Uh oh – the dreaded “spanking” post

father son holding hands

The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.

Prov 29.15

We spanked our children. Some more than others, but we did. I’d like to say at all times they deserved it, but I’m sure that’s not entirely true. I’d like to say I never did it in anger, but I know that’s not true. But did I always do it in love and with intentions to train – absolutely. God gave me these little people to raise and cherish, and honour and mold and shape the gift they are to the world. It’s a big deal raising a child. And as such, with the love of a father, discipline included hugs and chats, conversation and listening, but for us it also included spanks, time outs, or squeezes of the hand. 

This stopped for most of my kids by the time they reached school age, but sometimes extended beyond it – up to grade three I think. By those ages, reasoning and other consequences took precedence. Plus, they say up to age five you’ve done 80% of your work in disciplining your children. (Don’t be scared by that statement if it frightens you – it frightened me. I just kept calling on the grace of God and the love of God to cover a multitude of wrongs. Parenting choices included…)

Some people used different things to spank and some didn’t spank at all. We interviewed and observed a lot of families about this. In my own childhood I only remember being threatened with the belt. One time I remember making my mom cry, and when my dad came home from work and found out about it, he chased me up the stairs pulling his belt out of his work pants as he followed me. I still have vivid images of that moment, now with laughter. I’ve never run so fast in my life as that day. I’ve never been more grateful to hear him say, “You better stay in that time out until I come get you” in my life. I welcomed that time out in lieu of belt spanking. But I will say being chased up the stairs in jest by Ali still makes me squirm. But, my dad assures me that I was spanked as a child. I just have no recollection. That just tells me the other experiences far outweigh the memory of those linked to spanks.

For us, I’d say 95% was done with the hand spank or squeezing the hand. It was easier to gauge how much it actually hurt if we felt it too. On a few times did we use a wooden spoon, but that had a more convincing result. A quick, single whack worked wonders. But, Ali didn’t like us using any sort of implement and I agreed for the most part. She recalled an instance from her childhood where she stole the spoon from her mom and used it to whack her back. We peel with laughter now thinking of little Ali trying to “spank” her mom.

We had pretty strict rules about spanking. The most we were ever to give in one instance was three spanks, and that was usually reserved for lying or sometimes willful, repeated disobedience. I admit a few times I spanked 5 times for willful disobedience, but I always got disciplined by Ali afterwards and I would have to go apologize to the children as a result.

But overall, lying was the worst thing you could do in our home, and still is to be honest. No matter what the situation, if you were honest it resulted in leniency. Consequences were measured according to your honesty. Even to this day, I believe our kids are as honest with us as they are because we laid this foundation while they were children.

And to help with honesty, we’d always explain that we expected full disclosure or the consequences would be higher. And it’s also great that kids are horrible liars in general, so the “God gives mommies and daddies special ability to know when their kids are telling the truth and when they’re not” was an easy trump card to play. Our kids thought simple discernment was like a superpower from God to parents. 🙂 So this has allowed trust to grow exponentially in our house (in most situations). But I’ll talk more about disclosure in another entry (Proverbs 20:12).

But back to spanking – each child’s needs differed. With our daughter I just needed to speak sternly to her – I maybe threatened spanks but that was as far as it got. We rarely had to spank her for that reason.

In my own life, I’ve learned how being honest with the Lord because otherwise he allows my circumstances to discipline me until I’m honest with the Lord and honest with myself. Sure, grace and mercy are always available, but when you ask the Lord to refine you, there are some things that God can’t let mercy and grace do the work of in the fire. David had to endure hardship with Saul, Moses had to walk through some tough stuff – all to grow in their honesty with the Lord and with themselves. It made them better leaders. And, once I have been honest with the Lord and with myself, at the point when discipline has been received, he can reason and teach me so much more.

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