The Fine Art of Discipline
How will you correct your child when he misbehaves? Today, Dennis and Barbara Rainey explain why disciplining a child is a loving act and why spanking is an effective means of correcting a child if done in an appropriate manner.
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How will you correct your child when he misbehaves? Today, Dennis and Barbara Rainey explain why disciplining a child is a loving act and why spanking is an effective means of correcting a child if done in an appropriate manner.
How will you correct your child when he misbehaves?
Barbara: Spanking is giving a child a measured amount of pain in close association with something that they have done wrong. The problem with spanking – the reason that it’s so often criticized, and justly so is because parents often are out of control with their children. It’s not a measured amount of pain, it’s not thought through ahead of time. So there’s a vast difference between abusive, physical harm to a child, and a measured amount of pain that’s administered by a loving parent.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 20. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey and I’m Bob Lepine. If you’ve taken spanking off the list of potential corrective measures as you train your children, you may want to pay attention to some of what we talk about on today’s program.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.
Dennis: Bob, I want to interrupt you for a second. I just want to say thank you to those folks who are donors to FamilyLife Today. You not only make possible this broadcast that you’re hearing today, but you’re also making possible an exciting new video series that we’re about to offer here on FamilyLife Today as well.
Bob: Yes, the subject we’re addressing this week: The subject of early childhood discipline – we got together with a group of young parents—some single parents, some couples, and talked about the issues that young parents face as they raise toddlers, and preschoolers. Anytime you unpack that subject, the subject of corporal punishment is going to come up.
Dennis: It’s controversial! I just again want to say “Thanks to the donors who make this possible because you know what, we have a generation of young people who are starting their families, and they don’t know how to do it right from the start.”
Bob: Well, it was interesting to watch the heads nod as we were with these young parents. As you and Barbara shared both from what the scriptures say, and from your own experience as parents in this area—we’re going to just jump right to it. This is part two of a series called Right From the Start—a series that addresses early childhood discipline with Dennis and Barbara Rainey.
Dennis: I just want to share with you five of these biblical assumptions that I think build on each other as we move toward helping you understand what the scriptures have to say about this subject of discipline in general, and spanking in specific. First of all children are a gift from God. Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold children are a heritage from the Lord – a gift from God.” That really leads to the second assumption that amplifies on the first, and that is because God gave us the child, we then are to assume the stewardship of that gift. If you look at the origin of the gift, the gift came from God who is a spiritual being, He’s the creator of the universe – the ruler of the universe.
As a result, children are to be raised to be image bearers of God. They’re not just one of six billion people, they really do have a special plan that God has designed for them. Proverbs chapter 4 verses 20-27 talks about how a father says to his son: Listen my son, and I’ll show you the way of life. That’s really a synopsis of our assignment as parents: To show, and instruct our children in how to live life.
But, the problem is assumption number three: Assumption number three says, “Children are by nature three things – well actually four things”! Number one they’re selfish – Isaiah 53:6 says We all like sheep have gone astray each of us has turned to his own way.
Bob: Let me see if I can get agreement on that? Children are selfish – do you all agree? Can we get some heads bobbing?
Dennis: They do not need to be trained in how to be selfish do they? They do it naturally! Secondly, children are by nature deceitful – Jeremiah 17:9 - as if you needed any evidence from the Bible from this, but it says, “The heart is deceitful; wicked – who can know it’s motives?” Children don’t have to be taught how to lie either? Third – children are by nature foolish. Proverbs 22:15 talks about foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. Then it goes on to talk about how you drive that foolishness out of the heart of a child.
Really your assignment as parents is to: By the time they reach adulthood as much as you possibly can under God’s enablement move as much of the foolishness out so you can move wisdom in. Wisdom is skill in everyday living – Godly skill in everyday living.
The last thing that children by nature need is: They need instruction, training, and boundaries. So, assumption number four: Discipline is necessary to correct the selfish, willful, foolishness of a child. Hebrews chapter 12 verse 6 – I think I read this earlier: For whom the Lord loves He disciplines – He trains them; He develops them. The context of discipline has to be a loving, nurturing relationship with the child. Discipline is never to be administered from a hateful, angry, hard-hearted parent. It needs to be a parent who is also growing spiritually, and who is responsive to God in his or her own heart.
