The Golden Rule of Punishing Kids

There are modern parenting advisors who believe that punishing children is off-limits. They say that proper behaviors can be instilled in children without any punishments. However, punishment need not be defined as corporal punishment.

Banning corporal punishment and hitting is a reasonable position. The only exception might be the child who is not yet three years old who has done something severely dangerous, and cannot yet comprehend a verbal reprimand. Whether we like it or not, as parents, we are constantly leading by example, and when we hit our child because she did something we do not like, the little girl has learned two things; to take precautions not to get caught the next time she repeats this particular action, and when someone else who is smaller than she is does something against her liking, she should hit them.

When a child feels a loving relationship with her parents, a look of dismay, or a comment such as, “That makes me very sad, and I don’t want to feel that way about your behavior,” is a punishment in itself. Ignoring a child for a moment or two because, “Right now I’m too upset to talk to you,” or simply leaving the room sends a clear message of disapproval, and is normally enough of a punishment.

When do your children need to be reprimanded or removed from the situation where they acted out? When is it advisable to overlook your child’s negative conduct and minor infractions?

The golden rule of thumb is this: When a child has done something that is age-appropriate, no punishment is needed. Conversely, if a child committed an act that was totally inappropriate for her age, then you should punish him in one of the methods described above.

When a six-year-old refers to a guest as “the man with the big nose,” parents tend to get upset, however it is totally age-appropriate for a youngster to describe the features they see without any intention of insulting the person. It is a good idea to tell her that we do not talk about the way people look in front of them; however a punishment would be totally uncalled for.

Ask yourself this question, “Will she do it when she is eighteen?” If the answer is no, you can generally feel confident dealing with the situation without a negative reaction.

If the child’s deed is age-appropriate conduct, a gentle explanation of proper behavior will certainly suffice.

Comments

  1. I would very much appreciate some literature regarding adolescent discipline Particularly for my partner (who has no had children of his own) and is of a mature age (52)

    My teenage son (15) is my third and last child and I would like to enjoy what time I have with him at home. IN HARMONYi

  2. Tracey Bell says:

    So would I! I home educate my two wonderful girls of 12 and 14 and having them with me 24/7 can lead to conflicts. Mainly due to not tidying up after themselves or forgetting to do tasks they have been set.

    Wonderful website. Thank you so much.

  3. Shannon says:

    I think that this “gentle” brand of Christian parenting people like you try to pass off is very sad. We cannor pick and choose what parts of the bible to go by, and the bible…GOD’S WORD…clearly lays out a plan for physical chastisement. I think you need to read your bible again!

  4. To commenter Shannon (who takes God’s word to mean ‘physical chastisement’) – please consider “What would Jesus do?” in disciplining his children/his disciples? Would He physically chastise, or would he teach them firmly and lovingly, yet without violence? Please take a look at biblical supported grace-based discipline.

    You may find that modelling appropriate behavior (hitting if you want your children to hit, or NOT hitting if you want your children not to hit) is a most powerful, biblical, and Christian parenting approach.

  5. I have some half-formatted articles regarding disciplining teenagers that I have to finish writing!

    Hmmm… I’m at a loss regarding what I missed from the Bible about childrearing? Yes, Lynne, I agree that modelling is particularly powerful!

  6. I would like to remind Shannon (and others who insist on reading the Bible literally in all instances) that there area chastisements for wives, mothers, husbands, and fathers too! I doubt you would wholeheartedly agree to those as they might be applied to you the adult.

    There are powerful stories for teaching powerful lessons in both the Old and New Testaments however as a Christian I let Jesus be my guide. I try to remember our children are not ours but rather in our keeping as a cherished gift from God. I try to remember to speak to them, care for them, treat them as I would want others to behave with me and as I would behave with my husband.

