In this post: #2 in my confessions posts. A personal parenting journey, resources about the “rod” verses in Proverbs, & thoughts to ponder. Please, pull up a chair :). PS: If you don’t read anything, I encourage you to at least check out the articles that speak on this subject better than I ever could.
I don’t like controversy. I’d rather hide from it but it seems because I’m a liberal-conservative, bapticostal, organic, all natural, homeschooling, video game playing, Mcdonalds eating girl (need I go on?) I’m always a bit controversial. My nickname should be cat-dog. I don’t like to debate though. I am an analytical and super slow thinker. I’ve never been able to spit out facts in a second. When I write a blog post of this nature it usually takes an hour or more. Writing is the best way I express myself because it gives me time to gather my thoughts. I don’t want to bring about disunity. I just want to share an issue that is important to me as a parent and how certain extremes are dangerous. I like to share my beliefs and my personal stories on my blog. It just seems natural :). Let’s begin. Here are a few statements I want to make first then I’ll give my story.
- I don’t believe all spanking is bad. I believe it is possible to spank without being abusive. I know, love, and respect some awesome parents that spank. My parents are among them. When we did spank it was not abusive.
- I know that not all parents use the Bible to say that people MUST spank. People spank for other reasons. And there are parents who use more than one method with their spanking. They take into account the uniqueness of each child they have.
- I know people who will disagree with my new view on spanking and I still love them and think highly of them.
- I know this topic is deeply embedded in my culture, and cultural traditions, especially religious ones, are not easily shaken.
- We have not abandoned all discipline. I am a very strict parent. My son has helped with chores since he was little. He’s not allowed to do whatever he wants all the time. We have rules and if he disobeys there are consequences.
- My kid is not a spoiled brat. Most people tell me that my son is respectful and caring. I’ve yet to hear a bad report. He’s not perfect and no child is. He’s never hit me or called me a bad name. He wouldn’t be the kid screaming in the grocery store. By the way, many of those kids ARE getting spanked and they’re still that way. Also that does not mean they are evil kids. Even the sweetest of kids will spazz out if they don’t have enough rest, food, or they’ve been made to sit still for hours. Children aren’t robots.
Picture by Nathan Sodré Salvatierra at pt.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
- I am not a lukewarm Christian. I am committed and I spend time daily with Jesus. I take the time to do indepth word studies. I’ve been to Bible college. My son and I volunteer in our community. We love Jesus and we love each other.
- I am not lazy and unintentional with my parenting (except on the bad days and every parent has those). I have had to become more creative in my parenting since we abandoned spanking. I have to admit that I was lazy when I spanked because I thought it was the only method to use and frankly it was easy.
- I have not adopted this belief because I’ve become worldly or been influenced by a talk show host or psychologist (I rarely watch tv programs & don’t keep up with Oprah or Dr. Phil). I’ve put a lot of thought and research into this. It comes from conviction and Bible study.
- I do not hate my son because I’ve decided to quit spanking. If you don’t read another word, please scroll down and check out the articles on the often misquoted verses in Proverbs. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to find the context. There’s plenty of info on the web by Pastors and such.
- There is no one method that works all the time for all children or even all the time with one child. Children change as they grow. Their disciplinary needs change. Their brains are different as they develop. They all have different personalities. Would you tell someone to spank a kid with cerebral palsy? I think not. But some say you hate your child if you don’t spank (again see the articles on Proverbs). I would not treat a child with autism the same as a healthy child. Once I heard someone say that an autistic child just needed to be spanked. I got so mad but I know those people were very uneducated on the subject of Autism.
- Tradition does not equal truth. Though not all tradition is bad.
- Not every part of the Bible is literal. If it were then we’d be eating the actual body of Jesus and we’d be gauging out our eyes every time we lusted. Not to mention that if we are supposed to follow the old covenant then why aren’t people holding knives to their throat if they are gluttonous? That’s in Proverbs 23:2, the same book spare the rod, hate the child is in. Why pick and choose what proverb you’re going to take literally and obey? Why not follow the whole law then? Theologies should be built on verses in context and both testaments. You may not agree, but I’m under the new covenant through Christ and I do not keep Leviticus law.
- The Bible is not one book. It is a collection of books, all the inspired word of God, but they are diverse. Some parts are letters, some poetry, some history, some prophetic, and so on. We don’t choose what a section of the Bible is. God shows us by the context and the gift of common sense. I know when I read a poem by Edgar Allan Poe that it is indeed a poem. I can tell by the wording used. There are certain rules to writing. They establish the type of material we are reading. That doesn’t mean that poetry can’t have truths in it but you would not interpret poetry the same way you’d interpret a history book. PS: I don’t think I’ll be grinding any fools in a mortar either (Proverbs 27:22).
