I recently overheard a conversation between several moms. They were talking about children as a group of mom’s is wont to do. As they discussed some of the difficulties of parenting, they began to share moments of misbehavior that led to them spanking a child. As they continued sharing anecdotes, I couldn’t help but notice the way they spoke about these incidents. They talked of “dragging” a child outside so they could “wear them out.” You could feel the pitch of the conversation increase as they each shared worse and worse behaviors by their children that led to more and more severe punishments. As an observer, I noticed that these stories were shared in what seemed like an effort to gain approval. Each story of a spanking being proof of the steadfastness of the parent. There was no disapproval for spanking, but rather sharing about your spanking incidents made you part of the group. And all of these women are Christian.
Now, before I go on I must be open. I have never spanked a child. It is a decision my wife and I made before our first child was born. I was spanked as a child, although it was extremely rare (I was such a good kid!) And I am not writing this post to condemn spanking or parents who spank. Rather, I am interested in how we talk about spanking.
It seems to me that often when I hear parents discuss spanking their children, it is shared as proof of good parenting. “What choice did I have, I can’t let my child be disobedient or misbehave.” Those hearing the tale are expected to nod in understanding. A spanking story is told so that others will know both how difficult it is to parent, and how faithfully the parent sticks to the duty. Sometimes the stories even take on an us versus them mentality. The child is portrayed as the enemy who must be subdued into appropriate behavior.
Something about this is disturbing. If we reach a point where striking our child is the only means of stopping blatant disobedience, it should fill us with great sadness. Sadness that our child has reached that state, sadness that we lack the wisdom to find other ways to change the behavior, and sadness that the only thing that will change that behavior is physical pain. As followers of the One who asks us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek, being put in a position where we must hit anyone should fill us with dread and grief. Especially if that anyone is our child. And yet, that is not how I typically hear people talk about this subject.
My uncle was a State Trooper. I remember him talking about how horrible it felt to have to draw your gun, much less fire it. How would we feel as a society if peace officers routinely talked about “blowing away” a suspect or “beating down” a belligerent person? We would be disgusted, and rightly so. Shouldn’t our conversations about spanking our own children be at least as reverent as an officer describing having to draw their weapon.
In many ways this not only about how we talk about spanking, but how we talk about any form of violence. As Christians, we often pray for peace in our country and our world. We bemoan violent crime and governments cracking down on their own citizens. Yet, I often hear Christians react with something approaching glee when discussing people they consider evil “getting what they deserve.” When we talk about violence we are often two-faced. We hate violence, except when used by the right people, at the right time(all of which we determine). Nothing makes me cringe more than hearing a parent talk about their child (I gave him what he deserved) in the same manner we talk about Saddam Hussein.
So, I will not tell you to quit spanking your child (I think you should, but we can save that for another time). But I will ask this: the next time you are sharing with others about having to physically punish your child, do so with reverence. Do so reluctantly. Do so with a tear in your eye. Do so while thinking about the prince of peace who wanted the little ones to come to Him.