Discipline VS Neglect

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.

Hi Steph,
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.

Love,
Pam

Thank you for your kind words.  And I’m glad you commented.  May God bless you and your family!

 

About Steph, M.S.Ed
I have my Master's Degree in Early Childhood Ed. My book, Gentle Firmness, is available everywhere!! Glory to God!!! My specialty is infants and toddlers. I have worked with many infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. I teach parents, college students, and professionals about the Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) Approach. The RIE Approach is a very respectful, sensitive, responsive way of caring for infants and toddlers. I also love Dr. Sears' Attachment Parenting. I teach parents about how harmful spanking is, even when done "lovingly", and that God does not want us to spank (hit) children. I'm very passionate about God's Word and respect for children. I've been a Christ-follower since 1996. I'm married to a wonderful man who supports me in this 100%. He raised his son without spanking and his son is now a wonderful man. Thank you for reading my work! God bless!

Comments

  1. Pam says:

    Hi Steph, My, I’m flattered by recieving a whole post in response to my comment!:0)I think we agree on much more than we disagree on. You know another interesting stat I’ve read about people in prision is that most report having a high self-esteem which can’t be right. People get confused about things and in the U.S. too many people think that spanking is the only form of discipline and any discipline wrongly, applied ends up as abusive.Parents who are child abuse survivors are confused about many things. I know because I lived it and I’ve worked very hard to understand and change.

    I think I know God pretty well though, none of us are able to understand Him completely. I didn’t mean to imply that He hurt me but He does allow bad things to come into my and I learn from them. The book of Job teaches that God does this to turn us from our error back to Him. Discipline in the same way, teaches children how to be and what kind of behaviors can bring pain into their lives. Consequences are important and when children move toward behaviors that threaten to produce harmful consequences, parents have to take strong action. I think that sometimes, that means a child may have to endure a little pain in order to avoid a natural consequence of greater pain. Spanking, when done properly (and I could describe that method) can be the vehicle of that lesser pain. As I stated ealier, when spanking is used infrequently, in response to a child behaving in a way that threatens harm to themselves or another, it can make a serious enough impression to change that child’s behavior. Used in this way, I don’t think it teaches them to use violence but instead, that certain behaviors bring pain. I am far past my child-rearing years and any disciplining I do of my grandchildren, is in support of their parents and whatever they’ve decided on as consequences. I still contend that abuse is as much, if not more, intent as it is action. Parents who love to whail on their children because it relieves tension in them or gratifies some twisted emotional need, are definately abusing their children. I don’t believe that a loving, responsible parent who sometimes, spanks their child as part of an overall plan of discipline for their child, is abusing that child. Abuse respects no personal boundaries and that is what disciplining children is all about, teaching them where they end and others begin. I still contend, that there are certain instances when a child needs a firm boundary set and the usual methods of time out or rewarding good behavior, aren’t a strong enough jolt to teach a child about those boundaries that can never be crossed. Abuse strips a child of personal boundaries and leaves them defenseless. Discipline makes sure those protective boundaries are firmly, in place.

    Anyway, I think we are both on the good-guys team and believe in the same outcome. People who abuse their children take little time to consider any of this. They need help too but from my experience, education isn’t enough to reach them and make them want to do better. That’s the part I’m trying to figure out…

    Love,
    Pam

    • Steph says:

      You’re welcome. I agree that, overall, we do agree on more than we disagree. Thank you for clearing up about God allowing pain into our lives to strengthen us. It’s a joy to share in Christ’s suffering.