Picture by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
We used to spank but now we don’t. We were un-abusive spankers. We never left bruises. I made sure to pray with my son and hug afterwards. We didn’t spank for mistakes but only in instances of defiance. We were raised to believe “spare the rod, hate the child”. Both my husband and I, were spanked as kids. My father was a conservative minister who became a super Dad after he gave up drug dealing. He is now dead and I miss him dearly. My Dad never abused me. He had the three swat rule and he never left a bruise. He was a loving and Godly father. We were super close and I looked up to him. My mom, who I also love dearly, also spanked but rarely. Her parenting style wasn’t as strict.
I was more compliant with my father and I appeared to be obedient with him. My heart was full of rebellion though and even though I was spanked consistently (seriously, my last spanking was when I was a senior in Highschool!) I kept a rebellious and disrespectful heart towards him until a year or so before he died (hint: I was a wife and mom at this time). I still have issues with authority. I did have some fear with my Dad and I learned how to hide things. I opened up to my Mom more. I can see in both of my parents’ methods, good and bad. I’ve yet to meet a perfect human parent. I am thankful for the love and quality time my parents had with me. I know they did the best they could. I pray I can do as well.
For a long time I believed that my Dad’s methods were better because I was more compliant. I also believed that spanking was THE way because I turned out okay. I never did drugs. I didn’t have premarital sex. I got voted “Most likely to go to Heaven” at school. As an adult going through physical illness, financial stress, and all the other delights of getting old, I’m having to deal with all the ugly heart issues that were never addressed when I was a kid. Yes, I was compliant and I appeared good. I was a Christian and a leader in my community. But there’s pride, anger management issues, codependency, depression, and a whole host of things that I didn’t realize were inside of me. I’m realizing that it’s not enough to be compliant to God’s will on the outside, my heart has to change and want to obey God out of love. Obedience should be love-driven, not a form of legalism.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As a new parent, also a very young one, I only knew the way I had been raised. The same with my husband. We love our son very much and we want him to grow up to be Godly and a model citizen. We didn’t want our son to become rebellious, spoiled, and a jail bird. We wanted him to know that authority should be respected. We wanted him to learn that bad behavior has consequences. We still feel this way. But I was wrong in letting fear and tradition guide my parenting. I believed that if I did not spank my son he would grow up to be an awful person. I believed that spanking was the main way to discipline and that it was commanded by God. I took the verses in Proverbs that I had heard all my life way out of context and built a theology on them. My Dad knew the Bible well and he always told me to never build a theology on just one verse. He said that if it’s mean’t to be theology then it’ll be supported by verses in the Old and New Testament and to always take things in context. My Dad taught me this but he didn’t always apply it. Why? Because of tradition, fear, and just plain human fallibility that we all have. I pick and chose what verses in Proverbs were to be taken literally. Admittedly, I ignored most of them. I didn’t check to see if the New Testament mentioned a literal rod and if the apostles made spanking a huge theology issue, like so many conservatives do. I just took it on faith because that’s how my Daddy did it and his daddy and so on. Plus, I heard that kids who weren’t spanked were little snots. Anywho, I did not want to hate and ruin my child by not spanking him. I wanted to be the most loving parent by keeping him from a future in jail. Please note, this is my story and my reasons.
I am in no way saying that all parents who nonabusively spank are doing so for these reasons. I can only speak for myself and why I did it.
Spanking “worked” at first. I hate using the word “worked” because children aren’t machines. But this is the way my thinking went. I thought if you spanked, your kids would become model citizens. It made sense and still does on some level when kids are smaller. It seems better to swat a toddler’s hand when they reach for the stove than to let them burn themselves. You can’t reason with little children. But I believe there are other discipline methods available and you can often remove the child from a situation. Kids at that age are more compliant when you discipline them. Yes, if you don’t discipline your kids then they will end up undisciplined. That’s common sense. But spanking is not the only form of discipline and it’s not often the best method.
By Giorgio Conrad (1827-1889). (scan) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Even pro-spankers like James Dobson state that at about 7 or so spanking becomes uneffective. Children are more dependent on their parents at an early age. When they begin to learn how to be independent they don’t worship every word their parents say. They’ll often test you and ask why something is done. That’s natural as we age. As an adult I don’t accept everything I’m told. I test it. Well, I had to learn to do that as a child and even more so as a teenager. Our job as parents is to teach children how to thrive in adulthood. They’ve got to think for themselves. Naturally as children get older the more they need to know about the “why’s” of things. Do they have to always have an explanation? Of course not. The police don’t have to lecture me on why I should wear a seat belt. Now, am I more willing to wear one because I’ve been told of the dangers without it? Absolutely. Be honest for a second. Do you always obey the speed limit? Are you more law abiding when cops are around? It’s easy to be compliant when you know you’ll be punished. But if you don’t know why you’re doing something then you are more likely to be sneaky. When our kids leave the house will they follow our teachings just because we “said so”? Or will they rebel? Corporal punishment isn’t the end all.
