Thursday, October 9, 2008

#49 Spanking


Christian culture endorses spanking as a means of disciplining children. They say they do this in adherence to Proverbs 13:24 which says "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly." (NKJV) But the original Hebrew word for rod, shabat, means a shepherd's staff which guides the sheep. A shabat wasn't used to hit the sheep but it was tall enough for the sheep to always see where the shepherd was and the shepherd used it to pull sheep back from edges of cliffs. It lovingly guided the sheep in the same way discipline, by definition, lovingly guides a child.

However, members of Christian culture won't hear of this. They don't feel that spanking is the same thing as hitting. They will defend it to their dying breath. Christian culture is very concerned that the government may take away their right to spank. Admittedly, patient guidance and giving a kid needed attention and emotional nurturing is extremely time-consuming, especially when you're a busy mom who's had an awful day and you feel like fried hell. But if parents were to give their kids enough individual time, patient guidance and a non-spanking type of consequence, could this possibly be the actual Biblical definition of discipline?

Lots of times children will act up to get negative attention if they aren't getting positive attention. Grown-ups do it too. It's better than nothing. Because most Christian culture families have several children, it's more difficult to give each the necessary attention as the family grows. Possibly because of this, you will not find a Christian culture family of 3+ that does not practice spanking. At the same time, you will not find a Christian culture family who does not have a grown child who has "wandered away," doesn't attend church in their adult life, has a good deal of self-contempt, or suffers from depression. Is it possible that the means of discipline used and the amount of emotional attention given (as they are closely entwined, per the definition of discipline) could be somehow correlated to this?


The Religious Pícaro said...

Yeah, sorry, but I'm with Christian culture here.

The Religious Pícaro said...

And you seem to be mistaken about what the verse from Proverbs "really" means. Jewish commentators (who probably have a better idea of what the Hebrew means than you, me, or Christian culture does) have traditionally interpreted this verse as referring to corporal punishment.

stephy said...

Hi BillyD, do you have any documentation on what Jewish commentators interperet this passage to mean? My information comes from Dave Diewart's Hebrew class at Regent College.

The Religious Pícaro said...

You'll like this, stephy - it's from a rabbi who acknowledges that Jewish law allows mild corporal punishment, while saying that parents shouldn't do it:

stephy said...

But even though the rabbi thinks parents shouldn't spank, you're still with Christian culture on that? :)

The Religious Pícaro said...

Here's an entry on corporal punishment, which references the verse from Proverbs:

The Religious Pícaro said...

But even though the rabbi thinks parents shouldn't spank, you're still with Christian culture on that?

Yep. I've seen the results of spankless parenting, both in my own family and in society, and at my job (I'm a teacher). Kids are brattier today than when I was growing up, and it's not because they're being traumatized by spanking.

I'm not talking about beating children senseless here, stephy. But yeah, I definitely believe that there's a place for mild corporal punishment.

Simone said...

Gosh, how many times my mum said "Spare the rod and spoil the child." Thing is, she just didn't have it in her so she'd just get crazy mad at us and hit the table, rather than us with the wooden spoon until so the spoon broke. I could tell she wished she could do it because she knew we were afraid of Dad and not her.

Having said all that and Bibles aside, I'm conflicted as to how I feel about spanking. It's very effective as a tool to invoke fear and submission but doesn't teach anything about the problem behaviour. On the other hand, some behaviour is not some emotional problem but just some irritating phase so the fear of a whack might settle the situation. The problem with it is that in the real world, violence is never regarded as a solution so it's a poor precedent to set.

This actually presents a good example of why labouring over the Bible over some things is a waste of time. Can't we just examine the realities of the situation and nuts to that line?

preacherman said...

My wife and I try other methods first like putting our boys in time out, or talking to them about what they did and why they shouldn't do it. We only spank if they are in danger or hurt someone. I am learning that spanking for 2 of my sons doesn't work. But grounding does. I think there so many creative ways to get your point across. We must remember as parents that we are teaching them moral and what is expet to to behave. I am learning not to discipline in anger. When my oldest son gets mad we just send him to his room until he cools off. My middle son we put in time out. Our youngest son all what it takes is talking to him. I think Spank is and should be the last resort. Spanking teaches violence. It teaches that it is okay to hit. The verse "Spare the rode and spoil the child." Means that we should disciple our children. We don't follow the Old Law that says stone your children. Come on. As parents we are responsible for their souls. What my goal as a dad is to demonstrate Christ to my children that one day they want to make that decission to beocme a believer.

juls said...

Spanking did not work on me, plus my mother couldn't bare it with her childhood.

What did work- is nose to the wall! Oh man, I live in fear of that. Perfect punishment for an overactive hyper social child.

Unknown said...

love the blog. and the salacious comments sections... my parents were spankers but they also gave us lots of creative discipline too. they liked to give "consequences" rather than punishment whenever possible, i guess to show what happens when you make bad choices. before my dad would spank us he would also say "this hurts me more than it hurts you" which actually gives me heavy boots now.

JNoah said...

It's hard for me to make a statement about this, since I'm not a parent, but I was a kid once, who got spanked, and I deserved all that I got and a few I didn't!

I will say from a theological standpoint, that if a parent can spank in such a way that the kid really understands and gets that they are being disciplined in an extraordinary way because they are massively loved, then that kid is going to be leaps and bounds ahead of most in understanding how and why God disciplines his children.

JNoah said...

And I realize the phrase "his children" IS in itself "stuff that Christians like," but there's really no other way to say it.

The Budget Mommy: said...

I have a 2yr old daughter, and I have tried all sorts of things with her. I really don't seem to get her attention unless I spank. In fact, the more I don't spank, the more she takes advantage and thinks she's in charge.

I think there is a huge difference between beating and spanking, but it's all in the parent's attitude. If you discipline when you are livid, you teach your child to be afraid of you, not God. If you calmly explain why they are being spanked, and convey that it's because God says to, then they aren't going to be emotionally scarred. They are going to learn that they have someone else to answer to that isn't you, which is ultimately the point anyway.

Just my two cents. I love most everything else you have put up here!!

a said...

I was spanked as a child and I harbor no resentment against my parents whatsoever. In fact, I'm thankful for their discipline now. As far as I know it has not caused me to have “a good deal of self-contempt, or suffers from depression”.
I always think it's interesting when a parent tries to universalize what works in their unique setting with their unique children. To me, it is the epitome of what is wrong with Christian culture. It is saying, I've got it figured out so if you do x and y then God will do z and everything will be perfect. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. If anyone (whether they spank or not) thinks that their discipline method will keep their kids from “wandering away” they will be in for a really big shock. Every kid is broken and there is no discipline method that can protect your child from the sinfulness of the world and the pain it will inflict. They will all “wander away” ….God willing they will know that God loves them the same when they are “away” or home. We as parents (Christian or not) are all doing our best and attempting to raise our kids in the way they should go. It’s easy to be a critic but watch out that you don’t get too “puffed up” as you do it. I’ve loved all your other posts but I think you missed it here.

Anonymous said...

You're right, however, there are lots of Christian families that don't spank. Google "Gentle Christian Mothers"--many of these women have 3 or more children.

a said...

