How should I punish my defiant 14-year-old son?




I have a question in relation to child training. My son is 14 and I have to occasionally give him a spanking. However, he has been getting in trouble with the same sin. He continues to defy his mom. I read your articles on the website in regards to using the rod. I usually use a belt with him bent over my knee on his jeans. I read your site and have decided to make some changes. My son is tall and I feel he is too big to have him bend over my knee. What position would you recommend he assume when he needs to be spanked. Also, how can I change with having him drop his pants when he is used to being spanked over his pants. I have switches from our back yard that I can utilize. I really feel in my heart that this needs to be addressed soon because of the effects on the other kids.

Keep in mind that spanking is a punishment for wrongful behavior or displays of "attitude." It is not a cure unless it is accompanied by instruction in what is proper behavior. In order to correct your son's defiance, you need to determine what is behind it. That means sitting down and talking with the boy. You may learn what the problem is by such a simple question as "So why did you yell at your mother when she asked you to take out the trash?" Give the boy plenty of time to answer the question in his own words and in his own way. You might get the silent treatment for a while. If he tries giving "cop out" replies, like "I don't know," then let him know that the answer wasn't an answer: "So how long have you been screaming for no reason?" or "If you don't know then how am I supposed to figure it out?" Don't give him clues as to what you suspect. Some children will take any way out as a way to get the "interrogation session" over with, even if it means lying. Keep in mind: "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20). You might not like what you learn, but problems can't be dealt with by pretending they are not there. Keep your personal response under control.

Over the years, I've run into a variety of "reasons" adolescent boys become defiant with their mothers. Most often they have always been mildly defiant, but mom and dad overlooked it. Adolescence changes tend to cause moods to be amplified. A mild grumble sessions quickly turns into a full-blown temper tantrum. Where such is ignorable or dealt with by sending a child to his room, it is not ignorable in a semi-grown teenage boy. They don't realize their strength and they can cause damage or harm. It is best to handle the problem of defiance when a child is young, but it must still be dealt with if it remains present when he is a teenager.

Another reason, is that some boys get a confused notion that "might makes right." I can't say for sure where the idea originates, but I've seen it most often in boys who have had little to no religious training at home. They are missing the concept that there is a standard of behavior that is bigger than they or their parents. Hence, they conclude that right or wrong is only determined by the person who can make them obey (parents, police, teachers, etc.). The result is that when a adolescent boy begins to tower over his mother and he realizes that he is stronger than she is, he gets the mistaken notion that she no longer has authority over him. You'll get comments such as: "You can't make me do it."

And then there is defiance that is born from frustration. Some parents do not give their children much choice in their day-to-day activities. An adolescent feels the budding of freedom's wings and he is itching to give them a try. He doesn't realize they are not fully developed and that he will make numerous mistakes. Some parents don't want to deal with mistakes, so everything is rigidly structured to avoid mistakes. There is a simple solution to this problem: give your adolescent several choices that you find tolerable, even if you feel some are not the best. For instance, instead of saying "Take out the trash now" tell your son "The trash needs to go out before dinner time." Now the scheduling problem becomes his burden, not yours. It also leads to a natural consequence: he doesn't eat until the trash goes out.

Try as you might, some children -- especially boys -- have a rebellious streak in them that must be dealt with. "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him" (Proverbs 22:15). The Bible speaks of using a rod, or switch, to punish a child. It is not the only tool available to a parent. The Bible also speaks of delivering rebukes and giving instructions. A parent should try to make a child's wrongful actions lead to a reasonable and natural consequence that will serve as a deterrent. When a child reaches adolescence, I recommend that parents map out two punishments for the infraction. One should be related to the problem and should last a period of time. For instance, if your boy conveniently "forgot" he was supposed to mow the lawn, borrow an old manual mower -- the one with the rotary blades -- and calmly tell him that he will mow with that from the time you get home until dark, or until the lawn is finished, which ever comes first. When he is done, he can then have supper and he will then immediately retire to his bedroom for the night. Have him repeat this the next three times the lawn needs mowing. It will have good benefits -- he is going to get stronger pushing the old thing and he is going to learn endurance -- and he won't likely "forget" for a long while. The alternative is something short, but painful, such as a spanking. You then let him choose his punishment. Surprisingly, some boys rather get the punishment over with and will select the spanking.

Since you have been using a different method of punishing, before you have another breakdown, sit down with your family and have a Bible study on the topic of punishment. You can use one of the articles Parenting or Spanking on this website or use the list of verses in the Topical Index under Spanking to develop your own. Explain why you are going to switch methods and how it is going to be done up front. Allow your children to ask all the questions they want; one of these days they are going to be parents as well. Then when the choice is given to your adolescent son, he knows in advance what he is agreeing to.

The reason for have a child bend over for a spanking is simple. This position causes the muscles in the gluteous maximus (the bottom) to tighten. It increases the sting of the switching, which in turn means you can use less force and less repetitions to accomplish a punishment. If having the boy bend over your lap is too awkward or too embarrassing, you can pick a neutral object, such as a chair or the edge of a bed. Even if he is very tall, he can bend over starting from a kneeling position. A child's natural inclination is to cover his bottom with his hands. Just calmly ask him to put his hands back down. If he refuses, have him remain in the bent over position and tell him that the number of swats will be increased (say 2 to 5 swats). It might take a while, but he will eventually give in. Don't make the spanking into a wrestling session over who is stronger. One of these days he might get stronger than you.