We used to spank. We were both spanked as kids and we turned out OK. We read parenting books that laid out the benefits of spanking and we felt fine with it. Teach the kid who is in charge. The Bible says, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” We took that pretty literally.
When we were in the home-study process during our first adoption, we were asked if we spanked. “Yes, we do.”
“You know you can’t spank your adopted child, right?”
Check box that says we won’t spank, even though in our minds we still thought, “Yeah, whatever. We’re the parents. We know what’s best.”
We still spanked; our biological child mostly, but our adopted child a few times. I felt moderately guilty about it, but what options did we have? We have to show them who’s boss! We can’t let them run the show. Time-outs didn’t work, at all!
When it stopped working, I started feeling guilty.
Then when our oldest was in kindergarten, his behavior started getting worse. Just more testing and pushing limits. I was having to “show him who was boss” much more often, and it really didn’t seem to be working.
Not only did I feel guilty about spanking now, but it also wasn’t even working anymore!
I sat him down one day for a chat. I told him that I needed his help. I said, “Son, Mommy is a little worried. I really want to be a good mom and help you to learn to obey and be respectful, but I need some help. I don’t like to spank you, and I know you don’t like to be spanked. Time by yourself doesn’t seem to teach you anything when you’ve been disobedient. Do you have any ideas for me? Something that might help you learn to obey Mommy and Daddy?”
Why yes, yes he did!
We went straight to the source for a technique he would respond to.
In his kindergarten class, they had a color chart. There were five colors and everyone had a clothespin with their name on it. Every day they started on green. They could move up to blue or even purple (the highest), or down to yellow or red (the lowest). On Friday, if they were on purple, they got a “Friday Prize.” If they were on red: “Parent Contact.” Dum-da-dum…
He said he liked working hard to get to purple at school and he’d like to try that at home too. I thought this was worth a try, so I told both kids to go grab some construction paper and clothespins and make their own chart.
They are in the 4th grade now, and we are still using those charts.
Here is an example of how it works in our house. You start on Sunday on green. On Monday, you are really kind, helping your sibling with homework, and you move up to blue. Tuesday you complain when Mom asks you to unload the dishwasher, so you’re back down to green. (By the way, I calmly walk over to the clip and move it down.) Wednesday you put your laundry away without being asked—wow, blue! Thursday you gave a sibling a compliment, so you could move up to purple, right in time for Friday Prize—well played!
Friday Prizes are anything from a pack of gum to a new t-shirt. It depends on if there is anything they already need that I can disguise as a prize or just a little treat that is not something they would get every day.
If you’re on red, which is pretty rare these days, no screens and no play dates until you get off. And in our house, it’s pretty easy to get off of red. You can do extra chores, be really kind, humble, and super apologetic, and I’ll let you move back to yellow (which is kind of like parole).
I have had people criticize me for doing this for a few reasons.
One, they’re not “paying” for their crime. “What? They can just get off because they apologized?” Yep. “What if they’ve been awful all week, and then turn it around Thursday night just to get Friday Prize?” Yep.
Well, when I sin and I tell Jesus I’m sorry and ask His forgiveness, does He give it? He does, immediately.
What if I ran from Jesus my whole life, and then got to the end of my life and repented, and asked Him to let me into heaven. Would He? Yep.
That is an extreme example of course, but it is the grace and mercy that reflects His love and character. I want to be like that. I want to be full of that and teach my children to be gracious and to show mercy to others.
They will learn plenty of lessons from the natural consequences of their foolishness and sometimes it is my job to point it out.
“Do you know why your sister won’t play with you right now? I think it is because you were unkind and hurt her feelings. I bet if you go apologize, she’ll forgive you and y’all can get back to playing.”
“Oh, your shoes are wet? Yuck. Well next time, bring them inside when Mom calls you for dinner and don’t leave them by the trampoline overnight.”
“You ‘forgot’ to put the permission slip in your backpack after Dad told you three times? I guess you’ll miss out on the Science Fair. Sorry, bud.”
Now we have a system for discipline in place that is allowing for correction without corporal punishment, and we are all happier. I am pretty sure we are not spoiling our children, which I believe is what the Bible is getting at when it refers to the rod: a system of correction, not literally a weapon.
It is not a perfect system, but it has worked well for us in our home. When I’ve mentioned to the kids that they will eventually outgrow it and we’ll have to come up with a different system, they have protested. So, I guess that says something!
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