I've always thought there is a danger in taking the scripture and trying to slice and dice it by "looking at the original text" and "putting it in context". I assure you I could do that to make the bible defend almost any belief under the sun. That's how we end up with cults with jacked up world views. I'm not saying you’re a cult leader (: I'm just saying that it's fine for you to have your own belief on spanking. It's also fine for mine to be different. Let's not try to translate and exegete the scripture to defend our beliefs....I don't think that’s what God intends it for. We also have to be careful that we don't let popular culture dictate our belief system. I assure you, I can find a hundred psychologists on both sides of the aisle of this subject.
In the end, I think it's good to be humble about your child rearing techniques/beliefs. Sure there are areas where parents are clearly out of line but I don't think this is one of them.
I can't speak for you, but I know I don't have any deep emotional wounds from my dad popping my bottom for screaming profanities at my mom. The truth is I really did deserve to be disciplined and he chose to use spanking. The main point is that kids need discipline and correction to learn boundaries. Your method may be different than mine but please try not to judge. I believe that adults will always try to somehow pin their brokenness and hurt on something their parents did. Sometimes it’s justified and sometimes it’s not. Believe it or not, your kids will do it too even if you don't spank.

stephy said...

Hi Chris,
I too think there is great danger in slicing and dicing scripture but I think a good deal of danger lies in NOT looking at the original context and original text. In the end there are gray areas which Christian culture replaces with black-and-whiteness (because it's easier and more comfortable that way, to coax the scripture to defend what is comfortable for us). I didn't mean to put you on the defensive, I'm just posing some questions.

a said...

Well said, let's not try to turn gray areas into black and white. God wants us to rest in the gray and realize He is much bigger than our understanding.
Sorry, I think spanking is gray and therefore not easily defendable with scripture. May we all do what we think is best for our families in love and trust God to make up for our short comings. I apologize if I came across defensive, I really do love the website.

stephy said...

Aww no problem Chris, that's very sweet of you, thanks so much. Yeah, I think that like so many things disciplining children falls into gray, so that's why I wrote the post. I tried to pose everything as a question so people can maybe infer for themselves and think about it in a new way and in the gray. :) With all that said, I SO wanted to spank my 3 yr old last night when she wouldn't stay in bed. For reals!

Geosomin said...

Hmmm...I don't have kids yet so I can't speak in that regard, but I recall my parents always talking to us and doing everything under the sun as discipline (chores, etc)except spanking on really rare occasions. I can recall only being spanked twice. My parents always talked to me and made me understand why what I had done was so wrong to be grounded, sent to my room, Made to do something to apologise, or whatever.
I think my parents had it right...discipline and communication. I don't feel damaged and I know they NEVER did any spanking while angry or to "teach me a lesson". Every kid is different, and I think if people discipline thier children properly this wouldn't be such an issue. You're not trying to beat the evil out of them, just find a punishment they understand. I doubt that spanking is that.
I don't think children are discipined enough now. I see kids actin gout in ways I would *never* have been allowed to.
I too think spare the rod and spoil the child was referring to discipline, not spanking.
I liked your comment- people who use spanking as a discipline but do not explain teach or rebuke their children are not doing anything good for either of them. Especially if it is out of anger...Punishment isn't what changes our behaviour...

Anonymous said...

But consider that spanking, reserved for times of willful disobedience (not just out of frustration), and never done in anger can actually have a positive impact and does not mirror physical abuse at all. Done in the right way it allows the opportunity for the child to recognize their own sin and grieve through it, and it allows them to experience forgiveness, and restoration. The critic would say that a child can experience all those things without spanking. Sure, depending on the child, that may be the case. But there are certain children that won’t respond to the “gentle” discipline. It’s “nice” to think of discipline as gentle, but discipline is not always nice, nor gentle, and sometimes exactly what we need. And discipline is not discipline if it doesn't hurt a little (not phsyically, necessarily, but it must drive the child to ultimately and eventually grieve their own sin...and desire forgiveness).

shelly said...

I remember reading a story about a little boy who was in some sort of session (can't remember what kind) with a baby doll. The adult leading the session told the boy to spank it. He wouldn't do it. He was asked to do it a second time and refused. After he was asked again, what he did was pat the doll gently a couple of times, then give it a big hug, like he was protecting it from the adult in the room or whatever.

Anyhoo, I was spanked up until a certain age (eight, I think). I think, in the end, all it really did was piss me off. (I don't remember either of my parents ever explaining to me why I was being spanked. I just remember lots of wild tears and a sore butt.) After that, for a little while, my punishment was either grounding or losing some sort of privilege. When I got older, I'd get a talking-to (which did the trick all the time).

Personally, I'm not a fan of spanking. I think there are better ways to discipline a child than give them a sore backside and make them cry.

The Religious Pícaro said...

I was spanked growing up and each time a big process was conducted in which they prayed with me and the whole thing was couched in how God was using them to instruct me.

No offense, but that sounds a little weird. I was spanked growing up, but my parents never made it out that they were God's agents. I broke the rules they set, and they punished me, and that was that. I think I would resent it if they tried to make disciplining me some sort of cosmic process.

angela aka joyful saint said...

i've spanked my children at different times in their lives and none of them are bordering on becoming violent psychopaths. truthbetold, there were times when spanking them was absolutely necessary, and others when it wasn't, and i could have and should have handled disciplining them differently.

stephy said...

It's interesting to me that some of the comments still insist that spanking doesn't always mirror physical abuse, isn't really "hitting," etc., when the scripture I quoted uses a word for rod (shabat) that is not, in the original language, meant for any kind of physical discipline/spanking at all. This kind of reinforces my point that pro-spanking people will often defend it vehemently and not entertain any other way of thinking of it even when told the actual meaning of the word in its original language.

The Religious Pícaro said...

Steph, in spite of what you learned in college, the word shevet does not necessarily refer to a shepherd's crook or rod. It is as varied in its meanings as the word "rod" in English. Check out Psalm 2:9, where the same word is used for something that breaks the king's enemies. Take a look at a concordance.

The Religious Pícaro said...

Or Proverbs 23:13, where the same word is used for something that is used to strike with.

The Budget Mommy: said...

For the record - The only reason I made the distinction between spanking and beating in my comment is because you brought it up in your post. I am not trying to defend it to my dying breath, just simply trying to offer my two cents. Not that you were necessarily pointing it at me, but I just feel a need to clarify.

a said...

It's interesting how you've taken a gray area in scripture and made it black and white to suit your own purposes. Might you be doing that which you despise in christian culture? When people argue the "original text" on these gray areas they always come away more convinced of their own position. I've never seen a Christian change his opinion with these types of battles...hence the futility of it.
Also, if spanking is always hitting/abuse then time out/logical consequences is always short term neglect.

The Budget Mommy: said...

One last thing...

There are 4 or 5 verses in Proverbs regarding spanking as means of discipline. The one you chose seems to be the least clear in it's wording, but then you have Proverbs 23:13,14 that very clearly say to beat with a rod. It's the same hebrew word for rod in the verse you mentioned (which if you look in Strong's Concordance it says that a rod is used for discipline as well as other things.) And then there is Proverbs 29:15 which says the rod AND reproof give wisdom. They are clearly two different things in this verse. My husband and I actually looked at the original Hebrew to verify it's the same word in every case.

All that being said, I know that spanking is not the only form of discipline, and in fact shouldn't be used exclusively. But the Bible very clearly instructs us to use it as a method, and in fact warns that if it isn't used (along with reproof,) "a child left to himself causeth shame to his mother."

stephy said...

Hi Chris, please note that I haven't made any statements about the gray. I just made a statement about the Hebrew word for "rod" (citing information from a graduate MDiv course, which BillyD is contesting, and that's cool too, this blog is a discourse) and then I posed questions about what Biblical discipline could possibly, truly look like as opposed to what Christian culture widely believes it looks like. So I'm asking questions instead of statements. I hope this clears that up some.
I really don't want to be 'serving my own purpose' here, I really want to know what God truly thinks. So I'm asking some questions in context of a silly blog. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, this got heated!
And I feel compelled to throw in my thoughts so get ready.

