Tuesday Topic: Culturally Acceptable Discipline

This week’s Tuesday Topic has to do with a conflict between government law and what many consider to be a Biblical and or an important part of discipline.

From Kylene: Here in Denmark spanking your child is illegal. Are there any other ladies living in countries where they are not allowed to spank their children?

Please share your wisdom and experiences with Kylene and the rest of us in the comments! Kylene’s daughter is about to turn one with discipline becoming more of an issue, so this is a pressing issue for her. Also, are there any other scenarios that you have encountered where the form of discipline that you believe is best differs from the cultural norm? How does this affect you and how do you handle it?

(If you would like to pose a “Tuesday Topic” question to the readers here, please send it to: formissionarymoms@gmail.com)

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14 Responses to “Tuesday Topic: Culturally Acceptable Discipline”


  1. 1 Carrie March 2, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I assume the laws in my host country allow spaking because kids at the school in our village are spanked. Or get their ears pulled.

    However, regardless of what is permissable in public, I believe that if one spanks, it should be done at home. I remember being spanked in front of others and it was humiliating. Consistent proper discipline at home makes public discipline unnecessary, in my opinion. I am raising five children that way and it works.

    As an aside, I’m not sure spanking is always the answer. But that’s another topic for another time…

  2. 2 Janna March 2, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    We decided not to spank our children (actually based on our Biblical research) although I am sure it’s legal here (in Portland, Oregon). Anyway, to anser the question for Kylene in Denmark (can we hear more about Denmark? maybe a guest post? I know nothing about it and I imagine your life there is very interesting), we’ve found the book, “Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years” to be a huge help in our discipline strategy w/out spanking. Not sure if that really answered the question, but hope this helps! 🙂

  3. 3 Ashley L March 2, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Wow, this is a hard one! Curious, what are the consequences if you do spank? Of course we are clearly to obey authorities set over us, but not when it conflicts with the will of God. I know even among Christians, some believe spanking to be necessary to disciplining Biblically, and some are fine with not spanking at all. Are your convictions that it is necessary to discipline this way, or is it more based on your belief that it is simply more effective than other forms exclusively? Either way it is hard! We are allowed to spank where we live, but I can imagine what a challenge this would be! (Like Carrie mentioned, and most people who spank believe I think, spanking isn’t our only form of discipline, but we do spank for certain things, and again, only at home, and feel it is quite effective in maintaining a happier home with less necessary discipline over all.). I look forward to what others have to share as I don’t feel like I have expert advice, but one thing that I would do is study the word and this issue and seek God to establish my convictions firmly on whether I feel it is best for parents in all circumstances or not. Is it right to go against the law in this situation, or is it right to accept that your circumstance might mean that you have to not use spankings as part of your discipline? Both things are discussed in scripture (obeying authorities and discipline with “the rod”) and I guess I would just pray and ask God to reveal which one He holds in higher authority over the other. I trust that God will provide for whatever situation He leads you to! Thank you for the great question, Kylene!

    Also, one issue as far as discipline that I anticipate facing is in the school setting. Some schools here are still very shame based. We want to try national schools, but are not ok with our kids being shamed. It will be a big learning process to wade through that! We hope for the best of both worlds, a national school that doesn’t use this form of discipline.

  4. 4 Andrea @ The Train To Crazy March 2, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Very interesting topic! There are many great resources out there for Biblical, wonderful ways to discipline without spanking so I hope you find success with those. Even within the United States not all forms of spanking that some Christians use is actually legal!

  5. 5 susanmarie March 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Well I’m betting I’ll get shot down here =) but we do spank. We do it seldom, but there are those occasions… When done WELL in the right way – intentionally, calmly, and with love – I believe it’s a good form of discipline. Just my opinion. =)

    If you’re curious as to frequency, I’d say my 5-year-old gets spanked once every 2 months or so and my 3-year-old has been spanked probably just once in her life. [I should say that they are not strong-willed or we might find that we would need to spank a little more often.] We generally use time-outs and a marble system for discipline.

    Anyway, I have heard that spanking here (Germany) is illegal. But I feel fine with not adhering to that at home. (I would never spank in public whether legal or illegal.)

    I would probably disagree (in a friendly way =) with Carrie’s comment that: “consistent proper discipline at home makes public discipline unnecessary.” I’m sure that is true for many children. But I’m guessing there are many very strong-willed kids for whom that cannot always be said. Just wanted to mention that in case anyone read that and found themselves feeling like a bad parent since their child sometimes misbehaves in public. =)

  6. 6 Sarah March 2, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    I’m enjoying reading the replies and look forward to the rest of them because we find ourselves in the same situation as we have recently moved from the Philippines to Norway, where it is also illegal to spank. (We’re just around the corner from you! :-))

    Our children are now 5 and 3 (almost 4) so we had their earliest years in places where we were had the “freedom” to spank. I liked what Ashley L. said and we feel the same about spanking. We believe that it is biblical (if done in a proper manner and with the parent having a right heart/attitude), yet do not believe that it is the only form of discipline and reserved it only for certain situations in our home. At the same time, we don’t believe that it is worth risking the penalty for breaking the law to spank our children here in Norway. Like others have said here, you can successfully discipline your children without spanking and that book that Janna mentioned sounds like something that would be interesting to read. I want to look it up for myself.

