Christians, how do you discipline your children? - Mothering Forums
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Gentle Discipline > Christians, how do you discipline your children?
*Aimee*'s Avatar *Aimee* 05:11 PM 05-14-2009
I wasnt sure what forum to put this in so, I put it here It's long, and sensitive, so please forgive me.

DH and I are Christian. He was raised going to church and in a Christian home, and I was raised in the type of home where we went to church on Easter Sunday.

My husbands best friend growing up, his wife, and his sister all discipline using the Pearls method. We've been somewhat close to them since they moved where we live (Idaho from California) and we've seen their children around once a week or so since they've been born, with a few months of not seeing them spattered in. I've always had a very very hard time with how they treat their children. They use a switch and hit her 5 or 6 times with it every time she disobeys. This can be anything from sulking (she's 3) when asked to do something, or not having a joyful heart. The more she cries the more they spank her. Their sister is proud of the fact she first switched her daughter at 9 months.

I need to say, that up until a month ago, I spanked my son. I didn't use the Pearls method (I've read bits and pieces and it breaks my heart and disgusts me). Please don't flame me. I feel horrible sadness and guilt as it is. Everyone I know told me that to raise godly children I had to spank them. My inlaws (whom I love so much), our friends, grandparents, everyone. When my son did something wrong, I'd ask him not to do it again. If he did it again then I'd take him someplace quiet, tell him he was getting a spanking and why. then I'd spank him twice hug him and tell him how much I loved him. He'd maybe get spanked once or twice a month, as we tried to use other forms of discipline and only spanked for things where he was hurting someone.

I started watching my friends and how they spanked their daughter 15 times in one BBQ. You could hear her screaming from the other room. I couldn't contain my tears. She and her cousin have always been mean children. I know it is because they're being abused. On three separate occasions I've seen them hurt my son when they don't think anyone is watching. I didn't say anything because I didn't want them to be switched, but I am always having to keep my son away from them and not let them play alone, to protect him. They're very withdrawn, the one we're closer to, she is becoming extremely violent. I have continued a friendship with them, albeit strained, because I was trying to think of ways I could help the girls. I began praying and when my MIL came and saw how they disciplined she also began praying.

Well, I noticed that after I spanked my son for shoving one of the little girls down he got ANGRY. He started screaming wildly and hitting me and punching me and screaming "YOU NEVER hit me YOU NEVER NEVER!!!". I burst out crying and hugged him for an hour. When he'd get in trouble for something he'd scream "Don't spank me no no no no no!". Even spanking him MAYBE twice a month he was so traumatized.

I began praying and the response I've received from God is so powerful I am quite taken aback. I will never, ever hit my child again. I'm so ashamed and sad that I have, I can't even put it into words. I am not abusive, I am not a bad parent, I love my son SO MUCH but I truly believed if I didn't spank him I would ruin him.

I'm finding it so painful that the Christians I know are the most abusive parents I know. They beat their children in the name of God. They hit tiny babies, they go to churches where they have child training rooms, and if the children speak or jump or move they're beaten with switches. These are children as young as 1. Last time we had a play date, the little girl was switched for having a bad attitude. She is three years old.

Her parents keep talking about how she's just getting worse and worse, and they keep disciplining and its not working. they believe in a consequence for every action. And that consequence is switching. I'm trying to see how this relates to God. It seems like they're bringing on the flood for every minor transgression. That is NOT the God I know. I can't find anything Jesus says about spanking children but I can find a lot he says about harming them.

I need help now. I believe God is going to use me and my awakening to help them. Their father has tears in his eyes when he describes her behavior because she is getting worse and worse and obviously the whippings are making it worse. They truly want to do the best for their children but don't know how.

I've been to gentle christian mothers, but I so admire so many of the strong Christian women here. I would love to know you discipline your children. I would also love any and all book recommendations on christian discipline.

I feel at a loss now, as how to parent my own son and especially how to help these little girls. My guilt is making it so I don't do anything now and I'm letting him run amok, and that needs to change but right now I'm just kinda going with the flow. He's such an amazing little boy and I love him so much.

