How do you handle a 16 year old who acts like a 5 year old when it comes to a spanking?




I have visited you website and agree with your position on biblical correction. I commend you on your willingness to actually give advice on spanking and not dance around with politically correct or over cautious answers. I do, however. have some doubts in my mind about how we are handling our family situation. I have not discussed this with our pastor because I'm honestly just uncomfortable and embarrassed that we have had to do this.

My question is:

How do you handle a 16 year old girl who carries on like a 5 year old when she needs to be spanked? Our daughter who has not been spanked in nearly three years has driven my wife and I to a point were spanking had to be used twice as a punishment over the last 60 days. I can give you information on what she did but it is a bit long. It did involve breaking the law, endangering herself and others with a car. Nothing "criminal," but it did get her cited with a DMV citation. I really thought we were past this at her age. Spanking is common as a punishment in our house hold and our children understand that there is no age limit, but at 16 we really should not have to use it on a girl especially. Our other children are 14 and 11.

Since she is our daughter my wife administered the spanking in private in our bedroom but the ordeal is such a mentally and physically exhausting event that I'm really starting to lose the fortitude to go through with this. She just does not cooperate with instructions. She was like this as a younger child but now she is about the same size as my wife. It doesn't turn into a wrestling match or get wild and out of control, but it goes on forever because she won't do what she is told to do. She pleads and cries, says no, and cries more. We have to add swats every time she doesn't do what she is told. This can go on for 10 - 15 minutes. She acts like a big 5 year old. The second time she was spanked we told her that if she did not cooperate I was going to have to come in there and spank her. Thankfully I did not have to go in there, but there was a time when I was thought my wife was going to call me in. I don't know what I would have done if she had called me in to help her. I don't want to be in there.

The results of spanking have been positive and she understands what she did and why she was spanked and I hope that it does not come to this again but if it does I'm not sure either of us can put up with it.

Is this the right thing to do? It just seems so crazy.

Thanks you for any advice you may have.

The problem is that your daughter has reached an age when she desires to be treated as an adult, but her behavior has not yet reached that level of maturity. Instead of using this desire to your advantage, you are still treating her as a small child and when so treated she retreats into acting as a small child.

While I do not rule out spanking for older teenagers, I have said repeatedly that it should only be used in limited situations: violence, willful defiance, and a few situations where there is no reasonable alternative form of discipline. Unlike a small child, teenagers generally can be reasoned with. You can set consequences that are perceived as punishment which are extremely effective and teach lessons at the same time. But in the case you cited, you had a number of possibilities available to you, but you chose the method that treated her like a small child and then are upset that she responded like a small child.

Notice how you are dismissing the severity of what she had done. She was fooling around in a car in such a way that you said endangered herself and others also. You said it was nothing criminal, but somehow she managed to get a citation for what she did. I'm sorry to break this to you but a citation indicates that a police officer found evidence that a law was broken. Breaking a law is called a crime. The severity of the crime has nothing to do with whether a law was broken. Your note indicates that the officer wasn't mistaken. She broke laws and in such a way that she could have harmed others.

What would have been a better response? "I'm sorry honey, but it is obvious that you're not mature enough to drive. We're going down to the DMV and you are going to relinquish your license. When you're eighteen you can apply for the privilege again [you can make it seventeen if you are so inclined, but I would not recommend it]. Oh, and plan on getting your own auto insurance when you do. I'm not about to pay for a risky driver on my policy." You just threw the entire responsibility for her action on her. You're not rescuing her. You're not excusing her behavior. She wanted to be grown-up and drive, so she has to face the discipline an adult would receive. It doesn't matter if the judge lets her off or not. You know she did something wrong and dangerous, and now she can face the consequence of her own action as an adult. Oddly, you will probably see the biggest temper tantrum you ever witnessed in response to this simple, obvious consequence. But that is better than visiting your daughter in the hospital or attending the funeral of a friend she killed by accident.

I guarantee that when she does get her license again and sees what it is going to cost her for auto insurance, she will quickly become a very cautious driver -- which is what you should be aiming for in the first place.

Thank you for you response.

In my effort to be consice and not force you read a long winded email I left out some details that may shed a little more light on why my wife and I disciplined her the way we did. I don't want to give the impression that this was a quick desicion.

We do make our daughter pay for her own insurance. She also had to save to $500.00 and bank it cover our deductible in the event she got into an accident. She worked hard and actually had the deductible money saved before she had her license.

My daughter is a good student and not one to use really bad judgement like she has shown recently. She has always been quite strong willed but generally a good kid active in school and our church. Since middle school she seemed to have matured quite a bit and even though she is far from being perfect she has always been reasonably easy to deal with. We have used grounding or loss of privileges and extra work around the house when we have had to punish her for whatever it was she did wrong. It seems to work but the following acts of disobedience forced us to take it to the next level so to speak.

