Dawn and I believe in the disciplinary effectiveness of non-angry spanking. Our experience was that by disciplining our three children consistently and immediately–spanking when necessary–in their early years, they hardly ever needed spanking after age three.
So we were shocked the first time we heard that some parents punished their kids by forcing hot sauce into their mouths, or by forcing them into a cold shower.
I believe these methods make poor discipline for a child. Here’s why…
The Goal of Discipline
Discipline isn’t primarily about punishment; it’s about training. Nor is it primarily about good behavior; it’s about instilling good values. From a parent’s perspective, discipline isn’t primarily about avoiding stress or frustration or public embarrassment, either. Good behavior is just a byproduct good discipline, not the goal.
A parent’s first responsibility in parenting is to verbally teach, and model with their lifestyle, that which is intrinsically good to their children. To be a child is to lack self-discipline, self-control, patience, industry, truthfulness, and other-awareness. So, children must be taught the inherent rightness and goodness of values like:
- Other-awareness/compassion/thoughtfulness (“I am not the center of all things.”)
- Truthfulness (“It is not good to manipulate people to do and think what I want.”)
- Self-control (“Patience with life and others leads to long-term good in my life and relationships.”)
If instilling values like these is the goal, what methods are most effective in young children?
Three Ways To Fail
You’ve probably seen parents who coddle and spoil, and the occasional parents who intimidate and terrorize. And most commonly, you’ve seen exasperated parents who did their level best to pretend their ill-behaving pre-schoolers were silent and invisible, like the mom who once told me, “Sometimes it’s just easier to ignore them.” If you’re average like me, you can relate to all the alternating emotions that tempt you to parent in these ways.
But, all three approaches–to indulge, intimidate, or ignore–are a failure to properly train and teach. What do children learn from being indulged?–That their wish should be everyone’s command. From intimidation?–Fear and resentment. From being ignored?–that the only way to get the attention they crave is to act really, really badly.
Hot Sauce and Cold Showers
We believe hot sauce and cold showers, along with yelling, threatening, and hitting in anger are behaviorally-focused intimidation methods that only teach children fear. Children punished with these methods learn that they are conditionally accepted only if their behavior is good, and that might makes right.
Some parents may threaten these punishments as a way to elicit truth when they detect a lie. But, like a torture victim, a child will say anything out of fear of pain, and the real value of truth-telling is not learned.
Discipline, Restoration, and the Gospel
Intrinsically good values are taught primarily in repeated teaching conversations, not in the moment of punishment. If you are a parent of young children, make it a priority to talk with your children to build your ability to listen to them, to understand them, to communicate you care about them, and to be heard best by them.
When punishment is necessary, don’t aim for instilling fear. Don’t use methods that only allow you to vent your anger or prove you are in control. Use methods that aim to reinforce the inherently good values you teach. Punishment should be over quickly and be immediately followed by reassurance of unconditional, parental love.
If you are a Christian, this pattern may feel familiar to you. It’s the pattern of law and gospel. God gives us His good law first to teach what He expects of us. He then shows us how we have broken His good law. He corrects us again and again. But lastly, he promises forgiveness through His Son, the mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, and ultimately reconciles us to Himself through him.
Let that pattern be the model for your parental discipline.
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5 thoughts on “Why Hot Sauce and Cold Showers Make Poor Discipline”
That’s GOOD Lon! Thanks. I’m going to share it. My dad used pepper on my tongue when i was young because I lied. All it made me do was resent him for it. He “disciplined” in anger all the time, hitting or kicking, used a belt or a stick (whatever he could get his hands on), and when i was a teen, he would bust my lip open all the time. I do not agree with that kind of discipline. It took many years for God to heal me of that. As an adult, i chose to discipline my kids using spankings (not in anger) along with open communication about what they did wrong. Instead of growing up fearing me, they learned respect and understanding. Praise God.
Stephanie, thanks for sharing! How shocking and sad to hear though. I’m grateful that God cares enough to heal us of all the wounds we receive in this life. Blessings, Lon
Good read, Lon. I am the middle son of my parents 3 boys. I can honestly say that I cannot remember a time when we acted in any way that was disrespectful or rude to my parents. I say this because I don’t remember much before my 3rd or 4th year of birth. I always knew if I did something like lie, steal, being disrespectful to an adult, throwing a temper tantrum or anything else that is deemed bad behavior, my dad would deal with us. Yes there were times when we got a spanking and it wasn’t so much physical as it was mental. We learned early in age that bad behavior had consequences.
I remember neighbors and family members telling my parents “Your boys are so well behaved”. That was because my parents were parents. They never tried to be our friends, they were our parents. They were the ones we looked to for guidance and relied on for proper instruction on how to be good citizens.
I am not a parent, but I can tell you this….very few parents today are parents. I see it every day. Some parents today want the approval of their children and want so badly to be liked by their children and that is where the problem starts. Just my opinion.
Love this. Totally agree. Thanks for sharing!
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