Nine to Fifteen-Year-Olds

Teaching Self-control

             Around the age of nine to ten (on average), our children begin a dramatic series of changes that take them from childhood to adulthood. The precise ages that these changes begin vary from child to child. The order of the changes also varies by the sex of the child and with each individual child. I will present the typical order of changes, but your child may not change in this order.

             The reproductive organs begin to mature beginning at the age of nine on average. Since the changes are internal, most girls do not notice the initial changes. The first indication that something is happening is a rapid growth spurt. All girls grow at an average rate of 1 inch per year, but during adolescent this growth accelerates to 2 inches or more per year. Around the age of 11, pubic hair begins to grow around the genitals and under the arms. Most girls experience their first menstrual period around the age of 13. The start of the monthly period indicates that the reproductive system is functioning, although the girl's body continues to develop. The breasts begin to form around the age of 11 and come to full shape by the age of 16. These ages are averages. Some girls start earlier and others much later. The vast majority of girls reach puberty between the ages of 8 and 15. If a girl begins to develop before the age of 8 or after the age of 15, it is generally wise to have her checked out by a physician. Early and late development can be an indication of a disease, such as cancer. Generally a daughter will begin to develop at the same age as her mother entered puberty.

             Since girls have their growth spurts earlier than boys, it makes them appear to mature sooner than boys, but boys too begin to develop around the age of nine. Though some of their reproductive organs are external, the early changes are so subtle and gradual that most boys do not begin to notice the changes until two years later when pubic hair begins to grow or they experience their first full erection. This is what leads to the common belief that boys develop two years after girls. The order of change in a boy is different from those of a girl. Pubic hair begins to grow around the age of 12. The male growth spurt begins on average around the age of 14. Facial hair begins to grow around the age of 16. Muscular development and the broadening of the shoulders are noticeable around the age of 17. Chest hair begins to grow around the age of 18. Complete maturation does not end until near age 21 and even then mental changes continue up until the age of 25. A boy can begin puberty as early as age nine or as late as age 16. Earlier or later development is not unheard of, but if your son begins before nine or after 16, it is best to have him examined by a physician to make sure there is no disease involved.

             These physical changes are triggered by hormones released by the reproductive organs. Girls release large quantities of estrogens and boys release large quantities of androgens. These sudden increases in hormone levels have other side effects than just physical development. Adolescent children experience large mood swings. A happy child becomes very happy; an angered child becomes very angry; and a depressed child will drown in sorrow. During the rapid growth phase, your well-coordinated child will suddenly become very clumsy. Growth starts from the outer extremities (hands and feet) and works it's way inwards. The clumsiness is due to the fact that the limbs are now longer than before. Imagine how you would walk if you put on a pair of shoes two sizes too big. In a very real sense, your adolescent child must learn how to walk all over again. Boys also experience difficulties due to their sudden muscular development. Something that once took all their effort to hold onto is now easily shattered in their hands. All this growing uses up a lot of energy. Your child's appetite increases dramatically during adolescence, especially with boys. The average adult male consumes about 3000 calories a day. The average adult female consumes about 2400 calories a day. However, the average adolescent boy will consume about 5000 calories a day without gaining fat. The rapid use of energy during growth also contributes to your children's sleepiness. Where before they would get up at the crack of dawn, you will find it hard to drag your adolescent child out of bed before noon.

             As your child approaches puberty, you will notice a sudden shyness about their bodies. A four or five-year-old child thinks nothing of running around the house buck naked after a bath. However, as puberty approaches, children suddenly don't want anyone to see them without clothing. A part of this is due to an awakening of sexual desires. The child, at first, has no idea what these desires are; after all, they have never experienced them before. However, these desires contribute to a growing awareness of people of the opposite sex. No longer do girls and boys find each other to be "the enemy."

             The sexual development of our child brings a new set of dangers that parents must deal with. Parents are often caught unawares by puberty. As your child progresses through the earlier stages, you and the child fall into a comfortable routine. But puberty requires training in a new area. Suddenly your child has new abilities and desires that he has not developed control over. You must keep in mind the wise words that a person with no self-control is defenseless (Proverbs 25:28). The mood swings due to the hormones means a child must put in extra effort to control his own temperament. A child cannot blame losing his cool on his hormones. They may arise from them, but it just means he must learn to exercise greater control over his emotions. Due to extremes in depression, many teenagers harbor thoughts of suicide. The parent must be watchful, because a child is defenseless at first.

             Just as you had to be extremely watchful over a child who is just learning to crawl and to walk, you must be watchful over your children in adolescence. No, there isn't much of a danger of their sticking a finger in a wall outlet, but there is a danger of their experimenting with their sexual desires. Too many parents become use to their child's independence and are too laid back in their approach to adolescents. Just because a child gains the capability to have sex doesn't imply he has gained control over his desires with the ability. It is not an accident that Solomon describes the man, lured by the prostitute, as young (Proverbs 7:6-10,21-23). Given the loose moral standards of our current society, parents need to be even more watchful. The CDC Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report, dated March 24, 1995, reports that 68% of all high school seniors claim to be engaging in sexual intercourse. The 1993 Janus Report on Sexual Behavior states that 19% of all men reported having had sexual intercourse before the age of 14! The percentage rises to 74% of all men reported having had sexual intercourse before the age of 18! Until a child develops control over his own body, the parents must be his conscience.

             Adolescent children face heavy peer pressure. Few people, teenagers especially, want to be different from those around them. Solomon warned his son not be enticed to follow the crowd (Proverbs 1:10-19). It is during the adolescent years that drug use, wild clothing, and unusual haircuts begin to appear. The child is trying to define himself as different from his parents but the same as the crowd with whom he is associating. Paul warns Christians to be careful of our associations (Ephesians 5:11-12; I Corinthians 15:33). Good friends can encourage a person to be better, but wicked friends can much more easily persuade a person to do wrong.

             In September, 2004, Pediatrics published a study linking viewing television programs containing sexual content with teenage sexual activity. Those watching programs that either displayed sexual activity or merely discussed sexual activity where encouraged to engage in sexual activity. The study found that the ten percent who watched the most television with sexual content were twice as likely to engage in sexual intercourse in one year than the ten percent watching the least television with sexual content. As Paul warned, "Evil company corrupts good habits" (I Corinthians 15:33).

             Obviously, parents have a full workload laid out for them when it comes to raising teenagers. The most important lesson to teach is self-control. Among Peter's list of characteristics that every Christian is to develop is self-control (II Peter 1:5-7). It is a problem that every Christian must face. Even the apostle Paul spoke of the struggle he had to maintain control over his own body (I Corinthians 9:24-27). We need teach our children how to control their anger (James 1:19-21). We need to instruct our children how to keep a reign over our tongue (James 3:2). Children need to develop the ability to not rile against a false accusation (Matthew 27:11-14). While Saul is not the greatest example in the Bible, he could endure taunts (I Samuel 10:27).

             Parents should also teach their children self-control in their spending habits. A child who gets anything he wants will find himself in financial difficulties when he reaches adulthood. Every person has a limited income and each person must exercise restraint to live within that income. A clever way to teach your child money management is to put them in charge of a portion of the household's budget. Pick an area that your child has a strong interest, such as the family's entertainment. Give the child a fixed amount of funds and then ask them to spend it wisely to benefit the family as a whole. For example, suppose you figure that you spend $50 per month on entertainment (movies, rentals, dining, etc.). You give your child $50 at the beginning of each month and tell them this is all they have to entertain the family. They can spend it as they see fit, but it needs to make the family happy or he will be "fired" from his position. Hence, your child learns that money is limited, that things have a cost, that current wants must be balanced with future needs, and that he must think about other people and not his own desires.

             Even more obviously, if we are to teach self-control to our children, then we must have control over ourselves. Self-control is learned from God. God teaches us to live properly in this world (Titus 2:11-12). It is a by-product produced when we strive to live the Christian life (Galatians 5:22-23). David refrained from striking Saul, who was seeking to end his life, because of his strong desire to do God's will (I Samuel 24).

             Our teenagers need to learn how to avoid temptation (I Thessalonians 5:22). Satan will always put us into tempting situations, but teenagers need to learn how to recognize those situations. For example, you should have a house rule that they should not have guests of the opposite sex over at your house when the parents are not around. Similarly, teenagers should not visit a friend of the opposite sex if the friend's parents are not at home. If your teenager asks, "Don't you trust me?" The answer is quite simple, "No. You don't have the experience to resist Satan on your own." Did you know that 60% of all teenage sexual activity happens at home?

             Your children also need instruction on the influence of their friends. If you asked, most kids think that they are completely independent. However, their idea of independence is separation from their parents. They remain very dependent on their peers. Teenagers need to see this situation clearly, so they can realize where the pressures for immoral behavior are coming from.

             Being a faithful Christian is not just the ability to avoid sinful behavior. A Christian must fill his life with so much righteousness that there is no room for sinful activity (Romans 13:14). Keep your teenagers busy doing righteous things. Idleness gives Satan an opportunity to try to get his hooks into your child's soul.

             By the time a child has reached adolescence, they usually realize they need to be obedient to the Lord. They have become aware of their own inadequacies in facing temptation. They see the need for help that can only come from the Lord. Paul said he could do all things through Christ, who gives him strength (Philippians 4:13). But help only comes when we join our lives with God's life. There is a mighty battle taking place between God and Satan. It is so big that there are no side lines where we can watch as independent observers. The war is taking place all around us. If we fight independently, the enemy is so great that we will soon be overwhelmed. Yet we can join God's side and have his aid, but we must first make the choice. Will you be on the Lord's side?

Mary Had a Little Boy

Mary had a little boy, his soul was white as snow;

              He never went to Sunday School, 'cause Mary wouldn't go.

He never heard the truth of Christ that thrilled the childish mind;

              While other children went to class, this child was left behind.

And as he grew from babe to youth, she saw to her dismay,

              A soul that once was snowy white became a dingy gray.

Realizing he was lost she tried to win him back,

              But now the soul that once was white had turned an ugly black.

She even started back to church and Bible study too.

              She begged the preacher, "Isn't there a thing that you can do?"

The preacher tried -- failed and said, "We're just too far behind.

              I tried to tell you years ago, but you would pay no mind."

And so another soul is lost, that once was white as snow.

              Sunday School could have helped, but Mary wouldn't go.

Author Unknown

Additional Material

Detailed studies about growth and sexual responsibility is available on this website. See Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Boys and Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Girls.


Age Appropriate Tasks

Below are some suggested tasks that would be appropriate to begin introducing you child to doing. Every child will not be able all these tasks at this age. Some judgment is required on your part as to when your child is mature enough to handle these particular chores.

  • Arrange for own haircuts
  • Purchase toiletries
  • Wash and dry clothing
  • Clean out lint traps and filters
  • Shop for clothing
  • Remove basic spots from clothing
  • Iron clothing
  • Sew on a button and do simple mending to clothing
  • Mow the lawn
  • Load the dishwasher and run it
  • Vacuum upholstery and draperies
  • Wash car
  • Change bed linens
  • Replace a light bulb
  • Clean out the fireplace
  • Polish silverware
  • Reset breakers or replace a fuse
  • Oil door hinges
  • Change vacuum cleaner bags
  • Trim trees and shrubs
  • Polish furniture
  • Wash windows
  • Make phone calls
  • Scrub walls
  • Wax and polish floors
  • Clean bathroom tile
  • Purchase items at a store
  • Do simple baking (cake, pancakes, deserts)
  • Make a salad
  • Plan a balanced meal
  • Make hot beverages
  • Make a simple budget
  • Wash and polish car
  • Hang pictures on a wall
  • Repair small damages to a wall

Your Questions

[The following was written in response to the chapter on "Proper Attire" in the book Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Girls. But the issues raised are ones I think every parent ought to think about as they set rules for their children.]

I would like to ask why mixed swimming wasn't discussed in your article? To me, wearing any bathing suit is as close to being naked as you can get. There is NOTHING left to anyone's imagination. Even if a person is clothed from head to toe, going to a public swimming pool or the lake would not be an appropriate activity for a child of God. There are others in that setting that are as worldly as they come and to view others in swimming attire would be enticing one to lust. I believe most congregation's leaders are ignoring this and other issues of immodesty. I have grandchildren who are allowed to go to school proms and mixed swimming. It breaks my heart; because I have given them everything to read on these subjects (with the scriptures included) and have instructed them myself; but of course their parents (my daughter and two of the kids step-father) are in favor of all this activity. My daughter says she wants to "pick the battles" with the kids so as not to go overboard and say no to every issue that comes up. I am totally amazed at that philosophy! The parents refuse to listen to the word of God or any wise counsel on these issues. I am very discouraged concerning these issues and in general with the height of members worldliness in the church.

I didn't come from the best of families, nor did my husband. We made MANY mistakes with our 3 children. It is being proved in our case that personal example speaks louder than words. My husband was working long hours and therefore I was the one left alone with the kids most of the time. I did not make a good "single parent" so to speak. My husband had more of a "relaxed" attitude toward some issues with the kids. He also smoked cigarettes (began AFTER our first child was born) and at that time we also went to public swimming places, as did the other members of the church. Public swimming by members of the church was something we both grew up with. I don't recall the time frame when I learned how wrong the mixed swimming was; but I think it was sometime in the 1990's. I believe I have always known it was wrong; but all those years before, I thought it was because I was shy and didn't have much self esteem, etc., etc. Now I realize it was because I did not feel comfortable having so little clothing on my body, especially when males were present. I ignored my inner voice and since I had always swam in public and the church had not given any instruction about it, it continued on with my own children.

I believe my kids received mixed messages from us all those years and that's why none of them are strong Christians today. Parents may not be the only example their children have; but they had better be the best one! My family is living proof of that and it will probably cause me much heartache until the day I pass from this earth.

Answer:

You are right that the issue of mixed swimming is important to address and it should be taught more often. When I originally wrote this book, I mistakenly thought that the issue was a clear application of the principles brought out. Given the questions I received, I realized that I needed to spell out the issue more clearly. I just recently wrote an article on it, which you can read by clicking on "Is It Okay for Boys and Girls to Swim Together?"

Thank you for sharing your concerns with the younger generation. I hope they will learn from your experiences. Concerning the need for consistency in expectations of children's behavior, may I recommend the lesson "When I Grow Up"?


It's good to know there are men like yourself in the world. It's unfortunate that not enough men use old fashioned values for raising their sons. And it's made worse when fathers do not support each other.

I have two boys, 13 and 15. Good kids but rowdy as lots of boys are. My primary form of discipline is normally spanking as I have used everything else and find that corporal punishment works the best on all levels if done properly.

I think you do have to be strict and firm with boys but I also think once they are older you can talk to them and explain things. I have taught them that boys not only need discipline but sometimes they actually want it. This helps explain why boys are sometimes getting into trouble for what seems like no reason at all. In truth, I think boys often act out on purpose for the attention. Sometimes this can be solved by simply spending more time with them. But in some cases I think what they want and need is a specific type of attention, and that is discipline.

I've realized that if you communicate you can teach boys to appreciate discipline rather than just forcing it upon them, then they can give you feedback as to how they feel and how you might raise them better. Once they understand that there are good and bad things about punishment, then they start to understand. They have to know that it's ok to want or need it but not ok to try to provoke their father into giving it to them. Meaning, I think men and boys would be much better off if boys could be taught to simply express what they're feeling and admit what they want, rather than getting into trouble on purpose. If a father and son are close enough, the son should be able to express his need for anything, including discipline.

I feel there's little that's more important than strong, loving guidance from a father to his son. In fact, I think you can even be strict with boys if you do it out of love and keep communication open. They want the correction and we want to give it to them. I find that it's not only logical but also very emotional and primal between a man and his son. I know that my sons sometimes want my firm hand, and I'm more than happy to give it to them. I only ask that it be able to happen in a healthy, loving circumstance.

Answer:


I agree about the need for communication; it helps the boys understand that the punishment is due to breaking rules and not because you have a personal vendetta against them. You are also laying the foundation for when they become parents. They need to know more than that a certain action is wrong. They also need to know why it is wrong and why a particular punishment can be deemed just.

