Question:

In relation to using the rod with our sons who are 14 and 10, we started to use a switch and made changes to the way we spanked about a year ago after reading the information on your website. We talked with the boys and we all decided to use spanking in certain acts of disobedience that were decided upon ahead of time. With our oldest, it seems it is a constant struggle to get him to submit to a spanking. For instance, once he was late and he knew that to be late more than once would mean me using the rod of correction in addition to helping around the house as well. The oldest refused to be spanked. The agreed set of swats was twenty with the rod for being late and for lying where he was at. His refusal to submit to be spanked earned him extra swats. My question is, how should spanking with the rod be used when a boy refuses to submit to one and how should multiple infractions that were agreed upon between parents and kids be handled when spanking was the chosen punishment?

When I must spank my youngest son doesn't stay over my knee and gets up before all of the swats have been given. I have problems with him putting his hands in front of the switch before it strikes his bottom. Thank you for your assistance.

Answer:

The difficulty with starting to spank at a late age is that initially, children think it is not a big deal to be spanked. Thus they are willing to agree to just about any punishment so long as it remains "in theory." If you have been reading through this website, then you know that I recommend that spankings be reserved for acts of violence (hitting, throwing things, causing property damage, etc.) and acts of defiance. By defiance, I am not just talking about back talk, complaints or reluctance. Defiance is when the child knows he has done wrong and is daring you to do something about it. In these two cases, I believe that spanking is the only practical way of handling the problem.

Let's start with your fourteen-year-old. My guess is that he doesn't believe his staying out late was wrong. Thus he felt "justified" in refusing the punishment, even though it was agreed upon earlier. It is now after the fact, but what I would have recommended was giving him an alternative: either you will be home at supper time for the next month and you will be in your room each night at nine, or you can take twenty swats now. (His room, by the way, should have no entertainment, such as telephone, computer, radio, or television.) Breaking this curfew will either receive two additional days or five swats, his choice. By placing the decision to be spanked upon his shoulders, he will take the spankings if he thinks it is worth it. If he argues he shouldn't get either, then it is time to have a long talk. The talk should cover why what he did was wrong and why wrong behavior needs to be punished. Most teenagers understand this in theory. They just don't want it applied in their particular situation.

One time when I had a teenager balk at the choices, I mentioned that in twenty years or so, he will be a parent. If his child did this, how is he planning to handle it? The boy offered a very lame alternative, and I asked if he thought his offered punishment would be effective (i.e. would it change the bad behavior). He laughed and said, "not likely." I then asked why he would do that to a child. Eventually, we got back to the fact that he had no better alternative than what I offered. I reminded him that the question was not whether he liked it but whether knowing it would be administered, would it deter him from misbehaving. He eventually made his pick.

As the boy's father, if he is reluctant to receive a spanking that is deserved, you will just have to decide to wait him out. Take him to his room, find a comfortable chair, and then let him know that you plan to be there until the spanking is finished, even if it takes all night. You don't have to argue or justify yourself. He might rant and rave, but he probably knows he deserves the spanking. Take the opportunity to listen to him. Sometimes a boy rebels against a punishment because he believes he didn't get a fair hearing. Answer him calmly, point out the flaws in his reasoning, but continue to wait. Eventually, he will relent and in the future, it will be easier because he will understand that you are being reasonable, though strict.

For your younger son, simply place your arm over the small of his back while he is bent over. He won't be able to easily get up from this position. If he tries blocking the switch, just calmly tell him to put his hands back down and then wait for him to do so. Eventually, he will do so and you will be able to continue. The pause will not make that much difference in the effectiveness of the spanking.

Question:

Thanks for responding. Yesterday, when my wife went to pick up our oldest son from school, he was not where he was supposed to be. She eventually found him at a friend's house. His friend lives near the Christian school he attends. I sat him down and told him that this was totally unacceptable. I told him this punishment called for a spanking since that was the consequence of not being where he should have been. My wife and I agree I should give the spanking since he is an adolescent. After several hours, he bent over my lap and he told me he could take the 10 swats that where to be given out. I told him since this was a repeat performance it would mean 20 swats with the switch. As I spanked him my concern was that it was causing stripes on his bottom after 12 swats. I administered them one right after the other. Is there any way to use the switch so that it doesn't leave marks on his bottom?

My son and I have discussed that when he is being defiant, it is he who is choosing the spanking. So the spanking does rest on his shoulders.

Answer:

I hope that along with telling your son that going off was not acceptable, you gave him alternatives that would be acceptable, such as notifying you or your wife in advance. You want to leave it clear that visiting friends is not wrong, but not being where you are expected is wrong.

If by a mark, you are saying the skin is abraded, then you are using a switch that is too thin, which is causing a whipping action, or you are using too much force. A switch will have some give, but not so much that it bends around the bottom. Generally, a switch about the diameter of your little finger will do the trick. Instead of swatting with your whole arm, just flick your wrist. The purpose of the rod is to sting, not to cause damage. Many parents are surprised at first at how little effort is needed to switch a child. To avoid bruising, vary where the swats land on the buttocks slightly. Even then, his bottom is going to be red for several hours, but it will clear up quickly.

"Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell" (Proverbs 23:13-14).

Response:

Yes, we did let our son know that it is okay to go to his friend's homes as long as we know where he is and to be where he should be when he is being picked up. After the spanking, my oldest son came up to me and apologized. He said would be where he was supposed to be when we pick him up from school. He also said that he thought he could get away with it, but now that he sees his parents united, he knows we mean what we say and that we will enforce it.

The problem was that the switch was too big. I went out and got another one the size of my little finger. Thanks for the help.

Question:

I just wanted to write and give you an update on my son. There were acts of further disobedience but as you suggested, my wife and I outwaited our son. He continued to defy his mom by not being in the place to be picked up and so we decided that he could take the church school bus home. However, he disobeyed and didn't ride it home. My wife called me at work and I had to take off to find him. He was over a friend's house without permission. His friend's parents had no idea that their son had allowed my son to come over. In addition to this, that morning he told his mom to back off. I took him home and we had a go-around. I told him that this behavior was not acceptable. I told him to get into his room and wait for me as I went outside to cut and trim a fresh switch. I got alone and prayed before I went in to give him a spanking. Now, this is the latest one that I gave because there were two other incidents that warranted him getting a spanking. When I went in this time I told him he would receive twenty swats. He refused and I just waited in his room. I told him the spanking will occur. After a while of going back and forth, he finally gave in and bent over my knee. I took the rod and switched his backside. He let out a big holler and then I just waited a couple of seconds and flicked my wrist with the switch again across his bottom. He said, "Ouch, Dad that hurts." After four more swats, he jumped up and said, "Please dad no more." He was crying and I just got up to leave the room. I did some praying with my wife and we just let him stay in his room. After thinking we finally made a point, he was still grounded and he left the house to go with a friend to the arcade. When my wife found him, he got mad at her and he punched his little brother. My question is, was I wrong not to continue to deliver the twenty swats? If I was, what is a way to keep him in the bent position to receive the remaining swats?

How would you suggest handling this latest incident? On another note, there were so many things you hit upon that I reflected and thought about each one. I know of being consistent is one important point. I am determined to out wait him with God's help.

Answer:

Perhaps you thought to be merciful by reducing the number of swats, but you caused several side effects:

  1. You said the number of swats would be twenty, but you didn't keep your word. If you wanted to reduce the number, you should have said so beforehand, not after starting.
  2. Your son did not believe he deserved the spanking, so he would not perceive your action as merciful, just weak.
  3. Your son discovered that by screaming loud, he can get you to relent. He won't forget that any time soon.

Second, how long is your son grounded? Open-ended time frames ("You're grounded until I say otherwise") or ones that are perceived to be impossibly long to a teenager ("You're grounded until you turn 18") will not work. A teenager will decide that it is not worth the wait no matter what the punishment awaits him. Keep the grounding time to under a month. A week or two would be best. If he breaks the terms, spank him for breaking the terms, but don't increase the length of the grounding.

Third, don't keep increasing the number of swats for breaking the terms; otherwise, you will soon be up to 100 or more! Treat each incident as an independent event. You've learned how to make the spankings effective, so stick with it as is for a while. Only when you think that he is shrugging them off as minor events do you need to raise the number of swats. Judge this by his response to the spanking and not how soon he breaks a rule again.

To keep your son down for a whole spanking session, place your forearm across the small of his back. With little pressure, he will not be able to stand up if there is nothing for him to leverage against with his arms.

Fourth, it is hard to tell from your description, but it appears you are letting incidences accumulate, which means you are not punishing in a timely manner. "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Decide in advance what the punishment will be and then try to deliver it in a timely manner. For example, suppose you decide that each time your son is leaving home when he is grounded he will receive fifteen swats. When you find him and bring him home, deliver the punishment then. If an hour later he is gone again, simply find him, bring him home, and deliver the same punishment again. By doing it this way, he is "controlling" the frequency and amount of punishment he is receiving. If he complains the answer is "stay home when you're grounded and I won't have to do this." Definitely don't accumulate punishments over the week.

Fifth, the repeated violations is his way of seeing where the limits exist. He is going to push it repeatedly, back off for a while, then try again in cycles. You will know you are making headway when you see the backoff time increasing and the quantity of rule-breaking decrease in each cycle.

Finally, you have a long road ahead because of past inconsistencies. It will take time to overcome them because the past inconsistencies have taught your son stubbornness. In this test of wills, keep in mind that your goal is to get your son to be a responsible adult. Many parents during the battles forget they need to ease off the restrictions a bit a time so that a child can learn to manage life on his own. The problem you are having is that your son is wanting to move faster than you are willing to let him. I don't know all the reasons for the restrictions, I suspect he hasn't demonstrated trustworthiness, but don't forget that you must give him safe choices so that he has opportunities to practice before he gets out on his own.

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