    It really *is* more work to guide a child and model the appropriate behaviors than it is to beat them and scare them into blind acceptance and submission. I want my child to grow into a self regulating, caring, loving, emotionally developed person rather than someone who makes decisions based on the outcomes of getting caught *or* the reward they will get. (Read *Punished By Rewards* by Alfie Kohn)

    I believe God gave my child an innate sense of curiosity and love of the learning. I believe if I support and nurture that love it will only grow. Just as I can’t look at the type of foods and amounts of food my toddler eats at a meal but rather the food consumption of a week or more to know and see the big picture, I must look at my child’s whole person and whole set of learning opportunities from start to finish to knwo they are learning, growing, developing in ways that are important and appropriate to the child.

    Thanks Ellen!

  7. Shelley says:

    I would love to know your take on ‘stealing’. It’s something my 5 yo has started doing (a cheap (I’m not condoning because of the price, just stating a fact) toy from a shop, some sweets from another shop and a toy from a friend). I am at a loss how to deal with it because she doesn’t seem to quite understand yet that it is ‘wrong’ so the incentive to change isn’t there.
    how would some of you wise, loving people deal with it?

  8. Kristina Noetzelman says:

    I think to say yes or no to physical punishment by means of judging parents who do or do not use physical punishment would be missing one of the most frequently mentioned and vital components of both the Bibles’ and Jesus’ message. To love one another.

    I do think that if we take Christ and pick apart his life, only looking at him for his gift, and his healings we miss a really important part of his character, his passion and his ability to forcefully send a message. Such as turning over tables in the temple and shouting at the venders and money changers. So yes, Christ was giving, he was unconditionally loving, but he was passionate and presented the message he needed to present in different ways each time you see him working. So portraying Christ only as a babe in a manger or as the man who sacrificed all for us, is leaving out vital parts of who he was as a whole.

    I don’t disagree with corporal punishment, but I have yet to decide a. if it’s for me and my family and b. if it’s a useful tool in correction. I do get very upset however when people polarize the issue, backing it up with single Bible references rather than taking the entire verse in context, and comparing the real use of the rod in sheep herding to physical punishment. I also get upset however when people mention verses of the bible that we don’t follow in this modern age and say we don’t go by everything the bible says, so why think we should follow this? I think there are reasons things are listed in the bible that don’t make sense to us today, but I think it’s very dangerous ground for us to stand on and think we know enough to pick and choose what biblical rules and comments to follow and which to leave behind. God isn’t going to give us a free pass in Heaven for our own ignorance because we *choose* to follow the wrong wisdom of someone else, or because we *choose* not to study scripture and pray until he revealed truths to us and guided us in HIS will.

    Now that i’ve written a novel JUST based on the comments, i’ll touch the article. I don’t think it’s a good idea to say if it’s age appropriate don’t punish. Hitting, biting, throwing toys is all age appropriate for toddlers. Lying, stealing, making up stories is all age appropriate for elementary schoolers. Is it appropriate in life however? Is it appropriate for a mom to sit back in a playgroup with 4 other parents and watch their child hit another child over a handful of legos and say, oh it’s age appropriate, he’ll grow out of it? Or would it be better to administer an age appropriate punishment? It would be a dangerous world out there if parents didn’t discipline or train their children WHEN they do age appropriate but not life appropriate behaviors, every action needs a reaction, but depending on what it is that’s when you determine how you’re going to make it a teachable moment. For the example the guy with the big nose, you could either have him apologize for saying something hurtful, or quietly take him aside later and explain, people have feelings, and everyone is special in their own way but not all of us looks alike, and when we see someone different we should tell mommy or daddy in a whisper or talk about it later. I guess after all this what i’m saying is, if something your child does hurts or affects someone else, you as a parent are responsible for teaching them to be kind, to treat others with respect, and to come to mommy or daddy if they have a problem or a question.

  9. Marcia Baldwin says:

    Cheers, Kristina! I couldn’t agree more with your reactions and points.

  10. Kristina wrote: If something your child does hurts or affects someone else, you as a parent are responsible for teaching them to be kind, to treat others with respect, and to come to mommy or daddy if they have a problem or a question.

    I say:
    Yes, but punishment is not kind OR respectful — neither is it the only way children learn. Your comment is based on the idea that children won’t learn unless they’re punished.

