On Spanking

Kristen at Motherhood Uncensored caused a bit of a discussion in her comments with her post about spanking.

I try really hard to stay out of these discussions. I really do. I don't comment, I don't post. I've studiously avoided this subject since I started blogging in 2006. I think it's one of those things moms can end up fighting each other over to no good end and a lot of harm. A lot more harm perhaps than one parenting style, or another, can do a child.

I could be wrong.

But here I shall finally come out with my opinion on the subject, such as it is. (After writing this post I wrote this one, which provides the context in which I write this. I hope you will read it first.)

I have 4 thoughts to share today.

To start with, I shall change words. Spanking is such an emotionally laden word with so many different meanings based on a person's experience with it that it's not really useful for the sake of rational discussion any more. So I shall switch to the phrase Aaron coined for us, corporal discipline, which I shall describe in part here.

1.) Kristen says, "I don't care how fine you are now even though your parents did that to you. Since when did "just fine" become the standard to which we want to raise our kids?"

This is interesting to me because in the giant lexicon of things I think my parents screwed up about parenting me, and it is giant, let me tell you, I think corporal discipline is something they got right. I'll even go so far as to say I wish they had done more of it, because I needed it, and there are many things I struggled with as an adult in the area of self discipline that I wish they had helped me with when I was younger.

At it's heart, corporal discipline is about giving children the opportunity to learn to make choices by giving them real, but safe, consequences. Yes, I obeyed sometimes just because I was afraid of getting a spanking if I didn't. Just like grownups sometimes in the end choose not to break the law because they are afraid of going to jail. Yes, we would like our children, and grown ups, to act out of noble and positive reasons. We would like them not to engage in fist fights because they are motivated by love and compassion for their fellow human being and a deep desire to sit and dialogue and get to know each other and understand the other's point of view.

However, I don't know if you've been around people much, but people, grown ups and children alike, all have moments when their innate nobility is called so far into question as to be non-existent. At that point it is a good thing we have some very uncomfortable consequences for negative patterns of behavior because the motive of avoiding discomfort is, at that moment, the strongest thing they have to keep them from doing something wrong.

Back to corporal discipline. It is, in our house any way, something you willingly choose, knowing full well that it is in fact what you are choosing when you do it. I does not happen when mommy or daddy loses their temper, it is not something administered because you were trying to pour your own milk for breakfast one day and dropped the whole jug on the floor or any other accident that usually comes with it's own consequence anyway, it is something you choose.

Our children have never been surprised by this form of discipline. They know they are choosing it when it happens. In our family the children have the power to decide what happens to them.

It may surprise you to hear that someone may think of this form of discipline as empowering, but that's exactly what it is. We make rules as parents, we keep them as simple as possible, and we lay out exactly what consequences will occur if those rules are broken. We administer the exact same consequence, in the exact same way, every single time a child chooses it. The power to choose, or not choose, said consequence, is in their hands.

It is our responsibility as parents to administer those consequences, whether the consequence chosen is a stinging rear end, or a Saturday morning cleaning the spare bathroom, without emotional attachment. They are consequences. They have nothing to do with how irritated we are at a child, or how proud of them. They are cold, unfeeling, un-shifting realities of daily life for our children. If you do this, then this. The choice to do x will always result in z.

Just like adults in a civil society receive consequences for their conduct from the government put in place to administer them.

But what about those matters of choice as adults that don't fall into the category of law or not? If I choose to sit on the couch all day watching tv and eating bon bons for example, there will be consequences that manifest themselves in the end. I will get fat, my brain will atrophy, and it could have devastating effects on my marriage and family life as well. But it doesn't happen the first day, or even the second, or the third. I don't see immediately the long term consequences of my choice.

With my children however I can give them the gift of immediate consequences for their choices. They get immediate feedback for a choice that they have made, to disobey a rule in our family, which comes with the excellent opportunity to correct and receive feedback again, every day. This is the kind of practice in decision making that I wish I had been given as a child, especially as I got older. This, I try to give to my children.

2.) The second objection that I hear against corporal discipline is that people think it's the same as beatings, domestic violence, or child abuse. They think I don't know the difference between these things because, as a result of my experiences as a child with spankings, violence was normalized. But I do think I know the the difference.

