Here are two EXCELLENT articles on punishment vs. discipline, and grace-based, non-punitive parenting. I'm aware that I am completely taking the easy way out this time- but Ashley stated her (and our family's) case so well, that for now I'm just going to piggy-back off of her.
Happy reading, folks.
GROWING UP IN GRACE:
Imagine this ...
Walking into a little white church, a man stumbles across the lobby and struggles with his sinful nature. He enters the pastor's counseling office tearfully seeking guidance. After hearing of the man's inability to cope with his own humanity, the pastor orders the man to lean over his desk with his palms down on the lemony 'Endust'-scented wood. The pastor then pulls out a mahogany offering plate and begins to beat the sinner across the back. "This", says the man of God, "will help you to think before you drink again!"
Or, how about this scenario:
A young mother of three is having a lousy day. The demands of the home are overwhelming, she has a terrible headache, and her husband walks through the door and makes an unrealistic demand on her. She bursts into exhausted tears and retorts with angry words...so her husband calmly whips off his belt and begins to lash her bare legs, punishing her for her disrespectful attitude. She begs him to stop with mascara streaming down her face, but he persists, insisting that her pain is "for her own good." He then prays with his wife, asking God to forgive her sin.
Outrageous! Unmerciful! Unkind! Abusive!!
And yet this is how many of the smallest members of Jesus' precious flock are treated on a daily basis.
Jesus' blood was offered for every one of us, from the greatest to the least. The law was a light exposing every sin, but it did absolutely nothing to atone for those sins. Even the slaughter of animals was only a shadow of the grace that was to come. His blood and grace set us free! Totally free from the fear of punishment, totally free from the condemnation that burdened our souls.
"For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world through him might be saved." The gospel of John, 3.17
He didn't see us as candidates for hell. He saw children all born with a disease: sin. We could
somewhat control it on our "good" days, we could try to hide it and appear well, or we could totally succumb to it when we were too weak to fight anymore...but we all have it. He came as our doctor, not as our judge. He came to put on the same filthy rags we wore and say, "Watch and learn, guys. This is how you can lick this. And, by the way, even on your weak days, you don't need to throw in the towel, because I already defeated death for you. Follow me!"
"For we don't have a High Priest who can't be touched by the feeling of our infirmities, but one who has been in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace for help in time of need." Hebrews 4.15, 16
If Christ has the grace and patience to gently guide and discipline us, prodding us, teaching us, showing us, allowing us to experience the direct consequences of our mistakes and picking us up when we fail...why can't we do the same for our children?
Why should anyone be considered weak who chooses to walk alongside their children and teach them rather than spanking them? (Teaching is certainly a lot more work than spanking. Perhaps we sometimes chose this because of our own lack of self discipline?) Why is pain needed to teach them how to follow our Shepherd? Didn't Christ take our punishment?
But punishment works! Yes, it does. People who are afraid of being struck by someone bigger than them are generally very compliant. And abused dogs cower with one stern look, and battered women try very hard to please their partners. But what pattern does this set up for the child? Obedience out of fear of punishment.
This is exactly why Christ came into the world. He came to do away with legalism and fear, and replace it with the kind of free life that enables people follow him with a full heart motivated by love. He freed us up to make mistakes, accept his grace, and wholeheartedly chase after holiness and true compassion for our fellowman. Our motivation for obedience doesn't have to be fear anymore!
2 Timothy 1.7- "For God doesn't give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-discipline."
Instead of motivating our children to obedience through fear of punishment, we can learn to equip them with the tools they need to discipline themselves. (HUGE difference between discipline and punishment, by the way. Punishment is forcing someone to pay retribution for their wrongdoing. Discipline is actively discipling someone and instructing them in something.)
We have such a unique opportunity as parents! We, who know all too well the struggle with our own human nature, can walk alongside our little ones, saying, "This is how I deal with this!" "Try this, instead" or "This is how God helps me with this problem". Rather than punishing (which is completely unneeded, thanks to Christ's sacrifice! Thank you Lord!), we can help our children learn to control themselves with a spirit of gentleness and love. What a chance of a lifetime!
Do I expect my girls to learn to obey? Abso-stinkin'-lutely. Do I realistically expect them to be able to control themselves all the time as children? Nope. (Man, I'm an adult, and I still mess up on a regular basis.) It's my job to teach them how to control themselves, and guide them towards healthy adulthood.
My goal for them as adults is love of God, kindness, and humble obedience to their Savior. Whether they are always "little ladies/gentlemen" isn't the issue. Whether they're "well-behaved" isn't the issue. I'm much more concerned about them eventually learning to be considerate and compassionate towards their fellowman for the right reasons, rather than being merely polite at the age of three because they fear a spanking.
They're going to mess up. My prayer is that eventually, they will willingly offer themselves as bond servants to Christ out of sheer love of the God-man, rather than fear that He will punish them if they don't.