      I am aware of “love spanking/hitting” practices. I’ve even witnessed it. It is precisely why I set out to write a book showing that the Bible does not teach, mandate, or otherwise condone spanking/hitting children for any reason. Even if you do it to “protect” the child, the young child doesn’t understand it the way we may think they do. They see it as something that makes Mommy/Daddy hurt me when I do it. Of course, part of discipline is being proactive. A toddler cannot, and should not, be trusted to keep himself safe. Therefore, I believe in child-proofing and supervision until the child is truly old enough to understand danger. I mean, even if you “lovingly spank/hit” a child as a last resort to keep them safe, there’s no guarantee that the child will stay out of danger once we are out of the picture. But by teaching (disciplining) them why the street is dangerous (You’ll get run over.) or why the stove is dangerous (You’ll get burned), we teach them to be afraid (appropriately) of danger instead of us. I want my child to trust me and run to me, and ultimately, God, when they encounter danger. To purposefully inflict pain on a child teaches him/her to do the exact opposite–even if it may not be apparent to us. And, spanking/hitting children is always abuse because they always get spanked/hit for things they cannot control such as their impulses. And being spanked/hit even once has been shown to harm vulnerable developing brains. It does, in fact, teach that it is ok to use violence as a last resort. If I spanked/hit you for walking in front of traffic after pulling you to safety, you’d call the cops. And what about adults with mental disabilities? Would you spank/hit them as a last resort? I’d hope not. Then we need not do it to smaller humans. Again, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Spanking/hitting breaks that command.

      The other tools you happened to mention above such as time-out are actually punishments designed to inflict pain and stop behavior. That’s why they don’t always work. True discipline never punishes but teaches. Please read my “Discipline without Harm” series http://whynottrainachild.com/2012/04/03/discipline-without-harm-1/ to see a good deal of discipline strategies that work with even difficult children. I truly believe that understanding child development is key to being able to discipline without using punishment. We are to follow God’s example in disciplining.

      As far as the stat about prisoners having high self-esteem, I suspect they either lied so as not to feel weak, or the power they had to finally hurt another human being after being powerless in childhood, makes them feel good. Many are so broken that they are sociopaths. Sociopaths can’t feel for others literally due to brain damage cause by harsh, abusive, and/or neglect. I recommend reading the following books:

      “For Your Own Good” by Alice Miller

      “Spare The Child” by Phillip Greven

      “The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog” by Dr. Bruce Perry

      “Attached At The Heart” by Barbara Nicholson & Lysa Parker

      “Becoming Attached” by Robert Karen

      These will help you understand how the young brain works. Discipline is a lot more work than punishment, but we are called by God to do this and serve our children in this way.

      I leave you with the following verse about not following traditions in place of God’s Word to bless you because I feel like you have a teachable heart which is very refreshing!

      “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” Mark 7:8. Spanking/hitting is a tradition of man. 90% of parents today spank/hit their children a some point and this world continues to become worse & worse. It’s time to truly discipline our children. God bless!

  2. Pam says:

    Hi Steph, I agree that discipline is much more than punishment. It is talking to a child and constantly, teaching them. It is bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I know you are expert in child development but I’m wondering if you are a parent? I always preferred teaching my children over any kind of punishment but there were times when they simply, wanted to do things their way and didn’t want to learn what I was trying to teach them or warn them of. They’re in their 30’s now and they are still the same way!lol! Also, boys are in many ways, harder to get a handle on when it comes to behavior. What I don’t like these days, is little boys being put on behavioral meds simply, because they act like little boys. They are wiggly, visually distracted, easily distracted!, and often, daring. They want to take risks! It’s manly!lol!Little girls will listen but to communicate with a little boy, you have to put that little face in your hands and make them look you in the eye. And it doesn’t hurt to check if you got through by asking them to repeat what you said. That still doesn’t guarantee they agree with you and will do as they’ve been told. Those are the times when I don’t see how you can get through to them without some unpleasant consequence. I know in some schools now, they are using padded cells and electric shock to ‘control’ difficult kids. I was never big on coporeal punishment in public school and wouldn’t allow my kids to be spanked by public school employees but drugs, padded cells, and electric shock are worse. This teaches chldren that they are crazy when most of the time, they are just kids. I’ve also, seen kids labeled, put into behavioral classes, given meds, and ruined. Whatever problems they had at home, were magnified by treating them this way. They were raised for prision and that is where they ended up. I’m much more concerned about children being raised this way than children being raised by loving parents, who sometimes find it necessary to spank their child.Abuse of children inside institutions that are supposed to be for their training and protection is a big problem these days. I’m all for learning better ways to do things but a lot of the ‘new’ ways are worse than the old.