Yes, boys want to know there are limits. There is comfort in knowing that the world is orderly, especially during the years when everything is personally changing. One of the things that you should begin to see is a decrease in the need for punishments as the habits of godly living become set within them. Most of the time, a stern word from me telling the boys what they ought to do is usually enough to get them going in the right direction.

I recently read a book called "Why Do They Act That Way?" by David Walsh. The author is secular and there are sections with which I completely disagree (for example, the sections dealing with sexuality), but he does present some very interesting findings on how the teenage brain develops. I found it interesting enough that I've started gathering notes for another book on dealing with teenagers. I would be interested in your thoughts as well.

The basic premise is that the brain, like the body, develops in spurts and in sections. This causes an imbalance in the way information is handled. For example, research shows that a teenager is unable to accurately read facial expressions. A look of annoyance can easily be read as one of anger. The areas that are the seat of emotional reaction develop early, but the area that tempers the emotions with reason are developed very late (mid-twenties). Hence, the physical reason that teenagers can be emotional powder-kegs. It also explains the impulsiveness of teenage boys to do things without thinking about the consequences -- they literally don't think ahead.


I have a young 9-year-old girl and I'm trying to learn more how to handle her upcoming puberty. It's going to be hard for her to learn how to handle her young sexual desires. I have no idea what it's like for girls. I'll have to lean on my wife quite a bit. I do remember what it was like for me. I remember desire racing through my body as a teenager. At first I had no idea what it was. It sure was strong. If it was possible to put the same amount of desire in my body today that was there when I was a teenager I'd die in less then a minute. Although I would die with a smile.

Answer:

What your daughter will be going through will be different that what you and I went through. Instead of aggressiveness and rebellious emotions, women tend toward moodiness and hyper-reaction. A simple frown of disapproval will be interpreted as you always yelling at her. I have a friend whose daughter is going through that stage, only she got an extra large dose of it. Poor lady, she constantly mutters, "just a few more years."

What you are going to be there for (other than emotional target practice) is helping her understand boys. Teenagers tend to romanticize things because they have no experience. Dads are the brakes at a time that teenagers are just learning where the gas pedal is. It means you get to be the bad guy who says "he's trouble" or "he's not good enough for you," while your daughter bawls that you are ruining her life forever.

Fun, uh?


My daughter is 12 years old and in the seventh standard at an Indian convent. She does not have any interest in studying. Please let me know what I can do to make her study.

Click here for the answer.


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.

Answer:

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.


Thank you very much for the counsel. I am always glad to have it, especially when it is backed up with Scripture.

I talked it over with my son. He keeps back-talking his mom, being disrespectful when she asks him to do things around the house, and not being at home when she needed him to watch his siblings. Those are the issues with which we are dealing. He said he would rather be disciplined with a spanking in the future. Well, the time has come for me to use the switch since it was agreed upon by his mom, him, and me. He has back-talked his mom in front of the kids and not completed tasks as asked.

Since it will be my first with the switch, how many swats do you recommend? He knows it will be with his pants down. I told him I would spank once I got some more guidance. He is old enough to retain the information until then.

Thanks for the help.

Answer:

The number of swats will be dependent on several factors. A young child will not need much to get the point across. Often a single swat is enough. However, as a child grows their tolerance increases as well. You will find that more swats are needed to accomplish the same end.

The Scriptures do not say much about how many swats should be used, but the Old Testament did layout guidelines for the Israelites. For example, beatings with a rod wasn't reserved only for children. Adults could be beaten, depending on the crime. "If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, then it shall be, if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, that the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows. Forty blows he may give him and no more, lest he should exceed this and beat him with many blows above these, and your brother be humiliated in your sight" (Deuteronomy 25:1-3). Forty swats was the maximum allowed to be delivered to an adult. The maximum you give to your son would depend on his maturity.

Second, notice that the number of blows given was determined in accordance with the crime done. Jesus used the same concept in one of his parables: "And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few" (Luke 12:47-48). You should determine in an impartial way what would be considered a major crime versus a minor one and set the number of swats accordingly. For instance, you may want to start at ten swats with a fourteen-year-old as the low-end for an offense that deserves a spanking. If it is an offense repeated shortly after the previous one, you should consider adding five more with each repeat, up to a maximum. You should also adjust the number of swats based on whether he acted (or didn't act) out of neglect or through willful defiance.

If you follow these general guidelines fairly, then you shouldn't have concern that your punishment is too harsh. Many children, when they first receive a spanking with a rod, are quite startled that it hurts much more than they were expecting. Keep in mind this advice, "Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell" (Proverbs 23:13-14). In other words, don't make "on the fly" changes to the punishment; otherwise, the child learns that a big scene can lessen a stated punishment.

In the delivery of the swats, it is not the strength of the blows, but the sting that makes it an effective punishment. I would suggest spacing the blows out a few seconds between swats, otherwise the bottom is still numb from the previous blow when the next one is delivered. You want to make each one as effective as possible, so you can get by with the least needed.

Afterwards, wait for your son to regain his composure and then let him know that you love him and hope that he will learn not to repeat his offense.

Afterwards you can gauge the effectiveness of the spanking. If he appears contrite, then it was enough. If he continues to be defiant, then you need to start with a higher amount. Since you haven't been spanking your son in a long while, there is going to be an adjustment period for both of you. The first spanking will probably last for a while. The time between the second and third will probably be not nearly as long. Your son will test the limits to see if you really mean what you said, but eventually he will settle down. One of the most effective means of child-rearing is the consistency in which parents are willing to fairly apply both encouragement and punishment.


I thought I let you know how it went with my son. I took him aside in his bedroom and we reviewed what was to take place for his defiance. I told him to get ready for a spanking while I left to get the switch. When I returned we discussed how his rebellion was not going to take place without being addressed by correction with a spanking. I told him to lean over the bed. He refused and I told him I had all afternoon and the spanking was going to take place with the switch. It lasted over an hour before he agreed to submit to the spanking. I stayed calm during this difficult time. I also did a lot of silent praying. I took the switch and told him he would get fifteen swats with the switch. With the first swat he let out a loud sound. I really think he thought he could just brush it off like the spankings he had in the past with my belt. After the seventh swat he started to reach back to protect his bottom. I told him to place his hands back on the bed. He started to say through tears that it stung like worse than a bee sting. I said that was the point. He stood up but I told him to lay back down over the bed. I finished the swats and I put a few seconds between the last set of them. I let him cry it out and I returned later to assure him of my love and that all was forgiven. He told his younger brother that spankings in the past were nothing like getting a switch on your backside. I just wanted to say thank you and I know God has great things for our family. All we have to do is just follow where He leads. Thanks.

I had to give a second spanking to my son, but things slowly but surely will turn around. Biblical discipline works!

Answer:

I'm glad to hear that things are improving and that you are pleased with the initial results, though it is probably too soon to declare victory. I have three points that I would like you to keep in mind in the upcoming months.

First, you need to make sure you are consistent in your punishments. For example, since you are working on your son's defiance, you need to punish his defiance each time it happens. If you get lax and manage only to punish him, say 9 times out of 10, it is likely that he will develop a "gambler's" mentality. In other words he'll start thinking, "Sure I get punished most of the time, but I might get away with it this time and it is worth it." I'm calling it a gambler's mentality because it is the same flawed logic that keeps people plugging money into slot machines thinking, "I've lost all these times, I'm bound to win shortly."

Being consistent is rough and tiring. There will be some point where your son will push the limits, repeatedly breaking the rules in seemingly rapid succession. Though he may not express it, it is a test of strength to see if he can wear you down. Fortunately it doesn't last long, but you have to remain dispassionate and consistent in administering punishment for wrongful behavior.

The second will almost sound contradictory. There is a tendency to take something that works and apply it to every situation. It is the old cliche that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Yes, spanking is a very effective punishment, but if it is overused, it can be tolerated. Save it for major things or for violations where there is no other good alternative. Don't make spanking the consequence for every single step out of line. This is why I recommend giving teenagers a choice between two punishments: a longer one that is a related to the problem and a shorter one that usually involves spanking. Then every infractions can be consistently punished but spanking won't be overused.

Finally, don't forget to balance punishment with encouragement. When your son does something right, praise him. If his mom asks him to do something and he immediately does it without back talk, give him a hug and tell him you're proud that he is making efforts at improving himself. With the combination, you will be amazed how quickly things turn around.


Thank you for a great site. I have one question. I have three children: two girls (ages 15 and 9) and a boy (age 12). One of my daughters asked permission to sleep over at one of her girlfriend's home. I contacted the girlfriend's mother and informed her about my daughter's bedtime. She was very surprised and told me that her child stays up much later than my children do. We then had a little discussion about this. What time do you suggest the proper bedtime should be?

Answer:

Children need adequate sleep to function well and to grow properly. But the number of hours a particular child needs will vary with each child. The average school-age child needs nine hours of sleep, but that is only an average. Some children function well with less and other require more. Once a child reaches puberty, his body will demand about an hour more sleep per night as his body goes through the changes into adulthood.

How much time does your child need? Pick a week or two where there is no particular demand on your time, such as during a vacation. Get the kids to bed at a regular time, but let them wake up on their own. Don't count the first few days as they adjust to the new schedule, but after a few days, take note of how long they sleep. This will give you a rough idea how much time your particular children need each night.

Having a fixed bedtime helps a child sleep better. The body has a natural cycle and it will adjust to the demands of the environment. If a child is used to going to bed at 9 p.m. each night, then as 9 p.m. approaches, his body will start the process needed to fall asleep. The major difficulty is that the cycle usually becomes skewed during adolescents. Teenagers have trouble falling asleep at their usual bedtime. The answer is that they should still head off to bed at their usual time, but take something quiet to do until they do fall asleep.

What time is the best bedtime? It all depends on what works best in your household. For example, in my home since Bible studies tend to occur in the evenings and we now have a house full of teenagers, things usually don't start winding down until 11 p.m. Since we home school, we just let the kids (and us) sleep a bit later, so the house isn't going again until 8 or 9 a.m. Yet I remember when the children were young and would wake up at dawn. In those days we were in bed before 9 p.m. so that we all could get enough sleep.

Whatever works best in your home is what you should use. It doesn't matter if someone else has a different schedule. But what is important is that you keep it regular. You don't want wild swings of early to bed one day and late to bed the next. Everyone is going to end up sleep deprived and grouchy.

Having said all of this, it is not reasonable to ask another family to change their schedule to match your household. If your daughter is visiting a friend, she should strive to follow the rules of that household while she is there. If she stays up later than she normally does, oh well, she'll be a bit weary the next day and can sleep a bit later another day to catch back up; but that is part of the "fun" of staying at someone else's home.


Why does my son lie about his homework?

Answer:

People commit sins because they determine that the momentary pleasure exceeds the consequences. The Bible mentions: "By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward" (Hebrews 11:24-26). Moses took the longer term view, but most people focus on the short term.

Your son lies about having homework to do because he gains something from it. He either gets to avoid doing it at all or he gains a delay that allows him to do more enjoyable things now. Therefore, as a parent you must address the problem from two angles: 1) he doesn't avoid doing the work, and 2) he doesn't gain benefits from not doing homework.

Knowing what you child has been assigned is difficult in our current arrangement. Teacher's give assignments at school, but parents have no idea what has been assigned. Some schools try to address the problem with assignment books, but it is easy for a child to "forget" to bring the assignment book home or "forget" to write a particular assignment down in his book. Some schools will post assignments on the Internet, which helps, but it is not often available.

The best solution is to give consequences to "forgetting." If your son comes home without his assignment book, he goes straight to his room for the rest of the evening (his room doesn't have entertainment items available) and bedtime is an hour earlier. Also make it a requirement that all subjects must have the assignment written. Even when there is no assignment, they must write "No assignment given." This won't stop a determined child from writing there was no assignment, when one did exist, but it does provide a record that he willfully lied. When these occasions are discovered, you make the consequence especially miserable -- an extended grounding, loss of television privileges, loss of video game privileges, or a spanking.

Next, designate a homework time each day. Make sure it is early enough in the afternoon or evening that there would be things that your son would want to do, if he had time. Homework must be done and then reviewed by a parent before the child is free to do other things. The review is essential to keep the boy from pretending to work just to get out faster. If he has a reading assignment, pick a spot in the story and ask a question or two to make sure it was read and comprehended -- nothing elaborate, just enough to know he actually did the reading. Make sure all the problems have answers on worksheets. If you can, spot check one or two problems to make sure they were done right (many textbooks assigns to the even or odd problems in the back). Read a paragraph of his writing assignments to make sure it isn't just gibberish. Any indication that work wasn't done means he continues doing his assignment. Add fifteen minutes of wait time each time he attempts to pass off incomplete work as being done. In other words, when he finally is done, he will have to wait in his room (with no entertainment) for additional time before he is free to do the things he wants to do.

Make sure the place he does homework doesn't have distractions available, such as TV, radio, phone, or computers. The only "entertainment" available is getting homework problems completed.

It should be obvious that this involves a bit of work on your part, both in the monitoring and in the enforcement. But if it is not done, it will progressively become worse. Eventually, habits will form and you won't feel like you are watching his every move. But until those habits are formed, you will have to watch closely.

Consistency is key. Allowing your son opportunities to get away with lying about his homework will cause him to take risks of not getting caught. It is only when he is resigned to the fact that homework must be done that he will settle down.


I have a problem that I have never had to deal with before and pray that I will not experience anything like it again. One of our member's granddaughter attempted suicide, by an overdose of prescription medication, last night. She is only fifteen years old, a very sweet young girl, but one that is obviously (now) troubled. She and her family are not members of the Lord's body but do have a denominational background. At the hospital this morning she was very apologetic to her mother, grandfather and even me. I know that she is embarrassed and experiencing extreme guilt over her actions but will also have to deal with her personal guilt for a long time to come. Even after she has been forgiven by others she must find a way to forgive herself which will likely be the most difficult part of her recovery.

I have offered my assistance if they desire to talk with someone other than a professional and informed them that any discussions would be based in the Bible. If we get to the point that they trust me enough to sit down and discuss this terrifying experience, how would you conduct these very personal and private sessions with the family? Is there one way of doing things that you have found to be helpful in these circumstances? Any and all suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

My concern is first and foremost the well being of their souls; by showing them that God is the "Father of mercies and the God of all comfort." I believe that God is giving me a door of opportunity and that much good will come from this if I proceed with a compassionate heart. Please pray that I will use the wisdom provided in God's Holy Word properly, that I will speak the truth in love, and that not only physical life will be saved but that souls will be convinced to be obedient to the will of the Lord.

Answer:

The number one thing is to listen (James 1:19). Not just to the words, but watch the body language as well. When something is said that is not clear, ask questions to get things clarified. It will not only help you, but it will demonstrate that you really are listening and are interested in that person. This is absolutely critical because based on what you hear, you are going to give advise. Arbitrary advice is generally rejected, but advice given when the other person feels you know where they are coming from will be listened to with interest (Ecclesiastes 7:5).

Teenagers tend to be emotional powder-kegs. The physical changes caused by increased and fluctuating hormones cause emotions to be amplified. The ability to reason is just developing and the ability to make sound judgments is not in place yet. Recent studies show that teenagers are unable to correctly identify facial expressions. A look of annoyance can easily be interpreted by a teenager as anger. Adding all this up means you have a person swayed by extreme swings of emotions but with no breaking mechanism of reason and who is unable to judge situations accurately. Is it any wonder that a teenager facing a break-up of a three month "relationship" thinks it is the absolute end of the world?

The reason the young lady is contrite and embarrassed is that her emotional fuel is spent. Now her budding reasoning is able to function and she is shocked at her own actions. She very likely will try to convince herself that there must be something wrong with her.

What you need to do if find out what triggered the sequence of events. She needs to be able to review her past and see where she had alternative choices. Too many teenagers think they are trapped in various situations. In other words, she needs to understand I Corinthians 10:13 in detail.

