Lately I’ve noticed a growing number of Christians who are encouraging young parents to refrain from spanking children in public places. While I understand that our culture is producing larger numbers of people who equate spanking with “hitting”, who believe that spanking doesn’t work, and who would even outlaw the practice, given the legal opportunity and public support for the ban, I want to go on record in behalf of the children I love. Spanking is a Biblically sanctioned and effective form of punishment. It is expected, even commanded, of godly parents (Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; Hebrews 12: 9-11) I think those who discourage spanking in public would agree to this point.
But then the argument goes something like this: “When we spank our children in public places, we draw attention to ourselves and we do not know when someone may call authorities and someone may just show up on our doorsteps and remove our children from our homes. Then we would, for the sake of public spanking, be relinquishing all of our influence on our children. We cannot take that risk.”
I disagree for the following reasons.
- The chance of that happening (someone calling authorities) if we, as mothers, are administering loving discipline to children who are accustomed to consistent discipline, is very small. Children who are expecting to be spanked immediately if they disobey are far less likely to be clashing with mom in the grocery aisle, in the first place. If they do, and the spanking ensues, it can generally be completed in a relatively calm scenario. People who want to call the law on a parent are not going to choose parents who are speaking in loving tones to children even as they swat their bottoms and then let them try again to obey. A situation of loving training is not likely the scenario that one would choose to take to authorities, especially when so much yelling and horrible name-calling and subsequent child-screaming is going on all around us in public places. There are bigger fish to fry than to “turn in” a godly mother who is gently, but forcefully calling her child to obedience through a swat on the bottom.
- Even if authorities should be called, those of who are truly exhibiting consistent godly training at home have multiple resources at the ready to defend our actions. I know legal battles are a hassle, but I would wage one for the sake of consistent discipline in my home. It might even be a way to gain some ground for righteous parenting in the lives of those who are looking.
- If all Christian parents simply stopped all spanking of children in front of the world, the world would be watching a skewed picture of Christianity. Would the behavior of our young children in public digress to the point that our young children would not be modeling the peaceable fruits of righteousness in the eyes of unbelievers (Hebrews 12:11)? I believe it likely.
But the most important reasons we should not change our discipline procedures in public places, I have saved for last:
4. If our children know there are certain times and places when they can, at least temporarily, “get away” with behavior that otherwise would necessitate a spanking, they will perceive the inconsistency, their young minds will be confused by this dissonance and their training will be inhibited by it. A twelve month-old cannot easily discern why you have swatted his hand for saying “no” to your requests over and over, but, today, in the store, he can say “no” to you and your response is different. If you wait until you get to the car or the bathroom or wherever it may be, it is extremely difficult for him to associate the behavior with the discipline. While he cannot, at this age, likely process your reason for spanking him when that spanking comes later, this age is the prime age for putting in him a respect for your authority. You do not want to be inconsistent at any time, but especially not during these younger months. The price will be high later on.
5. We need to stop letting the culture dictate our parenting decisions. Daniel could have reasoned through his decision to pray before his window when the price was so high. “God can hear me pray whether my window is open or not…I’ll just pray in private.”…”Why would I take this unnecessary risk? Why, if I go the lion’s den, then I will not be able to do any more good at all in front of these heathen people. My influence will be completely eradicated.” You get the point. If I believe my discipline is measured, loving and appropriate when I am at home with my children and, if I believe that consistency is certainly important in the long-term process, why would I compromise my procedures to bow to a culture gone awry? I would not. I would trust God to care for our little family as we do our best to please Him in this very important part of our daily lives.
I believe there will be teens in a few years who are paying premium spiritual prices for the notion that well-meaning parents are buying into…the idea that we can alter established, loving discipline practices for public consumption. Perhaps when we do, we show them that we really have no firmly established discipline practices. I’ll take the small risk of having to answer the door to criticism, even interrogation, even prosecution (though I believe that risk is minuscule), rather than the larger risk of rebellion on the part of a child who became confused because my discipline practices, as her mother, were inconsistent during the formative years.
Okay, It was neither short NOR sweet. But it’s off my chest.
(And, one more thing…If we HAD determined never to spank our children in the grocery store, I’d have always made sure to go grocery shopping during hours when Glenn could have stayed home with them. Even the thought, years later, of any scenario in which my kids were surrounded by candy bars, cereals with prizes and cookies, but knew I wouldn’t immediately spank them for disobedience or disrespect is not a pleasant one.)