Before I get started on this post let me just tell you that if you’re hoping to hear something provocative, you won’t. This post has nothing to do with 50 Shades of Gray.
I was spanked as a kid. My parents said they were Christians and that God called them to “spare the rod and spoil the child.” In fact, our church provided a personally made spanking stick that was about 18 inches long, about 2 inches wide and about a quarter of an inch thick that was painted pink. On one side of the stick was painted “Make love your aim” from the Bible verse I Corinthians 14:1. The other side had the verse “Children Obey Your Parents.” To say the least, the rod was not spared in our household.
Corporal punishment is a very controversial topic. Forty years ago it was much more accepted than it is today and I believe I know why some people, like Chris Carter, former NFL Viking say “that corporal discipline is outdated.” It’s because that even though there are no physical scars left to show for that form of discipline, the emotional scars have risen to the surface in our lives and revealed themselves in ways that affect the relationships we have as adults.
I didn’t get too terribly many spankings as a kid. I was pretty good when it came to the basics. Don’t cross the street, don’t lie, don’t steal, obey your parents etc. When I did get spanked, it was by my dad, bare bottomed and always with a short talk of some kind before hand.
By the time I was in 7th grade, I hadn’t gotten spanked in years. I had hit puberty, and was pretty sure I was too old for that form of discipline. I was wrong.
My teen years were a struggle. A struggle to be accepted. A struggle to be popular. A struggle to be loved. My parents were not communicators. They were the “do it because I said so” kind of parents, as were most parents of the 1970’s, and left no room for explanations. They did not pursue a connection with my heart as they commanded complete and immediate submission to their orders. I understand what they were trying to do but because I craved the emotional connection, I ended up rebelling and reaching out for that emotional connection elsewhere.
Enter the boyfriend.
I was in 8th grade. I went to a private school that had a “hands off” policy between those of the opposite sex so after school my boyfriend and I, I’ll call him Frank, would meet in the field across the street from the school and make out. It was such a rush. I felt loved, wanted, attractive and connected to someone that wanted a relationship with me.
These dangerous liaisons filled a big enough need in my heart that I was willing to lie to my mom about why I had to stay after school. Eventually my mom got irritated about having to pick me up late all the time so our rendezvous in the field became minimal.
It was then that I decided I was going to ride my bike to his house. It was about 6 miles of busy streets and took about 40 minutes to an hour to get there. Suffice it to say, when my parents found out what I was doing they were not happy and I was, of course, told never to do it again. There was no conversation. No concern about why I was doing it, just a strict order.
I kept going anyway.
Eventually I got caught. My dad decided the only way to get through to me was to give me a spanking. Let me be clear when I say, spanking a 14 year old is totally inappropriate, abusive and ineffective. Inflicting pain at that age to stop behavior simply creates anger, rebellion, and further disconnection.
In this case, I was not “bare bottomed” (thank God), so as my dad had me embarrassingly lay across his lap, he proceeded to beat, and I mean BEAT, the back of my thighs with the “godly stick”. The reason I know that this was a true beating, the reason I know this did not break my will, the reason I know this had nothing to do with God, is because it did not stop me from going to my boyfriends house. It did not build the relationship between my dad and I, it created distance. It made me angry and hatred formed in my heart towards my parents.
The real need to feel loved and accepted by the main man in my life was not satisfied through corporal punishment and so I entered into high school desperately seeking that connection which led to promiscuity and the loss of my virginity.
I am telling this painful story because I have held on to this for so many years and have learned some very valuable lessons.
1. Spankings are for little kids who reach for the light socket and need their hand slapped, or need a quick reminder not to run out in traffic. They need to be quick and sharp to get the attention of a small child that can’t comprehend the reason “why”.
2. I decided to limit the spankings I gave my kids and talk with them about the “why’s” of their behavior so that I could create a relationship with them based on honesty and trust.
3. Discipline for teenagers can come in so many more effective ways now-a-days. Can you say “electronics”?
4. Just because a kid asks “why” doesn’t make them “defiant”.
5. In an age of communication and information, “because I said so”, is the easy and lazy way out. (I totally have said this).
6. Breaking your child’s will vs spirit is simply rhetoric for “don’t do this again”. God has called us to obedience but He sent Jesus to be the example. Was Jesus’ example one of discipline and punishment? A strong NO. He was all about accepting “the least of these” and accepting them, sin and all. His example of acceptance was enough to change the heart of sin and rebellion.
7. The relationship a daughter has with her father has an enormous affect on the relationship she will have with God and will influence the relationships she will have with men especially her husband.
8. Abuse in the name of God is from the pit of hell and the enemy’s way of distorting our view of what love really is.
9. Parenting today needs to be more about connection in order to bring about the needed correction.
Still to this day, my dad has the mindset of the parent he was 30 years ago. I remember once we took the grandkids to visit and stay with him and my stepmom for a few days. He asked me, “what do you want us to do if they misbehave?”. Even then he was itching to inflict his authority and command submission. I looked at him and said “Nothing!” “You’re the grandpa, you should be loving on them and enjoying them, not looking to punish them.”
This story reflects one area of my life that contributes to my brokenness. The bitterness and anger is a daily battle that rears its ugly head in my own marriage. I love my husband, but I’ll be damned when there are not days when those old feelings of rebellion win over the choice to be the kind of wife I want to be. The struggle is real and one I wish I did not have to overcome because the pursuit of correction without the connection has resulted in more pain than the actual beating itself.