Resist the urge to punish a child because his behavior has disturbed you or made you angry. Many parents today only punish their children when they have been driven to it. This is not proper punishment and will never bring the right result. Effective punishment is never a temporary event. It is not about quieting a child or stopping an annoyance. Effective punishment is a small part of an organized plan to help your child put his best foot forward in life. Remember, your ultimate goal in child rearing must be to develop the habit of obedience, proper self-control and self-discipline. It requires you to invest years (nearly two decades) in personal study and practical application. Below are several important tips to help you carry out effective punishment.
Types of Punishment
In our insane liberal world, corporal punishment of children is considered taboo because most authorities associate it with child abuse. But the Bible teaches that corporal punishment is a necessary part of successful child rearing. “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him,” wrote King Solomon (Proverbs 13:24; rsv). Solomon is second only to Jesus Christ as the wisest man to ever live. He viewed spanking as an expression of true parental love. But spanking is not the only form of punishment that can be used effectively with children. Study your child well to know what forms of punishment produce the best results. Here is a brief discussion of the top four.
Denial of privileges: This is an effective form of punishment for older children and teens. Banning the use of computers, iPods, iPads, tvs and other electronic devices, as well as favorite activities—playing with friends, swimming, bike-riding, skating—for a period of time is effective. For teens of driving age, denying him use of the family automobile can also get great results.
Face the consequences: Requiring a child of any age (generally 2 years and above) to face the consequences of certain actions is a very effective means of punishment. Children should be made to understand that wrong actions not only can harm themselves, but also others (e.g., throwing rocks). Children should be made to make restitution for damage to their own property (e.g., a bicycle not taken care of properly) and the property of others (e.g., a neighbor’s broken window because of throwing rocks; damage or loss of sports equipment, such as a baseball, golf ball, etc).
Grounding: Grounding can also be used as a “face the consequences” type of punishment. This is effective with school-age children and teenagers. It involves restricting your child to a certain place, usually the home or bedroom, as punishment. For example, “ground” your child on a Saturday night as punishment for breaking curfew during the week.
Spanking: This form of corporal punishment is most effective with younger children. Parents should view corporal punishment as a necessary but short-term measure that is used the most with infants and toddlers, and is gradually used less and less through the school-age years. Spanking should be unnecessary for teenagers.
Remember, habits must be formed. Corporal punishment, done in discretion and love, must take the place of higher motives when the child is too young to really know the difference between right and wrong.
When the child is entirely too young to discern right from wrong, good from evil, his parents have the God-given responsibility to make his decisions for him.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
To fulfill God’s incredible purpose for your child, you must recognize that punishment is necessary—including corporal punishment. But how should you administer corporal punishment?
Generally, it is best to use the hand. However, there are still many cautions necessary. Let’s begin with a few don’ts.
Don’t spank a child with your whole hand through his diaper. Corporal punishment should be felt. You are more likely to injure your child’s back than provide the sting necessary for effective punishment.
Never slap a child on the face or thump his head. Never box his ears.
The only areas where you should spank your child are the back of the hand (especially when reaching for a forbidden object such as a hot stove or something he could pull down), high on the backs and sides of the legs, and directly on the buttocks.
Parents are especially cautioned to be extremely careful to ensure punishment is appropriate and not severe for children below 1 year of age. Two or three fingers of the hand should be used for a very young child, and first tested on your own forearm or thigh to test the severity to ensure you are not overdoing it.
When an implement is necessary to administer corporal punishment, a wooden spoon or a light ping-pong paddle on the buttocks is very effective. Never use the old-fashioned methods of a razor strap or buggy whip.
Remember, spanking should be felt. But it should not cause bruises or other injuries. Use common sense. Punish your child in love. Stay calm. Never spank in a state of angry emotion, then you need not fear overdoing it!
Never beat a child! Remember, spanking is only one type of punishment. Depending on the circumstance, spanking may be a last option. Proper spanking is not a weapon to be wielded to abuse a child.
There is never, under any circumstances, a time to beat a child. A child should never, under any circumstances, be punished in anger! A child should never be bruised or injured!
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
Never Leave Children to Themselves Immediately After Punishment
Remember that proper punishment is more about teaching and less about spanking. Both are important. This requires a major time investment on your part. Unless you spend time talking positively with your child before, during and after punishment, you will leave the dangerous impression that he is still guilty. Be sure to explain fully the error of your child’s actions and how he can change it. Follow the example of Christ, who said, “Go and sin no more” (John 5 and 8). You should give him a few minutes to think about his actions. After this brief period, be sure to let him know that you know he can do better.
God is quick to forgive His children upon repentance. Parents must learn to do the same with their children.
The positive type of punishment always carries with it the automatic understanding that the child is now forgiven for his wrong action …. Only by parents carefully explaining this to their children, and showing that they are punishing in love, with judgment and wisdom, using great discretion, will they avoid some of [the] dangers in punishment.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
You may be surprised at how your child responds to your focused and loving attention. He is certainly more likely to assure you that he is sorry for his wrong action and will graciously hug you and thank you for your loving punishment. Be sure to respond with hugs and affection of your own.