I always knew I was guilty of wrong doing when my dad or mom administered corporal discipline. I knew I had chosen to do wrong and that this was the consequence I knew I would receive if my parents found out. My dad would take me into his studio and sit me on a stool and we would talk about what I had just done, which was the very worst part of all, because I felt so awful. He didn't shame, he just asked me if I thought what I had done was right. By the time he got around to connecting his little wooden ruler to my behind I was so relieved to have that talk done and over with I barely felt it. I remember being really close to my dad through out this entire period of my life. I never doubted his love for me. I never lived in fear of him. I would jabber at him late into the night when he tucked me in, and he loved to listen, and I would fall asleep far too late, much to my mother's chagrin.

But there was one moment, during a dark period in our family, when my parent's marriage was disintegrating and our family was falling apart that makes me think I understand the difference. I was a teenager, we disagreed, and he, in anger, vein sticking out on his forehead lunged for me. I don't know what he would have done, because I ducked and he hit his head and I screamed that I would call the police if he ever hit me while he held tissue to the blood spurting out of his forehead and then I ran away to school. That moment, when my dad moved in anger, when he momentarily lost control of his customary gentleness, when I saw him hit the edge, that scared me. That moment created a distance between us that it's taken almost 2 decades to repair along with all the other stuff from that same season.

I can tell you now that if I had to choose between the season of my childhood, and 1000 extra "spankings" administered lovingly by my dad and that one moment where he moved in anger ever happening there would be no contest. I'd choose 1000 little meetings in his office and a well deserved swat with the ruler every single time.

3.) I recently came across a facebook note, by someone I don't know, but was linked to by someone on twitter, where the mother was saying that she believes that spanking her kids allowed her to be lazy in her parenting and she is so much more creative and present now that she doesn't have that as an option. I can completely respect that, and if it was choosing not to spank that brought her into being a more mindful and present mother then I am glad she has stopped.

But with all due respect, if you think corporal discipline is the lazy approach to parenting than may I venture that you are doing it wrong? There is no effective method of discipline that allows you to relax your vigilance and self discipline as a parent that will still work.

Do you know how much work it is to make sure that you are consistent as a parent? Making sure that what I say is true, that z will happen immediately following x no matter what is exhausting. It requires vigilance. It requires I get up off my lazy butt every. single. time a child chooses a consequence and administer it. In other words, to effectively discipline my children I have to grow more discipline and diligence than I ever had before. It is this single act of needing to teach my children discipline that has taught, is teaching, me discipline. I can't give them what I myself don't have.

If I tell a toddler no, if you do this you choose the *no-no stick, or to do extra chores, or to have a toy taken away because you are fighting over it then I have to make sure that every single time they do, I am there with the consequence. No matter how tired, sad, angry, or busy I am. I have to be the grown up, get past all that, and get up, get my child, administer consequences, take the time to hug, tickle, love and reconcile, and make that the most important part of my day.

4.) Which brings us down to the 4th thing I would like to discuss. Obviously, much of what I have said here is relevant to all sorts of parenting discipline styles. What I am asked frequently is, "Why corporal? Why can't you do all that, consistency, and love and choice with a different consequence?"

My answer is, you can. I think. I'm pretty confident that a parent could use non physical consequences and teach their child to obey and to make good choices.

My reasons for continuing to use corporal methods are these. It works better, it works faster, and it's kinder.

Yes, kinder. The people who are horrified at the thought of using momentary pain for greater good are obviously not people who practice medicine, or coach sports, or massage therapists, or trainers, or physical therapists, or... you get the idea here. I think the idea that a momentary physical pain is a great harm to children is misguided. It comes from the fact that abuse is real, and some parents are abusive. But my kids hurt themselves way worse, way more, all by themselves, falling down and scraping knees, than any pain they have experienced at my hand in a corrective way.

Corporal consequences are immediate, short in duration in terms of pain, yet dramatic and memorable enough to curb behavior quickly, which leads to fewer disciplinary moments with my child in the long run, freeing our relationship of the strain of constant correction, which is what I want.

