I am not opposed to spanking a child.
I recognize, however, that there can be alternatives to using the rod of correction. No discipline should be done in anger, and giving a child a beating is not a spanking – it’s abuse. There are times when other methods of discipline can have a greater effect on our kids.
No matter how we discipline, our approach should be thought through clearly and without reaction to the misdeed. When you aren’t allowed to spank, your child is too old to spank, or you just don’t want to spank, consider these alternatives.
One of my first mistakes in parenting was to not think through the punishments I was dealing out to our children. It’s easy to put a child in Time Out or to give a spanking for an infraction. Those methods are tried and true, and they usually work when they are done in the right way.
On the other side of raising kids, I can vouch that there are some other methods for dealing with disobedience, disrespect, and dishonesty.
In the long run, they make more sense.They’re harder to carry out, they take more time and more investment, and they take a lot more “on your toes” attention than a spanking-and-it’s-over. The goal in choosing discipline and consequences is to teach our children appropriate behavior and responses. Each child is different and will respond differently. Some children need only a look to make them straighten up. Others won’t even begin to pay attention until they feel the noose tightening. Been there, moms. I know.
When you’re choosing consequences, here are a few alternative from which you can choose.
Make the punishment fit the crime.
- When our oldest son was three years old, he figured out that it was worth a spanking if he put an LP album on the record player since he still got to listen to what he wanted. The rule was he was to ask an adult to put it on so it would not become broken or scratched. It was a simple request and he knew what he was to do and why. The problem was that sometimes I was outside hanging up laundry or rocking the baby when he wanted to listen to it now. He figured out that he could get several minutes of listening before he was discovered, and obviously it was worth the gamble and the spanking because once the spanking was over, he still got to finish listening to the record. Am I blushing? You betcha. I should have seen that one coming. Imagine his surprise one day when his mama gained some wisdom and simply turned off the record player and put the album back in its case. He lost the privilege of listening to his LP album on the record player. For three days, he asked to listen to the album. For three days (because he was three years old), I said “No. You can’t listen to the record because you did not obey me; you put it on by yourself and didn’t ask me to do it. If you had only asked me, [sad, pitiful whine in voice – make certain you insert that in there!] you could listen to it now. I am so sorry that you did not obey because now you can’t listen to your favorite record.” After that incident, he always asked me to put the album on for him instead of doing it himself.
- the day our 5-year old was told for the umpteenth time not to spit on the wood stove even though it was fun to watch the spit sizzle, I handed him a paper cup and told him to stand by the stove and spit into the cup. “You want to spit?” I asked. “Go ahead. Spit all you want. Just do it in the cup. Don’t stop until the cup is half full.” After a few minutes of spitting, he was done, and the wood stove no longer received spit that led to rust spots.
- the day a child stomped upstairs to his room and slammed the door. He got to come back downstairs and stomp up the steps again – twenty-five times. You can be sure the next time he felt like stomping up the steps and slamming the door, he didn’t.
- the day a former foster child visited us and wanted to sit in his sister’s car seat. He got a turn on our way to visit a goat farm. On the way back, his sister had her turn, and he kicked and screamed all the way home. I was worn out by the time we got home, and the battle had hardly even begun. When we got home, he was so angry that I left him to sit and scream in the van for 10 minutes. [He was safe. It wasn’t hot outside and I had the door to my kitchen wide open and the van door was wide open. I could see and hear every sound.] Not only did he get put in Time Out after he was done kicking and screaming, he didn’t get to sit in his choice car seat for the rest of the four-day visit. Every time we went somewhere, he asked to get into that seat. Every time, I told him NO. Every time, I told him that he couldn’t sit in that seat because he pitched a fit when he could have chosen to take a turn without fussing. Now when he comes to visit, he willingly takes his turn and there is no kicking or screaming. At the end of that episode, I was much more exhausted than was he, but it was worth standing firm to experience the desired outcome.
