Archive for the ‘spanking’ Category

spanking (sigh)

again, from my conversation today: To spank or not to spank:

I dont see the Bible/God’s Word saying we must or must not spank. So, other ideas or truths need to come into sway here.

I think as Christian parents we easily confuse the goal with our responsibilities. … Or something like that. What I mean is that we want to make obedience the goal in the parent-child relationship. After all, God tells children to obey their parents. We think: if I can make my child consistenly obey  me, then I’m assuring that my child will be saved, that s/he will obey God, etc, etc.

Is this true?

It confuses me now. I had parents who taught me to obey. I now live a socially acceptable life (don’t steal, drink, etc.). But, I still sin and disobey God, even in ways that shock me. And the more I learn about God, the more I realize I don’t obey Him–that I never reach His standard of obedience. That Jesus had to do that that for me. Etc.

So it kind of breaks down here somewhere.

It seems to me, from Deut. 6 and Titus 2:4, that our goal as parents is to strive for a teaching, love relationship with our kids …. and we teach obedience AND MANY OTHER THINGS ABOUT LOVING GOD out of that.

Back to the spanking thing. I think the ship is gentle vs. adversarial relationships and the spanking question has become the masthead (most visible part) of that ship. I don’t know yet in myself if all spanking is categorically adversarial. But I might venture to say that most of it is.

Honestly, spanking is still there somewhere in my parenting “toolbox.” It’s just way, way out of reach for me.

Some reasons are personal, some are theological.

Personal reasons:

I think it’s because of my particular nature and conscience, that if I use spanking as a main tool, I literally become the Wicked Witch of the West. I become evil natured. Toward my children. I do not show nor grow in affectionate love for them as I am looking to do based on Titus 2:4.

Also, the choice not to spank for me is part of a greater choice to strive to not parent in a punitive (punishment-oriented) way. Which means that I am choosing to 1) learn/study age-appropriate behavior and work with that in mind instead of ignoring it, and 2) take a larger burden on myself to help my child learn to obey (or whatever desired attitude or behavior) in other, more positive or accomodating ways.

(Someone else can probably say this better.)

It is very hard. I want to run away sometimes. I fail every day. But, honesty moment, this is the kind of parent I want to be. That I think God wants me to be.

Theological reasons I steer away from punishment-based teaching:

God doesn’t primarily or even mostly teach us through punishment or fear.

My obedience is not the “goal” of God’s relationship with me. That I love Him is His goal–obedience and many other wonderful things like suffering for Him with gladness will flow out of our love relationship.

If God punished me now for my sins now, I would be beaten down and destroyed. The more I look on Him with love, the more I see my shortcomings. Christ took it all–all God’s anger. And I have consequences for my sin, and fear of consequences may keep me from sin if my love and faith are weak, but God is with me even then and redeems it.

Wrote myself empty for now.

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I used an ultra-controversial word as my title to get you reading—and it worked now didn’t it?

Actually, I kind of hate trying to put words together about this topic b/c my own journey was so messy, it’s hard to put a nice outline around it. Also, I’m still very much in my journey—of raising my kids.

I had awesome parents. I don’t remember spanking hardly at all in my childhood although they did that sometimes, and we have great relationships now. Can someone wave that magic wand over my family?


Why am I talking about this? I’m a missionary, for Pete’s sake, who of all people should express no opinion on such an emotionally-laden topic.

So why am I talking about this? Church today got me thinking about it. I had a young mom ask me specifically about it.

You see, I’ve done my level best to not have one way/style/method of parenting take over our church. I’ve worked at this specifically and continue to. So we have families who spank and those who don’t. This young mom is making the rounds asking all our opinions and points of view. Good for her.

She has a one-and-a-half year old. Oh, how I remember those days. My first child. Who on earth knows what they’re doing as parents? And we want more than anything to do it right and guarantee ourselves a Christian child at the end of this consuming task.

… I need to stop remembering that time. I will just start rambling incoherently.

So, what did I tell this lovely lady?

First, what I didn’t tell her.

I didn’t tell her people who do differently are wrong. I didn’t disparage anyone. Not by my tone or words. We all love our kids, want to do God’s will as parents, and are striving to do that.

And one main message I said, in various ways, is that she needs to see what is right for her family, their mix of temperaments, their living space (one room), etc. And it is very important that parents work into their own healthy style of parenting. Not try to mimic or force a formula, etc. We need to be different. For different kids, different mixes of ages, different life situations, different personalities. … We can be different. Oh. My. Word. How different am I myself now that I’ve parented two toddlers previous to this one?