When I consider the alternatives, yelling, time outs, time ins, etc. to my mind they cause more pain in the long run, though it's not physical. I've seen kids spend almost all of a play date in time out for repeated infractions, missing out completely on playing with a friend. Obviously that's something the child chose, for the most part, but I can't help thinking that it would be much more merciful if the parent would just take them aside for a moment, apply some loving corporal discipline, and then allow them to go back to play.

In essence, corporal discipline shortens the feedback time for a child, allowing them to more quickly move back to the situation in which they are trying to learn to interact and gives them more chances to get it right.

Also, time outs are isolating, telling a child that there are times when they are unwanted and rejected based on their behavior. They are humiliating, as they are most often public and visible for all to see. They take up so much of a child's day, when they are having a bad day, that it's really all they end up doing, leaving not much room for anything else, and leaving the parent child relationship stretched thin by the need to maintain the disciplinary action all day.

Once upon a time, in a post no longer online that I can find, the excellent Veronica Mitchell said something to the effect that she was suspicious of any child rearing method that could only work for one child at a time, or children spaced far apart.

This I believe is the flaw in the gentle parenting time-in method. It doesn't work when you have a lot of kids. Sometimes a mother needs to be able to tell her child no, and know that the chances are good he will not do that thing she said not to do, like chew on the electrical cord when she gets up to go wipe another child's bottom. There is no such thing as perfectly kid proof, and though we would not leave the life threatening things to chance it is imperative that a child learn quickly to obey when they are told no. For their own safety and happiness. Corporal discipline achieves this.

Just a few more short notes because this has morphed into a monster of a post and then I'll wrap up. Corporal discipline is not the only, nor is it the first item in my parenting tool box. Please read The 98% also, as it is the context in which I write this. I am an attachment parent. Those who know me and see me parent will tell you that I use positive reinforcement way more often than negative. I distract, redirect, make sure they are rested, well fed, and cuddled as much as I can to avert all of those types of moments when they might find it difficult to behave as is expected of them. I do not intentionally cause my children to stumble or set them up to fail by only focusing on catching them when they are doing something wrong and not attending to any other behavioral factors. That said, they need to learn to behave properly even when tired, fractious, hungry, angry, hurt, etc. I'm training them to be grown ups, and grown ups, to my mind don't get to act poorly, or break the law, and then claim hurt feelings or tiredness as an excuse. This is the essence of character, that which I am trying to form into myself at the same time as my children, the ability to do what is right, even when it is hard.

I do not judge mothers who choose not to use corporal discipline with their children, and I honor their efforts and the hard work they are doing of raising children who are responsible and compassionate human beings to the best of their knowledge and ability. I simply ask this. Please don't judge me either. Please don't think that because you make different choices it gives you permission to slam and condescend to those parents who choose differently, with as much care and love as you use to make your parenting choices.

Yes, there are still parents who are "spanking" their kids. Many of us chose this route carefully and with endless conversation. This is not something we do just because we're lazy, or don't know a better way and we care just as much about our kids as you do yours. We chose this because we think it speaks best to the needs of our children and answers best to the way children actually are, not some ideal of who we hope they are. Please stop picking on us just because you disagree.

*The no-no stick is what we call the little tiny dowel we use in our house to administer consequences.

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  1. Paisley Hillegeist4:38 PM

    Brava!  As usual, you tackled a challenging issue with loving, compassionate grace and thought-provoking clarity.  Can I say that I agree wholeheartedly with what you said - at least in theory, if not in practice in our home.  It's what I strive for.  God bless him, but my Father administered spankings in fits of drunken and often mis-directed rage.  I aim to be more level-headed and calm.  And most of the time, I succeed. 

    Bottom line, parenting is hard.  Really, really challenging.  And I will someday be grown up enough to handle it.  By then, the kids will be bringing their kids by the house (I hope) and I will be a graceful Grandmother.  It's a long way off, Lord willing, but that's what I have as my goal.  

  2. Aunt Carol4:50 PM

    excellent post yet again. Thanks Carrien.

  3. Leila M. Lawler5:03 PM

    Dear Carrien, you know I agree with you. :)
    I would also add -- her children are very young. How do people know that their methods will work? You have two choices. 1) go with something universal and time-tested or 2) go with something new and take your chances. So far 2) hasn't been working out too well.
    Everyone is free. But those who are listening to her should evaluate what she says in light of her experience.