Michael was super compliant until he hit four. My son developed a strong will. I found that the more I spanked him the more rebellious he got. I was provoking him to wrath. If I tried to break his will then our relationship suffered. By the way, the Bible never says we shouldn’t be our child’s friend. I get the concern behind this statement but it is used for absolute truth when it is only opinion. True friends tell you the hard truth and love you with tough love. I pray that I am a true friend to my son. I CAN be a parent and a friend. I’m certainly not his enemy! People told my mom that we were too close. My Mom is my best friend. Guess who I talked to when I was suicidal? My mom! I would never be that honest with a dictator that never gave me any say. Also, God the Father, the perfect parent, is my best friend too. Jesus even calls us friends. That’s proof enough right there that someone can have authority and still be friends.
By George Bernard O’Neill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Any who, the more I pushed to dominate, the more my son pushed back. How could I teach him about God’s love and ever expect him to respect my authority if he hated me? No discipline is fun. Discipline is a must if you want to be disciplined. Common sense. But we can provoke our kids to wrath. We can harden them towards authority. They can be compliant on the outside but rebellious inside. When we don’t give grace then we set our kids up for failure. When we act like we know it all and never humbly admit our mistakes, our kids suffer. They need to know it’s okay to be imperfect.
I found myself apologizing and repenting constantly. I’d like to say that I never responded in anger…that I never yelled, but the truth is that both of our strong wills met and it was explosive. I am also very strong willed. We are both super sensitive. What some kids may take as constructive criticism, Michael will take as hatred. I did not need to break his will or his spirit. I cried when I saw that my “discipline” either puffed up rebellion or deflated his very person. I wanted respect. I wanted to do the right and loving thing. But I did not want to see fear in my son’s eyes. When I spanked without anger I found myself getting calloused….numb. I praise God that I didn’t believe in spanking until the will is broken, because a numb person could spank to death. I believed it was bad to give more than three swats to the bottom. I also believed it was wrong to leave marks. Still, I felt uneasy the older he got.
The more I studied scripture the less I believed that the “rod” of Proverbs mean’t spanking and honestly I never took it literally anyways. It’s not like I used an actual shepherd’s rod. I also didn’t believe in stoning kids etc. Even when I wasn’t a New Covenant believer and I believed that parts of the Torah should still be followed I still didn’t take certain verses literally. I’ve yet to meet a pro-spanker who takes the verse completely literally. They use a paddle or their hands.
As my traditional methods failed, I realized that I had been lied to. Spanking wasn’t the only method and it wasn’t the perfect method. I saw sweet children who had never been spanked. I realized that spanking was making my child rebel and act out. He wasn’t getting better. He was getting worse. And then I realized the most eye opening truth on parenting: children are human beings not robots. I did not really want to teach my child compliance. I didn’t want him to obey every authority & tradition without question. I wanted him to be a strong leader and to exercise his will to think. I wanted him to follow truth because he realizes it’s right…not because he was told so and if he doesn’t, boy he’s going to get punished. I didn’t want to train up a pharisee. I wanted to parent with grace just as God the Father does. I did not want a human vending machine. I wanted a human being! I want Michael to obey out of love and a Godly heart. I know that is possible because he is a Christian. The Holy Spirit is Michael’s greatest teacher.
I realized that more and more that my beautiful boy was becoming legalistic and it was my fault. I put the law above grace. Me and his daddy had to change. It wasn’t just about stopping spanking. It was a whole new way of thinking about children.
By unknown, authors Ellis Town, Sophie May, and Ella Farman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Do I still struggle with legalism? Yes. Do I still struggle with anger? Yes. Am I a perfect parent now? Nope, never will be. Does my son get away with hell? No way. Grace based and heart focused parenting is actually harder than “the just spanking method”. Michael has to look inward and at why he’s done something. I have to help him realize why something is wrong and how he can change. I have to point him to scripture, not as a manipulative tool, but rather as a way to abide with Jesus so he CAN change. I admit my faults even more than before and I make it clear that Mommy has to abide with Jesus for help too. We use scripture cards in our Repentance corner but Michael knows the scripture can help even when he’s not being disciplined. He can at anytime look at verses that help with any issues he has. I no longer teach Michael that he can be good on his own or that being good will please God. He knows that only God can help him change and that God loves him even when he makes mistakes. God’s love isn’t conditional.
