I had every reason to be an advocate of spanking my child.
After all, I was raised Southern. (“Nuff said.”)
Not to mention, I was also raised Southern Baptist. And that means that a particular Bible verse got more than its fair share of attention; Proverbs 13:24:
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”
Hence, the popular phrase, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
However, I now translate that verse as, “It’s better to physically strike your child with a wooden object than it is to refrain from disciplining them at all.”
It appears to me that one extreme is being compared to another; an “either/or” situation.
I am able to comprehend that disciplining my child and spanking him can be two separate entities.
Assuming that verse in Proverbs explicitly endorses spanking, in my opinion, would make hypocrites of us:
I’ve yet to meet a Christian who gouged out their own eye because of temptation to look at something that would cause them to do wrong, when Jesus said this in Matthew 18:9…
“And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter (eternal) life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”
Or their right hand either (Matthew 5:30):
“And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose part of your body than for whole body to go into hell.”
In other words, address the actual issue initially, that way you don’t end up with a worse outcome.
Yes, it’s true: I am an official advocate of disciplining my child without spanking him.
But obviously, between how I was brought up and my son currently being 5 years old, something fundamentally intervened in regards to how I think.
What caused such an abrupt conversion in my life?
Like me, and like nearly all of us parents who are Eighties Children, she was spanked as a child too.
We had always planned to spank our son, too. The deal was, that I would be the one to actually spank him. And that was it.
Never was the issue that “I simply just didn’t have it in me” to spank him. Because like most of us, I had reached the point of being “fed up” enough to do it.
Believe me, I had it in me…
But yet, I never have spanked my son; nor has anyone else.
And if you’ve met him, you know how bright, intelligent, creative, funny, and well-behaved he is. Is he simply the exception to the rule? Is it just because he’s the first born and therefore more eager to please?
I’m sure at this point, any skeptics out there are tempted to say, “You lucked out with your first kid. Well you just wait until your little girl is born in a few months. She’ll be a whole different story!”
To that, I could only say, try me. Let’s revisit that question in a few years, because you better believe I will on my end.
My official moment of conversion occurred during our first trip as a family to Louisville, Kentucky; to visit the zoo, when our son was around 2 years old.
It’s just about a 2 and half hour drive from where we live in the Nashville area. So we decided just to leave straight after work on that Friday.
What a miserable road trip there! No matter what we did as parents, he screamed and cried. I had to roll down the windows just to drown him out.
He finally fell asleep in the car, after about 10 PM.
But then the next morning, as my wife was buying food supplies for us at the local Whole Foods, my son and I waited in the car for about 20 minutes. He was screaming and “pitching a fit” the whole time.
While being trapped in our little car with him, I had reached my limit. I had officially decided that I would spank him for the first time.
Every cliché redneck phrase was going through my head:
“I’m about to show that boy who’s boss! He’s past due for some good ole fashioned discipline. It’s about time for me to put him over my knee!”
But like any good husband should do, I asked my wife’s permission first.
And she gave me the red light.
She simply pointed out that he hadn’t gotten good rest the night before, as we as the parents had thrown his sleep schedule off the night before, since we were driving when he would normally be put to bed.
From that day, until last week, I had accidentally been formulating a 5 point checklist to decide why my child is “misbehaving.”
I shared it officially for the first time this week. I came up with this alone; I did not extract it from any other website nor did I hear it first from any other person. This is my original work and let the time stamp of today’s blog post prove that true.
Hungry, tired, bored, lonely, or sick.
They need to know when to eat (hungry), when to sleep (tired), when to play (bored), when to engage in conversation (lonely), or when they are physically incapable of feeling well (sick).
These are the times when your child is simply more prone to have restlessly energy and/or be extremely sensitive to the slightest thing, causing them to have a meltdown.
While I alone did invent that check list, I didn’t invent the following 5 step check list for alternatives to spanking. I learned these while serving as Parents.com’s official daddy blog.
Ignore attention-seeking behavior; pay attention to good behavior; redirect your child; teach consequences that make sense; and use time-outs for serious offenses.
This is a lesson I am still learning/reminding myself of.
My wife and I have officially come to the realization that whenever we visit my parents for the weekend, we have to leave their house before 11:30 AM on Sunday; we can’t wait until after lunch.
Our son’s body starts shutting down by that time, as he is needing a nap. It’s not fair to him to expect him to “behave” when he’s having to wait later to eat and sleep later just so we can have “more quality time as a family.”
The exact opposite happens instead: He has a meltdown, and therefore, that extra time as a family is not quality time.
He is simply more prone to have restlessly energy and/or be extremely sensitive to the slightest thing, causing him to have a meltdown.
Instead, we need to leave earlier so that he doesn’t slip into that mindset, and therefore, we as the parents don’t get upset either.
I am so grateful I married such a level-headed woman.
Otherwise, I would be hitting my kid ultimately because as a parent, I wasn’t proactive to provide for his needs ahead of time; regarding him being hungry, tired, bored, lonely, or sick.
What about for the parent who read this and comments, “Well I have always spanked my kid, and they too, are very well behaved.”
I would respond, “That raises the question: If my child is well behaved without spanking, and yours is well behaved with spanking, doesn’t that prove that spanking is unnecessary? If the two methods are simply equally effective, why physically strike your child when there are equally effective alternatives (when applied proactively and consistently by the parent)?”
It is my belief that a lot of people assume the minority of us who don’t spank their children (about 20% of the American population) actually don’t discipline them at all. When in fact, I have a very proactive and detailed discipline system in place.