I will not baby-sit for a family if they don’t discipline their children. It is one of the first questions I ask the parents, because in my experience, if parents do not discipline their children, their kids are brats. I believe that though seen as one of the stickiest issues in childrearing, discipline is also the most important. Most parents will agree on this fact, but the controversy comes wth the method of choice. Spanking, when done in love, is an effective method of discipline and should not be banned from domestic use.
Over fifty yeas ago, Dr. Benjamin Spock,a prominent child pediatrician, suggested that all forms of corporal punishment traumatize children, trigger more aggressive behavior in the future, and is entirely ineffective in discipline (Costello). Since then, modern child psychology has been under that assumption. I believe this assumption is based on the fact that criminals of physical abuse were often abused as children, thus turning all corporal punishment into abuse.
Following this trend, many countries in Europe and Africa have banned corporal punishment in the homes. Such countries include Germany, Croatia, Zambia, Italy and Sweden. The European Network of Ombudsmen for Children (ENOC) is an organization that wants to ban all forms of corporal punishment of children in Europe. They give the following statement as their standard.
“As spokespeople for the children of Europe, we believe that eliminating violent and humiliating forms of discipline is a vital strategy for improving children’s status as people, and reducing child abuse and all other forms of violence in European societies. This is a long overdue reform, with huge potential for improving the quality of lives and family relationships.” (ENOC)
Many advocates of the “no-spanking” movement like to site countries like Sweden as showing how the ban on corporal punishment has benefited society. However, a study conducted over the decade following that law made in 1979 found that overall child abuse rates increased 489% , the rate of assault by minors against minors increased 672%, and that since the law was put into place “parents had not … found constructive alternatives to physical punishment. For most parents the alternative was yelling or screaming at their children, and some believed this was equally, perhaps more, destructive” (Larzelere).
Dr. Louis Moore, now 81, was a practicing physician for over thirty-five years. Recently, he submtted a commentary for the Naples Daily News of Naples, Florida. He recounts the crimes of his child hood, like stealing watermelons, hub caps, and sugar cane, or trying to sneak cigarettes or whiskey. In that day, police were seen as allies, the schools were orderly, and, in general, students worked hard to do well and to avoid summer school. Now, common juvenile crime includes stealing cars, breaking and entering, physical assault, and even homicide. Teachers are threatened; classrooms are chaotic. Police are seen by many as “corrupt pigs” and have turned from friend to enemy, because some parents resort to calling the police to control their children.
Moore recounts his childhood standards, “When I was growing up almost every boy got whippings and spankings. None of the people I knew at school ever reported child abuse, although it did happen around the fringes. None of these school friends – several hundred – that I grew up with turned out to be child abusers or had warped personalities. In fact, today we are referred to as ‘The Greatest Generation'” (Moore). He continues that the lessons learned from this were that if you break a rule, you will face the painful consequences.
With current parenting as I have observed it, discipline is being replaced with reasoning. Browsing through several parenting books and through my own experience, parents are suggested to explain and reason with their children on why doing mean things isn’t nice and how it makes people feel bad. There is no correction in this.
Proverbs 3:11 says, “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” How can a parent truly show love to their children without the courage to discipline them? By using correction through spanking it is proof of love for a child from the parent. To not discipline a child would be like saying, “Go on; head for ruin and destruction; I don’t care.” This scripture warns parents against the human nature to let children go their own way and to avoid the temporary sting of a spank.
Parents can make excuses for their children’s behavior, saying that it is just a stage like the terrible two’s, and that they will simply “grow out of it”. Proverbs 19:18 says, “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” The battle for a child’s heart is fought early. Children, once accustomed to getting their own way, learn how to manipulate and bully the authorities set over them to get what they want. The reason that the world opposes a Biblical view of discipline is because it is based on the recognition of a sinful nature. Whereas the world sees rebellious behavior more like a bad habit. Humans are rebellious by nature, whether a parent steps in or not. It is a sin nature, not a stage (Benedict).
The American Academy of Pediatrics published a report stating that about ninety percent of U.S. parents spank, and about fifty-nine percent of pediatricians in a 1992 survey said they support the practice. According to the academy, effective discipline has three key components: first, a loving, supportive relationship between parent and child; second, use of positive reinforcement when children behave well; and third, use of punishment when children misbehave (Spare…).
When spanking is done in Godly love and in combination with other methods of discipline, like a time out or restriction, the results can be very successful. But the most important factor in whether any form of discipline is effective is if the parents love the children. For discipline to be most effective it must be consistent and continual. It is true that different methods work differently for different children, so it is also important to remember to treat each child as an individual without making comparisons.
At this point it should be made clear the difference between discipline in love by means of a spanking and reaction in anger by hitting children. The Bible makes very clear that anger should not lead you to sin, and that love and discipline for children should mirror the love and discipline that God has for us. Hitting a child can cause severe mental anxiety, and depressive symptoms.
Hitting a child in anger condones violence and can lead to further acts of violence and disobedience. This is the source of the confusion that all corporal punishment leads to these behaviors. However, spanking and discipline in general, should never be an impulse. The line is drawn when a parent brings injury to a child including causing bruises and broken skin. And according to Dr. Kevin Leman, of Family Life Communications, a child should never be spanked younger than eighteen months (Leman).
In conclusion I quote Mark Benedict, father of three, in reference to the long term benefits that come from loving discipline.
One fruit of properly training children when young, is that later, as young adults, they will have the right attitude towards authority. Well-trained children are easily recognized by other adults for their good behavior and good manners. They grow up with the necessary social skills to be successful in every facet of life. Because they rarely experience the rejection that undisciplined children experience from both adults and other children, they tend to be happier and well-adjusted in emotional temperament. (Benedict)
Benedict, Mark. “The Importance of Disciplining Children Early.” Christian Parents. April 2000. 04 Apr. 2005 .
Costello, Daniel. “Spanking Makes a Comeback.” Parent Spanking, USA, June 2000. 9 Jun. 2000. World Corporal Punishment Research. 20 Apr. 2005 http://www.corpun.com/usd00006.htm>.
“ENOC Standards.” 2 Sep. 2003. European Network of Ombudsmen for Children. 20 Apr. 2005 http://www2.ombudsnet.org/ENOCStandards.htm>.
Leman, Kevin, and Randy Carlson. “Spanking.” Parent Talk. Family Life
Communications,. Broadcast. 04 Apr 2005 .
Moore, Louis. “Spanking can provide a valuable life lesson to children.” US Parental Spanking Nov 2004. 4 Nov. 2004. World Corporal Punishment Research. 19 Apr. 2005 .
Reagan, David F. “Eight Misconceptions about Spanking: Corrected from the Bible.” Learn the Bible. June 2002. 04 Apr. 2005 .
“Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child.” To Spank or not to Spank. 24 Feb. 2005. Rocky Mountain Family Counsel. 06 Apr. 2005 .