Here is what led up to this.

Problem number one. In early January she was with a group of friends in a car that was being driven by one of our friends daughters who did not have a license. In our state minors with a drivers license for less
than one year cannot drive passengers who are minors in the car without a licensed adult driver in the vehicle. Obviously a minor with no drivers license makes it even worse. They were spoted on the street with four kids (our daughter being one of the four) in the car by another friend of ours who called the girls mother. The girls mother called her on her cell phone and told her stop the car. She had been ratted out she would come and get her. Since she had to bring two cars back she called my wife and asked my wife to go with her and asked if she would drive her other car back for her. When my wife and our friend got there our daughter was discovered along with the others. She was supposed to be at school. She told us that she had an after school meeting.

1. She was caught lying to us.
2. She was caught being a willing participant in an illegal and dangerous activity.

My wife was livid with her. We grounded her and took away her snow boarding trip that she saved for. That really upset her. She took it pretty hard and we thought we had pretty much handled things at that point.

When my wife got her home she grilled her on why they were doing this and if she had done it before. She swore that this was the first time her friend had done this and they would never do it again blah, blah, blah. My wife warned her that if that wasn't true she would be getting a spanking in addition to her grounding. She was startled by that warning but did not make to big of a deal out it. By that evening we had found out that they had done it before and that on this day our daughter was the one that backed the car out of the garage for her friend. Her friend had backed the car into the garage door track and paniced. So my daughter got in the car and straightened it out and then backed it into the driveway for her. Needless to say that was the first spanking she had got in nearly three years.

Problem number two:

After her grounding was over we let her drive to school. She was warned that if she messed up again she would get a spanking and lose her driving license till she was 17. She agreed and promised to obey. Since she had to pick up her uniforms from the cleaners, I let her drive my truck. While she was down there she could run an errand for me. I agreed to let her take the truck since she could swing by and pick up her brother's mountain bike for him.

At some point, when she was leaving the school parking lot, two of her friends (boys) ran up and jumped into the back of the truck while she was driving. Riding in the back of an open pick up without approved saftey retrains is also illegal. Instead of pulling over and stopping and telling them to get out she kept going. Laughing and swerving the truck so that the two boys get tossed around in the bed of the truck. She did not notice that there was a police officer across the street from the school. He watched them to see what she will do. I spoke to officer. He said he gave her the opportunity to stop and tell them to get out, but she just kept going. He then followed them for almost a 200 yards before he hit the red light and siren to pull her over. She had no idea he was back there, neither did the boys in the bed of the truck.

What I mean by not crimnal is that she did not act with malice. If she was doing burn outs on the school lawn that would be criminal. I consider what she had done as a traffic violation or an infraction but she was using very bad judgement and even was reckless with the last stunt.

We made the promise that she would get spanked if she did something like that again and so we felt
compelled to go through with it. The strap has always been the one type of punishment that she truely
dreads. She almost has a sense of relief when she is grounded or something is taken away. We will continue to ground her and use other forms of punishments other than spanking. We do reserve spankings for acts of deliberate disobedience and defiance. We felt that these actions were truely actions of disobedience. She did lose her license till September when she turns 17.

I could just go back to grounding and alternative punishments because it's just easier for us. But is that actually upholding God's command?

I find your second note merely confirming what I stated before. You still excuse her misbehavior by downplaying the severity of what she had done. It is not so bad, you said, because it wasn't done with malice in her heart. You speak of how good of a child she is, but you then tell me that on multiple occasions she has lied and deceived you about where she is. I'm glad you took away her license, but a few months is not nearly long enough when two traffic violations were involved one of which involved reckless driving that could have hurt someone.

Neither act, though, was willful disobedience. They both involved not thinking about the fact that they were wrong or thinking about the consequences of her actions at the moment the choice arose. Both events did present opportunities to apply natural consequences. But both events show that she is not responsible enough to be driving a vehicle. Her intentions are good, but she tends to make bad judgments at the spur of the moment.

I find it odd that you speak of using a strap (which is not mentioned in the Bible), but are simultaneously implying that grounding or using other forms of punishment are not biblical. I have made a list of passages dealing with disciplining children, you will find that loss of privileges is among the many options mentioned. Spanking is also mentioned, but not the use of a strap. God's command is "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).

The problem appears to be that you are focused on finding a relatively easy, quick solution to the problem of punishing your daughter. You're focused on the wrong thing. You are trying to raise a young woman to be a responsible adult. Everything you do both in positive direction and in negative punishment should move her toward being a good adult. There is no one perfect punishment that will end all misbehavior. It is the consistent punishment of wrong doing that eventually wears the desire to misbehave out of a child. The severity of the punishment has little to do the effectiveness that consistency brings to the problem.

See also:

Questions and Answers regarding Child Rearing and Parenting
Questions and Answers regarding Spanking