Dear Peanut and Munchkin,
Yesterday, I shared my concerns about including a chapter on spanking in The Christian Parenting Handbook. I mentioned that one of the authors took the time to respond when I wrote to them. Here is what he had to say:
Thank you for taking time to share with me. Although I read your email yesterday, I wanted to think about my response for a bit. You did an excellent job of sharing your story. It’s very compelling. It’s sad to hear the pain you experienced and continue to work through because of your mom’s abuse of spanking. Parents have a profound influence on their children and when they misuse their authority it has a lasting impact on a child’s heart. I’m so sorry for the pain you experienced because of your mother’s failure. I don’t want to empower parents or encourage them in any way to abuse their kids. I’ve seen so many hurt children and adults who were mistreated by their parents, I’m regularly propelled forward to do what we do to train parents to be more effective in the way they work with their kids.
When we wrote The Christian Parenting Handbook, we had to make a choice about whether to include a chapter about spanking or not. I feel like we have something valuable to say about this subject and I haven’t heard anyone share this message in the same way we do. I hear too many Christians espouse the idea that spanking is the Christian way. I’ve also heard too many say that spanking is evil. We disagree with both of those positions. I feel like we provide a balanced approach that says that spanking may be one consequence tool but it isn’t the only one. We also share warnings about the danger of anger and the use of spanking as behavior modification.
I spent a lot of time on that chapter to try to craft a statement that would provide wisdom and restraint to parents about their use or not use of spanking. I know that some parents don’t do parenting well. Some misuse spanking. Others shame their children. Some use emotional outbursts to control their kids, and others damage their kids by giving too much freedom or too much control. All of those can create long term damage in a child’s life. It’s sad when that takes place. It’s a tragedy when parents twist their parenting approach because of selfishness, misguided intentions, or ignorance.
There are a lot of parents who want guidance about how to use consequences, including spanking, and who are willing to heed the warnings. As I’m sure you realize, there are a lot of people who were raised with spanking as a consequence who turned out fine and don’t seem to have lingering challenges because their parents used spanking.
I’m not trying to empower abusers. I’m trying to train parents to be wise. We chose to put the chapter in because we believe it contains wisdom that parents need today. I’m sorry that your mom mistreated you. I hope that our work in this area of parenting can have a significant impact on people to guide more people to a healthy, effective parenting approach.
I’m grateful that you wrote to us. I feel a significant ache in my heart for you and trust that God will provide the healing that you need.
Dr. Scott Turansky
I understand the desire to help parents who believe spanking is the only useful method of discipline, or “the Christian way.” I definitely support teaching those parents that there are other, more effective methods, as well as cautioning them that spanking can be quite harmful.
And I know there are many who say “I was spanked and I turned out fine.” As I said before, there are probably some parents who can and do use spanking effectively, without harming their children physically or emotionally.
But why take the risk? I still believe it’s dangerous to “give permission” to spank when you can’t fully know your audience. Upon hearing my commitment to not use corporal punishment, a friend once said to me “but sometimes a kid just needs a smack on the bottom.” As I shared my story with him, and my concern that I might go too far if I ever started, his whole face changed. He began to understand why it would be so dangerous to “give permission” for me to spank — even just one smack on the bottom. This was a friend of mine, but he didn’t know my history and how it affected me. How could Dr. Turansky and his co-author, Joanne Miller, possibly know their audience well enough to mitigate the risk that this “permission” could fall into the wrong hands?
And what about sensitive children, or spirited children? Spanking is often the absolute worst thing for these children, but we don’t always recognize these qualities as young as a year or two old, when most parents who spank begin using that method. The authors don’t even touch on that in their chapter on spanking. Why “give permission” for something that might do more harm than good?
Finally, I have to come back to Romans 14:19-21. The straightforward text discusses whether or not Christians could eat meat from animals that had been sacrificed to idols. The conclusion is that confident Christians know there is nothing wrong with the meat, and it will still nourish their bodies. But eating it might confuse others, causing them to think Christians also worshiped those false gods, rather than the one true God. To avoid confusing their spiritually weaker compatriots, Christians should therefore abstain from eating that meat.
The application is that, regardless of the authors’ own beliefs about spanking, “giving permission” as they do in a book entitled The Christian Parenting Handbook is likely to confuse members of their audience who have a weakness in that area. These individuals can easily fall into abuse of spanking, perhaps believing all along that they are correctly following the precepts taught in the book.
Why take that risk? It just doesn’t make sense.
your very human Mama