  4. JoyMC5:13 PM

    I disagree wholeheartedly with much of what you have said. And yet I didn't want to throw sharp objects at my computer, which I usually do when reading something on this topic (which I generally avoid). Thoughtful and balanced as always, on a very difficult subject. You smart lady. 

  5. Thank you, Carrien. Beautiful post, well thought out, well spoken. It affirms my parenting efforts, as well as giving interesting points to think about. :)

  6. This is a very sane post, on a subject that seems to attract very little sanity.

  7. Helen9:02 PM

    I agree.  Good job on a emotionally charged subject.

  8. I have been reading your blog for a long time now and I have never commented.  We are very different from each other in so many ways, but that is part of the reason I read blogs, I do enjoy learning from those that are different from me.  I have also been impressed over time by your commitment and passion to do so much good in the world.  Unfortunately, though, with this post, I will cancel my google subscription and sadly stop reading.  Your goal is to achieve " fewer disciplinary moments" with your child and that "they need to learn to behave properly even when tired, etc." but what is your long-term learning goal for them other than this.  As a medical social worker, I work with and accept many different types of families, parents, people, etc.  I did not become the person, mother, wife, and social worker I am, by just acting appropriately even when I don't feel good about everything.  Sometimes it is appropriate for us to be cranky, tired, grumpy, sad, mad, frustrated, etc and to allow ourselves to feel those feelings and know that those who love us the most will accept us and not punish us for being all of these human attributes.  You don't want to be judged, then don't blog.  You put your private out here and just want everyone to accept you for who you are.  This is the internet, not your journal.  If you get on your soapbox, you have to expect to be challenged, how else will you grow?  

  9. Joy, would you be interested in writing your disagreements. I would be
    willing to post them here. I respect you as a mother and a person and I
    think it could be useful to hear your voice on this, if you are interested.

  10. Chris,

    Thank-you for commenting. I don't at all expect everyone to agree with me,
    and I'm not so dogmatic as to think I may not be mistaken. This, at present,
    is the best way I know.

    I think you misunderstand me. It's the hazard of trying to confine to one
    short post all of my thought on this subject.

    I never meant to say that I don't allow my children to express or be
    "cranky, tired, grumpy, sad, mad, frustrated, etc and to allow ourselves to
    feel those feelings" in appropriate ways. I agree entirely that they need to
    "know that those who love us the most will accept us and not punish us for
    being all of these human attributes."

    When I say, "That said, *they need to learn to behave properly even when
    tired, fractious, hungry, angry, hurt, etc.* I'm training them to be grown
    ups, and grown ups, to my mind don't get to act poorly, or break the law,
    and then claim hurt feelings or tiredness as an excuse." I am most
    definitely not saying I expect them to be little emotionless robots always
    acting perfectly. If I understand you correctly this is what you think I am

    What I am saying is that I tell my kids that even if you are angry at
    someone it is not acceptable to hit them. Even if your feelings are hurt you
    may not maliciously break their toy. I hold myself to a similar standard. No
    matter how tired or angry at a child I may not act toward them in violence.
    I know you hold yourself to the same standard.

    My long term goal for my children is that they understand just how free they
    are, that they understand themselves as the actors in their own lives, that
    they know that their decisions and actions have power, and that they also
    learn to be responsible with that power, and to have the self discipline
    they need to do with that power and freedom the very best that they can and
    what they want to do.

    Does that shed more light on this?

  11. I'm so glad you posted this! It's such a controversial topic, but I needed to hear EXACTLY what you just wrote. My two year old has recently begun behaviors that my husband and I agree should have "corporal discipline" as a consequence. Things like slapping her younger sister or disobeying us deliberately when we know she understands what we mean. And everywhere I turn I see posts written by bloggers I respect saying how they NEVER spank and why, and I'm so worried that we're making the wrong decision and will end up damaging our children. I'm constantly questioning my parenting choices, it seems. HOWEVER, teaching high school has let me see the consequences of never giving a child clear boundaries or teaching them that bad choices will lead to bad outcomes. It's so hard for these kids to learn this when they are teenagers! I do NOT want that for my children. I don't think that no spanking necessarily means no consequences or no boundaries, but I do think that spanking is the easiest consequence for a child to understand. So far my philosophical explanations of why she shouldn't hit her sister have not had much effect on my two year old, but telling her that if she hits she will get a spanking (and following through, naturally) is very effective. Psychologically, avoidance of pain is one of the earliest motivators. I'll continue explaining everything because I know it will sink in someday, but spanking is something she can understand now. And now is when the habits are being formed!

