I am a recently separated mom of three children ages 13, 10 and 8. The older two are girls. My thirteen-year-old really started to act up this school year, only a few months after her father and I separated. She was caught skipping classes twice earlier in the school year. I had to take time off from work to meet with the school principal. She was given detention and was grounded at home from the computer for one month. Things worked out for a while until just before the holidays. She skipped class again and I was called to take her home to start serving a five day suspension. I was at my wit's end and very angry. Once home, I took her upstairs, put her across my lap, and spanked her very hard with my hairbrush. Afterwards, I couldn't believe what I had done, I was so ashamed. Her reaction was total shock and humiliation. She said I had no right and that she was too old to be spanked. She told her father and he agreed saying I stepped over the line. He was no help before or after. I hadn't spanked her in several years and don't know if I did the right thing now. It's too soon to see what effect, if any, it had on her. Please help me with these questions. Is she too old? Did I go too far? I don't want to lose my relationship with her. Since the spanking, she has been distant from me although her anger has diminished. Thank you for your help.


When a divorces tears a family apart, it is common for members of the family to play off the emotions of other members. The husband is angry at the wife so he sides with the kids as a way to win their affection and get a stab in at his wife. At the same time the wife does the same thing back at her husband. Meanwhile, the kids are angry at both parents for breaking up, so they play one parent off the other to get whatever they want and the rules of the home fly out the window. If you want to see an example of this, read about how Absalom undermined his father, King David, in II Samuel 15:1-6.

In other words, I'm not all surprised that after being punished your daughter ran to her father for sympathy and not only received it, but your husband then lashed out at you. It doesn't matter to him if your daughter was in the wrong. This was a way to win points with her and to strike back at you. You need to understand the cause and accept the fact that it will be there because your marriage is in a mess.

Your daughter is probably using this same mess to "justify" her skipping out of classes. Children will conclude that their parents no longer care; thinking that if they really did care they wouldn't have split up. Therefore, if mom and dad don't care, then they won't either.

The punishment you selected for the earlier skipping didn't work well because it wasn't associated with the cause of the problem -- unless you are saying that the reason she skipped classes was so she could spend time on the computer. Since she is skipping classes to do as she pleases, a better punishment is that she will spend her evenings at home -- no friends, no phone calls, and the like for a period of time. If possible, have her doing school work and extra assignments (the things she was avoiding). The difficulty on your part is enforcing this punishment since you are working and she gets home before you do. Never give out a punishment that you can't enforce.

Every state allows parents to use corporal punishment, within reasonable limits, to discipline their children. The age limit is implied in the law -- as long as the children are minors living in your home, spanking is permitted. See "United States Statutes Pertaining to Spanking" for a brief listing of these laws. Children ought to know that as long as they are minors living at home, spanking is always an option. As a parent, you goal is to train your children when they are young so that spanking will not be necessary when they are older. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). If the habit of being obedient is instilled early on, disobedience will be a rare occurrence when they are older.

I suspect that you haven't been real consistent in disciplining your daughter in either the delivery or in the follow through. It appears that you hold off until you are pushed over the edge and then you lash out. This is the root of your embarrassment in having to spank your daughter. It is not the shame of having to do it, it is the shame at your own emotions during the incident. Reread your letter and notice that your motivation in punishing was your anger because your daughter inconvenienced you, causing you to leave work. This is not the proper approach to raising a child. Should your daughter be afraid to tell you she is sick because it might inconvenience you and your work schedule?

Start back at the beginning. You have three children whom you want to grow up as good citizens and god-fearing adults. To reach that goal, they must live in accordance with numerous rules. They will need to behave well and display appropriate demeanor to be successful in society, at work, and in their own homes. Therefore, you need to have clear in your mind the rules that your children need to follow. You give them encouragement to motivate them to follow those rules, but when those rules are broken, there must be a just punishment to hinder them from going the wrong way in their lives. When punishment is delivered it is given because the rules were violated. It must have nothing to do with how you personally feel at the moment. Think about it this way: How would you like to go before a judge for a traffic violation knowing that the sentence he gives out is going to depend what kind of week he has been having?

If you accept the fact that you are the parent, you signed up to see that these children grow up to be responsible adults, then you are going to have to stop being worried about your relationship with your daughter. Your relationship is that you are mom and not her best friend. It is nice if friendship goes along with package, but it must not be your goal. Otherwise, you are going to make far too many compromises to your role as mom. Once friendship becomes your priority, you lost the battle for raising your daughter well.

Finally, I know the bristles of hairbrushes sting, but the Scriptures teach us to use a rod (or switch) when corporal punishment is needed. See "Topical Scripture Index: Spanking." When used appropriately, it is very effective and is unlikely to cause lasting harm