This is going to be counter-cultural parenting advice.
Our family has a biblical conviction that we ought to spank our kids. Why such a bold statement?
Popular or unpopular, the Bible compels us to this method. The Proverbs are laced with this advice- Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15.
Here are some principles to consider:
1. Your kids need to see you as their authority.
When you ask your kids to do something, they should obey. You shouldn't have to say it twice. You shouldn't have to say it loudly. Your kids should feel the weight of your words. The goal is not a domineering dictatorship, but a loving leadership. The assumption is that everything you are asking your kids to do is not just on a whim or for your personal comfort, but it's in their best interest to obey. Consider Deuteronomy 10:12-13. God's rules are not for him, but for us. When God says "Don't do that." We should hear that as "Don't do that- or you'll hurt yourself."
I'm not a big fan of "child proofing" our house. It's not like it's that big of a deal, but I've seen too many parents who do it because they simply don't have control of their kids. We tell our kids "don't open this door" or "don't turn on the television" or "don't touch this outlet" or "don't take anything out of this drawer" and expect them not to do it. If they don't obey, we spank them.
Recently, we noticed our kids getting out the scissors and markers without asking. We told them not to do it again (a kid on a stool reaching up high to get out scissors is dangerous). That afternoon they did not obey and they were disciplined (i.e. spanked in this case). They haven't gotten out the scissors without asking since then.
If you don't establish point #1 by age four, it will be an uphill battle for you. Don't give up, just know you might reap some of your parenting apathy from when they were younger.
2. Spanking for any other reason than love (i.e. anger, bitterness, rage) will always do more harm then good.
If you're an angry person and you can't disconnect your anger from the act of spanking, it might be better not to spank.
Here are some other tips related to this point
- Never snap at your kids and react too quickly. Wait five seconds before you speak if your temper goes off like a firecracker.
- Establish a controlled place where you regularly do the discipline. This will also help you take your time and not merely react.
- Ask your kids, "Did you obey daddy when you..."
- Tell your kids you love them and hug/hold them afterwards.
- Psalm 23 says, "your rod and staff, they comfort me." The rod is God's way of keeping us from straying into danger. He disciplines us out of love, and we cling to him because we need his correction in our lives (Hebrews 12:7-ff). He is slow to anger (Psalm 145).
3. Be consistent
Hold the line on whatever your standard is. Whether you spank or use timeouts, the main thing is that your kids know what to expect when they disobey.
Kids will rise to the standard you call them to. But mixed expectations will be confusing.
4. Work as a team with your spouse
Not only should you have the same conviction about whatever method you use, but you should both discipline for the same things. I don't think it's a good system to have mom use timeouts and dad use spankings.
You should also help each other out. Where one may be more inclined to show mercy, the other may be more of a rule keeper. This should bring balance to the way you raise your kids, not conflict. Leatha is much better at consistency than me. I need her to help me remember the standard. I can be lackadaisical or just plain lazy.
5. Don't look down on people for raising their kids differently than you.
Since I'm blogging, I can openly share our convictions on this. But if you have us over and your kids get sent to a "time out" for disobeying, we're not going to correct you on that. This shouldn't become a point of division. Heaven and hell are not on the line with this one.
I wish more people were teachable in this area, but they're not. Most people don't want you to give them advice on how to raise their kids. Personally, we love it when people with awesome kids give us tips on how to do a better job. They might spare us and our kids from a lot of heartache.
6. We've also had a strong willed child.
I've seen fits that look like demonic oppression. We would ask other parents who said their kids were strong willed and would also throw fits, "What do you do? HELP!"
They would tell us and we'd ask, "Yeah, but what about when they're pulling their hair out, banging their head against the wall, biting themselves almost to the point of bleeding, screaming uncontrollably..." Then we get this look like, "Are you serious? Your kid does that?"
Lots of prayer, patience, love, and discipline is how we've persevered. We also cut out sugar from their diet (more on that in another post). Once in a blue moon this child will throw a mild fit, but they are few and far between. In those days, the only thing we could count on was screaming every night. I'm not sure when it happened, but there is calm in the Arant house at bedtime. We're making progress and we're seeing the fruit of our hard work to persevere through those dark days.
Establish yourself as the authority. Enforce first time obedience. Hold the line on this- your kids will thank you later.