A perspective on spanking

Spanking is one of the most controversial topics in parenting. I, for one, am all for it. The Bible is very clear about the role of discipline in training up our children. But … and there is a “but.” I have to be very careful. Because I have a propensity for anger, it is very important for me NOT to spank in a rage. Spanking is not an outlet for frustrations with a child. This has caused some problems in my discipline with my 3-year-old because I ceased spanking for a while as I was feeling guilty and fearful of my lack of self-control. Unfortunately, that means I wasn’t consistent in my discipline, so she became more disobedient. Because she was not listening, I became more easily frustrated and irritated. I know some can relate.

So, one of the keys I have found for me is: No more 1, 2, 3! Spanking is my first response to disobedience. When I give my daughter any instruction, I don’t give her much time to comply. If I am certain she heard me (and I do have to make sure I have eye contact or something beforehand so there’s no excuses) and keep the instruction simple, something I know she can do, she gets a spanking if she makes no effort to act on it. In our house, it’s okay if she expresses discontent without attitude–I’m still working on that one though–so asking a question or talking with me about the request is considered “action.”

When I was repeating myself again and again or giving empty threats or counting to 3, she would use the entire “allowed” time to disobey to its fullest potential. Which, of course, made my blood boil. Every time I have to ask her to do something, I become more upset, which means I am more likely to be angry when I spank her. So, I make a request, spank firmly but not with malice, then repeat my request calmly, until she complies. I explain her behavior and why it’s unacceptable, then offer suggestions as to how she should conduct herself. With gentle communication and correction, I believe spankings help a child transform her own behavior, rather than serve as a means of frightening her into submission. Ok, so I am not perfect in this regard, but we’re getting there.

Believe it or not, there has been more than one occasion where my daughter has shown appreciation for this type of discipline. Many months ago, she was disobedient at bed time. She was whining and throwing a tantrum about getting ready for bed. Using this model, my husband and I gave her several spankings and also took away her story time for that night. When she finally was in her pjs, calm and in bed, she verified one last time, but calmly, that she wasn’t going to get a story. When I said, “That’s right,” she responded with a sniffle, “We read a book another time?” I nodded my head, and she said, for maybe the second time in her life, “I love you, mommy.” I gave her hug and reassured my love, and we didn’t have problems at night for quite some time after that.

I do use time outs as well, but only if I am prepared for her to escalate the screaming, because that is what happens. It usually takes a 10-minute time-out, or more, for her to calm down, because she does not like to be removed from the situation. The spanking is most effective, however, if it’s not the only form of discipline because kids will become immune to it. I try to be a little unpredictable. But I have found that if I am consistent in spankings, my daughter learns to obey my authority, and she needs fewer of them. Some guidelines to follow if you choose to spank:

  • Be consistent!
  • Spank as a first resort
  • Remove the child to a private setting
  • Spank the butt or upper legs only
  • Discuss calmly the reason for the spanking—before or after
  • Reassure your love with a hug
  • Accompany spankings with other consequences for a greater positive effect

Resources from experts who offer more information on using spankings as a positive part of discipline:

  1. To Train Up a Child by Michael & Debi Pearl
  2. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
  3. New Parent Power! by John Rosemond

“He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” Proverbs 13:24


9 thoughts on “A perspective on spanking

  1. I am just completely blown away by what you’ve written here! It’s like you completely read my mind! I came across your blog from 5 minutes for mom today and I have to say I’m very impressed and will definitely be coming back! I read it to my husband and we both agree that this is something we should look into a little further. We’ve always spanked as a last resort and I too am usually so angry that I could hit him too hard. If we were to spank first I wouldn’t be angry at all and there would still be a possibility that he and I could communicate! Thank you for your prospective on this! It’s definitely given me something to think about! Kudos, Denise

  2. I don’t have any kind of anger towards you at all. It’s your decision entirely how you choose to bring up your kid(s).

    I just can’t help wanting to share my opinion though.

    I just wonder.. why smack a child when there are other ways to discipline?

    I know it’s effective, I know it’s quick. But I much prefer to take a little extra time and perhaps a little more effort to teach and discipline my kids in a way that doesn’t involve me physically hurting them.

