Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Everyone loves a good controversy, right? I knew that this would stir the pot a bit because parenting seems to be such a hot topic.

For me, it seemed controversial because I know many people believe (as I did) that using the rod in the form of spanking is the only Biblical way to parent. Now, I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater- I think Tedd Tripp has a lot of wise and biblical counsel for parents. I think that addressing issues of the heart while disciplining is so important and leaves room for the child to know and learn the gospel- and eventually, to apply it to their lives on their own. For Matt and I it made sense for the past few years that the rod is the best tool for getting to the heart and it seemed like the Bible had a lot of support for it. Also, we knew many wise and Godly families who implemented the same method and we saw the fruit of it in their families. I am not saying that spanking is wrong or unbiblical. What I am starting to have a problem with is the notion that it is the ONLY way to parent biblically. Obviously, this has been what I have been considering since it was becoming clear that one of our children was not responding to that approach. All of a sudden phrases like, "God has commanded the use of the rod in discipline and correction of children. He has told you that their are needs within your children that require the use of the rod. If you are going to rescue your children from death, if you are going to root out the folly that is bound up in their hearts, if you are going to impart wisdom, you must use the rod" (Tripp, 108) make me question a lot of things: Am I in disobedience to God now that I am not spanking Jesse? Can I not rescue my children from death, root out folly or impart wisdom without the use of the rod? Does this mean that Christian parents that don't use the rod will have kids that don't know and understand the sin in their hearts and their need for Jesus (that excludes A LOT of parents)? I have been doing a lot of investigating on this the past few weeks and I now have questions as to the interpretation of the rod in scripture in general (that may be a whole other post!).

Another area where I have done a lot of processing on is the idea of rewards for good behavior. I have always thought that kids shouldn't be rewarded for behavior that is expected of them. But, I was noticing in my own parenting that there was so much emphasis on the sin, the misbehaviors- I truly think Jesse thought that he could not do anything right. On some theological levels he is right, he can't and we try to encourage him to do good through the help of the Holy Spirit but on another level, he is a child and we need to train him how to do good. What I like about the reward system we are using is that he is not rewarded with toys or money or material objects but with a ticket that represents a tangible sign of the blessings that come when you obey. I have told Jesse and Karis both that God tells us to obey Mom and Dad so that it may go well with you. We have discussed the circle of blessing that they are in when they obey and the danger they are in when they don't. But, I think for kids this can be so abstract, sometimes having a tangible understanding of blessing can be helpful. And I have seen it help Jesse. But, as I mentioned before, it has also helped me. When we first started the tickets I found it so hard to give them out and I wondered why it was so hard for me to shower blessing on my son- what was I so afraid of? I began to see that while he may be more difficult than most kids, he does do some things that are good and by pointing those moments out, it was helping him see the blessing of it. And, something that surprised me was that the kids started obeying and doing things without mention of the tickets- it is usually me that has to remind them of their tickets. It is my hope that we can phase out of the tickets in the future and that they will do good out of a desire to obey God but I think for now it is helping us demonstrate that.

But another part of the controversy for me is that this whole switch has really turned things upside down for me and has made me think about things on a whole new level. One thing I am realizing is that I have used a particular parenting method as a way to ensure that my kids will turn out right. When that method changed I realized how deep my fear is that my kids will not turn out right, that they will not love the Lord, that they may become drug addicts or haters of good. That means that I have been parenting out of fear and trying to make my kids fit into a model so that I felt secure. Jesse has helped me to see that parenting is not a one size fits all model. I am realizing that my job as a parent is to "train a child up in the way he should go" and that training can take on different forms. I also need to be faithful to what God has called me too and not get focused on the outcome. Christianity Today has a great article about this that really spoke me, check it out if you get a chance.


signonthewindow said...

Ooooooh Jane! Why do you have to write things that get my temper flaring!!!! I've never read Shepherding a Child's Heart but man, how ballsy to make a claim like that! And with what evidence? It's such a sad literal reading of the Bible. I'm willing to put some t discipline and not the literal rod being what the Bible is talking about. And clearly that needs to happen in different ways depending on your child.