I grew up in a "lovely, dsyfunctional Christian home" (whatever that means!) with 3 kids and got spanked when it was "deserved" (and I %100 back Steph's comments about the psychology behind that). They never laid a hand on my otherwise, I'm not a raging "violent psychopath" and I love my parents dearly.

HOWEVER, some of my most shameful and crystal clear childhood memories are of being spanked or physically punished. SHAME people.

And I know, that if I finally bite the bullet and enter counseling one of these days, that is an issue I will really need to deal with.

So for all you spanking parents, I'm just saying really think about it. It might not be worth it.

David Rudel said...

Stephy, my guess is that there was an agenda behind your Mdiv course if that is what how they interpreted this word. I'm a little surprised they were allowed to get away with that (either in general or in your class).

The thing is that the word in question simply refers to a staff, rod, or sceptre in general, often as a mark of authority. Most of the time it is just used in metonymy for a "tribe," [as is the word for staff, matteh ]

Of the nearly 200 times the word is used in the OT Hebrew, it is very rarely (only 1 instance comes to mind) used to denote the implement of a shepherd.

A quick look at the other passages where this Hebrew word is used should make quite clear that corporal punishment was in mind:

"And if a man smite his servant or his maid with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall surely be punished." [Exodus 21:20]

"Their hosues are safe from fear, and the rod of God is not on them."[Job 21:9]
(Here Job is lamenting how God is not punishing the wicked.)

"You shall break them with a rod of iron, you shall shatter them like earthenware." [Psalms 2:9]
(Note the "of iron" indicates that the term is not the specific word for a shepherding implement)

"I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes"[Psalms 89:2]

"On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found. But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding."[Proverbs 10:13]

"Do not hold back discipline from the child. Although you strike hi with the rod, he will not die."[Proverbs 23:13]

I'll stop quoting now, but please see Proverbs 23:14, Proverbs 26:3, Isaiah 9:4, Isaiah 10:24,Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 14:29, Isaiah 30:31, Lamentations 3:1, 2nd Sam 23:21 (but here it is the word for staff, not spear, though sometimes it means that too).

The Religious Pícaro said...

I just made a statement about the Hebrew word for "rod" (citing information from a graduate MDiv course, which BillyD is contesting, and that's cool too, this blog is a discourse)...

Me and Strong's Concordance. Stephy, have you looked at the entry's for "shebet"? Does this really not affect your claims about what the word "really" means?

michaelstevensrev said...

Feel like I'm coming late to the part:( Haven't been able to read all the comments but really appreciate billyd Rabbi's perspective.

Quick thoughts and at some point I'll drop some serious knowledge. I'm not sure it is so much a Hebrew question but more one of culture and hermeneutic.

The shepherd's staff was used 1. to beat the sheep into submission, 2. guide the sheep, and 3. protect them from danger. That is why it is an appropriate example. Obviously the hope would be to have an obedient herd of sheep, therefore 2 & 3 would be the only options, but in a fallen world some though the least desirable it is still an option.

I also think understanding how to read the Proverbs is important. The Proverbs tells parents to both physically disciple their children and not to. (I'll have the examples later no time to look up both). Once you read both a natural reaction is WTF. Wisdom is dependent on context. A wise parents knows when to apply each, a foolish parent only has one they turn to. This is the case for all of the Proverbs; first the hard work of understanding what each one means has to be done (that is one part of wisdom), then applying the appropriate one in context is the second (and hell of a lot harder part) of wisdom. Tremper Longman has an awesome short intro to the Proverbs and expresses this idea much better than me.

I'll gladly go into our more personal application of this. Which probably will piss everyone off. I hope this is a helpful conversation because most of them I've had with Christians about it seem fruitless. I am more sympathetic to those who don't spank, yet I do find in unfortunate moments it necessary.

stephy said...

BillyD, you're right, when I look it up in different places I'm finding soe interpreters to say that the shebet was sometimes used to hit the sheep, and some don't mention that it was used to hit but they say that it is used to guide. I'm drawn to this 'gray' bit b/c it's not as often discussed (never discussed?) in Christian culture but I think it is key because it forces us to wrestle with what loving discpline could actually look like, rather than following a specific mandate (i.e., to spank) that isn't necessarily scriptural.
I really like what michaelstevensrev said just now. I don't want to make any definitive statements about the gray parts but rather get people to think about what is actually meant by the scripture. And to hopefully wrestle with it. I don't want to put anyone on the defensive or try to 'school' anyone...

David Rudel said...

I just don't see how the "chide" or "pull" ideas are compatible with Proverbs 23:13
"Do not hold back discipline from the child. Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die."

The word for "strike" here [nakah] is used 500 times in the OT. It's a very common word meaning strike or kill.

Note Jeremiah 2:30, where (as in Proverbs 21:13) the word is used to describe the chastening of discipline [in this case God to Israel]. Investigating the context of that passage would leave little room to suggest soft chiding is in mind.

stephy said...

But in parenting, how do you demonstrate God's grace and sweetness towards us? There is no love in neglecting to discipline, but in the wake of Jesus's perfect life and his death Christians are justified before God. How do we model that for our children? I'm not asking for opinions on this, it's just something we really, really need to ask ourselves when we're in the throes of disciplining.

Anonymous said...

I heart whipping my kids' asses when they get like this. And they do occasionally get like this.

Anonymous said...

What would Jesus do? would he spank? i think he would only do it to people selling merchandise in the Temple. I have found spanking works great as a threat, not as perfect in practice.

Anne said...

Hmmm. I have a six year old and a four year old. Neither of them have ever been spanked and neither of them ever will (not by me certainly). This doesn't mean that they don't get punished - mostly the punishment involves removing whatever is causing the problem - often that also involves sending one or both of them to their rooms to calm down.

I don't rate myself as a particularly patient parent. I get tired, irritable and shouty, but have never felt the need to spank. The nearest I have ever come to anything like that is when I am losing control of myself - which is why I will never do it.

And my children aren't out of control - in fact they are probably better behaved than most of their peers.

Snap to it! Sanp in time! said...

Blech, I can't even read all these. Spank or don't. I'm over understanding the reasoning behind spanking a child. Hit your child, put them in time out, give them choices, count to 3, take away their TV time, send them to bed without dinner, tear up their Harvard acceptance letter, give them five hours of game time a night, let them have the car until 9p on weekdays, 11p on weekends, give them soy milk, feed them vitamins, shove McDonald's into their face, raise them speaking French until 7 (then switch to Japanese so they get more than just Indo-European langauge education), send them to Grandmas every other weekend, don't let them watch gays on TV, make them go to church, make them write thank-you cards after their bar mitzvahs, put a sheet over their head, raise them agnostic, feed them only organic mozzarella sticks, drive on even-numbered days (take the bus on the other ones), have them mow the lawn, increase their allowance when they get As, make them brush their teeth after every meal.

I no longer care what anyone does or says to their children. But when you resort to a spank as a means of behavior modification, then tell me where the transition from wrongdoing to behavior correction occurs? When the hand is in the air, when it strikes their ass, or when they start crying? When exactly is that point? When do these kids finally get it?

When Stephanie told that woman on Fifth and James to stop yanking her child around, should she have just minded her own business? Maybe at that point, after years of fruitless spanking, that was the only thing that can get through to that brat! From now on, we'll just turn a blind eye then.

David said...

The upshot is, "Christian Culture" likes to hit children. You can go off the deep end all you like with the "slicing & dicing Scripture" business, but it still ends up there.

I wonder how all of you conservative Christian apologists would like it if someone 3 or 4 times your size decided to beat up on you to get what they want ?