    Tell me, is that the only way you learn? Think back to the last time you felt punished. What was it like? Were in the position to learn from your mistake? Or were your feelings directed toward the person who punished you?

    Nonverbal children are not stupid, and they are not animals. They have feelings just like adults do, and they learn best when they feel safe. If you can’t explain why a certain behavior is wrong in words and voice tone, how are you going to explain why Mommy is hitting her baby??

  11. I completely agree with Kristina. The previous comment she criticizes, “if it is age-appropriate, don’t punish” is absolutely foolish indeed. Children need to be directed in the ways of richeous living. The Bible clearly teaches that we are prone to sin, born as sinners in a sinful world, and CANNOT do good unless we are directed in that path. Punishment can indeed be both kind and appropriate, and the exact method of which may look different for different children. I greatly appreciate her openness to that, and completely agree that those who do engage in corporal punishment are not necessarily wrong for doing so.

  12. Steven says:

    “Children need to be directed in the ways of richeous living….Punishment can indeed be both kind and appropriate, and the exact method of which may look different for different children.”

    How is punishment EVER kind? And how, exactly, does punishment meet the need that children have to be “directed in the ways of richeous (sic) living”? How do you teach a positive with a negative? I myself have never been successful at that. I find it’s much easier to teach my children how to do right and love others when I do right and act in love myself.

    And no, spanking is NOT an expression of love, no matter what your rhetoric. Spanking is hitting, and hitting is not kind. Parents may spank because they believe they have to, but children do not experience it as kindness.

    (I believe adults in abusive relationships are often trying to reconcile painful and confusing childhoods during which the adults in their lives hit them “because they loved them.”)

    If you are a Christian who believes that Christ died to pay for all of our sins, why is it so hard to believe that He might have already paid for the sins of your children?

    Did Christ not take enough lashes to cover the errors of a child??

  13. Apparently, I’m not finished commenting on this thread. 🙂

    “When we hit our child because she did something we do not like, the little girl has learned two things; to take precautions not to get caught the next time she repeats this particular action, and when someone else who is smaller than she is does something against her liking, she should hit them.”

    This I agree with. But I do not see why those results should be any different with a preverbal child. Nor do I see a difference between hitting and other punishment. A child who is punished in any form, is still going to be motivated by a negative — NOT getting caught, NOT getting punished.

    Punishment does not teach what IS appropriate, nor does it meet the need that led to the behavior in the first place. Unless, of course, the need is attention, and then a child who is desperate for attention will do anything for it, as long as some kind of attention accompanies the negative consequences.

    Ellen wrote:
    “The golden rule of thumb is this: When a child has done something that is age-appropriate, no punishment is needed. Conversely, if a child committed an act that was totally inappropriate for her age, then you should punish him in one of the methods described above.”

    How is a parent supposed to know what behaviors are “age-appropriate” for his or her child? Who determines that? Is there some book that has it all laid out for us? And how did the author determine his list? Does the author know MY child? Does he know YOURS?

    Tell me, do you ever do anything that’s not “age-appropriate,” that you already know you shouldn’t do? Do you ever lose your temper with your child? Do you ever get angry at your husband and lash out with words or immature behaviors?

    What happens then? How do you feel when he turns away and refuses to talk to you about your concern? Defensive? Ignored? Angrier? How would you LIKE your spouse to respond? With patience? A listening ear? A willingness to problem-solve?

    Have you ever simply apologized and tried to figure out why you reacted so strongly to the situation? Do you try to look at stressors in your life that might be contributing to a temporary lack of control and make changes that will help? If so, don’t you owe your child the same?

    “Ignoring a child for a moment or two because, “Right now I’m too upset to talk to you,” or simply leaving the room sends a clear message of disapproval, and is normally enough of a punishment.”

    Fear-based emotional manipulation is no closer to unconditional love than hitting is. If this article is truly about parenting via the Golden Rule, shouldn’t we ask ourselves how we would like to be treated when WE misbehave?