Thank you for sticking with me (if you did ) and again please don't flame me for spanking my son. It won't help me and it won't help my situation. I know better now and will never raise my hands to my children.

Thank you

jjawm's Avatar jjawm 05:19 PM 05-14-2009
I couldn't read and not respond. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I'm so glad you prayed and received a response. I, too, used to advocate for spanking. When I saw the damage it did to my stepsons, dh and I figured out a different way, and the kids are doing so much better!

The way I try to live my life is as Christ-like as I can, and I remember him with the little children. No violence with them! I also keep in mind what children are and aren't able to control. Oh, if I were spanked every time I had a bad attitude, I'd never sit down!

I do not wish to control my children. I wish to watch them open up and become the people God created them to be. I never want my children to feel pain because of my hand or mouth.
maberrysx5's Avatar maberrysx5 05:25 PM 05-14-2009
I do not agree with the Pearls' methods either! but that's a soapbox for another day

((hugs)) to you
phathui5's Avatar phathui5 05:53 PM 05-14-2009
Christian here.

We use:

- time outs for hurting people

- Logical consequences like losing a video game for a week after yelling at me about wanting to keep playing it

- talking about what happened and what would have been a better idea

- storytelling. I like how Jesus taught people with parables. Sometimes when you take the focus off of the person who did something, it's easier to see why we don't do that (hit people, make a mess, etc)

- I use the coloring pages from the book The 21 Rules of this House, minus the one that seems to show a dad getting ready to administer a spanking (the "Accept Correction" page. But the rules themselves make sense and I have our kids learn them.

Here are the 21 rules:
The 21 Rules Of This House
by Gregg Harris

1. We obey God.
2. We love, honor and pray for one another.
3. We tell the truth.
4. We consider one another's interests ahead of our own.
5. We speak quietly and respectfully with one another.
6. We do not hurt one another with unkind words or deeds.
7. When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
8. When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
9. When someone is sad, we comfort him.
10. When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
11. When we have something nice to share, we share it.
12. When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
13. We take good care of everything that God has given us.
14. We do not create unnecessary work for others.
15. When we open something, we close it.
16. When we take something out, we put it away.
17. When we turn something on, we turn it off.
18. When we make a mess, we clean it up.
19. When we do not know what to do, we ask.
20. When we go out, we act just as if we were in this house.
21. When we disobey or forget any of the 21 Rules of This House, we accept
the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

LuxPerpetua 05:57 PM 05-14-2009
Have you read any of Dr. Sears' parenting or discipline books? If not, I'd highly recommend "The Discipline Book" (vague title, eh? ) and "The Successful Child." Sears and his wife are both Christians and are a good alternative to the punitive Christian radicals.

My dh and I are both strong Christians and feel that being both into AP and Gentle Discipline are absolutely in line with our faith. We also practice Consensual Living and are Alfie Kohn advocates (have you read Unconditional Parenting?).

I personally feel it's best to lead by example. Perhaps your friends will see how gentle methods work for your child and will be guided in that direction. Or perhaps not. Perhaps they will tell you their discipline woes and you can ask if they'd like to borrow your copy of Dr. Sears book. Perhaps you can casually mention that you read about how the AAP is strongly against spanking children and that you're worried that spanking causing them more discipline problems than it's helping. Perhaps they'll change, perhaps not. All you can do is plant a seed. You never know how God is going to use you as an ambassador.

Most Christians I know are no more punitive than the public at large. I think most people spank or use time-outs or star charts or bribes. Most Christians I've found are no different. I don't know what church you attend but since this seems to be a major issue at your current church, I humbly recommend that you look elsewhere. We currently attend an Assembly of God church, and that is a very family-friendly environment. I'm sure some parents spank (as I said, I think most American families still resort to this form of discipline) but it's not advocated in any way nor is it encouraged. In fact, we talk a lot about grace, so grace-based parenting is not much of a stretch. (I actually think there is a book called "Grace Based Parenting" but I've never read it. It might be a good read for you, though).