Well, I guess if they were "Godly" you wouldn't mind, right ?

David Rudel said...

I have no children, but even so I believe I can speak for Christian parents and say that we take no joy in "hitting children," and the suggestion that we/they do is quite revolting.

God took no joy in chastising Israel/Judah (as recorded in the Later Prophets), and Jesus takes no joy in "chastising those whom [He] loves" today.

David said...

I, on the other hand, have two children - so perhaps I'm both more personally connected to the issue, as well as more appalled at the whole "God wants you to hit^H^H^H spank your kids" thing.

I also grew up in the South where "Christian Culture" abounds, and am a regular church-goer in a mainline denomination (tho' definitely not of the "conservative, evangelical" variety).

Anonymous said...

I think shepherds beat the hell out of their sheep.

Shepherds are really evil though.

Kick a kid off his soccer team for bad grades and metallica worship and then you'll realize see a behavior change.

Anonymous said...

I got spanked growing up. It was the worst thing in the world that my father could have ever done. It did not affect my behavior except in a negative way.

I feel like hitting things when I am angry or am not getting my way. It's hard to control in extreme circumstances.

I have very low self esteem.

Please create more people like me but without all of the anger and hurt. Please don't spank kids. It doesn't do what you think it does.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, your point of having good self esteem is key in this discussion. Remember that Jesus said to love others as you love yourself. It's important that you learn to love yourself. People who learn to love God learn to love themselves! You are special to Him.

Noel Veva said...

I have a three-year old son who has never and will never be beaten (I'm sorry, 'spanked'). He's fine. He's more than fine. He is loving, gentle, happy, and rambunctious and boundary-pushing (not because he isn't spanked, because he's a human child. Boundary-pushing is what it's all about at that age. Any age. They're learning. We all are. The way to teach them is not to beat them up. It's to talk to them and lead by example. If you can't handle that, you're in over your head as a caretaker. Do you beat up your co-workers/spouse/friends when they disagree with you, too? Would you, if some ancient fairytale told you to?)

First time commenter. I could not remain silent here.

I am sick to freaking death of people defending hitting their children. Or anyone. Ever. I got the snot beat out of me as a kid. For 'religious' reasons and otherwise. I got the snot beat out of me as an adult, too. For all kinds of other reasons people apparently thought were good and defensible.

Know what it accomplished? Squat. It gave me a crippling anxiety disorder, and contributed to my chronic depression and deep-seated rage issues. There are quite literally millions of people out there like me...beaten to a bloody freakin' pulp of 'submission' and 'obedience'. Driven to the point of freakin' insanity by the cold-hearted ethical failures of those too sick, too hardened, or too evil to give a crap.

Why? Because when someone bigger, stronger, and more powerful than you BEATS THE SNOT OUT OF YOU at the slightest provocation, because they are ill-tempered, cruel, immature, selfish, lazy, and just plain mean, and not at all because they 'love' and want to 'guide' you, it makes you nervous, depressed, constantly afraid/on edge, and resentful as ever-living hell. It creates a well of sadness and anger and rage and pain so deep and so shattering that it never truly empties.

This builds and builds over a lifetime until you get an entire generation/culture/nation/world of adults so tightly wound and so emotionally fragile that they BEAT THE SNOT OUT of *their* kids at the slightest provocation, too...then comment on blogs/bark at dinner tables defending this cowardly, insane behavior as normal and natural...while continuing to beat (I'm sorry, 'spank') the snot out of their sweet and defenseless babies.

Sickening. Shameful. Horrifying. Is there no other way you can make your point? My kid 'acts out' too. So freakin' what? My partner acts out. I don't smack him around, either.

I wonder what our culture would look like if more people were brave enough to shed their conditioning, face the abuse in their past/present/culture, and move beyond it to create a world where people don't need TO BEAT THE SNOT OUT OF EACH OTHER, especially their own precious children, to make a point.

No, I make no distinction between beating and spanking. They are the same freaking thing. Using pain to manipulate and coerce is using pain to manipulate and coerce. It's reprehensible in any form. Period.

Then, as an atheist, I'm free to figure this crap out for myself, instead of relying on dusty old storybooks to tell me how to live.


Billy said...

Just spending lots of time with your children isn't the remedy to raising a respecting child. My neighbor spends every waking moment with her daughter and she does not spank. Her daughter is a complete brat and is not allowed in my home anymore because she is so destructive. I do spank, although it is a last resort. I go through the whole routine of explaining why and that I love them. I'm sure you will make this another blog ridiculing "why christian parents tell their kids they love them after beating them."

BTW, do you have kids?

Noelle said...

If you had read the entire blog you would see that yes she does have kids. I am a mother that has struggled with spanking and have so far successfully resisted because I totally relate to the ladies comment way back who spoke of being able to vividly remember the shame she experienced. My parents too explained they were spanking because they loved me but this actually did not make any sense to me as a child - it simply confused and humiliated me. Now as a mother I NEVER EVER want to be responsible for knowingly causing my child pain, shame or humiliation. So far my daughter is a vibrant but well behaved child. I am so proud of her and also proud of me for not resorting to violence. Tell me, what do you do when your child goes through a phase of hitting as most do when they're toddlers? Spank them for hitting? I am a 'hanging on the edge' christian who struggles with a lot of things that are said/argued about in the bible and we could all argue ourselves into the grave about the majority of it...God would be pleased about that right? Anyhow, to me - if there's ANY question that we might be harming our children... why do it? Find another way. Be the carer. One day they may be yours.

David Rudel said...

The remarks made on this thread give a good illustration of why some people choose to post as anonymous.

In any event, with regard to the question of whether spanking harms a child, I find it noteworthy that people simply assume that they are not harming a child by "resisting" to spank.

That is, after all, what Solomon is describing, how those who choose not to discipline are harming their children by doing so.

Anonymous said...

I was pleasantly surprised to find this blog entry :) I grew up smack in the middle of Christian Culture (and I do mean SMACK!) and as a result of that, I'll never hit a child.,, and are all some excellent resources for godly discipline.

Bleu said...

Interesting comments! I enjoy reading the discussion that takes place after your entries.

My brother-in-law (the uber-fundie) spanked his kids when they were younger. We had a long talk about this one day, and he said Christian parents are SUPPOSED to spank their kids when they do something wrong, because it makes them humble. This is a word-for-word quote: "You have to break their spirits and make them humble. If they can't be humble and broken before their parents, how can they ever learn to be humble and broken before Jesus?"

stephy said...

Bleu, I hate to hear he said that. :(

Mark Brown, Chief Markeologist said...

I have a 10 year old son that I spanked exactly three times in my life. I gave him a clear warning all three times. When the time came, I took him in private - told him what was coming (2 to 3 'swats) and got it over with. I then gave him a hug and held him for a few minutes and explained that I was out of choices since he didn't listen to my other warnings. We would actually be closer after those incidents - never yelled, got angry, etc.

The last time I had to do that was about 4 years ago. It's just not necessary anymore. I actually talk with my son. The Bible says "TRAIN your child..." Hitting them when they don't know what you expect isn't training. Discipline isn't training. They like to leave that part out.

So I can't say I'm against spanking...but as you can see - adequate parenting CAN take make it an exception instead of the rule. My friends all wonder how I get such cooperation out of my son. It's all in training.

David Rudel said...

Thanks for bravely posting this minority view. I think parents often avoid spanking not out of concern for what it might do to the child but rather out of concern for what it may do to their relationship (or simply because tough love is exactly that...tough.)

Bleu said...

Hi Johnny Taco,

I have a few thoughts regarding your comment about hitting your son.

