Parenting Hack #3: Spank your Kids (And How to Spank Properly)
Do not withhold discipline from a child.
If you love your child, you will use the rod of discipline. There is no avoiding this.
“Gentle parenting,” where the parents tiptoe around a child’s feelings and use emotional manipulation and blackmail to get their children to do what they want, will make your life miserable and your children’s life miserable. It is an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine to avoid doing the obvious.
This is not new. People have been trying to come up with excuses not to spank their children for thousands of years.
Here’s a sampling from the book of Proverbs.
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.
For those who want to wave away these verses and say the rod in question is just a shepherd’s rod, used only for gentle guidance, those last verses leave no room for doubt.
Your child will not die if you strike him with the rod. He will not be permanently damaged. He will not be emotionally scarred. Instead, you will save his life.
You are his father, not his guidance counselor.
You can spank with a clean conscience. It is not only more efficient than other forms of discipline but also more humane. From that piece:
The revolt against spanking is another symptom of our sentimentality and false righteousness. A single spanking can save hours of lectures and guilt trips. Ask a kid what he would rather have: a single spanking or being grounded for a week from something he loves.
But I understand that many people have a false idea of what spanking is. Maybe their parents really were abusive, and they are projecting that experience onto the entire concept. I’m sympathetic to their concerns. If this is you, I want to recalibrate your expectations.
Just know that your trauma is not an excuse to abandon your responsibilities.
What Spanking is Not
Spanking is not arbitrary hitting. It is not acting out in anger. It is not an act of revenge because your kid embarrassed you in front of your friends.
Spanking never does permanent damage. It never leaves a bruise. It is never a slap to the face. Isn’t it amazing that we all have these highly cushioned parts of our bodies called “butts” that seem tailor-made just for this sort of punishment?
How to Spank Properly
Spanking properly isn’t complicated, but because we are fallen, it can be hard to implement consistently. Here are a few principles to keep in mind.
Spank in the context of love. Go back to Parenting Hack #2 and have a home where you say “yes” far more often than you say “no.” Spanking is like writing a check. You always have the authority to do so, but you always want to have enough in the bank to cover it. This is why I put spanking at #3 instead of #2. Spanking should not be the only time you pay attention to your children.
Do not wait until you really, really want to spank. If you really want to let your kid have it, you are in no condition to spank them. Do not do it in anger. This can happen when you think you are being patient with them and you wait and wait and wait and they keep bugging you until everything explodes. Spank after the first infraction. The ironic thing is that most people are qualified to spank only if they don’t want to do it.
Understand their frame. They are but dust. It’s ok to give them second chances and reminders. If you know they are acting out because they are hungry or need a nap, have some mercy and give them what they need. Now, if they refuse to lay down for a nap, even after you have told them to, that’s a good opportunity to spank. But exercise wisdom. They should learn that feeling bad is no excuse to act like a brat.
Don’t pat them through their pants. The whole point of a spanking is to give them real, but very temporary, pain. A little tap does nothing. You don’t have to wind up like a pitcher about to throw a fastball, but it needs to have some strength behind it.
You can start earlier than you think. How soon? Advice varies, but a good rule of thumb is as soon as the child can start walking (or crawling fast) and getting around, you should be prepared to discipline. They understand real quick to associate the word “no” with the pain from a smack on the back of the hand. Dizzyingly quick. Their brains were designed to form those connections.
Some kids need more spankings than others. This should be expected as every child is unique. You wouldn’t worry about the injustice of it all if one of your children needed more baths than the others, even if that child really hated baths. Do not expect uniformity.
Do not keep a record of wrongs. Once the spanking has happened, all is forgotten and forgiven. Get on with your life. Let the child get on with his. Restore fellowship. Their sin has been dealt with.
If you spank well and spank consistently, you’ll probably spank far less than your expectations. You reap a harvest far quicker than you thought possible.
It’s a myth that you’ll just be wailing on your children all the time. Most spankings will be done before the child becomes six years old, and the fruits of those early spankings will last a lifetime. Meanwhile, the gentle parents are chiding, pleading, and guilt-tripping all the way up through the teenage years.
Set the foundation now, and you won’t have nearly as much maintenance to do in the future.
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