Corporal Punishment

Frank the Financially Savvy Atheist (The F.S.A.): Why I don’t spank my kids
Frank the Financially Savvy Atheist (The F.S.A.): Spanking redux ((I realize that franky’s posts are meant as his own personal statement, rather than a suggestion or recommendation to the general populace. But since he _did_ indirectly provide me with the topic, consider his posts a good starting point and warmup for the article below.))

Corporal punishment. A very touchy, sensitive, and controversial topic. Many parents ((I would even go so far as to say _most_ parents.)) use corporal punishment when disciplining their children. Some use it wisely and effectively; some do not. Several questions surrounding the topic of corporal punishment need to be answered: Does corporal punishment work? Is it allowable in the course of raising one’s children? How does one prevent the use of corporal punishment from escalating into child abuse?

*Does corporal punishment work?*

The answer to the first question is, “Yes, usually.” Spanking was always very effective with both me and my brother during our growing up years. It usually only took once for me to learn that a particular behavior was wrong and that I should not do it again. The same was generally true for my brother. For many parents, spanking _does_ work very well in administering correction for things done wrong.

Of course, for every rule there are the exceptions. With some children, spanking only serves to make them more belligerent and rebellious. In these cases alternative forms of correction should be found.

*Is it allowable in the raising of one’s children?*

Some people would say, definitely yes. Others would say, definitely no. And there are a wide variety of reasons for both responses. For the Christian, “Proverbs 13:24”: comes immediately to mind:

bq. He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

Perhaps a more common proverb is, ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’. And there is wisdom in this ideology. Many a child who has had discipline withheld by the parents has ended up spoiled and very problematic. ((It happens with children who receive wise discipline, as well, but it is much less common.))

I don’t believe that Scripture advocates spanking for all offenses or that it advocates beating your child senseless when you _do_ spank. But I do believe that it communicates the judicious use of the appropriate punishment when teaching your children the difference between right and wrong.

*How does one prevent the use of corporal punishment from escalating into child abuse?*

Administering corporal punishment requires a parent who has strong self-control. A parent who spanks when he or she is angry risks losing control of their anger and overdoing the spanking, risking severe injury to their child. As such, the parent must make sure that he or she is calm and in control of their emotions. Never spank when you are angry. If the child’s disobedience has made you mad, a cooling off period is probably required. Once you have had a chance to collect yourself and think rationally, then the talk with the child can take place, the spanking administered with care, and your love for the child affirmed. But spanking when you are only seeing red is a dangerous thing to do.

*Principles for Corporal Punishment*

Perhaps the first part of administering corporal punishment is having a system in place determining wrong behavior. This is something that a child learns as they grow up and are able to understand more, but the parent should take great care to train their child to know and recognize what sort of behavior is right and what sort of behavior is wrong.

Secondly, when the child _has_ disobeyed, determine what punishment is most suitable for the offense. Some specialists advocate spanking, since it is possibly the most severe form of punishment, only in cases of blatant rebellion or when the behavior proves physically dangerous, either for the child or for someone else. Of course, since spanking does not always work with all children, punishment can be creatively tailored to the child. Spanking _did_ work for me, but I also got grounded or had to wash dishes (a chore I absolutely despised).

Thirdly, when you as the parent are calm and rational (see above), sit down with the child before you spank, discuss the offense together and make sure that the child knows and understands why that behavior was wrong and why it merits a spanking. In this way the child recognizes that his or her behavior _was_ wrong, and they will be far more likely to avoid that behavior in the future. Some parents spank their children, either without cause or without ever explaining why the behavior was wrong. These children often, then, become confused because they don’t know which of their actions might inspire their parents’ wrath.

Fourthly, spank with restraint. By this I mean, do not spank so much or so hard that the child is injured. With many parents, three swats is the limit of the spanking. It prevents them from getting carried away, and it prevents the child from sustaining injury. I also suggest that the belt be put away, since some of the most severe injuries from spanking result from the use of a belt. ((Belts are notoriously unreliable as they cannot be adequately controlled. Belts have been known to wrap around the child’s body, leaving welts and bruises on the stomach, genitalia, and other sensitive areas.)) A hand or a paddle are both much safer options.

Fifthly, affirm your love for your child. Remind them that you punish them _because_ you love them and care only about their well-being. Hug them and assure them that you are not angry and do not hate them. Ultimately, this helps the child accept the punishment as just and learn from it.

Do I advocate the use of corporal punishment? In most cases, yes. I have seen it work wonders in many childrens’ lives, and it certainly kept _me_ on the straight and narrow. I do suggest, however, that if you are prone to irrational and uncontrollable anger that perhaps you find other creative (yet safe) methods of punishment. While correcting a child’s misbehavior is a necessary part of child-rearing, it is not worth risking their health or their safety.

When you punish your child, do it with love and compassion and self-control, not with anger or rage.

Have anything to add to the conversation?