Parenting in Jesus' Footsteps

Why I Am No Longer a Spanking Parent

by Joan Sewell

I am a non-denominational, Born Again (since 1973) Bible believer. I have three children ranging from ages four through eleven. I have one boy and two girls. Two of my kids (oldest and youngest) are very strong willed. The older two have been spanked according to instruction by those who say not to spank out of anger, making sure the child understands what they are being spanked for, giving certain amount of swats with a switch (bendable stick), consistently, with prayer, hugging afterwards, not leaving marks, etc. In other words, we have done it as close to the supposed "right" way as anyone could. 

My oldest turned nine in December of 1999 and I noticed that we were still dealing with the same old issues with him. He did not seem to be learning internal control, it still took external control to cause him to obey. This caused me to take a step back and re-evaluate our methods. Did I want my son to discipline my grandchildren the same way I disciplined him? My time is half over with him living in the home under my authority, was I happy with where we were headed? Was I willing to truly change things and try to help him think for himself and not have me do all of his thinking for him? Could I give up the control? Could I allow the Holy Spirit to take over without thinking I had to help? Did I want my other kids to be this way at nine? Was there anything I could do to help the younger ones learn more self control, self discipline and internal motivation by this age? It was about this time that I learned of an online group who were Christians, but did not believe in spanking or any other form of punitive discipline.

I began to question them. I fully expected that I would not receive satisfactory answers and would be about my merry, spanking way. But, deep down, I had never felt completely right about spanking my children. On the other hand, I always felt guilty for questioning the physical use of the "rod", thinking I was being rebellious to the Proverbs "rod" verses. Since I am a literalist, I did not want to be going against Scripture in any area of my life, most especially in this area because my children are my legacy and most precious gifts.

I began to search myself, talk to my husband and kids, read my Bible, pray, and seek out the answers on this issue without bias. I had read every popular author that was FOR spanking over the years and did not think it was even Christian to NOT believe in spanking. I could see the human logic, but not the Biblical basis for such a belief. I also felt that if someone did not spank, they must be permissive.

I knew that I could read a lot of men's opinions, but the final analysis would come down to one thing: What does God say about this in His Word? One of the first things that struck me was that there were no examples of children being spanked in the Bible. It seemed that if it were that important, then surely God would have elaborated a little more. I started to study the word "rod" or "shebet" so that I could have a thorough understanding of these verses. (Please read my study on the The Biblical Rod)I began to think about how Jesus dealt with children while on earth and how He deals with us as His children. I thought of all of the Scriptures that exhort us to be kind, tender hearted, merciful, joyful, gentle, etc. I started to wonder why these verses did not seem to apply to dealing with our kids in the eyes of a lot of Christians. Yet Jesus personified these qualities toward us. He was over us, yet He was a servant. I questioned the place of grace in the parenting realm. God started showing me so much more than I ever thought possible.

Now we are raising our children after the discipleship model. It is far from the easy way. It takes patience, creativity, being connected with the Lord so we can hear His still small voice which imparts wisdom to us, modeling, time (much more time than spanking), searching for the why of a behavior and not just the outward behavior itself, and I could go on and on. We no longer invalidate one another's feelings. For example, it is not wrong to be angry, it is just wrong when you vent your anger the wrong way by disrespecting the property or person of others. You can't teach someone to act appropriately by a spanking, you teach them by example and instruction from the word and consistently reminding them until it becomes a habit for them to act appropriately. We are finding it takes less time for our children to assimilate these ideas without hitting them. 

Spanking is no longer an option in this household. Does this mean we no longer discipline our kids? Quite the opposite would be true. Now, we are free to disciple our children by teaching, guiding, correcting, training, educating, and instructing because of our God given authority. We are trying to build real and lasting relationships with our kids. These relationships are built on mutual respect and honesty. This is a respect that says, "I will do unto you as I would have you do unto me." I have children who must respect one another and keep their hands to themselves. Just because you are bigger than someone or they wrong you does not mean you can hit them. Yet I could not seem to get this across before. When my kids wronged us (and ultimately we would tell them they were wronging God), we spanked (hit) them. Of course, we always tried to say that spanking was not the same as hitting. Talk about splitting hairs! (See Hitting and Spanking Are The Same Thing)

Now we are on a journey to truly knowing our children. We are set free to show them Christ and let Him control their lives. I want my children to see God as a parent who they can turn to in time of need and never be ashamed to run boldly to His throne. They need to respect God, but they also need to see Him as their El Shaddai and serve him because they love Him, not just because of fear. The Bible says perfect love casteth out all fear. I cannot love them as unconditionally as God does (as much as I try), but I can point them to Him and try to model as closely as possible how Jesus gently shepherds us. Isn't that who we are supposed to conform to? We are conforming to the image of Christ! I want my child to focus on Him and not on me as the ultimate example. You have heard the saying, "If you love something, set it free." My children are now allowed the same liberty in Christ that their parents have. It has caused me to draw closer to Him, so that I may know Him better to depend on His wisdom and answers in the daily issues of life instead of the quick and temporary fix of punitive discipline. It is amazing what God can do when we are not standing in His way!

Reprinted by permission from the author,  from SUFFER THE LITTLE CHILDREN

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