    (There are men out there who believe they have the right to punish their wives, because women are weak/inferior/lesser and should obey the men they are dependent upon, and because husbands are responsible for their wives’ spiritual growth and leading them to “righteousness.” (Sound familiar?) Punishment leads to spiritual growth, these people say. I don’t see a lot of criminals coming out of prison reformed.)

    Wives can leave. Children cannot. Children are dependent on us to help them sort out their feelings, to limit the stress in their lives, to give them options that allow them some freedom and control within safe limits. They are dependent on us for the unconditional love that they need and crave.

    This article does nothing to address the WHY of children’s behavior. Behavior that is not simply the result of a child “not knowing better” is a cry for help and/or for love, not a cry for punishment.

    Parents need to know how to meet their children’s needs in order to PREVENT negative behavior, and how to address their unmet needs in a loving, nonviolent way.

    I highly recommend Alfie Kohn’s “Unconditional Parenting” and “Connection Parenting: Parenting through Connection instead of Coercion, Through Love instead of Fear” by Pam Leo, if you’re still reading this. 🙂

  14. Kristina Noetzelman says:

    Amanda i’m not even going to try to dispute your points, I could spend the next hour writing well thought out contradictory statements, but it’s honestly not worth it, my goal in life isn’t to change other peoples opinions, or to judge other peoples parenting. I would however caution you not to judge other people, holding such stiff necked and narrowminded opinions can limit the group of people you allow yourself to be blessed by, you might just find that the person you shrugged off because you found out she spanks her son could’ve given you a nice chunk of information on dealing with time outs, or bedwetting, or just be a really good listener and sturdy friend.

    I’d also suggest you read any book by Dr. Dobson, Parenting with Love and Logic, or my personal favorite Boundaries with Kids.

    “If you are a Christian who believes that Christ died to pay for all of our sins, why is it so hard to believe that He might have already paid for the sins of your children?

    Did Christ not take enough lashes to cover the errors of a child??”

    If I sin, I am punished, the Bible says so quite clearly and in many different places. I will be punished by God, or by the result of my circumstances, that doesn’t mean God won’t forgive me, that the blood Jesus shed for me won’t cleanse me and bring me near to them again. Sometimes I find that God does not punish me for what my mistakes deserve, I call this grace, and I believe in parenting there are times to extend grace to my children as well, but I also think there are times when my children should learn from their mistakes, either by me stepping out and letting them have the natural consequences of their mistakes, or by be stepping in and issuing a “crime fitting punishment” for their mistakes. I try to be creative, I try to best mold the punishment for the infraction, but the most often used “punishments” in our home are time outs (you hit your brother, disobeyed or ignored me and you will be pulled from your activity and given time to sit out from the fun and think about how you can do better next time), losing tv or computer privileges, or missing out on a trip to the store with daddy or such. The mistake I see you making is equating the word punishment with only ever a spanking.

    “Fear-based emotional manipulation is no closer to unconditional love than hitting is. If this article is truly about parenting via the Golden Rule, shouldn’t we ask ourselves how we would like to be treated when WE misbehave?”

    The answer to your question, is no, because when I misbehave, I don’t want to be punished, I don’t want to feel the sting of words when I disrespect or mistreat a friend, I don’t want to deal with the anger from my husband when I ignore his opinion and do something without thought of his feelings, I don’t like the reaction to my negative behaviors, however I do know that when I say something thoughtless to a friend and she tells me how it hurt her, it does sting, rightfully so, I feel chastiesd and accussed, then I grow. I become a better friend by thinking before I speak. I don’t like having an angry hurt spouse, or dealing with the aftermath of a moment where I disrespected his feelings and thought only of myself, I don’t like him pulling away from me because I hurt him, it stings, I feel lonely, I feel like becoming angry back even though I know i’m in the wrong, but if I stop and think, and apologize, I grow, I become a better wife.

    There is a stark difference between manipulation of any kind, and bumping into boundaries and feeling the sting of our own action.

