Is it abuse or discipline?

I have always had mixed feelings regarding the spanking of children, but the more I think about it, the more I disagree with it. Many people have told me that spanking is just another disciplinary method, and that it is sometimes the only way that children will understand that they did something wrong. However, many of them also agree that hitting is wrong, but that spanking is different – it’s “discipline”. But is there any difference?

This is one topic that my husband and I disagree on. He doesn’t think that spanking is a big deal, that it is okay to discipline children in this manner. I, however, feel that spanking sends the wrong message to your child. The message that it sends is that it is alright to hit someone when they do something wrong. How can I tell my child not to hit others when I myself hit them? Is this what we want to teach our children?

Some argue that it is fine to spank as long as you are not angry while you are doing it. But again, it all goes back to causing physical pain in order to punish the child. I think it is important to stay away from inflicting pain as a punishment. Would we as adults want to be hit to be taught a lesson? Would it really teach us a lesson, or would it just scare us into acting how the other person wanted us to? Are you really teaching your child anything, or just trying to scare them?

I think it is sad that our society fights to protect this form of discipline from being flagged as abuse – those that would call this abuse are treated as if they are just “overreacting”. But I think we need to focus on other forms of teaching our children right from wrong, and hitting is definitely not one of them. I found this article that reflects my feelings perfectly. I especially liked the opening:

There is a classic story about the mother who believed in spanking as a necessary part of discipline until one day she observed her three- year-old daughter hitting her one-year-old son. When confronted, her daughter said, “I’m just playing mommy.” This mother never spanked another child.

So the question is, what are effective ways of disciplining that do not involve physical means? Are there any parents out there that have found other effective disciplinary techniques?


9 Responses to “Is it abuse or discipline?”

  1. livingfragrance Says:

    Hi! I read your post and although I do not know you or your beliefs thought I might share….?

    I am a believer of Christ and believe the bible to be the truth. Therefore my mind is made up in this regard as the bible states we should discipline our children in this manner. I would like to share beyond that also that I am thankful for parents who disciplined me in this manner. My view is that while a child is young this is a good form of discipline, this does not mean you slap a child any way you like! It means that a child knows what the consequences will be for disobeying.. that they know they will receive 2 warnings and they can make the choice to listen at that time or carry the consequences. Discipline by spanking also does not include the ‘back-hand’ or any degrading form of hitting your child, and shoulc be done out of love and care for your childs future, not because you are feeling angered, frustrated or embarresed.

    Hope you don’t mind the long post from a stranger. All the best!

  2. Holly Says:

    Livingfragrance –

    While I don’t share your philosophies, I do appreciate hearing your opinion. I know many parents use spanking as a discipline, and it wasn’t until tonight that I learned the religious reasons behind it (I am not religious). It is interesting to hear it from your perspective. I’ve always loved looking at both sides of a debate, so I welcome comments from everybody. Thanks for posting!

  3. livingfragrance Says:

    Hi Holly 🙂
    Thought you might be interested in this blog… it tells of some creative ways of disciplne 🙂

  4. amandaleggett Says:

    I can’t comment fully as I’m nursing and typing at the same time, but I would like to say that I am also a Christian and my husband and I both firmly believe that the scripture referencing the “Rod” is using the term to me “Discipline and guidance” not corporal punishment.

    We have been on both sides of the fence but after much prayer and study strongly believe that spanking is not going to be a part of our parenting repertoire.

  5. amandaleggett Says:

    Typo correction:

    “term to me” should be “term to mean”

    Sorry, typing one handed with a 20lbs baby on your lap is no easy task! lol

  6. ewokmama Says:

    We will be employing the “one minute for each year of age” timeout philosophy, along with explaining why whatever happened wasn’t okay. (Between Joe and me, you know we’ll make the explanation so long that it will deter the bad behavior since the kid doesn’t want the lecture…) Creative discipline is very possible, and definitely more affective IMO (think of Lyn – we always respected her more than anyone who actually tried to spank us). Physical punishment was always a sure way for a person to lose my respect immediately.

    Moxie has some great information on discipline, too!

    Oh, and whatever you decide to do, you and Mike should get on the same page. I know personally I would freak out if Joe spanked Jack. Joe and I plan to try to coordinate together as much as possible and be a united front on the big issues (sitting down together with Jack to explain everything).

  7. Holly Says:

    I agree that Mike and I have to agree on how we are going to raise our child. We’ve talked about it, and he knows how I feel about spanking. Mike is not necessarily pro spanking, he just doesn’t believe that a smack on the bottom is going to forever traumatize a child (which I happen to agree with). I think when the time comes, we will come to an agreement on how we want to handle discipline that does not involve hitting.

    And yes, I agree that explaining to a child why something is not okay is a good idea. I absolutely hate the saying “because I told you so”. I hope to never say that when I am a mom.

  8. mudlark Says:

    Thanks to livingfragrance above for pointing out my post on creative discipline. For the record, I’m also a Christian and I read the Bible daily. I hoped that I’d never have to spank my children, and truly thought I would never find a need to. But when Baby burned his little fingers and had to be rushed to the doctor, and Toddler pitched an all-out tantrum (complete with the “plank maneuver”) because she wanted to go to the playground instead, spanking was the only thing that would do the trick quickly and effectively. Time was of the essence, and she needed to put the family’s needs above her own wishes – and quickly! I made sure to follow up with lots of hugs and reassurance that I love her no matter what. After that one episode, now all I have to say is “that type of behavior leads to a spanking” and she shapes up right away.

    The decision to spank or not to spank depends on a lot of things. What matters more – I think – is that your child *knows* you love them *without condition* because you show them in ways *they* understand – not just when they’re being good, but also when they’re misbehaving.

  9. Janine Says:

    Hi I am desperate. I have a 3 year old daughter and she is just at the stage where she is totally impossible. She refuses to listen to me and is out right defiant. I am battling to get her to sleep at night and have even thought that she may have ADD – please may someone whos been through a similar situation and succeeded – please send me some advice.
    My email is

    Desperate mommy

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