I'm thrilled that you are no longer spanking your son. I think that shows a great deal of courage to rethink your parenting methods. Blessings to you!
The4OfUs's Avatar The4OfUs 06:06 PM 05-14-2009
There is a wonderful thread in Gentle Discipline that a mama sent a letter to her pastor...

And he eventually responded, and even thanked her again a year later...

Maybe this could help get some theological backup to present to your friends?
pink gal's Avatar pink gal 06:11 PM 05-14-2009
A while back a mama named dulce de leche posted the following letter that she had sent to her pastor. I think it is SO well written and makes a wonderful case for Christ like discipline that does not include spanking.

Kudos to you for seeking a new way to connect with your child and help him learn. I can understand that you feel bad for spanking in the past, but remember that forgiveness is powerful and this can be a wonderful opportunity to model repentence with your son.

There are a couple of really good websites with lots of resources for more gentle techniques to teach and correct your children in the letter below. I wish you the best as you start out on this journey of finding new ways to connect with your son.

Aubergine68's Avatar Aubergine68 06:13 PM 05-14-2009
I've always considered myself AP, and most of my parenting practices evolved from reading William Sears, MD, The Baby Book while I was pg with my first.

My very conservative Christian aunt sent me a parenting book after my dd was born. I was bracing myself for the worst when I unwrapped it, but it turned out to be William Sears, MD, Christian Parenting
I was honestly expecting something like Ezzo or Pearl and was very pleased to discover this book instead and to realize that my conservative Christian relations had essentially the same parenting philosophy I did!

I've read that it was written as an alternative to abusive methods of childrearing labeled Christian, although the book does not mention this openly.There are lots of bible references supporting gentle discipline practices, and the fact that the author is an MD would also carry authority with many parents, I think.

I have never met Pearl parents, but if I were in the situation you are in, OP, I'd get this book, read it, and offer it to your friends and family who are beginning to question their methods of discipline. I'm sure there must be other Christian gentle discipline books out there by now, too.

ETA thanks for posting that letter pink gal! I was going to go looking for it, myself!
*Aimee*'s Avatar *Aimee* 06:23 PM 05-14-2009
Thank you so much for the kind responses. I really appreciate them.

I hear you about the bad attitude, I don't understand why they're not allowed to have feelings. Also, a lot of the stuff I see are things that they are just developmentally not able to do. Like following super long, detailed commands and such.

I LOVE the 21 rules to this house. Those are awesome and I am so glad you showed them to me.

The parables idea is a really good one too.

I do have Dr. Sear's the Discipline book, but I've never read it I will for sure. I haven't read Unconditional Parenting but would like to.

My friends except me to spank Ru when he hurts one of their children. So we're going to explain to them that God has led me to not spank. I would love some bible versus to help me explain my thoughts, so I'm going to get to googling. I would also like to know how to handle my son when he hurts people on purpose. We haven't had that problem in a month or so, so we haven't had to deal with it. Though he has been hurting his brother lately and I don't know what to do, so I just say "that is not kind, you may not hurt your brother" and then move him. Sometimes I see he's hurting him because he's knocking down something he's trying to build, and I explain that I know bow frustrating it is, but Leif is a baby and doesn't know any better, then I keep him away so he can build his tower or whatever. My DH would like some sort of punitive action for hurting so maybe time outs will work.

We don't actually belong to a church. My husband hates the hypocrisy he's found in churches, but promised me we'd start going when Rune turned 2. Since he's almost three now we've been looking. The church I was referencing is my friends church and what we observed when visiting. It was so awkward because I was not going to spank him for being a child, and they were all expecting me to. It was very uncomfortable. I hate feeling like I have this horrible unruly child when he's really a very good child.

You're right about Christians parenting along the lines of most Americans. I just was so frustrated that SO many people we've met use the Pearls method. I know 7 or 8 people off the top of my head. Another that told me I would never have "warriors of God" if I didn't switch them, and then I just found out our new "friends" CIO with their 1 week old baby Then we went to CA to visit our inlaws and most of their friends and homeschool group parents do the Pearls or modified versions. It just really breaks my heart. How are children going to find a deep, true love of God when they're switched constantly?