    My husband and I were raised in vastly different homes, my father is bipolar which went undiagnosed until late into my teen years, the slightest disobedience, the tiniest infraction, the smallest annoyance would have me on the wrong side of whatever instrument he felt like using at the time to administer the “spanking” the abuse I endured at his hand, was nothing compared to the abuse I felt over my mother who stood by and watched. My husband was raised in a quiet, steady, conservative christian home. He and his sisters were all raised with the same general discipline techniques, time outs, restrictions, groundings and yes even spankings. He’ll tell you now the spankings he recieved were well deserved, and his parents made sure each and every time he and his sisters were disciplined in whatever form or fashion that they were held, and hugged afterword, because the point wasn’t to alienate or emotionally punish the child, the point was to teach them, this behavior is wrong, this is the consequence. Following any consequence in their home they were held, hugged, talked to about the behavior and consequence and then they prayed together. Now which one of us do you think needed therapy when they grew up?

  15. Kristina Noetzelman says:

    Amanda, you are assuming by punishment I mean physical punishment. Punishment comes in many forms, some physical, some natural, and some creatively thought up by parents to give their child a consequence for a negative action, not to show them “who’s boss” but to say, hey that wasn’t okay.

    “Tell me, is that the only way you learn? Think back to the last time you felt punished. What was it like? Were in the position to learn from your mistake? Or were your feelings directed toward the person who punished you?”

    The only way? No, but one way, yes. I CAN think back and honestly I can say my initial feelings were embarrassment and anger AT the person, then following was understanding and ashamed for my behavior, after apologizing and talking I felt good about the relationship and was able to gain some insight and I feel like I actually learned something. Will I never again speak unkindly to my spouse? No i’m certain it will happen again, did I learn how to better handle my words? Yes.

    See this problem comes up whenever the word punished is used. Would it be better if I used the term correction or consequence? As in I corrected my children, rather than I punished them, for fighting with eachother and ending up with bloody noses? Or I gave my son a consequence for eating next to daddys computer when I told him not to.

    The thing is I never once said I spank, I simply said I don’t disagree with spanking and I mentioned the fact that i’m Christian in not so many words. This to some people immediately gives the impression of Bible thumping, door to door knocking, sidewalk preaching, judgemental, and narrowminded parenting. To jump to a conclusion without evidence is just plain wrong.

    As for the punishment not being kind or respectful, tell me WHAT is disrespectful specifically about time outs, what is unkind about removing a toy, or a video game from my sons collection for hurting his brother? Would it be kind to say, lets not hurt brother, go along and play now, then hope he simply grows out of it? How is that in anyway shape or form making our home safe, loving, and stable for my other son? I strongly believe children will grow up relatively the same as how their raised, meaning, if you administer no consequences as children, give them no boundaries, then as adults they will quickly and with a whole lot more physical and emotional pain than they would have as children learn the results of their behaviors. When you hit someone because you feel like it, you go to jail. When you spend your money because you feel like it, and no one stops you, you can’t pay your bills and lose out in life. When you mistreat your friends with controlling or abusive tactics, you lose them.

    A difference of perspectives I suppose, or it could be we’re thinking the same thing, but you’re hung up on a word, and an action, and can’t see any farther than that.

  16. Kristina,

    First, thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. I know this is a very controversial subject, and my goal was not to come across “stiff-necked and narrow-minded,” but simply to share an alternate opinion. I have done a lot of praying, reading and thinking about this subject, and obviously my passion came through in my post. I am also a Christian, and I honestly was not judging you personally.

    My strong opinions about spanking and other forms of punishment have NOT limited my friendships. Two of my closest friends spank their children, though probably less often than when we first met. They know I do not believe in spanking, but our differing opinions do not hinder our friendships. They most certainly are “good listeners and sturdy friends,” and I believe they consider me the same.

    “I will be punished by God, or by the result of my circumstances, that doesn’t mean God won’t forgive me, that the blood Jesus shed for me won’t cleanse me and bring me near to them again.”

