My Experiences With Spanking

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” -Prov 22:15

This Bible verse and the idea that it refers to a literal rod encompassed most of my mother’s parenting philosophy. How to Be the Parents of Happy and Obedient Children by Roy Lessin strongly influenced her interpretation and application of this verse. One of the messages of Lessin’s book is that a child’s salvation depends on frequent and hearty spankings. My mother was passionate about obeying what she believed God wanted.  She didn’t raise her voice at me or spank me  “in anger.” However, I was spanked on the legs with a dowel rod for every infraction, including refusing to hug her after a spanking.  No “disrespect” was tolerated. This meant I had very little avenue for the expression of negative emotions except stuffing them down. This suppression of emotion back-fired when I became violent towards other children as a preteen. Later when as a teenager I learned to refrain from violence toward others I began to turn the violence towards myself. I had hysterical episodes where I would violently hit myself and destroy any possession I cared about that was breakable. As an adult I still struggle with feelings of self-hatred.

Throughout my childhood there was an emphasis on perfection. The burden of proving the effectiveness of my mother’s parenting fell directly on my shoulders. When people would comment on how well behaved I was she would often respond, “That’s what spanking will do!” Sometimes she would add an anecdote to show how stubborn I had once been and how spanking worked even for children as strong-willed as I. She often said she spanked me because she loved me and that it was really sad some children’s parents didn’t love them enough to spank them so they could be better people. Because of comments like this I believed I had an idyllic childhood and a mother worthy of sainthood. I thought the depression which haunted me was all my own fault for not being cheerful and content enough. When I had children not only did my depression become worse but now my children shared the results of my miserable negativity. I didn’t want to spank them but I had been trained that if I didn’t I was disobeying God and I didn’t love them. I did not spank as early or as often as I had been spanked but I felt horrible inside when I did spank. I found myself becoming unreasonably angry with my children when they disobeyed because I dreaded “having” to give them a spanking. Finally one day I faced God with an open heart and I told Him I found it hard to believe that a loving God would require a mother to deliberately cause pain to her small child. I asked Him to show me His true plan for parenting, whatever it might be. That very day I saw my daughter giving one of her baby dolls a spanking. She whacked it indiscriminately all over. Suddenly I saw my parenting through a child’s eyes and I was shocked and horrified. I began researching the so-called spanking scriptures and I was led to Gentle Christian Mothers where I finally found help for a different way of parenting. When I realized the rod was one of guidance, discipleship and example, I began to cry. It was as if a huge burden had been lifted from me. I haven’t spanked my children since that day. We still have a ways to go in healing our relationship but we have already come so far. It has amazed me how much I learn about them and how much more I can help them when I take the time to look for the why of their behavior instead of masking the problem with a spanking.

The transition from punitive to gentle parenting has been difficult. When I stopped spanking my children their repressed emotion began to come out. For a time it seemed as if they were always angry and I had to remind myself they had a lot to be angry about. I have had to learn new ways to help them deal with emotion and new ways of setting boundaries in a kind but firm manner. In short, I’ve had to re-parent myself and my children all at once. Things have gradually gotten better as I’ve learned from gentle mothers who are wiser and more experienced than I. It has taken a lot of prayer and a lot of hard work. Recently I saw something that made it all worth while. My daughter was playing with her baby doll and she pretended it was trying to hit her. Instead of hitting it as she once would have done she sweetly said, “No, no, be kind,” and gently restrained it with a hug. I could finally look into the mirror of her innocence and not shudder.

People often use the argument that spanking doesn’t work. I haven’t found that to be true. Consistent spanking does work in the short term if your goal is a smiling little copy of yourself who does everything you say and who doesn’t know how to say no to anyone who plays the authority card. Long term, it leads to depression, anger, fear, lack of personal boundaries, and if healing is not sought, violence.

Some of these things have been painful to share but I want to help people see the dark side of the spanking fairy tale. There is no magic formula for parenting. It’s about love, persistence, empathy, boundaries and admitting mistakes.

If you are considering raising your children with spankings and punitive parenting please look into their little eyes and commit to breaking the cycle of violence. If you were raised this way, please get help and healing so that you don’t pass on the violence to others. Thank God, in His love there is a more excellent way.

About Jadeswan
I'm a thirty-one year old homemaker and homeschool mom. I enjoy writing, drawing, baking, and studying herbs. I love growing and using herbs for medicinal, cosmetic and culinary purposes. I have a five year old boy who wants to be a knight prince when he grows up and a seven year old girl who wants to be a naturopath. I've been married eight years to my loving and supportive husband.