First, you said you gave him three clear warnings, then told him you were out of choices and had to hit him. (You said spank, but calling it something different doesn't change the definition. You still physically struck him.)

Did you try other punishments such as taking away a favorite toy or privilege, or was it just three verbal warnings then a smack?

You actually talk with your son? That's nice. I speak with all of my children, and don't resort to hitting them when they don't do what I want. I train them with methods that don't include hitting.

You hugged him after you hit him? Was that supposed to make him feel better? I'll share something with you about my ex-husband. Whenever he felt he had to 'put me in my place' he made sure to tell me it was all my fault for not obeying him. Then he hugged me later to show he really loved me.

Lest you think since my kids aren't well-behaved because they aren't spanked, people frequently ask me how I am raising such well-behaved children. I guess it's all in the training.

Bleu said...

David Rudel, it's easy to show tough love when you tower over the other person.

Spanking = lazy parenting.

David Rudel said...

You seem to miss my point...that "tough love" is tough on both parties.

Your other comment provides a pretty good example why many people feel compelled to post anonymously here.

Bleu said...

David, when someone feels compelled to post anonymously, I usually think they don't have the courage of their convictions. If I were hitting my kid in the name of Christian discipline (or any other name) I probably wouldn't want to out myself on the internet, either.

I'm really not trying to be rude. I feel strongly that people should find other ways to manage their kids than hitting them. When someone comes along and equates spanking with adequate parenting, I have to disagree.

David Rudel said...

You wrote: "When someone comes along and equates spanking with adequate parenting, I have to disagree."

It is not your disagreeing I was calling you out on. It was the patronizing nastiness you choose to employ while doing so.

Bleu said...

David, yes I agree I was being patronizing in some of my comments. I felt patronized when my parents hit me as a child and told me it hurt them more than it did me.

People should not hit one another, period, whether it be an adult hitting a child, or an adult hitting another adult. How anyone can justify spanking while saying it is not physical violence is beyond my comprehension. Just because Johnnie Taco and others say they calmly spoke with their child and hugged them later does not mean it was not violence. If Johnnie Taco and I shared a home and I didn't like what he did, and I walked over to him and hit him, that would be called domestic violence.

David Rudel said...

Wow, you likely will find this surprising, but you just enriched my day.

I don't know you personally, but the last thing I expected was for you to admit (in any way) that your previous posts exhibited less respect than people generally should show toward one another.

This is off topic, of course, but I personally feel a deep sadness at the way pwople treat each other over the internet. The veil of anonymity and technological separation has beget a level of rudeness our parents would probably find incomprehensible.

On that topic, a recent court case I applaud forced google to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who was spewing vile remarks against model Liskula Cohen. []

Now, I personally don't think Cohen has the makings of a defamation suit, but the fact that people cannot sit behind computers spouting hateful words without any repercussions has been watered down just a bit.

Thanks, Bleu, for being a cut above here.

Bleu said...

You know what's sad...I don't usually do this. Usually when I am discussing something, I'm very respectful and will even post something similar to this:

"The internet is a place where it is difficult to discern tone of voice. My 'tone' is one of discussion, not anger."

I guess this one hit my hot button. Most of the time I am able to meet someone in the middle, but not on this issue. That's still no excuse for being nasty.

So I actually *do* apologize for my condescending attitude earlier. That's isn't beneficial in a discussion.

Bleu said...

That's isn't beneficial in a discussion.

I meant, "that isn't."

stephy said...

I super appreciate this back-and-forth between David & Bleu. There was a similar one between some others at the Carrie Prejean post that made me so happy. You guys are rad.

Mark Brown, Chief Markeologist said...

Wow. This went from being a really amusing and thought-provoking site to a hornet's nest. Thank you David for running interference for me this evening while I was out. :-)

Bleu, I respect your thoughts and opinions - but I feel you might have missed the intention of my posting, which was more about TRAINING our children, instead of whacking them. While my son is good - he's a boy and 10. I've obviously had to correct/discipline him more than 3 times in his life. I'm pretty creative in that arena actually.

I simply wanted to point out that many parents skip over training. We spend more time house training our pets than we do training our children; and kids are more complicated and valuable than pets. (No offense to animal rights lovers).

I don't want to live too publicly here, so I'll simply say I was overly whipped and such as a kid. Didn't want to be that way as an adult. I've been on the receiving end of a few whippings and one close fisted punch. I disagree with that.

Simply because I experienced that doesn't make the whole concept of corporal punishment evil. There is a substantial difference in hitting versus a swat. I understand your point, but respectfully disagree. I might playfully hit my best friend with a closed fist - does that mean I punched him? There is such a thing as context here.

Taking all forms of corporal punishment off the table is just as black & white thinking as those who determine it is right for every purpose and use it frequently, up until teenage years. I don't subscribe to either - I prefer grayscale. :)

I do appreciate the discussion between you and David, so I'll leave it at that. I just thought we were in the Trust Tree and Nest of Understanding (Is that the right phrase from Old School?) At least I didn't post anonymously right?

In His grip, bathed in His Blood...

Johnnie T

Mark Brown, Chief Markeologist said...

that sign off was in jest by the way - referring to another post of stephy's....

just reconsidered that maybe I shouldn't have put that.

Johnnie T

Bleu said...

Hi again, Johnnie Taco.

This wasn't the first time there was a hornet's nest on this blog. :)

I do see your point about punching a friend, and taking things out of context...but I still don't think it's right to hit a child.

However, I *do* get your point about training. (This is actually what I'm referring to when I say spanking is a form of lazy parenting. I know parents who spank their kids a lot, for every little infraction. There is little to no discussion of right and wrong, just a lot of screaming and spanking. The one that makes me cringe most is the one who yells "GOD KNOWS IF YOU ARE LYING" as she's hitting her kid on the side of the thigh.)

I do want to apologize to you for tone in my original response. Just because I disagree with you is no excuse for nastiness on my part.

By the way, your closing line made me laugh...I just read that particular post a couple of hours ago. :)

Tim said...

I just wanted to say that this post sorted some things out for me. It actually wasn't so much the part about spanking as it was the part about Christian families often having several children, and how that makes it more difficult to give each one enough individual attention. I have eight brothers and sisters, I rejected Christianity completely at age eighteen, and I have suffered from a significant amount of self-contempt and depression until recently.

When I left Christianity, I found so much of value outside of the faith that today, even though I had powerful religious experiences before leaving and greatly expanded my religious knowledge after leaving, I cannot imagine ever going back. I am not lost (at least not compared to where I was), but the church certainly lost me, most likely forever.

Despite this great experience, I was not entirely whole. My break from Christianity was precipitated by an intense desire to have a true personal relationship with God, which my church claimed was possible, but which I became convinced was nothing more than self-deception. Several years later I nearly flunked out of a challenging technical degree at a four year university because my ability to study became crippled by a growing realization that I was motivated more by some mysterious need to prove my self-worth than by true love for the subject. (I have since switched degrees to another challenging technical subject, one that anyone who knew me could have told you was a better fit for my interests and gifts, and am now much happier. I count the decision to switch as the second best decision I've made so far in my life, behind leaving Christianity, and on a par with it in terms of the benefits to my emotional health.) This was at the peak of years of growing frustration over my inability to figure out why I was constantly depressed and unmotivated.

Now I read this post, and several minutes after finishing I felt as though I had just pulled up a dozen feet of buried wire and found a bomb at the end, after years of painstaking work spent uncovering the first six inches. I have wondered why I find it so hard to talk to people I don't know, why I have very few acquaintances and no real friends, and I have gone back to childhood memories of being (temporarily) rejected by peers, but it never seemed to fit. I needed to go back further.

