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Thursday, June 28, 2007


This subject is a sensitive one for most parents. To spank or not to spank - that is the question.

I was alarmed today to see on Fox news that someone was making and giving away spanking "paddles". They were huge! I think (I'm not a great judge of sizes) he was just taking a 2x4 plank and sanding it down. Even when he placed a message on the "plank" saying "Do not use in anger" - it still would not be something I would use on any child. (check tomorrow for the story on )

Fox interviewed a psychologist about the incident. She was totally against any spanking and said that all disciplinary actions could be done with the "hairy eyeball" (a mean look). I don't think that would work either.

So, what is the answer? I don't agree with either one.

First let's look at the problem.

You've heard the old saying, Spare the rod, spoil the child.

The Bible says, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." Proverbs 13-24

"Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death." Prov. 23:13-14

Because of those verses many Christian parents believe it is within their rights to spank their children well into the pre-teen years. Some even believe in beating their children. I don't think that the Bible ever supports abuse with anyone at anytime. Christianity is about compassion, love and logical requirements for a good life.

Some psychologists have determined through statistics (which many times are unreliable) that adult domestic violence can be related to any type of spanking. I think that's probably a far stretch.

Here's the truth about discipline and spanking....

First we have to determine the purpose of spanking. Spanking in and of itself will not change behavior. Spanking alone is nothing more than hitting. If you are a good parent, you probably teach your child not to hit - if you hit, won't that cause confusion?

Spanking alone without any other input or if it's used as a constant disciplinary tool can cause domestic violence later on.

Restricted spanking coupled with training will change behavior.

For example, spanking should not be done with anything other than your hand and it should only be done on the buttocks. You should never shake a child or slap their face. Anything other than a swat or two on the buttocks to gain their attention is hitting and not good discipline.

Never spank just because you are angry. And never use anything other than your hand. Paddles are a bad idea because you can cause major damage without knowing it. By using your hand, you can feel the sting of the impact and you will know and understand just how hard you are spanking.

Never spank past the age of four. By this time you should have developed other methods of gaining your child's attention. By this time their vocabulary will be large enough that you should be able to reason with them and talk to them as you restrain them to your lap. By this time you can use behavior modification and they will understand why.

Never spank (or discipline for that matter) in public. Discipline is never successful when linked to embarrassment. Embarrassment is not a proper tool for changing behavior. If your child is acting up, take him to a bathroom, behind a door, under a bush - anywhere but in full sight of his friends, family or general public.

If we use spanking to gain the child's attention,

only in the short term,

only as an opening to training - then spanking can actually lead to a calmer lifestyle.


When children are small and have not developed a proper respect for our authority, they will run off, touch things they shouldn't, demand their way - in other words, they can harm themselves or others very quickly. It's important that you have a way to get them under control immediately.

As you know, I have three children. When they were small I spanked each one of them. I probably only spanked them three or four times each. The spanking was only an attention getter to let them know that I was in control and they were expected to mind me at all times. Most of the time when they were acting up, I grabbed both arms and pulled their little bodies close to my face. I let them know by my tone and facial expression that what they were doing would not be tolerated. By age four or five, even that action stopped.

Your goal as a parent is not to produce total fear in your child. You don't want them to snap to or be little robots for your every order.

Your goal as a parent is to help your child understand the rules and learn how to navigate through his life, respecting authority - but also being an honorable person able to distinguish right from wrong.

Helping them do that means you have to set an initial framework that says - "When Mommy or Daddy speaks - I need to listen." At age two when your child begins a temper tantrum, you shouldn't ignore it. It will only appear in another form later. Swat the child on the behind. Pick him up forcibly and hold him tight in your lap. Repeat these words over and over. "I love you very much, but this behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. You will calm down or you will be punished further. I will not let you go until you say you are sorry and you are able to talk about this problem."

The swat is the attention getter. It says, "I'm in control, you will listen to me." It's the training that follows that actually changes the behavior.

You only need to swat (spank) a child a few times for him to understand that you are in control. After that, you will need different ways of getting your message across.

One of my sons received several swats in his lifetime. The other son only received one. Ken was about 2 1/2 and was instructed to leave an item alone. Several times he ignored my directions. I had no choice but to announce, "If you touch that again, mommy will spank." He touched it and I rushed across the room to spank. He looked at me in terror and yelled, "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry!" I followed through with my threat (about two swats) so that he would understand next time to believe me, but I also made up my mind not to ever spank him again. From that moment on, his fear would be enough to control his behavior. I never had to resort to spanking again. Instead I found different ways of dealing with his problems. Most of the time my disappointment or a really angry face was enough to let him know he "must" comply.

Ken has become an extremely logical person. It's never necessary to yell or fuss at him. All that's needed to get his attention is to calmly say, "I have a problem." He is a music minister and has been complimented by many people. "He knows just how to get the group to perform without making people angry or upset." Humm.... It seems very important now that I understood his fear of spanking and allowed him to be disciplined in a different manner.

