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Location: Allentown, PA

I'm a Christian wife and a mom to three daughters and two sons. I'm a member of the board of directors of EmPoWeReD Birth. In my "spare time" I'm a doula, and a certified childbirth instructor.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

"Reasons for Not Smacking"

Sometimes the British can be delightfully straight forward. Here in America we debate whether "spanking" a child is equivalent to "hitting" the child. In Britan there is no such debate...they call it for what it is: smacking.

So on a parenting discussion forum that I enjoy participating in a mom from Britan posted to ask why people chose to stop "smacking" their children. One of the responses in particular I found enlightening, written by Palil.

Her fifth point was something I had never considered before:

5. Breaking the spirit. Every pro-spanking Christian discipline approach I know of states that children have a sin nature, and implies or directly states that parents are supposed to somehow "cure" them of this nature. We are to
break their sinful will and squelch their evil tendencies. We are supposed to train them to control their sin natures. I would submit to you that this is (a) impossible. NO matter how persuasive or abusive a parent is, the sinful
nature and willfulness will remain unless God Himself intervenes in the child's life.. and (b) not a parent's job. God alone is responsible for my child's soul. He determined before the world began who would be His chosen. He draws
the ones He has chosen. He changes their hearts, and he changes their actions. This is not my job. How do you "break" a child of their sinful will, without also inflicting emotional damage that cannot be repaired, or squelching their personhood in ways that hinder development? I do not know if that is possible.


Interesting. I've always felt uncomfortable with the notion that we are supposed to "break our child's will," but I've never been able to come up with an articulate reason for what was wrong with it. This makes a lot of sense to me.

9 Comments:

Blogger TulipGirl said...

We are supposed to train them to control their sin natures. I would submit to you that this is (a) impossible. NO matter how persuasive or abusive a parent is, the sinful nature and willfulness will remain unless God Himself intervenes in the child's life.. and (b) not a parent's job. God alone is responsible for my child's soul. He determined before the world began who would be His chosen. He draws the ones He has chosen. He changes their hearts, and he changes their actions. This is not my job. Wow. Excellent and succinctly said.

It echoes Jeff VonV.'s sentiment, "God's job is to fix and to change. Our job is to depend, serve, and equip. This is the work of grace."

9:18 AM, January 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, I'm not sure I agree with the comment that those who spank do so in order to "break a child's will." Certainly isn't an intent on my part. 'Sides, my children have a pretty hefty dose of will power (get it from their father, I'm sure), and I doubt it would be easily "broken." :o)

Personally, I'm uncomfortable saying that God gave bad parenting advice. Which is why I'm uncomfortable with the whole "all spanking is bad" mantra that seems to be so popular these days. Call it "soley figurative" if you will, but I have a funny funny feeling that those who read the proverbs back when they were first "made public" didn't gaze off into space in wonder at the amazing allegorical/figurative implications of the rod. I think they were probably just nodding their heads at what was merely conventional wisdom--not losing sleep over whether the fact that they swatted little Josiah and perhaps somehow ruined his psychological development, but probably chuckling over the escapades of the foolish boy and proud of the man they were helping him to become.

A father disciplines the son that he loves. God happened to use the analogy of a rod an awful lot in His breathed Word. Sure, discipline can involve many methods--I'm not saying one must only spank--but to say it's a "bad bad thing" seems to be pointing right to God's Word and saying IT'S the bad bad thing. He's the One who thought the rod analogy was a good idea--He's the one who used it a whole awful lot (including in His description of how He disciplines His own children). Looking at it from a strictly cultural perspective, what do you think the initial hearers were going to hear? If spanking is so terrible, why wouldn't God take more pains to keep such an awful practice from being encouraged?

I dunno...the whole thing smacks of the latest "spiritual" gobblydeegook. I don't expect any brownie points for that opinion, so don't worry... It just ignores basic scholarship in favor of recent social trends. Because somebody abuses a truth makes the thing itself no longer true?

Warm Regards,
Molly
http://threepennies.blogdrive.com

1:27 AM, January 26, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I "spank" or "hit" or "smack" my children. It really doesn't matter to me what you call it - I call it training - and "spanking/hitting/smacking" is just one of the tools in my toolbox and not even the preferred tool of choice. Nevertheless, it is one that I have been given to use, on good Authority, and I hope that I pattern my use of the "Rod" after His.

If the point is that there is no way to "break" a child of their sinful will without also inflicting "emotional damage that cannot be repaired" or "squelching their personhood", then how does God do it? He must be the cruelest emotional damage inflictor that ever was.

This emotional nonesense is just a side issue really. What concerns me is the theology and exegesis behind this "fifth point". Palil has reduced life to a deterministic quagmire.

I am as absolutely committed to God's sovereignty over ALL things as anyone can be. And, I read my Bible - which tells me that I am to "train up a child", "teach these things when I lay down, and rise up...", "the rod of correction" drives foolishness far from a child, and that I am to "be careful to obey" (and, maybe I'm going out on a limb here, presumably this means that I am to teach my children to be careful to obey), and on and on.

It seems to me that if training my child to curb their sinful response is not my job as a parent, then I can gleefully send them off to government schools, I can plunk them down in daycare and send my wife out to make more money, I can let everyone else raise my children since it doesn't really matter what I do as a father, God will take care of it in the end.

Afterall, God has determined the exact number of my days. Interestingly enough, I still look both ways before crossing the street.

