What I've learned about disciplining Will

Posted by  | Wednesday, February 13, 2008  at 8:47 PM  
Once again, I am humbled after reading Leah's very thorough and well written post about discipline. I don't feel like I have much to offer, so I plan to just give you a quick list of things we've learned about disciplining Will who is now 20 months old. I know the Lord is still teaching my husband and I so much about how to discipline according to scripture and how we are to practically carry this out in our home. Here are some things I have learned:

1. Jacob (my husband) and I must be on the same page when it comes to disciplining Will. Through prayer and many discussions we have realized in several situations where we weren't on the same page and had some pretty different expectations. Thankfully, we have learned this pretty early on and now discuss and "debrief" disciplining on a regular basis.

2. Encouraging each other that we are doing the right thing is also important as well. Sometimes it is very tempting to the take the easy way out when it comes to training our son. (Especially for me!) But by communicating regularly with each other, searching scripture and again through prayer, we can be encouraged that we are in fact fulfilling our role as parents.

3. I think this has been said on this blog before (maybe in an earlier week?) but something I have recently been praying about it is expecting first time obedience. It is so easy to find myself threatening action with "If you do it again, I'm going to spank you..." or something along those lines. He already knew he was disobeying by throwing his food down, yet he did it anyways. There is really no need for a warning in this situation because we are both clear on the expectation. This warrants immediate correction. Currently, at the dinner table we use the wooden spoon and pop his hand.

4. I liked Brandy's comment on Leah's post about "putting on" certain behaviors or attitudes in place of the wrong ones. I thinks he said this came from the Ginger Plowman book, but I'm not positive. I'd really like to get my hands on that book because this is something we've recently been trying to do with Will, although not to the same level that I'm sure she uses it with my niece who is almost 3. Brandy's example was replacing a complaining attitude with thankfulness (in my words). Will's is not exactly to that point, but we do use this same concept on a level more age appropriate for him. For example, he has developed a bad habit of YELLING the word "please" (except it sounds like "bees"). It is very demanding and rude sounding. We are in the process of trying to teach him to say it nicely and to respond with thank you. This isn't exactly a character issue such as thankfulness, but the concept is the same and I'm sure we'll expand this idea as Will gets older and comprehends more.

5. The main area that I'm struggling with right now is how to discipline Will in public. Again, it is very tempting to take the easy way out and not follow through on discipline usually for fear of what others might think. The other issue is also the logistics of implementing strategies when you are away from home. I am sure there are plenty of people out there that would look on with judgement when I pop my 20 month old for disobeying. I know it is wrong for me to neglect my God given responsibility for fear of the world, but this is a real temptation and something we are working through right now.

Any thoughts on how discipline strategies are implemented in public situations as opposed to the home?

Sorry for the delay in posts this week - it must be a busy week for everyone! (I personally have no excuse for the delay in making my post. For those that don't read our blog - I am on bedrest now with my 2nd pregnancy and spend 75% of the time lying on my side on the couch!) Please the comments and questions coming!


Rachael Davis said...


We are also struggling through and praying over how to discipline our 18 month old in public.

In our home, disobedience and defiance always result in a spanking, the heart behind that being that disobedience and defiance toward God always results in pain and suffering. We want to teach Allana to obey us (the first time!) so that she will know how to obey God (the first time!).

With all of that being said, I want to always discipline my child in love, without humiliation being a part of it at all. Spanking most children (if not all of them) in public is humiliating for them, and not the point of discipline at all. But Lana is 18 months old - if I take her to the restroom or anothe room in our home, will she remember what she is being spanked for?

I am hopeful someone will have wisdom to share - this is so close to my heart right now that my eyes welled up with tears when I read that part of your post.

Thank you for sharing with us.

Leah said...