I have memories of making sad faces at the dinner table to attract my parent's attention when I was young and would feel suddenly very unhappy, for no apparent reason. My parents would always catch on to this and comfort me, but it seems strange, and now the memories provoke a surprising amount of anger. I love the brother who came after me now probably more than anyone else in the world (I was the oldest, he followed a little over a year later), but when we were growing up we hated each other's guts, and we deliberately fashioned ourselves into polar opposites of each other with long lasting effects that I think have been more harmful than not. The only times I can ever recall losing my temper - really losing control of my actions and attempting to physically harm someone - were with my siblings, mostly that brother. My oldest sister came next, and I recall occasions where I felt compelled to be cruel towards her as well, again for no apparent reason. She probably remembers more instances than I do. I have a few other memories involving other siblings. Perhaps all of this is "normal" in some sense, and I think I have OK relationships with all of my siblings, but now, now I can only recall these things with a sinking feeling in my chest. Aren't these all ways that children compete for their parent's attention?

Tim said...

My parent's birth control policy was basically that God would give them as many kids as He thought they should have. My youngest sister was born with Down's Syndrome. When she was born, I went for a long bike ride and didn't talk to anyone, because that's how I was learning to deal with my feelings. It's not that my parents didn't talk to me, or that they didn't talk to me about feelings: they did, and it was helpful, and I know they were more honest and forward with me than their parents were with them, but how much attention can you give as a homeschooling mother with nine children, six of them boys, or as a father who has to support a wife and nine children? There's only so much you can do. I hope, dear God I hope my brothers and sisters got as much attention as I did. I see the relationship decisions that some of them have made, and I worry. I think I'm most angry about my youngest sister. Her Down's Syndrome is pretty severe; she basically cannot talk, and her communication is very limited. She has been loved, but she never got any extra or specialized attention in the years when it might really have made a difference. If I hear another word about how special needs children are specially blessed, or gifts from God, I think I will vomit. They are not toys, or tests, or opportunities for growth, or ways for God to demonstrate his magical powers of healing. They are people. That's all. Just people like you and me, screwed over before we knew what was going on by forces beyond our control, trying to make our way in this fallen world, waiting for someone to notice that we need help, because we aren't going to make it on our own.

Despite all this, I find it difficult to be angry at my parents. I think they did a pretty remarkable job given the beliefs that they felt compelled to follow. They experienced more than their share of rejection from other Christians and still, somehow, always managed to reach out to other people on the margins. They have gotten increasingly fed up with the Doing Things and Avoiding Relationship philosophy that they also see in Christianity, and have been drifting away from the evangelical/fundamentalist mainstream themselves, although I expect they will stay pretty close to it for the rest of their lives. In many ways they remain an example that I look up to. I guess that is why it has been so hard for me to recognize their shortcomings. I have known for years that I did not want to have a large family (although I have found it difficult to imagine myself ever having a family at all), and I have been aware of my feelings about my youngest sister for a while now, but the rest of it was waiting for today. Now perhaps I can see a reason why I act like no one else could ever be genuinely interested in getting to know me, or why I can always find good reasons for not getting to know others, or why I have kept trying to build my life around various forms of the idea that I do not really need other people. I am no longer religious, but somehow I have still managed to construct an idol for myself so that I too can Do Things and Avoid Relationship. The meme propagates itself; the cycle continues.

Tim said...

So I am not whole, and probably never will be. On the other hand, who is? Other people have done better after experiencing worse, not always at the hands of Christians by any means, and I even know some of those people, a little bit. The bomb has been discovered; steps can be taken to defuse it. I will get along, I will be OK. Perhaps my story is not very common; I was probably an unusually sensitive child. None of this is a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

Still, if do somehow have a family some day, it will not be a large one. I will give my children as much attention and guidance as I possible can. I will do my gosh darnedest to have no idols before them. I will not try to be their buddy, or their best friend, or give them whatever they want, or be a helicopter parent, or expect them to be perfect, or little clones of me, but I will learn as much as I can to make up for my own limited experiences, I will be there, I will spend as much time developing a genuine relationship with them as I can, and I will think very long and very hard before deciding that my only remaining option is to strike them.

On the topic of internet rudeness: For a few years of my misspent youth, I was pretty mean to a fair number of people on the internet, for no particular reason. That eventually softened to nasty snarking at people I thought were saying something stupid, and these days I don't usually feel the need to be actively rude to people I do not know, and am much less likely to do it unthinkingly or out of habit than I was before. Is any of this related to the rest of what I have written about? I do not know, but I can't imagine it helped.

So, that's my testimony, not of being saved, or even necessarily being ministered to, but of being touched, in some small way, by the thoughtful observations of another human being.

Thanks Stephy.

Anonymous said...

What gets me is how eager fundie parents are to talk to everyone about how they spank their children. They post it on their blog! They put it on their Facebook status! "Maddison had to get a spanking today because she didn't listen to Mommy." Seriously? It's almost perverse. If other parents choose to employ the Might Makes Right method, as long as they're not actually abusing them, it's not my family and not my problem. But as for me and my house, we will not let it get to the point where we "have to". It worked for my parents, and it has worked so far for us.

Sam C. said...

i find it really interesting how so many people are speaking so openly about their lives on here. it is like a support group for people hurt by christianity and it's too bad there aren't more things like this. it's also interesting to see how many people have the same backgrounds and how differently we've all turned out.

Jessica said...

My mother, who was single and not church-going for the first half of my childhood employed spanking as a discipline method, mostly when I was between 2 and 5 years of age. She says I didn't need it afterward. My very few memories of spanking are that I was embarrassed and of course I didn't like it. I should say now that I think my mom was/is possibly the closest thing to a perfect parent that has ever existed. We have always, always been close, and she has always talked with me, listened to me, and taken me seriously. I never felt abused or under tyranny. She also never raised her voice. I have to say I'd much rather see a calm, in-control parent spanking a child than see an out-of-control parent screaming at one.

My second experience with spanking/not spanking was when I was a nanny, and the mother was very much against any kind of corporal punishment. Unfortunately, she was also inconsistent and would often end up hitting the child when she was so fed up she'd lost control and was yelling. I found this upsetting, even frightening.

My conclusions so far are not that spanking is therefore better, but that consistency, self-control, and a loving RELATIONSHIP (you hit it on the the head there, Steph) are what counts in discipline and child-rearing.

Also, (sorry this is a long post), I feel compelled to point out that although there are many good arguments against spanking, the unpleasantness of being spanked on the seat of the pants by an in-control, emotionally healthy parent should not be equated with the pain of being beaten--where the intent is to inflict harm.

At what point is an unpleasant phsyical sensation worse than an unpleasant emotional sensation? At what point does unpleasant become painful? No loving parent wants to cause their child pain or harm, physically or emotionally. (For me, the worst potential accompaniment of spanking is humiliation, but somehow I doubt a 2-yr-old feels humiliated when there's a swift pop on that little diapered bottom--I had to do that when one bit me (THAT was pain) as I was holding him. The look he gave me was of surprise, not pain or humiliation.)

Still, I don't want to use spanking when I'm a parent. I'm too encouraged by the methods of Supernanny and the like! Thanks for the blog, Steph. (And regardless of the translations/interpretations of the Hebrew, the book of Proverbs is exactly that, a lot of proverbs. General truisms held by a community, not divine laws. They should not dictate whether you spank or not.)

Anonymous said...