    You've also hit on something that my husband says when I doubt our decision: Spanking is how we avoid emotional abuse. We don't spank out of anger or frustration, but from logic. If we let the behavior continue unchecked, THAT is when we become angry and impatient with our children and more likely to "snap" verbally and emotionally. What is more damaging for a child, receiving a clearly-defined consequence for their actions or continuing their actions without really understanding what you're saying or why they're supposed to sit in this chair for two minutes, and then suddenly having a parent yelling and angry at them? Predictability is vital for a happy childhood, I think.

    So! Longest comment EVER! But really, thank you for writing this. I absolutely agree, and it's lovely to have my opinions affirmed!

  12. I haven't read her post, but I completely agree with you. Very well thoughtout and articulate post. Spanking is not something we did once our kids were school age, I personally hated doing it (I was never spanked), but with our youngest I wish we had done it more. It seemed to make him angrier so we backed off and used other consequences, but I think there are areas in his character now that would have benefitted had we continued to work with him via spanking.

  13. Carrien - you are so brave! I've avoided this topic for many years, though most of my readers probably know where I stand on it. Thank you for speaking so thoughtfully, compassionately, and humbly on such a divisive topic. In fact, that's why I've avoided it - it can be SO divisive, but there is not a hint of that here. You are awesome.

    In that spirit, here are a few thoughts (please know I am speaking these leaning forward with grace and gentleness, not harsh confrontation!)

    1) "I''ll even go so far as to say I wish they had done more of it, because I
    needed it, and there are many things I struggled with as an adult in the
    area of self discipline that I wish they had helped me with when I was

    My parents spanked me as well. I know that FOR ME, I learned to make choices to avoid pain/punishment, instead of a place of intrinsic self-discipline. I personally wish my parents had spanked me less and rather focused on coming alongside me and teaching and molding my heart to seek after self-discipline (an area I struggle with as adult as well!).

    That is my biggest concern with punishment - though we do use punishment sparingly, I do think that for children, it teaches avoidance of pain (physical or whatever) rather than consistently teaching better choices.

    2) Totally agree with you that not all spanking is abuse. I know many families who handle the issue with love and care.

    3) As far as shortening the feedback time for the child ... I think as my children get older, I am more interested in them learning the natural consequences of choices. I feel strongly that this is how God parents me. I believe fully that the punishment for all of my sins were paid on the cross by Christ, and therefore when I sin, it is not punishment that I receive, but God has often allowed me to experience the natural (and many times painful) consequences of my sin.

    In fact, there are times I wish I could have received a swift swat from my Heavenly Father rather than enduring the long-lasting consequences of my sin. As my children have moved out of toddlerhood, I've tried as much as possible to allow the natural consequences of their choices teach them.

    4) Just a quick note on time-ins, from someone who uses them regularly - I *personally* use them not as correction but as a way of bringing an out-of-control kid back into a place of controlling themselves.

    I want to thank you again, Carrien, for engaging in this conversation SO thoughtfully and respectfully. I would never stand in a place of judgment over what works best in your family and what you feel most strongly about. Thank you for extending grace to those who see things differently! (especially for humoring the feedback of those of us who have only two children, spaced three years apart. hee)

  14. I notice the tendency toward this if I let behaviors slide in myself as

    I have, on more than one occasion, I'm sad to say, had to apologize to my
    child for not giving them the no-no stick when they chose it and instead
    allowing things to go to the point where I am angry and yelling
    nonsensically instead.

    Aaron's consistent remonstration over the years is, "Don't try to reason
    when you are angry, you end up sounding contemptuous, and if you are angry
    you're already 10 minutes too late, you should have done something 10
    minutes ago."