(And I think my greatest uncertainty and worry and lack of confidence in parenting will always be with number one, because that’s the child who is constantly going into realms of parenting as yet unknown to me and with a personality that is so contrasting to mine. ….Maybe for another parent, it’s a different child who triggers those feelings.)

I encouraged her to seek God, that He will show her personally her answers.  There are lots of matters of conscience here, so we need to know the options, understand theology, and then ask which option(s) is what You want for me.

The main issue here isn’t really even spanking. That just seems to be the masthead of the ship.

Anyway, I’m tired from writing all this so far, and I’ll be back later ;)

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For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1Cor13:9-12)

One element of several popular Christian parenting books that I have found distressing is the confusion (or non-deliniation) between the sin nature vs. the ages-n-stages children go through.  For example, around 2, a child goes through a negative (“no”) phase because s/he is learning a new level of separation from the mother. That little tidbit helped me not to make every No as a battle of the wills, to adapt my mothering to this stage of development.  

The Bible doesn’t criticize childhood. Children go through fairly standard stages of development, mentally and physically. Of Jesus as a child it’s written, “And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” (Luk 2:40) Nothing is criticized about being a child. It’s not painted as a time of foolishness or inferiority.

One major mistake several parenting books make is misapplying Proverbs. When Proverbs talking about “foolishness” and the “fool,” it doesn not have in view a small child. It is more talking about a teenaged child. Everywhere in the Bible, children are cared for as children, not treated as fools that need to be beaten.

Here are some examples:

Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels . . . (Gen 31:17)

Then Esau said, “Let us take our journey and go, and I will go before you.” But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds which are nursing are a care to me. And if they are driven hard one day, all the flocks will die. (Gen 33:12-13)

Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, … and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” (Exo 2:5-6)

Jesus gives us several examples of how He viewed children, and interestingly, there is no condemnation of foolishness or other childlike qualities. Becoming a mature adult is a goal (Gal 4:3), as Paul showed us (I Cor 13), but Jesus points out that there are elements of life and faith that come easily to children that we need to imitate.

Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Mat 18:3-6)

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mat 19:13-14)

Look at what these children did!

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant, and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself’?” (Mat 21:15-16)

God shows Himself to be, over and over again, gentle toward and protective of children. (“In His arm He will gather the lambs, And carry them in His bosom.” (Isa 40:11) And He Himself designed their stages of development! Some of the most valuable tidbits I’ve learned to help me with parenting are basic facts about usual developmental stages and what I can expect.

So, when reading parenting books, I ask myself a few filtering quetsions:

  • Does this book help me understand and respect my children as children?
  • Does this author expect children to behave like adults? (Sure, adulthood is the goal, but there is a lot to go through before that stage.) Does it expect some type of robotic, adult-like obedience?
  • Does this author teach me as a parent to be gentle and patient with my children? Or am I being taught to be authoritative and slow to mercy?
  • Is spanking or other negative styles of discipline the main tools I’m being given, or am I being taught positive skills to nuture relationships while teaching obedience.

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Please be so, so careful when you read any book that strongly promotes spanking as a main method of parental control.

This is an excellent broadcast about Mike and Debi Pearl’s book, To Train Up a Child. Please listen to it! Another child is in the hospital because the parents were using Pearl’s teachings.

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A wonderful sermon about Christian parenting (and spanking). Be careful how you spank!  Be careful how you play your parent cards . . .

Please take time to listen!

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Tulipgirl remembers the death of Lydia Schatz–“spanked” to death by her misguided parents.

This last week I’ve been consumed with writing a response to Ted Tripp’s book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Just so many thoughts finally coming to fruition. More may come later. . . .

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Tulipgirl reposted a good post about spanking. Many Christians don’t acknowledge that spanking is controversial, and in some cases, does cross lines into abuse. Here’s some down-to-earth suggestions in order to understand this issue.

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I have some other thoughts about parenting and power, and thankfully, “Thatmom,” Karen Campbell, said it already! Here’s what she writes:

The Pearls’ philosophy demands that parents place themselves in a position of control and power over their children, luring and enticing the parent into self idolatry. It teaches that a parent is to conquer the child’s will and body, doing whatever is necessary, emotionally or physically, to achieve success. It places the parent, especially the father, in the position of sovereign over the child, giving him prophet, priest, and king status, even saying that a father can offer righteousness to a child through the use of the rod. It is the same desire for power over God and creation that Satan used for his own purposes in the Garden. And this desire for power and control over children conceives the sin of abuse, which, in the case of little Lydia Schatz, caused her death.

