Note from Hermana Linda: We appreciate getting comments and read every one. This comment from Pam is so long that Steph decided to respond in a post, so here it is.
Though I don’t consider myself to be “pro” spanking, I am pro-discipline, and I do believe that infrequent spanking can be part of an over-all discipline plan, when done properly and with love. I have raised two boys and I have two grandsons. I’ve also, taught children and volunteered to work with children in many circumstances. I care about kids and child abuse is a deep concern of mine. I was an abused child, in the forms of medical neglect, emotional neglect, emotional abuse, emotional incest, and sexual abuse by a predator. I also, found myself in several abusive situations as an adult and I agree that children are born with natural ways of standing up for themselves that shouldn’t be taken from them. We all need to be able to protect ourselves. I also, believe that children can be defiant and they need help in learning to use defiance as a way to protect themselves and not as a means of ending up in prison. Part of the neglect I experienced as a child had to do with discipline. I don’t remember any spankings but I was allowed to eat only candy to the point of having fillings in all of my teeth by the time I was six (I also, had abscesses) and all of my teeth falling out by the third grade. My parents excuse this by blaming it on me and my refusal to eat so, they let me eat what I wanted and all I wanted was candy. I was also, sick a lot and they gave me alcohol as medication, I think it put me to sleep and I was less of a bother. The first time they gave me too much and made me drunk was when I was cutting my first teeth. They’ve always told this as a such a funny story…At three, I contracted strep-throat and it turned into Scarlet Fever. My parents kept me in bed and didn’t take me to the doctor until my grandmother came to visit and insisted they take me to the emergency room. I nearly died and spent the next year of my life in bed and had to learn to walk all over again. I couldn’t start school until I was seven but I was the size of a small four year old. However, being spanked isn’t something I remember. In fact, as long as my siblings and I stayed out of the way, we were pretty much able to do what we wanted. We got in trouble if anything interfered with them being able to drink and enjoy themselves. Right and wrong was defined by what bothered my dad and what pleased him and that varied with his mood and level of intoxication. These are some of the reasons why discipline is important to me. I know what it is like not to have proper discipline.
I’m very sorry for the horrible abuse and neglect you went through as a child. Thank you for sharing this. I completely understand why discipline is so important to you. It is to me too or I obviously wouldn’t be writing about it or trying to get a book published. You didn’t get the discipline that all children need to thrive. Your parents were permissive-neglective. I do not endorse permissiveness whatsoever! Permissiveness is very harmful as well as abuse. However, spanking/hitting is not discipline. It is punishment. Punishment inflicts pain and teaches fear. Fear can cause behaviors that I described in this article that most people view as “defiance.” Spanking/hitting children also teaches children to avoid punishment. God cares about what is in our hearts, not outward appearances. Spanking/hitting children plants seeds of sin in their hearts. And I’m sorry but spanking/hitting is not “loving.” It is abuse to intentionally inflict pain on another human being who doesn’t have the capability to understand sin or right from wrong. Proper discipline teaches and guides children into understanding how to behave appropriately. It does this without inflicting pain. Sometimes discipline is painful as we deal with the natural consequences of our choices. For a child, not getting treats until you eat something healthy is painful, but we are not physically or emotionally inflicting pain on them. We’re simply giving a limit and enforcing it. We can’t force children to eat but we can provide plenty of healthy choices and include them in food prep.
From what I’ve read here, I think you have another experience of child abuse that includes extreme, corporal punishment and it seems that was almost, the exclusive means of discipline. I would never support that and I don’t think it is Biblical. That kind of discipline is about a parent maintaining control over a child and discipline is about teaching a child to control themselves. I wish my parents would have responded to my refusing to eat by not allowing me to manipulate the situation and get the candy I wanted, all of the time, in place of meals. If that included a spanking done in the appropriate manner, I think I would accept that in place of the pain I went through with my teeth. However, I doubt spanking would be appropriate in teaching me to eat healthy foods. I would not handle my own children that way but they would not be given any treats if they didn’t eat their meals. I have seen children refuse to eat anything if they couldn’t have the treats they wanted even, to the point of being weak with hunger. Defiance is a part of human nature even, if that word isn’t in the Bible. Pharaoh was very defiant towards God through Moses. God exacted some pretty stiff punishments on Moses.:0) I would describe defiance in a child as the refusal to obey when that refusal puts them or others in harm’s way. Children can’t be allowed to hurt themselves or another person. It is in some of those instances that I think spanking can be appropriate. I see too many children these days who are not being disciplined and I recognize them because they are like I was, and they have no respect for any authority and if no one teaches them better, that they can’t be the boss all the time and have everything their own way, they will meet a much harsher authority than a parent who sometimes, spanks their child, out of love. Those children are heading straight for prison. Though I do believe that spanking is a measure of last resort, that it should never be done in anger but carried out in a loving manner, and should not cause physical damage, I think there are times whe spanking is appropriate. Some parents do abuse their children through spanking but not all spanking is abuse. Their are also, those parents who refuse the responsibility of parenting and neglect to discipline their children and that too, is abuse. As a child abuse survivor, I tended to run in the extreme opposite direction of the mistakes my parents made and by doing so, I made my greatest mistakes as a parent. It is important as a parent and a survivor of abuse, to tailor discipline to the individual needs of each child and not be blinded to that child’s needs by trying to fix our abusive childhood through them.
