinful nature, we struggle with practicing agape love. Sometimes it is easier to condemn, spank/hit, yell, or ignore our children. But the Bible says:
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1, NASB).
This means getting up at 2am to care for the baby instead of letting him/her cry-it-out.
This means redirecting our toddlers for the 20th time away from something we don’t want them to play with and telling them what they can do rather than yelling at them and/or smacking their hand because they won’t listen and we’re sick of redirecting them.
This means sitting on the floor while our young children have a meltdown over a limit we’ve set and validating their feelings over the limit that they don’t like.
Finally, parenting with agape love means taking the time to truly listen to our children so that they will want to come to us when they are in trouble.
Yes, we will make mistakes, but when we do, agape love allows us to be humble and apologize to our children.
I am well aware that some Christians will read this and say, “Spanking is a part of what the Bible says about loving our children.” If this is you, please read these posts. And check out this book by theologian Samuel Martin. It’s free!
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes exactly what agape love is.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (ESV).
There is nothing in the above verse that say spanking/hitting, using cry-it-out, or using other harsh punishment is a part of agape love. If anything, it points to gentle firmness as agape love.
It may not always be easy but by parenting with agape love, we can show children God’s true character and teach them how to love others unconditionally.
There is a mom today reading this and needing to know: You don’t have to hit your child to make them obey and listen to you. In your heart you *****know***** it’s not right…your instinct is telling you it’s not right, but the teachings your church or your family or whomever is pushing you to act on tells you to cause your child pain so that they will know that God loves them or so that through hitting your child, your child will obey you and God. I could go on and on all the reasons because in my past, I was that mom.
I was that mom who began as an attachment parent (though in the mid 90’s I had no clue that’s what it was called). I just knew I didn’t want to spank my kids like I was spanked and hurt. I didn’t want that for them. However, I had no clue what to do otherwise and there was no internet, there was no support. Spanking in the south is the thing to do. You are a bad parent in the south if you don’t spank. So, I succumbed to hitting my child and calling it “discipline.” But it did not work.
My child still had unwanted behavior. The book, To Train Up A Child, was suggested to me and I tried the things in there…breaking the will. All I remember about the day I tried to do that was:
1) I didn’t want to spank my child so much and so hard that it would hurt him and leave bruises.
2) How can parents actually spank their child so hard and so long that causes their will to break?
3) My child was still looking at me with confusion and hurt on his face. And this momma could not take it any longer.
I could not do what the book, To Train Up A Child, told me to do. I could not hurt my child like that. My heart was telling me it was wrong. I had all the doorpost charts and books…but it was the same thing. None of it worked.
I would have been spanking my kids 20 times a day according to their advice. Their teachings, and many like them that are touted as “Biblical and Christian,” and they required escalation of hitting and punishment.
I have found a better, loving, gentle, respectful, and truly Biblical way. My 4-year-old is not spanked and we have not spanked. Sure he’s a normal 4-year-old with lack of impulse control and all that, but overall, I have none of the behaviors with him that I had with my oldest.
When I began to view his unwanted behavior as a need not being met, and it was up to me to meet the need, it changed my view of him completely.
I am so thankful for all this awesome information and so grateful for how it has changed me and the tone in the home. It’s funny because I used to be that mom who mocked peaceful parenting and touted all the arguments that pro-spanking parents use. I quoted all those Bible verses in support of spanking kids. There is not one single Bible verse or one single argument a punitive Christian parent can tell me that I have not believed and used in the past.
And I’m going to tell you this: You have been lied to. We have been lied to. We have been misled. It’s wrong. Those beliefs are wrong and I’m putting my foot down and calling them out because I have seen too much damage in families by these so called Christian teachings.
Beating your child and leaving bruises and welts is NOT God’s love. Hitting your child and calling it discipline is NOT God’s love. Demanding instant obedience from your child is NOT God’s love. Demanding that your child speak only when spoken to is NOT God’s love. Telling your child they have an attitude when they are trying to be heard is NOT God’s love. Controlling your child is NOT God’s love.
What is God’s love? It’s supposed to be I Corinthians 13, but I see so few Christian parents actually practicing it towards their child. We all have choice. I’ve been on both sides and for real…Peaceful parenting wins hands down!!!!!!!!!!!!! It produces the Fruit of the Spirit without hitting, without anger, without frustration!
2 Chronicles 5:12-14 (NASB):
“and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and kinsmen, clothed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps and lyres, standing east of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests blowing trumpets in unison when the trumpeters and the singers were to make themselves heard with one voice to praise and to glorify the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice accompanied by trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and when they praised the Lord saying, ‘He indeed is good for His lovingkindness is everlasting,’ then the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.”
I absolutely love this Scripture!
First, I love how all the singers and band players sang and played at the same time, in one accord. That must have been a glorious, awesome sound! If only the Church would do this again.
Another thing that I love about this Scripture is that the glory of the Lord filled the house with a cloud. The priests could not stand and minister due to the cloud which was the glory of the Lord! If only the Church had that much faith so God could do this nowadays!
And the fact that it was the glory of the Lord that caused the priests to fall on their knees. God gently brought them to their knees. It reminds me of the song, “Sweetly Broken” by Jeremy Riddle. The chorus goes like this:
“At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered.”
God gently brings us to our knees. I know many Christians, sadly, view God as harsh and punitive. They believe that God can be harsh and makes bad things happen.
I’ve been through a great deal of hard times throughout my life. I can attest that God has been my comfort if I allow Him to be and don’t turn away from Him.
Our God is a gentle God! As parents, instead of forcing our children down on their knees, may we allow God to gently bring them to their knees. May we follow God’s loving example and parent with gentle firmness.