My son continues to backtalk us and punches his younger brother


I just wanted to say thanks for contending for the faith, in relation to the person who wrote you against the Bible. I need further help with my son, who is 14. My wife and I have set the punishment for disobedience for both our sons. In addition to moving along if there are repeated infractions, my son has not heeded to well with the taking away privileges, extra chores, and groundings. He has talked back to my wife, continues to backtalk even when given the extra punishments, and he is still not where he is supposed to be. In addition, he continues to torment his younger brother by punching him and pushing him around. My wife caught him in a lie when he was not at the place he said he was at. I told him to stay in his room and I would decide the next course of action.

The last time I spanked him, it was a long time before he complied with it and bent over my lap. I took the switch and spanked his bottom in rapid swats. A couple of hours later, he told his brother the spanking didn't hurt and he was going to still do what he wanted. My wife and I decided to cancel a trip he was going to go on at church. My question is how would you handle the situation in regards to administering the spanking to make it more effective. How should I spank when there are things that he has done for multiple infractions that call for using the rod? Thanks for the help.


My greatest difficulty in helping resolve problems is that I only get a short description of what is happening presented from one person's point of view. The true problem might be something entirely different, but because the focus is on one spot, the clues concerning the true problem are missed. The description you gave makes me suspect that something is being overlooked that is key to the problem. However, I must go with what I have.

First, it appears that while you are setting out punishments for misbehaviors your son is attempting to wear you down by continuing to do as he pleases. There are three basic causes for this:

  1. the punishment is not consistently given,
  2. the punishment is not timely given, or
  3. the punishment is not enforced.

Since I don't have the family available to figure out where the problem lies, bear with me a moment as I describe the situations.

In order for a punishment to help alter a bad behavior, it must be delivered each and every time the bad behavior occurs. If not, a gambler's view sets in the child. If he knows that sometimes he can get away with misbehavior, then he begins to gamble that this next misdeed might go unpunished, so therefore it is "worth" the risk. The problem for parents who are readjusting their approach to child-rearing late in life is the fact that there is a long history of unpunished bad behavior. A child looks at all the years he got away with things and then decides that this punishment thing is just a fad. He figures he can outlast you and eventually you will give in to his way of thinking. This is why God told Israel that He would be willing to punish their sins even to the third or fourth generation (Exodus 34:7). In other words, what God was telling Israel was they would not outlast God's efforts to keep them in line.

This requirement can be wearing on parents when they are trying to change the ingrained behavior of a misguided child. For a while, it will seem that you just finished punishing your son when you turn around and have to do it again. We live in a society that looks for instant solutions. A punishment, by itself, will rarely change the course of a child determined to do mischief. It will take repeated, consistent application before the message is received that bad behavior will not be tolerated. It will also take solid instruction and rebukes along with the punishment.

Even when punishment is consistently given, if there is a significant delay in its delivery, then the child retains a satisfaction of having done as he pleased despite the punishment. "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly" (Proverbs 13:24). Solomon tells us why, "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).

The third tactic that throws parents for a loop is when a child attempts to overwhelm his parents by piling one misbehavior on top of another. For example, if your son was not where he was supposed to be and the decided punishment was grounding for a week, but two days later he simply leaves to be with friends, what do you do? Most parents throw up their hands and say it is impossible and they give up. The answer is that another, different punishment needs to be added to the one already in place. You can't extend the current punishment because he has already demonstrated a willingness to ignore it. Soon you would have him grounded until he was eighty. Since leaving during grounding is an act of defiance, I would leave whatever I was doing to locate the child, take him immediately home, give him a spanking, and re-emphasize that he is grounded for a week. Each and every time, he would receive the same treatment. In other words, each misdeed is treated as an individual event.

I don't know how you were punishing his hitting his younger brother, but I would treat it as an act of violence and that would receive a spanking.

The backtalk depends on what you call backtalk. Parents of teenagers need to expect that there will be grumbling and attempts to talk their way out of chores or punishment. The simplest solution is to demonstrate that nothing changes. But if by backtalk you mean that your son curses his mother out because she sends him to his room, then it is an act of defiance which should be punished by spanking soon after you get home. The concern that you should have is that verbal abuse will evolve into physical abuse over time. The time to stop such is immediate.

You mentioned that your son claimed that the last spanking wasn't so bad. Are you sure it wasn't posturing by a teenage boy who wants to look tough to his younger brother? Since you delivered the spanking, did it appear to you that it didn't phase him? If such was the case, then increase the number of whacks by five from here on out and see if that makes a difference. Wait for a few more incidences and if it still not phasing him, increase the number again. Using the old Jewish rule of not going beyond forty, if the number of whacks is getting high, then look at how you are delivering them. Space the strokes out so that each one stings. Doing many in rapid succession just causes the bottom to get numb. If spanking over pants is not working, then do it with his pants down.

You also mentioned that it took a while before he relented to being spanked. That is to be expected. The important point is that he accepted it. I would expect that the next few times will be even longer because, despite his bragging, he will not be looking forward to another round. Remember that you are the adult, demonstrate the patience that you have learned of the years and out wait him.


I shared with my wife the observations you made. She thought also it was giving into him. You were right that our son thought the spanking was weak. My wife caught him telling his brothers that when it comes to being spanked just scream loud and dad will stop. When she told me this, I told her the next time it was on the list of spanking offenses for our son, I would not give in so quickly. As you so said, you can't keep them grounded until they're adults. Yes, there were times that I had not been consistent with it. I took our son out for a father-son chat and listen to what he had to say. I told him from now on out we would stick to the groundings and spankings as needed. I didn't let him know what his mom overheard. After a couple of days, he got mad and threw a game controller at his brother. I saw what happened and, of course, he tried to pass the buck. Spanking is now an automatic discipline when the boys hit each other. I took him into his room and told him that this was not acceptable and would not be tolerated. I left him in his room while I went to pray and get the switch. When I came in, I told him to bend over my knee. He tried to worm his way out of it, but I told him it was up to him that he was delaying the spanking. He eventually bent over my lap. I told him he would receive twelve swats with the switch. He let out a loud outburst and said "Twelve!" I took the switch and spanked him the twelve swats with a few seconds in between. He told me afterward that was the worse switching he ever had and his bottom was stinging awfully bad. I told him that hitting his brother causes your bottom to hurt as a reminder not to do it again. I am telling you it does work. It was my fault for allowing the disobedience to continue and I have asked my family for forgiveness. Thanks for your help. I did need to hear how I was weak in the spanking I had given earlier.


I hope you noticed that your son is still trying to pull the sympathy card to get you to relent. Not just the objection to the number of swats, he stated that it was the worse spanking and the stinging lasted were probably said in hopes that next time you will do it less effectively. Your answer was perfect in that it deflected his attempt to place the blame for his punishment on you and put it squarely back on it is the result of his misbehavior. I'm glad you also are not delaying the punishment long after the misdeed and that you are putting more emphasis on teaching him how to behave properly. All of this will eventually create improvements over time.

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