I am reposting my own story about spanking and my own philosophy in a response to a reader who left a comment here a couple years ago. Her thoughts were in response to a thread on grace in parenting and I felt that I needed to respond to her by telling her my own story, which is too long for a comment box. So here is her comment and here is my response:
“Okay, now the rubber is really hitting the road. I loathe that book by Clay Clarkson. It is so unbiblical. God commands parents to use the rod in discipling their children. The Clarksons and others like them consider that to be abusive, and so this whole grace-based parenting stuff is going around. I will not continue reading this blog if you support that unbiblical parenting style.How disappointing. If you are against spanking, please say so. I need to know.”
And here is my response:
I will share with you as honestly as I can what my personal convictions are on disciplining and discipling children.
My husband and I have 6 children and 7 grandchildren (now there are 10) with another one coming next week. It is an interesting thing about being a grandparent….you are able to watch your children parent their children and sometimes you see in them your own self, for good or for bad.
You also see living proof of your theology.
While we were raising our children, we spanked. Frankly, neither my husband or I had ever thought much about it, it was just something we did because it was expected as part of being a good mom and dad. When our oldest was about 6 or 7, our church showed the Dr. Dobson series and we embrace many of the things he taught about spanking and discipline. However, during that time, the parenting book that influenced me the most was Children are Wet Cement by Anne Ortlund and to this day, I believe that the core message she teaches is how I raised my children. Her book is not a how-to, only a series of short stories and comments about relationship building and painting a vision for our children of how God might want to use them for His own glory and in His Kingdom. The Lord used her writings to speak to my heart and I purposed to instill basic Biblical truths in my children while they were young and to build a close relationship with each of them.
A few years later when we began homeschooling, we were introduced to the belief that spanking is commanded in Scripture and the concept that a truly Godly parent will spank a child until there is evidence of repentance. I read Richard Fugate’s book where he talks about spanking a child with the rod until they are repentant and I began to think that that was the true Biblical approach to discipline. (I shudder at this today.) But, while we continued to spank, my husband thought that the teachings of Fugate were extreme and severe and would not use excessive force on our children. (My husband’s method was more psychological, taking them down the basement, pulling out the paddle from its special spot, talking to them about the wrong they had done, telling them how they would make it right with the offended parties, and giving a firm swat or two on the bottom.)
Years went by, our children grew beyond the spanking years, and the older ones married. As my daughter began having little ones, she often shared with me some of the things she was reading and one of the topics was discipline. One day, a friend of hers wrote just a small article on her blog that, again, the Lord used to speak to my heart. She was sharing about her relationship with her little toddler and she made a statement that went something like this: “Not only did I realize she is my daughter, but she is also my sister in Christ.” It was a watershed moment for me and I believe the Lord used that comment to open my eyes to many things within the body of Christ but especially how we relate to children.
Just before this time, we had struggled through some very deep waters in regards to church life. We had experienced some of the worst that church leadership can offer. We witnessed people being spiritually abused in ways that broke our hearts. We saw leadership arrogantly proclaim that they weren’t accountable to anyone else. We also saw “church discipline” wielded as a tool to bring people into compliance with man’s standards rather than God’s word. We saw anything but grace being lived in the lives of others.
But, as is often the case, God used those horrible times to teach me about Himself. He drew me to the throne of God’s grace. Little by little I began to realize that loving my neighbor as myself and obeying the one anothers of Scripture applied to my children, first and foremost as a homeschooling mom and then to the rest of the body of Christ. I began to see that if I am a sinner saved only by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, that is also the only hope for any of us. It is only God’s grace that covers my sins and it is only God’s grace that covers anyone’s sins, including those of my children.
I began to look at each of those one anothers of Scripture in a new way and found myself asking “How does this apply to relationship building with my children?” I read through the New Testament and through the book of Acts and read as though I was reading it all for the very first time. I took note of how Jesus responded to those who sincerely came to him in repentance. He forgave them and said “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t exact some sort of punishment on them. Of course, there were often natural consequences, but God also gives people grace to accept and address those consequences and experiencing consequences and learning from them is one way we grow in God’s grace.
I also realized that Jesus’ harshest words were for the Pharisees, those who took God’s word and added to it, making rules that placed terrific burdens on the backs of others. I asked myself “Do I do that to other people?” “Do I do that to children?” I began to see that even though I might not appear to be one outwardly, inwardly I was capable of acting like a Pharisee all the time. I had my own list of do’s and don’ts, especially with my own children. I had my own list of acceptable dress, behavior, etc. that went beyond what the Bible teaches. And the worst thing was that I was very capable of having expectations on others that I wasn’t expecting of myself.
As I began to think through the application of the one anothers in Scripture, realizing that they all apply to all Christians toward each other, husband and wife, parent and child, elder and church members, etc., I started to realize how much of how we relate to children violates these one anothers. ( I have shared many examples of applying the one anothers on this blog. Go back and look at the one anothering blog entries or listen to the two podcasts on this topic.)
So, Jo, I know this is a long answer to your question and I hope I have answered it for you. I believe that each parent must decide about discipline based on what she believes the Word of God instructs her to do. There are verses in Proverbs that talk about spanking, even beating, a child. I do not see them as commands. In the New Testament, I see no such command and, really, very little teaching specifically on raising children. However, I do see the one anothers of God’s word as being commands that apply to all relationships.
Last week I read a quote and referenced it in regards to patriocentricity but I think it applies to this topic, too. In looking at Scripture, the concept that “the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things” teaches us that we need to concentrate on what the Bible teaches and says very plainly and commands us to do. One of my goals on this blog is to concentrate on those areas in regards to homeschooling and to grant the liberty to others to think differently on a variety of topics that aren’t so easily applied. Sometimes I have a soapbox but mostly I want to dwell on the application of the “main and plain things.” I hope you are not so offended that you won’t come back and I sincerely thank you for expressing your beliefs and opinions. Only when we have gracious discourse can we learn from one another.