Right now my husband is going to go along with no more spanking. He is worried that that means no discipline and that we're going to let our kids do whatever they want. I'm trying to let him know we will have rules and consequences they just won't be violent.
*Aimee*'s Avatar *Aimee* 06:48 PM 05-14-2009
wow. That letter is crazy powerful. Thank you so much for posting it.
The4OfUs's Avatar The4OfUs 09:00 PM 05-14-2009
Originally Posted by *Aimee* View Post
Right now my husband is going to go along with no more spanking. He is worried that that means no discipline and that we're going to let our kids do whatever they want. I'm trying to let him know we will have rules and consequences they just won't be violent.
I'd like to suggest to have your husband read Anthony Wolf's, "The Secret of Parenting: How to be in charge of today's kids, from toddlers to teens, without threats or punishments". It's an authoritative (but not authoritarian) parenting viewpoint, but nonpunitive. It is not Christian-based, and now that I think about it there are some swear words where he's quoting 'scripts' that kids and adults might have together but if you can get past that, it's a GREAT book from someone who is coming from a punitive, authoritarian, obey without question viewpoint to transition into a gentler way to parent. It is a quick read, and IMO gives great explanations of why kids do what they do and how punishments and threats work against a close parent-child bond. It isn't lovey dovey or way "out there", which is what turns many men off the more gentle discipline books - this is kind of a 'man's man' kind of book, but I loved it too, even as woman.
PaulaJoAnne's Avatar PaulaJoAnne 09:30 PM 05-14-2009
Aimee, You will find this link to be of great help to you. I have been eating up the info myself )
singin_angel's Avatar singin_angel 10:00 PM 05-14-2009
Aimee - I'm not Christian, but I thought I would share this book with you. It is written by a woman who was a nun, she now has a wonderful family. The book is called "Kids Are Worth It!" by Barbara Colorado. She has fantastic strategies that parents can try to discipline their child while leaving their self-worth and dignity intact.

It really was a fantastic read, with great examples, and I would recommend it to any parent.
rainbowmoon's Avatar rainbowmoon 10:07 PM 05-14-2009
The4OfUs's Avatar The4OfUs 10:08 PM 05-14-2009
Originally Posted by Whistler View Post
I like that site. I don't feel like I can talk about my ideas for discipline on here because I'll get either flamed or preached at or thrown hundreds of parenting books.
The fact remains that MDC is not a place that will discuss hitting as a form of discipline.
The4OfUs's Avatar The4OfUs 10:09 PM 05-14-2009
[QUOTE=Altair;13767360]from the above link:
ETA: This page is about hitting babies under a year old, is that allowed to be advocated on MDC?

No. The post was reported and removed.
Whistler's Avatar Whistler 10:18 PM 05-14-2009
Originally Posted by The4OfUs View Post
The fact remains that MDC is not a place that will discuss hitting as a form of discipline.
That's fine. I respect that position.
wombatclay's Avatar wombatclay 10:37 PM 05-14-2009
Heyla all!

I hope this thread can stay on topic (discipline within a specifically Christian framework)... to that end, please keep in mind the MDC User Agreement guideline:

Quote: is the website of natural family living and advocates natural solutions to parenting challenges. We host discussion of nighttime parenting, loving discipline, gentle weaning, natural birth, homebirth, successful breastfeeding, alternative and complementary home remedies, informed consent and many other topics from a natural point of view. We are not interested, however, in hosting discussions on the merits of crying it out, harsh sleep training, physical punishment, formula feeding, elective cesarean section, routine infant medical circumcision, or mandatory vaccinations.
In addition, the Gentle Discipline forum is intended

to help parents learn and apply gentle discipline methods in raising their children
while the Spirituality forum provides a place for
support, respectful requests of information, and sharing of faith and practice
As such, please keep this conversation focused on the spiritual or religious aspects of parenting and contact a moderator directly (via PM) with any questions or concerns you may have!

