Total Truth Thursdays 06 | Kids/Parenting: Why We Don't Spank

Apr 10, 2014

Welcome to our sixth Total Truth Thursday! Kirstin and I started this link-up in hopes that it will be successful in creating a safe environment for us to share our opinions, beliefs, and thoughts- however strong, against-the-grain, mainstream, or out there they are! If this is the first time you’re hearing about Total Truth Thursdays, head back to this post and catch up on what it’s all about!

Before we dive in and link up, there are a few things that you need to know:
1 // You can find the list of topics for each week HERE 
2 // Kindness is key.Whether you follow the topics for each week or come up with something on your own, please remember that others may or may not agree with you, and you may or may not agree with them! Disagreements are natural, passionate opinions are welcomed, and constructive feedback is fine. However, we won’t put up with rudeness, ugliness, or name-calling. Just be nice! 
3 // To link-up, please follow Hey Kelsea Rae & These Moments Called Life on Bloglovin’ or GFC and copy and paste the button code to your post somewhere! We are so excited to get started!

Today's topic is kids/parenting.

Here's my chance to share something I feel very strongly about, and I'm nervous! Nevertheless, here I go.
 This parenting thing has been quite a journey, especially as Noah has become a toddler and his growing need for independence leaves him exploring boundaries in new ways. Even before Noah came into the world, I was very intentional about learning about parenting and raising children. I'm a psychology major, for goodness' sake!

When it came to "discipline" and spanking, I was a little on the fence. Something inside of me was uncomfortable with the idea and not just from an emotional standpoint, but from a realistic, behavioral one, too. I solidified how I felt in the year before Noah was born.

My history with physical discipline ranges from personal experience to what I observed around me. As a child, I was spanked. Sometimes it was done in a calm manner and sometimes it was out of anger. No, I don't feel scarred, I have a wonderful relationship with my parents, and I turned out well (something I don't attribute to the spanking). All of my friends were spanked, too. It was a common theme, especially in the "rod of reproof" culture I was surrounded by, and what I observed ranged from "normal" to what I consider abuse.

I feel pretty strongly about this topic and would like to share a little bit about why we have chosen not to spank our children, and a little of what we plan to do instead.

Spanking is behavior modification. What is the goal of spanking? For physical pain to be associated with the negative action- when the negative action is tried, the pain is recalled, and the action is avoided. With our children, we want the goal to be different than just external obedience. Spanking doesn't address the issue or solve a problem. When our children do something wrong, rather than have them change their actions out of fear of physical pain, we want them to eventually change their actions from a place of intrinsic motivation. We want, through relationship and natural consequences (when appropriate), to help them understand why what they did was wrong/inappropriate/negative and help them understand how to choose better alternatives. Just like legalism, spanking produces an outward action, not a heart change.

Spanking devalues. I'm big, you're little, so I can cause you physical pain. That's kind of the premise behind spanking isn't it? If they were big, they wouldn't be spanked. Spanking feels to me like telling kids that we don't think they're capable of seeing boundaries and learning from mistakes, neither of which is true. And if we don't expect it from them, then we're not even giving them a chance.

Spanking does not prepare children for the adult world and is often a quick fix. When our children are fifteen, twenty, thirty, they won't be spanked because they didn't show up at their job. Could they be fired as a natural consequence? Absolutely. And that would be painful. But there will never be another time in their lives that they will experience physical pain as punishment. In their adult lives, our children will need to be able to pull from their intrinsic motivation, their ability to analyze the results of their own decisions, and the ability to make it right. Spanking often accomplishes just enough for the child to avoid the action, but does nothing to teach them why. Some parents might argue that they have conversation with their child afterwards and in a loving manner, explaining the "whys" and consequences, etc. If that's the case, what is the point of the spanking? Aren't there other ways to help your child feel the weight of their decision without invoking physical pain?

Spanking feels hypocritical. There is no one else who it is okay to hit. It's unacceptable to hit our spouses, our parents, our siblings, a friend, or a stranger on the street. It is never okay to cause physical pain to someone else. Why is it okay to do so to our children? And what does that communicate to them about their value and worth?

Spanking sets precedents for violence. Violence begets violence. Hitting begets hitting. Spanking is a humiliating cycle for children, often in which they in turn resort to physical violence with others. It's too easy to take spanking too far, and in my opinion it doesn't take much. The child talks back? Spank them harder! They really make you mad? How do you regulate your own emotions, and what are you teaching your child about how to handle strong emotions? How hard is too hard? What are we teaching children about what they deserve from the people who are supposed to protect them?

From a spiritual standpoint, I believe we Christians are supposed to follow God's example and look at how He deals with us. He uses the Holy Spirit, through relationship, to convict us, mold us, and direct us. He doesn't dole out punishments, but He does often allow us to deal with the consequences of our own actions. Over and over again He gives grace and mercy, even when it takes us twenty times to get something or learn our lesson. He wants our hearts, and we as parents want the hearts of our children. Some might argue the "rod" verses of the Bible, but after some research I believe those verses are often misinterpreted. The rod he talked about comforted and guided the sheep, protecting them from danger. He instructed gentleness of Spirit, even when dealing with a strong-willed child.

There are many more points I could make about the trust between a parent and child and how a child can grow to view themselves and their relationship with God through this lens, but for the sake of time and length, I'll leave it at this.

If you're sure you're going to spank your kids, already do, or are on the fence, you might think some of the following...