    I’ve read Alice Miller and I agree with most of what she says but not all. I am an independent thinker and I’ve not found anyone that I totally, agree with except, Jesus.:0) He valued children, equally, with adults and in fact, taught that we should become more like them! That’s what I see missing in the treatment of children, they aren’t valued. People who want abortion to be kept leagal as a means of birth control are even beginning to push for infantacide by reasoning that a human llife isn’t viable until a child develops self-awareness somewhere, between the ages of 2-5 years old! Some are beginning to be so bold as to say it doesn’t matter that an unborn child is human. The whole idea of children reaching some assigned level of viability is horrible. Do you know that the Obama admistration recently gave the go ahead for Homeland Security to begin experimenting with antrax vaccines on human babies? The children will come from CPS and will likely, be poor, black babies who no one wants. The same kind of experimenting on children was done with AIDS drugs. There are some huge, growing threats out there against children. It is a growing, silent halocaust. We, as a society, must start to value children as they are meant to be valued or it will mean the collapse of our culture. I am glad to see that you have that kind of respect and value for children, even if I quibble with you on a few points. Kids need all of us to speak for them and fight for them.

    Love,
    Pam

    • Steph says:

      Hi Pam,

      You and I are very alike, overall, in our views of children. I am against medication (unless absolutely necessary), electric shock, and other horrible things that are happening to God’s beautiful children. I didn’t vote for Obama either as he clearly does not value children. It makes me sick really. I am very sadden that testing of vaccines continues on human babies that are seen as lesser value. And don’t get me going on abortion and infanticide as I am very pro-life!

      That’s why I am so against spanking/hitting children for any reason, even as a last resort. I am not a momma yet. But my husband raised his son without spanking/hitting. And I have lots of mommy friends who are or have raised their children without spanking/punishment. I am asking them to share their stories with you. 🙂 While I am not a parent, I have worked with children. Some of which were quite difficult. Girls included. Yes, they need you to hold their heads sometimes. They keep you on your toes. But, never once did I feel the need to spank/hit them. I couldn’t anyway being in a child care center. I was forced to use nothing but discipline techniques, and they worked. Was I frustrated at times? Yes. But that was more about me than them. I just always had to follow through and help them comply when necessary. In fact, spanking/hitting them probably would have made them act worse

      Pam, I really like you. I hope you don’t feel that I’m judging you because I’m not. I do believe that most parents do the best they can with what they have. But I also can’t accept spanking/hitting for anyone at any age. That just isn’t respectful nor showing Christ to others, especially His little ones.

      Thank you so much for contacting me and reading my work. Stay tuned for stories from my friends! God bless you!

      Love,
      Steph

  3. Pam says:

    Steph, I don’t feel judged at all. I’m not offended when someone doesn’t agree with me. I’ve taught others in many situations in my life and all good teachers know that the act of teaching is not simply, filling empty heads with the knowledge you possess. Good teachers know that at best, we can add to the knowledge of others, learn as much from our students as we teach, and allow them to assimulate what we offer. No two people can completely, agree on anything. We don’t even have exactly the same definitions for words and we all filter information through our own experiences. God made us individuals and I appreciate the wisdom of that more and more, as I age.

    I’ve worked with kids in all kinds of group settings too and never even thougt about spanking them. There was one girl that I had to ask her parents to remove but I’ve worked with a lot of difficutl children and won them over. I love children and respect them and they know it. They respond to people they know really care about them. However, being a parent is different. My kids were around me enough to know all of my flaws and by the time they were teenagers, they knew just what buttons to push and when. Believe me, parenting doesn’t compare to teaching. It is much harder!lol! I combined both for a few years and also, homeschooled my children for a time. Let’s just say it was the best of times and the worst of times! I wouldn’t trade those homeschool years for anything but there were some tough days in there.

    What I really think is the most difficult thing about parenting is that most of us are so young when we have children. If all parents had a discipline plan set in place before they started a family, that would be ideal. I know few people who were that wise. Most of us parent by the seat of our pants and learn as we go. It was that way for me too. I also, had a lot of healing to do from my own childhood. I worked hard at parenting, I’ve put a lot into my inner work. I know I wasn’t a perfect parent but my children know how much I love them. We have a good relationship. When I was young, I wanted to be a perfect mom and raise perfect children but what I learned is that it is better to be a good mom. A good mom loves herself and her children despite the imperfections of both and if that mother is faithful to support her children through all the things they have to work through, they will return that love. When there is love, even that bad things work to draw a family closer. Despite sometimes, faulty discipline, “Love covers a multitude of sin.”

