What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Raising Abel. part 5

Spanking is a very controversial subject nowadays. Much of this has to do with the church adopting worldly views, some of it is a direct reaction to horror stories gone awry. Just recently, I heard in the news a “Christian” family beat a little seven year old girl to DEATH with some sort of plumbing pipe for misspelling words repeatedly while homeschooling. It is precisely these sorts of horrific freak shows that give bad reputations to Christians, homeschoolers, and/or disciplinarians and ultimately, the scriptural form of punishment.

The problem is…no true Christian would ever advocate for a child to be beaten to death (after all, isn’t Christianity itself the very epitome of grace and FORGIVENESS?), no homeschooler in their right minds (religious or not) would advocate for beatings in response to misspelled words and no godly disciplinarian would ever BEAT a child in anger, let alone to the death. Feathers are all a-ruffle about this situation (and rightly so) but in our reactions to this (and other heinous injustices, which is what they are) we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Suddenly, people are very afraid to admit that spanking is a godly principle. However, you must only crack open the pages of the bible to be assured of the truth. (Proverbs 13:24) (Proverbs 22:15)(Proverbs 23:13,14)

God, in his infinite wisdom, understood human struggles and weaknesses, and even in the case of training children in the way they ought to go, implemented safe-guards for the well-being of His children. God tells us we must be slow-to-anger (proverbs 14:29) and long-suffering; He warns us not to provoke or exasperate our children (Ephesians 6: 4) and even models for us what we need to be:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; (Psalm 103:8-11)

Discipline can be God-honoring or NOT. We have discussed some forms of discipline from both sides of the coin. In the same way, punishment can be God-honoring but done wrongly, it is NOT. Beating your child to death is OBVIOUSLY wrong as EVERYONE would agree (and I for one, am GLAD that couple is in jail) but there are far-less drastic ways to punish your child wrongly that we need to also be careful of.

One of the best, most all-encompassing safeguards to punishing a child wrongly is to NOT punish in ANGER.

It is very important to us in this house to not be ANGRY when we are disciplining our children, or punishing them for wrong-doing. You ought to be able to have a normal conversation with your child. If you can not do that, you need to step away from the situation and pray for calm, and only after you have controlled yourself can you continue on. If we are angry, then WE are the ones acting out in sin. Your children should not be responding to you because of how loud you shout or how scary you sound, or from the neck veins that are bulging from your ever reddening face. In that case, they are responding out of fear, not out of an obedient heart. You are also, incidentally, teaching them by example how to be full of folly and lacking self-control. (Proverbs 14:29 and 2 Peter 1:5,6)

If, on the other hand, you train them to respond in obedience to your request because they are honoring God by honoring you, then you are teaching them to be obedient all of their days. (Exodus 20:12) It is enough then, to say “Do this” or “Don’t do that” in a calm, quiet authoritative voice and to expect obedience from it.

So many people find spanking to be offensive and abusive-but that view has come about by witnessing punishments, being dealt with WRONGLY. Godly punishment looks FAR different.

Remember too, spanking is not the be-all and end-all of discipline. Spanking should not be done in a vacuum, it MUST be accompanied by TEACHING.

Before we spank, we sit down with the child and talk to them about what they have done wrong. We do this is a calm, slow and quiet voice. Most often they tell US what they have done wrong. We discuss why what they have done was wrong and what God says about it. We make eye contact as we talk. We spank them. We wait until they have calmed down and they apologize to us for what they did. And get this: we FORGIVE them!!! (How novel!)

Not only do we think it, but we AFFIRM it with our words…we say “I forgive you. And I KNOW you will do better next time.” We kiss, we hug, we tickle, we laugh.

In a moment, they are beaming. We have dealt with the problem, lifted the burden of guilt from them, and affirmed that even though they were naughty-they are GOOD children, we love them and we have faith in them. In five minutes-the problem is resolved, the lesson has been learned and life can move on~ happily. (This is far different from the time-outs, where your child only sits, stewing and growing more and more bitter by the minute.)