Comments

  1. greenegem says:

    Thank you for your revealing story. <3 I identify with many aspects of your story.

  2. annonymous says:

    dear sweet jesus, please help me. i am a mother of three. you know i was raised with trauma and abuse and spanking and rage. I know you have moved me from a place beyond “victim mode” and I have moved on in so many ways from being raised with alcoholic/alcohol abusing parents, being molested, from the chaos of a mentally ill mother from whom I never knew what I was going to get.

    i love my children so much. there has never ever been a question of wanting them or loving them. the rage in me seems to come from out of nowhere. the frustration bubbles to a blow up before I know what happened. I am a believer in the power of your life, death and resurrection, but when I loose my cool with my kids I feel completely defeated and like a total failure. I feel like my kids are getting what I got growing up… an unpredictable mother – they don’t know when whatever they are doing for the umpteenth time is going to be the time that pushes me to push the boundaries of what I know is healthy, loving, gentle communication and discipline. I need your help and I need the help of my partner and a therapist… and I am discouraged and fearful that we just cannot afford to pay for professional help.

    In the name of Jesus and the power of his sacrifice for me, please help me to see clearly a path to getting help… and to take that path!

  3. Christie says:

    Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this. I can identify with some of your post too.
    I am so sorry that the Name of Jesus is dragged into this. It certainly must break God’s heart
    that children suffer so, and God’s Word is so misused. Thank you for sharing the long term
    effects of this type of parenting.

    I cringe when I hear people say what your mama said to you. Do you have a relationship with her now?

  4. Jadeswan says:

    GreeneGem, I’m sorry you went through something similar. *hugs* Thank you for linking to my story.

    Anonymous, you are in my prayers. I hope and pray you can get the help you need to heal. Only through loving and healing yourself can you become a loving mother. It’s so hard to recognize how much God cares about us when we have been hurt by our parents but I pray that you will feel His love wrapping you gently and feel His kind wisdom guiding you.

    Christie, I’m sorry for what you have been through as well. I think the fact that spanking is done in God’s name is one of the reasons it has been passed on from generation to generation. To question it was practically blasphemy for many of us. :( To answer your question, I do actually have a fairly good relationship with my mother. It has been difficult for me to set up boundaries with her but I am getting better about it. What helped me the most was standing up to her disapproval because I wouldn’t spank anymore. I could stand up for my children when I couldn’t stand up for myself.

  5. Christie says:
    • Thank you for sharing that. :)

      • Jadeswan says:

        Yes, thank you very much for sharing. I especially like your point that even when parents spank their children the children still continue doing the same thing for a while. I think this points to obedience really coming down to consistence on the parents’ part and developmental readiness on the child’s.

  6. Rita says:

    THANK YOU!!!! If I saw you, Id hug you. And I don’t like to be touched. I have similar memories and really had begin to think I’m the only one. I struggle with anger and depression, too. Thank you so much for validating me, my experiences and choices I’m making to break the cycle for my daughter. Did I remember to thank you?

    • Jadeswan says:

      Aww, Rita, you are very welcome! I’m sending you a virtual hug. :D It can be really lonely to acknowledge the problems that spanking caused in your life, especially if you live somewhere where punitive parenting is hardly ever questioned. It took me over a decade into adulthood to realize that my childhood wasn’t ideal. It’s so confusing when your parents hurt you and tell you it’s because they love you. It’s wonderful that you are making different choices in order to break the cycle for your daughter. Thank you so much for commenting.

  7. Michelle says:

    This post really resonates with me. I only recall being spanked a couple of times (though I know when I was 3 and 4 I was spanked a lot), but I recall being yelled at, names muttered about me, having my hair pulled, being told my emotions don’t matter…. And yet up until a year ago I still believed I would spank on occasion. Now I believe I never will – at least I will strive to never do such a thing. My struggle is letting my emotions heal. I know I should probably get professional help. I’ve learned to have a short fuse (ironically, was also criticized about it when that was what was modeled for me) and when things get really frustrating, I get overwhelmed and irritable. I always apologize though. Even though my baby is only 7 months old, I want to have a habit of being honest and humble and show her how to repent. Grace-based or peaceful parenting has already healed me in many ways, but I know I have a long road to go.

  8. Thank you for sharing the true inner life of children who are spanked. I was always too afraid to share true feelings with my parents. I pray my children will feel they can share anything with me, and be accepted with love and honesty.

  9. Anon says:

    If you “get it often”, is it really working?

    Since you cannot see how you would be without spanking, do you really know, when you “get better” that it is because of the punishment? Maybe it’s just because you’re getting older.

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