Choosing gentle discipline

April 28, 2010

This post is written for inclusion in the Carnival of Gentle Discipline hosted by Paige @ Baby Dust Diaries. All week, April 26-30, we will be featuring essays about non-punitive discipline. See the bottom of this post for more information.

My husband and I were both raised with a similar discipline style; a style that included spanking. We’ve always known that our parents loved us and wanted what was best for us. We thought that their methods seemed to work and were perhaps even what was best. We had good childhoods and though we can both recall instances where we were spanked, these aren’t disturbing memories and we harbor no resentment from the spankings. So we figured that we would parent in a similar way.

That was until I decided to question spanking and to look at other options. I don’t know if there was any one specific occurrence that pushed me firmly down the path of gentle discipline; instead it was a very slow process. Many pro-spankers firmly believe that spanking is the only way to ensure a well disciplined child and that didn’t sit well with me.  Some of these people seemed to equate “discipline” with children being seen and not heard. I read books such as Raising Cain and Unconditional Parenting that really challenged behaviorism and culturally accepted ways adults treat children. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I did not want to teach my child that “might makes right.”

Another aspect of this is that I am a Christian. As a Christian I believe that children are made in the image of God. As an Orthodox Christian I believe that babies/young children are icons of innocence. As such, I think that children are deserving of the same respect that we would show any other individual – no matter their age, their size or their mental capacity. It’s a very basic ideal that many of us believe in – but too often we do not extend it to children.

There are a lot of Christians who spank their kids, and they do so because they really, honestly believe it is the best thing to do – that it is what the Bible tells them to do. I disagree with them. I believe that spanking is totally inconsistent with the way that Jesus treated children and with the way that God treats his children. I don’t believe there is any grace in a “you did wrong, now I will hurt you as a punishment, then I will show you forgiveness.” If you want to research what the “spare the rod” Bible verses really mean, I would recommend Thy Rod and Thy Staff Comfort Me by Samuel Martin. A free copy of this book can be found here.

All that said, I want to be crystal clear that we bear absolutely no ill will towards our parents who spanked us. In some ways I feel audacious in saying that we are going to do things differently. I worry about challenges that I won’t be able to handle. I dread judgment and lack of support from those that disagree with us. But the more I think about it and the more I read about it, the more I’ve come to believe that gentle discipline is the only option for our family. I pray that my husband and I would demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit in all areas, parenting included: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Gentle Parent - art by Erika Hastings at to the Carnival of Gentle Discipline

Please join us all week, April 26-30, as we explore alternatives to punitive discipline. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA and April 30th is Spank Out Day USA. In honor of this we have collected a wonderful array of articles and essays about the negative effects of punitive discipline methods, like spanking, and a myriad of effective alternatives.

Are you a Gentle Parent? Put the Badge on your blog or website to spread the word that gentle love works!

Links will become available on the specified day of the Carnival.

Day 1 – What Is Gentle Discipline

Day 2 – False Expectations, Positive Intentions, and Choosing Joy (coming Tuesday, April 27)

Day 3 – Choosing Not To Spank (coming Wednesday, April 28)

Day 4 – Creating a “Yes” Environment (coming Thursday, April 29)

Day 5 – Terrific Toddlers; Tantrums and All (coming Friday, April 30)


24 Responses to “Choosing gentle discipline”

  1. I love how you have so much forgiveness within you. You felt that your childhood was no dictated by the memories of spanking, yet you STILL chose to change your own style of parenting.

    That is such an evolved way to be and I for one, think you are going to be able to get through your parenting journey by finding other, more gentle and loving ways to co-operate as a family.

  2. […] Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid Life […]

  3. […] Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid Life […]

  4. Alexandra Says:

    thanks for sharing your journey! Mine is very similar. I was spanked and so was my hubby. But after a spanking incident with our son we realized it was not for us.

  5. […] Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid Life […]

  6. Mom Says:

    Makes perfect sense. Thanks for you insight.

  7. I love this post too. As a Christian I am so saddened by people who follow Ezzo or the Pearls or even Dobson. He is so mainstream but he recommends spanking at 18 months! I can’t imagine Jesus hitting a child. How can we teach grace and hit?

    I love this post and I’m so glad you participated to give this unique perspective.

  8. Melodie Says:

    This is beautiful. I really enjoyed it.

  9. Lisa C Says:

    Spanking was very hurtful to me as a child. I’m glad you were able to find another way to discipline your children.

    From a Christian aspect, I could never imagine Christ hitting a child, and I believe we should follow his example.

    • Liz Says:

      I think you make a good point here – even if we spank with “good intentions” or try to do it “right” (if that were even possible – and I don’t think that it is) – we never know how a child might interpret it. I am fortunate in that so far as I can tell, it didn’t have a negative impact on me. But I don’t want to risk otherwise with my own children.

  10. Deb Chitwood Says:

    I felt the same way you did. I had a wonderful childhood even though my parents hadn’t heard of gentle discipline. They weren’t opposed to spanking but much of what they did fell into the gentle discipline category spontaneously. Still, my husband and I chose not to spank our children ever. We’ve never regretted that decision. I wrote about it yesterday in my blog post at

  11. […] Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid Life […]

  12. […] Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid Life […]

  13. […] Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid Life […]

  14. I also was raised with spanking and had to change my mind about how to parent. For me, it was clearer to decide not to spank, because I had very negative feelings associated with it, even though it was rare. I love hearing stories of people changing their minds about fundamental parenting philosophies, particularly when they go against the mainstream. It gives me hope!

    Thanks for suggesting a reference for a thorough explanation of what the “rod” means in the Bible, because that’s one of those frequently misinterpreted images. I’d love to have something to point people to. Is the link for the book right, though?

    P.S. Have you signed the Gentle Love pledge at My World Edenwild? It sounds right up your alley.

    • Liz Says:

      Whoops, that was wrong the link! It is fixed now. Thanks for pointing that out. And thanks for sharing the pledge link as well!

  15. […] Choosing Gentle Discipline […]

  16. […] Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid Life […]

  17. […] Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid Life […]

  18. […] Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid Life […]

  19. […] post on Spare the Rod? Does the Bible Promote Spanking? and Golden Rule Parenting at Novel Mama or Choosing Gentle Discipline at Hybrid […]

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