It’s a hot topic that’s sure to end any good play date in a hurry: The big corporal punishment debate – Ouch! Those who agree with spanking as a form of discipline say, “I spank you because I love you;” while those who disagree with spanking will quickly speak up to defend the child, calling it abusive and dangerous. On which side of the great debate do you fall?
To get to the bottom of the issue, I sat down with Gloria Miller, MA, LPC, RPT-S, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist Supervisor in Missouri.
To Spank or Not to Spank?
Q: To spank or not to spank is a great debate. As a counselor and play therapist, what is your overall opinion of spanking or not spanking for the purpose of discipline?
Miller: “I am often asked about whether to spank or not. My short answer is that I do not encourage spanking, but believe that within certain parameters, it is acceptable. I try and encourage parents to look at the bigger picture and to consider what it is they hope to accomplish when spanking is in question.”
Q: Is there ever a time when spanking is OK, and is there ever a time when spanking goes too far and crosses the line into abuse?
Miller: “The presumed purpose of spanking is to provide discipline. So, a word about discipline: Discipline is the overall goal and spanking is only one tool that might be used to achieve this goal. Discipline is different than punishment in that it is intended to direct, teach and shepherd, if you will.
Spanking alone is not complete or sufficient discipline, but one must take several other factors into account. Some of those factors include the nature of the relationship between parent and child.”
What Does Scripture Say about Discipline?
In Gloria’s opinion, the scripture many use to defend spanking speaks to the purpose of discipline: The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother. —Proverbs 29:15
Miller: “I don’t think this means that we are to literally beat our children. Whether young or old, we all need discipline.
I think of discipline as guidance, loving correction, submitting our will to a bigger picture. Perhaps the rod spoken of in this verse is like that of a shepherd’s hook that guides sheep.
Notice that the verse speaks to the importance of a child not being left to himself, but rather actively involved with the parent as an important factor. A parent’s involvement in their child’s life, modeling the behavior they wish to encourage in their children is an essential factor in the discipline of children.
There has to be an overall spirit of love and encouragement in order for discipline to be effective. I believe spanking can be incorporated as one tool in accomplishing this goal, but should not be the first thing parents use. If spanking is used, it is important to be consistent and calm when administering so as not to harm the child.”
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the instruction of the Lord. —Ephesians 6:4
Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged. —Colossians 3:21
Does the Method Matter?
Q: If a parent chooses to spank as a form of discipline, is it better to use a hand or an object such as a wooden spoon, rod, or a switch? Why, or why not?
Miller: “In general, certain guidelines apply. It is often thought that using a paddle is preferable to using one’s hand because the hand should be associated with tender, loving touch. In general, spankings should never be given out of anger or spite and should never ever be given with a belt or to a child older than 10.”
Alternatives to Spanking
Q: What alternative forms of discipline would you recommend instead of spanking?
Miller: ”It is my preference to choose other means of correction before spanking such as natural consequences, love and logic and problem solving. Spanking should be used primarily is cases where there is imminent danger or persistent disobedience.”
What’s Your Take?
Of course, sadly, most would agree that sometimes spanking is merely a cover for hidden or blatant child abuse. However, when it is used within certain guidelines, is it always a bad idea? Is it always a good idea?
Let’s keep this conversation going. Please share your comments below on which side of the great spanking debate you fall, or whether you are undecided or somewhere in the middle.