I'm a little late on the conversation....Sorry, I just found this blog. I didn't read all 77 comments, so I apologize if this has been said before. I don't think spanking has anything to do with the Bible. And, I don't think this is an issue where you can use a polarizing approach. It's not about "if you spank, you're not willing to invest effort" or "if you don't spank, you don't care how your kids turn out". Why can't we attempt to find a middle ground? My dad spanked me and my brother until we were which point he considered us too old for that anymore...we should be able use our reason and lessons from our upbringing to make decisions after that (in my dad's thought). After we were 12, long discussions about the affects of our conduct were our forms of discipline. This is something I want to emulate

Also, my dad NEVER struck me in anger....and he would always take the time to explain to me why my actions merited punishment....that said...I believe the only reason my dad resorted to spanking, was because it worked....he was never spanked growing up...that wasn't an effective punishment for was for us.

I had a friend in college who was spanked a lot...his brother NEVER was...because it didn't work...he was grounded and had favorite toys taken away from him...that worked.

For me...I had such an active imagination as a child...i didn't need to be outside or have toys to enjoy time-out and grounding had no effect.

I think the idea is to understand our children with their well-being and their future in mind when giving any thought to discipline...I don't believe that spanking is Biblically mandated or the end-all means of discipline.

Prairie Village said...

Stephy...saw Ryan Dobson post a link to your site on FB (apparently you and my brother-in-law are going to be on his radio show tonight).

Great, very funny and dead on commentary about some funny, sad and sometimes unintentionally hilarious things Christians do...I think you make a ton of great points (see, views on Catholics, Palin, Fox News, etc.)

This thread has some pretty hard stuff people are dealing with that has nothing to do with spanking...but I did have some comments on spanking.

My wife and I have read Ted Tripp's book Shepherding a Child's Heart. I would not call Tripp a fundy by any stretch...he is very reformed in his theology. He does advocate the rod...but that is just a portion of what he says goes into loving, biblical parenting.

A couple things I take away from the book...

1. Rich, multi-faceted, consistent communication with children and discipline (the rod) is the two part system he discusses as being biblically ordained. He talks a great deal about how one doesn't work without the other.

2. I think in our culture (although it's always happened) parents have so many distractions from parenting that we especially neglect communicating with our children.

I won't do the book justice by trying to summarize it...I recommend parents take a look at really has helped my wife and I understand our own hearts toward God a lot better...and it has improved our parenting...

Here's one quote from Tripp...

"Parents tend to focus on the externals of behavior rather than the internal overflow of the heart. We tend to worry more about the "what" of behavior than the "why." Accordingly, most of us spend an enormous amount of energy in controlling and constraining behavior. To the degree and extent to which our focus is on behavior, we miss the heart."

ElktoothChain said...

Hmm. This is quite funny. My personal experience is this: my parents were/are "spankers" and they have had exceeding difficulties with me, my 19 year old sister, my 15 year old brother and, now are having them with my 2½ year old sister. Granted, I think many other factors affect my situation and every other person's situation. However, my parents ranged from explaining calmly why we were getting punished and then dispensing it to doing it swiftly out of (obvious) anger, and the fact of the matter is, it hasn't caused the kids in our family to be at all disciplined, obedient or very respectful.

On the other hand, my wife, her 20 year old sister or her 17 year old brother were never spanked once growing up, and they are some of the most pleasant, disciplined, respectful kids that rarely ever disobey their parents. My wife has always maintained that, growing up, she was always more afraid of disappointing her dad by disobeying than the threat of a physical punishment.

Which one of these situations has seemed to work out better in the end?

Again, I realize that every situation is different and has many complicating factors, but I believe that the truth for probably 95% or more of cases is this: spanking is a reasonable and acceptable form of punishment for children from probably 1 to 4 years of age. This is a time when they are often not capable of understanding complex explanations and more esoteric forms of punishment, so simple physical discomfort (not pain or agony, mind you) is a good way to teach (while of course increasing explanations and decreasing the physicality as the child's cognitive and linguistic skills develop). In most cases, spanking after that, even if it's always done in a loving way with lots of explanation, is really not effective or wise. I believe that once a child's psyche gets to a more advanced level, punishments such as spanking begin to instill the notion that violence (and hitting/spanking/whatever is a form of violence, whether one wants to admit it or not) is an acceptable means of getting your point across or, worse yet, asserting your authority. Indeed, as my wife and I are plenty old enough to observe this from the viewpoint of a parent/adult, we see what the negative reinforcement and fear of physical threats does to children as we see my parents exemplify the same failed tactics of parenting they used with my and my other two sibling with my little sister now.

Besides all of this, I believe nearly all research and studies into cognitive science, child development, psychology, sociology, etc., have shown that, overall, spanking is probably the least effective and healthy way to punish or teach children, especially if it's used beyond the very early formative years.

Z. said...

To everyone defending this as some kind of realistic means of reprimand, consider the next time you mess up at work: you want your boss to spank you? You think that'll clear it all up and you won't do it again? Go ahead and ask him to really wail away on you and see if anything makes any more sense after he's done. Maybe you two can get all Secretary with each other. That'd be kinda hot.

I got spanked as a kid and I can tell you from experience that it didn't do a darn. My mom broke yardsticks over my backside, and all it did was make me angrier. It eventually got to a point where it didn't hurt and there just wasn't any emotion involved with it, so it was just for her own satisfaction that she had chastised me somehow.

That's really what I think spanking comes down to: it has nothing to do with the learning process for a developing child and everything to do with Feeling Like You Laid Down the Law. The studies are there on the detriment it can cause a child, and if you really think you're getting somewhere by slapping your kid on the ass, you haven't done enough of a cost/benefit analysis. Also, send me your address, because I've got a cricket paddle with your name on it. I'm gonna do unto others like gangbusters.

Ron G said...

This isn't a christian culture thing, it was an every culture thing until recently. Now, god forbid you ever discipline your kid, you will get CPS called on you. Everyone from my generation (and I'm young, 29) got spanked regardless of their race or religion. I think spanking is a good form of discipline, and the kids that never got spanked or disciplined with anything more that a 2 minute "time out" are usually the ones running wild later in life since they never had to experience any negative repurcussions for their actions before.

stephy said...

I used to think that too, Ron. Now I think the opposite, after working in mental health and seeing social histories, dealing with therapists, reading every book I can on discipline, and having two kids.

Mark Brown, Chief Markeologist said...

Well Ron, welcome to the blog. While you're at it, why not impugn the morality of Mary and every other reader's mother on this blog.

While pooping in their oatmeal.

Just teasing - I made a comment a while back and it'll definitely fly in here sometimes. This is a touchy subject.

As to your comment about an every culture thing, I agree that some cultures definitely are/were more harsh on their children (e.g. Old Testament commands the stoning (non-THC) of children who disobeyed their parents.

We live in a substantially different culture today than most - don't you think that there is some cultural relevance to this topic - or should women also only pray with their hair covered and not wear any jewelry or adornment?

I'm not provoking or being mean. Your comment as left was a little breathless and hasty - looking for some more thought and substance.


Anonymous said...

To reiterate ...

"Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die." --Proverb 23:13.

rachel said...

somehow in my 36 years, i have not heard this view-point before.
no one has been able to verbalize, either for or against, past "just because"...
thanks for the food for thought...

Anonymous said...

I was spanked as a child and I would have it no other way looking back. You think kids are spoiled now, wait until Mommy #2 (the government) tells Daddy he's not allowed to spank. Talk about undermining the parents' authority.

Anonymous said...

I was with Jessica the whole way until this:

Still, I don't want to use spanking when I'm a parent. I'm too encouraged by the methods of Supernanny and the like!

You want to talk abuse anyone?

Chrissy said...