Thanks all, and be well.
Rosehip's Avatar Rosehip 10:37 PM 05-14-2009
First, of course, I try to teach proper behavior by example.

Other methods:
-I discuss expectations in advance (when I pick you up from school, you may not run out the door without me, you need to stay with me). This is surprisingly effective w/my 4 yo, not so much with my 2 yo
-If the kids are not treating a person/thing respectfully, either the object, or the child is removed (they smash/throw toys, I remove the toy for a while)
-Hitting, etc., gets a time out, 1 minute per year of life (I know many here disapprove)
-There is a general rule that we don't do fun, special things if they are not behaving appropriately. For instance, if we were on our way to the playground, and DD hit me, or was otherwise seriously disrespectful, the trip would be canceled. If my younger kicks me while I'm getting him dressed for bed, he loses out on the bedtime story. Honestly, because they understand this, they pretty rarely do anything this disrespectful. The playground one was made up, b/c I can't think of something my DD has done lately. I would generally give a single warning on this type of thing.
-I "catch" them being good - "Thanks for clearing your plate without me asking!" "I really like how you're cooperating today, it makes me happy!"
PDeverit's Avatar PDeverit 12:59 AM 05-15-2009
Here are just a couple of many Christians who advocate against hitting kids:

Christians For Non-Violent Parenting

Parenting in Jesus' Footsteps

Here are just a couple others who advocate against hitting kids:

American Academy of Pediatrics

Center for Effective Discipline

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Global Initiative to End All
Corporal Punishment of Children

PsycHealth, Ltd.,
Behavioral Health Professionals
PDeverit's Avatar PDeverit 01:01 AM 05-15-2009
Most compelling of all reasons not to spank are the following (which can be verified by people who were actually spanked themselves by doing a little research):

"Even without sexual motives on the part of the punisher, spanking can interfere with a child's normal sexual and psychological development. Because the buttocks are so close to the genitals and so multiply linked to sexual nerve centers, slapping them can trigger powerful and involuntary sensations of sexual pleasure. This can happen even in very young children, and even in spite of great, clearly upsetting pain."
Tom Johnson Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children

“...The buttocks are the locus for the induction of pain in a child. We are familiar with the argument that it is a safe ‘locus’ for spanking. However, the anal region is also the major erotic region at precisely the time the child is likely to be beaten there. Thus it is aptly chosen to achieve the result of deranged sexuality in adulthood...” 1971 (p. 113)

David Bakan, Slaughter of the Innocents,1971 (p. 113)

“Advocates of corporal punishment in schools should examine very carefully the weight of evidence now available and, particularly in light of the pornographic component, consider whether they can justify the continuation of a system with such a capacity for exciting unhealthy interest.”
British Psychological Society, “Report on Corporal Punishment in Schools” (1980)

“But what you would not so readily believe upon my affirmation, was that there are persons who are stimulated to venery by strokes of rods, and worked up into a flame of lust by blows... A strange instance what a power the force of education has in grafting inveterate ill habits on our morals...”

Johann Heinrich Meibom, physician, 1629

Unpleasant as this information is, we do our children a great disservice when we fail to acknowledge its truth.

Had we not turned a blind eye to the unpleasant phenomena of clergy abuse of children 40-50 years ago, many children would have been spared its consequences.

To learn more about this issue, visit, or another comparable link.
Whistler's Avatar Whistler 01:22 AM 05-15-2009
Having a rhythm to our day helps the most to keep things on an even keel. I have heard this called "habit training" although I doubt we take it as far as some with a really rigid schedule. But especially with meals if we keep them at roughly the same time of day it helps so much because IMO a lot of "acting out" is based on hunger or low blood sugar. Another thing that we do as a habit is picking up. We pick up the toys every day before we eat lunch and they are used to that since we do it consistently each time.

We also practice. If one of the kids does something that hurts someone else or is unsafe I walk through the situation with them and model a better response or action. For instance, we practice walking around the car and staying out of the alley and practice being gentle with the pets or playing nicely together.