    I like you too, Steph and in this world, I think that those of us who care about kids, need to support one another. I look forward to the stories and understanding how someone implements discipline without spanking or punishment. One thing I’m particularly interested in is how do children who haven’t been trained through the use of negetive consequences, as well as reward, deal with the negetive consequences in society that all of us sometimes, earn and learn better from. What I see in society and don’t like, are children who never hit a boundary of a final, ‘no’ until that ‘no’ comes from a policeman and a judge. That shouldn’t have to happen and it happens too often.

    I enjoy discussing this and thank you for allowing this rather opinionated, old woman to ‘speak her mind’.:0)

    Love,
    Pam

    • I did not spank my (now adult) children, but that does not mean that they never heard the word “no.” For more information about gentle discipline and how it works, please check out my Gentle Parenting Posts Also, I should mention that we do believe in Natural Consequences.

    • Steph says:

      Hi Pam,

      I agree with you about teaching. And I believe that it’s up to God to change hearts. We are just His vessels.

      Yes, having a child 24/7 is much different than a few hours a day in a classroom. They do push buttons. But I truly believe that this is just children being children. It’s their job to push buttons to see how we’ll react and to make sure that we’ll react consistently and enforce boundaries in a respectful manner. Knowing positive discipline techniques and child development helps before having children, but God makes every child unique, so we must be able to adapt. Crystal Lutton, whom I mention in the original post, has a son with Autism along with other emotional and behavioral issues. In her most recent book (see link in the original post), she writes about how she disciplines him with grace despite some very challenging behaviors. She has 5 children and has been successfully disciplines all her children without spanking/hitting. They definitely do not get their way all the time and experience natural and logical consequences. Just because we don’t punish, definitely does not mean children are free to run wild. Also, all my gentle discipline friends including Hermana Linda, Crystal Lutton, and Dara, whom I am about to introduce you to, are or have homeschooled their children. The reason I bring this up is I think part of the problem with today’s society is that people are spending less & less time with their children. And technology is making this worse. Many times children will act up because they are craving our love and attention. So, sometimes the best thing we can do when our children act up is to hug them and help them feel better before enforcing whatever needs to be enforced. Children (and adults) who feel good, act good. Believe me, I’ve seen it work

      Dara Stoltzfus is one of my best friends ever! You may have seen her postings on this website. She is a wise Christian, and a mom of 8 children ages 26 to 4 years old. All live at home. Her story is quite interesting as she used to spank/hit her children, but after discovering that the rod of Proverbs was actually a spiked weapon used to defend the sheep instead of whacking them, she immediately stopped spanking/hitting her children. Now that she knows how to gently but firmly discipline her children, that’s exactly what she strives to do. Her youngest has never been spanked/hit or otherwise punished, and she’s seeing so much fruit from her. She gave me permission to share this link from her wonderful blog. http://everythingisknowable.blogspot.com/search/label/Fruit%20of%20Not%20Spanking

      Check it out when you can. Children do best when raised firmly but gently and respectfully. Pain may come as consequences, and that’s ok. But it should never come from us. If it does then we should apologize. Because we are their examples.

      I’m so glad you’ve shared your thoughts with me. And yes, we who care about children need to stick together and be their voice.

      Love,
      Steph

  4. Pam says:

    Hermana, I will be sure to read your posts. What do you mean by natural consequences? I think some of those are what I hoped for my children to avoid and why I view some punishment as a necessary part of discipline. Am I misunderstanding?

    Steph, Thanks for the link. I have a lot of questions as to how discipline can work with no punishments, at all. That goes beyond the spanking issue. Punishment is a huge part of the way our culture deals with crime. It’s hard for me to understand how a parent can respond in any other way when a child misbehaves and be effective.

    Thank you for all the time you’ve spent conversing with me. It is interesting. I don’t know if you’ll be able to win me over to your way of thinking but it is interesting. I’m always open to learning something new.:0)

    Love,
    Pam

    • Steph says:

      It’s been my pleasure. I so appreciate you being willing to ask questions and be open to learning without being accusatory or judgmental. I wish more Christians were like you! 🙂

      Consequences are a must when disciplining. Of course, some natural consequences must be avoided such as allowing toddlers get hit by cars or burned. But it’s easy to replace that with a limit or another appropriate consequence such as not being able to play outside for the rest of the day for a child who cannot stay away from the road. We cannot protect children from reasonable consequences. Please read my discipline series and these other links and book. I think they’ll help you understand. Also, check out Gentle Christian Mothers. They’re a wonderful resource!

