Some Thoughts on Discipline: Part 3

*Welcome to our respectful discussion. No poo throwing! If you insist on poo throwing I will honor those around you by deleting your post.

*This discussion has three parts. Part 1: Honor This Child was posted on Tuesday. Part 2: Train Them to Govern Themselves was posted on Wednesday. Part 3: My Spanking Story is posted today. I’m glad you’re here.

Part 3: My Spanking Story

Due to a player in the NFL using a switch on his child, spanking is in the headlines once again. The web is full of experiences and opinions. I am also going to share my experience and opinion. But before I do, I want to encourage you as you struggle and question. Perfect parenting has always been a myth. Having all the answers has always been a myth. No one is a perfect parent and no one has all the answers. Every loving parent struggles, questions, and makes mistakes. I think God intends it this way. Parenting exposes our inadequacies like nothing else. Parenting teaches us that we need help. Take your struggles to God, wrestle with them, and sometimes even wrestle with God. You may walk away with a limp, but you will also leave with humility and guidance. (Not a bad trade for my money.)

I am not going to tell you what to do about spanking, but I encourage you to move away from popular opinion, even move away from how you were parented, and seek God in this decision. Bring your concerns to God, pray, struggle, study and struggle some more. Here are a few resources that have helped me along the way. It is my prayer they help you too.

• The Child in Christian Thought, edited by Marcia J. Bunge. This book has a wealth of information and critical thought. It is not based on pop culture; it is based on history. It will be worth your while to work though.

• The Busy Family’s Guide to Spirituality by David Robinson This book looks at the family as a community of people walk together with God. I like that.

Also if you would like to check out other views on the “spare the rod, spoil the child” Proverb, these are helpful.


A Confession (as I take a deep breath…)

I had been thinking about it for some time. Even while I spanked my children I was thinking about it. To be clear: the spanking I visited upon my children consisted of an open-handed swat to the rear end. Spanking meant something more severe in my family of origin, so this was seen as doing “not much.” But even the little I was doing was weighing on my mind and heart. One Lenten season the weight was too much. As had been my custom during Lent I was meditating on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. My mind was going through all that he accomplished that day, the truths found in every theory of atonement. There is so much! But there was one new connection that took me by surprise to such an extent, I changed my parenting completely.

It was like a flash of revelation where one minute I was thinking about the cross and the next minute the cross was connected to Exodus 21:24, “an eye for an eye.” The next minute my mind jumped to Matthew 5:38, “turn the other cheek. “ I understood in a split second Jesus’ act on the cross put an end to violence as an acceptable response.

I wondered if this wasn’t a progressive plan the Trinity hatched up in the beginning. Knowing that human kind had devolved to such a state, it would take baby steps to move us to stop hurting each other. The first baby step for our learning to love was to limit revenge killing. The “eye for an eye” rule meant that families couldn’t wipe out a whole clan out of revenge for a smaller infraction. “An eye for an eye” was an act of limiting a violent response. Jesus then took it another baby step further by telling us, “Don’t return the violent act at all, instead turn the other cheek.” Finally, in an act to end all violence, he gave his life. One last violent act to end them all.

I wrestled with this revelation. First I wrestled with how this would impact my children. Then I wrestled with what my extended family would think. In the end I decided that I had to follow the Good Shepherd. I had to follow the guidance I’d been given. So one day I gathered my daughters, and with tears streaming down my face and my head in my hands, I confessed. “Girls, I’m sorry I spanked you. I mean I’m sorry I’ve been spanking you all along. God has helped me to see that I was wrong and I’m sorry.”

My eldest daughter ran to my side and gathered me into her arms and said, “I forgive you mom.” My other daughter came by my side as well. She said, “Well this is certainly something you don’t hear every day.” (That kid’s comedic timing is fantastic.)

Not everyone is going to agree with my decision or my theology. I’m okay with that. I’m only asking that we all think about this. I’m asking that we consider other options, that we study, and that we wrestle. I believe our children are worth that.

So how to discipline when spanking is off the table? Each child is different and each home is different and that is right and good.

Perhaps a few guidelines might help.

• Remember to honor your children. Even in disciplining, honor them.

• Remember you are training your children to govern themselves. You are aiming for increased independence, Most important, you are training them to have their very own relationship with God. Consider this fact with each discipline decision you make.

• Fear has never been a lasting motivator. It may work momentarily, but it fades pretty quickly. Love though? Love is a great motivator and it does actually move mountains.

• Take a bit of time to reflect before doling out discipline. Don’t be in a hurry. Think it through. The kids can wait. It will drive them nuts, but they’ll learn.

• Be consistent. Whatever you do decide, follow through. This is part of honoring them, being a person of your word.

• Let grace and mercy flow. Read and reread the Gospels. Let the mind and heart of Jesus work its way into yours. This will help shape your responses to be like his would be if he were you and parenting your kids.

Although this post has gone on for days, it is woefully inadequate. I wish we could sit together at my kitchen table and discuss our struggle and our hope. In the absence of that, I pray that these words have given guidance and a place to start.

May I offer you and your children a blessing?

May the Lord bless you and keep you;

May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

3 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Discipline: Part 3

  1. Thank you for sharing this concerning a very sensitive topic. God revealed these same ideas to us as well about 10 years ago trying to do counseling with children that had been abused. We had to think of other tools to give these parents because spanking traumatized them. Through that journey we were able to fill our parenting tool belt with soooo many tools that we no longer needed spanking as an option and actually began to see it as antithetical to what we were trying to do with our children. We wanted to raise children that were self-disciplined and that would never be accomplished through spanking. Thank you for your courage.

  2. T- I have to think about this every day. While I’m working to train my children, I am being trained as well. Thank you for your comment.

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