Next, you need to find out why she thought suicide was a viable solution. Was she seeking escape from a problem, hoping to get revenge, or garner sympathy? Here she needs instruction to see the reality of suicide and that it doesn't gain her anything that she had hoped it would bring (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Finally, you need to help her lay future plans. She needs to think about how she is going to respond in the future to similar situations, hopefully making better choices. But even more important, she needs goals and aspirations. A person who knows where they are going might slip at times, but they pick themselves up. Without a goal, depression sets in and people wallow in self-pity.

"In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death" (Proverbs 12:28).

See also:
Why is suicide a sin?
Can suicide be forgiven?
The Courage to Live


My oldest boy is 15 years old. Recently he has become violent and domineering. All the conversations that we have had with him hasn't help much. He continues to pretend that now he is 15 years old he has the right to be free and to behave as he pleases. When we threaten punishment,  he doesn't  want  to hear  about it. I want to spank him. Is it an effective punishment in this situation?

Answer:

Even though your son is fifteen, he is still a child in your household. Unless he is able to live on his own, supporting himself with his own labor, he must live by the rules of your home, which should include being respectful to his parents.

What saddens me is that you have allowed the situation to develop to this point. Violence and disrespect don't just happen suddenly. Parents tolerate small instances of them, perhaps hoping they will go away. The child pushes further seeking what he can get away with until his parents are pushed to the breaking point and then they desire to lash back at their child in anger.

Spanking is an effective tool in dealing with violent and disrespectful behavior, but it will not work if you only employ it when you are pushed past your breaking point. While you are calm, sit down with your wife and lay out specific rules regarding what you two will and will not allow in your home. Think about what would be reasonable responses to when these rules are broken (and they will be broken). For example, hitting is no longer allowed. Any hitting will be punished with ten to twenty swats with the rod on the bottom. Any damage will be repair or replaced. Cursing, swearing, or back talk to an adult in the home will be punished with five to fifteen swats with the rod on the bottom plus loss of any privilege being argued about for one week. This should get you started.

The list doesn't have to be complete. In fact, it is useful to start with a few things that are the worse examples of bad behavior and work at getting those under control before moving on to things that are not as bothersome. However, you and your wife need to sit down with your son and tell him that these will be the rules in no uncertain terms. In other words, stop making threats about punishment. It must become a non-emotional response. When a rule is broken, a punishment will be delivered. It also must be enforced consistently, even if it seems like you are doing nothing but delivering punishments for a while. You have years of bad habits to break. It will take time.

Punishment alone is insufficient to bring a change in behavior for an older boy. You also need to teach him the right ways to handle difficult situations. "The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother" (Proverbs 29:15). Explain to your son why the behavior is wrong and what would have been a better response. Talk about situations you see around you and discuss what went wrong and what were some of the alternatives. One of these days your son is going to be a citizen and a parent. Do you want your son, with his current knowledge running your town in the future?

As things begin to come under control, offer your son options in his punishment. Let him decide between a short but painful consequence versus a longer drawn out one. This is what God did with David. "So Gad came to David and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: 'Choose for yourself, either three years of famine, or three months to be defeated by your foes with the sword of your enemies overtaking you, or else for three days the sword of the LORD - the plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.' Now consider what answer I should take back to Him who sent me."" (I Chronicles 21:11-12). The crime is not left unpunished, but the choice becomes a learning process as well.


When asking my nine-year-old daughter to do various chores she always obeys, but sometimes with a "humph," a little puff of air which blows her hair up, sometimes with eye-rolling, and on rare occasions with stomping. I wonder if this is rebellion biblically? How do I get happy obedience? I find myself putting up with it far too long.

Answer:

It would be a rare child who never expressed annoyance at being asked to do something he would rather not do. For that matter, the same goes for grown-ups; just look at all the examples the children of Israel left for us in the Old Testament. Since you state that these expressions of annoyance are only occasional, it is best to mostly ignore them and occasionally remind her that such expressions are not polite. More dramatic expressions, such as the foot-stomping, should be calmly rebuked: "Such outbursts are not acceptable young lady," or "Does that mean you rather do the dishes for the next week instead of just tonight?" Assuming that this has been going on a while, it will probably take numerous reminders to break her of the bad habit. "Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed" (Proverbs 27:5).

The calm response is essential because your daughter's expression is not calm. If you respond to it with exasperation, the problem will escalate. If you are calm, then your daughter will shortly decide that her antics are not getting to you, which takes some of the "fun" out of doing them. "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul" (Proverbs 22:24-25).

In essence, you are expressing your disapproval and placing the ball back in your daughter's court. She now has the option of backing down, or escalating. Any attempt at escalation should be met with an appropriate punishment. For example, if the displeasure is over a chore, the time for the chore should be increased. "Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool" (Proverbs 17:10). If your daughter is smart, she will quickly back down and be less likely to repeat the escalation. If she, by her actions, chooses escalation, then she should realize that there is a calm wall of non-tolerance that she will meet each and every time.

Quietly blocking mild expressions of annoyance now will benefit you in the long run. The troublesome years of puberty will soon be upon you. What is now a mild grumble will quickly be replaced by loud protests. If your daughter can learn to control her moods now with your help, then when the stronger emotional swings hit, she will at least know how to partially reign herself in.

You can also anticipate problems and prepare your daughter in advance. Don't wait until bedtime to say "off to bed." Mention to her fifteen minutes before hand, "you have fifteen minutes." This gives her a chance to wind things down (most children don't track time well). Then, when the the fifteen minutes are up you can go back and say "time's up." You will find there will be less obstinace because she knew what to expect in advance.

So long as a child thinks your requests are a burden, she will never truly be happy in obeying. Part of her training is instruction in why a particular chore is beneficial to her. It takes most people a long time to appreciate the benefits of work, but you can encourage it. Find things to praise your daughter when she moves in the right direction. Too often, parents hold off praise until a task is done perfectly. When this happens, the child receives too little positive feedback. So when you see your daughter putting away her shoes without being asked, say "Thank you. I'm glad you are thinking ahead. Those shoes are going to be easier to find when you need them" even if there are several other things lying around. When she volunteers to wash dishes, say "Why aren't you sweet!" even if she doesn't get the plates perfectly clean or leaves the pots undone. So long as she is heading in the right direction, give her encouragement and drop pleasant comments as to how she made her life (not yours) easier.


Thank you very much for your response.

I can safely say I'm daily using calm rebuke and reminders. Up until a year ago she was characterized by obeying quietly and sweetly, with a "yes mom". It started with a little "dirty looks" and now it's getting worse by the day. Adding chores for stomping just worsens her attitude, however rarely to a point of protesting or actual rebellion.

Answer:

Since your daughter isn't openly rebelling, then I would suggest continuing your present course. Consistency will eventually win out. Your daughter is approaching the teenage years when she will desire to be independent. In a way, she is trying it out, finding out what does and does not work. By consistently giving disapproval to "dirty looks" and seeing that it doesn't buy her anything, she will eventually drop it. You will just need to show that as a parent you can outlast a preteen any day.


I need some advice on how to handle a sassy daughter. Time outs don't work (even long ones!) and she is too old to spank. She is a very sensitive child with a sharp tongue and quick temper, constantly testing the boundaries. My husband and I are having a hard time figuring out how to discipline and even guide our 9 year old little girl. (My stepdaughter for the past two years.) We realize that maybe her situation has caused some of this controlling behavior, but still, how do you deal with it?

Answer:

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

Most of the time when a parent is stump as to why a child behaves as he or she does, you can look at how they are training their child and find that they are unknowingly encouraging the behavior that they do not want. We seem to understand how to train an animal, but when it comes to children, we become flabbergasted.

Time-outs have become the all-purpose tool for discipline children, but as you are discovering time-outs don't often work. There are two main reasons: 1) If your daughter is not socially connected to the family in the first place, isolation from the rest of the family doesn't change her situation from her point of view. 2) If your daughter's room is filled with activities, she can spend her time-out doing things she likes, barely noticing the time going by.

Time-outs can be useful in some situations. A child emotionally out of control needs to be isolated from stimulation until they calm down and you can discuss what is going wrong. Time-outs also work well on a child who is behaving badly to get attention from others. But no single punishment should be considered adequate for all situations.

Nor should you arbitrarily rule out some forms of punishment just because a child has reached a certain age. If you go through the Scriptures concerning spanking (or the use of the rod) you will not find it setting an age limit on when it should stop being used. (See "Discipline of Children, Spanking" for a list of verses to examine.)

So let's step back a moment and examine what happens when your daughter turns sassy.
1) Are you showing partial acceptance? Many parents, not wanting to deal with a problem, will ignore back talk or sassy behavior until they are pushed beyond their limits. Usually the limit comes because of their personal mood or the quantity of backtalk they receive.
2) Are you inconsistently showing disapproval? Some parents don't always punish bad behavior. As a result, the child learns to gamble on getting away with bad behavior because there is always a chance that she might get away with it.
What I would like to you consider is that you might be telling your daughter by your own behavior that sassing is acceptable is some cases. You mentioned "her situation" and that has me wondering if you are excusing some of her bad behavior because you feel guilty over what she faced in the past.

You and your husband should pick one or two specific behaviors that you want your daughter to stop using and decide on an appropriate punishment. Only pick one or two, because your daughter needs to master a few things at a time. Next, sit down with your daughter and tell her that these behaviors are no longer acceptable and when they do happen, this will be the consequence. Finally, when the behavior occurs, follow through immediately -- without anger or yelling. A calm objective approach is seen as reasonable by most children.

What kinds of punishments are available to you?

Rebukes: Not yelling, but a stern reprimand why a certain behavior is wrong and instruction as to correct behavior. This requires an older child who can reason well. (Colossians 1:28-29; Titus 1:13; Proverbs 28:23; 17:10).

Spankings: These are especially effective if reserved for extreme behavior or behavior that comes about because of a lack of thinking on the child's part (Proverbs 22:15; 10:13). While it will halt bad behavior, it needs to be combined with rebukes so that correct behavior will be learned in the future (Proverbs 29:15).

Confiscation of goods or removal of privileges: Even children do cost / benefits analysis. It can cause a child to reflect. "Since you are behaving like that, I can't let you go to the party. Parties are a privilege for well-behaved older children, but you are acting like a bratty three-year old." (Notice that the responsibility is placed on the child.) (Ezra 7:26; Jeremiah 5:7-9).

Repayment: When a child causes damage or harm, she should be held responsible for the repairs. If funds are not available, the child repays the debt she caused by working (Exodus 22:1-6)

Shame or embarrassment: This is very effective with teenagers who are easily embarrassed. (Isaiah 47:3; Jeremiah 13:26-27; Nahum 3:5-6).


I've deeply appreciated all the excellent advice you have offered, we have made a strong decision to apply the Scriptures to our family. I feel I have a lot to think and pray about. I have allowed a lot of inconsistency and acceptance to her mouthy behavior.

Even though I feel it is rare, and a bit embarrassing too, to begin spanking over 5 or 6, we are determined
to begin to follow God's system for training her. I would like to ask, please:

What sort of trouble will you run into when you first start this type of discipline? How quickly can you expect results?

I believe prayer has a lot to do with it. Yesterday she was smart-alecky when her friends were present. This serves to show that she is "cool" and independent, and doesn't have to answer to anyone, which is, of course, a bunch of nonsense. I prayed with a friend this morning about the situation and I feel that God gave me a ton of grace for the day.

Thanks for taking the time to reply!

Answer:

Not to pick on you per se, but it is amusing to see the "drive through" desire that we all display from time to time. We live in a culture that wants instant results and it effects our thinking in so many subtle ways. Most children are smart enough to realize when certain behavioral avenues are no longer productive. They will quickly move on to other things. You'll see a mark decrease in bad behavior within a week or so. Generally it is followed by a period of compliance and then it will reappear -- either because of lack of diligence on the child's part or to see if you really mean what you said. The reappearance varies, but I have often seen it come back one to three months later.

Yet, there is another factor you must consider. Many children respond in a sassy manner out of habit, not because they are really in a sassy mood, but because that is the way they have always responded to a particular situation. As you know from your own experience with bad habits, breaking them might take a while. This also is the reason why calm rebukes are needed. They help the child learn to replace bad habits with good habits.

When we start looking for quick fixes to our problems -- especially problems that we let develop for years -- we soon become inconsistent in our response. Thus the parent tries solution A for a little while, decides it doesn't work well enough, and then moves to solution B, then C, then D and then eventually throws up his hands and decides that there is no solution! The one advantage we have in following the Bible is that God has told us what works, so we are not left guessing. All that remains is for us to consistently apply the solution to the problem.

God warned Israel that when they strayed into sin, He would not relent from punishing them when they needed it. "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation" (Exodus 34:6-7). If we accept that a certain behavior is wrong, then it remains wrong even if a child persists in doing it for fifteen years. It is not the length of time or the number of times that makes a certain behavior bad. If the behavior is bad, it needs to be corrected each time it appears. In other words, a part of parenting is being persistent. Keep the goal in mind: we want our children to grow up into godly adults. Too often people would like to have good kids, if it isn't too much of a bother to them.

If I may be so bold, let me recommend that you lay out a response plan to the sassing. Perhaps something on the order of:
1) If she gives me a sassy look, I will remind her that such looks are not allowed. At times remind her that it will cause her difficulty in the future, such as behaving in such a fashion in front of her boss. Since you want the best for her, you are willing to stay after her because you love her.
2) If her response is further eye rolling or a sassy remark, then a punishment is given. If it was regarding to something she didn't want to do, she nows has to do twice as much. Or, instead of a time-out, she remains home and her bedtime is moved up one hour. When handing out the consequence, word it so that the responsibility falls on her shoulders. "Since you decided to continue being sassy, you will now have to ..."
3) If she continues to give you grief, then move to spanking. However, the other punishment remains. The spanking is for sassy back at her punishment.
By scaling it in this fashion, your daughter has the opportunity to exercise self-restraint in controlling a bad habit. In a real sense, if spanking is done, it is because your daughter chose it by persisting in her bad behavior. And, you can deliver the punishment objectionably because it is not about you, but about what she will one day become. Oh, and don't modify your response when her friends are around. They can learn too that bad behavior has consequences and your daughter will be mortified (because they won't let her forget).


We operate mostly on level three, if I ask her to do anything, she either screams, shouts, cries, or flat
out refuses.

Please give your thoughts about self-esteem, a young child is totally embarrassed if she is punished in front of her peers. Can’t the self-worth be shattered? What’s your experience? We just need to know what step is next.

Answer:

What you are describing would be normal at the beginning when discipline is first re-imposed after a long absence, but it would be odd for it to remain for months on end.

The difficulty with answering short e-mails is that I can't qualify my answers by asking background questions. However, assuming that this has been going on for a long while, then you need to sit back ask yourself the questions I would ask. You need to examine your response to her behavior to find out what it is that she thinks she is gaining by her tyrriads. Some common causes:
1) The scenes get her less of a punishment.
2) The scenes delay her punishment, thus she can continue what she wanted to do, at least for a little while.
3) She doesn't always get punished, thus she has little motivation to stop because there is always a chance that this time she will get away with it. (The gambler's syndrome.)
4) She thinks she is getting back at you by causing you discomfort.

The first three are answered by being both consistent and persistent in disciplining a badly behaving child. Ask any animal trainer what happens if you don't always demand good behavior from an animal and you will learn that the animal quickly grasps the idea that he can sometimes get away with doing wrong. For the poor trainer it means extra long hours. It takes far longer to get the animal back to where you started than it did to train him in the first place. Our children are not animals, but they are smarter than any beast. It doesn't take much to lose control of a situation and they remember far longer that it is possible to get away with bad behavior.

The fourth problem is a matter of handling your own behavior. Discipline should be viewed as a consequence of bad behavior. It should not be looked at as a power struggle between you and your daughter. If such exists, you have given up far too much authority. You are the parent. It is your God-given job to raise up a decent human being. Any power a child has is solely because you gave it to her. If you can view the task of discipline in an objective matter and not get personally bent out of shape when it is needed, then you have taken away any "pleasure" your daughter gained in causing you discomfort. This is why I recommend mapping out your responses in advance when emotions don't play into the decision process.