"Kids who aren't spanked end up spoiled brats!" or "Parents who don't spank are permissive!". In my opinion, kids who end up spoiled and bratty are the kids whose parents don't set or enforce boundaries. I know plenty of parents who spank, but whose kids don't listen. Empty threats don't work, spanking or no spanking. We have pretty high expectations for Noah and our future children. And high expectations can be wonderful when they're met with high support. We want our children to know what we expect of them, to know that we mean exactly what we say, and that we will follow through with what we say. When you're consistent and your children know what to expect from you, they eventually learn to feel secure in those boundaries.

"How else will they learn?" Children learn at different levels at different ages. I think the key is having age appropriate expectations and boundaries for your children. I know little children who got spanked for crying. They were punished, made to fear their parents, and caused physical pain because they expressed their feelings. I've seen children spanked because they did something they didn't even know they weren't supposed to. Communication is a vital role in setting boundaries. We're not perfect and neither are our children. We all mess up sometimes and need grace and understanding.

We couldn't expect our fourteen month old son to remember every single time that he shouldn't hit the buttons on the dishwasher. He'd hit the start button just as the two hour cycle was about done, meaning the washer restarted and we had another two hours to go. We didn't smack his hand or spank him. Instead, we got down on his level, made him look at us, and worked on helping him understand "Not for Noah". We also don't stop at "no". We redirect and give alternatives. It's fun to press buttons when you're a year old! We wanted to help him understand that while we weren't going to let him press the dishwasher buttons, he could find other buttons to push on his toys. Did he get it the first time? Nope. Not even the second. It did take some repetitive redirection, but he eventually got it and it's not a problem anymore. Was it a little more work for us? Yeah. But children learn by our example. It can only benefit them when we remain calm and take the time to help them find ways to stay in the boundaries.

"I was spanked and I turned out okay!" Hey, me too! But when you know better, you do better. I ate pretty unhealthy as a child but I turned out okay! Does that mean I should keep eating junk? No! If there is a healthier alternative, don't be afraid to try it.

I know this is kind of a touchy subject, especially lately when we all need to leave parenting "to each his own". While I agree that a parent has a right to parent in whatever way they choose, I don't have to pretend like I think it's healthy.

So what are some things that came up for you as you read this? Did your opinion change after you had kids? Are you in support of spanking or have you chosen not to spank? Why or why not? 

Want some more gentle/positive parenting resources? I love Dr. Laura Markham over at AHA Parenting. She has a ton of amazing information on every age and topic you can think of!
Alright, it’s your turn! Grab the button below and link up your Total Truth! Also, use the hashtag #totaltruththursdays to share on Instagram and Twitter! I'm trying a new, free link-up today so let me know if something isn't working!

8 comments:

  1. I really, really appreciate reading this! We don't have kids yet, but we have already started discussing this. I was not spanked as a child, but my husband was, so naturally we have differing opinions about it. I love the perspective you bring to this issue.

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  2. This was so wonderful to read! I have been thinking a lot about this lately and this gave me a completely new perspective. Definitely going to share this with my husband.
    thanks for your honest and brave words!

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  3. This is a truly amazing post. I applaud you for being brave and writing this. I honestly haven't ever given much thought to this since I don't have kids and probably won't but it's such an important topic and you have brought to light so many points I had never even thought about. After reading it to myself I read it aloud to my husband as well.
    We were both spanked growing up and have never given much thought to it. I am embarrassed to say that we were even the people who occasionally said negative things about misbehaved children and would say 'that kid needs to be spanked' without really thinking about what we were saying. Your points were so excellent and well spoken that it has given us so much to think about. I have changed my opinion on several things after reading this!

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  4. This was a really interesting read Kelsea. Haven't given much thought on spanking my own future littles, but you certainly gave me some things to consider. Really,great post!

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  5. This is a wonderful read! I was spanked as a child but Nate and I already have discussed that we won't be spanking our future children. Part of our decision is who WE are. Both of us are naturally very gentle people and spanking just isn't consistent with who we are.

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  6. This is such a good topic! Honestly, my husband and I had this conversation the other night. We both agreed we would spank, but I think it's because we were both spanked as kids. You made some GREAT points. I'm a teacher and I pride myself on having great behavior management....and I don't spank them (duh!). So, why would I think I need to do that with my future kids? Thanks for reminding me of this. I have a lot of thinking/praying to do!

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  7. Good for you for stepping out and sharing what you are doing with your family.

    I for sure have different view points but I think that is ok. I will be spanking my kids but I don't want that to be my first resort. I think guiding them is needed.

    I haven't done all of my research on those verses in Proverbs but I'm going to now. I love digging deep into the word to see what it says.

    Here is a thought of mine - I know we can train and reason but honestly, to me, a 2 or 3 year old they don't always have the capacity to 'reason'. Sometimes inflicting pain / spanking helps them learn too. I'm not saying spank your child every time but for example if I tell my kid not to go out into the street and I explain why and then he does - heck yes, they are getting a spanking. Why? Because I don't want them to have to learn the hard way of getting hit by a car. I know, that was an extreme example but that was the first one that came to mind.

    I'm glad you shared what you did and you have some really good thoughts on this!

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  8. It's clear you've thought this all through. I'm glad you shared! I have a different viewpoint on this, and you didn't really change my mind at all, but I still liked reading your thoughts. I think spanking is fine, but like Beka said, obviously you shouldn't do it all the time every time just because you're being lazy or something. Anyway, I'm glad you found something that works good for you guys :) I'm loving these truth posts!

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