February 02, 2011
Tedd Tripp in Shepherding a Child's Heart on the "How" of Spanking
This is the first in a series of posts highlighting the different procedures given by various Christian authors on the proper way to spank. I'm hoping to show that there isn't a biblical way to spank, but that the views on so-called biblical spanking procedures are man-made and based on cultural assumptions and opinion.
Please note: If reading about spanking affects your parenting negatively, I urge you to avoid reading this.
One of the things I don't understand is why there are so many different ways given by various Christian authors on the proper way to spank a child. How can these so-called experts on "discipline," aka spanking (for it seems that in the mind of many of them that spanking and discipline are synonymous), come to believe that they have figured it out, . . . that a certain way, their way, works best for every child?
I'm going to try and keep record of various methods of spanking so I can compare them, not so I can choose which method I believe is best because I don't believe in any spanking methods whatsoever, but simply to show how different they are. Hopefully highlighting these differences will help show that there isn't a biblical way to spank.
The first book I'm going to talk about is Tedd Tripp's book Shepherding a Child's Heart. I know a lot of people who love his book and have felt blessed by it. I hold a different opinion about the book, but please know that I'm not looking down on you if you enjoy that book. My opinion about a book does not lessen my love for anyone who may follow it. Also, I have heard good things about Tedd Tripp, too, so please know this is a critique of what he has written and not an attack on Pastor Tedd Tripp himself.
On page 172-174 of his book Tripp shares "The 'How' of Spanking."
Tripp shares that there are many problems to avoid, one being that parents must "avoid responding in anger" (page 172). Spanking in anger can be very dangerous, so it's good that he mentions that. Certainly we should not lay our hands on our children in anger. But one of the scary things is that grave hurt can still happen even if parents don't "spank" their children in anger. They can be calm, cool, and deliberate, and still hurt their children. Not doing it in anger does not protect our children.
Another thing he writes is that parents "must temper unwavering firmness with kindness and gentleness" (page 172). This is somewhat similar to what I believe in that I believe it's important to mix kindness and firmness. I don't believe, though, that parents must always be "unwavering" in their firmness. Here's how I word it: ". . . children should be discipled from birth with an appropriate mixture of kindness and firmness. . . "
Before he explains the procedure for spanking he says, "The following procedure can provide discipline that preserves the child's dignity" (page 172). I disagree with him, but he's certainly entitled to his opinion (or is he). Let's take a look at the eight points to his procedure of spanking and see what you think.
The first point says, "Take your child to a private place where he can be spoken with in privacy. Discipline must not rob a child of his dignity. You should never discipline in front of the other children in the family. The object is not to humiliate the child. You show respect for him by giving him privacy" (page 172).
I agree that discipline shouldn't rob a child of his dignity, but I don't agree that giving him privacy will protect his dignity. When he says we shouldn't discipline in front of the other children in the family, I'm assuming he means that parents should avoid starting the eight-step process for spanking them when their other siblings are nearby, that the process should be started in private.
The second point is that we are to "tell our child specifically what he has done or failed to do" (page 172). He goes on to say that "There should be a specific attitude or incident that the spanking addresses" (page 172), and that we shouldn't "spank for 'general purposes'" (page 173) or because we've "had it" (page 173). If a parent believes that spanking needs to be done, not spanking for "general purposes" and because they've "had it" would be crucial. Wow, otherwise it would totally be messing with their child's mind and would leave their child fearful and confused, never knowing what to expect. However, sadly, even if they are told what they have done or failed to do, I fear that the same could be true.
The third point says that parents should secure "an acknowledgment from the child of what he has done" (page 173). He explains that this could take time and that children sill many times want to avoid the spanking badly enough to lie about what they have done. Tripp says (on page 173) the conversation may go like this:
"Daddy told you that you should pick up your toys, didn't he?"
"You didn't obey me, did you?"
"No." (looking down)
"You know what Daddy must do. Daddy must spank you..."
He says that the child acknowledging what he has done "insures that he knows why he has been spanked" (page 173). I disagree that it insures that they know why. And it begs the question--aren't there better ways to teach a child to pick up their toys? Why does pain have to be associated with it?
