WHY I REFUSE TO SPANK MY CHILDREN

“Max do you want a spanking?” his grandmother asked. “Yes, please.” He replied.

“Go get the belt.” She said.

“Why?” He asked.

“Why do you think?” She replied.

“For your waist?” He asked innocently.

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Max and Myles have never been spanked, or as we say in my family, “whooped.” They do not know the visceral fear that accompanies spankings with a belt: Fear that instantaneously causes one to tear up in anticipation of the sharp, stinging pain inflicted by the repeated hoisting of a belt high into the air prior to quickly and furiously descending upon delicate skin.

My dad was a pastor: He studied the Bible, taught the Bible, and lived in conformity with the bible. He believed in order to ensure we grew up to be productive, God fearing adults, he had to discipline us in accordance with the saying, “spare the rod, spoil the child,” (a truncated version of a verse found in Proverbs). My dad’s “rod” was a thick, brown, leather belt nicknamed “Bruiser.” Dad would brandish Bruiser while warning my siblings and me that we were “cruisin’ for a bruisin’.” We knew this meant we had better quickly alter our behavior or get a spanking.

I was a strong-willed child; therefore, I often faced the wrath of Bruiser. I talked back to my parents and Bruiser appeared; I talked back to my Sunday school teacher and Bruiser appeared; I talked back to my aunts and Bruiser appeared. My siblings also received spankings for various infractions; oftentimes, I cried on their behalf and pleaded with my parents to “spare the rod.” I cringe when I recall those spankings: they were painful; they were demeaning; they were dehumanizing, and yet, they were a normal part of my youth.

The frequent “need” to resort to corporal punishment for similar infractions belies the argument that spanking is an effective method of discipline. However, many parents in my community unquestionably repeat the cycle of spanking; after all, it is passed down through generations and its virtues extolled in many pulpits. I believe other forms of discipline can be more effective, less traumatizing, and result in happier childhoods. Ironically, many of my attributes that were being “corrected” remain with me today: On occasion, I still question authority and relentlessly argue my points of view.

Fortunately, my siblings and I grew up to be successful, productive citizens; however, I refuse to give any credit to spankings. I believe we would have been successful and productive anyway. Who we are is a reflection of the exemplary lives our parents exhibited; their guidance and commitment to teaching us Christian morals and values (minus the corporal punishment); and their determination to expose us to a myriad of experiences and opportunities. Their love for us and each other was immeasurable.

I want Max and Myles to be young men who make me proud. However, the cycle stops with me. I will not resort to corporal punishment to teach them right from wrong. Instead, I choose to guide and discipline them through alternative means. My “rod” will help steer them in the right direction minus the pain.

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Were you a product of spanking? Are you glad you were spanked? Will you spank your own children? Why or why not?

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23 thoughts on “WHY I REFUSE TO SPANK MY CHILDREN

  1. There is a place for this type of punishment. I agree our parents may have indulged to much, so I must adjust. Don’t need a belt just a deep voice and high decibels at times. Nothing wrong with a little fear and at times action. I do believe you must couple it with talking and never be angry when punishing as it leads to ineffective disciplinary which misses the goal.

    Nice to have a balance in the house ! My wife is more in line with you, therefore I take on the bad guy role. I have a son and I know that as he is growing I want the thought on the back of his head that my father is crazy and will kill me (not literally) if I do this

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    1. I understand your point however, I believe there are other ways to ensure our kids are “fearful.” I definitely raise my voice a few decibels to get my point across at times…sometimes that alone brings tears to Max’s ears. I definitely want my boys to make wise decisions and have a strong sense of what behavior is unacceptable and I think they will. Kwabs only received one spanking and he turned out pretty good so I will have to continue to consult with his parents to see how they accomplished that.

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  2. Wonderful! I believe the same as you. When I have the “corporal punishment debate” with friends and they say “I got whoopings and I turned out fine”, my retort is, “I didn’t get whoopings and I turned out fine”. The idea of a parent inflicting pain upon their child is in such opposition to the parent’s inherent instinct to protect that child that I just can’t reconcile the two.