  15. Megan,

    Thank-you for weighing in here.

    As always, yours and other comments help me to realize how much I didn't say
    here, even though it's such a long post. You bring up some good points and
    some missing pieces.

    1. It's always so interesting to me the things people take away from their
    experiences as children. I found, based on mine, that I tended to make
    decisions to avoid people making people angry at me, because that filled me
    with fear.

    I didn't regard pain one way or the other as a significant factor..

    We are also as sparing as we can be with corporal correction, though it is
    ultimately up to the kids.We often go weeks and months without it arising.

    What I wonder is if a healthy self discipline isn't in some ways founded in
    the avoidance of pain, and the ability to adjust our perspective of pain,
    embracing what may be painful now, but eases pain in the long term. The
    adult example that comes to mind for me is paying the bills and filing all
    those papers that come with it. It's painful, but I do it for the avoidance
    of greater pain, like being homeless.

    What I'm trying to say is that I'm not sure that avoidance of pain in it's
    various forms isn't an important factor in making decisions, even if it
    shouldn't be the primary one. But I agree with you that it i an issue to

    Obviously, what else we do as parents is a big factor here, I should write a
    follow up post about that.

    3. "As my children have moved out of toddlerhood, I've tried as much as
    possible to allow the natural consequences of their choices teach them." Me
    too. I think we're in agreement on this one. We move toward this direction
    as well as soon as we can.

    4. Yes. I do this too. I don't call it time ins, but I do sit with a child,
    read, cuddle, and usually also encourage them to eat something, because
    hunger, or tiredness, is almost always a factor in finding it hard to be in
    control emotionally. We go for explanations of how hunger is affecting their
    brain chemistry and making them feel such strong sad feelings. I don't
    expect them to be able to bring themselves back from such places, I help
    them do it.

    Thanks Megan for wading into the waters with me from the other side and
    meeting me in the middle. :)

  16. Rachel in Idaho11:43 AM

    Excellent post, thoughtfully written.  I totally agree. 
    I was spanked as a child and always said I'd never do that when I had kids.  :)  Wrong choice.  Now I look around at some of the kids who in my church (whose parents don't spank) and think "Wow, that kid needs some DISCIPLINE!!"
    I believe it is biblical to use corporal discipline, and I know that when I am consistent in doling out appropriate consequences, my kids need them much more often.  But, like you, it requires so much self-discipline on my part that I often fall down on the job.  :( 
    It's definitely for the greater good, though, to teach kids about acceptable behavior and appropriate consequences when they are young.  Way too hard to try to go back and teach it after the kid is in high school (and pregnant or dabbling in drugs or engaging in unhealthy relationships, etc.).
    Well done.  Thank you.
    Rachel in Idaho

  17. Rachel in Idaho11:44 AM

    Oops!!  My kids need consequences much LESS often when I am consistent.  :)

  18. Suzanne Chandler10:59 AM

    Thank you for your bold and reasonable post on this topic. 

  19. Nathaniel & Jessica Moos11:48 AM

    i had to laugh when i looked and saw so many comments listed already -  it didn't surprise me! 

    thank you for posting on this, i'm sure it as challenging to try and cover all the bases and points that you wanted to and how you feel about them.  it's definitely food for thought and i appreciate your transparency and vulnerability here.  

  20. Michelle2:06 PM

    Thank you for the most reasonable post I've ever seen on this subject. Kudos to you.

  21. Liavek10:52 AM

    Wow. Thank you for so very thoughtfully and, dare I say it, lovingly, sharing your views. 

  22. My Mom was a yeller and a crier. Honestly a spanking would have been much preferred to the emotional terrorism she used to hold us hostage. It was always such a relief when my Dad came home and we got punished! Your post is clear, concise and makes so many valid points. And thank you for pointing out that in most cases, it's a spanking and not a beating.

  23. Bravo for this wonderful and well-writter, well thought out piece. There is definitely a difference between loving corporal discipline and abuse. I am not yet a parent, but if ever I become one, my children can be assured that I will put as much effort into lovingly keeping them on the straight and narrow, no matter what method it takes to get them there. Thanks for writing this. I love your last point - it is indeed kinder!

