There was a “likey” going around Facebook not too long ago that said “I’d rather go to jail for spanking my kids, than have them end up in jail because I didn’t.” I very nearly blogged about it at the time, but ultimately decided that it wasn’t worth my attention. Its logic (or non-logic as the case may be) was so flawed that if it weren’t so sad it would be laughable.

There are many such things on Facebook that make me a little bit crazy, but I can usually just shake my head, chuckle, and move back to my happy place.  I’m having a harder time ignoring the newest one though, as it continues to show up in my news feed as friend after friend likes it.  It says, “Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.”

I admittedly don’t like the word discipline, because too many people use it interchangeably with “punishment.”  When they say discipline, they mean spanking (or time-outs or counting or reprimanding).  Whether or not that was its original intent, it is surely what it’s become.  A quick Google of “discipline” brings up words like train, punish, correct, control, and chastise….. none of which align in my mind with mindful, gentle parenting.  But the word discipline doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the first phrase, “Those who love their children.”  Meaning… what, exactly?  That those who don’t “discipline” don’t love their children?  That punishment equals love?  I can’t decide if they’re trying to guilt others into following suit, or if they’re the grownup equivalents of the childhood bullies;  the ones who put others down to raise themselves up.

A lot of time, energy, thought and research has gone into the way that I parent.  Parenting is a huge responsibility, one that no one should take lightly.  I could sit here and site studies and research and anecdotal evidence about why authoritarian parenting is not the answer, but I’d just as soon let my four happy (and ::gasp!:: well-behaved) children be evidence enough.  And everything that I do, every decision that I make when it comes to their care and upbringing, is because I love them.

I was not surprised to see that the site that published the “those who love their children” quote was a Christian site.   Traditionally, Christian parenting advice is filled with many of these admonitions.  You must train your children, you must teach them to submit, you must show them who’s boss.   It frustrates me beyond description.   Not only have I never found anything, biblical or otherwise, that leads me to believe that this is in fact a requirement (for lack of a better word) for a believer, but I find it to be the opposite of what Jesus would espouse.   Jesus loved children.  He wanted us to become like children.  He didn’t punish or coerce.  He didn’t use force;  didn’t shame or belittle.  He led children by example in kindness, compassion, and respect.  Wouldn’t it follow that we should do the same?

Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, when you love someone – truly love them – you care about how they’re treated.  You want them treated with dignity and respect, with caring and kindness.  I think even the most well-meaning parents can get so caught up in their “discipline” that they lose sight of the person that’s on the receiving end…  A small person with fragile feelings and a pure heart.  A person who can carry, for LIFE, the scars and humiliation that come from said discipline.

I was walking into an ice cream place last week, with all four of my kids, along with a friend and her two children.  A woman was leaving the store with her little girl, around 4 or 5 years old.  The mom was yelling, and the girl was wailing unhappily.  They were both yelling so much I couldn’t make out what was going on.  From what I could tell, the girl didn’t want to go until she told her mother whatever it was that was on her mind, and the more she resisted, the harder the mom yanked on her arm.  “But Mom!!”  “Let’s GO!”  When they got out to the sidewalk, and the crying had really escalated, the mom knelt down.  I thought very briefly that she was taking a breather, giving herself a time-out, getting down at her daughter’s level so she could talk with her.  But the new position, I soon found out, was so she’d have a better angle to rapidly spank her, three times in succession before resuming their march to the car.  The girl cried harder – understandably – and was still screaming when they left my line of sight.

I have had bad days as a parent.  I have had frustrating days as a parent.  I don’t know what kind of day that mom was having.  I don’t know what caused the outburst, by either of them.  I don’t know what the little girl did that made the mother so angry.  But I am very certain that it whatever it was, it did not deserve the pain and humiliation of a public spanking outside a restaurant.  I’m also certain that the discipline did NOT help the situation;  that neither the mom nor the daughter was better for it;  and that their relationship was harmed, and not strengthened.  My heart broke a little when I saw it, as it does every time I see a parent and child take another step further away from a loving, connected relationship.

I love my children.  Because I love them, I try with all my heart to treat them in a way that’s fitting for someone I love.  I wouldn’t discipline my sister or my best friend or my husband for making a mistake, and I extend my kids the same courtesy.

I say we stop with all the spanking and discipline Facebook groups, and start a new one:

“Those who love their children care enough to treat them the way they themselves would want to be treated.”

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Filed under parenting

8 Responses to Discipline

  1. Sierra Mama

    Like : )

  2. redrockmama

    I totally agree. My heart breaks and my eyes and I get teary-eyed when I see things like that. I can't understand it. Also, as you mentioned, I carry these awful memories, that bring back such strong negative emotions when I think back to how I was disciplined as a child.

    I am NOT okay because of it. My parents did the best they could at the time, with what they knew (and how they were raised). But that doesn't make it okay, and it's our job as parents with intellect to make educated decisions on raising our children. It's our job as parents with *heart* to make emotional, loving decisions on how to raise our children. I loved your blog post, Jen.