    I have heard many people say similar things in regard to being punished by God, and it saddens me. Personally, that has not been my experience, and I have been a Christian for most of my life. I do not perceive God punishing me. Life in this fallen world can be punishing, certainly, and the Lord does not always step in to protect me from the consequences of my sin, but I do not blame Him for those consequences. Many times He does step in, and then He points back and says, “Look — your actions could have led to something much worse, but I protected you. You can trust Me.” Other times, He lets me experience pain and grief, whether from my own sin or as the result of another’s. At those times He consoles me, and reminds me that He will never leave me, even when I don’t feel Him near, and that the pain will not destroy me. This is very different from deliberating creating something in my life to punish me for past sins as retribution or in order to teach me.

    “As for the punishment not being kind or respectful, tell me WHAT is disrespectful specifically about time outs, what is unkind about removing a toy, or a video game from my sons collection for hurting his brother?”

    They are disrespectful because they are abitrary and other-directed. When you hurt your husband, he might leave the room to disengage and protect himself, but no one sends you to your room or the corner. Nor does anyone declare that your computer time will be limited. Why not? Because it’s not necessary, and it would seem ridiculous.

    “Would it be kind to say, lets not hurt brother, go along and play now, then hope he simply grows out of it? How is that in anyway shape or form making our home safe, loving, and stable for my other son?”

    “Lets not hurt brother, go along and play now” is certainly not the only thing a parent can say besides “go to your room” or some other punishment! I, and others who parent like I do, have succeeded in making our homes safe, loving and stable for all family members WITHOUT the use of punishment, spanking or otherwise. Violence MUST be taken seriously, whether committed by parents or by siblings!

    I think there are three issues at debate here. One is whether parent-produced consequences are necessary for learning better behavior. Another is whether they are necessary as payment for the child’s offense. And third is what action should be taken to protect the victim of the behavior.

    Adults who commit serious crimes are sent to prison, presumably to address all three issues. But most of recognize that very little positive learning happens in prison.

    How does taking away a child’s video games protect his sibling? It does not. How does it teach him how to better solve his conflicts with his sibling? It does not. So, in that case, punishment is simply a means of retribution.

    Separating the child from his brother may protect him temporarily. But, again, it does not help him learn how to solve the next conflict without violence. Setting him in time-out does not give him skills, no matter how hard he thinks about what he just did or how sorry he is that he got punished for it. Nor does not address why he hit in the first place.

    Punishment done for the sake of learning rather than retribution is based on the ideas of behaviorism. Behaviorists considered humans animals. They did not recognize the soul. They believe in creating external motivations in order to control behaviors. I do not. I want my children to do good for good’s sake, not because they are afraid of the consequences otherwise. I want them to do good DESPITE the consequences — just think of all the good that would not be done in the world if people didn’t overcome their fear of personal negative consequences?

    Most people assume that punishment/arbitrary consequences are the only option for disciplining problem behavior. My point is that they are NOT the only option, and they are not even an EFFECTIVE or GOOD option.

    Neither is the alternative to simply let children do whatever without any guidance. Children WANT information on how to live peacefully and healthfully. I have three delightful children who do not need external punishment heaped on them in order for them to learn from their choices. They do need clear guidelines to start with and correction at times. But mostly we try to problem-solve together so that everyone’s needs are met BEFORE conflicts arise.

    I believe our difference in opinion is two-fold. One, I believe children can and should learn without arbitrary external motivators. Two, I believe Christ has already paid for our sins, and so no further retribution is necessary.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my beliefs.

  17. gail Heaton says:

    Monique, (#6) It really *is* more work to guide a child and model the appropriate behaviors than it is to beat them and scare them into blind acceptance and submission.

    Yes. That is correct, if God’s goal of Biblical chastisement was to beat them and scare them into blind acceptance and submission. If all God intended was that Biblical chastisement was punitive, then I agree with you. But you have just let the culture tell you what God means by Biblical chastisement; instead of letting Him tell you. Correct biblical chastisement is one of the ways allowable – even encouraged by God Himself – to guide a child to appropriate behaviors. It is a training tool, therefore the term ‘rod of correction.’ Used correctly, it is a valid and vital part of any Christian parent’s tool box.
    Please read the 23rd Psalm , considered perhaps one of most comforting scriptures. As you recognize that the ‘rod’ mention there is the same rod spoken of in the other passages having to do with child raising, you can begin to see how very different this use is than what you have been taught by our culture, and what you are trying to teach us here.
    Used properly, the rod and the staff (both actual physical props for guiding behavior)bring a comfort.