Raising children is not an either or situation, as in it's either God or me, but not both. Raising my children in my home is a both and. In humble dependence on my heavenly Father I train/teach my children. In cooperation with Him I seek to raise Godly offspring. Just as the Word says, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both the willing and the doing." It is because He makes it possible for me to parent my covenant children that I do parent my covenant children. If it were not so, then it would be hopeless.

Grace and Peace,

Greg
(father of 4 happy, healthy, joyful, and faithful children who exibit no indications of emotional damage or squelched personhood)
For His Glory

12:34 PM, January 26, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly...

Palil is not saying that *everyone* spanks to break the child's will...but I can provide several examples of Christian parenting authors who specifically state that one of the goals of spanking is to break the child's will.

Greg...

Palil is saying that she doesn't see how it is possible to change the child's will through SPANKING. She never says that God can't change it through other means...in fact, that is precisely her point--that God DOES change our will through other means--and I believe that the "other means" is much more often gentle than punative. Romans 2:1-4 tells us: "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?"

8:49 PM, January 28, 2005  
Blogger TulipGirl said...

but to say it's [spanking] a "bad bad thing" seems to be pointing right to God's Word and saying IT'S the bad bad thing.Ummm. . .

Perhaps you don't realize this, but you are making a big jump in your reasoning here. You are stating that "analogy of a rod"=spanking, among other things. And likely, you are reading "rod" to mean "spanking as it has been taught/modelled to me and I practice it."

I suggest that is a cultural assumption that you are making. Which, I understand, because I've made the same one in the past. Perhaps you could set aside your assumptions a bit and look at it, prayerfully and with fresh eyes?

9:44 PM, January 28, 2005  
Blogger TulipGirl said...

Raising children is not an either or situation, as in it's either God or me, but not both. Raising my children in my home is a both and. In humble dependence on my heavenly Father I train/teach my children. In cooperation with Him I seek to raise Godly offspring.You and I agree, Greg. A lot of my reaction is to the common attitude I see in the Christian subculture that places an extremely high emphasis on performance--both for children and for parents. And while (most) parents would give lip service to the work of the Holy Spirit in their children's lives, often it is not lived out.

In teaching my children obedience, I am also teaching them to recognize the strong desires they have to sin. Help them acknowledge the struggles they have with temptation. Sympathize with those and help them recognize in those moments that they can lean into Christ. I want to both model and help my children walk through recognizing their sin, acknowledging that they cannot obey God perfectly, and have a posture of repentance.

A mistake I often see in Christian families is that of emphasizing obedience in a way that leads children (and adults) to think that they can obey apart from the Holy Spirit. I would much rather my children be real with their struggles and understand God's grace towards them because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross.

Galatians 6 talks about discipline among Christians, with an emphasis on restoring them gently. I believe the Bible calls for discipline that helps children obey, helps them seek grace when they struggle. And so, as Palil pointed out, I don't believe I can punish my child's sin nature out of them or lessen their need to learn to walk by grace through faith.

9:54 PM, January 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TulipGirl,

You said, "Palil is saying that she doesn't see how it is possible to change the child's will through SPANKING." I don't think that is what she said. At least that is not how I understood her when she said, "How do you "break" a child of their sinful will, without also inflicting emotional damage that cannot be repaired, or squelching their personhood in ways that hinder development?" She was not specifically referring to spanking.

Ok, that's a side point, perhaps.

You said, "God DOES change our will through other means--and I believe that the "other means" is much more often gentle than punative." I don't know - Let's not forget Paul's warning about the Lord's Table in Corinthians, or God's striking Ananias and Sapphira dead on the spot, or Paul's instruction to the Corinthians about the incestuous man, or in the OT about Nadab and Abihu, or Uzzah, or David's bastard child, or His dealing with Job. (And we could go on here). Point is, God does whatever is necessary to keep His covenant children in the covenant.

Further, in your quotation of Romans 2:1-4 I presume you mean to emphasize the last phrase "God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" We might arrive at different definitions of God's kindness here. I don't think His kindness is just the "nice" things he does for us. I think His kindness encompasses things like slaughtered Galileans, falling towers, and even tsunamis. All are calls to repent - and this is very kind on God's part when you rightly understand what we all deserve.

You said, "A mistake I often see in Christian families is that of emphasizing obedience in a way that leads children (and adults) to think that they can obey apart from the Holy Spirit. I would much rather my children be real with their struggles and understand God's grace towards them because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross." AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! I couldn't agree more.

There are a lot of "principals" and "steps" and such kind of stuff out there that can produce an outward obedience and leave the inside full of dead men's bones. Those things are nothing short of another gospel.

Grace and Peace,
Greg

8:54 PM, January 30, 2005  
Anonymous Michelle G. said...

Posts like these leave me confused as to what my role is in my unsaved children's lives. I believe it's important to teach my children good manners and how to control their behavior. I can't teach them to rely on Christ yet (they are 4 and 1 1/2), yet I don't think it's right to allow them to throw tantrums or put forks into light sockets. I don't like to say "good boy" to them because I fear they will think they are good because of good things they do--help!

6:32 PM, April 28, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff Van Vonderen, who seems to be the guru of choice for the gentle discipline crowd, is a sound of a duck: he's a quack. For example, he states that children have to learn to say "no" to their parents if they are to later say "no" to peer pressure. But contrary to his statements, it is the least obedient children who get sucked into excessive drinking, drugs and premature sex.

Emily

12:54 PM, May 16, 2005  

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