    I also struggle between what feels RIGHT (gentle, kind, compassionate parenting) and what has been ingrained (controlling, yelling, coercing). One feels right and is done the majority of the time, and the other flares up on occasion. The difference though is recognizing that it feels wrong, and that it's time to change and work on OURSELVES so we can be the kind of parents we want to be!!

  3. Alice

    Love the post, and Erika's response: "I also struggle between what feels RIGHT…and what has been ingrained." My feelings exactly. Every day it's a struggle, some days go better than others. But I'm looking forward to the day when what feels right is also what's ingrained. And even more importantly, that gentle parenting is what's ingrained in my own kids!

  4. Lesa McMahon

    Wonderful! 😀

  5. Rynalee

    I LOVE this. How refreshing to read something written by someone who loves Jesus, and loves their children in the same way He loved people! I get so sick of hearing christians promoting harsh punishment "because they love their children". Is that what we want them to internalise? That it's ok for someone to hit and humiliate you as a way of showing love?

  6. JoAnn

    Fantastic post Jen!

  7. Jennifer

    Bible verses on Disipline…There are 43 to be exact. I thought about just posting the link but decided against it and posted all the verses instead. And think about Noah, God flooded the entire earth because everyone had gotten so very far from him and his word, and Sodom and Gomorrah, there are many many examples of God disciplining people for their actions. And even today he still does….if you divorce there are consequences for that ie. less time with children, the money needed for lawyers and court fees, possibly child support, mourning the death of a relationship that was suppose to be forever, all these things God could choose to take away and not have us deal with but he very rarely if ever does. Jesus paid the ultimate discipline when he was put on the cross for OUR sins. I rarely yell at my kids they know when they’ve done wrong, I don’t have to yell at them to tell them this, but when they do something wrong they are disciplined accordingly it may be 10 min in time out or grounded for a week but say they steal something from someone (as I have dealt with) if I don’t teach them that there are consequences for that then when they are older the cops will for sure teach them that lesson, it just may be too late then.

    Proverbs 13:24 ESV / 338 helpful votes

    Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

    Hebrews 12:11 ESV / 269 helpful votes

    For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

    Proverbs 22:6 ESV / 198 helpful votes

    Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

    Proverbs 23:13-15 ESV / 193 helpful votes

    Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol. My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad.

    Proverbs 22:15 ESV / 158 helpful votes

    Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

    Ephesians 6:4 ESV / 149 helpful votes

    Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

    Proverbs 29:17 ESV / 120 helpful votes

    Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.

    Proverbs 19:18 ESV / 106 helpful votes

    Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.

    Proverbs 29:15 ESV / 97 helpful votes

    The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

    Colossians 3:21 ESV / 93 helpful votes

    Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

    Ephesians 6:1-4 ESV / 92 helpful votes

    Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

    Hebrews 12:5-11 ESV / 77 helpful votes

    And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? …

    Proverbs 12:1 ESV / 77 helpful votes

    Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

    Proverbs 6:23 ESV / 60 helpful votes

    For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,

    Exodus 20:12 ESV / 54 helpful votes

    “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

    Proverbs 10:17 ESV / 53 helpful votes

    Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.

    Proverbs 13:1 ESV / 51 helpful votes

    A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

    Proverbs 15:32 ESV / 49 helpful votes

    Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.

    Proverbs 15:5 ESV / 44 helpful votes

    A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.

    Galatians 6:1 ESV / 41 helpful votes

    Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

    Hebrews 12:9 ESV / 40 helpful votes

    Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

    Hebrews 12:5-6 ESV / 39 helpful votes

    And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

    Deuteronomy 5:16 ESV / 38 helpful votes

    “‘Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

    Romans 16:17 ESV / 36 helpful votes

    I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

    Isaiah 53:1-12 ESV / 29 helpful votes

    Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. …

    John 3:16 ESV / 27 helpful votes

    “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

    Proverbs 20:30 ESV / 27 helpful votes

    Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts.

    Psalm 127:3 ESV / 26 helpful votes

    Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

    2 Thessalonians 3:14 ESV / 25 helpful votes

    If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.

    2 Thessalonians 3:15 ESV / 23 helpful votes

    Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

    Deuteronomy 21:18 ESV / 22 helpful votes

    “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them,

    Deuteronomy 6:7-8 ESV / 15 helpful votes

    You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.

    Deuteronomy 21:18-21 ESV / 14 helpful votes

    “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

    James 5:16 ESV / 12 helpful votes

    Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

    Ecclesiastes 8:11 ESV / 12 helpful votes

    Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.

    Deuteronomy 1:1-46 ESV / 11 helpful votes

    These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them, after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and in Edrei. Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying, …

    Psalm 64:1-10 ESV / 10 helpful votes

    To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, “Who can see them?” …

    Proverbs 1:1-33 ESV / 7 helpful votes

    The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, …

    Deuteronomy 21:19 ESV / 6 helpful votes

    Then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives,

    Psalm 91:1-16 ESV / 5 helpful votes

    He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, …

    2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV / 4 helpful votes

    For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    1 Peter 3:13 ESV / 4 helpful votes

    Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

    HelpfulNot Helpful

    Hebrews 5:8 ESV / 4 helpful votes

    Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.