A touchy subject

Ever since I’ve been blogging, I occasionally get comments alluding to the importance of spanking children, and then other people comment in response, advising against the practice. I find this interesting—the polarization, the undercurrent of strong emotions. No one seems to ride the fence on this matter, except for me.

Here’s what I think:
*Spanking isn’t evil.
*Spanking isn’t the best option.
*Spanking can be extremely detrimental.
*Spanking is lazy discipline.
*Spanking can be helpful.

*Parents who spank can be excellent parents (and vice versa).
*Parents who don’t spank can be excellent parents (and vice versa).
*Parenting to be The Best is too stressful—it’s more encouraging, practical, and realistic to strive to be Good Enough.

I also think:
*It is dangerous to advise people to spank because you don’t know their situation and all the variables.
*It is important to encourage parents to think of creative ways to discipline children.
*It is unhelpful to stand in judgement of other parents.

*To assume that parents will always be consistent and calm when administering spanks is a dangerous assumption—we are all deeply and irrevocably human.
*There are an infinite number of personalities and temperaments (both parents and children alike)—to assume that we know all about the different types of children based on our two or four or eight children is another dangerous assumption.

How do all these beliefs play out in my life? I try to discipline my children using other methods besides spanking, but sometimes, in my less glamorous moments, I spank my kids. I am not proud of that fact. I don’t think it is effective or helpful, and I feel lazy when I do it. So I keep pushing myself to try to rise above that inclination—sometimes I succeed fabulously and sometimes I fail horribly.

I don’t think spanking (or not spanking) makes (or breaks) a good parent-child relationship; from my experience, it’s the quality time, among other things, that cements the bonds. (My parents spanked me, and not usually in a gentle, calm, consistent way, either; we have a very close relationship.) Spanking can be a deterrent to deep relationships, but so can many other things—a too-busy household, sarcasm, the inability/refusal to celebrate each other, and a focus on materialism, just to name a few.

I have not even come close to fleshing out all the information and perspectives surrounding this very touchy subject. Everybody offers a different slant, a different reason, for what they believe. I would love to hear what you think.

A Most Important Note! Please, please, please, comment with gentleness. Remember, we can all better understand each other when we share bits of our own stories, our insecurities, struggles, mistakes, and hurts; if you feel a need to criticize, please be vulnerable first.

About One Year Ago: Donuts!!!


  • Kate

    Just the other day I was wondering if you'd ever written about this.

    Someday I will (write about it) too, but only after I find a good way of going about it.

    So touchy.

  • Wendy

    Great post! Though I don't agree with all of it (not like you really need to care whether I agree or no), I think you've done some great reflecting on your feelings about it. I definitely agree with the asterisks under the "and" at the beginning.

  • 40winkzzz

    i agree with every one of your "thinks" except one: "spanking is lazy discipline." if you had said "spanking CAN BE lazy discipline, i would agree wholeheartedly with that.

    hubz & i were part of a church in our dating & early married years which stressed spanking as the ONLY form of discipline. sad to say (and i hate to admit it), we were rather barinwashed by this, and it did unfortunately have a great affect on our parenting for the first several years. when you see spanking as the "only" valid form of discipline/correction, and you don't want to be spanking all the time, then you fall into the trap of not disciplining. when my oldest was 4 i read kevin leman's book, "making kids mind without losing yours" and that was very helpful in changing my outlook on discipline.

    i could say more but i would be here all day and i am a little late to the party anyway. 🙂

  • Sarah

    What a well written post. I am too passionate perhaps about this subject.
    It just comes down to right and wrong to me…black and white. Sometimes there are no shades of gray. Hitting is wrong. So don't do it. Ever. To anyone, except in self-defense. Especially don't do it to people you love. Not in the name of religion, not in the name of love.
    Great post, love your candid, HONEST way of writing.

  • Anonymous

    WOW – yeah I agree with so much of what you said and many of the comments.

    Spanking in and of it's self isn't as much of the issue as ME. I so agree just as much damage can be done though other things that go on in the house. Our children need to feel safe, loved, and know there is consistency.

    I think that goes with any type of discipline we chose. If we are just emotional about it, we aren't being effective. I say all this not so much in judgment of others, but as a reminder to myself to check my EMOTIONS at the door before I open my mouth to correct bad behavior or character flaws in my children.

    Thanks for being open and trying to have a honest dialogue about the issue.

  • Anonymous

    I don't spank chiefly because I have a temper and am pretty sure I would lash out. Better for me to not do it at all.

    The Old Testament supports all sorts of behavior I won't emulate. I'll follow Jesus rather than Solomon.

  • dr perfection

    I would not use spanking because I do not support violence and hitting another human being is violent and not necessary. There are other effective ways to discipline.

    If parents who spank find that they are sometimes "out of control" when hitting their child, why do it at all?

  • Anonymous

    You have indeed brought up a touchy subject, which is sure to warrant lots of feedback. You go, Mama JJ!

    I have only two general comments:
    #1-The purpose of discipline (in any form, not just spanking) is to reach the hearts of our children; if we do that, the behavior will take care of itself.

    #2-For those of us who strive to live according to God's ways, spanking is addressed repeatedly in the Bible, but only within certain parameters…NEVER in revenge or retaliation or anger. My sinful use of it (and it happens) does not mean the method is bad or ungodly and should be completely forsaken. As with everything else in life, my OWN sinfulness is the problem. I have found it true that there is a right way to spank IF I am in control of myself, and IF I remember that my end goal is restoring the relationship between us and promoting in my child a soft toward God. It is SO rewarding when I do it rightly. When they want me to hold them on my lap and hug them and tell them I love them after a spanking, they are so tender toward me and toward God.

    An excellent book on the subject of heart-oriented discipline: "Don't Make Me Count to Three!" by Ginger Plowman. I skim through this for a refresher every time I find my spanking getting sinful (on my part) and ineffective (on the part of my boys)…so many times I've completely lost count.


  • You Can Call Me Jane

    First, I want to commend you for bringing up the topic and being honest in your discussion of it.

    This topic is hard to write about- by evidence of the fact that I have written several paragraphs and erased them, multiple times, while trying to just comment on this topic!

    I agree that each family needs to make their own decision based on their knowledge of their child and themselves. That said, my prayer is that any decision to spank be given much thought, consideration of the pros and cons and never be done in anger.

    Spanking does occur at our house. It's rare and used only after a string of other consequences have been tried and have failed to alter a serious behavior.

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