I’ll begin with this: Somehow, I could never picture Jesus hitting a child. That thought, alone, was enough for me. However, since other parents and family members and strangers on the street want to discuss discipline method, I thought I better research something about my “method.” For me, it is all about grace. I found a neat little book called Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but he gave me a framework. Then, about the same time, a well-meaning mama introduced me to the Pearls and their frightening manifesto–To Train Up a Child. It turned my stomach and strengthened my resolve to research this idea of gentle parenting.
I found out first that there is a name for it: Positive Discipline (coined by Jane Nelson). And it was more than just “not spanking.” It was about skipping rewards and punishments altogether. Wow. No rewards or punishments?
Then I found a community of mamas who had been there/done that. There are many such communities. Find one and learn. For example, Norah started defiantly (I mean, really defiantly) spitting on us one night. Nothing I did worked and I couldn’t think of a “natural consequence” for spitting. After Norah was asleep, I jumped online and asked for ideas. Turns out that lots of mamas had the same situation and they all offered the same solution! I would have never found that in a book.
I began filling my toolbox with all sorts of ideas that really work! Here are a few:
Toddlerease: This one only worked for a certain developmental stage (between 15-22 months). I might pull it out again some other time. It is an empathy technique described in Harvey Karp’s book The Happiest Toddler on the Block.
The Five Steps: I found this one from Pastor Crystal Lutton’s book, Biblical Parenting. I do not understand why it works but as soon as I ask Norah if she needs help (fill-in-the-blank), she responds almost instantly.
Playful Parenting: This one seems to come easily to me (most days). An example of how this works: I ask Norah to clean up her toys. She doesn’t want to. So, I tell her she’s a big elephant picking up peanuts with her trunk. Picking up toys becomes a game.
Comfort Corner: I don’t know who “invented” this one. I only know I love it. Rather than put Norah in time out, we have created a comfort corner. Think of it as a coffee break spot for tots. I sometimes suggest she go there to recharge, refocus. Sometimes I go with her. Sometimes she chooses to go on her own. Norah’s CC is an indoor tent filled with objects she loves. We never discuss unacceptable behavior in the CC; that comes later. She decides when to come out. It is an important life skill we all need–to learn to step away and regroup.
Bottom Line: The world is not a place of grace. My home will be. And I do not want to raise a child who obeys every adult who crosses her path–there are some scary adults out there. I do not want to raise a child who cannot think or question. I want her to have spirit and voice. I want her to develop self-discipline and independence and critical thinking. I do not want a trained pet who sits when I say sit in anticipation of reward or in fear of punishment. And most importantly, I want her to know God’s grace–something she cannot be good enough to earn. And something she cannot be bad enough to lose.
Some additional links:
Crystal Lutton’s Quick Reference
Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline
Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason
You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded)
The Ministry of Motherhood: Following Christ’s Example in Reaching the Hearts of Our Children
A word about Christianity and spanking–it seems like many Christians interpret “the rod” verses as commands to spank. In looking at Jewish interpretation, it in interesting to note that these verses were not commonly translated as meaning physical punishment. When they were interpreted as such, it was understood that Proverbs was referencing boys over the age of about 10. If you are interested in researching this topic further, check out:
Pastor Lutton’s online scriptural study
Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me by Samuel Martin
I rarely spank my children either, but I felt the need to say that it’s not an un-Biblical concept. Jesus may not have spanked, but he wasn’t a literal “parent” to a child, and who spanks kids that aren’t their children? No one had better lay a hand on mine, I can tell you that! 🙂 But, His Dad, on the other hand, God the Father was a literal parent, and Jesus, His son, was brutally punished for MY transgressions. I hope no one uses that example as a way to discipline a child, but I wanted to show the other side of the coin. I don’t beat my kids or use a “rod,” but I do see some Biblical value in a rare spanking in the verses below and in others. Just had to put in my two cents! Agree or disagree, I always love you!