Finally the fifth assumption that I’d give you is: The discipline of your child should include spanking as one of your options. It’s not the only option, but we believe it is one option. Proverbs 22:15: Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him. Proverbs 13:24: He who withholds his rod hates his son. That’s pretty harsh words! But, he who loves him, disciplines him. I think discipline, and spanking in specific is demonstration that you love your children. I do not think your child will equate being spanked with you not loving them, and hating them, or abusing them.
Bob: Were you spanked as a child?
Dennis: Many times!
Bob: Barbara, were you spanked?
Barbara: I think so.
Bob: You think so?
Barbara: I don’t have vivid memories of being spanked.
Bob: How many of you were spanked growing up – raise your hands. Okay, we have the majority of the audience that had some kind of corporal punishment. But, it’s important for us to define terms because some of what is criticized when it comes to spanking these days is – you’d be critical of it too. It’s not appropriate for parents to be lashing out in anger.
Barbara: That’s right! Spanking is giving a child a measured amount of pain in close association with something that they have done wrong; whether its an attitude, or an action. So, the gist of that definition is a measured amount of pain. The problem with spanking – the reason that it’s so often criticized, and justly so is because parents often are out of control with their children.
It’s not a measured amount of pain, it’s not thought through ahead of time – there’s not a logic to it. It’s not necessarily tied closely to a behavior; the parent doesn’t get down on the child’s level and talk to them. So, there is a vast difference between abusive, physical harm to a child, and a measured amount of pain that’s administered by a loving parent who gets down on the child’s level. So, the distinctions are very broad, and very clear when you look at the facts, and the difference between the two of them.
One of the things that I came across in doing some research for this was: The American College of Pediatricians has done a study in the last few years. They presented a report in December of 2007 with their conclusions. They concluded that corporal punishment needs to be a tool that parents be given the freedom to use in raising their children.
It’s an excellent report, and I encourage you to go on-line, and look it up, and maybe even print it. But, one of the things that they said in the report that I thought was especially helpful in discerning the difference between appropriate corporal punishment as they define it, or appropriate spanking as we’re calling it, and inappropriate which is child abuse is this: They defined disciplinary spanking as physically non-injurious intended to modify behavior.
See, so much of it has to do with the heart. A parent who loves their child, who is involved with the child, who has the goal in mind, is going to administer spanking out of love, and with the purpose of modifying the child’s behavior. Whereas they say that physical abuse is defined as non-accidental injury inflicted by a parent, or a caregiver. Even the posture that a parent assumes when you’re giving a spanking makes it completely different than an abusive situation.
An abuser is one who stands above the child, and hits or kicks or slaps or whatever, and uses that power and size to inflict injury on a child. But, a loving parent picks that child up, and puts it in the lap, and we get eye to eye with that baby, or that toddler, or that five year old, and we talk to them about what they did wrong. We use appropriate language, and we tell them how much we love them, and we say, “Now Mommy or Daddy needs to give you a spanking because of what you did”!
We’re communicating all the way through the process, and we’re at eye level, and we’re holding them, and we’re communicating love, so that when we administer the spanking it’s done in a context of love, and the child knows that Mommy and Daddy love the child. Then we pray at the end. So, there are a lot of components that make giving a child a spanking, or some kind of corporal punishment completely different than a parent or a caregiver who is abusing a child.
Bob: Isn’t a child’s self esteem going to be damaged if you’re spanking that child regularly?
Barbara: Well, actually I believe the opposite is true. I think when you – a child knows intuitively that they’re doing wrong. They know that they’re crossing the line; they know that they’re manipulating their parents. They really want, and need I think in the core of their being for someone to love them enough to correct, and to train them, and show them the right way to do it. So, no I don’t think it’s at all detrimental to their self-esteem to give them an occasional spanking.
Dennis: I know this with our kids – this is just kind of a summary statement here: The overwhelming evidence in our family was that spanking was very, very positive. Frankly, I do not know how we would have raised six kids without it. Having said that, let me just make this real clear – this is not the only tool in the toolbox. We’re focusing on this because there’s a lot of misunderstanding, and misconception about this. I do find it interesting if you look at the Bible cover to cover, and look at the specific methods that are recommended by the Bible in terms of discipline of children, there really isn’t another specific method other than spanking.