    I worked for a long time in a school for kids with autism. we used ABA which stands for applied behavioral analysis. Every child had different behaviour plans according to their needs. I’m focusing on the behviour part here- not the autism- you can uses ABA techniques with a huge variety of people, it’s not specific to autism.

    you either reinforce a behavior, you put it on extinction or you punish it. But none of these things include smacking.

    What it does include is dedication and consistency- and a high degree of insight and intelligence- you must understand behavior and why the child behaves the way he has in that certain instance.

    It’s far more complicated that that but those are a couple of the basics.

    By observing more closely we often found that certain unwanted behaviours actually increased when we thought we were putting them on extinction or punishing them.

    This is because we often don’t look far enough into a behavior to understand why it is happening and therefore do not see the most effective way to discipline it. you have to understand the antecedent to a behavior first.

    Usually the most common function of an unwanted behavior would be for attention, or for avoidance or to escape a certain task etc.

    Each child is different, each situation is different, each person who comes into conact with that child is different, each environment or each task etc ect is different so i cannot tell you what we would do (using ABA techniques) with any given child until I had observed the situation sufficiently.

    What i can tell you however, is that the children became calmer, more compliant, they were more respectful and they gained better access to learning. Not once did we ever consider the need to smack and interestingly nobody once raised their voice at a child- there was simply no need, asides from the fact that it would have been deemed entirely unacceptable on our part. As for me, i felt absolutely no frustration whatsoever- i never felt angry and i never felt fed up because any time a child played up i was always in control. I knew exactly why they were doing it and i knew the best way to extinguish their unwanted behavior, leaving more time to educate them.

    They got their punishments and they had priviledges taken away etc etc- we just never hurt them.

    Our work was based on encouragement and reinforcement when they behaved in the right way.

    I just wanted to drop by and let you know- i doubt it’ll change your mind but i thought you should know there is another way.

    A way where you don’t feel angry and you don’t smack your kids, a way where you are in control and teaching them everything they need to know about life, doing it with the same respect and love you want them to have for you.

    I know it might take some extra time- you might have to educate yourself in how to bring up a child without smacking and it might require more effort on your behalf but for some people their children are worth it.

    I know i’d never raise a finger to mine and they are the most polite, well educated, respectful and thoughtful kids you could meet.

    They tell me they love me and they do it randomly, and they are care free and happy in their words. they don’t do it in confusion and when they need reasurance after being spanked. They tell me in magical moments, or at appropriate times when we are having fun.

    I hope your family find peace.

    my kids are beautifully unafraid and boldly intelligent, secure, happy and above all, respect me as i respect them. They are quiet spoken, but with morals far beyond their years.

  3. Abi, I love your perspective! That’s fantastic. If I had your patience, energy and the ability to read personality and cause and effect of behavior, I might be more inclined to try it now. And as my kids get older I hope to implement this type of discipline more. But what I do know is that I want to take care of any disobedience now. At 1-4 years old, the reason for the behavior is simply a sinful nature, a desire to try new things (some of them dangerous!) and to test the limits I have set for them. And spanking is about all I can reason with them. The great news is, there are already fewer spankings as we use their indiscretions as opportunities to learn and grow. My son is 2 now and probably gets spanked 2-3 times in one day but then not again for a week or two, whereas with my daughter who is 4.5, maybe once a month she gets a spanking. They are delightful children who are not robots that obey every word by any means. They have personalities that keep them far from perfect. But those are opportunities to talk about their behavior and how we should treat each other and to work through our emotions. It takes a lot of energy to spank CORRECTLY. It’s not just about “smacking” a child whenever we feel like it, it comes with communication and connection. My kids, too, tell me they love me–“super duper love me!”–many times a day, when we are busy and when we are quiet. They are by NO means perfect, but I love them, too, and they know it.

  4. Sara, Good evening. I am enjoying your blog. We have the same beliefs in parenting. I do have a question for you. When you do spank. Are you allowing your daughter to stand during it, or is it a formal spanking. I am curious to know, because of my situation. Some folks view this as a safety issue. Keep Blogging….Chris

  5. Sara, I guess I am curious to know how you would define a correct spanking?..Thank you again. Sorry for the second message. I hit submit to fast..CC

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