Point four says that we should remind him that "the function of the spanking is not venting your frustration or because you are angry, but to restore him to the place in which God has promised blessing. . . . he has removed himself from the place of proper submission to your authority" (page 173). Theologically, I disagree that a spanking has any ability to restore a child to the "place in which God has promised blessing." I flat-out don't believe a spanking has any power to restore our children to any type of rightness with God. That is only done through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.
Tripp goes on to explain that spanking must be done out of obedience to God's directives and concern for the child's good, that anything else is beating up on the child (page 173). He says the only circumstance in which we have the right to hit our child is for biblical discipline. Here is the quote on page 173: "You have no right to hit your child under any circumstance other than biblical discipline." It's interesting that he calls it a "hit." Sometimes I've seen parents recoil at the idea of calling spanking hitting, but by definition it certainly is.
Point five says, "Tell the child how many swats he will receive" (page 173). He feels this is a sign that you are in control of yourself.
Point six says, to "Remove his drawers so that the spanking is not lost on the padding of his pants" (page 173). This one shocks and sickens me, that is my honest response. It's so incredibly lacking in boundaries that I really find it difficult to understand why he thinks this is a good thing especially since he couples it with the following later in the paragraph: "It is best to lay the child across your lap rather than over a bed or a chair" (page 173). On page 173 he explains that doing that "...puts the spanking in the context of your physical relationship," that he is "...not being removed from you to a neutral object for the purpose of being disciplined." I believe with my whole heart physical closeness such as holding our little ones a lot when they are young, wearing them in a carrier, and co-sleeping can help build attachment with our children and that this closeness is very good. But to spank a child while laying them across our lap while their "drawers" have been pulled down. . . please tell me how this can build healthy attachment?
The seventh point, on page 174, says that "After you have spanked, take the child up on your lap and hug him, telling him how much you love him, how much it grieves you to spank him and how you hope that it will not be necessary again. This keeps the spanking referenced to restoration, not retribution."
Things should then, according to Tripp on page 174, be well between you and your child now--he shouldn't be mad at you any more and he should be willing to accept your affection. If that is not the case, he says that you should first check your own spirit and see if you have been rough or out of control or sinned against him in the way you disciplined. He says if this is the case, that you must confess and seek forgiveness and restoration (page 174).
The next thing to check, he says, is your child's spirit. Through his anger is he showing that he is rejecting your discipline, is he mad at you or trying to punish you? If so, he says "the discipline session is not over" (page 174).
In the next paragraph, he shares that "On some occasions we have had to say to our children, "Dear, Daddy has spanked you, but you are not sweet enough yet. We are going to have to go back upstairs for another spanking" (page 174). Thus you see the heartbreaking and potentially dangerous concept of spanking them until they are sweet.
A parent could easily wrongly judge his child's level of "sweetness." And would not many a child repress their true feelings to avoid more spankings? On the other hand, what of children who do not give in and act sweet? Parents can find potential danger down both of those paths.
The last point in his list of the "hows" of spanking, point eight, is "Pray with him. Encourage him with the fact that Christ is given because we are people who sin. There is forgiveness in Christ. . . . Christ can work by His Spirit to compel him to obey God. Christ can empower and enable him to obey in the future" (page 174-175). He goes on to say there is "no more powerful time to press the claims of the Gospel than when your children are being confronted with their need of Christ's grace and power during discipline" (page 175).
Pointing a child to Christ after having received spankings where their drawers were pulled down and while they lying across the parent's lap, where they had to be spanked until they are sweet presents a warped picture of God. The Gospel itself, the beautiful truth that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, in our place, and rose again conquering sin and death, shows us that Jesus paid the price for our sin. Since Jesus took the punishment for our sins, how can punishing our children through spanking be part of God's plan? I don't believe that it is.
Helpful Links to Other Sites
The Rod is a Means of Grace
More on Tripp and Spanking
Tripp to Mars
Dare to Disciple
* (on the Dare to Disciple site) Spanking and Proverbs – Part 1: Context
* Spanking and Proverbs – Part 2: Interpretations
* Proverbs and Spanking – Part 3: Believer’s Behavior
Why Not Train a Child
Is Spanking Biblical