Bob: The time outs not in the Bible?
Dennis: Not specifically!
I think God calls some times out. He parked them over in the wilderness for 40 years.
But, the point is don’t you find it interesting that the one thing the Bible does say in terms of raising kids is the one place where the culture, and the learned experts are attacking; wanting to rob I think parents of their courage in raising the next generation.
Bob: Okay, let’s take some questions – who has a question?
Question: Yes, how do you gage how hard to spank your child? You don’t want it too hard, but not too soft.
Bob: Wow, that’s a great question! How do you know where the line is?
Barbara: Well, two things I would share. One is – we determined that we would spank our children a certain number of swats depending on their age. So, a one-year-old child only got one swat. A two year old would get two; a three year old would get three up to a five year old who got the maximum of five. We never spanked more than five. So, that was one thing, but the second determining factor is to make sure that it actually produces pain, and I think that’s where some parents get caught up, and not administer it correctly.
I remember my oldest daughter when she first started spanking - she really just had this aversion to hurting her child, and I understand I don’t like hurting my children either. But, if it doesn’t produce pain it will not be effective. So, you decide how many, but then you have to spank them hard enough for them to actually feel pain, and cry. If they don’t cry it didn’t hurt, it didn’t work.
Bob: You have a question – yes?
Question: We’re in group two – we spank with intention. We don’t pop, but we actually spank to discipline. Our question would be when they are hitting their siblings, and then we turn around and spank them is the only time I have question. I don’t for lying or direct disobedience.
Bob: So spanking for hitting?
Barbara: Well, I would say that again it’s the attitude of the heart; because when a child is hitting another child he’s not hitting that child to discipline, as a parent would spank a child for training.
So, it really again goes back to the attitude of the child. You’re correcting that attitude because the child is hitting someone because he’s angry usually: Angry that he can’t play, or that his toy was taken away or whatever, so he’s taking that revenge on this child. Spanking is not an action of revenge; spanking is an action of correction. So, I know with out culture it does feel somewhat contradictory, but it’s two very different things because the motive of the heart for the child is to get even, and to inflict hurt or harm.
Bob: The child understands that what was in his heart when he was hitting his brother is not the same thing that’s in Mommy’s heart when she’s correcting him.
Barbara: Exactly – that’s correct!
Dennis: But children may try to equate the two at that point. That happened at your house? Yes, and here’s where children may hear something like that at daycare, or at Sunday school, or who knows where from children. They go to some kind of boot camp I think sometimes to get this stuff where they get all this training, and they learn what works. I think what you have to do is step in with firmness, and say, “No, this is not the same sweetheart.” We have two different approaches – you’re trying to really bring hurt as Barbara said to another person to get even or to bring the other person down – I’m trying to lift you up, I’m trying to train you to become a mature person, and know how to get along with people.
Bob: In fact don’t you think you can say you were angry with your brother weren’t you when you were hitting him? And the child will say yes. Mommy’s not angry with you, but Mommy’s trying to help you see you can’t do this. So, you point out to the child what’s different. So, that may be the way to solve that problem.
Barbara: Well, because we’re trying to correct the attitude of their heart, not just their behavior. The attitude of the child’s heart who is hitting is to hurt, and to cause harm whereas the parent’s heart is one of love, and to provide correction. So, when you are disciplining your child with spanking you point out the attitude of the heart the child’s having not just the action in which he is expressing it. Then you communicate that you’re doing this out of love, and that’s a great contrast that they can see because they know it’s true.
Bob: All right let’s take a question right up here.
Question: I had a question that was on top of another question about how much pain do you give a child when they’re being spanked. If you don’t give them enough pain, do you redo the spanking?
Barbara: The answer is yes you do, because it will not do any good if he does not feel pain in association with the spanking because it’s the pain in association with the spanking. As you talk to him about what he did wrong, it’s going to motivate him to not want to do that again. We’ve had that happen with our children. One particular instance that I remember is when I spanked one of our children, and they got up after it was over, and stood in front of me, and said, “Well, that didn’t hurt, and I’m not going to cry.”