My two cents on spanking in public: I have been known to give Samuel a swat on the bottom when I am training him to do something, but I do not spank him in public. The difference between swat and spank for me is that a swat is a tap on the bottom to enforce the word "no" and is used when teaching right vs. wrong behavior. A spank is harder (usually delivered in a set of 3 for us) and is used when Samuel has defiantly disobeyed a directive. Example: At 9 months, I wanted to teach Samuel to sit in the cart in a store and not stand up. When he would stand, I would say "no" and put him back down. Then I added a swat (remember swat=tap on bottom) with the "no" to emphasize the point. I only had to swat twice for him to learn and sit still. Fast forward: At the grocery store last week Samuel took some things off a shelf and threw them after receiving a warning. He disobeyed; he has learned at home that this is unacceptable behavior. I did not spank him - I picked him up, told him "no" and moved on. He is too young to remember what happened long enough to spank later in the car or at home. I just did what I could with "no" and removed him from the situation. In my opinion, this is the best way to deal with public discipline with a younger child. The majority of training and discipline happens in the home and that is where I must be consistent. There will be times when in public when I can't discipline as I would at home. But if I'm being consistent at home, that should cut down on the times of disobedience when out in public.

My reason for not disciplining in public is because other people don't see the complete plan of discipline that we use with Samuel - they will see me spank him and assume whatever they want. I don't want others to think that I condone spanking the way the world presents it - hitting a child in anger. I don't think this is fear of the world or judgment from others - I just don't want to allow others to associate the way I discipline Samuel with the abuse that so many people associate with the practice of spanking.

Christina said...

I'm so glad to know I'm not alone in struggling with this. Thanks for sharing Rachael!!

Great perspective Leah! That is pretty much what we have been doing - but I guess I was doubting if it was best. I think you're right that if there is consistency at home, times when discipline is needed in public will be less.

allison said...

How early is it okay to begin using spanking or swatting? Is there any way to know when a child knows and understands this action is given for wrong behavior?

I am pregnant with our first and am trying to glean as much as I can from those who have already gone through these stages.

Christina said...

I think we started popping Will's hand around 12 months. Looking back, I KNOW he understood way earlier than this and we could have started earlier. Leah mentioned swatting Samuel's behind at 9 months. I do remember it becoming VERY apparent to us when Will understood exactly that he was disobeying and what the consequence was. I'm not sure there is a magic age because every child is different. I would definitely say that it is probably earlier than you would think when they are capable of understanding discipline and swats or pops. :)

Terra said...

My son is 10 months...and I can TELL he knows what he is doing.

I'll tell him no, and a swat on the hand and redirection. He'll turn right back around, look at me, give me a precious smile and do it over. As soon as he started doing that (about 8.5/9 months) smiling and then repeating the action, I realized that he knew he was disobeying. He gets swats on the hand, unless it is something that could harm him (trying to climb on the coffee table, etc...) then it's a pop on the bottom.

Even though he can't repeat back to me why he's being disciplined, I still tell him why I'm popping/swatting (whatever you want to call it). I'm trying to get in the habit of praying with him after the disciplining as well, so that when he's older that will be well established.

((Hollie, I know, you can't believe Keaton EVER gets in trouble!! haha...come by some day!)) ;-)

Jen said...


thanks for your post. My kids are finally getting to the age where if they disobey in public, I can delay the punishment until we are at home or in the car. I know they remember because they can tell me what they did that deserves the spank. My struggle now is with follow through. If I told them they'd get a spank when they got home for that behavior then I better do it, no matter how good they are being afterwards or when we get home. I need to be consistent in delivering consequences for their actions if I say I will. I also need to be careful not to promise a spank if I am not willing to follow through. As always, meaning what you say and doing what you mean. :)

by the way everyone, as requested I posted some of our more daily memory making traditions. I hope that is ok that is is a week late.


Shannon said...

On the subject of disciplining in public: our pastor's son, who is a very wise and godly dad, caught his 2-year-old son by the elbow the other day, while he was doing something wrong, and said, "son, don't do that."

A minute later, the little boy did it again, and the dad caught him by the elbow again, gave him a swift spank and said, "daddy said don't do that," and then very sincerely said, "I love you, son."

Later, someone who had seen the entire encounter remarked to me how impressed she was with that form of discipline, and how it even encouraged her to make sure she disciplined in love.