Your concern about your daughter's self-esteem causes me to guess that you have given your daughter too much authority in the family. Have you ever looked at the definition of self-esteem? Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines it as "1) A confidence and satisfaction in oneself: self-respect 2) self-conceit." The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "Pride in oneself; self-respect." Roget's Thesaurus gives these synonyms, "A sense of one's own dignity or worth; pride, honor, ego, assertiveness, self-confidence, dignity, self-respect. An excessively high opinion of oneself; conceit, bigheadedness, egotism, superiority, self-admiration, self-adulation, self-love, self-regard, self-worship, vanity, self-importance." In other words, self-esteem is a fancier way of saying "pride." Your daughter has plenty of self-esteem. That is why she is demanding that things be done her way. Now read II Timothy 3:1-5 and see if that description sounds a bit too familiar.

Your job as a parent is not to instill self-esteem or pride in your child. The Christian's view of life is humility and concern for other people. It is not that we lack confidence, but we know that our confidence does not come from our own abilities, but from our confidence, or faith, in God.

The concern for self-esteem comes from the world. It is understandable that the world wants people to have pride because the world is under the influence of Satan. Pride is one of Satan's big tools to get people to sin. The San Jose Mercury-News, a while back, ran an article that started with this line: "Too much self-esteem -- not too little -- can be a key factor in determining aggressive and violent behavior." A bit later it was noted that the American Psychological Association "found aggressive people have unusually high self-esteem -- defined as 'a favorable global evaluation of oneself' -- especially when compared to their actual achievements." Did you know that the people in our jails have some of the highest self-esteem ratings?

See the following sermon outlines for more details:
Self-Esteem

The Sin of Pride
Thinking Highly of Self
Those with Positive Self-Esteem

So what if her behavior in front of her peers leads to her punishment? Who chose to behave badly, you or her? If her bad behavior requires a spanking, it doesn't mean she has to be spanked in front of her friends. But if you lead her off to her room, deliver the punishment, and she returns red-eyed, it won't take a brain surgeon to figure out what happened. If that puts a bit of fear in her friends -- good for you. If it embarrasses your daughter, then she is going to think long and hard before pulling that stunt again. Embarrassment is an effective tool for disciplining a child. See "Disciplining Children" for a list of verses on this and other methods.


Thank you for your long answers - after a couple days of thought and prayer we have started using your suggestions. We've picked two things to work on. We implemented spanking (three times ... but we made it sting) and WHAT A DIFFERENCE, once she got over the shock that we spanked her little princess behind ... lol.

We were confused as to moral and disciple training with all the different worldly views. Your writing made biblical morals and discipline so clear to us. I have sat down to read all the scriptures, just so you know. I found Self-Esteem, The Sin of Pride, and Isaiah 47:3; Jeremiah 13:26-27; Nahum 3:5-6 to be particularly interesting: What an eye opener! A child who has never had her will broken becomes a selfish child, and she will be throwing tantrums for the rest of her life. Our stepdaughter possesses an inflated self-esteem and is headed for disaster. She needs to go through a humbling to bring her back in line. To deflate her ego she needs to be shamed. Embarrassment should be a calculated part of her discipline, as it serves to teach her humility. Correct?

Today, she is still not behaving! She was sassy in front of two of her friends. So I calmly asked her if she wanted another spanking this week. I put her to bed a little early. She said, "You embarrassed me in front of my friends." I said, "You embarrassed me by speaking to me in that way. There would have been no embarrassment if you had spoken politely. If you want to avoid embarrassment in the future you will always speak politely to me."

I would like to ask, please: How would you deal with her sass if she was yours? She has stolen her grandmother's purse too and lied about various situations. Where can I find more on how to use
shame / embarrassment as a training tool?

Answer:

Remember that you have invested years worth of time "teaching" your daughter that she can do as she pleases. A lot of bad habits have been instilled which needs to be broken, but it will take time. They didn't build overnight and they certainly won't go away overnight either.

Embarrassment is a useful tool in some situations. The problem is that we tend to latch on to something that works and then try to use that same solution to every difficulty. I wanted you to see that you were overly concerned about your daughter's self-esteem and that concern was creating the situations you were facing. Scenes or bad behavior to "show-off" in front of friends are a good place to use embarrassment because children as sensitive to what others think about them. They want to believe they are grown-up, but they need to face the fact that their actions are childish. Hence, you don't follow the script. A calm response to a tantrum demonstrates that real adults don't throw tantrums. A no-tolerance approach shows that she can't manipulate the situation to get away with bad behavior.

It sounds like you made great strides in the past few days. Now you need to work on your resolve to outlast your daughter. Each bad behavior should be met with a reasonable punishment delivered in a reasonable amount of time. "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

Let me give you an example from my family's dog. We live in a suburban neighborhood, but we don't have a fenced in backyard, neither did several of my neighbors because we liked the look of the open space. Hence, we installed an "invisible fence" around the perimeter of the yard. We followed the training instructions, but at the end of the month, our dog would still fly through the boundary if he saw someone he badly wanted to see. He thought the momentary shock worth it. I just about gave up on the whole thing as being a waste of money, but after several more months, I noticed that he left the boundary less and less frequently. By the time a year was out, he wouldn't cross the boundary, no matter what. It took time, but the consistent punishment for crossing eventually wore down his stubbornness.

Your daughter is approaching the turbulent years of adolescence. Now is the time to be her emotional anchor. (Dads are particularly good at this, but Moms understand where their daughters are coming from and understand why emotional stability is needed.) A calm and consistent approach to any misbehavior is critical to getting her through these years safely, even when it appears you are not making any headway.

You asked me how I would handle your daughter if she were mine. The answer is that I would do exactly as I have been advising you. I don't treat my children any different than what I teach.

Stealing should be treated as any other bad behavior. The child should be made to return the stolen item along with an apology. I assume she took grandma's purse to help herself to something that was in it. What ever that was, she should replace it plus some extra. The Old Testament law required a thief to restore the item (or its full value if it was consumed) plus a fifth more (Leviticus 6:1-7), which should give you a good place to start. This would be in addition to some other punishment, such as a grounding, community service, or spanking. In no way should a child be allowed to profit from taking another person's possession.

Lying is generally done because the child believes she will be better off telling a lie than telling the truth. Your job is to make her understand that lies cause more problems than does the truth. When you discover that your daughter has lied, try to figure out what she thought was going to be the benefit and then use that as the basis of the punishment. For example, if she told you she dusted, but she had not, then it is obvious that her lie was to allow her to do as she pleased. The response would be that: one, she has to complete the task immediately; two, she will have other tasks to occupy her time for the next week; and three, her bed time will earlier for the next week. If your daughter lied so that she could spend more time with her friends, the response would be a grounding that included no phone calls or Internet time for a week.

Any backtalk or breaking of the punishment is calmly met with a more severe punishment, such as a spanking.


Thank you so much for this help. I see improvements when I’m consistent and predictable. We just gained full custody of our stepdaughter. We now have a long road ahead undoing early mistraining, but we trust in the Lord to guide us.

We have removed even the minor choices: which clothes to wear, which entertainment and books. I made all entertainment choices and brought them down to a bare minimum. She has to come to me and ask my permission for all things. When she surges, I bring her to account.

I would like to ask, please: What do you do with a child that after a spanking cries out in anger, runs to her room, slams her door, scream, yell, throws or hit things and cries, "I hate you!"?

Answer:

Removing all choices from your daughter does not prepare her for making choices when you are not around. Your goal should be raising a young woman who wants to serve God of her own free will. You don't want a a child who at the first moment of freedom runs off and leaves morality and the church behind.

Give your daughter a range of choices that you find acceptable. For instance, have her go shopping with you and talk about what makes a good clothing choice and what doesn't. Only purchase those things that you find acceptable. Then each morning she has freedom to select what she wants to wear, but her choices are limited to those things you find acceptable because that is all that is in her closet.

Similarly, you might state that she can select X number of movies per month, but they must be either G-rated or she has to ask your permission in advance. This gives her the freedom to choose, but allows you to monitor her choice. One thing we did was to stock our home with movies and books that my wife and I found acceptable. The children had free access to choose any of these items. Each month we went to the library or video store with them and we helped them locate good material. We always reserved the right to refuse to get something that we felt was unacceptable.

As she gradually demonstrates better choices, you can loosen the reigns gradually. Be sure to praise her when she makes a particularly good choice on her own.

Your daughter is used to getting her way with no consequences. It is reasonable to expect expressions of anger at being stymied for probably the first time in her life. Give her a bit of tolerant sympathy, but place limits on her self-expression. For example, I wouldn't permit violent expressions in my home - slamming doors, throwing, or hitting. When she calms down, explain to her that slamming doors is not permitted as it can cause damage. If she insists on continuing, you will remove the door for the next month. Now she is going to have to balance her desire to express rebellion with a loss of privacy in her room. One or two times is sufficient to cure this problem in most kids.

If she throws something, any damage is her responsibility to replace or repair. Hitting or throwing in my own home was immediate grounds for an additional spanking. Even though I raised four boys, all of whom are now black-belts in Tae Kwon Do, we have a very peaceful home. Not that we haven't had our share of problems, but hitting or throwing (outside of practice) has not been among them.

Beyond this, time is going to be your largest investment. She has a new situation to get used to and new rules to obey. It will take time for good habits to be established and bad habits to be broken. If you are willing to be consistent in applying the rules, she will gradually settle down into an new pattern of living.


My nine-year-old son doesn't want to sleep in his own bedroom. Is this good for his self-esteem?

Answer:

Self-esteem is just a nicer way to discuss pride (see Self-Esteem for more information). A Christian parent should not be concerned with developing or maintaining a child's pride.

The question should be, is it good for a child to be sleeping with his parents? There are cultures where families are unable to afford private sleeping areas for members of their family, but since you mention that he has his own bedroom, this is obviously not the case where you live. Even in cultures that share sleeping areas, they do not generally sharing their beds, except with their spouse. The reason we have private sleeping areas is because parents need their privacy. For example, while sexual activity is proper within a marriage (Hebrews 13:4), a child is better off not knowing about it. Also, a child needs to learn boundaries. There are proper and improper times to interrupt people and intrude on their lives. There are proper and improper behaviors to be displayed. Therefore, it is best to have your children sleep in their own beds.

In addtion, you must realize that soon your son will begin to develop sexually. He will want his privacy. It might be cute to have a small child cuddle up with you and fall asleep in your arms. But when that child becomes sexually developed it is no longer cute. The knowledge of good and evil intrudes on that relationship.

Under the Old Testament law there is a reason why there were laws that stated: "None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness: I am the LORD. The nakedness of your father or the nakedness of your mother you shall not uncover. She is your mother; you shall not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of your father's wife you shall not uncover; it is your father's nakedness. The nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father, or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or elsewhere, their nakedness you shall not uncover. ..." (Leviticus 18:6-9ff). It is not so much that God doesn't want family members to see one another without clothing, else changing a baby's diapers would become very difficult. The implication is not to see family members in a sexual way. Thus, as children develop they need to learn to keep their bodies private. Not that this is all that difficult, children naturally develop shyness about their bodies just before they reach puberty. Instead of being fought, it ought to be encouraged. Sharing a bed is too intimate for family members capable of having sex.


In relation to using the rod with our sons who are 14 and 10, we started to use a switch and made changes to the way we spanked about a year ago after reading the information on your website.  We talked with the boys and we all decided to use spanking in certain acts of disobedience that was decided upon ahead of time.   With our oldest it seems it is a constant struggle to get him to submit to a spanking.  For instance, once he was late and he knew that to be late more than once would mean me using the rod of correction in addition to helping around the house as well.  Brett, the oldest, refused to be spanked.  The agreed set of swats was twenty with the rod for being late and for lying where he was at. His refusal to submit to be spanked earned him extra swats. My question is, how should spanking with the rod be used when a boy refuses to submit to one and how should multiple infractions that were agreed upon between parents and kids be handled when spanking was the chosen punishment?

When I must spank my youngest son, John, he doesn't stay over my knee and gets up before all of the swats have been given.  I have problems with him putting his hands in front of the switch before it strikes his bottom.  Thank you for the assistance.

Answer:

The difficulty with starting to spank at a late age is that initially children think it is not a big deal to be spanked. Thus they are willing to agree to just about any punishment so long as it remains "in theory." If you have been reading through this website, then you know that I recommend that spankings be reserved for acts of violence (hitting, throwing things, causing property damage, etc.) and acts of defiance. By defiance, I am not just talking about back talk, complaints or reluctance. Defiance is when the child knows he has done wrong and is daring you to do something about it. In these two cases, I believe that spanking is the only practical way of handling the problem.

Let's start with your fourteen year old. My guess is that Brett doesn't believe his staying out late was wrong. Thus he felt "justified" in refusing the punishment, even though it was agreed upon earlier. It is now after the fact, but what I would have recommended was giving him an alternative: either you will be home at supper time for the next month and you will be in your room each night at nine, or you can take twenty swats now. (His room by the way should have no entertainment, such as telephone, computer, radio, or television.) Breaking this curfew will either receive two additional days or five swats, his choice. By placing the decision to be spanked upon his shoulders, he will take the spankings if he thinks it is worth it. If he argues he shouldn't get either, then it is time to have a long talk. The talk should cover why what he did was wrong and why wrong behavior needs to be punished. Most teenagers understand this in theory. They just don't want it applied in their particular situation.

One time when I had a teenager balk at the choices, I mentioned that in twenty years or so, he will be a parent. If his child did this, how is he planning to handle it? The boy offered a very lame alternative, and I asked if he thought his offered punishment would be effective (i.e. would it change the bad behavior). He laugh and said "not likely." I then asked why he would do that to a child. Eventually we got back to the fact that he had no better alternative than what I offered. I reminded him that the question was not whether he liked it but whether knowing it would be administered, would it be deter him from misbehaving. He eventually made his pick.

As the boy's father, if he is reluctant to receive a spanking that is deserved, you will just have to decide to wait him out. Take him to his room, find a comfortable chair, and then let him know that you plan to be there until the spanking is finished, even if it takes all night. You don't have to argue or justify yourself. He might rant and rave, but he probably knows he deserves the spanking. Take the opportunity to listen to him. Sometimes a boy rebels against a punishment because he believes he didn't get a fair hearing. Answer him calmly, point out the flaws in his reasoning, but continue to wait. Eventually he will relent and in the future it will be easier because he will understand that you are being reasonable, though strict.

For your younger son, simply place your arm over the small of his back while he is bent over. He won't be able to easily get up from this position. If he tries blocking the switch, just calmly tell him to put his hands back down and then wait for him to do so. Eventually he will do so and you will be able to continue. The pause will not make that much difference in the effectiveness of the spanking.

Response:

Thanks for responding.  Yesterday, when my wife went to pick up Brett from school, he was not where he was supposed to be.  She eventually found him at a friend's house. His friend lives near the Christian school he attends.  I sat him down and told him that this was totally unacceptable.  I told him this punishment called for a spanking since that was the consequence for not being where he should have been.  My wife and I agree I should give the spanking since he is an adolescent.  After several hours, he bent over my lap and he told me he could take the 10 swats that where to be given out. I told him since this was a repeated performance it would mean 20 swats with the switch.  As I spanked him my concern was that it was causing stripes on his bottom after 12 swats.  I administered them one right after the other. Is there anyway to use the switch so that it doesn't leave marks on his bottom?

Brett and I have discussed that when he is being defiant, it is him who is choosing the spanking. So the spanking does rest on his shoulders.

Answer:

I hope that along with telling your son that going off was not acceptable, you gave him alternatives that would be acceptable, such as notifying you or your wife in advance. You want to leave it clear that visiting friends is not wrong, but not being where you are expected is wrong.

If by a mark, you are saying the skin is abraded, then you are using a switch that is too thin, which is causing a whipping action, or you are using too much force. A switch will have some give, but not so much that it bends around the bottom. Generally a switch about the diameter of your little finger will do the trick. Instead of swatting with your whole arm, just flick your wrist. The purpose of the rod is to sting, not to cause lasting damage. Many parents are surprised at first how little effort is needed to switch a child. To avoid bruising, vary where the swats land on the buttocks slightly. Even then, his bottom is going to be red for several hours, but it will clear up quickly.

"Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell." (Proverbs 23:13-14).

Response:

Yes, we did let our son know that it is okay to go his friend's homes as long as we know where he is at and to be where he should be when he is being picked up.  After the spanking, Brett came up to me and apologized. He said would be where he was supposed to be when we pick him up from school.  He also said that he thought he could get away with it, but now that he sees his parents united, he knows we mean what we say and that we will enforce it.

The problem was that the switch was too big.  I went out and got another one the size of my little finger.  Thanks for the help.

Response:

Just wanted to write and give you an update on my son.  There were acts of further disobedience but as you suggested, my wife and I out waited Brett.  He continued to defy his mom by not being in the place to be picked up and so we decided that he could take the church school bus home. However, he disobeyed and didn't ride it home. My wife called me at work and I had to take off to find him. He was over a friend's house without permission. His friend's parents had no idea that their son had allowed my son to come over. In addition to this, that morning he told his mom to back off. I took him home and we had a go around. I told him that this behavior was not acceptable. I told him to get into his room and wait for me as I went outside to cut and trim a fresh switch. I got alone and prayed before I went in to give him a spanking.  Now this is the latest one that I gave because there were 2 other incidents that warranted Brett getting a spanking.  When I went in this time I told him he would receive twenty swats.  He refused and I just waited in his room.  I told him the spanking will occur.  After a while of going back and forth, he finally gave in and bent over my knee. I took the rod and switched his backside. He let out a big holler and then I just waited a couple of seconds and flicked my wrist with the switch again across his bottom. He said, "Ouch, Dad that hurts." After four more swats he jumped up and said, "Please dad no more." He was crying and I just got up to leave the room.  I did some praying with my wife and we just let him stay in his room.  After thinking we finally made a point, Brett was still grounded and he left the house to go with a friend to the arcade.  When my wife found him, he got mad at her and he punched his little brother.  My question is, was I wrong not to continue to deliver the twenty swats?  If I was, what is a way to keep in bent over to receive the remaining swats?

How would you suggest handling this latest incident?  On another note, there were so many things you hit upon that I reflected and thought about each one. I know of being consistent is one important point.  I am determined to out wait him with God's help.

Answer:

Perhaps you thought to be merciful by reducing the number of swats, but you caused several side effects:
1) You said the number of swats would be twenty, but you didn't keep your word. If you wanted to reduce the number, you should have said so before hand, not after starting.
2) Your son did not believe he deserved the spanking, so he would not perceive your action as merciful, just weak.
3) Your son discovered that by screaming loud, he can get you to relent. He won't forget that any time soon.

Second, how long is your son grounded? Open ended time frames ("You're grounded until I say otherwise") or ones that are perceived to be impossibly long to a teenager ("You're grounded until you turn 18") will not work. A teenager will decide that it is not worth the wait no matter what the punishment awaits him. Keep the grounding time to under a month. A week or two would be best. If he breaks the terms, spank him for breaking the terms, but don't increase the length of the grounding.

Third, don't keep increasing the number of swats for breaking the terms; otherwise, you will soon be up to 100 or more! Treat each incident as independent events. You've learned how to make the spankings effective, so stick with it as is for a while. Only when you think that he is shrugging them off as minor events do you need to raise the number of swats. Judge this by his response to the spanking and not how soon he breaks a rule again.

To keep your son down for a whole spanking session, place your forearm across the small of his back. With little pressure, he will not be able to stand up if there is nothing for him to leverage against with his arms.

Fourth, it is hard to tell from your description, but it appears you are letting incidences accumulate, which means you are not punishing in a timely manner. "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Decide in advance what the punishment will be and then try to deliver it in a timely manner. For example, suppose you decide that each time your son is leaves home when he is ground he will receive fifteen swats. When you find him and bring him home, deliver the punishment then. If an hour later he is gone again, simply find him, bring him home, and deliver the same punishment again. By doing it this way, he is "controlling" the frequency and amount of punishment he is receiving. If he complains the answer is "stay home when you're grounded and I won't have to do this." Definitely don't accumulate punishments over the week.

Fifth, the repeated violations is his way of seeing where the limits exist. He is going to push it repeatedly, back off for a while, then try again in cycles. You will know you are making headway when you see the back off time increasing and the quantity of rule breaking decrease in each cycle.

Finally, you have a long road ahead because of past inconsistencies. It will take time to overcome them because the past inconsistencies have taught your son stubbornness. In this test of wills, keep in mind that your goal is to get your son to be a responsible adult. Many parents during the battles forget they need to ease off the restrictions a bit a time so that a child can learn to manage life on his own. The problems you are having is that your son is wanting to move faster than you are willing to let him. I don't know all the reasons for the restrictions, I suspect he hasn't demonstrated trustworthiness, but don't forget that you must give him safe choices so that he has opportunities to practice before he gets out on his own.


I need some help solving a problem that I have with my daughters. Any advice or suggestions would be welcomed. I am writing in simple Spanish in hopes that you will not have difficulties in understanding it. If you do have problems, I will write in broken English. I believe that in Spanish or in my deficient English, we should be able to converse. [Note to readers: I used automated translation software to get the gist of what was written and then rewrote it for clarity. Please regard any errors in the translation as mistakes on my part.]

I have the following problem in my home: I am the father of six children, two boys and four girls. To raise six children in today's world is not easy and to afford to raise our six children, both I and my wife must work outside the home. We are able to make this work because my wife's parents live with us and help us with the children. However, teaching six children is not an easy task and some appear to be badly educated.

I am having serious problems with two of my daughters, who are fourteen and thirteen. They are my two older daughters. I have a son who is seventeen. He and the younger children are no problem, but things are going very badly with these two daughters. First, they will not obey anyone -- parents, grandparents, or teachers. They will not listen to anyone. And to top it off, they are set on doing wicked things. They have been stealing from their friends' book bags. Last week they went into the office of a teacher while she was out and stole money from the wallet in her purse.

It is difficult to realize that I have daughters who would steal, but it seems they have been doing it often. A friend of theirs told me that my daughters will sometimes enter a store and take things when the sales clerk or owner of the store is distracted. I was told that they hide the things in their book bags.

I talked with the preacher at our church and he told me that I need to get a switch (a rod of wood that is thin, hard, but flexible) and the next time one of my daughters steal to immediately give her a sound thrashing. He said I need to do this consistently and hard enough that she will not want to return to stealing. Every time she steals, she must be punished in order to stop her stealing.

At first, I didn't listen to my preacher. Instead, I took my daughters to a psychologist. He told me that spanking was bad advice. He put my daughters into treatment for anti-social behavior. However, my daughters did not listen to the treatment, so all the money paid the psychologist was wasted.

In the end, I went back to the preacher at my congregation. He scolded me for thinking that a psychologist or psychiatrist could solve my problem with my daughters. He told me that only in the Bible would I find a solution. He picked up a Bible and read to me the words from Proverbs about using a rod for correction to put order and discipline in children's lives. He said that this is what God wants mothers and fathers to do.

My wife's parents warned me years ago that I was allowing my daughter to do as they please and that it was not good for them. They told me that spanking a child did not mean you loved them less. They too urge me to find a switch and use it when they are not obedient. I did not listen to them when they told me this and now I see the result. However, they say that it is not too late to correct the problem.

I'm writing to you for advice. It is good to get a second opinion or another point of view. I never approved of spanking in the past, but now I'm confused. I don't know what to think about it. Worse, I'm running out of time. I would be very grateful if you would give me your advice. Tell me what you would do if you were in my situation.

Answer:

You definitely have problems and not all of the advice you received was bad. Consider this a moment: your wife grew up to be the woman you love. She doesn't have "anti-social behaviors." Yet you rejected the advice of the two people who successfully raised her. I would assume that you were also spanked as a child. It is only recently that spanking has fallen out of favor in common society. Why is it that each generation thinks it knows more than the previous generation? We ought to look at the mistakes that our parents made and correct those for our children, but when our parents did something that turned out well, we should retain those things.

The preacher at your congregation also gave you good advice. He pointed you to the Bible and showed you what God said about raising children. Since we are the product of God's creation, it makes sense that God knows what is best for us. It is foolish to think that men can come up with a better way to raise children. Man is too limited to see the consequences of his actions. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12). And man is arrogant. He always thinks that whichever way he picks must be the best way. "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise" (Proverbs 12:15).

The only bad advice you received was from the psychologist, but that is because he teaches worldly wisdom. What passes for wisdom in this world is often plain foolishness. "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" (I Corinthians 1:20). Modern psychology has been around for less than 200 years. God and the Bible have a few years on the science of psychology and better insight into the workings of men.

You have two problems: unruly children and daughters who have taken to stealing. You and your wife need to sit down and have a serious discussion about how you want your children to behave when they grow up. You need to decide how you want them to behave toward you, their grandparents, their teachers, and others in authority. Unless you firmly have a goal in mind, any instruction on your part will be inconsistent and seen as insincere. Let me suggest reading the following passages: Ephesians 4:20-32; Colossians 3:1-15; Galatians 5:19-23. They tell us the behaviors that should be rejected and the behaviors that should be cultivated both in our own lives and in the lives of our children.

Seen as one big package, the task will appear to be overwhelming. However, we will not tackle everything at once. For each child, even the ones that are behaving well, pick one or two things that you want that child to do better. For your daughters, we already know that ending the stealing is on top of your list. But I suspect that your other children are not completely without problems. It is just that compared to your two daughters, their problems seem to be minor. However, everyone needs to improve and it is important that you treat your children equally and fairly. They might not have the same problems to overcome, but they all have something for which to strive.

Next, you and your wife need to look at what you are doing that is encouraging or accepting the bad behavior. Most parents are blind to the things that they do which promote bad behavior in their children. For example, when did you first suspected that your daughters were stealing? Did you and your wife notice that things were missing, but dismiss them as your own forgetfulness? Did you notice that you daughters had things that you didn't purchase, wondered where they came from, but didn't bother to look into the matter because it wasn't that important? Did you find things that they stole, but you didn't make them return them? When others told you they were stealing, did you defend your daughters and rescue them from punishment? In many ways, big and small, parents give their children the wrong message. They accidentally tell their children that stealing is acceptable to them.

Once you understand your mistakes, stop it immediately. The realization will come to you and your wife slowly over time as you critically look at your lives.

In the meantime, the children's behavior must change. First and foremost, talk to the school and the teacher from whom your daughters stole the money. Find out how much is missing. Then ask the school what their standard policy is for stealing and then ask them to implement it. Let them know that you will not interfere and that your daughters will be facing additional consequences at home. In addition, let the school know that you would like to be informed of any future bad behavior so that you can reinforce the school's discipline at home.

Next, try to determine why your daughters stooped to stealing. Were they looking for the thrill? Were they wanting attention? Are they using the money to buy things? Are they using drugs? If you can determine this, then it will help tailor the punishment.

Third, tell your daughters that they will return the money and items that they stole. In addition they will pay the same amount again that will go into the family's fund. Since they have been benefiting from stealing, all personal items in their room will be sold (at your selection) to pay off their debt. This is where determining why they stole will be useful. Select foremost the items they wanted so much that they were willing to steal to get them. If this doesn't raise sufficient funds, then inform them that they will need to earn it either by getting a job or by doing extra chores at home. Until the money is paid off in full, they will have no social life -- period. If drugs are involved, turn them over to the police. Yes, there will be major consequences, but this is what your daughters must face.

Fourth, since it appears they use their book bags to accomplish their crimes, get rid of the bags. If they need some way to carry their books and it is impractical to carry them in their arms, give them a means that is open to view, such as a clear plastic container. In addition, they should not be allowed to carry a purse to school for the rest of the year.

Finally, inform your daughters that any rebellion or sneaking out for social activities will receive a spanking with a rod. The choice of whether they receive a spanking becomes theirs.

For your other children, decide on ways to motivate them to behave better that is related to the issue you want them to work. Try to pick some positive and some negative motivators. For example, perhaps you want the youngest not to yell when he is told to do something. If he yells, he gets a small spanking and still must do what he was told. If he goes a whole week without yelling, he can select a candy bar to eat at the local market. When he masters himself for two weeks in a row, you raise the goal to a whole month. After that you start working on the next problem.

All of this should be communicated as severely and objectively as you can manage. Do not shout or yell. Be firm and unemotional. Your goal is not to get your way, but to shape your children's lives so that they grow up into godly people. Don't take setbacks personally. This is a matter of right and wrong. It is a matter of what is best for your children's future.

Response:

Thank you for helping with my problem. I will try to follow your advice.

In response to several of your points, I had tried to speak to my wayward older daughters about the thefts and the other evils that they are doing, but it doesn't work. They won't listen to me and continue to do as they please.

What I truly don't understand is why only two of my six children are giving me problems. It would seem more logical that they would be all basically good or all bad. I give them the same education, the same necessities, and the same allowances, so how could I have problems with only two of them?

I tried the ways you suggested, except for spanking. You said the advice of the psychologist was wrong and I am thinking the same. After all, how can a treatment work unless the patient follows it? But my daughters refuse to do it. I only have the rod left as an option.

The preacher at my congregation said that spanking should never be the last alternative; most of the time it should be the first choice for discipline. I didn't want to listen to him at first, but now I feel he is right.

I want to ask you one more question: do you think that spanking can give good results with girls who are 13 and 14? My preacher said, "of course." He said it would be effective, if it is done properly. He said it needs to be painful, but what is needed for a small nine-year-old boy is not the same as what must be done with a more mature fourteen-year-old boy. He also said that the Bible never placed an age limit on spanking, it is up to the parents to decide. What do you think? What kind of rod should I look for?

My daughters don't like our family's religion. They are into far eastern religious ideas.

That is all for now. If you would send me your thoughts, it would be welcomed.

Answer:

It appears that my advice was not fully clear in my first answer. I was not suggesting that you talk to your daughters and attempt to persuade them out of their bad ways. I would like you to tell them in no uncertain terms that these are the behaviors expected out of daughters in this household. I want you to take actions which make their choices result in discomfort and increased difficulty in doing evil things. Because your daughter stole items from a store and used her book bag to accomplish the thief, you must tell her that it was wrong, take away the book bag so it can't be used for evil again, tell her she must repay all that she stole and that she will pay the same amount into the family fund. This is not up for discussion or negotiation. The time for making a choice was when she walked into the store. The time for discussion is past. These are the consequences.

If you want to add a spanking to the consequences, I believe it is a good idea. It will certainly reinforce what you are telling them. However, I want you to do the other things because they will serve as long term reminders. Your preacher is correct, the Bible doesn't give an age limit. While a child is living at home and is dependent on his parents for support, it is expected that the child will be obedient to his parents. Spanking should always be an option. In your case, it is probably a must since you describe them as being willful and not likely to follow the terms given them for being disobedient.

It doesn't matter what religious ideas your daughters prefer. I'm sure they have selected the eastern ones because they give themselves greater freedom to do as they please. Such should not be your concern. You and your wife have family ideals that will be met by members of the family while they remain a part of the household. It doesn't matter if some odd religion permits stealing, in your household stealing is wrong because God said it and we uphold that standard. Again, remember that you are the father. Standards of right and wrong are not up for negotiation.

The word "rod" in Proverbs refers to a slender branch from a bush or a tree. Find one about the size of you little finger in diameter and about a half-meter in length. It should be flexible, but not so flexible that it will produce a whipping action. Try to find one without knots. Use a knife to remove leaves and twigs and to whittle it smooth. Apply it to your daughter's bottoms in firm, measured strokes. You should not try to beat them so that their bottom is heavily bruised, but you do want each stroke to sting. The number of strokes will vary between children and the severity of their crimes. I generally suggest starting with ten for teenagers. The Old Testament had a law that a punishment should not exceed 40 lashes. If you have to go that high, you are probably doing it wrong.

