7: Jumping on the Bed / Continued Disobedience
Question: Our 22 month old is still in a crib. She has been taught not to climb out, but jumping in her crib or on her sisters bed is a problem. Last week I spanked her three times in a row for jumping on her sisters bed. Each time she jumped was a deliberate disobedient act in my presence to the directive just given which as "no jump." She actually disobeyed four times in a row but I was not going to spank her again, instead I put in her in her crib for a bit. This is a very smart toddler and I know she understands what I tell her. She is very verbal and is able to communicate in three to six word sentences. Should I have spanked her a fourth time or spanked harder?
Response: It is difficult to address spanking because we don't know exactly what that looks like in different people's homes. That said, most of the questions people with little ones have seem to deal with discipline, and I think it is important to address some practical matters of discipline.
First of all, let me say this. You and your husband are in the best position to evaluate the situation. In Hebrews 12:10 it says that "our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best." In the same way, you will need to discipline your child as you think best. Study the Word, get godly counsel, discuss the situation with your spouse, and try to follow God's direction to the best of your ability. That is faith lived out in real life! God will bless that. I'm saying that just to stress that you shouldn't do something just because Kathleen and I do it, or because some author says it, but make sure that what you do is based on your own conviction.
I'd be hesitant to even address this question without going into several pages of background if you were not already grounded in some of the basics of discipline. (If someone is reading this and is not familiar with spanking, I'd encourage you to study out this issue more before implementing it. Maybe this e-mail can just serve to get you to start chewing on this topic a little.) Let me review of few of the important basics:
- Spanking is biblical. (Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:13,14; 29:15)
- Discipline is loving. (Proverbs 3:11,12; 13:24; Hebrews 12:5-11; Revelation 3:19)
- Make sure your instruction is clear and simple. "No jump" is nice and clear. A child who communicates in 3 to six word sentences either understands "no jump," or can figure it out pretty quickly. If she can respond to simple commands like "shut the door" or "pick up the toy," then I'd guess she can grasp "no jump."
- Spanking is most appropriate for clear rebellion. When you give clear instruction and she clearly defies it, spanking is certainly appropriate.
- Spank on the bottom. The bottom is very fleshy and almost seems designed for such purposes. Spanking other parts of the body could cause injury to your child.
- Use a wooden dowel rod or something similar. Using your hand is harder to control, and requires more force (and is therefore more likely to injure). Using a rod most closely follows the biblical pattern. In addition, if you're in the habit of using a rod you are less likely to give your child a spur of the moment fly-off-the-handle type of swat. Using a rod also helps the child associate the rod with discipline, instead of associating your hand with discipline.
- Stay controlled. If you feel like you're losing control let your spouse take over, or cool off for a few minutes. (I don't know about you, but nothing gets my goat like blatant disobedience right after I've given one of my kids instruction. Just like my child needs to control his or her fleshly rebellion, I need to control my fleshly anger.)
Okay, with all those things in mind, I'd recommend that you and your spouse pray about continuing to lovingly discipline until you win. If a child learns that she can win after a certain number of corrections, then she may learn to push it to the limit every time she wants to challenge your authority. If she knows that she just flat out will not win, then she should eventually realize that she might as well obey after the first time rather than entering into a battle she knows she's going to lose.
Jumping on the bed is really not the issue. It will not be a life long problem. However, rebellion is an ongoing struggle for all of us, and it is the issue you are addressing. That is why it is important to get her to yield-not just to quit jumping on the bed.
Should you spank harder? You should only spank harder if you are not spanking hard enough. :) Aren't you glad you asked? Seriously, I'm reluctant to give input on that without actually being there to assess it first hand or at least going into more depth (which I will eventually). Again, you and your spouse can pray about that as well and trust God's leading.
There is a great example loving discipline in the book Growing up Whitney (pages 34-37). It is very intentional, purposeful, persistent, and loving. On Rick Whitney's website there is also access to a booklet called "Under Loving Command". Go to www.gcnwdads.com and click on article #90. This booklet provides a nice overview of discipline.