The following is part of a letter I wrote to another Christian mom regarding the topic of corporal punishment. The Lord prompted my heart to respond in this manner after receiving a letter from her describing the disciplining methods she uses with her children.
If you are a parent, chances are pretty good that Dr. Spock has formed your worldview on child rearing and warped your thinking about discipline, so this letter is written to you as well...
Greetings Friend ~
I write this to you in a spirit of love, and I hope you can receive this in the way it is intended. I have prayerfully put much time and consideration into what I am going to present to you and I ask that you read it with an open heart and a willingness to learn. I want you to know that this is not a contest to see who is right or wrong, but an opportunity to encourage one another, seek out the truth in love, and actually do what is right in God’s eyes.
As you know, children are not born knowing how to be well behaved. You don't have to teach them to lie, cheat, throw a tantrum, or talk back because all of those things come naturally to children born with a sinful nature. As parents, we have to diligently teach our children to obey, and Godly discipline will keep children from being dysfunctional later in life. A disciplined child will bring great delight to parents, but a child left to himself will bring nothing but shame to the home and destruction to society.
When my husband and I tell our kids to do something, we say it once, and we expect them to do as they are told immediately. If they don’t, we discipline them – simple! In our home, delayed obedience is disobedience, regardless of any circumstance. This is not to say all of our methods are perfect by any means, but our children are extremely obedient, loving, joyful and confident in the Lord. We can take our kids to restaurants, grocery stores, a friend’s house, on a road trip across the country, or an 8-hour flight to Hawaii without fear because they are a delight to us and everyone else who meets them. Our girls have a strong desire to please us and make us happy in all that they do. They are very sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and when we discipline them, they demonstrate true repentance, and they love us even more for it!
I have to be completely honest, your disciplining techniques sound like they are straight out of Dr. Spock’s child training manual - void of godly wisdom and Biblical instruction. I will be frank, these methods are completely contrary to Scripture, and they are closely aligned with worldly psychology “experts.” Now this is not to say that everything you are doing is wrong, of course you are a wonderful mother and you love your children dearly. But reading those scenarios you gave caused me to raise my eyebrows in absolute astonishment because your thinking is completely immersed in secular humanism.
Don’t take this as a personal attack. Chances are you were never properly taught child-rearing techniques from a Biblical perspective; at least that’s how it appears. Please continue to read this with an open heart as we examine what you said, and compare it with...
Dr. Spock vs. Scripture:
You said: “I don't believe in the reward/punishment system. I believe in natural and logical consequences for poor choices.”
Dr. Spock: “Children's motives are good most of the time. There is no one "right" way to discipline... Learning how to use natural and logical consequences may be one of the most important skills that parents can learn.”
Scripture: "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." - Proverbs 22:15
"The rod and reproof give wisdom; But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother…Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul." - Proverbs 29:15,17
You said: “I think if you punish your child, it does one of three things. It causes resentment, sneakiness, or complete loss of self-esteem.”
Dr. Spock: “Suppose you give your child a spanking. Afterward, he is more likely to feel resentful and angry at you. In the future, when tempted, his only thought will be to avoid being caught…None of these feelings will help him, in the long run, be the kind of person you want him to be.”
Scripture: “Do not withhold correction from a child; For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” - Proverbs 23:13-14
"He who spares his rod hates his son; But he who loves him disciplines him promptly." - Proverbs 13:24
You said: “I don't want my son to fear me, I want him to respect me. I try to let him learn from his mistakes on his own.”
Dr. Spock: “If you spank your child he is more likely to feel resentful and angry at you...And if the spanking is hard enough, he might also feel afraid of you.”
Scripture: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” – Proverbs 1:7
The Bible repeatedly says to fear the Lord. Fear is a good thing! Your children will respect you if they fear the consequences for bad behavior. If your children do not fear you, how will they ever learn to fear the Lord?
====================================Finally, you said: “Admittedly, punishment works, at least in the short term, and it's easy…But in the long run, I feel better about myself, and I think my kids will feel better about themselves, too.”Dr. Spock: “Of course, you could create a harsh system of rewards and punishments…But what would be the effect on the child's spirit, on his sense of self-worth, on his personal happiness, or on his feelings toward others?”Scripture: “ Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” - Hebrews 12:11
"Chasten your son while there is hope; And do not set your heart on his destruction."- Proverbs 19:18
With all due respect, God is not primarily concerned about you or your children “feeling better” about yourselves. Naturally, it does not “feel” good when a child receives a spanking. Nor does it “feel” very good when a mother has to spank her child and cause him to cry. I know how it just breaks mama’s heart to hear your little one cry out in pain, but God does not tell us to follow our “feelings,” He tells us to follow His Holy Word. Love is not a “feeling,” it is a choice to do what is right - And sometimes love hurts.
The purpose of a spanking is not to cause any lasting bodily harm, but to cause spiritual correction. A spanking should be swift and cause short-lived pain that makes a point. That point is that the small pain they feel now will prevent them from feeling great pain by the act they are committing, which could cause them loss of their lives in some cases. For instance, if a child tries to run across the street, using “natural and logical” consequences could cause the child be run over by a car and killed. When we tell our children to "stop" - it means NOW, not after I count to three. By then it could be too late.
Now I'm not saying that you are living in direct disobedience towards God, but you are not exactly pursuing a path of obedience when it comes to disciplining your children in a Godly manner. Perhaps it is just a mere coincidence that your worldview on child training is almost identical to Dr. Spock’s teaching? Nonetheless, if you love your children, I only hope that this would cause you to re-examine your philosophies to align them with Scripture.
It’s not surprising to see the attempts by the Dr. Spock generation and other non-spanking advocates trying to discredit the Bible. Do not be fooled! My prayer is that you would lay aside the hurt from your childhood and any preconceived notions you have about discipline, and begin to approach child rearing from a Biblical standpoint. These so-called child rearing “experts” try to convince their readers that the Bible doesn’t really mean what it says and you seem to have fallen prey to this notion.
Nevertheless, the Bible is the inspired Word of God and it is the number one bestseller of all time; selling far more copies than Dr. Spock ever did. The Bible is thousands of years old, full of timeless wisdom and instruction (specifically on child training), and it's worthy of our praise. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
Please don't take my advice, for I'm certainly not the ultimate authority on this matter. I would strongly encourage you to examine what the Word of God says regarding discipline and not merely rely on your own methods and understanding, ie. “feelings,” as they are always changing.
Proverbs 3:5-6 - "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."The practical wisdom found in many verses in the book of Proverbs covers the subject of child rearing and corporal punishment in detail. Parents have the responsibility to seek out the truth and obey it. We only get one chance to raise our children, and we better do it right!
Proverbs 22:6 - "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Well, I have said enough for now. I sincerely hope you receive this with love and instruction and look to the Word of God for your ultimate guide to TRUTH ~ May the Lord be with you.
United in Christ,
- Dr. Spock: "Expert" Advice on Discipline- Bible.com: Spanking Children
- To Train Up A Child - by Michael & Debi Pearl
- NO FEAR: A Police Officer's Perspective - Robert Surgenor
- No Spanking: Alternative Child Discipline