In regards to why your children are growing up differently, though you are using the same techniques, let me ask this: If I planted a garden in Spain and then moved to Norway and planted another garden, would I get the same results if I used exactly the same techniques, planted the same seeds, and plant at the same time of year? The answer would be "of course not!" There are different soils involved, different rain patterns, differing amounts of sunlight, and different starts to the seasons. For the same reason, each child is an unique individual. Even if you use exactly the same techniques and they experienced the same events, each child will turn out differently.

However, people are able to successfully grow gardens in both Spain and Norway. How? They adjust their techniques to the climate. Even though the conditions are different, they are able to gain similar results. The same is true with raising children. You must have a goal in mind. You will use roughly the same techniques, but those techniques will be adjusted to each child so that each child will turn out to be roughly the same. Don't hold the methods fixed; hold the goal fixed, then you will get more consistent results.


I'm glad I came across your website and read so many things from other dads of older boys. I'm a single dad of a 13 year old boy. I've been needing to spank him for his improper attitude, but I have been very afraid to. Mostly because I'm uptight about male nudity, but I realize that spanking him with jeans on won't be effective. Do you have any advice how I can begin?  Any help would be appreciated.

Answer:

The verses in the Bible dealing with spanking do not mention the attire of the one being spanked. See "Topical Scripture Index: Spanking" for a list of these verses. There is no requirement to bare a boy's bottom in order to give him a spanking.

What I have mentioned in the past is that jeans make the sting of a rod far less painful, thus a parent ends up compensating by delivering more blows and harder blows to accomplish the same end. Sometimes a parent will comment "I've tried spanking, but he just laughs it off as if it didn't hurt." In such cases, I have pointed out what should be obvious, swats on an uncovered rear-end will be more effective. A completely bare bottom is not necessary. Spanking over underwear will be almost as effective as on unprotected skin. Or you could have him wear a jock strap so that his genitals remain covered while his bottom is exposed. If such bothers you, have your son change into a pair of light weight shorts or pants.

How do you start? First, define for yourself and your son what is going to be done for bad behavior. Spanking is not the only option for a parent. I recommend that different methods be used as appropriate for the crime. Like most things in life, one method is not the most effective in all cases. See "Topical Scripture Index: Disciplining Children" for a list of ways discipline can be accomplished. It is my recommendation that spanking be reserved for acts of willful or purposeful disobedience, cases where other forms of punishment just don't fit the crime, or as an alternative to another form of punishment where the teenager is allowed to choose which punishment they want. For example, if a boy puts a hole in the wall out of frustration with his girlfriend, you certainly could spank him, but it won't be nearly as effective as having to purchase the repair materials out of his own pocket, performing the repairs, and being banned from talking to his girlfriend for two weeks. The latter gets is effectiveness from being closely tied to the problem and its cause.

Too often parents select spanking because it is quick. I also suspect that parents prefer it because it allows them to vent their personal anger. When such is the case, they are approaching discipline for entirely the wrong reason. Children need discipline to correct bad behavior, not because they have annoyed mom or dad. Personal vengeance is forbidden (Romans 12:19). A Christian is not to use evil (personal vengeance) as a reason to punish wrong doing (Romans 12:17). As hard as it is, a parent's personal frustration should not factor into when or how a child is punished. Parents should have a goal in mind for the behavior of their children. They should have rules that define proper behavior. Punishment is then used when those rules are broken to steer a child back onto the proper course.

If spanking is deemed necessary, find a small branch of a tree or bush about 18 to 24 inches long. It should be about the size of your little finger. Make sure it is not so stiff that it would shatter during use, but it shouldn't be so flexible that the end will bend and whip the child. You will probably have to whittle any knots, twigs, and leaves from the rod so that it is smooth. The act of getting a switch will give you a chance to personally calm down and examine the situation objectively. It also increases the dread on the child's part knowing that his punishment is forthcoming.

Have the boy bend over your lap or a neutral object. This tightens the bottom muscles and has the boy place himself in a position of submission (giving an emphasis on humility in counter to the willfulness he may have earlier displayed). Place one hand or arm in the small of his back and use the other arm to switch his bottom with the rod. The hand in the small of the back will prevent him from jumping up. A switch, or rod, stings a surprising amount; you will not have to use large swings or a lot of muscle. As for the number of swats, ten seems to be a good average number for a teenager.

If this still seems difficult, you might be able to find an experienced Christian male in your area, perhaps in your congregation, who can show you how it is done the next time your son is in need of a spanking. Most states permit spankings of the type I have outlined by a parent, guardian, or by a person designated responsible for the care of a child (even on a temporary basis). At times children get the idea that they can prevent a spanking by threatening to turn a parent into the police or child protective services. I suspect the idea comes about because a few states specifically forbid school teachers from using corporal punishment, but this doesn't apply to everyone. You might run into a social worker who is either unfamiliar with state law or is an anti-spanking zealot. However, the vast majority understand that moderate spankings, as I just describe, are legally allowable. See "United States Statutes Pertaining to Spanking" for a brief listing of these laws.


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.

Answer:

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.


I have a nine year old who is developing an attitude that we are always nagging and she can't do what she wants. Every time I ask her to do a chore she says yes, I go away, come back later and it won't be done. This can happen three or four times before she gets into trouble for not doing the task and ends up in tears. How do I get her to do these necessary chores, like tidy her room or pick up her things, without it turning into a war zone.

Answer:

The key to your problem is found in "this can happen three or four times before she gets into trouble." A friend of mine loves to tell a story told to him by a grandmother. She was visiting her daughter and sitting in the basement with her granddaughter when the child's mother called down "Katie, get up here and set the table." Katie looked up when mom called, but went right back to playing with her dolls. Not wanting to interfere, grandma puzzled over what was happening. Again mom called, "Katie, get up here this instance and set the table!" Katie again looked up, but then went back to playing. Obviously the problem wasn't in Katie's hearing. A few minutes later, mom yelled "Katie Lynn, you're going to be in big trouble if you don't march right up here!" Again Katie looked up, but went back to playing. Unable to contain herself any longer grandma said, "Katie, don't you think you should get moving?" "Oh, no grandma," Katie replied, "I still have two more times. When she uses my full name, then I have to go." Grandma was dumbfounded, but sure enough on the second call after that mom yelled out Katie's full name, and Katie quietly got up and went upstairs.

Little Katie had her mom pegged. She knew the drill by heart ... because her mom trained her to wait.

The same thing is happening in your family. You're frustrated at your daughter, but she is only doing what you trained her to do. You taught her to delay. You've created the war zone. And the trick is to not play the game any more.

When you tell little Susie to pick up her room and you return to find it untouched, you should deliver an immediate consequence and then tell her to pick up her room. It can be the immediate removal of the distracting item (book, toy, radio, or whatever) or you can give her a mild spanking. What you chose isn't so important as that it is perceived by the child as being an immediate negative consequence. There should be no warning or threat. There is no need to get angry or frustrated. You told your child to do something necessary and reasonable. Your daughter chose a consequence over obedience.

Depending on how stubborn your daughter is, you might have to repeat the consequence three or four times, but each and every ignoring of your request must bring about a negative consequence. It will not take long before Susie discovers that the game now has a new set of rules. Mom and dad mean what they say when they say it. Within days you will find Susie complying immediately. Nagging will disappear because you are no longer making idle threats or any threat at all.

Some children will do the minimum necessary to get by. You set the limits as to what delays are allowed. I would suggest that it be one statement only. One of these days there is going to be a fire in the house and you will want to be able to say "Susie, walk straight out the door as quickly as you can" and be confident that Susie is not going to delay but obey the very first time.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).


My 15 year old lies to me. I believe she does so in order to do what she wants. She shows a deliberate disrespectful presence. I have set boundaries for Internet usage and she has violated that boundary by talking to people she does not know, lying, and telling me they go to school with her. She created a blog with her pictures, full name, school information, and the like. This violates my rules of conduct on the Internet and the boundaries I have set for her. She is assigned chores at times and she does them sloppy or not at all. She is disruptive at times at school by talking to her friends in class when the teacher is teaching and now the teachers have had to separate the friends. This is not a high school behavior, showing responsibility, or respect for herself and others. It shows a lack of disrespect in all counts.

My options are to remove the Internet from her room leaving just the computer for school work with a printer. I can block by password on my computer assess to the Internet. She tells me she needs to do research on the Internet so I have allowed just that amount of time to complete the school work and when I check to see if she has indeed gone to the sites she said she would go to, she has done that plus checked her e-mail, which she was not suppose to. When confronting her, she said I thought it was okay I was only on there a second. I don't buy that. I take it as a disrespect for authority and dishonest.

I am trying to figure out what to do, and how long to make consequences and how to turn this around. I believe she has become comfortable in dishonesty, disrespectful presence and lack of healthy responsible young adult behavior. Suggestions are welcome.

Answer:

Most people attempt to do what they want to do within the confines of the limits placed upon them. You declare that it is not appropriate behavior for a high school student, but reality states that it is typical -- not necessarily excusable, but still typical.

What is happening is that you have built up numerous issues with your daughter that are not being resolved. Thus, you are overwhelmed by all the little annoyances that comes with having a teenager and the issues are being mixed and confused. For example, you called your daughter's checking her e-mail as "lying" but you didn't describe a lie. If you told her to only do her homework and not to check her e-mail, then she was disobedient. However, I suspect that you gave her permission to do her homework and assumed she would understand without having to be explicitly told not to check her e-mail. She decided that you were limiting her time, so as long as she stayed under the time limit, she could fit in what she could.

Please don't think I'm defending your daughter, but I'm trying to put a measure of fairness on the matter. Teenagers may be approaching adulthood, and their ability to reason is rapidly increasing, but in many ways they are still as literal-minded as a child. In fact, their increasing ability to reason means they begin looking for loopholes in the rules.

Instead of being distracted by a variety of problems, running here and there with none of them being solved; let's focus on just one for the moment, get a resolution, and then figure out the next issue. Since most of your note centers on the use of the Internet, let's start there.

It is good that you are aware of the dangers of the Internet. Your daughter needs protection because as a teenager she has not developed the ability to accurately assess risks. She literally doesn't see or understand the dangers and so wrongly concludes that they are not there.

1) If not done already, have her remove her current blog.

2) Discuss in detail what can and cannot be placed on the Internet (things like personal information). Tell her why it is a danger and if you can, supply her with some information on people who have been victimized by being too free with their personal information. Don't expect to convince her, just layout your reasons and tell her it is not suggestions, but a rule.

3) Let her create a blog, but let her know that it must be within the limits you set. If she breaks the rules, she will be losing her access to the Internet at home.

4) I strongly recommend that the computer in her room does not have Internet access. Only have computers in open areas of the home, where someone at any time can look over a person's shoulder should have access. It is amazing what people will or will not do just because they might be caught -- use that to your advantage.

5) Allow her access to mail, but let her know that all e-mail will be monitored (and do so). Address problems that arise from the content of the e-mails as they arise.

You probably think I'm crazy. She is getting all these freedoms, where are the consequences? What I suspect is happening is that you are creating artificial and unenforceable rules. Not all rules are the same. Suppose I made a rule that my child is not allowed to sit down. Even if my child, for the most part, obeys the rule, it is bound to be broken. Should I then get upset because the child broke my rule? Is the child "bad" because he broke my rule?

Let me illustrate this with a story from the Old Testament. Saul was leading an army of Israelites against the Philistines. His son Jonathan with the aid of God put the Philistine army into an uproar (I Samuel 14:1-15). Saul took advantage to the situation to turn the ruckus into a full victory (I Samuel 14:20-23). Saul was so excited about the win, that he didn't want anyone pausing, even to eat. Saul placed Israel under an oath, "Cursed is the man who eats any food until evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies." So none of the people tasted food" (I Samuel 14:24). I sure it sounded noble, but it was a foolish rule. After all, who fights better, someone well fed or hungry after hard work? Worse, the battle went through a section of woodlands where honey was dripping from the trees, but no one could eat it.

Because Jonathan was gone when his father made the rule, he did not know of it. As he battled through the area, he ate some of the honey (I Samuel 14:27). It revived him, but the rest of the men remained faint. He was told after the fact about Saul's rule and Jonathan rightly pointed out that Saul caused more harm than good with his oath. "My father has troubled the land. Look now, how my countenance has brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found! For now would there not have been a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?" (I Samuel 14:29-30).

Saul eventually learned that Jonathan had broken Saul's oath. "Then Saul said to Jonathan, "Tell me what you have done." And Jonathan told him, and said, "I only tasted a little honey with the end of the rod that was in my hand. So now I must die!" And Saul answered, "God do so and more also; for you shall surely die, Jonathan." But the people said to Saul, "Shall Jonathan die, who has accomplished this great deliverance in Israel? Certainly not! As the LORD lives, not one hair of his head shall fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day." So the people rescued Jonathan, and he did not die" (I Samuel 14:43-45).

Notice the mistakes made by Saul, from a parenting point of view:

1) He made a rule, but did not inform everyone of its existence. Yet, he expected everyone to obey it.

2) He made a rule that wasn't practical. He caused his own army to starve.

3) He made a rule that wasn't enforceable. By this, I mean that the rule was of such a nature that Saul could not monitor his own people to make sure they were following his rule. The people did try, but you can't be everywhere.

4) He made a rule that though he said he would enforce in the end he did not because it involved his own child.

Rules, such as "no private information on the Internet" is necessary for the safety of a child, but it is not an enforceable rule. You can install software to monitor most cases, but no software solution will be perfect. Software can be bypassed. Then there is the fact that your daughter has access to the Internet even if you bar her from the home computers. There are still the computers at school and the ones at the library. You can't monitor her 24 hours a day.

Your punishment of "no e-mail" is not enforceable either because of the same reasons. Your "no Internet" rule was not practical because you had to "break" the rule so she could do her homework.

Your daughter is on the verge of entering adulthood and in a few short years she must learn how to control her own behavior without you standing over her. That means she needs some practice flights while you are still available to catch her if she falls. What I fear is that most of your problems with your daughter is that you are controlling her life so much that she has no room to grow. You are placing artificial restrictions that are not enforceable or practical and then you are becoming upset when your rules aren't being followed. In the story above, Saul's problem wasn't Jonathan; Saul's problem was Saul. I suspect you are doing something similar to yourself.

I was asked a while back to talk to two brothers who were caught looking at Internet pornography. They were, and still are, good decent boys, but they got caught up into something that one of them admitted was uncontrollable. What I did was sit down with them and went over in extreme detail why pornography was an addictive behavior, why people peddled it, want they did to make it appear attractive, and most importantly what harm it caused to the viewer. In other words, I stripped it of all its glitz and helped them see all the trash hiding under the glitz. After talking to them into the wee hours of the morning, I then told them that I nor their parents, nor anyone else, could stop them from seeing pornography. Anything done could be undone. If they were determined, they could bypass any restriction placed on them. But, I told them, they could now appreciate the danger and I have delivered the warning (Ezekiel 3:17-21). The only person who could stop this was themselves. It was within their ability (I Corinthians 10:13). I wanted them to have a great life, a wonderful wife, and beautiful children, and when life is over a home in heaven; but I can't make anyone do the things necessary to have that assurance -- only they could. As far as I know, they completely dropped the pornography.

You see, what I did was tell them the reason behind the rule, the dangers that were lurking, and the reason the rule was a shield for them from that danger. But then I told them they were entering the adult world and I expected them to act as responsible adults. They rose to the challenge because deep down that is what they wanted for themselves. In this matter, do the same for your daughter. Your rule is reasonable, so show her the reason and the dangers. But be honest with her and yourself that the rule is not enforceable. Tell her you want her have a marvelous life unscarred by predators, but she is nearing adulthood and you no longer can fully protect her. She has to do it. I wouldn't be surprised if she, too, rose to the challenge.


I recently discovered that at least one of my stepsons had downloaded pornography on their computer, which is in their shared bedroom. The fourteen-year old seems to be the guilty culprit, but he won't own up.
The twelve-year-old says it wasn’t him, and I believe him. The law says I’m within my right to beat them both but should I? I’m a Christian and I feel I must cane the culprit. If I do, should it be severe? I was thinking 36 whacks each. I know it’s severe, but sexual sins are serious.