Has Michael turned into the perfect kid? No, I’d be terrified that he was actually an alien if he did appear perfect. I’d poke him to make sure he was human. Have I seen over night change? No, grace based parenting deals with the heart and that takes time. Yes, I have seen progress in his actions. It’s slow but it is there. Is he still rebellious? Yes, at times. I’m still dealing with my own rebellious heart and I’m 29! Heart change takes a life time. Once we have success in one area of our life then we will always find another area that needs work. Michael will still be imperfect when he’s an adult, whether we spanked or not. Now he has the tools to go to God. He doesn’t have to fear being raw with us or God. Michael still has certain behavior issues but I’ve seen other behavior problems decline a good bit. Michael’s strong will can be used for the good. He just needs to know how to use it. Had I broken his will then I would’ve lost his amazing personality. Some of the greatest leaders and inventors questioned authority. Corrupt authority should be questioned and good authority can handle scrutiny. God definitely let His people question him. There are tons of examples. I’d say Moses and David talked to God in ways that any person of my upbringing would see as disrespectful. They didn’t even say “Yes, Sir”! 🙂
- I believe the “Pearl” method of spanking IS abusive. I’veThe Pearls have a book about how to train a child. They teach that children should be spanked until their will is broken and they suggest using plumber’s supply line and similar objects to do it! They tell parents to never spank when they are angry. That seems wise except with the pearl method of spanking til you break the will, parents can become calloused. They detach from what they are actually doing, abusing their kids! Strong willed children may be beat to death and of course there would be bruising. This method is not Godly. It is a horrible twisting of scripture! What they say about kids that are spanked being better, isn’t true. Spanked kids DO act up too. Compliance does not mean good. Jesus makes it pretty clear that if you do good deeds without love then they are meaningless. Of course abused and terrified kids would be compliant to their abusers! Sadly, a family with several children did beat their adopted children to death. Evidence suggests that this family did not start out cruel. People were shocked. This family literally thought they were following the Bible and a good parenting method. There have been more issues within certain fringe movements that follow the Pearl method. (Note: I respect and agree with some of the Pearl’s teachings on marriage, and I appreciate Mrs. Pearl’s book for wives. But I can not agree with the child rearing book. I do pray for them though, and for all who follow the Pearl method.)
An examination of the Pearl Method: http://theologica.ning.com/profiles/blogs/to-train-up-a-child-an
More info on the abuse: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2011/october/when-child-discipline-becomes-abuse.html
- So I want to point out how scripture is twisted in pro-spanking beliefs, not because all spanking is bad, but because I pray that Christian parents won’t fall into this lie of breaking the will that leads to child abuse.
- You should not be leaving bruises. You should not beat your child until they submit. There is nothing Biblical about this. Here are some wonderful articles with information on the verses in Proverbs. They say it way better than I do. Please please research this. I pray that your parenting choices, whether to non-abusively spank or to not spank are based on educated decisions not twisted scripture and fear…or even just because that’s how it’s always been done. I know good people that were never spanked. I know good people that were spanked. And I know good people that were abused. That does not mean that the end justifies the means.
By Leon Brooks [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
More Christians are speaking out about their decision not to spank. Even pastors are weighing in on the twisting of scripture in Proverbs.
A Pastor talks about the “spanking” verses in Proverbs: context, culture, the Hebrew language, and all.
Are the rod verses literal or figurative?
A video conversation on spanking ( a good place to converse on this issue. I think I’ve said all I’m going to, on my blog.)
Breaking a child’s will
A parent of an Autistic child weighs in
How to understand the language of the Bible
Behavior Modification vs. Changed hearts
Disclaimer: I don’t know all of these people’s beliefs on every subject and I may disagree with some. I don’t have to agree with everything a person believes to agree with them in some ways.
Well, I’ve said all I can on this issue. I’m out in the open now. It’s my story. Shoot! It’s been four hours! Wow! Anywho, I don’t spend a lot of time debating, so you won’t get that from me. Other bloggers are more open to that. I think I’ve explained myself plenty and I know enough of the other belief to say that arguing won’t change how I feel. I respect your right to an opinion though and I do like hearing from my readers. But any questions you have can be answered in the above articles or a google search ;)….most importantly your own research into the Bible. Anywho, this is a fairly new story because it took years for me to change my view. My husband and I just officially agreed not to spank any future children, although we had stopped spanking awhile ago.I like to share official changes in beliefs on my blog that’s about me and my beliefs. It’s comforting to know that there are people who actually care about what I have to say. Thank you for giving me a voice 🙂 (you know what I mean).
God bless & remember the High King lives! ~Amber Dover
PS: Here are some great books:
Heart Based parenting
Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character ~ We’re working through this one now. It says anger is a signal but never the solution. Very good so far.
She’s Gonna Blow: Real Help for Mom’s Dealing with Anger ~I love this book. It’s raw and it’s convicting. It addresses what others cover up. I suggest this book for every parent and would-be parent. It can help with any relationship really.
My first Mommy confessions post: http://amberdover.com/2014/05/16/mommy-confessions-the-beginning/