I knew it hurt because you could kind of see the tears in the eyes, but they were determined that they were going to be more powerful than Mom. I said, “I’m sorry it has to hurt, so we’ll have to do it again.” They kind of went – oh, that didn’t work!
I thought they were smarter. So, yes you may have to redo it because some children are more stubborn, and want to have the upper hand more than others. So much of spanking, and administering discipline—there’s so many variables in a child’s personality, and their innate sensitivity are just two of those that make it sometimes more difficult with one child than it is with another.
Bob: Let’s take one more question.
Question: One of the assumptions was: Discipline should include spanking as an option. I’m wondering at what point does that assumption go away?
Bob: You talking about what age?
Question: What age? Is there an age at which I should no longer spank my child?
Dennis: Yes! Here’s how I would answer the question: I know experts who say you shouldn’t spank after eight. Others may have a little longer than that – a little older. But, in our family it wasn’t the age, it was the heart because that’s what you’re addressing with the child. I think we spanked everyone of our children one time too many, and we knew that they were too big to spank. You just knew at the point when you finished the spanking that’s it – there’s no more of that with this child.
Again it wasn’t so much related to the age as it was the maturity of the child, the responsiveness of the child, how they received it, your relationship with them.
Bob: But you might spank a 12 year old?
Barbara: Might – just depends! I think so much of it depends on the child.
Bob: 14 – 15?
Barbara: No, I don’t think we ever went past 12!
Dennis: Well, let me stop you. I could tell you famous people who got spankings at 16 years of age. Okay, I personally was spanked at 12. I went crawdad fishing across town on my bike; I didn’t come back at 3:00 as I was told to – my Mom made it very clear. I came back at 4, and I got a spanking that I’ve never forgotten. But I would not put an age on it like that. I think as you approach the age of eight just because of wise counselors that are out there I think you need to begin to measure, and monitor it, and see what does work. Somebody in this group will have a child where you will spank beyond the age of eight.
The experts aren’t the ones who’ve been given your children to raise. You must choose what you believe as a couple, and stick to it. I just want to give you the confidence: You don’t have to have a PHD; you don’t have to have written books. You need to listen to God, follow the scriptures, and prayerfully be obedient to Him as you go through the process of being a parent.
Bob: You know one of the great things about spending time with these young couples on the day that we produced these DVD’s on early childhood discipline we had the opportunity to interact like you just heard. To do the Q and A, and to hear the issues that these young parents had as they seek to raise their toddlers. We’ve only been able to listen today to a portion of what was the second session in the multi-part DVD series that our team has put together on early childhood discipline.
It’s called: Right From the Start. It’s available now for use with small groups, in a church setting, or you can use it just as a Mom and a Dad: Sit down, and watch, and listen as Dennis and Barbara unpack what the scriptures teach us about how we are to train up our children. Go to our website FamilyLifeToday.com and the information you need is available there on the Right From the Start DVD series with Dennis and Barbara Rainey talking about the subject of early childhood discipline. Again the series is called: Right From the Start – the information is on-line at FamilyLifeToday.com – again it’s FamilyLifeToday.com
You can also call if you’d like more information, or if you’d like to place an order over the phone 800 FLTODAY is the number – 1-800 – F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY. When you get in touch with us someone on our team can answer any questions you have about this series, about the workbooks that come along with it, or you can place an order right over the phone if you’d like.
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There’s sound effects, and sound designed to go along with it so that as you’re listening to the book the story of Thanksgiving is coming alive for you, and your family. Again the Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember audio book is our way of saying thank you this month when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount. You can do that on-line at FamilyLifeToday.com – if you are on-line, and you’re filling out the donation form type the word Thanksgiving in the key code box that you see on the donation form, and that will alert us to the fact that you’d like to receive the Thanksgiving CD’s.
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Now tomorrow we’re going to continue our look at early childhood discipline with Dennis and Barbara Rainey. We’re going to look at the subject of corporal punishment, and we’ll have more time to interact with the couples who were part of the audience on the day that we produced this series. Hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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