My faith

I'm a Mormon.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


I recently came across this photo on Facebook:
I was appalled, for several reasons. For the record, I'm not as against spanking as some people I know. But I never actually feel good about spanking. The main reason I don't spank is because I don't think it's right to treat people that way, and children are people too. Also, I know myself well enough to know that if I did totally fly off the handle, I might hurt my child. One stern pat on the bum: not too much of a problem. But that's not how I was spanked as a child. And when I got spanked, I was angry, and devastated, and hurt (physically and emotionally). I felt manipulated. Nobody should have that kind of power over another human being.

As followers of Christ, we should be especially cautious about using corporal punishment to "control" our children. Joseph Smith said that “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” (Messages of the First Presidency, comp. James R. Clark, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 3:54.)

In Doctrine and Covenants Section 121 we read that those who offend littles ones would be better off with a millstone hung around their neck and drowned in the depths of the sea! In that same section we find the formula for any stewardship, which I think includes parenting:

 41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

 42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

 43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; 

Wow! What a formula! So first we try to persuade. We are patient (that's the long-suffering part), we continue in gentleness toward them (I don't think spanking could be categorized as "gentleness.") and by LOVE UNFEIGNED! Then comes the part that many misapply and misinterpret: "reproving betimes with sharpness. Sounds like spanking might be included in that. But if you look up the definitions of some of these words, you find something interesting!

Reprove: (1) To scold or correct usually gently or with kindly intent. (2) To express disapproval of

Betimes: In good time; early.

Sharpness: There are many definitions for this word, but I don't think any of them apply in this case. You might think that "sharp" would mean "harsh" but that contradicts verse 41. I think it matches more closely to the concept of vision. If you see something sharply, you see it crisply and clearly. It is my opinion that in this verse, the connotation is "clarity."

Translation: In disciplining our children, we must gently correct early or quickly with clarity. As disciples of Christ, I do not think it becomes us to do anything that brings harm to others. We also know that "Whosoever is in danger of the judgement of God (3 Ne 12:22)." I don't know about you, but I have never seen someone spank their child who wasn't angry. Myself included.

 Now that I've explained some doctrine related to how we should raise our children, I have to refute some of the obvious fallacies of the FB picture I shared at the beginning of this post. I take issue with the first phrase [I] "have to laugh at people who are against spanking." Really? You laugh at people with a different opinion/worldview from you? Hmmmm. Did spanking really teach you to respect others, or just to control or be unaccepting?

 "I didn't hate them[parents]." Really? They whipped your butt and you weren't mad? How subservient of you. Or are you just lying to yourself? "I sure respected them." Now it's my turn to generalize. Older people are super duper famous for forgetting how things ACTUALLY were. Trust me, I've seen it. My dad is convinced that none of his kids ever threw tantrums, and that my hellion brothers were docile and obedient. (yeah, right!) Maybe it's not just older people, all of us tend to have a less-than accurate memory, and we generally want to justify our behavior. Saying "I turned out fine" is quite the cop-out.

 "This is why kids nowadays have no respect for anyone." Well, that's a gross over-generalization if I ever read one! I know lots of respectful kids.  And don't the facts that kids are incredibly entitled, have all the gadgets they want which prevent them from actually interacting with humans, and are required to have very little responsibility have something to do with lack of respect? It's all because they don't get spanked?! Wow! I should start spanking ever day! In reality, the fact is that kids learn respect by being respected. Call me whatever you want, but I refuse to believe that you should respect someone just because they were born earlier.

 I know what you're thinking: "Respect your elders." My motto is different: "respect everyone!" That is what the Savior asked of us! And if I don't respect my kids, then how can I expect respect from them?

 In regards to this "spanking is the best way to parent" photo, my summary is this: 

1. Spanking is ONE strategy. It may or may not work. And for many parents it does not work.

2. There are OTHER strategies. Some of the most successful ones I've used include:
 *distraction and redirection
 *Offering limited choices
 *Be sure your child isn't acting up because they are tired, hungry, or just need a snuggle
 *try and understand where your child is coming from. Empathize with them.
 *occassional rewards.
 *LOTS of love
 *prevention (eg. prevent lying by asking "why did you do this?" instead of "Did you do this?" Make sure they aren't hungry or tired, try and understand what motivates your child and what tempts them)
 *TALK to your kids. Build a warm, trusting relationship
 *Forgive yourself everyday.
 *Forgive your kids every day.

3. Don't judge other people's parenting. Ever. Every parent/child relationship is unique.

4. Don't tell other people how to parent.(I learned this the hard way. Trust me on this one!) You are the expert on your child. God gave you that child for a reason.

5. Do your homework. Learn as many strategies as you can and build skills that can help in tough situations. 

6. Remember that strategies aren't always helpful. Sometimes you just need to take a timeout before you hurt someone!

 When the woman taken in adultery was brought before the Savior, he didn't judge her. He said "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." I sure wouldn't want someone hurting me because I make a mistake, and believe me, I make plenty! Spanking says to kids "I know what's best for your body and I need to be in control of you." I'm sure grateful to people around me who give me the benefit of the doubt when I mess up! I'm grateful to not have anyone there to yell at me or belittle me. I would like to show the same respect for my children. I will gently correct them early on with clarity. But I have committed to not spank my kids. And for that, please don't laugh. Actually, laugh all you want. I'll still try to respect you.

 *I do have to admit that I have sometimes spanked. But I have never felt good about it. I also would not want anyone to feel guilty for whatever they have done with their children that wasn't abusive.


The Kent Family said...

I love this! Children really do learn from our examples. If we respect them, they respect us back and teaching them is not nearly so difficult. As we show them love and kindness, they want to behave well because they know it makes us happy.

Jewls said...

I'm glad you wrote this. That facebook post bugged me too!

Angie said...

Hear, hear!