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To Spank or Not to Spank
Page Three

I realize it is easier to say we shouldn't spank in anger than it is to actually avoid it. Most of us occasionally lose our tempers or have times when we feel furious and almost strike a child. If you have felt this way, you know the line between maintaining control and losing it can be a thin one. But hitting is not the answer. In Chapter Ten I will show you how you can handle your anger so you can discipline your children more lovingly. In the meantime, I simply want to lay out this biblical principle: There are occasions for spanking children, but we should spank in love. We want our children to grow and learn through discipline, not because we are upset and angry.

Here is a second guideline for physical discipline: Be sure the discipline is appropriate to the age of your child. During most of the first year of life children cannot comprehend the meaning of a spanking. Consequently, during those early months, it is cruel and abusive to spank. By the time children reach about a year of age their central nervous system has developed to the point that they can grasp the meaning of a no and a spank on the hand. Usually one or two spanks is the most physical discipline a child that age should receive. Any more is punitive and abusive.

From about a year of age until they turn three or four is probably the most appropriate time for physical discipline. During those hears it's difficult to reason with a child and there aren't always good logical consequences. Spanking should not be your primary discipline during this period, but it does have a place. Probably the best way to handle most of your toddler's misbehaviors is to distract him, kiddie-proof your home, remove him from the scene of the crime, or get him involved in interesting activities. You can also use the timeout technique we discussed in Chapter Seven. If you are spanking frequently, that probably means you haven't found more effective forms of discipline or some good preventive actions.

By the time children reach school age they respond better to reasoning and appropriate logical consequences than they do to spanking. They learn their lessons much better if they suffer logical consequences like missing a meal, forfeiting their favorite television program, or losing playtime with a friend.

Be sure the discipline is appropriate
to the age of your child.

Spanking teenagers is a sure sign that you have lost control and that your relationship is crumbling. There are always better ways of disciplining teenagers than to humiliate and infuriate them by spanking them.

This leads to my third guideline: Don't utilize physical spankings when there is another equally or more effective means of discipline. I recommend this because spankings can be so easily abused. Parents generally hit their children because they feel frustrated and don't know what else to do. Don't fall into this trap. This book describes many other loving, sensitive, and successful ways of dealing with behavior problems.

Finally, remember that spankings don't solve the underlying problem. If your children are misbehaving because they feel unloved, incompetent, worthless, or bored, a spanking may temporarily stop the sympton, but it won't solve the real problem—one or more of their basic unmet emotional needs. Effective discipline must include ways of addressing these inner needs and the sources of their problems before they turn into misbehaviors.

That is why some parents have reared healthy, disciplined children with minimal or no spanking at all. They were sensitive to their children's needs, helped them feel loved, confident, and valuable, and corrected them with appropriate loving consequences instead of spanking. I am no recommending you never spank, but I strongly urge you to never spank in anger and to always ask yourself if there is a more effective way.

1. The Orange County Register, 9 February 1992.
2. San Jose Mercury News, 19 February 1983.
3. Al Fabrijio and Pat Fabrijio, Children, Fun or Frenzy? (Palo Alto, CA, Alegri Press, 1969), 10.
4. The Stars and Stripes, 26 July 1992.
5. Proverbs 13:24.
6. I John 4:18.
7. Colossians 3:21.

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Bruce Narramore, Ph.D., president of the Narramore Christian Foundation, is a licensed psychologist. He also serves as Distinguished Professor of Psychology of the Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University. Dr. Narramore is a well-known, best-selling author, a contributing editor to the Journal of Psychology and Theology, and a Fellow of the Divisions of Clinical Psychology and Psychologist Interested in Religious Issues of the American Psychological Association.

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