Whoa! People are wild about spanking!
My siblings and I were spanked. Spanked the "right way" mentioned above. We were not traumatized by it. In spite of "healthy spanking," my brother tried to kill himself 16 times. Succeeded once, but was shocked back to life. He stopped trying after he got ECT. Many instances were "cries for help," but THAT time was for real.
So spanking is no guarantee that your kids won't die. I'm willing to elaborate further about my childhood (which was actually quite pleasant), but thought the suicide detail was worth mentioning. Spanking, in itself, won't save your children. That'd make relationships way too easy.
Anonymous reiterated: "...if though beatest him with the rod, he shall not die."
I beg to differ.

Anonymous said...

Very very old post, but can I point out what spanking does to parents? Most people who've ever been married know the advice about love being foremost what you do and then how you feel. If you act lovey-dovey, respectful, etc., you'll feel it. And if you smile, you feel better. You feel how you act.

So how would hitting your child affect your feelings for that child?

I work with a special-needs child with a lot of digestive trouble. Pushing on her stomach in time with the "contractions," or drumming on her back, really relieves her. But her mom and I agree that when she's screaming her lungs out and you're hitting her (gently, but the motion is hitting) it's easy to feel venomous.

Anonymous said...

My parents spanked both of us. IT didn't work, OK? It terrified me like you wouldn't believe, being screamed at by the two most important people in my world, then taken physically and forced over their knee and kit again and again. It also had absolutely no effect on my brother's rampant misbehavior. I can't even speak to it keeping us on the "straight and narrow", because during these years my parents were so busy that we only got attention when we had pissed them off -- on top of that, spanking often had little to do with breaking a rule or being naughty, and everything to do with a parent being angry.

Looking back, it was part of a view that my parents held, that we, as their children, weren't individuals, but were property. Our lives belonged to them; our bodies belonged to them.

We were, of course, strongly christian, to the point where we secluded ourselves from society in general. I was so shielded and isolated that I never realized how awful things actually were. For example, when my grandmother broke an entire set of wooden spoons over by poor brother's backside, everybody laughed; they laughed even harder when she was given a whole new set of spoons for her birthday. I feel sick just thinking about it now, back then, I laughed along with everybody else.

I don't care what your rationalizations are. Don't you dare tell me that spanking is not hitting, that spanking is not abuse, that spanking is not a full-grown adult intentionally causing pain to someone who is too small and weak to even have a chance of defending themselves. If this is what your religion demands, then there is something wrong with your religion.

beckiwithani said...

We were spanked the "right" way (according to Dobson's Dare to Discipline). Never in anger, never left a (physical) mark, never on any place but the buttocks, never with a bare hand (they used a ruler or wooden spoon, both sanctioned by Dobson) ... Our parents followed all of the rules. Stephy, I know you're a PK. I'm curious if your parents did this, too. I was skimming by the end of the comments, so apologies if you've already answered the question.

Spanking didn't teach us to do the right thing for the right reason. It taught us to do the right thing because of fear and control. (Similarly, the "because the Bible says so" explanation for all of the "ethics" we were taught didn't teach us to suss out right actions for ourselves. It didn't teach us how to deal with the messy, gray, real-world moral dilemmas that come up each day of our lives.)

The last time I was spanked, I was 12. I knew with all my heart that I was too old, and I begged my mom not to. It was all about shame ... and when you're an adolescent 12-year-old being leaned over and hit on the butt, the shame is fierce.

I have never forgiven my parents for that 12-year-old spanking. Normally, I think it's unhealthy to hold onto stuff like this. But in this case, I need to hold onto it. I'm a parent, and as I make my own parenting decisions, I don't ever want to forget the damage my parents caused that day.

David Rudel said...

I don't think the point of spanking is to teach kids to do "the right thing for the right reason." It is to reinforce that there are consequences to ones actions.

That being said, physical pain is not the only way to do that

One of your objections was that spanking was about teaching through fear and control, but wouldn't other punishments also fundamentally be about some type of fear? Whether that fear is about being struck with a wooden spoon or having your bedtime changes or some other unpleasantness. To the extent that punishments are used as a deterrent, it seems that some aspect of fear (and certainly control) is always involved.


beckiwithani said...


Thanks for asking. I do think that consequences and fear cannot always be divorced from one another. I'm definitely fearful of bad consequences. If I stop showing up to work on time, I'm fearful that they'll find someone who can be more responsible. If I go out and pour six beers into my small frame, I'm fearful about waking up hungover.

But those are natural fears, based on natural consequences. And while I'm not such an idealist that I think all discipline can be 100% based on natural consequences, I do think that the consequences should be as closely related to the action as possible. I teach my 4-year-old that we will not play with her if she is not playing nice. (I also teach her that, if a "friend" is being unkind, she is to say, "I want to play with you, but only if you are nice" and go do something else if the kid persists.) I could spank her if she starts whining during a game of Candyland ... but the spanking would have nothing to do with the whininess. I've found it to be more effective to just walk away and stop playing until she can exercise better sportsmanship.

Like I said, I know not all consequences can be completely natural. But I think that, as parents, we can try to make them as logical as possible. And when I want to teach my daughter to deal with conflict in nonviolent ways, it feels really counterproductive and damaging to me to also be saying I'm allowed to hit her when her actions are in conflict with our rules.

headscratching said...


1. Employer hitting employees at work in a caring, constructive way when they do something wrong, in order to discipline and teach them: OK or NOT OK?

2. Spouse hitting spouse in a loving, supportive, yet non-consensual manner when he/she does something wrong, in order to discipline and teach him/her: OK or NOT OK?

3. Pastor hitting parishioners in a reflective, shepherding way when they do something wrong, in order to discipline and teach them: OK or NOT OK?

4. Parent hitting (or "hitting to spank," if you insist) kids in a corrective, "tough love" manner when they do something wrong, in order to discipline and teach them: OK or NOT OK?

Except for scenario #2 (and perhaps including it, depending if you are heavily complementarian or not), each involves a person who is Biblically responsible for being in charge of, instructing and disciplining the other party or parties. Each one fulfills the symbolic parenting/caretaking role charged in Proverbs 23 (and if you think Proverbs is written only literally and not for wider applications, you don't know much about Proverbs). But the only one that is okay is when the adult physically hits the smaller, defenseless, developing child?

Also, just as a reminder, if the verse is advocating physical punishment, that prescribed punishment is "beating".

Anonymous said...

For everyone who thinks spanking makes kids behave and grow up to be decent adults: I come from a small town that is rife with drugs and religion. Together. I know a lot of church-going, cross-wearing cocaine dealers. A lot of them have done time in the "big house," and without a doubt, everyone whom I know who has ended up in jail was spanked as a kid by a "Christian" parent. I know a lot of truly hateful people who consider themselves "Christians," who were spanked as children. I know a lot of racist white "Christians" who were spanked as children. I know a lot of people who are decent who were spanked and some who were not. Since spanking, in my worldview, appears to be irrelevant to the ultimate outcome of childrearing, why employ it at all?

Taryn Fox said...

The last paragraph of the original essay is the story of my life.

I find it traumatic to think about spanking.

Chris said...

Don't know if anyone will actually dive this far back in the history of the blog's comments but thought I'd add my two cents to the matter. I was spanked as a child and have been a pretty well behaved teenager/adult. My nephews are spanked and, while I love them, they're both horrendously misbehaved.

Now I live in Sweden where spanking is illegal and people are often horrified if they find out I've been spanked. I'd say that, overall and generally speaking, children here are better behaved and mature faster than American children today. Hence, similar to what anonymous above argues, I really see no point to employing it.

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