Viewing an exchange like this, as God intended, would give people a renewed sense of hope in regards to child-rearing and godly forms of discipline. No~ spanking isn’t meant to harm, maim or mutilate, on the contrary, it is actually an outpouring of love and life-GIVING.

My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction. For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. Proverbs 3:11,12

For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life. Proverbs 6:23

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the “spankings don’t work on my child” line. It is a broken record, I tell you. Here is what I have to say about that: if it ain’t working, you ain’t doing it right!
Read on for some…Ineffective forms of punishment:

JUST spanking. Spankings are not nearly as effective if there isn’t a dialogue before/after them. We are raising our children to be more than little “yes Ma’am robots” but to, Lord willing, grow with WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING. It is with this goal in mind that we need to discipline our children. Spankings should never stand alone but be enveloped in the reasoning and the teaching from the scriptures.

Don’t wail your child’s bum when they pass by. I see this all the time. Parents get frustrated to the point of exasperation, grab their kids by the arm and wail their backsides. This is NOT a spanking. Not only could that hurt their little backs, but you don’t actually even address WHY he/she was getting a spanking (and learning is the end GOAL of all punishments) That is NOT a picture of righteous discipline. It is, in fact, TOTALLY worthless and actually, abusive. They will learn to steer clear of getting within arms length of you, but that is about it.

You should not ignore a problem over and over again just to SNAP and tear the poor kid apart. How confusing is that? To let him/her get away with something over and over again and THEN, all of a sudden say enough is enough?! That is cruel and unfair and VERY confusing to the poor child. Be slow to anger, abounding in love...

Spanking on diapers. Spankings are not supposed to be comfortable but they aren’t supposed to do damage either. If your child is not “affected” by spankings then they are either not hard enough or not done in the right place. We spank on the top of the thigh-just outside of diaper range where there is no lovely cushioning to make it “tickle”.

The point of spanking is to sting-not to damage. Spanking with hands can cause damage and can be more painful to you than them. When Andrew was a toddler and would get a spanking, he would walk away without a tear and my hand would be stinging like crazy. The spankings didn’t even faze him. That’s when I tried the wooden spoon on the thigh. It serves it’s purpose without hurting you, stings but does not inflict damage (which again-is NOT what spankings are for) and makes the whole spanking experience a learning one instead of just an intermission to their playing.

Don’t embarrass them. If you are in a room full of people-take your child somewhere private to discipline him. It would be embarrassing to get a spanking (or even a reprimand!) in front of your friends. (This is not only true for the young child getting spanked, but for the teenager who needs to be spoken to.) Respect your child.

Finally~there must be closure. There must be forgiveness. There must be love. If your child walks away still upset, then there is something very wrong. If you walk away all tied in knots, there is something very wrong. The Lord forgives us TIME and TIME again. We need to show that same mercy and forgiveness to our children.

With all this talk of spanking, you would think we do it all the time when in fact, we rarely have to, even with our children as young as they are. When you are consistent and diligent, laying a firm foundation even for the very young, as they get older they understand authority, respect their boundaries and obey them. I have already been enjoying the fruits of my labor, as my children, as young as they are, have a very clear understanding of how to avoid spankings...they just don’t have to break the rules I have worked for years instilling and since they are smart cookies, they avoid them like the plaque!

SO. When DO we spank? Find out, tomorrow.


Leah said...

I've enjoyed reading this series, Rebecca. It's been very encouraging. I have a question that will go along with your next post. And maybe you already plan to address it. I'm wondering if you spank for EVERY offense. I know some people (internet friends) who do spank for every offense. It seems to me from scripture that our loving heavenly Father uses many forms of discipline, some more severe than others. I'd love to know your perspective. :)

Unknown said...

Great GREAT post, Rebecca! You are reaffirming a lot of my goals and thoughts! THANK YOU!

Jennifer said...

Thank you for doing this series. I appreciate all of what you are saying and share similar standards. It is encouraging to know that even though we are going against the trend we are not going it alone....