Kristin Prentiss Ott, M.D.

Spanking Part 2: Modifying Baa’d Behavior (Guest Post)

This is a guest post written by Jesse Prentiss as part of a two-part series on spanking. The point of this series is, of course, to offer differing perspectives on a semi-controversial issue, but also to demonstrate that it’s possible to hold opposing opinions and maintain love and respect for one another. The author of this post is my beloved sister-in-law, a respected friend, the perfect wife for my older brother, and an awesome mom to my niece and nephew.

 Jesse has a degree in Journalism and blogs at her site, “Move to Prosper.”

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I don’t even remember the unreasonable request my 4-year-old daughter demanded at the grocery store that day but the mega-tantrum that followed still lives in family lore. She ran to the opposite end of the aisle, threw herself down and started kicking and screaming, making a muddy smeared circle on the floor with her tears and slobber.

I kept pushing the cart and made it to the next aisle before she noticed my absence.

She stopped crying, got up, walked ahead until she spotted me and then repeated her performance. It was a textbook demonstration of “STOP, DROP, and ROLL” as if she was literally on fire.

There was wild fire in her heart and it is a fine line as a parent to find a way to douse rebellious flames and not to fan them.   

She repeated her theatrics for several more aisles as I received dirty looks and sympathetic glances. An elderly gentleman gave me some advice and recalled the time his daughter acted like that. He buried her up to her neck in the sand left her for a while. He looked me square in the eye and assured me his daughter never acted like that again.

*Yikes.*

Fear is a solution that so many parents resort to in order to “scare ’em straight” and “show them who’s the boss.” Because, after all, “if you spare the rod, you’ll spoil the child” and “that kid could use a good spanking!” 

But using pain to instill fear in kids is like playing with fire:

Used reverentlyit can help kids feel the heat of the consequences of their behavior and learn to respect authority.

Used recklesslyit can burn a child’s tender heart leaving it smoldering with hate, guilt, bitterness, rebellion, and shame.

Pain is actually a friend when it indicates something is wrong or needs to be avoided. We choose to endure pain when exercising, during beauty treatments, and as a part of the natural process of child birth.

Pain helps young kids develop logic and reason, cause and effect, right and wrong even before they develop a vocabulary.

I appreciate the finality of a spanking. It is over quickly, the offense is paid for and the guilt is removed. My son was spanked for hurting his sister intentionally. Then a day later she confessed that she had instigated the fight and bit him so she should also be spanked. The guilt she carried was harder to take than the sting of the punishment she knew she deserved.

Hebrews 12:11 says,

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (NIV)

I am pretty sure I rolled my tear-filled eyes before spankings when my parents said, “This hurts me as much as it hurts you.” However the spankings, the talks that followed, and the love relationship restored by my parents slowly but steadily developed my sense that bad behavior did have consequences. I learned they loved me and that spanking actually protected me from behaving in a way that was harmful to myself or others. Now, I say it to my kids and get the same eye roll.

Proverbs 23:13-14, written by King Solomon (famed as the wisest man) says,

“Do not withhold discipline from a child, if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. Punish them with the rod and save them from death.” (NIV)

The wisdom of this proverb is in the importance of discipline, not the method. The word IF implies a choice.

Spanking is not for all parents.

Spanking is not for all kids.

As a parent you realize you have to discipline each child a little differently. Yet as a kid you expect fair treatment. Resentment springs up like pimple on picture day when a sibling gets spared for the very offense you paid for. Wes was the toddler who ran full throttle across the “line” so it was easy to know when to spank him. Brooke, however, could dance the “line” with such precision it was harder to discern when to spank her.

IF you choose physical pain to deter a willful child, they will hopefully be spared more harmful consequences.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

I’m not advocating helicopter parenting. Mistakes are a part of learning. Keep kids safe, not sheltered.

I am advocating for not being a selfish parent. Bad behavior can be prevented when I don’t try to go to one more store with tired and nutrition-deprived children.

And please, please, pretty please avoid spanking in anger or if a child is just being embarrassing or annoying.

My husband and I  warn that if a bad behavior choice is made a spanking will happen, then we follow through promptly yet privately. I pray for my husband to handle the spanking in the next room like the Good Shepherd, with wisdom, purpose and love.

In Psalm 23, King David (famed as a man after God’s own heart), says God is like a good shepherd whose “rod” is described as an instrument of comfort because He uses it lovingly and purposefully for His people, His sheep.

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley I will not be afraid for you are close beside me, your rod and your staff comfort me”. (NLT)

There have been many times my kids have clung to me for comfort right after I caused the discomfort of a spanking.

A sheep is not in danger of a shepherd with a rod; it is most endangered when it’s without a shepherd with a rod.

Sheep prefer the easiest route over the right route. Shepherds use their rods to guide sheep along the right path. A shepherd uses the rod to correct wayward sheep wandering away from the safety of the flock. Besides defending them from predators, a shepherd has to protect his sheep from eating poisonous plants and drinking from toxic water sources.  Because a sheep is about as discriminating as a toddler discovering a french fry in the McDonald’s play land tube. (Slow motion “NOOOOOOO” with me.)

Every child needs to be taught to behave; disobedience comes naturally. My hope, in spanking, is to break the desire to do bad behavior – not their spirit. I still want my children to be strong enough to put their foot down and say no to injustices or poor choices but I also want them to be submissive to authority and God’s way for their life.

My goal as a parent is to nurture my child’s heart and attitude to want to be good. I can force my kids to do the dishes with threats, bribes and even begging but my heart delights when they want to just help me.

My kids are older now, 8 and 10, so I recently asked if they wished we didn’t spank them and if there was anything I could do to be a better mom. They saw the point behind spanking but wished I didn’t yell. It was humbling to hear that my words had done more damage than my hand. My tone hadn’t corrected their behavior but left them feeling angry, stupid or unloved.

Ouch, now that hurts.

Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And that applies first in your home. More is caught than taught, so your kids will learn more from you saying, “I’m sorry, Mommy was wrong. Please forgive me. I will make a better choice next time,” than they will from any spanking or method of discipline you can administer.

Isaiah 53:6 says,

“All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all.” (NIV)

In His love and mercy, God sent Jesus to take the punishment for all our bad choices and behavior. He received the ultimate pain on the cross, and went in to the ultimate time out (death and hell), so we don’t have to get what we really deserve, but instead by His grace, receive the joy of restoration with the Father.

Spanking has been an effective way for our family to modify bad behavior, but an even more effective way to point our kids to the Good Shepherd’s amazing grace.

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This article is part of a two-part series.  You can read Part I here.

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Photo credit:  Flikr, “Lisa” creative commons license, cropped and color/tint effects applied.

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Kristin Prentiss Ott, M.D.

Author of the viral post: 10 Things to Know Before Your Next Visit to the Emergency Department. Board certified emergency medicine physician, wife, mother, aspiring novelist.
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