The Corporal Correction of Children – Part 3

The Corporal Correction of Children – Part 3

Posted in In line with Scripture

“Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

— Ecclesiastes 9:11

Spank Instantly and Consistently

In situations of imminent danger and with very young children you might need to spank first and explain later. This is sensible even to those who oppose spanking! Barbara was manning a stall once with a woman who opposed spanking, who said it is never right to smack a child. When asked about the toddler reaching up to the hot element on the stove, this woman said she smacks the little one’s hand. “So it’s never right to smack a child, you say?” “Well, of course, in that situation, what else can you do?” she replied. I rest my case.

But when children challenge defiantly, you must win conclusively. And you need to win the challenge now, for a few hours later will be even less convenient, and by then, in the child’s mind, the issue has already been settled….in their favour. Just excuse yourself to whoever you are with, saying you must deal with a very critical issue.

Each of my children has had a go at being disobedient in a way that challenged my authority, that somehow said, “Let’s see who’s really in charge here.” They were surprisingly young, picked the most inconvenient and embarrassing times and places and could do so with smiles as if playing a game. I could have laughed and shrugged it off. But when I insisted on obedience and they insisted on disobeying, I knew I had to drive that disobedient foolishness out with a spank. In fact in all cases it took more than one. The usual reaction to the spank is to cry, but in these situations I got silence and a cold stare and a set jaw. It is really a bit scary seeing that in an 18-month old. The worst confrontation took 45 minutes and had me crying before she did. But once it was demonstrated who carries the authority, none of the children has ever challenged me in the same way again.

There are some really good bits of practical advice to go with this one: don’t make a rule or give a command you are not prepared to enforce. We have all seen it and we have all done it: “Johnny, if you do that again, you’re gonna get it!” But Johnny does it again, and all he gets is another earfull. To be really harsh about it, this kind of activity is teaching your child that you are a liar. Well, certainly your word can be ignored some or most or all of the time (circle the appropriate word for your level of consistency in following up a command). It communicates very clearly that you don’t mean what you say. Don’t use throw-away lines like “If you do that one more time….” Instead, think it through: is this a situation that requires intervention, or is it merely a situation that annoys you? Are the children really being disobedient and purposefully pushing the boundaries, or are they just full of beans because it’s a sunny day? If you need to intervene, then do so decisively and clearly: get their complete attention and focus on the issue and make your expectations crystal clear. Shouting at them over a distance or over their own raised voices will not accomplish the task.

Another practical hint is to inspect what you expect. If you have assigned a job or given a command for a child to do something, go check it out after an appropriate interval. Don’t allow your words to fall on deaf ears… they’re only deaf because they’ve learned you forget what you say as soon as you say it. Open those ears up with swift and consistent application of the rod of co rrection when they have not done as directed.

This is the inverse of the shepherd who cried, “Wolf!” too often. After a while, no one listened to his constant false alarms, and when the real emergency arrived, people just continued to ignore him. They had learned what he was like. If we are constantly giving out orders yet never following them up or else forgetting what we said, our children will learn that we can be ignored. Then when we issue a really important order in a situation where we simply must rely on them doing what we say, they may well just ignore us once again, having learned through long experience what we are like.

The Scripture enjoins the following attitude toward those who are all blow and no show: “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass…you shall not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:22) We must be consistent about spanking whenever a spankable offense occurs. And by making only commands we intend to follow up on, we can cut down on the actual number of opportunities our children have to offend. Useless, unwise commands, words of authority idly flung from our lips because we were too occupied with something else (perhaps just our easy chair) to give our full attention to a situation; such words can become real stumbling blocks and unnecessry hurdles to our children. In addition, our children may learn that it is worth the gamble to sin and disobey, do their own thing, because the threat may or may not be carried out. This is probably the most difficult aspect of child discipline because it requires disciplined parents.

“Chasten your son while there is hope, and do not set your heart on his destruction.” (Proverbs 19:18).

From Keystone Magazine
September 2000 , Vol. VI No. 5
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389
email: craig