      Yes, our world is punishment based. But as Christians, we are to be separate from the world. That means when we spank/hit and punish, we are being worldly in our parenting. By using Christ as our example, we are separating ourselves from the world, making it less likely that children will have run ins with the law. Consequences also teach children to take responsibility for their actions.

      God bless. Feel free to come back and ask questions anytime.

      Love,
      Steph

    • Natural consequences are just what they sound like except that we would not allow something too drastic to occur. For instance, if I warn my child to take a sweater and he doesn’t, he will end up cold. If he won’t share his toys he will find that nobody wants to play with him. Things like that. 🙂 If he insists on doing something dangerous, he will lose my trust and I will not be able to allow him to play outside alone. If he lies to me, he will lose my trust and I will not be able to take him at his word and will have to check up on him. Earning back trust is hard and makes a huge impact.

  5. Dara says:

    Hi, Pam!!!
    I feel funny just butting into this conversation but Steph’s asked me to come over here and maybe share a story or two! And, this might sound weird, but, just from reading what all you’ve written I feel like I like you. 🙂 And, I feel like I completely relate to your concerns. For me I spanked “for 20 years.” I had one 21 year old and 4 kids under 8 at the time when I saw online that the “rod” spoken of in the Bible was a weapon used on predators. If that’s what it is…if it’s for the predators and not the sheep that changes EVERY verse I’d ever thought I knew about spanking! So, we stopped! That day! It was like you could hear the tires screeching and see smoke flying as we skidded to a stop!! 🙂

    And, to be honest I was completely helpless! I had no idea what to do! And, I really feel like for a year…at least…I just did nothing! Just stood by wishing I could threaten or give a spanking and without that one tool I had nothing. I would open my mouth to say, “Stop that or else!” and I had to stop mid-sentence all the time! So, when you ask what you can do if you don’t punish…I totally understand where you’re coming from. I seriously had a fried brain for a year over it 😉

    I have just a few things to say I guess! You said, “What do you mean by natural consequences? I think some of those are what I hoped for my children to avoid and why I view some punishment as a necessary part of discipline. Am I misunderstanding?”

    I think in a way you almost answer the question with some of what you said. Punishments do interfere with children learning the “natural consequences” of their choices. “Natural consequences” in the physical world we understand that we do “x” and something will fall or burn or whatever. Basically it’s just “cause and effect.” Those are natural physical consequences and in order to safely navigate the world we live in it’s necessary for kids to know these things. In the spiritual realm…it is very similar in that our children (and we all) need to fully comprehend what the natural consequences of our choices are in order to not sin. When we err in the physical realm we “mess something up” but when we err in the spiritual realm we call those “mess-ups” sin.

    And, I think that too often our effort to shield our kids from the natural consequences interferes with the really important lessons they need to learn. Like…say…you n’ I are really close friends and I come to your house and my child steals something from you. You and I understand that this is going to strain your relationship with me. It’s going to make you mistrust my child. If you’ve been close to the child it will make you feel violated, betrayed, and hurt. The natural consequence of that child’s actions are that you are hurt and all of the relationships involved are damaged.

    The Bible tell us that “your sin has made a separation between you and your God” and that “hell” is eternal separation from God. We’re also told that “we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation.” And, science tells us that we are social creatures. Not only do individual brain cells “die” if they are in isolation from other brain cells but our brains “die” if we’re left all alone. Isolation brings us death. Health relationships bring us life. God came to give us LIFE more abundantly…and He did that thru forgiveness…

    So, the natural consequence of my child’s action would be “death” in our relationship. Jesus died to give us life and health and reconciliation in our relationships. How do I get THAT message across to my child? And, how do I show my child how to handle “being” offended and hurt AND how to fix offending and hurting someone?