Answer:

The laws in all states allow reasonable physical punishment, such as spankings, by a parent or guardian. The Bible speaks of using a rod (or switch) to punish misbehavior. (See Questions and Answers regarding Spanking for more details.) You, however, speak of caning, which is not the same thing. You talk about giving 36 whacks, but it is an arbitrary number. You state that you don't know who is guilty, but you talk about caning both boys severely. Finally, and most importantly, there is no indication that the boys will be receiving instruction as to why pornography is wrong or dangerous.

Let's back things up a bit and put things on a more reasonable ground. Reserve spankings for willful disobedience. In this case, I would tell the boys that since it is clear that they are yielding to temptation, that they cannot be trusted with a computer in the privacy of their own room. Move the computer out into a public area of the home. If you suspect that they are using it when no one else is around, such as late at night, Windows XP has the ability to limit access to a user to certain hours of the day. Several software developers have programs to make such limitations simple to set up and will work on other operating systems. Set the hours to those times when you or your wife are home.

Do a thorough clean up of the computer and consider installing monitoring software. None of these steps will prevent a determined teenager from accessing pornography, but it makes it difficult and lets them know that you are determined to keep them safe.

Let the boys know that you will be going through their room at unannounced times to see if they are hiding pornography. Make it clear that pornography is not acceptable in any form in the house.

Finally, sit down with them and study with them about lust, sexual desire, and pornography. The more knowledge they have from the Bible, the less "glamorous" the pornography will appear. I would recommend using Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Boys to give them the background they need at this stage in their life. Follow this up with the article "A Look at Pornography" to explain the specific dangers of pornography.

Response:

I have spoken to my wife and it is agreed that it would not only be wrong to administer corporal punishment to both my sons unless they're both guilty and that 36 whacks of the cane is not appropriate. I attended a strict religious school where teachers would administer corporal punishment to the entire class to keep order. I though it would have been wrong to cane them both, but I wanted to be sure. We agree that it is a sin to wrongly punish someone. The fourteen-year-old has owned up. Would twelve lashes of a senior cane be more appropriate or should I slipper him?

Answer:

I'm glad that some of what I wrote sunk in. Just because you were raised with or without corporal punishment, or just because a certain type of punishment was always used when you were young doesn't necessarily imply that it is scriptural or the best method. You mentioned that you are a Christian, so why aren't you going back to the Bible to learn how to discipline? I'm asking because neither the use of a cane or a slipper are mentioned therein. See "A series of questions about spanking" for an introduction to biblical corporal punishment. Also read through the Scriptures listed in the topical index on spanking. I do hope you are including studying with your boys about sexual matters as part of your corrective action.


Just wanted to say thanks for contending for the faith, in relation to the person who wrote you against the Bible.  I need further help with my son Brett who is 14.  My wife and I have set the punishment for disobedience for both our sons. In addition to moving along if there are repeated infractions, my son has not heeded to well with the taking away privileges, extra chores,and groundings.  He has talked back to my wife, continues to backtalk even when given the extra punishments, and he is still not where he is supposed to be.  In addition he continues to torment his younger brother John by punching him and pushing him around.  My wife caught him in a lie when he was not at the place he said he was at. I told him to stay in his room and I would decide the next course of action.

The last time I spanked him, it was a long time before he complied with it and bent over my lap.  I took the switch and spanked his bottom in rapid swats. A couple hours later, he told his brother the spanking didn't hurt and he was going to still do what he wanted. My wife and I decided to cancel a trip he was going to go on at church.  My question is how would you handle the situation in regards to administering the spanking to make it more effective. How should I spank when there are things that he has done for multiple infractions that calls for using the rod?  Thanks for the help.

Answer:

My greatest difficulty in helping resolve problems is that I only get a short description of what is happening presented from one person's point of view. The true problem might be something entirely different, but because the focus is on one spot, the clues concerning the true problem are missed. The description you gave makes me suspect that something is being overlooked that is key to the problem. However, I must go with what I have.

First, it appears that while you are setting out punishments for misbehaviors your son is attempting to wear you down by continuing to do as he pleases. There are three basic causes for this: 1) the punishment is not consistently given, 2) the punishment is not timely given, or 3) the punishment is not enforced. Since I don't have the family available to figure out where the problem lies, bear with me a moment as I describe the situations.

In order for a punishment to help alter a bad behavior, it must be delivered each and every time the bad behavior occurs. If not, a gambler's view sets in the child. If he knows that sometimes he can get away with a misbehavior, then he begins to gamble that this next misdeed might go unpunished, so therefore it is "worth" the risk. The problem for parents who are readjusting their approach to child rearing late in life is the fact that there is a long history of unpunished bad behavior. A child looks at all the years he got away with things and then decides that this punishment thing is just a fad. He figures he can outlast you and eventually you will give in to his way of thinking. This is why God told Israel that He would be willing to punish their sins even to the third or fourth generation (Exodus 34:7). In other words, what God was telling Israel was they would not outlast God's efforts to keep them in line.

This requirement can be wearing on parents when they are trying to change the ingrained behavior of a misguided child. For a while it will seem that you just finished punishing your son when you turn around and have to do it again. We live in a society that looks for instant solutions. A punishment, by itself, will rarely change the course of a child determined to do mischief. It will take repeated, consistent application before the message is received that a bad behavior will not be tolerated. It will also take solid instruction and rebukes along with the punishment.

Even when a punishment is consistently given, if there is significant delay in its delivery, then the child retains a satisfaction of having done as he pleased despite the punishment. "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly" (Proverbs 13:24). Solomon tells us why, "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

The third tactic that throws parents for a loop is when a child attempts to overwhelm his parents by piling one misbehavior on top of another. For example, if your son was not where he was supposed to be and the decided punishment was grounding for a week, but two days later he simply leaves to be with friends, what do you do? Most parents throw up their hands and say it is impossible and they give up. The answer is that another, different punishment needs to be added to the one already in place. You can't extend the current punishment because he has already demonstrated a willingness to ignore it. Soon you would have him grounded until he was eighty. Since leaving during grounding is an act of defiance, I would leave whatever I was doing to locate the child, take him immediately home, give him a spanking, and re-emphasize that he is grounded for a week. Each and every time, he would receive the same treatment. In other words, each misdeed is treated as a individual event.

I don't know how you were punishing his hitting his younger brother, but I would treat it as an act of violence which would receive a spanking.

The backtalk depends on what you call backtalk. Parents of teenagers need to expect that there will be grumbling and attempts to talk their way out of chores or punishment. The simplest solution is to demonstrate that nothing changes. But if by backtalk you mean that you son curses his mother out because she sends him to his room, then it is an act of defiance which should be punished by spanking soon after you get home. The concern that you should have is that verbal abuse will evolve into physical abuse over time. The time to stop such is immediately.

You mentioned that your son claimed that the last spanking wasn't so bad. Are you sure it wasn't posturing by a teenage boy who wants to look tough to his younger brother? Since you delivered the spanking, did it appear to you that it didn't phase him? If such was the case, then increase the number of whacks by five from here on out and see if that makes a difference. Wait a few more incidences and if it still not phasing him, increase the number again. Using the old Jewish rule of not going beyond forty, if the number of whacks is getting high, then look at how you are delivering them. Space the strokes out so that each one stings. Doing many in rapid succession just causes the bottom to get numb. If spanking over pants is not working, then do it with his pants down.

You also mentioned that it took a while before he relented to being spanked. That is to be expected. The important point is that he accepted it. I would expect that the next few times will be even longer because despite his bragging, he will not be looking forward to another round. Remember that you are the adult, demonstrate the patience that you have learned of the years and out wait him.

Reply:

I shared with my wife the observations you made.  She thought also it was giving into Brett.  You were right that Brett thought the spanking was weak. My wife caught him telling his brothers that when it comes to being spanked just scream loud and dad will stop.  When she told me this, I told her the next time it was on the list of spanking offenses for Brett, I would not give in so quickly.  As you so said, you can't keep them grounded until they're adults.  Yes there were times that I had not been consistent with it.  I took Brett out for a father-son chat and listen to what he had to say.  I told him from now on out we wouild stick to the groundings and spankings as needed.  I didn't let him know what his mom overheard.  After a couple of days, he got mad and threw a game controller at his brother.  I saw what happened and, of course, he tried to past the buck.  Spanking is now an automatic discipline when the boys hit each other.  I took Brett into his room and told him that this was not acceptable and would not be tolerated. I left him in his room while I went to pray and get the switch. When I came in, I told him to bend over my knee. He tried to worm his way out of it, but I told him it was up to him that he was delaying the spanking.  He eventually bent over my lap.  I told him he would receive twelve swats with the switch. He let out a loud outburst and said "Twelve!" I took the switch and spanked him the twelve swats with a few seconds in between.  He told me afterwards that was the worse switching he ever had and his bottom was stinging awfully bad. I told him that hitting his brother causes your bottom to hurt as reminder not to do it again.  I am telling you it does work.  It was my fault for allowing the disobedience to continue and I have asked my family for forgiveness. Thanks for your help. I did need to hear how I was weak in the spanking I had given earlier.


I hope you noticed that your son is still trying to pull the sympathy card to get you to relent. Not just the objection to the number of swats, his stating that it was the worse spanking and the stinging lasted were probably said in hopes that next time you will do it less effectively. Your answer was perfect in that it deflected his attempt to place the blame for his punishment on you and put it squarely back on it being the result of his misbehavior. I'm glad you also are not delaying the punishment long after the misdeed and that you are putting more emphasis on teaching him how to behave properly. All of this will eventually create improvements over time.


We have three boys 8,10 and 12. Of late they have become very defiant. We have read your web site and decided to spank. While being spanked they kick they kick their legs and refuse to stay still. Should we swat them on the back of the legs to stop this, or is the bottom the only correct place for chastisement?

Answer:

I assume that you still a bit stronger than they are, if not, turn the task of disciplining over to your husband. The idea of spanking is that a child will not like the experience. Of course they will seek some means to end it as quickly as possible. Sit in a chair that has no arms have them bend over your lap. Place one hand or forearm across the small of their back. They might thrash around, but without anything to push off on, they will not be able to get up. If the kicking gets too wild, just hold on to them calmly and in the calmest voice possible tell them you will continue when they stop kicking. It might take a while, but they will eventually give up. When they do, continue as if nothing happened.

The passages on spanking talk of swat the back (the rump), so I would not recommend swatting the legs (Proverbs 13:10; 19:29). One, it won't calm the situation down. And two, there is not as much "padding" on the back of the legs, so a switch might leave a mark.


Should I force my 14 year old son to work even if he doesn't feel comfortable?

Answer:

Oh, the poor thing! It is so hard to be motivated when you don't feel like working, isn't it? Why don't you set him a great example: when the alarm clock rings tomorrow morning, instead of dragging yourself out of bed and off to work, just call your boss and tell him you aren't comfortable with coming in today?

I hope you understand the point. Work and chores about the home have nothing to do with personal comfort. There are things that must be done regardless of whether you feel like doing them. "For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us. For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat" (II Thessalonians 3:7-10).

Your job as a parent is not to please the whims of your son. You are there to prepare him for life as an adult. So get busy instilling good habits in him that will last him the rest of his life. Don't wait until you feel comfortable about it.


Thank you! Our home is slowly changing from a battlezone to a loving home. We still struggle, basically, since our 9 year old acts like a 3-5 year old, then I think she should have a 3-5 year old freedoms and choices. These will be earned back as she learns self-control and respect. I’m really needing some help with my focus. Today, she was balking at me picking her clothes for her. I found myself yelling a lot and I had a "talk" with her and was saying stuff like "Why can't you just listen and obey! When I tell you to do something, you need to try to do it!" My convictions are beginning to waver. I think I need some encouragement.

Answer:

It appears that you are allowing your personal disappointment in the speed of her progress to get to you. It is not that progress isn't being made, it is just that you were hoping for an instant fix to a problem that takes time to solve.

There is no need to yell when a child doesn't pick up her clothes. Yelling isn't going to directly improve the situation and it is going to ruin the rest of your day. Tell her that her clothes need to be picked up by, let's say dinner time. That is it. Do not allow it to be opened for debate. If she tries, ask her what she did she not understand and then calmly restate the rule and leave. When you return at the designated time and the room isn't picked up (and it won't be the first few times), calmly inform her what the punishment is (no supper until it is done and a one hour earlier bedtime, or whatever you decide is appropriate), and then follow through as you stated, no matter how she behaves. Remember, you are the parent, she is the child. You're not asking for anything unreasonable and you don't need her approval of your rules.

Soon she'll catch on and try to delay until the last moment. The answer remains the same. The room wasn't picked up by the designated time. It doesn't matter that she started, what matters is that she didn't finish as requested. Inform her of the punishment and follow through on it.

If a child finds she can get you to light the punishment or excuse her misbehavior by complaining, whining, or throwing a tantrum, then she'll do it. If she learns it doesn't "buy" her any change, or that it makes her punishment worse, she'll stop -- but not before she trys every permuntation to see if there isn't some loophole somewhere.

Think about what you are saying when you lose your cool: "Why can't you just listen and obey?" How is a child supposed to answer that one? If she truthfully told you that she doesn't want to, she'll get into trouble. It is a question that you already know the answer. "When I tell you to do something, you need to try to do it!" Ah, so feeble, half-hearted attempts count, do they? Obedience should be an expected given. Tell her what needs to be done and when she doesn't, follow through on an appropriate punishment.


We are a dresses-only family. My daughter is (deliberately?) not careful when running and playing and her underwear is showing. She has lost some of her treasured outfits. We raise her to dress very modestly. Last time she was on the swings during a church picnic seeking the boys' attention. Other parents noticed. I'm not sure what to do. She is nine years old.

Answer:

"We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister In the day when she is spoken for? If she is a wall, we will build upon her a battlement of silver; and if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar" (Song of Solomon 8:8-9).

Your daughter, for whatever reason, is showing herself to be a "door." Thus, the appropriate response by her family is to "enclose her with boards of cedar." In other words, you have a daughter who is interested in the attention of boys and discovered an unhealthy way to gain their attention. It is your job as her parents to protect her from herself and preserve her reputation.

Children who are in their pre-teens and especially in their teenage years are not known for their sound judgments. I suspect that your daughter has reached puberty, even though there may be little in the way of outward signs of it so far. The rising hormones have raised her interest in boys, but I'm certain that she doesn't understand the full extent of what that means.

So what do you do? First, it is time to revamp her wardrobe a bit. Parents of growing children tend to try to get the most out of each clothing purchase, often to the point of allowing a child to wear items that are too short simply because they can still fit into them. Remove from her closet anything that doesn't reach well below her knees. Next, as quickly as you can, switch her to the more modest culotte style skirts, especially for active wear. For the other skirts, the people in more modest days used bloomers and it would be a wise investment. Get several that are color-coordinated with her skirts so that they will not stand out if the skirt gets accidentally raised.

Second, it is time for Mom to begin talking with her about growing up, adolescence, and her responsibilities. Every single detail does not need to be covered yet, but she needs to be aware that her actions contain meaning whether she intends for them to do so or not. Dad needs to start playing his role of arbiter. If he says a certain outfit is inappropriate, then out it goes. Dad knows how males react and so she needs to abide by his opinion, whether she agrees or not. And believe me, for several years she will think Dad is an old stick in the mud -- tough. Just remind yourself that she is a developing young woman without a lick of sense in her brain -- a least for a few more years.

Third, your the parent. Act like one. If you see your child acting inappropriately, put a halt to it immediately. If she can't swing without her skirt lifting, well, swinging is off bounds for the rest of the picnic and if she gives you grief she has the joy of keeping her parents company for the remainder of the picnic. She'll get the message real soon.

Reply:

Thank you, I appreciate, much food for thought. We will look into the wardrobe. In reference to putting a halt to it immediately. Would it be appropriate for an immediate spanking for something like this? This is what her grandmother suggests.

Answer:

There is an unfortunate tendency among people to think that if a solution works for one problem, then it must work for all problems. While a spanking is a deterrent, it does nothing to address the problem at hand. I recommend that spankings be reserved for acts of willful defiance (not to be confused with disobedience), violence, or situations where no other reasonable deterrent can be found. Since we have a very good deterrent -- staying with Mom and Dad interferes severely with her attempts at attention -- there is no reason to add additional punishment on top of punishment.