2. Pain Brings Gain
Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a way to “make the punishment fit the crime.” There are ways to give consequences for behavior that will remind a child of what they have done and how wrong it was. You know your children, and you know their favorite things to do. Remove that “favorite” for a day or more, depending on the age of the child.
- one of our kids loved peanut butter. One day I took peanut butter away from her for a week. She had it coming, and I probably should have done it sooner. Every day when she wanted her peanut butter snack, she remembered what she had done and why this was forbidden. She never lost peanut butter privilege again. I was especially pleased that she told her friends at school about her punishment, and they held her accountable in the cafeteria at school.
- Your child might enjoy shooting hoops in the backyard or playing piano for pleasure. Maybe visiting the library and getting to choose her own books is special. Your kids can lose those privileges. The pain experienced from losing privileges will help a child be more careful next time.
- A child living in our home was extremely disrespectful to me one day. Not only that, he lied about what he had done. Then he said, “I’m not afraid of you, ’cause Dave can’t touch my butt.” At the end of the week, he said wistfully, “I really wish Dave could just have touched my butt.” His “punishment”? 1 Defiance: bedtime one hour earlier for one week. 2. Dishonesty: no riding bike for one week. 3. Disobedience: family table games participation was only in dealing cards and being a banker; he could not play the game for one week. We played table games every evening as a family, and our entire family felt sorry for his suffering; but the change in his attitude was well worth that long, painful week. [Please understand that we had tried other consequences that seemed to affect him for a few days. This child was plenty old enough to know better and just young enough not to care or be afraid to try the limits.] After this week, we discovered that we had nipped this right in the bud. We also discovered that he needed more rest than we realized, so guess whose bedtime got bumped up earlier than everyone else’s, and guess which kid became happier all the way around?
3. Time for Time
- When a child’s lack of cooperation or behavior costs you time, he can “pay it back” by doing a job for you. For example, a child knows to remove his wet shoes or boots before he comes in the house. You’ve just mopped the floor and now you need to mop it again. How much time will it take? He can do a job for you for the same amount of time it takes you to re-mop the floor. Will he be as quick to “forget” to take off his shoes the next time? Probably not. If he’s extremely strong-willed, he might need to do time-for-time more than once. That’s okay. He’ll figure out that it’s not worth it when he keeps doing time-for-time.
- When a child has a set bedtime and doesn’t make it at that time, he can do time-for-time the next evening. If he is 30 minutes late getting to bed one night, then he goes to bed 30 minutes earlier the next night. If it takes him 30 minutes to pick up toys when it should take him 15, then next time have him quit playing earlier to do time-for-time for the evening before. When he keeps losing play time or fun time or swim time or reading time, you will find that he is capable of speeding things up when he wants to do so.
Weigh the Consequences
Before you dish out threats, think through what it will take to follow through if your child does not cooperate. One of our foster sons was not being cooperative in a class in school. Dave finally told him that if this happened again, he would make a visit to his classroom. Imagine the boy’s surprise the next day when, after bragging to his teacher that Dave would never come to his class, Dave walked in the door. For Dave, it was worth the time lost from work to get this problem corrected, but he had to follow through. Making a threat and not following through teaches our kids that we’re really not serious; it also teaches them that they can’t trust us to keep our word. It makes them more insecure.
You know your children, their favorite things to do, and the chores they dislike the most. Use it to your advantage – and theirs. Reward them with their favorites and teach them to think through behavior ahead of time by giving consequences in such a way that they’ll want to be more responsible the next time. As moms, we know our kids pretty well; use what you know about your kids to help you discipline and reward them appropriately.
Make the punishment fit the crime, choose pain that brings gain, and deal consequences with time-for-time. And oh yes, don’t count to three!
Don’t be out-smarted and out-witted. You’ve got this. With the wisdom you receive (when you ask) from God, you’ll find a way. Dave and I didn’t have it down pat; just like you, we learned along the way. It’s easier to look back with solutions than it was to come up with them at the time. When we’re sincere and we’re seeking wisdom, God can take our failures and mistakes and turn them into something good in spite of who we are. He wants to help us in our quest to raise obedient children. All we have to do is ask.