  24. I agree. There are ways of speaking that can damage a child far more than a
    spanking that is only that, just a spanking.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  25. Thanks Nicole. :) I wish you well when you become a parent.

  26. :) "Bottom line, parenting is hard.  Really, really challenging.  And I will someday be grown up enough to handle it."

    Ain't that the truth? I hope I will be grown up enough to handle it someday too.

    (ps.) I thought I sent this ages ago in my email but I was doing it wrong. OOPS)

  27. Joy, this means so much to me! Thank-you. I'm glad no pointy objects were thrown. :)

    I know you do things very differently with your children, and I think you are a great mom.

    (Another comment reply that got lost by accident.)

  28. I think the tipping point for me was watching Aaron's family, his
    siblings, from childhood to adulthood some of them, and knowing I wanted
    my kids to turn out like them.

    There is much to learn from parents of adult children who turned out well I think. :)

    (Another comment reply that got lost by accident. I'm still figuring this reply by email thing out.)

  29. Loved this. And also the the 98% post. My husband and I are struggling with our decision (which we wisely made before children) to not spank our children. Our almost four year old rarely responds to time-outs even though we try to be consistent. Lately, my husband has brought up spanking and I've been ashamed to admit that I was thinking the same. Your post shed light on the topic in such a smart, logical and compassionate way. I've forwarded it to my husband.

    I found you through blogher - noticed that you were featured in Family around the same time my post was featured in Career. I've been looking around and am looking forward to getting to know you through your writing.

  30. Kim, thank-you for visiting. I'm going to have to find your post now. I look forward to getting to know you too. Are you going to blogher?

    ps. Glad this was useful for you. I'm always happy to hear that. I was initially really uncomfortable about the feature so thank-you for letting me know. :)

  31. Really interesting article - I'm surprised there are no comments here?
    I respect what you are saying - especially the part about time outs. I have seen parents who no longer want to spank, but instead move to relying heavily on time outs. I tend to view timeouts as worse than a spank as well. I also have spanked my kids, in much the same approach as described here, but have moved to more gentler approaches and am more happy with this approach for my kids. When I learned that fear blocks learning, I came to see that though spanking can be effective for short term obedience, it doesn't produce the deeper level of learning that I'm trying to teach. There's also so much research available now that is showing the negative long term effects. I have 4 boys spaced very close together - so I do have to disagree with your point about gentle approaches and time-ins not working for larger families with children spaced close together. I have found it to work amazingly and I am so happy with the changes my husband and I have made to our parenting style. So though I do take a different approach, I have to say that there are so many different parenting styles out there, and the bottom line is that we have to support each other as moms and not pass judgment. I can see your heartfelt love and commitment for your children and respect that so much. Thank you for sharing.

  32. Leslie, thank-you for commenting. I so appreciate you stopping by and the kindness of your comment. (I did have a ton of comments here but then I changed my url and I haven't yet figured out how to bring back all the old comments in disqus, etc, blahdy, blah, it's a bit of a headache.)

    I would love to see you doing that with 4 closely spaced boys. I love the idea and philosophy behind that approach but have rarely seen it play out well in a family. I admire a mom who can make it work.

    I tend to base my bottom line on how the kids of the people giving the parenting advice turned out. It's perhaps less scientific than studies. :) But I gravitate toward and learn from people I respect and admire as people, and as parents, who have adult children I respect and admire as well.

    The longer I do this parenting thing the more I realize that there is no perfect way to go about it, and we all do the best we have with the moment we're in and in the end we hope it's enough and what they need because even our best parenting efforts need to be redeemed.

  33. I thought this post would generate a lot of comments!! :) Too bad you lost them all, I can imagine there might have been an intense debate going on here! I think you are right - the advice I tend to appreciate the most is from older moms whose children are grown - you can see the "results" so to speak!! Definitely less scientific, and more of a mentorship approach, I guess. I have to say "amen!" to your last paragraph there. No matter what style or approach we take, we make SO MANY MISTAKES. Every day. We need so much grace and God's redeeming work in our lives and the lives of our children. Bottom line. xo

  34. you just changed my mind on this issue.  well said 

  35. I appreciate that you are not spanking your children out of anger or frustration and I do admit that that is uncommon. I also agree with you that engaging children in developing rules and then administering consequences is empowering to them, and absolutely the job of parents to teach them about boundaries and choices. But not hitting them. Because however you want to call spanking, it is still an adult hitting a (much smaller) child and at the very least, despite its deliberate or conscientious application, it desentisizes kids to the idea of aggression and violence, not to mention teaching them submissive behaviors that could hinder their healthy growth and development. 

