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When to Stop Spanking and Why

Last week I wrote about the super popular unpopular topic of spanking. If you didn’t read it, you can find it here. My point was: God’s word instructs us to spank our children — and if we do it right, it’s an extremely effective way to correct disobedience.

However, parents don’t continue spanking their children into their 20’s, and they don’t keep spanking into the teen years…so at some point, something switches. The question is: what constitutes the change?

Let’s Talk Numbers

I know most of you moms (including myself) want a number. Just give me the right age to move to the next stage of discipline, right? But the Bible doesn’t give an age. However, the options are greatly narrowed down when we remember the goal of spanking.

The goal of spanking is to apply enough pain to teach our children their wrong behavior has consequences. The pain from “the rod” (Proverbs 22:15, 23:13, 29:15) becomes associated with a bad choice– and it serves to redirect them towards wiser choices.

But there comes a time when spanking is no longer super painful. I mean it may still hurt, but it’s not necessarily the most effective “pain” to use. Wouldn’t you choose a spanking over losing your job? Or wouldn’t you choose a spanking over a $300 traffic ticket?  Many consequences in life hurt a lot more than a spanking (as we age). Eventually, a kid would also choose a spanking over other painful consequences (that I will give examples of in a moment). And when they would, the very thing they’d dread is the better (more effective) consequence worth using.

What’s Worse than a Spanking?

What works best for each child and each family varies. But I know I’ve found it helpful to hear what forms of discipline other parents have implemented. So here are some of the ideas I’ve heard of over the years.

Dessert deprivation – When you first move out of the spanking stage this is one of the most effective means of discipline (assuming treats are a part of your family’s routine). The loss of something tangible like a dessert is extremely painful for a child, especially when everyone else is still experiencing its goodness.

Depending on the extent of the wrong behavior, you could tell your child they will miss out on tonight’s dessert, or perhaps lose treats for a day or more (just make sure you are not overreacting, and be sure the child will easily connect the wrongdoing to the consequence throughout their time of deprivation).

Early bedtime – Younger kids also hate having to go to bed early. Laying in bed for 15 minutes while everyone is still hanging out may be all that’s needed. Or you can keep adding to that time if wrong behavior persists throughout the day (just make sure there’s nothing fun or entertaining in their bed… because that would defeat the purpose).

Without going overboard, you want your child to wake up the next day and say “I don’t want to do that sin again because I do not want to lay in bed like that again!”

Loss of privileges  This is the catch-all consequence, and perhaps the most timeless. Whether your kid is 8 or 16, there are things they love that you can take away when necessary. Think screen time, phone, party, car. I’ve even heard of moms who were bold enough to take away curling irons or makeup! You know your kid, and you know what would be as effective as spanking a 3-year-old (note I said “spanking,” not “beating”…you don’t want what you withhold from your child to feel like an unreasonable beating!).

But this consequence requires another note. Be sure to not take away what your kid needs the most. Specifically, I mean church, church youth group, small groups, or church-related events. For some teens, these may be the most painful thing to take away — but is it the best thing to take away? And should we put church in the category of a losable privilege? Assuming your teen attends a good youth group (and they should!), church deprivation could be the most counter-productive consequence we could come up with.

Extra chores – I’ll be honest, this is one of my favorites. Most consequences can negatively impact the family (picture a sad kid watching everyone else eating dessert, or having one kid leave family time to go to bed early), but this consequence benefits the family.

I usually use this consequence when it fits the crime. For example: if the wrongdoing has something to do with being irresponsible, or if the child is having a bad attitude about work, or overly forgetting household rules. This isn’t my go-to consequence because I don’t want housework to be seen in a negative light, but at times it’s appropriate. It’s a little like your boss making you stay late for work — though work is good, no one wants to stay past their hours.

There’s Not One Right Way

The good and bad news is there’s not one right way to discipline your kids once spanking becomes less effective. It would be easier if there was a formula! But then again, there’s room to figure out what’s most effective in helping your children choose the right path. What works for one mom may be entirely ineffective for another. And what works for you may be a consequence I didn’t even think of.

But a word to the wise: Don’t rush out of the spanking stage. I know it’s exhausting to keep disciplining your little ones; however, it’s a lot more complicated on the other side. Spankings are simple, quick, and everyone can move on almost immediately afterward. Once you exit this stage, it’s a lot more subjective, consequences last a lot longer, and as mentioned, consequences can impact the whole family negatively. So during the season when spanking is most effective, embrace this simple means of discipline–it doesn’t necessarily get easier.

But once you know it’s time to move on: Take time to pray, discuss this topic with your husband, and boldly, but lovingly, administer just enough “pain” to yield a fruit of righteousness.

And remember that is precisely the goal:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:11

So do whatever it takes to find that painful, unpleasant consequence that will eventually bear some good, righteous fruit!


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