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February 02, 2011

Tedd Tripp in Shepherding a Child's Heart on the "How" of Spanking

by flowermama

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?"
"Yes." (nodding)
"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

Posted by flowermama at February 2, 2011 01:52 PM


Thank you for the above summary of Tedd Tripp's spanking methods. I have read through the book several times, and have even been an instructor of Child Training classes at the church I go to, and used 'Shepherding a Child's Heart' as a reference.

I appreciate your clarity regarding your opinion of Tedd's methods, and not the man himself. I took it all in the proper perspective, I think. It is very healthy for us to scrutinize thoughts and methods, and not just accept them as truth without such scrutiny.

I hope you will gracefully accept my reply as well. My intent is that of giving my own answer to some of your concerns and questions about the "how of spanking" and hopefully clarify why it doesn’t make sense in .

The primary statement I want to address is the statement that you made in objection to Point 4. You said, "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."

I think I know what you mean by this point. Truly, spanking a child does not bring about Salvation. Obedience to the gospel of Christ is what is required to be one of God's adopted children, and not spanking. (2 Thess. 1:6-9)

However, salvation is not what is being discussed here. The topic is training the heart of children to be in line with God's standard of morals, and helping them to mature into self-controlled, wise, and loving people, so that they are a blessing and a delight, as God intends for them to be. The salvation talk comes later, and will be much easier to accept if we have properly trained or discipled our children.

So in that child-training context, let me remind you that Proverbs 22:15 says, "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child and the rod of correction drives it far from him." And Proverbs 13:24 says, "He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently". There are other scriptures that point to the physical type of chastisement that is discussed in the "how of spanking" that you have reviewed.

This seems to be at the heart of the issue. You seem to have rejected the idea that physical pain is part of biblical chastisement. In this regard, I would have to say that theologically, you are letting yourself be deceived. Clearly if you reject physical chastening, then all of the above points are irrelevant and absurd. Why would you review the "how of spanking" when spanking of any sort is detestable to you? The "how of gambling" is equally detestable to me, because I detest gambling. Physical chastisement is at the heart of using the rod. It’s supposed to be unpleasant. It’s the unpleasant-ness that discourages wrong heart attitudes, and therefore wrong behaviors. It clears one’s conscience from the guilt of their wrong-doing, and in the end it is designed for ensuring we share in God’s holiness. Read Hebrews 12:4-12 – “he scourges every son whom he receives.” We MUST endure this chastening – both the children AND the parents must endure it. I admit, it’s hard on me as the parent to chasten properly, probably more so than the children! But it is done for our good, so that we may share in God’s holiness!!

If I may address one more assertion, I would like to clarify the thoughts on physical closeness that you responded to in Point 6. It is interesting that you feel that holding children a lot, wearing them in a carrier, and co-sleeping can help build attachment." While spanking them obviously does not. Again, I am afraid that you are allowing yourself to be deceived in this regard. My four young children all run to the door each day when I get home from work. They shower me with kisses constantly, they climb up in my lap and snuggle with me and tell me they love me many times each day. They are all happy and joyful, and have a healthy dependence on me. This is true "even though" I let them learn to put themselves to sleep (through letting them cry, and not rocking them to sleep), I did not hold them excessively or keep them in a carrier, and I lovingly spank them using the principles above. These children are truly a delight and a joy because I did NOT spare the rod, and chose to remove the foolishness from their heart in the way God says to. There have even been times where my children later thanked me for helping them get rid of the selfishness through spanking.

It may not make sense to us humans, but then, we are instructed to, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight" Prov. 3:5-6

His ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.

Again, I hope you accept this as my assessment of where Tedd is coming from, and why the "how of spanking" doesn't make sense to someone who rejects the idea of spanking.

Posted by: Devoted Dad [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 21, 2013 01:28 PM

Hi! I'm sorry for not replying sooner. I haven't posted in this blog for a couple years and didn't see your comment until this evening. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

You are right that I do reject the idea of physical chastening. I don’t believe that the kind of discipline that God wants us to use with our children involves purposefully doing something to our children that causes them pain. Something doesn’t need to be unpleasant in order for us or our children to learn from it. I don’t understand the idea you presented that it “clears one’s conscience from the guilt of their wrong-doing.” Experiencing pain shouldn’t make us feel any less guilty. I’m not sure I understand you correctly – are you saying that experiencing the physical pain of punishment clears a child’s conscience of guilt? Since it’s Jesus’ work on the cross that we should be looking to for assurance of freedom from guilt, I don’t understand how spanking could play any part in that. Physical pain shouldn’t offer any form of relief to our conscience.

I don’t agree with leaving a child alone to cry themselves to sleep and I don’t believe in spanking. That doesn’t mean that I think you aren’t a good dad. I wouldn’t want to judge you in that way, and the picture is much bigger than that. From what you’ve shared it sounds like your heart is full of love for your children, and that their hearts are full of love for you. I make parenting mistakes quite a lot and need to apologize pretty often. God can use our feeble offerings to create big and wonderful things. I’m so grateful for His grace. I would encourage you to consider the idea that, though the Bible is very clear that discipline, that is, teaching and discipling, our children is very important, it doesn’t tell us we need to spank our children.

The instructions for spanking that Tripp shares aren’t given in the Bible. He and others have come up with various lists of the right way to spank, but the lists arise from human opinion and experience, not from the Bible. I really think it’s misleading when some tell parents there is a right and Biblical way to spank, when it’s based on opinion. That’s one reason I wrote the review and planned on writing reviews of other lists other authors have written about regarding the right way to spank, but I never got around to reviewing other lists. Maybe someday I will, but it’s difficult for me to read about those things.

Posted by: flowermama at March 11, 2013 12:24 AM

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