I LOVE the site and the pictures and stories!!! Keep up the good work. I hope my child-bearing days are over. But, if God decides otherewise, will you come doula in Concord???
You know, the cool thing about this frustrating and incredible book called, “The Bible,” is how we get to wrestle with it. We will agree to disagree on this one–my understanding of God the Father does not include him punishing his children. If I drink and drive, he may permit the consequences of my actions to occur. If I’m a slacker at work, he may permit the consequences. I don’t believe he punishes in the sense of: she lied so I’m going to give her cancer. I’ve never viewed the cross as God punishing his Son. I have viewed it as Christ, who never sinned, submitting to the consequences of sin…death. We then are able to become God’s adopted children. And I have never been spanked by God. He’s been pretty creative in His parenting, though!
And yes, I would happily be your doula! Don’t you have semi-fast births? I might have to get a faster car…
By the way, Happy Birthday, Kerri!!! May your day be filled with celebration and beauty!
Well written and great references!
As a non-spanker (who has thoroughly researched other methods) I have personally come to the conclusion that the rod verses do not advocate spanking at all.
Here’s an except from a great, in-depth article from here: http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/articles/rodstudy.php (sorry I don’t know how to make one of those link things)
“Proverbs 23:13-14 tell us that the “child” shall not die with the rod. Yet in Exodus 21:20, we see that a man COULD cause someone to die with a literal rod. If Scripture were talking about a literal rod here, we would be finding a contradiction because it says he SHALL NOT die. You cannot kill someone with your authority. You can be striking (beating) them with your authority by using your authority to discipline (teach, disciple, educate, instruct) and guide them. I hold to the figurative interpretation of this verse.
IF this Scripture were referring to a literal beating, taken in context, it would have to be speaking about a grown child. The verses before and after are written by a father speaking to his grown or almost grown son. However, you still have the problem of the contradiction as far as whether or not a rod can cause someone to die.
Therefore, *if* one took these Scriptures to mean literal physical punishment, than it would possibly only apply to fathers spanking their sons who are older (since adolescence can go through the early 20’s). Most Christian discipline “experts” do not mention this. Yet, if you’re going to interpret it literally, this would have to be the explanation. Most Christian parenting authors say you should be able to STOP spanking by the time they become 12 or 13, yet according to this Scripture, you would not even START using physical punishment until then. So, we see that these Scriptures, if taken literally, would be referring to this form of punishment as an absolute last resort to save the child (which was possibly a boy only) from hell.
So many Christians have taken FIVE verses and hung a whole child rearing philosophy on them! Parents are told to use this as a primary form of punishment (what these experts refer to as discipline). Some use the words “punishment” and “discipline” interchangeably when they mean two entirely different things. These people are basing their theology on nothing more than the traditions of men! ”
Jesus was gentle with children. He is a shepherd to the sheep. The shepherd uses HIS rod to guide the sheep, not to beat them! In MAtthew 25:40, Jesus himself says” …as you did to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me.” We often forget that our children are “the least of these” and offered the same grace that God offers us! Not to mention that whatever we do to our children we are doing to Jesus. ANd whether it’s a slap or kiss, Jesus feels the emotional impact of what people do to one another, including what we do to our children.
Whew! Sorry that got a little long. It’s a subject I (obviously) feel very strongly about! Now…off to check out some of your links that I haven’t read yet!
Crazy (and nerve-wracking)…but this page is THE most clicked of my blog. I guess this is really a hot button issue and that maybe, parents are looking for answers.
I do hope to form a Positive Discipline group in Greenville soon. I have more questions than answers but I found some experienced mamas who might help out with the conversation. More info to come…
Hey! (It’s Jenny from the babywearing group earlier today.) This is a great page. I’m so glad I found it before Suzi gets old enough that I need it! I’ve known all along I didn’t believe in spanking and that the Biblical “rod” was being misinterpreted. The hard part for me is stepping back and letting friends who believe otherwise parent in their own way, but it makes me feel better that you were able to agree to disagree with others on this point.
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