Question:

I have a question as it relates to helping a christian single mom. She has asked me to help with enforcing boundaries with her two sons. Their father is not in the picture. I have spent time with being a role model for the boys as they have spent time with me fishing and hanging out with other men from our church. One son has been mouthy and disrespectful to his mom and has not been staying in the house as he was asked to do. I met with their mom and we discussed that any discipline issue would be address by her and if she needed I would help with "straightening them out." One of the consequences that was agreed upon would be a spanking. I have been asked by her to come over to give a spanking to the mouthy son. She said it has reached the three strikes and you are out point.

My question is, with me not being his dad, how should I approach this? Can you give an example of what should be taking place when a trusted adult has been asked to spank? I am a little uneasy about this process. I have no problem with the spanking part as I was when I was younger. I agree with the Biblical mandate of using a switch. Since I don't have kids of my own, I would like some guidance. What should take place during it? Would it be appropriate to give him a hug afterwards since he is not my son? This lady is hurting and I just want to help her out. We have known each other for a couple of years at church. Thanks for your help.


Answer:

There is not much different than what I spoke about in A series of questions about spanking. For your own personal safety, double check that in your particular state the law allows a non-parent to spank a child. See: "United States Statutes Pertaining to Spanking" for details.

Even though you are not the boy's father, you are a role model for how the boy will behave when he becomes an adult. The more calm and just you are the better it will be for the boy in the long run. Make sure you know what the boy had done and that you agree with the mom that a spanking is the appropriate way to handle this particular problem. Sit down with the boy in a private area and talk to him about what he did wrong and why it was wrong. You may not convince him, but it does give him an opportunity to present his side to someone he believes might listen. This is no less than what a father would do when told his son misbehaved anyway. Make sure you discuss what he could have done as an alternative that would not have been bad behavior.

After the punishment is given, a quick hug, a pat on the shoulder, or even a handshake is fine if the boy will accept it. What you want to get across is that the punishment was for the misbehavior, not because you dislike the boy. Continue your routine of taking the boys fishing or whatever else you do. What you don't want is the boys associating your visits as always ending up in a punishment.

One thing people forget is that punishment is not the goal. It is a deterrent. The goal is gaining good behavior and that demands consistency. A parent or a role-model must demonstrate in their own lives what they are expecting from the children. For example, if you make snide comments about other people's driving or yell when another driver annoys you, a child sees that as the way to behave when they think they are being annoyed. The concept that a behavior is right in one situation and wrong in another doesn't fly. And in this case, the child's view is often more correct than the adult's.