Maudlin and Associates ™
Karen Maudlin
Psy.D., CPCC
Kenneth Davison
Cindy Takiguchi
Manette Galván Turner
Robert Gregory
Daniel Doebler
Trevor Simpson

"My husband and I disagree on how to discipline our very active 2-year-old son. My husband uses a belt to spank our son when he misbehaves, but I feel like he's being too harsh. Whenever we talk about this issue, we end up fighting. My husband doesn't seem willing to change his mind, so I'm not sure what to do."

A. There is no doubt that using a belt to spank a child is too harsh by any standard, Christian or legal. It is nearly impossible to punish a child with a belt without leaving bruises, the standard for child abuse in our country. Christians disagree about whether spanking is an effective or appropriate punishment at all. For those who feel it must be used, here are some key guidelines for using it responsibly:

Spankings should never occur when a parent is angry. An angry person is unable to regulate the pressure of the spanking, which is absolutely necessary when using physical punishment with a child.

There should be a designated number of strokes (usually one to three maximum).

The spanking should be given with an open hand on a fully clothed child. Never use an implement such as a spoon or a belt for the reasons mentioned. When the Bible says not to "spare the rod" (Proverbs 13:24), it's saying that parents need to set limits and discipline their children. It is not advocating abuse.

The reason for the punishment should be explained to the child first. Specifically identify the inappropriate behavior. Never tell a child he is bad—always clarify it was the poor behavior that lead to the consequence.

The child should be given time to prepare himself mentally before he is spanked.

Immediately following the spanking the child should be embraced and comforted and reassured that he is loved.

Research shows that spanking can often produce violent behavior in children. This is not surprising. I disagree with spanking as a primary form of instruction. It is often more a reflection of parental frustration than a well-thought-out form of discipline. If you believe you must spank, use it only in rare circumstances and as a consequence for specifically targeted behavior, such as ignoring a safety warning.

If your husband is not willing to hear your concerns about the way your children are disciplined, I'd recommend you meet with a Christian counselor. This person can help you listen to each other and develop methods of discipline that you can both feel good about.