On Spanking

This blog is originally from a Facebook post, but I’m parking it here for the sake of future reference.

My take on the Adrian Peterson/”Should you spank your kids?” brouhaha:

Hey Christians: Let’s not get too nuts about one verse of Scripture, and a Proverb (13:24), no less. Proverbs are, well, proverbial wisdom. They are not binding on the consciences of believers at all times and all places. They are meant to be generally applicable and true for most times and circumstances, but are to be considered and thoughtfully and contextually applied. Very few of the proverbs are universally applicable in all times and all places. I’ve spanked my kids (see below), but if other believers’ consciences dictate differently, I’m not doing to go all Proverbs 13:24 on them, like it’s a law. I’m probably going to ask them to help me understand why they don’t spank, exactly, but I’m not going to insist that they HAVE to spank if they love their kids. So let’s cool it with the, “If you don’t spank, you don’t love your kids” BS. This isn’t the gospel. There’s room for personal, contextual, conscientious application here.

Hey Christians: Even biblical precepts that Christ-followers view as binding on their conscience must be set within the overall context of Scripture. In this case, you can’t just pull out Proverbs 13:24 and apply it to AP, as though nothing else applies. I think AP’s method of “discipline” probably falls into the category of abuse and probably violates Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4. I’d also be curious to ask AP why he thinks he has the right to practice corporal discipline when he’s not present in most of his kids’ lives most of the time. Discipline without the context of overwhelming love is nothing more than being pissed off at behavior. If he’s not present in their lives, and loving, loving, loving them (as God calls him to do as a father), then I think he’s completely foolish to think that whacking his kids with a stick will do anything but anger and discourage his children. “This guy who slept with my mom, and now comes around once in a while, pretending to be my ‘dad,’ and hits me and makes me bleed and is hardly ever around?!… What the HELL?!” That’s all I can imagine his teenage son ever saying. If you don’t love your kids well, why do you presume that you can discipline them well?

Hey, Christians: Can we stop pretending like this is about whether it’s okay to spank your kids? This is about whether it’s okay to hit your kids with a stick until they’re bleeding, and stuff leaves in their mouths to muffle the screams. If someone else did that to my kid, they’d either be in jail or the ER. Just because it’s your own kid doesn’t make it just fine and dandy. This isn’t about discipline. It’s about abuse. AP should be in jail or he should not be allowed contact with his children until he’s gone through some sort of extensive education/retraining program–especially because he still thinks he’s right and said he’ll continue to disciple his kids the same way, if he feels it’s warranted.

Hey, everyone else: To think that the liberal city-dwellers of 21st century America have a historical corner on the market of parenting wisdom is absolutely asinine. Most societies for most of history have practiced some form of corporal discipline. I think we should be slow to say, “Hey look, WE finally figured it out that everyone else in history has been doing it wrong!” I’m just looking around and making informal observations, but… I don’t think most of the kids I see are going to give much credibility to your confident, pop-psych, self-esteem movement conclusions.

We discipline our kids in a variety of ways. They get vinegar on their tongues if they tell lies to remind them that what came out of their mouth was yucky. They get appropriate privileges taken away for smaller issues. And when they are disrespectful to Mommy, or when Owen has been aggressive with his sister, they get spanked by Dad. And I’ll say a few things about that: First, I never spank angry. I always bring them to their room, explain what’s about to happen and why, and tell them how many spankings they’ll be given (usually 2-3). I never spank until I’ve “gotten all my anger out,” or “feel like it’s probably enough.” It’s ALWAYS very limited and never leaves a mark. Good dads should know how to spank without injuring. Second, after the spanking is done, they usually cry a little and I hug and hold them and kiss them. And I know that matters because when I spank them, they turn toward me, not away from me. They know that the person bringing the discipline is the same person with whom they will find comfort and love. Which means they will never doubt how much I love them–even when they’re being disciplined. Third, we pray together after spanking and I confess the ways I’ve committed the same sins, and we ask Jesus for forgiveness together, and thank him for always forgiving us, because he died for us. At some point along the way, after we pray, we started falling over and tickling each other and laughing. I don’t know if there’s anything biblical about that. But that always happens now. Because… I don’t know. Tickling’s fun. Fourth, (and maybe most importantly), I haven’t had to spank them in about a year. They don’t disrespect Mommy and Owen doesn’t hit his sister anymore. They learned that lesson the hard (and effective) way.

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One thought on “On Spanking”

  1. Well thought out Bryan. What AP did to his kid had nothing to do with spanking and everything to do with abuse. In the first place AP didn’t even know home many kids he had, nor has he spent time with any one kid to really get to know them. AP wasn’t a a dad in my book. Dad’s live with their mother and does the day to day parenting that is require to raise a boy. What his boy did, in my opinion, was a disobeying in order to tell AP that he needs a dad ion his life. As far as I am concern AP should never be allowed to return to the Vikings.

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