Make it a point to see through the personalities of each child and understand that each of them must be dealt with in a manner that will work with their own personalities. Require the same adherence to house rules for every child but never, never, never discipline each child exactly the same. Always fit the discipline to the personality of the child.

When Jamie was about three, I took him and his twin sister to a local discount store for pictures. Since we were poor, these pictures were going to be gifts to relatives. I was hoping for really good pictures. The twins loved it when papaw took pictures so I was sure there would be no problems. Memaw went along and just to make the adventure more fun, she offered to buy them each a really nice toy. She would only buy the toy if they smiled and made good pictures. I agreed that would be a wonderful idea and we began to talk and sing about it all the way to the store.

Waiting in line for 30 minutes didn't keep the children in a good mood. I did all I could to keep them distracted. When I placed Amie on the stool she smiled and giggled and was very good. When I placed Jamie on the stool he began to cry. He wanted down. He didn't like the lights.

I took his face in my hand and said, "This will only last a few minutes. Just one cartoon long. There will be no toy if you don't sit still and smile." He snuffed. I wiped his face. But the moment he looked at the camera he cried. I told the photographer to give me another second. I checked to see if he was hungry. If he was thirsty. If he needed to go to the bathroom. I talked to him about why he was crying. Was he scared? Nothing worked. When the camera came into view, he cried.

Spanking for this situation would be totally wrong. Never spank when there is a goal in view (the toy) that can simply be taken away. And never spank for a situation that the child will need to feel good about later on. Jamie would face many picture taking situations the rest of his life.

He tried hard and we did get pictures, but it was obvious in the pictures that he had been crying and that he was unhappy. There never was a smile. It was all over with in about 10 minutes. But I was left with a problem. The requirement for a toy was to smile. He didn't. Now what was I to do?

We went to the toy aisle and Amie picked out a Barbie microphone. She was singing all over the store. As I walked away from the toys Jamie began to whimper. I explained the rule, but he just looked at Amie with her toy and cried. I felt horrible. If I bought him a toy I not only was going back on what I said, but I was deflating Amie's achievement. Time to call in the reinforcements. I called Dad. After explaining my dilemma, he said:

"Debbie, if you buy a toy for Jamie what will happen the next time you put requirements on something you want him to do. It would be a lot easier to buy him something and not have to face this problem now. Just walk away. Don't think about the future. But next time you require Jamie to perform in order to receive praise, he's not going to believe you. You will spend the next 10 years or more trying to convince him that you mean what you say. But if you walk away now and endure the pain of this situation, he will always know that if mom says something - she will follow through. It's a matter of building trust."

I walked out of the store feeling just as horrible as Jamie did. I watched him in the rear view mirror crying and looking sad while Amie played with her toy. When we got home I cuddled him and told him how hard it was for me not to buy him a toy. I told him how much it hurt to see him sad. I explained that someday he would be big just like me and some employer would ask him to do something and if he didn't he might lose his job. Someday he would have a family and they would need him to be faithful or to work hard. Someday he would be glad that he learned this lesson. We need to follow every requirement in order to gain the prize.

As an adult, Jamie is the most dedicated person I know. He gives his customers more than most businesses and he treats everyone around him with respect. Jamie is an honorable man and works hard not to let people down. He goes way beyond what most people would do for family and friends and has been known to stay up until 4 and 5 in the morning just to be sure and meet a deadline. Was that because I swatted him at two or maybe because once upon a time he learned that you don't get the prize if you don't do the work?

And guess what he became? A photographer. And guess what more people at weddings compliment him on? The fact that he is understanding with children and can get them to smile for pictures. Hummmm.....

Don't just spank your children - train them for the future.

God loves you,



anonymous said...

I disagree with your point of view. Mainly you feel that it should just be left up to the parent. Unfortunately these days we cannot leave such things up to parents. Parents hit, shove, push, slap, yell and cause tantrums that we all have to put up with and listen to. I'm sick of it and its about time this country take the actions to protect children that most of Europe has come to know(primarily sweden etc...)

Debbie Jansen said...

I wanted to post the negative comment from Mr. anonymous because I wanted to point out that I did NOT say it should be left up to the individual. Anyone that would abuse a child should not be allowed to keep that child. Abuse is not discipline and it's also not spanking. Spanking or as I prefer to call it - "a swat" - is merely an attention getter. Every parent must have some way to snap an overwrought or out of control child back into a calm state of mind. If a "swat" doesn't do it for you and you can control your child with merely a look or soothing word - that's great! But....if you are not spanking but also not controlling an undisciplined child, then you "must" find a way to bring balance and peace to your home. I encourage all of you reading this to check out in the near future for a series on children vs. The Dog Whisperer. I think it might open your eyes to the real purpose of discipline and controlling our children.