What really gets me going is the guilt and shame put on parents who choose not to spank, especially knowing that the readers are committed to raising disciples of Christ. Your comments are so helpful and show incredible self-knowledge. Jesse is blessed to have you (and Karis. and Silas).

Daisy said...

great thoughts- I agree, "one size does NOT fit all" in parenting or discipline, That is because all kids are not the same "size". I do think the tendency is for parents these days not to spank, that is what all the child "experts" recommend, yet there are many kids out there who need a good spanking (and by "good" I mean followed by a good "root/fruit" discussion). But in your situation, it is obvious that you have given much thought and prayer, and the Lord is leading you in a different direction. It is wonderful that your son has parents who truly desire to bring him up in the "way he should go".

Sullivan's Mom said...

I have to say, Jane, I hate tickets. I'm going to think about this for a couple of hours, and I'll get back to you. I do have some ideas, but I'll get back to you. I strongly believe that in the home (and in the classroom) we can discipline without paperwork.

(BTW - people who pick up the book are people looking for his "type" of wisdom...he says bold things, but I kind of like it...and I think that every child needs at least ONE really good spanking at least once. :) He presents this as things from his own experience - again, that sounds shocking out of context, but you can't read just that without the rest of it - Jane, c'mon.)

Sullivan's Mom said...

anywho - two glasses of white wine and some chocolate bread pudding, and here I am!! I'd been thinking of a few things.
#1 - I hate parenting advice books.
#2 - Once we start to take credit for what a good job we've done, inevitably they come home 16 and drunk with hickies, and then I guess that's our "good job" as well.

That being said, here's what we found - Positive Principles of Discipline. It basically reaffirms my classroom model which is that negative attention is still attention. "Ignore it, ignore it" is my daily mantra. "Abuse it and loose it," is my other.
You want to throw a tantrum? That's cool - but have a seat in time out. They talk about diffusing situations and setting kids up so that they are able to experience successes.
For us, spanking is still an option - in regards to safety issues and rebellion - but we have chosen the things we are willing to spank over. Consistency!
I love stuff like this....I'll be back!

Jane said...

Melissa- Sorry to keep raising your temper! I promise a more mellow post next time! Counseling is helping me tremendously to work through the shame and guilt issues, they are so real. Thanks for the input, I value your thoughts and encouragement!

Sarah- I am not too fond of the tickets either, but it seems to be what we need for the time being to get to more positive place and also to re-establish the rules and expectations. I am hoping to phase out in the near future. I am also not opposed to spanking, I just don't like it put out as the only option for biblical parenting and it is in some circles and some churches (and i am beginning to see the harm it is causing as a result). Love the ideas....keep them coming!

Sullivan's Mom said...

I totally am with you on the spanking issue - that's why I think the Tripp stuff is applicable on other levels - the idea of disciplining needing to be connected to the heart. I wholeheartedly agree that the way it looks differs depending on the child -but the basic principles are the same - that we are charged with the guiding of our children's hearts - with prayer and patience and love.

signonthewindow said...

I thought you'd be interested in this from an outcomes perspective:

Nurtureshock has a great chapter on spanking. It seems to be culture-driven. Kids in cultures where spanking is common don't show any negative outcome. The same true for cultures where spanking is uncommon.

His research shows that its more about consistency of the disciplinarian, not the form of punishment.

And phrase "If you are going to rescue your children from death, if you are going to root out the folly that is bound up in their hearts, if you are going to impart wisdom, you must use the rod" doesn't sound just like "personal experience." It sounds irresponsible. This guy is a pastor, which makes him a religious authority, for better or worse. He needs to take seriously that people will read him as such.

Lisa said...

Jane- I have appreciated these recent posts and been mulling and processing and looking at my own heart and home. Unfortunately, I can't quite encapsulate those thoughts into a comment! But thank you for sharing what's going on in your home and giving me reason to examine my own.