Because punishment and fear of punishment is missing the whole point of following Christ.
"By this God's love was revealed in us, that God sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent His son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Beloved, if God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another.
In this love has been made perfect among us, that we have boldness on the day of judgement, because as He is, even so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love Him, because He first loved us."
(The first letter from John, 4.9,10,11,17,18)
PUNISHMENT VS. DISCIPLINE
To discipline a child is not the same thing as punishing. Much confusion arises in this area of child rearing, because in Christian culture in the past 30 years, these two ideas have been equated.
Punishing a child focuses on the negative behavior and requires some kind of physical or emotional pain from the child. Examples of punishment would be spanking or some removal of emotional availability.
Parental discipline does not equal punishment. It means teaching the child and gently leading them towards the example of Jesus. No beating required.
Is parental authority God-given? You betcha! But it's not the kind of authority that demands to be recognized. It's the authority Christ modeled for us-gently correcting, appropriately rebuking, leading, illustrating, sheltering, and giving fully of ourselves. And patiently, consistently repeating that as many times as need be. We're given authority not to control our children's behavior, but to gradually teach them how to handle their own sinful nature and internalize godly morals. And that takes time.
The problem with punishment is that it addresses behavior instead of the heart. While spanking your child may produce faster results, those results are out of fear of punishment. The motivator for "good" behavior isn't love or kindness, or even respect for others. It's fear of pain.
Children aren't born with morals. In order for a child to internalize the positive reason why she should act a certain way (out of kindness, compassion, principle), she must be given the opportunity to fail and try again and again, all the while being gently and firmly prodded and guided towards right action. If physical violence is used to discourage a "misbehavior", then avoiding a punishment will be the child's main motivator for acting right. The imprint of pain caused by trusted adult is indelible. The child's moral development is somewhat arrested, because they carry the fear of shame/punishment into adulthood with them as their primary motivator for good behavior.
Related to this is the fear of losing love because of bad behavior. (Also a terrible reason to "act good".) No matter how many times a parent says, "This is for your own good" or "I'm doing this because I love you", what the child carries away with them is, I never want to do that again because I hate being hurt by my parent, and I hate disappointing them so.
The punished child responds with obedience stemming from the fear of displeasing his/her parents. They learn that acting "good" means being loved, and acting bad means withdrawal of love. As sons and daughters of God, are we not to extend God's unconditional forgiveness and love to each other? (And who are we, by the way, to play God and demand painful payment for sin when Christ has already taken the blame?)
From an immature child's perspective, what is punishment teaching them? What lesson do they really walk away with?
Teaching a child that a moment of weakness warrants corporal punishment sets them up for abuse and an unhealthy understanding of God and others later on in life. Thinking patterns established early on in life die hard, or not at all.
Here's what I mean. As a child grows to adulthood, in order for him to function in a healthy way within relationships, it is paramount for him to establish healthy boundaries for his own person and to respect the boundaries of others. Spanking completely undermines the idea of respecting his own boundaries from his earliest memory.
Spanking a child when he fails teaches him that his failing deserves a punishment.
It also teaches him that it's OK to punish others when they fail you.
How will that look when it plays out in his marriage? Friendships?
Spanking a child teaches him that when you get caught, you get hurt. Lesson? Don't get caught.
Spanking a child communicates that love and physical safety are conditional. If you mess up in a relationship, it stops being loving and safe. How will this effect his ability to be open and honest?
Spanking teaches a child that if she displeases someone else, her physical boundaries don't have to be respected. How will this look when she's dating an abusive guy? Married to an abuser?
Spanking tells the child that in order to be "cleared" from an offense, it must be punished. How does that effect his understanding of God's grace?
"This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you" communicates to the child, "You're making me hurt you. I wish I didn't have to, but you've forced me." I shiver while thinking of how many woman have used the idea that they're responsible for their own abuse as an excuse to stay in a destrictive relationship.
Please, dear ones, understand that I would never accuse any well-meaning parent of purposefully harming their child. Unfortunately, intentionally or not, spanking is damaging. The good news is that Christ is the inventor of new beginnings. The past is the past, and we can only be responsible for the present. God's grace is sufficiant for us, and for our children!
So, is it possible to maintain godly authority within the home without corperal punishment? Yes, it is!
I love this quote from Corrie ten Boom (the christian woman who survived the Ravensbruck prison for hiding Jews in her family's home..her family is an amazing testimont to grace and forgiveness):
"...we were disciplined without spanking. I cannot remember being paddled as a child, but there was no doubt in our family that we were to obey Father...We never spoke of "line of authority in our home-it was simply understood. Father didn't have to stand up and say, "I'm the head of this home!" He just was. We never felt any desire to have it any other way, because love and security of all our relationships were built upon the established fact that God was always with us, and He had appointed Casper ten Boom in charge of the home called Beje."
-Corrie ten Boom, In my Father's House