That’s bad power; it’s a bad concept of power.

For a great read on parenting, discipline, etc. please read this post she put up today from a homeschooling dad.

Psalm 103:13 ~ “Just as a father has compassion on {his} children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that compassion is part of teaching children. Children typically imitate their parents so why not let them imitate compassion.

. . .

Ephesians 6:4 ~ “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that dads should be fair about discipline. For those who know the humble instructions of the Lord there is nothing more fair than that.

Colossians 3:21 ~ “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that children will give up and stop caring if they are never given positive reinforcement. Certainly beating a child until they stop crying as the Pearls are alleged to endorse is forbidden by this verse.

1 Thessalonians 2:7 ~ “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing {mother} tenderly cares for her own children.”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that children are to be tenderly cared for. I remember passing my daughter around on a pillow, she was so small at birth.

1 Titus 3:4 ~ “{He must be} one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity”

Homeschool application: Scripture recognizes that bringing attention to good manners, emphasizing them and insisting that they be used produces a well run household having the dignity of self-controlled children. 1 Titus and 2 Titus mostly describe a well run house.

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I enjoyed learning from this man’s take on Pearls’ TTUAC book.

Another good read.

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Couple of things I want to say on this topic.

One main thing is that it’s better to cultivate the natural love power that God instilled in your child for you, than to spend most of your time exercising the punishment or negative power that you have.

What does this mean? Clay Clarkson in Heartfelt Discipline talks about the natural affection children have for their parents. I think Ross Campbell speaks of this, too. Parents are in a unique position to transmit love and acceptance to children that no one else in the world can do for that child.

Not long ago, I understood that God is not scared or repulsed by my sin. He dealt with it in Christ on the cross. Now I am perfectly accepted. And you know, it’s only that acceptance that moves me towards postive transformation—not fear, shame or guilt.

Be careful with parenting instructions that teach you to be heavy handed, to prove your parental authority by exertion of force, to use mental or emotional manipulation or unkindness with your child. How does God treat you? How does He feel towards you? The way you treat your chilren changes you. Who are you becoming?

Yes, there is a lot we want to see changed or developed or transformed in our kids—God sees the same with us. God doesn’t demand perfection from us, and we cannot demand this from our kids. He’s slowly working in us “to will to do of his good pleasure.” Childrearing is part of that process in your child’s life if s/he becomes a believer. It’s OK that it takes time, years, to be transformed. It doesn’t have to be when a child is 2 or 3 or even 10. Christlike transformation is a lifelong process for us all.

Use of positive desire in childrearing is extremely desirable. As much as possible, we should be dispensing positive elements like focused attention, time, pleasant eye contact, holding, hugging, etc. And doing that while we are instructing or correcting. It doens’t mean our kids never cry or experience unpleasant things. But the overall tone of our interactions should be positive.

Pleasant feelings are the healthiest motivators—if the pleaant feelings are moving in the direction of guiding the child to do what is right. For this reason, training should be as positive and pleasant as possible. And also for this reason, punishment should not be the primary means of relating to a child.

This important concept of using positive means to control your child’s behavior is exactly the opposite of what is being taught from some Christian sources today. . . . Misunderstanding the true needs of their children, reactive parents have gone along with harsh, discipline-oriented parenting and then later watched their chilren develop anti-parent, antiauthority, anti-God attitudes and values. (Campbell, RP, 165-166)

Bad power is the power like the unsaved “lord” over those beneath them. It’s an interesting thing for me to examine how I am using my power as a parent. Am I using it to spank? Yell? Punish by withholding myself? To assert my parental authority? Or am I using it to edify and nurture? To bless and give pleasure while training?

The commands to God for children to obey their parents are given to the children.  God didn’t say “parents, make your kids obey you.” Sure, at young ages, we definitely train and teach them to obey. But we do that knowing that they need to reach maturity where they themselves desire and choose to do this, imperfectly, sure. But Christ lived the perfect life for us all. And we are in Him, we have that perfection applied to our accout already.

Parents, need, at some level, to accpt vulnerability before their kids. Strangs as it may sound. But . . . I am still thinking . . .

more to come if i can get my thoughts in order . . .

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