The Damage Done By Dr. Spock

The Damage Done By Dr. Spock

In 1946, Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote a child raising book that changed parenting styles everywhere. I am going to take some quotes of his and give a response and try to keep it biblical and from what I have seen as a result of his teachings. The majority of Americans still believe that spanking, NOT physical abuse, is still acceptable, thankfully, since they have seen how effective it is in dealing with children’s bad behavior. “In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, you are not forbidden by law to use corporal punishment on your child as long as the form of punishment is reasonable and does not cause injury.” (Here are each American state laws on it.)

“[Physical punishment] certainly plays a role in our acceptance of violence. If we are ever to turn toward a kindlier society and a safer world, a revulsion against the physical punishment of children would be a good place to start.” (p. 173) This is in direct contradiction to what God tells us in His Word. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15) “Oh, but the rod isn’t a physical instrument,” people will tell me. Really? Please study all of the verses that mention the rod and you will see that this isn’t true.

How does God discipline us? Is He only positive and encouraging? No! “For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). Chasten means “to correct by punishment; to punish; to inflict pain of reclaiming an offender; as, to chasten a son with a rod.” Scourge means “to afflict for sins or faults, and with the purpose of correction.”

Who are we to think we know better than God? No, God doesn’t mean that we should physically abuse our children in any way. We use the rod of correction as a tool to make them obey and this teaches them self-discipline which benefits them for life. Many things in God’s Word have been taken to extremes and have caused harm for people. This is not God’s way. His way ends in peace and goodness not in evil and harm.

“My other reasons for advising against physical punishment are, in brief, that it teaches children that might makes right, that it encourages some children to be bullies, and most fundamentally, that to the degree that it results in good behavior it’s because of the fear of pain. I have a strong belief that the best reason for behaving well is that you like people, want to get along with them, want them to like you.” (p. 173)

On the contrary, pain and fear are great motivators for good as I shared in the above verse about how God disciplines us. My children were all spanked when they sinned against us or others and none of them were bullies or got into physical fights with others. They were kind to others, respected authority, and were a joy to raise. A one year old can’t comprehend “liking people” as much as they can quickly comprehend a small amount of pain that is swiftly administered for disobedience.

“I don’t think physical punishment is necessary or particularly effective.” (p. 215) It sure has been for centuries before you wrote your book, Dr. Spock. Children were much better behaved than they are now. God’s ways will always trumps man’s ways.

“All schools should be friendly, creative places like the best I’ve seen. We should wean ourselves away from physical punishment.” (p. 33) When I went to elementary school, the principal had a wooden paddle in his office and he used it! Children were well-behaved for the most part. There was nothing going on like there is in the schools today. A swat on the back side is a quick, effective method against disobedience. (I just did read that 19 states still allow corporal punishment in schools.)

“Recently I visited a small private school . . . with the idea of asking children . . . what advice to parents they’d like me to incorporate in the forthcoming revision of Baby and Child Care. In a thoughtful mood, the class was unanimous that parents should not hit their children. . . One child added that if you’re crying and your parent tells you to stop and then hits you when you don’t stop, it only makes you cry more.” (p. 229-233)

And asking children how they should be disciplined is a wise thing? If he asked adults how they would like their government to run, I’m sure some immature adults would say that they shouldn’t be put in prison for abusing drugs, driving drunk, and getting tickets for speeding and running red lights. Children do NOT know best how they should be raised. Why not interview parents of adult children who are now upstanding citizens and ask how they raised their children instead?

“I hope American parents can outgrow the conviction . . . that physical punishment is necessary to bring up well-behaved children. . . [T]here are parts of the world where it has never occurred to any adult to strike a child. I have known personally or professionally dozens of families in which the parents never lifted a hand–or otherwise punished or humiliated their children–and yet the children were ideally cooperative and polite. Children are eager to be ever more grown up and responsible.” (p. 13)

Yes, I am sure parents can raise good children without ever spanking them but it takes a lot more time, energy, and effort and to tell you the truth, I haven’t seen many who are successful at it. In order for spankings to work, a parent must be consistent, firm, and loving. It doesn’t work without these three key ingredients.