Yes, I was abused, but as I said, I’m not using my abuse to promote permissiveness. I have, and continue to study child development. When we understand how a child’s brain works and develop as well as remember God created children to develop in certain ways, we can see that the young child is not being “defiant” as so many are so quick to jump to. This article is about children, not adults. I do believe adults can be defiant against God. That is sin. But children are exploring their world. They are learning constantly. Children who behave “defiantly” are either being developmentally appropriate and need guidance, or have something deeper going on. As Crystal Lutton says in her book, Grace-Based Living, punishing children for brain issues is like punishing them for vomiting when they have the flu. So often children are spanked/hit for things they cannot control. This isn’t fair. God wants us to teach and guide children gently but firmly through each stage and situation. Spanking/hitting does not do this. It only scares, hurts, and confuses them which God tells us not to do.
God gave Moses consequences, not punishment. And God gave Pharaoh every opportunity to let His people go, but he was wicked. But this doesn’t mean children are wicked. They are not or Christ would not have set them up as an example for us to follow in Matthew 18. Punishment is never appropriate for children. We are to discipline them keeping the fruit of the Spirit in mind (Galatians 5:22). And we teach children the Golden Rule by following it ourselves with them. As far as the prison population, roughly 99% of all prisoners were spanked/hit as children. The other 1% were neglected like you were. So spanking/hitting doesn’t pay.
I believe God gave us all of our emotions and there are healthy uses for them all. The Bible teaches that wisdom and knowledge begin with the fear of God. It is important to recognize God as the ultimate authority and to fear what could happen to us if we defy His authority. The Bible also, teaches that perfect love castes out all fear. When we respond to the love of God, for us, through Jesus and love Him in return and show that love through willing obedience, there is nothing left to fear because obedience keeps us safe in God’s presence. This too is a picture of the parent/child relationship. God loves me and is faithful to discipline me and when I defy Him, I have suffered pain but when I repent of that defiance, He is quick to take me back into His loving arms and comfort me. I am thankful for the discipline I have in Jesus that I didn’t know as a child. My Heavenly Father loves me for my good and every bad thing He allows into my life is for the purpose of turning me back to Him. He is a perfect parent. I am not but I love my children for their good as God loves me. I love my grandchildren the same way. Tolerating defiance that puts them in harms way, isn’t love.
I’m afraid you may misunderstand Who God truly is. Jesus paid it all. He doesn’t inflict punishment on us when we mess up,. Yes, He allows natural consequences, but never hurts us. Please get to know God better. He’s always ready to help us when we sin. Otherwise, Jesus’ suffering was for not if we are still punished for sin after we accept His amazing gift of salvation. God is love. Love doesn’t inflict pain. Love gently guides and corrects. Again, children need guidance. I am in no way suggesting allowing them to do whatever they want. I am simply saying to look beyond the behavior in order to understand them better so we can guide and teach them appropriately.
I enjoy reading what you write and your perspective. I hope you don’t mind my expressing this small area of disagreement. I’m a firm believer in following the Spirit of the Law rather than the letter of the Law. True discipline is according to the Spirit and methods may vary from person to person, child to child, and still be of that same Spirit. Abuse is the same because abuse isn’t defined by actions only, but is the disregard for the boundaries of another, and the denial of responsibility in a relationship, and failing to recognize the inherent value of all persons.
Thank you for your kind words. And I’m glad you commented. May God bless you and your family!