  18. gail Heaton says:

    Shelley, It is hard to help our children understand why something is wrong, when they are so young, and haven’t developed the moral character. You mentioned that her incentive to change is not there, and we can not expect it to be there for one so young. As she grows, assuming you are teaching her the Bible, eventually her incentive not to steal will be because she internalizes that stealing is wrong and she desire to do right. So the key is to create an incentive to NOT steal, right now, until her maral character catches up. The lust for the toy is so strong that you need to find something she wants even more than the toy, or you need to make the toy less appealing. This is a perfect example of where the Biblical use of the ‘rod of correction’ can be applied.
    Let’s look at a naturally occuring example to see what I am trying to say here:a child that has a fasination with fire will try to touch it despite how many warning and incentives to not touch. However, the first time that child actually feels the fire, she will most likely never have to be told not to do that again.(assuming she is a healthy child). Her desire to not feel that pain again is all the incentive she needs to correct her behavior. She no longer finds pleasure in the fire because she learned to associate it with pain. The pain of the fire was not a punishment was it? No, it was a consequence.
    The correct use of the Biblical rod can mimic this same naturally occuring learning process. A quick couple of spanks to the child can be administered to give the same naturally ocurring consequence as the pain of touching the fire. The spank is not a punishment any more than the fire was, simply because the parent administered the consequence and it didn’t occur without parental intervention. The spank is also a consequence, and is a training tool. As the child (and believe me she will learn quickly) associates stealing with physical pain, she will find that all the incentive she needs to stop stealing, thus giving her moral character time to catch up.

  19. gail Heaton says:

    Shelly, to continue, I recognize that many parents just are not at the point in ther lives that they can administer the Biblical rod. And I respect that. The other suggestion I have it to make the consequence of stealing far outweith the moment of pleasure she received in the act. Only you know your child and what that threshold is. For some, even at age 5, it is significant enough out of their comfort zone that they be marched back to the store and made to publicallly apologize to the clerk or manager for stealing. Perhaps your child would respond to having to give up a toy of your choice to another child in exchange for the one she stole. Personally, we have had success in following the Biblical idea of paying back the stolen item plus 10 persent above it’s value- unless that is impossible, as in the case of candy, for example, in which case it is to pay back in kind or monetery equavelant plus 10 percent.
    Hope these ideas help. As a side note to my earlier post about the rod, this can be used most effectively as a training tool only when it can be administered immediately after the infraction. As a training tool, it loses its effectiveness the longer the time has passed. And if your children are anything like mine, too often we hear about these things days after the event!

  20. Hello Gail,

    Thank you for taking so much time to respond to my comment. I truly value you spending that time on my post.
    I understand perfectly your example of the fire and that getting burned is a natural consequence of touching the flame.
    However, I do not agree that spanking a child is a *natural* consequence at all. The Natural consequence of stealing is more likely to be that the store owner feels angry or sad that someone has taken something that belongs to him.

    I completely respect you are coming from a biblical background, but I am not. If I spank my child for ‘bad behaviour’ then, imo, she will simply learn that hitting is ok.

    My daughter is not yet given an allowance; she has no concept of money or ‘value’ so the cost plus 10% would not work, but I tend to favour going to the store owner and apologising – not humiliating her, but giving her the opportunity to realise that the natural consequence of her actions is that someone else feels sad / angry. That also helps to develop her already apparant empathic nature.

    Thank you for helping me to clarify my own thoughts on this. Also, what goes around comes around and the other day a friend of hers tried to take one of my daughter’s toys home with her. My daughter felt upset and I gently reinforced, whilst validating her pain that it doesn’t feel good if people take things that don’t belong to them.

