Book Review: Gentle Firmness by Stephanie Cox


It is clear that fear is the main effect of spanking, no matter how it is done. Believing that God wants children to be hit often leads many children to struggle with their relationships with God or to be so afraid of Him that they totally reject Him.

~ Stephanie Cox

Gentle Firmness, by Stephanie Cox, is one of the most important new books to join the gentle parenting movement, particularly for Christians.  Thorough and well-researched, it takes an unflinching look at the history of spanking within the Christian faith;  why the Bible doesn’t actually say what so many well-intentioned pro-spankers think it says; the harmful and often long-term effects of spanking;  and finally, practical suggestions on what peaceful parents can do instead.

While there are thankfully a growing number of prominent Christians speaking out against spanking, this particular book stands out for a couple of reasons.  Though it is woven with personal accounts, it is rooted in research, history, and details.  The entire first section of the book clearly shows exactly how the practice of corporal punishment within the Christian faith comes from man, not from God.  Cox gives detailed accounts of the influence of Jonathan and Susanna Wesley, and the beliefs of Calvinism, had on spanking.  It goes on to illustrate the very real lifelong effects of this kind of parenting (I was happy to see that she thoroughly addressed the oft heard, “I was spanked as a child, and I’m fine!”)

One complaint that I often hear from pro-spankers is along the lines of, “Well that’s all well and good.  But if you don’t spank, what do you do?”  It’s easy for a spanking advocate to make the leap in thinking that says that if you don’t spank, then you must not discipline at all. That is of course not the case, and Cox spends Part Four of the book discussing exactly that. It’s important to note that she isn’t advocating for swapping spanking with other types of punishments such as time-out either.  What she espouses is truly parenting in Jesus’s footsteps:  parenting – and by extension, disciplining – with kindness, compassion, and grace. Lots and lots of grace.

I am utterly thankful for this book, and for Stephanie Cox and the important work that she is doing.  My own personal knowledge of the history of spanking was spotty at best, and while I truly believed that the Bible did not advocate spanking, my responses to the contrary generally never got more in-depth than, “Jesus wouldn’t hit a child.”  This book, and Stephanie’s research, fills in all those gaps.  It provides the answers, it cites the research, it documents the history.  It exposes all the misinformation, and puts Christians firmly (but gently :)) on the right track of truly following the Bible when it comes to matters of parenting.

The tagline reads, “Conveying the True Love of Jesus to Your Children Through His Example,” and that’s exactly what it does.  This is truly a refreshing and encouraging book, one that should be on the bookshelves of churches and Christian parents everywhere.

You can follow Stephanie on the Gentle Firmness Facebook page here.

*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.*


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Filed under book reviews, gentle discipline, gentle parenting

4 Responses to Book Review: Gentle Firmness by Stephanie Cox

  1. Becky Tucker

    I HAVE to agree Jennifer! I’ve many copies of Stephanie’s book because I believe, as you said, it should be in the home of every parent and in the library of every church! Sadly people are reluctant to embrace what they prejudge as ANTI -what’s always been done….this is never an appropriate reason for a parenting path…gentle yet firm parenting is NOT the easy road….most of us have to go against everything that was wired within our brains from the time we were born, to EMBRACE this humble attitude toward our children. Letting go of control and DELIGHTING in what our children are learning really is FREEDOM in Christ! I so appreciate your writing this and hope it reaches many…. (I’m a big fan btw and an unschooling mamma of 3 amazing , challenging girls, ages 10,8,&4….I so so appreciate your blog and OMB!)*wish I had been at your recent conference… jealous!

  2. Pingback: Jennifer McGrail Reviews Gentle Firmness | Why Not Train A Child?

  3. Marybeth

    I am disturbed by Mrs. Cox’s slander of the fine people at No Greater Joy Ministries.

    • jen

      Slander is the act of making *false* statements that may damage someone’s reputation. There are no such statements in this book.