I am emailing you because you always have great advice for so many situations. 

I am having a hard time with my 11 year old son.  And am beginning to contemplate sending him to public school.  Last year was the worst year we have had.  I am fearing this year is going to be just as trying.  Sometimes I think he is just manipulating me, and sometimes I think I need to get him checked out for a chemical imbalance or something.  He breaks down into tears daily when things do not go his way, things do not go as he expected, or when things are a little tough.  His dad and I have various rules, restrictions, consequences, etc. and he continually hounds me about what friends at church are allowed to do that he is not allowed to do.  Another thing he does that really aggravates me is this: if he is being corrected by me and he is continuing to talk, I tell him to hush, but he keeps talking, so I walk over to him. I am visibly upset, but he puts his arms up to guard his face and acts scared like he's about to get beat and says something like "don't hurt me."  Then he turns on the tears like he is terribly afraid, and I hadn't even touched him!  I chalked this up to "drama" most of the time, but I am starting to wonder how someone can cry like he does and it not be more than just a show for attention.  I think I have allowed too much "negotiation" to occur between he and I and now when he doesn't get his way he is just going to have a crying fit.  But at age 11 and in 6th grade it's too much!  I think, too, that he almost feels he is on an equal level with me and so he should get a say in everything.  I am afraid we have really messed up in our parenting somewhere along the line and I don't know how to get the upper hand again sometimes.  Any words of wisdom?

Answer:

Eleven would be just about the time many young men enter adolescence. Your description sounds fairly typical of a young boy experiencing mood swings due to wildly fluctuating hormones. Of course, I'm guessing because I haven't seen your son, but I'll give high odds that he is past puberty. So, in a way you are right, he does have hormone imbalances, but it is within the range of normal for a teenage boy.

Children have fairly steady, but low, levels of hormones in their blood. With puberty these hormones drastically rise, but they do so unsteadily, swinging wildly up and down. The worse time is about the time boys go through their growth spurt and for about two years thereafter, it then settles down to a steady rate, but high, level of hormones. In a sense, during the teenage years boys experience what you women go through monthly, but at very unpredictable times. I remember at age 17 getting angry with a rude fellow employee at the nursing home where I worked as an orderly. Then I got mad at myself for getting mad. Before I knew it tears started flowing and I couldn't "turn them off" for three hours. It was so embarrassing because I knew it was dumb, but I had no control. I finished out the work day, but I wanted to hide! Now, years later I know it was a normal reaction to hormones.

The sexual hormones cause moods to be amplified. Happy is delirious bouncing around, sad is the world coming to an end, and mad is ready to rip something apart. This is one reason suicide rates are high among teenage boys. They don't realize that they are overreacting to the world. On top of this, the teenage brain is re-wiring itself. One of the parts that is non-functional in a teenage boy is the section that gives a person self-restraint -- they don't know when to stop (it doesn't even enter their mind that something might be risky or rash; it just seems like the thing to do, so they do it). A recent study proved that teenagers are unable to read body language. They strongly tend to over-read emotional expressions. For example, a stern face is seen as someone very angry. Teenage girls are very prone to this, but it happens with teenage boys as well. Your approach to him, being upset, sounds like a classic over-reaction and misinterpretation -- it is his problem, not yours.

None of this excuses bad behavior, but it does help to understand that you are not necessarily the cause of it. Your job for the next several years to provide stability in his life -- a tall order for most women. It is one of the reasons teenage boys respond best to dad's handling of situations. I would recommend arranging with your husband time to handle problems. One suggestion that has worked in many situations is to write problems on a list on the refrigerator. That helps you "let go" of the problem so you can keep a more even temperament. About an hour after dad gets home (so he doesn't associate dad's arrival with punishment), dad can get the list and go over the problems with son and measure out the consequences. An advantage is that where son can play on your emotions, he will have a hard time doing so with dad. While the emotional response is normal, I suspect that your son has learned that he can use it to his advantage. Rather than learning to deal with his emotions, he is giving in to them because he can alleviate some of the consequences of his misdeeds with them.

You are right that matters of right and wrong should never be negotiated. There are expectations and there are consequences which need to be clearly presented and then upheld. While it seems too strict, most teenage boys find strict rules comforting because too much of the rest of their world is changing.  One of the amazing things I've seen is visiting various facilities for handling wayward boys and drug rehabilitation centers; every one uses very strict scheduling and expectations to get the boys to settle down -- and it works! Most boys do well in the structured environment only to breakdown into bad habits when they return home.

The authority issue is also typical. It comes from a natural inclination to become independent, though he is far from being ready for it. Again, dad is often well equipped to handle this issue. Dad should be getting in his face like a drill sergeant, telling his son that he will show his wife respect or he'll be dealing with the painful consequences.

I could go on and on, but I'll give you a chance to think about this and respond.

Next, if I'm right about puberty, your son needs to study about growing up and what is ahead of him. Things are easier to deal with when you know the weird things are normal. Take a look at Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Boys. I would suggest either having your husband study it with him or if there is some way we can get together I'll go over it with him (I taught this material to hundreds of boys for over ten years now). The reason I'm offering is that I've found that it is hard to discuss some of these subjects with a person you see daily (its too personal), but it is easier to discuss them with someone you only see once in a while.

I know I've barely brushed the surface, but hopefully this will give you a start.


I have greatly enjoyed all the information and insights that you share on this page. My husband and I are raising three sons. We use spanking as one of our disciplinary tools with the boys, especially for the 3 Ds - deliberate disobedience, disrespect and dishonesty.

Recently one of my sons was in some mischief with a neighbor boy. Another neighbor told me and the other boy's mother what she had seen our two boys do. We confronted both boys together and they 'fessed up. She said that we wouldn't be seeing her son for awhile because he would be grounded. I mentioned that my son would also be ground after he received a good paddling. I believe this admission startled her and she replied "We don't believe in hitting." I let it go because I know not all parents approve of spanking.

After our sons were no longer grounded, my son was at her house. When he came home, he mentioned that she had asked whether he had been spanked. He said he had, then she asked him several more questions about the spanking and whether he and his brothers are spanked a lot. I gathered the questions made him somewhat uncomfortable. More to the point, I don't believe this woman approves of spanking as discipline and could perhaps be an anti-spanking zealot.

What do I tell my boys if she or anyone else asks if they are spanked at home? I don't want them to lie, but I'm also concerned about other people interfering with how my husband and I choose to raise our sons. For the record, we use a ping pong paddle or leather strap (for lying). We usually give two times the number of swats of their age, unless the seriousness of the offense might warrant more. We paddle in private unless the boys are being punished together and we use corner time for them to reflect after the paddling.

Spanking is one tool we use for discipline but not the only one. Still I am concerned and would appreciate your advice.

Answer:

I appreciate that you find this website useful. I can tell you have read it in detail since you are using many of my own phrases in your note.

There is no need to lie or ask your children to lie about the fact that they are spanked. Yes, there are people running around who try to use the government to enforce their personal opinions on other people. But what you should do is treat her questions the same as you would any other question that invades the privacy of your home. When you have to run down to the corner market for an essential item for tonight's supper, you tell the children not to let strangers into the home or to tell them that mom and dad are not home right now. Or, if someone calls not to say that you are gone. Instead, we tell them to politely ask, "They can't come to the phone right now. May I take a message so that they can call you back later?" The truth is told, but personal or private information is not divulged.

For the neighbor, it would have been best if your son had said, "I rather you talk to my mom about that if you are so interested." Let your boys know that not everyone has their best interest at heart, so it is best when they feel uncomfortable or suspicious to have the questioner see mom and dad for their answers. They don't have to answer every question asked of them by other people.

I disagree with the implements you use for spanking. The Bible only speaks of using a rod (or switch). See "Spanking" in the Topical Scripture Index. A leather strap, especially, can cause damage to a child's bottom. The point of spanking is to punish, not to inflict harm.

The setting of the number of strikes to twice a child's age is a bit too arbitrary. The severity of a punishment, whether it is spanking, grounding, or something else, should be matched to the severity of the misbehavior. See "How do you gauge how many swats to give in a spanking?" and "How many swats is proper in a spanking?"

I also disagree with spanking for "disrespect." Not that I think children should be disrespectful or that we should allow disrespectful behavior to go unpunished, but I'm finding that the term is being misused. People will call just about anything "disrespect," such as a disagreement, a question, an attitude, or even personal frustration. Respect is what we give to people whom we see as deserving of respect. A parent doesn't gain a child's respect by forcing it on the child. A child freely gives respect to his parents because he admires them. "Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?" (Hebrews 12:9). In this case, the respect came as a result of a father's expectation of good behavior from his child. Though the punishment is unpleasant, we respect the fact that our parents are aiming for our ultimate good. The punishment did not force respect, respect was earned because a parent was willing to punish for the child's good.

Rather than using a catch-all, vague term that actually would require mind-reading to accurately gauge, stick to what can be known directly. Disobedience, rude behavior, violence, lies, and the like are specific things that can be accurately gauged and punished.


I am in desperate need of information to help my teenage daughter.  She is struggling with self-esteem issues and the like -- all of your normal teenage troubles.  Now she is showing some signs of depression.  She is 13.  I have just spent the last 2 hours talking with her, and I thought it was going so well, but she said she still felt the same after all of that talking.  She was crying the entire time.  I just don't know what to do!  I am feeling so helpless!  I told her that I understood and had all of those feelings when I was a teenager.  I just may need some help!  Please, give me advice!  My son (almost 15) seems to be leveling out with his teenage (puberty) issues, and that is good since I am now going through this with my daughter.  I am just feeling like such a failure right now.

Answer:

As with your son, so it is with your daughter. There is a period of time where the mind and the body must adjust during the transition from childhood to adulthood. There are rapidly changing hormone levels which have as a side-effect the amplification of moods. There are changes taking place in the brain which gives the child a different way of thinking, but requires training. There changes in the body where even the seemingly simple acts must be relearned.

The reason suicide rates are higher for adolescence is because of all of these factors combine leaving a child feeling unstable. Add in an unstable family life and you should see that disaster is just waiting to happen.

What you need to do is stop blaming yourself that your children are growing up. What they are going through is well within the range of normal. You just thought your job was done because you had become used to your beautiful pre-adolescent children. Now that puberty has hit, you are overwhelmed by the realization that you have more to do -- a lot more.

1) It is your job, and especially your husband's job, to provide stability. That stability is going to cause conflicts because you need to be a wall to protect them and they are ping-pong balls going every which way. There have been a lot of studies showing that dads are critical to the proper development of teenagers. I believe that is because men, by their nature, tend to think and act independent of their emotions. Someone has to say, "No, you're not going out looking like that," while a child wails that he is ruining her entire life, and still stick to it. When things get hard, just say to your husband, "Honey, I'm exhausted. Would you handle this? You're so good at it."

2) Learning helps. Sit down and start learning about developmental issues so that she understands what is normal and not. Let her know what to expect. If you need some material, see: "Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Girls."

3) Every woman out there knows the wonder of mood-swings caused by their monthly cycle, and yet you still function. Why? Feelings are core to a woman's outlook on life, but you know that you can't always act on those feelings because feelings can be manipulated by external events as well as hormones. I catch snatches of Dr. Laura Schlessinger's show every once in a while. It is surprising how she will not let her female callers wallow in their feelings. Instead, she forces them to think logically and factually. You need to do this for your daughter as well. Things have to be done regardless of feelings. There are still chores to be done, homework to be leaned, jobs to be worked whether a person is in the mood for them or not. It is a tough, but important lesson.

I recall at the age of 17 working in a nursing home. A silly squabble occurred between me and a kitchen employee. I got mad, but then I got mad at myself for being mad over such a silly thing, and then I started crying! I couldn't turn the tears off for three hours! Talk about ruining a near-man's ego. I wanted to go home and just hide in my bedroom. My "unsympathetic" mom sent me right back to work. I don't think I realized how right she was until the last few years.

4) There is also the lesson that at times you do things because you know they are right, even if you don't feel like it. The feelings will develop later. It will be an important lesson to be applied when she is married. There are going to be days you don't "feel" like you love your children or your husband, but you continue to act as a loving person ought to act. Before you know it, the mood follows the action. Guess when you get to teach this important lesson to your daughter? Remember that older women are to "encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children" (Titus 2:4).

In a way you're helpless because you can't make the changes easier for her, but you can guide her in the right direction and show her how to deal with life.

"Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed" (Hebrews 12:11-13).

Answer From a Sister in Christ:

This is a great point. I suggested to my husband that he take our daughter out for a "date night" to do something fun with her. He is a great dad and has fun with the girls. Our 12 year old daughter has been resistant to our affection since she became an adolescent, but with continued fun times she is more open to our hugs and affection.  My husband is planning on taking her to a kids concert this weekend to "surprise" her with something special.  Making girls feel special is a unique role only the dad can play out.  It sets the stage for future suitors and the trust a girl needs in her father to know what is best for her in terms of a future mate. My father died when I was 11, setting the stage for lots of insecurity in my young mind.  Dads, you are very important at this stage. Kudos to all those great dads on this list who take the time to love their daughters in this unique way.

Answer From a Brother in Christ:

When I first saw your email I knew that Jeff would respond. He did not disappoint me. He had some really good things to say. I want to emphasize the importance of the stability of the home to riding the hormonal waves. I do not know you personally so do not be offended by anything I say. Your husband has to be involved in this effort, as Jeff mentioned, and he needs to lead and guide with spiritual and scriptural wisdom. Primarily he needs to have standards (rules developed in concert with you), communicate those standards in a loving way (the two of you must stand together), and expect compliance with those standards (he will back you up and you will back him up). This is discipline in that it is instructive, corrective and, if need be, punitive. However, discipline MUST have its root in love or it will not accomplish what is intended: godly offspring. Discipline without the undergirding of the love of Christ has the potential to be abusive. Indeed, we provoke our children to wrath when we do not: 1) provide them the security of a stable marriage, 2) instruct them in the way of the Lord and 3) love them as Christ has loved us. I have three daughters (13, 15, 19) and two sons (11, 17). To quote from "The Man From Snowy River," sometimes it can become "a hothouse of female emotions." Without leadership and discipline emotions would rule and it would be ugly. By working together a husband and wife can make their home an inviting and secure refuge from the pains and pressures of a chaotic world.

Andy Diestelkamp


I have two twin boys, both aged 15. My wife and I both agree that the right way to parent is to spank when neccesary with the rod. Recently they have been getting into a lot of trouble together, and yesterday they broke a window (whilst playing ball inside -- forbidden in the house anyway) then subsequently lied about it several times. For this they will receive spankings, but it's been a while since they've been spanked. Should I use a switch?

Also I was thinking of spanking them with both present in the room. I figure if they're so keen to get into trouble together they can take their punishment together.

Please give me guidance in this matter.

Answer:

Personally, I would not spank a child for accidents, even when those accidents came about because of disobeying rules. While spanking is an effective tool in disciplining a child, it is just one of many. Overusing it reduces its impact. Spanking, especially for older children, should be reserved for violence, willful disobedience, and for those few situations where no other obvious means of punishment is available.

In this particular case, the boys should pay for the replacement of the window from their own funds. If they do not have the funds, line up a set of tasks for them to work-off the cost of replacing the window. Estimate the number of hours a person could reasonably accomplish the task, divide it by the minimum wage, and then use the figures to estimate how many tasks need to be accomplished. This will help the boys to learn the value of money and property, complex tasks will enhance their skills, and it will give them a productive outlet for their excess energy. Since they lied about what they did, I would double the amount that they owe. Make sure that they understand this is the consequence for their lying.

Give them a reasonable time-frame to complete the tasks. Remember that they still need to get school work done and allow them a little bit of leisure time, but make sure that it is only a small amount. The inability to do as they please for the next several weeks will also serve as punishment.

Reserve any spanking for cases when a child refuses to carry out his tasks. The spanking would be done solely for the willful refusal, but it would not replace the need to complete the assigned tasks.