    If I always approach my child’s bad choices with “punishment” the child…when caught…will first, foremost, and only fear what’s coming to them. They will focus on the fear of that punishment. Their focus after their transgression will be on the pain that they are going to suffer…alone. Their focus will be on themselves. They will miss the true consequence of their actions. They may learn by repetition and by fear of severe punishment that “stealing is wrong and bad” but what they really need to learn is “why” it is bad. And, the “why” takes time…closeness…talking…and results in them learning empathy or the capacity to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

    If they’re too young and immature to really understand the true natural consequences, they likewise are too young to be “punishing” for it anyway.

    “Stealing” is just one example…but if you sit down and try to think of all the different things we could punish kids for…all the offenses that they can do to inspire a punishment really do boil down to disrupting some sort of relationship.

    Back in 2010…my 8 year old hit his 6 year old sister. They were all about to head out the door to go play soccer at the youth center. My husband was taking the lead role in dealing with the situation and I was just sorta’ watching. My husband said to my son, “And, you’re NOT going tonight!” And, I watched then something that really sold me on the “not punishing” thing. What we wanted Josh to LEARN was that “hitting his sister is bad” and WHY. But, as my husband was explaining to him that it was bad because his little sister looks up to him and trust and loves him and it hurts her and their relationship for him to hit her…I watched as my son’s focus left my husband and went inward. His breathing became more rapid and his eyes were not focusing on my husband anymore. I could see that he was beside himself over his own grief and pain now that he couldn’t go along and play soccer. He was not hearing a word my husband said! I said, “Wait! Wait! Stop! Time out! You lost him! You have to take it back and let him go to soccer because you lost him.” My husband trusted me and agreed and told Josh he’d changed his mind and could go…And, I again watched as his breathing slowed…and his eyes again focused on what my husband was trying to tell him.

    I’m convinced that the focus on “self” that punishment necessarily causes just ruins the lessons that the natural (God designed) consequences are there to teach us.

    Now, I do get what you’re saying that sometimes we punish because we want to spare the children the “natural consequence.” We want them to understand that the hot stove can BURN them so we smack their hand. But…smacking their hand is not the only way to teach them not to touch the stove. It’s not like we either have to punish or let “nature take its course!” 🙂 What I’ve actually done with the stove is turn it on and let them touch it when it’s “warm.” Explain to them that it gets HOT and can hurt badly and show them what the burner looks like when it gets that hot. They also can be “close” to it and feel the heat coming off of it. I find that when I take the time to do that (particularly with my 7 year old) that they really almost feel love and loving after these lessons. A lot of times I get a hug from my kids after such a lesson. If I’d simply smack their hands I’d get a kid cowering and pulling away from me.

    And, if they’re too young to be reasoned with…they’re too young to really be allowed to be making the choice of whether or not to touch that stove and that’s when we have to do “environment control” and “baby proof” or “kid proof” the house. And, I think that’s really key. If they’re too young to reason with, you control the environment not the child. And, once they’re old enough to reason with that’s what you use. And, if you do that well their whole life…they won’t be a danger to society. They’ll understand the value of human relationships, have empathy, comprehend how their actions affect their relationship with God, and will not be the type to have run-ins with the law because they will fear the “natural consequences” of the actions that lead people there.

    They won’t drink and drive because they’ll be fully aware of how painful an accident would be to all involved. They won’t get into bar fights because they will be aware of all the hurt it can do to the people involved…including the person who pays the bills for the bar. They won’t drive recklessly because they’ll be aware of the potential harm of the natural consequences. They won’t cheat on their spouse because they would be aware of all the hurt and damage that’d do to them, their kids, and the other family and God. They won’t even cheat on their taxes because they’ll know that whatever they do “to the least of these” they’re doing to Jesus and that that applies to everything. The won’t want to hurt anyone…not even God.

    That’s what I feel like I’ve learned since I’ve gone from being punitive…to now trying my best to “disciple” my kids instead!!!

    SORRY that one lesson I haven’t learned is how to say anything in few words. 🙂

  6. Ryan Ellis says:

    Have you guys heard of Pinehaven Christian Children’s Ranch in Montana? If so, i was there for four and a half years, i can help clear up some things if that would help??? I wont be able to talk for i am about to get off online. Please email me at rle1995@yahoo.com only if you have questions and/ or comments… Thanks.

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