The whole scenario taught me that even though I don't have the answers about disciplining in public, there are times it CAN be used by God to encourage others & perhaps change their thinking about discipline altogether.

Isn't it great to have so many moms & dads who are striving to do God's will in this? It is so encouraging to me to read each person's ideas and comments.

markandmeg said...

We started disciplining our sweet baby when she was about 7 1/2 months old and started trying to stand up in the bathtub and roll around on the changing table. We just say "No, Karis" and if she doesn't immediately stop, we swat her hand. Now that she is 8 1/2 months and crawling into everything, this has become so valuable and she really listens! She always stops what she is doing and looks at us (sometimes she will then continue the action, but we know she heard and knows what we meant because she always stops initially, ha, ha :) We decided not to really "baby-proof" our house because we wanted her to have boundaries and learn to listen at home so she would also obey in public. Another thing we are doing is to sign the word "no" when we say it so that when she is a little older we won't have to loudly say "no" in public if she can see our fingers (for instance, if she is trying to sit still in our lap during church :) And she is becoming very aware of what that sign means even now! It is hard to be consistent because she is just so sweet and cute, but we can already see that it is working so that helps us to continue. Thank you all so much for your advice; I can't wait to learn more on this issue!
Meagan DeLong

Christina said...

I like the idea of signing the word no! We did signs with Will - but I never taught him no. That would be very handy in situations (like church) where we needed to be quiet! Thanks for all the comments everyone!

NotesbyNewsome said...

Hi! In regards to the discipline in public....if James is misbehaving in public I either A. Pull him over someplace private and discipline him, or B. I use the method learned in my education class...I get very very close to him and say very low (just between the two of us) what he's doing wrong and what he needs to be doing. The second is often more effective. Also, If I discipline James in public I totally ignore if he starts to cry (even loudly). Because most often he's hoping I'll quiet him or try to make him happy so he won't make so much noise. Once he realizes that I don't care how much noise he makes I'm still sticking to my guns then he drops it and follows behind. It's super-tough but I try very hard to be confident about my parenting in public...people can think what they want, he's my child and I'm going to enforce the rules. Just think...you'll never win with others anyway...if you discipline, they'll say, "she shouldn't be so tough on that child" and if you don't, then they'll say, "I can't believe she lets them get away with that!" Hope this helps! Love the blog ladies!!!


Emily said...

The underlying issue in all of these comments is the intersection of home and public. Several issues should be considered, among them:
1. What kind of ministry are we missing out on by not showing others how we handle disobedience by graciously following through- and actively modeling what God does in our lives? How many other mothers, or grandmothers, will be amazed by our not undermining our husbands with the children and actually following through?
2. What kind of public places are we talking about here? I find that there are many times that the shopping trip is much more about my desires, or my lack of organization, less about God's call for my day. There have been several times that I have gone to a store to accomplish a task, left my cart and choices and returned to the car to discipline my child/children and then returned to the store with the mental framework that I was going to get nothing accomplished but a bit of training- everything else was bonus. There is a danger in doing to much and dragging your kids around to ministry, or even hanging out with other godly moms. There are times during training, that it is important to be home establishing a foundation.
3. My personal mantra on this topic these days has been: "God says children are a blessing, so if they aren't I must be doing something wrong." It can be an oversimplification of life- but the fact of the matter is my children can be such ministers of God's grace and glory when they are obedient. I am willing to be looked askance at for following through and slapping my daughters hand if I can spend ten minutes at the checkout telling the cashier that no, we aren't done with three children, and that yes they are a blessing. . . because they are created to be.
4. The importance of a "put-on" it doesn't matter where I am, store, someones home, bathroom, church, etc. If my daughter is about to handle something breakable I can say "Eleanah, put your hands in the air." By giving her a behavior to do I am much more specific then, "No, don't" which could apply to her location, her hand behavior, what she is saying, etc. And by the time she figures it out and obeys she has dropped the breakable in her nervousness to obey. It is getting late and I am rambling, but put ons are key. God is very clear with them in Eph 5.

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