When I first welcomed my daughter, that little bundle of love, into the world, the last thing on my mind was discipline.
The love came easy.
From the moment I knew she existed, felt that first kick, saw her sweet face, I was a goner.
I knew beyond a doubt that I would be willing to die for this child and that I would move heaven and earth to give her a good life.
Little did I know that all too soon, discipline would have to enter the equation in order to give her that good life I so wanted her to have.
Strong willed and temperamental as she was from the start, it should have come as no surprise when my 10-month-old showed signs of defiance!
All children are different, with varying strengths of will. But in my particular child, you could see it in her eyes.
She wanted to do what SHE wanted to do, when SHE wanted to do it. At less than one year old. So what is a mother to do?
More on raising strong-willed children here from Dr. James Dobson of Focus On The Family.
While there are many ways to discipline, the best way for us turned out to be spanking.
My professional background includes degrees in social work and counseling, and I realize that spanking is pretty controversial in our society, but for most young children, it is very effective.
In my years as a school counselor, I have observed that children who are disciplined at home are much more happy and well-adjusted. They also have fewer behavior problems at school. I would much rather provide the discipline at home!
We can find the wisdom in corporal punishment in the book of Proverbs.
Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. (Proverbs 12:24)
Don’t withhold instruction from children;
if you strike them with a rod, they won’t die.
Strike them with a rod,
and you will save their lives from the grave. (Proverbs 23:13-14)
A rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a youth left to himself is a disgrace to his mother. (Proverbs 29:15)
Spanking teaches children that there are consequences to their actions. It also trains them to yield to authority. Initially that of their parents, but ultimately, to the authority of God Himself.
In the early years, spanking also keeps children from harming themselves or others.
A couple of caveats:
- Spanking is not the answer for every single child. (For the majority of children, it works like a charm. But for those few and far between tender little souls who aim to please, a word or a look will usually do the trick.)
- I would never recommend spanking a child older than 10 years of age. (Due to the embarrassment and rebellion it can trigger.)
If you have been disciplining consistently up to approximately age 10, you shouldn’t need to resort to corporal punishment by then.
Past the age of 10, restricting activities or taking things away will probably be most effective.
Things I have taken include a bedroom door, a t.v., a phone, and even make-up from a teenager. We have not yet had to take the car keys, but it’s always an option!
- Don’t over-do it. Every offense is not spank-worthy. While there should be consistent consequences for bad behavior, spanking can lose effectiveness if it is over-done. Ideally the “threat” of a spanking should be more of a deterrent than anything. Kids can get discouraged when they are spanked (or even worse, yelled at) for every little thing.
- Don’t lose control. Don’t spank when you are so angry you are out-of-control and might hurt your child. Spanking should be limited to the bottom or legs and while it should be uncomfortable enough to be effective, it should not leave marks that don’t fade within the hour. Spanking should never bruise or break the skin!
With my little girl, I popped her legs with my hand at first.
Eventually, we had to move on to the belt across the bottom.
And it worked. Most of the time. (When it didn’t, a hickory switch on the legs was a great alternative.)
But here’s the thing.
To be able to love and discipline in the way that every child needs, you also have to invest a lot of time.
In the busy, hectic world we live in, time is often hard to come by.
I have always been a working parent, and there are many days I come in drained. But the time you spend with your child is never wasted.
Even if it means giving up some non-essential activities. They crave time at home with you.
Even now, with my 16-year-old daughter, she needs the one-to-one time that we spend together, and you know what? So do I!
We continue to create a bond that can never be broken and I am assured that she knows she can talk with me about anything.
This bond didn’t come from parking her in front of the t.v. with a video game. There are times when you cannot give all the time and attention you would like, but it is so important to give it at every opportunity!
Children need to interact with their parents to learn social skills, values and boundaries and to strengthen the bond that is naturally present between parent and child.
Communication is key.
Let your child know your expectations, as well as the consequences if expectations are not met.
Make sure the consequences are consistent, so that there are no misunderstandings.
Your child must learn that certain actions or lack thereof lead to certain consequences.
As a side note, yelling is usually counterproductive and can be damaging to your child’s sense of self worth.
Talk with your child. Play with your child. Watch good movies with your child. Do chores with your child. Have outings with your child.
Children who grow up to be happy, productive adults who function well in society must have time, love and discipline.
If you make the investment now, you will be glad you did!
Knowing limits and disappointments, and learning in childhood that you don’t always get your way in life, provides a barrier against crushing disappointments later.
Teaching your child that the world doesn’t revolve around him or her and that you can’t just act any old way any time you feel like it may be the most kind and generous thing you could ever do for them.
Have I ever been too harsh? Yes!
Have I ever been overindulgent and slack with discipline? Yes, yes, and YES!
But we do the best we can. And if we are trying hard to find that balance and to give all the time, love and discipline we can in the right doses, we won’t miss the mark by much!