“There are several reasons to avoid physical punishment. It teaches children that the larger, stronger person has the power to get his way, whether or not he is in the right. Some spanked children then feel quite justified in beating up on smaller ones. The American tradition of spanking may be one reason there is much more violence in our country than in any other comparable nation.”

No, it teaches children that they must obey and respect the authority in their lives, whether they be parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, and government which is a good thing. My children never beat up on the smaller ones. If they did, they would have been spanked and would have never done it again!

Since your book has been practiced, Dr. Spock, violence has sky-rocketed in our nation. No, thank you. I much prefer God’s ways to your ways since God is our Creator who made us and knows the right and perfect way to parent children.

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
Proverbs 19:18

9 thoughts on “The Damage Done By Dr. Spock

  1. Like I always say, talk is cheap. You can talk to a kid all you want about their behavior and they won’t change. In fact the more words you use weakens your argument and authority. And of course children are going to say they don’t like being spanked. It hurts. Just like you would struggle to find a single woman that says she likes the pain of labor.

  2. I think that most of us can agree that in most cases, it takes little or no spanking to get children to behave properly. We found that the only major test for us came once each with 3 of 4 children. There is a time about age 2 that many children decide they want to be boss and test the limits, unwilling to obey a simple command. If you win that test then stay consistent you will have their hearts for obedience forever. Lose that test and you may find they test you again and again.

    In most cases, spanking should be reserved as a modest swat to get the child’s attention, mainly used for defiance, not for mistakes. If a child knows from an early age that Mom and Dad mean business and they will not win the argument, they are likely to carry that forward into life.

    My son came home one day as a teenager and said about his best friend, “I don’t get it. E… is grounded again and we can’t go surfing together for a month and we are never in trouble like that.”

    Lori asked him why he thought that was the case and without missing a beat he said, “We learned early when ‘no’ means ‘NO’ and when it means ‘maybe.’ E… hasn’t learned that lesson yet.”

    Teach your children to obey at a young age and consider the alternatives to spanking when possible. I sometimes sit and scream with the child and carry on like they are doing until they stop knowing it’s not going to get anything from me when they are throwing an upset over something silly. I did this the other day with a grandchild and they stopped and started laughing at me. I asked them to think about what that looks like.

    I also like to tickle for the smaller infractions, especially with a child upset and moody. “If you don’t stop the mood and whining in a minute I am going to tickle you to death. Five minutes later they are back on track after being well tickled and loving life again. The tickling often includes kissing the neck where it tickles with my mustache. I am sure this would be considered abuse by Dr. Spock, but if you ask the kids they much prefer this to an angry or upset Dad or grandpa. No need to add upset to the equation… just act in as loving and caring a way possible while making sure they ultimately obey.

    I love the “No whining chair” Lori established as not one child has had to visit it yet. Just having it means business and we are not going to put up with a whiny kid who didn’t get what they wanted.

  3. I immediately thought of my sassy 15 yr. Old mouth when I read this. My mom and I were at the market and I was really being a pill. My mom gave me *the eye*, which was usually effective at my age. Welll, we were walking down frozen food (see how much I remember?!) and she denied a request I made. So, I blurt out, “Why are you being such a witch?”. And SPLAT! I got it right across the face. I was mortified. I remember no pain at all, just total shock and humiliation. I never did it again and we never spoke of it. Lesson learned… one second. I wasn’t damaged for life and I was the opposite of a bully. I was a defender.

  4. I’ve told my friends and family for years “if you can’t control them/make them mind/obey at 2-3 yrs old you will have NO control of them at 12-13 yrs old” and those are the same kids I seen going to jail/prison. We know it can happen to anyone’s child at anytime NO matter how you discipline them but I guarantee it will work in your favor if you do discipline instead of no disciplining.

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