In which I talk about spanking

The sheer amount of visits I get to this blog simply because I once wrote a (rather ridiculous, off-the-cuff) post about spanking is sobering. (Also, the phrases that include the word “spanking” in my stats tracker can make one fairly certain of an impending apocalypse. Or at the very least, OH MY GAWD, there are some weird people out there!)

Since I get so many visits about spanking, it seemed appropriate to simply write my spanking philosophy out (and prepare for the deluge).

But there is another reason I feel the need to share this. A few weeks ago, I wrote (some think with too much honesty) about my complex relationship with Christianity and church. I always grapple with those issues, those concerns and doubts. That isn’t anything new. But the impetus for my upset in this instance was related to Lydia Schatz, a nine year old girl in the States that was beaten to death by her adoptive parents. Her parents, while clearly at fault, were following a method of teaching common in many evangelical churches by the Pearl family which advocates “training up a child” or “chastisement” and literally preaches the importance of striking one’s children to ensure immediate, unquestioning obedience (in this instance, with a 1/4″ line of plumbing). It also has roots in other teachings surrounding child training, sleep training and other methods of control to be exercised over children.

I hate that people use God as an excuse to hit or control their children.

Full Disclosure

I am an attachment parent. I practice extended exclusive breastfeeding, baby wearing, co-sleeping and vaccine vigilance (sometimes delay, sometimes eschew) among other things. Much of my motivation for this had its roots in how my mother parented us (long before the phrase attachment parenting was bandied about or Dr. Sears was a household name) but it also has much of its roots in my faith journey and my understanding of the Father/Mother heart of God.

I admit that this type of parenting is much more natural for me. (I am not a black-and-white person by any stretch and I recognise that many people that don’t practice these behaviours are wonderful parents with a strong love for their children.) But for me, parenting this way was life-giving, both for me and for my children.

Cognitive Dissonance AKA “Well, that doesn’t make any sense.”

I assumed I would spank. I hadn’t ever thought of any alternatives. I remember mocking parents for trying to “talk things out” with their kids, laughing that the child was the boss of the parent.

After all, who among us is not the perfect parent?...until we have our own children, that is.

Many of the parents around me spanked their children. I even heard many sermons preaching that spanking is right and good and godly. In fact, one pastor taught, we should spank for every single infraction.

As my eldest in particular got older, we were faced with some decisions. It happened the first time Anne hit. I smacked her hand and said sternly, “Don’t hit.”

Got that? To stop her from hitting, I hit her.

My husband and I looked at each. “Well, that makes no sense,” he said.

My motivation for gentle discipline

My motivation is to parent my children the way that I believe God parents me. To me, this mean unconditional love, drawing near to me, seeking transformation not adherence to a law. I want to be a path for them to follow, instead of an obstacle to overcome.

When I think about how God parents me, how Jesus loves me, it’s not behaviour modification focused (just getting me to Behave Right). It’s about my heart. For instance, do I want to be a nicer person by sheer force of will? Or do I want to truly be a more loving person? Why would I want less for my tinies?

Do I want quaking instant obedience? Marionettes of fear? Or do I want the hearts of my children knit to mine, obedience born out of love and understanding, a connection of joy and gentleness, self-control, kindness, wholeness and love? (I wrote here about how we practice “time-in” instead of “time-out.“)

The short list of why I don’t spank

  1. Personally, I believe it’s morally wrong to strike a child. Also, it isn’t Biblical.
  2. Hitting teaches hitting as a solution.
  3. It creates an adversarial relationship between parents and children – Us vs. Them.
  4. It can easily lead to abuse.
  5. It doesn’t work over the long term.
  6. It promotes anger or gives place to anger in both the parent and the child.
  7. It doesn’t teach inner discipline.
  8. It creates a behavioural response out of fear instead of love.

*The majority of this list was compiled from Dr. Sears’ article on Spanking and Elizabeth Panley’s article from Gentle Christian Mothers.

So what do I do if I don’t spank?

Short Answer: It depends. But I believe that respectful, positive and consistent discipline is the key.

Here are some excellent resources for techniques and ideas or methods as alternatives to spanking.

My Recommended Reading on this topic

So there you have it.

I am scared to hit “publish” because my heart isn’t one of judgement or finger-pointing. I don’t know more than you. I don’t have anything about parenting figured out. I am learning something every day. I screw up a lot.

But I want to be honest and share my heart too.

So away I go.

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discipline, parenting, spanking


  1. KIOS: Parenting, Part 11: Gentle Discipline « Salmon and Souvlaki - May 18, 2012

    [...] a lot written out there on the Web about the Christian viewpoint for not spanking.  Here’s one blog post that I particularly like along with a follow-up post by the same author about gentle [...]

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