Punishment Must Fit the Offense
Any type of punishment, whether a physical spanking, deprivation of privilege, or other type, must always suit the offense. It must, at all costs, be prompt, and must never be done unless preceded by a warning. It must never be done in anger—but it must always be felt.
—The Plain Truth About Child Rearing
**The Church recommends that adults be well acquainted with the relevant local, state or provincial, and federal laws regarding child rearing where they live. The Church never promotes unreasonable or excessive discipline in raising children. Reasonable methods of parental discipline that avoid physical and mental harm to the children are supported and encouraged—but abusive practices are not condoned and are absolutely forbidden according to Scripture. Abuse of minors includes acts of omission as well; therefore, the principles defined in this book, along with considered, prayerful application of discipline, are recommended to help immature young people develop in a controlled environment to become responsible adults (Proverbs 22:6).
The Bible on Spanking
“Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee” (Deuteronomy 8:5).
“Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish” (Proverbs 12:1).
“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24; rsv).
“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Proverbs 19:18).
“Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart” (Proverbs 20:30; nkjv).
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
“Don’t hesitate to discipline children. A good spanking won’t kill them. As a matter of fact, it may save their lives” (Proverbs 23:13-14; Today’s English Version).
“Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Corinthians 16:14; nkjv).
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
“For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” (Hebrews 12:6-7; nkjv).
Train Your Children to Behave During Services
God wants the Sabbath to be a “delight”—even for our children (Isaiah 58:13). Quietly sitting still and doing nothing for hours won’t be a delight to even the most mild-mannered child. Be sure to provide appropriate ways to make this weekly holy time special and enjoyable for them, whatever their age. Spend extra time with them. Read together. Talk. Walk together. Make Sabbath meals special.
Prepare to make Sabbath services interesting even for your infants. Set aside special quiet toys, dolls, books or activities that they can use only on the Sabbath. Supply a nice backpack, handbag or briefcase for their supplies for services.
When you have very young children, your first goal is to ensure that you can receive the messages during services with as few interruptions as possible. Blanket training is your best tool to make this happen. (See page 94 for instruction on blanket training.)
As you do your “homework,” you will reap the benefits of fewer and fewer interruptions during services. Every child is different, but by around six to seven months your baby’s sleep schedule will be more regular and she should be able to nap during part or all of services—depending on circumstances, such as long drives to attend services. It takes consistent effort, but the rewards are immeasurable in terms of your being able to drink in the Sabbath messages.
Remember, don’t expect a child to sit still quietly, with nothing to do. Make sure he has silent toys, little snacks and a sippy cup to keep him occupied.
Train your children not to distract you or demand your attention while the minister is speaking. Enforce a no-talking rule. Whispering can easily get out of hand and should be avoided except in real emergencies.
Keep an eye on what’s happening in your children’s world. Anytime you notice their behavior during services slipping and beginning to impinge on your attentiveness to the messages, then be prepared to put in more “homework.”
As children grow closer to school age, your goal will shift toward preparing them to receive the messages at services. (See page 98, “Teach Your Child to Sit Still.”)
By age 3, your child should be able to sit in a chair through the sermonette and announcements at Church services. At Church headquarters in Edmond, potty-trained 3-year-olds sitting in the theater are expected to sit in their seat for the entire service. In the field, your child should be able to sit in a seat through the entire service by age 5 to 6. This difference takes into consideration that four Sabbaths a month include a Bible study and a service. (At headquarters, the Bible studies are held the night before.)
Throughout this time, also keep your children involved in the other aspects of services. Be sure they bow their head and keep their eyes closed during the prayers. Get them involved in the song service, pointing to the words in the hymnal as they are sung, encouraging them to sing along—or at least to make a “joyful noise.”
Once children begin reading and writing, you should gradually challenge them to apply these skills within Church services, in using the Bible and taking notes.
Be alert to the time when children will appreciate and be able to care for a Bible, probably sometime in first or second grade. Teach them the books of the Bible. Make a game of it as you help them practice finding scriptures that you call out.
Teach your children to take notes during services first by having them copy scriptures and key phrases from your own notes. Start by having them do it during the sermonette. Gradually increase your expectations: writing more of their own notes for longer stretches.
As much as possible, find ways to reward your children for progressing and doing things right, rather than punishing them for failing to meet your expectations. Again, you are teaching them that the Sabbath is a delight!
Depending on their academic ability and maturity, sometime between third and fourth grade is probably a good target for your children to be able to listen and take notes for the duration of services.
As your children grow, establish a habit of going over the messages together. Assess how much they’re learning. Reinforce important points. Train them in the way of being attentive to what God teaches, and when they are old, they won’t depart from it.