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    1. Wow, I haven’t heard the term cruisin for a bruisin since I was a child. I was spanked by my father when I was young and although it was very unpleasant, I never doubted his love for me which he showed in countless ways. We were very close up and until his death. I started out occasionally spanking my oldest son but quickly stopped. It just felt wrong and was usually accompanied by anger that was not entirely of his making.
      What a great topic. I agree that there are better disciplinary approaches than corporals punishment.

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      1. I am very close with my dad as well and I know he loves me and my siblings however, I think he was wrong in this area. He agrees that he should have been less quick to resort to corporal punishment. I understand why he did it and am not angry with him but the memories still bother me at times. Thanks so much for reading! I am glad you enjoyed the post.

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  3. I have to admit that at times raising kids with gentle discipline (no spankings obviously, and also trying to teach rather than punish) can be frustrating. I can understand how spanking can appeal because it seems easier and more effective. I know some families pass on the tradition without thinking about it, or they believe it is necessary because they experienced it and turned it okay. You turned out great despite the spankings, but I know there are many who don’t fare so well, because outside the family and professional sports you can’t act violently and get away with it. How weird to think that one of the only realms where violence is deemed okay would be in the family then. I don’t think it’s a good lesson for our kids that the way to teach them is to physically hurt them. And beyond that, I don’t want my children to live in fear of me. I want to teach by example of being kind and loving. Like you said, you went on being who you are despite the spankings (and even finding a career where these qualities are harnessed). Above all, I think your kids are beautiful and that is the best testament to no need for spankings.

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    1. It’s hard to write well on a smartphone, so forgive me a little … I know even families that spank don’t really condone violence on a broader scale. But I guess I was trying to underscore what you were saying that spanking does raise fear in children, and is a violent act, even when done by a loving parent ….

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    2. Thanks so much for reading. I think you raise a good point. There is no other arena, outside of professional sports, where this would be acceptable. I am not totally opposed to my children having a little fear but I don’t want them to fear me because they think I will spank them. I am okay with them saying to their friends, “I better not do that because my mom is going to be angry and she will put me on punishment.” I think in many cases respect and fear go hand in hand…employees respect employers b/c they can be fired; students respect teachers because they want good grades and don’t want to be suspended; attorneys respect judges because they don’t want to found in contempt or have it impact the outcome of their case; business owners respect rude patrons in part b/c they don’t want to lose their business, however, even in those scenarios the fear isn’t the result of the threat of violence.

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  4. I am/was a product of this corporal punishment. Naturally, I thought I was being abused as a child! I do view this type of punishment differently. I think every child is different, therefore different means of discipline may be necessary.

    I didn’t like getting whippings then and it caused years of resentment..

    Yes, I turned out just fine and I’m sure I would’ve been fine without it!

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    1. Thanks so much for reading. I agree every child is different and what works for one will not work for another. However, I think corporal punishment should always be the absolute last resort and its best if it isn’t accompanied by a belt or other object.

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  5. I too am the daughter of a Pastor and I am a product of spanking. I don’t regret that my parents spanked me and trust me, when I was spanked, it was deserved! I am however very grateful that my parents did not abuse their authority and also used other forms of discipline as well (spanking was always a last resort). I still believe that spankings have their place today, but it should not enter into the territory of abuse (excessive).

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    1. I agree they should not be abusive but I also think there is a fine line. I am not sure everyone knows the line and I am not sure our parents always knew either. I definitely deserved to be punished but I don’t think I deserved to be spanked. I was traumatized. Every child is different and clearly many children (my siblings included) were not as traumatized as I was. I can’t condone corporal punishment but I don’t think every parent who does it is guilty of being a bad parent. Thanks so much for reading!

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  6. I was whooped as a child & also grew up with the “spare the rod, spoil the child” so as a result I began to do the same when I became a parent with my twins but as I learned more & did better. I changed my mind in terms of corporal punishment, as a result my 9 year old has never been spanked unlike his brothers. Actually, Zion conduct has been far better than that of his older brothers who were spanked, go figure. I agree with you!

