Why attitudes toward spanking are changing




Thank you for the long letter. I'm just glad to meet a preacher who holds to some of the old-fashioned standards. It seems like what was OK as far as discipline in the family only a few years ago is no longer permitted.

I don't know what is happening, our own preacher doesn't go for spanking the way he used to. When I was growing up he had a great big paddle right in his office and he spanked boys and girls and sometimes even a couple of church members (this was back when he ran an adult home in the 70s). Now a days he hardly mentions it to anyone and I know he doesn't paddle anyone but his own grandkids.

My wife too has changed. She was all in favor of spanking when we were first married, but now she thinks that we should be careful and doesn't want me to whip the teenager. She thinks it will cause her to rebel. I don't see it, but she thinks it should only be used for little kids!!!

I get frustrated, because I have a teenager who is giving me backtalk or lying about doing her chores and I think she needs to be dealt with. And I definitely don't think 16 too old for a spanking. In fact I don't think any girl, including my wife, is too old for a spanking!! That's just my opinion.

So if I get into a argument with my daughter, I will probably get into a argument with my wife. She knows that our daughter is rebelling but she just wants to save her hide. It doesn't stop me but I usually hate the argument later.

I treat both kids the same and if the 8 year old gives me the kind of lip the 16 year is giving me, he would get the same type of punishment. My wife even worries about disciplining an 8 year old boy!!

There are several reasons why your preacher's attitudes toward spanking is changing. Most people tend to mellow as they age. My own parents are more tolerant of misbehavior in their grandchildren than they were of us as their own children. Yet, I expect that. A grandparent's relationship ought to be different from the parent. But probably what is making the greatest change is the fear of government intervention. There have been so many lawsuits brought lately that many fear calling attention to themselves by making a strong stand.

Your wife too is caught up in fears as well -- she fears that corporal punishment will drive your daughter to rebel. I remember a study a while back that was heralded as "evidence" that spanking teenagers caused them to become violent. The study found a correlation between how often a teenager was spanked and how bad was their behavior. The problem with the study was in the conclusion. That frequency of spanking and bad behavior was correlated, I would expect. Good kids don't get spanked. The more often a child misbehaves, the more often a parent is left with few options but to spank. But to conclude that the spankings caused the misbehavior was a gross error on the part of the researcher.

God said, "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). Now either you trust God knows what is best or you don't. Spanking is one of several methods of correcting bad behavior. It does not create the bad behavior. So let start at the root problem. You have a rebellious daughter. The question you and your wife must address is what are you two going to do about it? I can guarantee that doing nothing or seeking appeasement will not solve the problem. In fact, I can guarantee that the problem will grow so large that you will not be able to contain it. "A child left to himself brings shame to his mother" (Proverbs 29:15). An example of this is David's son Adonijah. He was the second son of David who planned to overthrow the throne and God tells us why, "his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, 'Why have you done so?'" (I Kings 1:5-6).

Sit down with your wife and lay out the problem. Get her input on how the problem is to be handled. Make it clear that ignoring the problem or allowing only minor consequences is not acceptable, but that you are open to creative suggestions for various alternatives. If she has no alternatives, then let her know that you have to do the best that you can to bring up decent citizens and godly children. Calmly ask her not to interfere, but if she has other ideas in the future to let you know. Do all of this privately. This is not a discussion the children should hear.

Now, allow me to address two other issues. First, punishment should be the consequence of misbehavior. You might be angry or annoyed that your child violated a rule, but punishment should not be handed out because you are angry. Angry people rarely think clearly. "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). Also, people who punish when they are angry tend to be inconsistent. They base the need for punishment on their own reaction, but their reaction changes day-to-day. If you have a great day at work, it might take quite a bit to push you too far. If you had a miserable day, the slightest thing might be too much. You need to work on making your punishments more objective. Certain misbehaviors require certain consequences. These should be planned while you are calm and clearly thinking.

Here is one possible example, suppose your eight-year-old boy has a problem with sassing back. What do you do? The next time he sasses, have him drop for ten push-ups. Push-ups are good for a growing boy and are just miserable enough to make him not like it. If he refuses, then he is grounded with no TV or radio for the rest of the day and his bed time moved up one hour. Again, we are picking punishments that actually have benefits. TV and radio view often encourages misbehavior as does a lack of proper rest. If he breaks this or throws a fit, then he gets ten swats on his back-end, but the grounding remains. Don't lengthen the grounding as its effect doesn't last. Reset everything the next day and start fresh. Consistency is the key.

You can come up with a similar set of consequences and responses to possible further grief for your sixteen-year-old daughter. Just notice that the spanking wasn't the first choice. It was saved for when the situation became an outright rebellion. Especially get your wife's input here. I'm sure she knows just what would make your daughter miserable while doing things that are good for her. Lay out what you will do if each step doesn't lead to a correction to the bad behavior.

Finally, I would like to address the side comment about being willing to spank your wife. Such indicates a misperception about what marriage is about. Your wife is your partner, not your child. Peter warns, "Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered" (I Peter 3:7). Unless you treat your wife as an adult, equal to you before God, you will always find situations straining your marriage. Yes, as a husband, you are the head of your family. But headship means that you guide and show the way the family ought to go. You take the first steps and encourage the rest to follow you. The authority of a husband is the same as Christ. "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23). You will not find Christ in the role of an iron-fisted dictator. He is firm in His expectations of us, but He was willing to go first in showing us how to follow God's will.

I hope and pray that these ideas bring peace to your family.

March 15, 2005