Something that really helps the "leaving the playground" problems is a warning. I tell them they may play for one more minute (or five more minutes) and they can finish whatever they are doing. I am amazed how well it works to prevent the tantrums that can go with leaving a playground.
*Aimee*'s Avatar *Aimee* 01:40 AM 05-15-2009
thank you for all the wonderful advice. I feel very much equipped now.

Today we talked about how I was sorry I used to spank him, and I promised to use kindness from now on. He said it made him feel bad and sad and mad when I spanked him. Then later when I was telling DH what he said he covered his ears. It really devastates me on so many levels.
The4OfUs's Avatar The4OfUs 09:22 AM 05-15-2009
you should be proud of yourself for being committed to fixing your relationship - I know I'm proud of you, and I don't even know you - I'm always in awe of parents who can change the cycles they've lived and learned in the face of opposition. I'm sure you'll have ups and downs like any parent-child pair, but I'm confident any issues can be repaired, and that you and your son can and will heal.
canadiyank's Avatar canadiyank 03:14 PM 05-15-2009
Please check out the site that was linked to. Until recently I was a GD moderator there and it's been a wonderful place of learning and support to me. Check out the GD Forum as well as the GD Info and FAQs section. In addition, you may find the articles at AOLFF helpful. I'm a firm believer in Grace-Based Discipline and have loved developing the skills that help me parent in that manner. I also have a friend who's written a response to TTUAC that you might be interested in here.

annettemarie's Avatar annettemarie 03:18 PM 05-15-2009
*Aimee*, this is such a powerful, big step. You and your family will be in my prayers.

One thing that helps me is to ask myself "How would Jesus deal with this?" I can never picture him striking a child.
*Aimee*'s Avatar *Aimee* 04:15 PM 05-15-2009
Thank you so much. I feel now that we told DS we're not going to be hitting him anymore he's going crazy. He's not listening to anything we ask him to do, hurting his (sick) baby brother constantly and wow, really being 2 He is giving us a run for our money. Last night he wanted to go get dinner with DH, and when they got to the store he wanted to sit on a bench. DH told him that he knew he wanted to sit there, but they needed to hurry so they could get back home because it was late. DS started screaming and lay flat on the floor!! He's never done this. So DH brought him back home and then left. I told him that because he couldn't follow Daddy's rules for the store he had to sit with me at home so Daddy could finish his shopping.

It seemed to be effective, but he cried for almost 20 min. about not being able to go get dinner. I really felt that with spanking I had a plan. Of course it was an abusive plan that, in DS's words, "is just not working". But I feel now that I'm kinda just flailing along. I'm going to check out all the links today.

Thank you again, you ladies are so fantastic
annettemarie's Avatar annettemarie 08:54 PM 05-15-2009
Also from Scripture:
Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul.
~ Proverbs 29:17

"Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."
~ Matthew 25:40

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
~ Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
~ Colossians 3:21

“But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12

“What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip (KJV says rod), or in love and with a gentle spirit?” 1 Corinthians 4:21

This link
has more about the rod.
canadiyank's Avatar canadiyank 10:03 PM 05-15-2009
Thank you, annettemarie.

I am glad this is a safe place for those of us who don't believe the Proverbs verses mean to beat your child with an inch-thick rod (shebet). B/c "spanking" is nowhere in the Bible. Discipline is.

And believe it or not, I discipline my children. They are well-disciplined and I've been told we're the only family people have seen that don't spank yet actually *discipline* our children. Plus, spanking doesn't automatically = discipline. It's the teaching that goes on that disciples our children. Here's an excellent post called Spanking isn't the issue or the focus that addresses that very thing, that it's the *teaching* that's key to discipline/discipleship.
annettemarie's Avatar annettemarie 11:31 PM 05-15-2009
You'll actually find that many of us like to dig into the whole of the text, including the original Hebrew/Greek, rather than proof-texting. I would suggest you begin with a word study of shebet and na'ar in the book of Proverbs.
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