    Thanks for asking me for my thoughts on this, but I'm afraid your post, though very indicative of your care and commitment to your children, does not change my position on advocating for alternatives to spanking that achieve the same results.

  36. Shawnele8:28 PM

    What a well-stated, positive post on a tool that many parents use judiciously and effectively (and that many generations have used likewise).  I'm bookmarking it to share with others.

  37. Hi, I have been looking for a way to articulate how I've felt about  spanking and I think this most accurately describes how I feel. Also, I tried everything else.... a quick spank seems to be the only thing that gets through to my "spirited" 5 year old. If a well executed spanking protects her from making choices that could harm her, then so be it. I try to use a more Love and Logic, as well as facilitating an attachment, but sometimes a spanking is what needs to happen. I generally have warned (not threatened) that a spanking was going to be imminent if the behavior continues prior to actually spanking. I do this, not to see how far she can push me but so as to give a wide berth of opportunity for her to correct herself on her own. Generally, she corrects herself now that she is older before getting spanked but every couple of months she tests me, just to make sure the consequences still exist. I have tried everything else. As an AP parent I have been shamed many times for using CP just as I have been shamed by non-AP parents for breastfeeding and "never putting my baby down." A little compassion for eachother is really what is in order.

  38. Ghosaflook11:51 PM

    Boy you really hit this nail on the head perfectly! The main key to corporal discipline is the word PROPER and only when the extreme need exists or else it becomes meaningless. As you said, this is not always your first course of action. I totally agree with everything you said, and said very well too. Small toddlers and children seem like they all have a death wish!! Streets, electrical cords for a snack, deciding to tackle a full flight of stairs the day they have learned to take their first steps, etc. and etc. These little ones can only really relate to an immediate and memorable consequential experience for their very safety at first, then they start to learn and relate to the obedience aspect of their choices.

    Properly administered, in love and NOT out of anger or frustration is the absolute key and most parents cannot seem to master this, thus their fears that this form of discipline is abuse, which in reality, as you stated, is more merciful and less humiliating for the child, as this is always done in discreet privacy. As far as someone thinking this is somehow the lazy way out!!?? I beg to differ with you on that, as this takes self discipline on the parent's end (no pun intended) and is much harder to do when done properly. It definitely is not a lazy way out.

    I have seen both sides of the coin and the tail end that gets the " no no stick " comes out a head. The results are proven in my own life and way of parenting. This type of parenting could be considered old fashioned, but if you compare past generations to our current lenient generation it is proven that past generations are much more loyal, moral, selfless, patriotic, responsible, and on and on. We all did not get trophies. We failed in school if we did not do well and that was extremely motivating to me as a child. My kids got loving spankings early and by the time they were in the young child age, around 5-7 years old, these disciplinary actions became fewer and farther between. They matured and decided to make the right choices and for the right reasons on from their own convictions.

    Your blog on this very controversial issue is brilliant. I have never heard this explained so well and logical and rational. If this can influence just a few new parents, their rewards in the future will be great. Continue my dear and stay the course.


  39. I want to note also that the studies on spanking can't differentiate between loving discipline and abuse - it is scientifically impossible, since you're dealing with parental motives and that can't be measured.  I love this post.  I have always been pro (or at least not against) spanking, although due to the large number of people who seem to want to throw a parent in jail for giving a child a swat on the behind, I'm afraid to administer it.  Your post doesn't make this decision any easier :)  Thank you for giving such a great voice to this perspective! 

  40. Mariska Malmros7:12 PM

    So it is ok if you disobey your husband and he use corporal discipline on you in a loving way? It is ok if you do something wrong at work, by not delivering your work on time and for your boss to use corporal discipline on you in a loving way. What a load of crap.!


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