Discipline…to spank or not to spank! That is the question.
Recently I noticed a trending article on a newsfeed about that touchy subject (taboo for some)…spanking. I took a quick, and I mean really quick, glance at it and read that spanking a child can lead to mental illness (wait, was that for the spanker or the spankee)…I suspect I should have opened up the article and read it in its entirety. Discipline, as I refer to it, was and remains the most challenging part of parenting and it’s the most necessary, I believe. I’ve often remarked that parenting didn’t happen to me, I happened to it, meaning stages didn’t creep up on me. I anticipated “those years” and read up and prayed about my response and the answer for our family was discipline.
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15 (AMP)
The thought of disciplining my son, the one I had prayed for and believed for for so many years seemed absolutely foreign and unimaginable to me. This sweet, adorable, high spirited, miracle child was what I called “busy” because I refused to label him “bad” or any other name he was called by my well meaning, but brutally honest friends. By the time he was around 13 months old, I sensed the inevitable coming on. God bless the angel who approached me at the check out line in the grocery store who had been witnessing my busy son being busy 🙂 and gently placed her hand on my tired shoulder and said, “He’s all boy, mom. Hang in there.” What a cold glass of water that was for me. I wanted to cry, then I wanted to go home with her (without my kids) and then I wanted to cry for feeling that way. Instead, I simply exhaled.
Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family notoriety said that by the time a child is 15 months old, their misbehavior can be regarded as willful disobedience since by then they are well aware of their actions and that disciplining can and should begin at that age. Yes!!! He said it and I believed it and began counting down the days until I could brandish “Rod” as we called him. Back then it was “the spoon” and the sound of the spoon drawer being opened would send my son running for the hills.
As time went on, adding to our family a second child, my now 21 month old was “on fire” with busyness. I had been “disciplining” him now for a few months, but I noticed with increasing frustration that the only one changing was me. I was feeling irritated, then angry, then guilty, then sad with the whole parenting a toddler thing. The turning point for me came at 3 a.m. one morning when I was awakened (after having just wrestled with my colicky infant) to find my son in the kitchen rearranging the fridge in order to find a juice box. The memory of this still pains me but what a lesson it taught me. As I walked into the kitchen all wide eyed and crazy he looked up and said “I’m thirsty.” I spanked him. I wasn’t training him!!! I was frustrated, tired and he was going to pay for waking me up. We both went back to bed crying that night. I’m still hurt by the memory of it all.
The following morning I prepared his breakfast and as I placed it before him, I reached for his hands so that we could pray and he actually flinched. Oh how that hurt me. I was stunned and saddened that my son feared me. Oh God, how can I get him to respect and honor me and not be scared of me? Later that day, I went before the Lord with that question and He ministered to me. He showed me first of all that each of my children was different and that one rule or way for both would not work; that I would have to be led by His Spirit with respect to how and when I should discipline the children. He showed me to never discipline when I was angry or frustrated. Never use my hands to discipline (hands are for praying, praising, healing, loving). He showed me that in those times when I must discipline my son, that I must at some point explain why he was being disciplined and explain to him that I love him too much not to discipline him. He showed me that spanking was not changing my son’s behavior. It was changing our relationship, though. He instructed me to find out what my son’s “currency” was and use that as a form of discipline and that I should reserve “Rod” for those non-negotiables….willful disobedience, disrespecting authority, lying, stealing.
When my son woke up from his nap, I took him in my arms and apologized for “hitting” him. I told him that I was tired, sleepy and wrong and that I’d never do that again. I did explain that certain behaviors would not be tolerated and that it was my responsibility as his parent to discipline him. He probably didn’t understand everything I said, but he sure understood I meant business when I determined that videos were his currency. I would hold them hostage, shelving them high enough so that he couldn’t reach them but close enough for him to see them. Did Rod get put to sleep. No chance. Rod made many an appearance.
When Josh was around four, he and I witnessed a child having a full blown tantrum at Target. This kid was swinging, screaming and carrying on in the candy aisle. My instinct was to hustle my kid out of that line of fire, but instead we lingered as he watched and I “shopped.” As it turned out, we were parked next to this family and as I was backing out of my space and Josh was looking out the window at them he said “That mommy must hate her child.” I asked him why he would say that and his response was “She doesn’t discipline him.” Those were his exact words…I promise!
My daughter had one tantrum, remarkably at Target. She wanted to snack on some fishies I hadn’t paid for yet. I explained that we pay first and then partake. Oh, she just laid down in the center aisle and I did what any respectable mom would do. I stepped right over her and left her there howling (I stayed close but she couldn’t see me:) She promptly got up and scurried after me….and she didn’t get her fishies (even after we paid for them). (Hold your tomatoes!!:) Consequences…she learned about them quickly.
Years later, I paid it forward, becoming an angel to that woman whose child was having an F.I.T. at F.A.O. Schwartz before God and man. She did the whole “going limp” deal and even dad couldn’t scoop her up. He gave up and went down the escalator, leaving mom to deal with the situation. This kid was screeching, mom was horrified and the crowd was gathering. I felt so bad for mom. I had to help, but what if she told me to back off? I took a chance and crossed my fingers hoping that my advice wouldn’t blow up in my face…hey, it had worked for me!! I approached her slowly and told her to step over her out of control daughter and leave…I would stay behind with her. This woman was willing to trust a stranger, or perhaps she was just wanting to get out of dodge and she took my advice. Sure enough her screaming meemie promptly picked her little self up and went charging after her mom…screaming of course. I received a rousing applause from all of the satisfied customers and my ears were ringing for quite a while thereafter.
If I had to give advice about disciplining I’d say to choose your battles wisely and when you do, you better not lose!! It takes discipline to effectively discipline your children. I’ve been firm and consistent through the years and have found that the more consistent I was the less and less discipline was required. We do a lot of talking and shelving around here and things appear to be pretty peaceful. My kids are now 13 and 12 and I see no signs of mental illness…in any of us! hehehe
P.S. Happy Fourth of July!!! Sure hope this blog does not create any fireworks!! 🙂
“He who spares his rod (of discipline) hates his son, but he who loves him diligently disciplines and punishes him early.” Proverbs 13:24 (AMP)
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
“Withhold not discipline from the child, for if you strike and punish him with the rod, he will not die.” Proverbs 23:13
“The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left undisciplined brings his mother to shame. Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your heart.” Proverbs 29:15 &17 (AMP)
“Children, obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you. Honor your father and mother. This is the first of God’s Ten Commandments that ends with a promise. And this is the promise: that if you honor your father and mother, yours will be a long life, full of blessing. And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and Godly advice.” Ephesians 6:1-4 (TLB)