    Thanks again,
    Shelley

  21. gail Heaton says:

    Shelly, thank you for helping me to clarify what I meant. I agree that spanking is not a natural consequence. I meant to suggest that it could mimic a naturally occuring consequence of pain. thank you for your honesty in admitting you are not coming at this issue from a biblical standpoint. This shows me that I need to be very careful of my ‘audience’ when suggesting the ‘rod’. I strongly believe that unless one comes at ‘rod training’ from a biblical standpoint then they must not use it at all. This ‘rod of correction’ can only be understood within it’s specific Biblical parameters. Otherwise it is too easy to slip into areas of abuse, retribution, etc.
    Thanks for sharing how your situation is continuing with your little girl. I love how life has a way of teaching us all!
    Gail

  22. Terri Lynn says:

    I would very much like any advice or resources on parenting an 11 yr old girl!! I have 2 children, my youngest is a 7 yr old boy in the 2nd grade. My oldest is 11 and is in 6th grade this year and in our city, it is in it’s own campus and they are treating them as jr highers. She is an exceptional student, but we are entering the teen years earlier than when I was this age and I find the pressures of friends coming into play very much….

  23. Amanda,
    I have found your insite most interseting and insightful and greatly applaud your seemingly unconditional loving methods; however, you fail to advice as to what (exactly) those methods are. You continue to tell us what not to do, yet fail to advice us on what God WOULD have us do.
    We have thus far tried time-outs and loving words, but what do YOU do when words don’t work the first time, or even the second time???
    What do you do?

    Thank you for your love and passion for all children!

  24. Olivia, thank you so much for your encouraging words! I do see that I have mostly negated the negative, but not explained the positive. You asked:

    “We have thus far tried time-outs and loving words, but what do YOU do when words don’t work the first time, or even the second time???
    What do you do?”

    I guess my question to you would be, what is your goal? I don’t know your children, what desires they might be expressing, and what your specific concerns are. God relates to each of His children individually, and that’s just what we need to do with our children. Parenting should be about creating connection with your child, so that problem-solving becomes a natural, even if sometimes challenging, part of your relationship.

    Connection with your child on a regular basis leads to trust. When you trust your child, you don’t worry about controlling every little action that may not meet your standards but is simply part of their learning process. And when your child trusts you, it is much easier to get their attention when it really is important.

    So often we don’t realize how our emotions and behavior as adults effect our children. When we are stressed, they sense it, and it upsets their sense of security. This is when they are most likely to “act out,” which is merely a way of telling the parent that they are feeling uncertain and need the reassurance of your unconditional love. But because we are already stressed, we *react* to their behavior instead of *responding* to their need, which leads to a cycle of disconnection. If, when our child does something we don’t like, we can STOP, BREATHE, LISTEN, and THINK first, we might see what’s happening more clearly and make the effort needed to *reconnect* with our child BEFORE deciding what kind of action needs to be taken, if any.

    When I’m really paying attention to my own stress level, emotions and behavior, and keeping my daily priorities in line, I don’t have “behavioral issues” to deal with. That doesn’t mean there’s never conflict, but it does make it much easier to find solutions, because there aren’t so many underlying emotions to be dealt with.

    So, what specifically do I do? I pray a lot. I give hugs and kisses! I play when they want play. I feed myself well and often! I make an effort not to cram so many expectations into a day that we feel rushed. I focus on enjoying the moment. I try to learn from my kids — remember they are fresh from God!

    I hope that helps. 🙂

    Blessings,
    Amanda

  25. I read these comments with iterest. My dad spanked me, yet I am not a violent person. Neither is my brother. I spanked my children the same way, and all three are caring, sensitive, and tenderhearted toward those weaker than themselves – people and animals. My dad was a gentle man. In fact, I once found myself thanking him for the loving way he disciplined me. My personal experience doesn’t fit what I’m reading on this subject. I would be curious to know how one would treat such statements as Proverbs 20:30, Proverbs 23:13-14, Hebrews 12:5-11, or just take a concordance and check out the many references to “chastizement”. Was a rod was only used to guide or protect sheep? It doesn’t look like it.