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  7. Before we rule out corporal punishment, I question if a parents decision to go against the Word of God who gave us instructions as parents should be challenged? For those parents who choose to spare the rod, and ask the child ten times to correct an action is not the right answer. The Word of God has never been wrong therefore, my decision is to spank and not abuse. After reaching adulthood, I question anyone who says they remember the pain associated with a spanking from childhood? I Believe it is based on assumptions verses actuality.

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    1. The Word of God says a lot of things that Christians don’t follow word for word, in part because much of it is open to interpretation. This is one area that has been debated by men who have studied the bible more than I have. One interpretation is that this was Solomon simply stating his rationale for how he disciplined his own son, Rehoboam, (who by the way grew up to be a horrible person). With regard to my remembering the pain I experienced…I have memories as far back as 4 and 5 years of age. I got spanked until I was in middle school so yes I have vivid recollections of some of them. Thanks for reading.

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      1. Personally, I don’t care how a parent raises their child(ren) providing it does not infringe on me. Listening to a child screaming to the top of his lungs because they can’t have a toy, and the parent ignores this behavior, infringes on me. Listening to parents bargaining with a child to get them to act right in public, because they choose not to spank, is utterly ridiculous!!! So if your saying that you give your child a command, and they follow this without incident, then I applaud you. However, if you have to ask your child several times to complete any one action, you may want to reconsider your ideas about discipline.

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  8. Choosing not to spank your children is certainly your choice, but I couldn’t help but speak to some of the things you mentioned in your blog. First, I must identify myself. I am from your parents’ generation, African American, raised by a southern mother with great influence from a strong great-grandmother. I grew up in the day when you would go to school with welts from a switch or a belt and the teacher DID NOT report your parents to Child Protective Services (in fact, that group did not exist where I grew up!) Not only did you get a whooping at home, you got it in school when you disobeyed. If you disobeyed your neighbor, you got it. So I grew up with “whooping”. And yes, my husband & I “whooped” our children (now 26 and 23).

    I agree that there are other methods of discipline. As you study your child as an individual, you know what method is best for him. The statement you made “spare the rod, spoil the child,” is only half of the verse found in Proverbs 13:24. The verse in its entirety says “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

    Physical discipline is a common theme in Proverbs (10:13; 17:10; 22:15; 23:13-25; 29:15). It is viewed as an important part of the correction and training of a child, to teach him to avoid wrong behavior, to embrace what is right, and to build godly character. Equally important, physical discipline is an expression of love for a child, while the one who spares the rod hates his son. Taking into account all of the teaching of Proverbs, physical discipline of a child MUST NEVER be severe and must always be exercised in love.

    Solomon, the wisest man in the world, was led by the Holy Spirit to write these instructions for wise living (Proverbs 1:1-7). In the Hebrews 12:5-11, the author talks about how God disciplines us for our good. We are all fallen creatures, born in rebellion, thus the reason you challenged authority (this is beyond your “strong will” personality). It’s the condition of EVERY human being! God uses discipline to build character…it’s painful but it’s good. “If you are left without discipline…the you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Hebrews 12:8.

    Again, is “corporal punishment” the ONLY method of discipline? NO! But you want to be careful of dismissing God’s word for your own wisdom. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans … ” (1 Corinthians 1:25).

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    1. Thank you for reading. I am not sure if you are saying it’s a good thing that social services did not exist when you grew up. However, I think whenever marks are left on a child as a result of spanking there is an argument to be made that the spanking has crossed the line into the realm of abuse. With regard to the verse, I am aware of the entire verse which is why I referred to it as a truncated version of the actual verse. I agree that children need to be disciplined and I do and will continue to discipline mine. However, I stand by my position with regard to spanking. On one hand you acknowledge that different forms of discipline work for different children and yet based on the scriptures you quote you seem to suggest physical discipline is essential. Which is it? There are many verses in the Old Testament that we no longer abide by or take literally. The verses referencing corporal punishment are verses that I choose to interpret differently. I am comfortable with my stance.

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