    I do know that there are believers here that choose to spank, but they do it VERY seldom, VERY quietly (this is a topic that no one ever talks about), and only in the first few years. (Quitting by the time their children go to day-care or begin school, because teachers may try to question children. And in all honesty, their questions are a good thing because there is way too much child abuse going on nowadays…even in Christian homes under the excuse of “biblical spanking.” So sad.) With all this in mind since our oldest will soon be starting school, we quit spanking him several months before we moved here and try to not even say the word around him anymore. For our 3-year-old, we are doing the same with her for now, but still are praying for wisdom because there have been some discipline issues lately with her that have been very hard to address with just talking/time-outs/privileges taken away/etc. And we’ll have challenges in the future if/when we have another baby in knowing how to handle the early-early years, like you are now finding yourself in with your little girl…

    I think one of the most important things in disciplining, regardless of whether you believe in spanking or not, is to be consistent. (Yes meaning yes, no meaning no, expect obedience the first time EVERYtime, consequences for disobedience, etc.) And pray, pray, pray for wisdom…every day…in every situation…

    And now I’m starting to ramble a bit, but just wanted to share some of our thoughts with you since I’m in the same situation as you are. Like others have said, continue asking the Lord for wisdom and guidance in this area, and stay encouraged no matter what decision you and your husband come to. I know there are some Christians who would strongly insist that you cannot raise godly and obedient kids without spanking (and they might even go as far as say that you are disobeying God if you don’t spank your children) but I COMPLETELY disagree with that. (I have experienced a bit of that from “well-meaning” people back in America who really don’t understand the situation we’re in here in Scandinavia.) I look forward to hearing what any others have to say about this. 🙂

  7. 7 Kylene Bak March 2, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Thank you Sisters for your responses I really appreciate your words. Being a first time Momma there are always so many questions at each stage of development with your first child. I have never believed in only spanking as a form of discipline. I think that each child is so different so therefore various types of training and discipline are necessary. I use the word training because it is so much more than just about discipline it is about training the children God has given us and not just disciplining. Just to give you all a bit of where my heart is at in this. I asked the question about spanking because I think that it is one tool in the discipline/training box. And I also do not want to just ignore the Scriptures that talk about disciplining with “the rod” nor disobey the authority in the land I live in. So I was interested in hearing feedback from other missionaries if they have been in the same situation. My husband who is danish did not grow up with being spanked but is not closed to the idea totally. I on the other hand did grow up with spanking as a form of discipline. Since I wrote Ashley this question I have done some research on my own as well. Asking danish Christian and non christian moms alike. I have also been reading a book by Moms On Call about raising toddlers. Which has been a huge help in forming my role as the mom of a toddler. But I will also check out the book that you mentioned Janna. To tell you a bit about Denmark it is probably one of the most liberal countries in the world when it comes to just about everything. Kind of like Seattle, WA I have been told only even more so. As parents we all have a huge challenge before us of raising our children to be counter cultural. So we need to encourage and support one another in this mission. It is just sometimes you feel like you are the only one and need affirmation of what you know to be true. And then ask for the Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom we need. Thanks so much for helping a sister out. Love in Him

  8. 8 Ashley L March 3, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I have enjoyed reading each person’s thoughts and advice! Though we do spank and feel that it is the right thing for our kids (especially for our very strong willed little girl for whom other forms of discipline often are not as effective), I am definitely interested in reading some of the Christian training(love that delineation, Kylene)/discipline books that advocate other methods. Again, Kylene, I totally agree with you about spanking as being one tool among many. My husband and I took quite awhile to decide on this issue of spanking as I wasn’t spanked as a child and he was and both of us had loving Christian parents who we feel set great examples, so I am still interested in learning more as most of the books and influences around me have been more on one side rather than the other, but of course always motivated by love. Anyway, Kylene, I hope that God continues to give you clarity as you figure out what is best for your family! You are such a great mom for all of the ways that you are seeking to learn about and do what is best for your sweet little girl! You are right that there is so much to learn at every stage, even when it is the 2nd or 3rd…. child! We’re all there with you!

    Oh, and Sarah, your answer and the experiences you shared were so interesting! I had no idea that all of Scandinavia forbade spanking! We were in Finland last week, and I am pretty sure at least one kid got spanked. Oops!

  9. 9 Becka March 3, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    We are in Loja, Ecuador and have been told that public discipline of any kind is a no-no. We choose to spank only when there are no other options and spanking in public is not something that would be an option for us, however… I do get onto my children in public. I sternly rebuke them and give them consequences. I am having to re-mold, and creatively re-think how I get onto them in public because of the cultural standards here.

    At the same time, I must keep them safe, and in most cases, the need for public discipline is a safety issues. In times like these- I just step outside the cultural norm. I am already outside that norm because of the color of my skin, my language, and my faith in Christ. I figure that the rare need for the people here to watch me scold my children for stepping in front of a taxi- is just a ripple in the river off differences…

    And two books I highly recommend for a Biblical view of discipline are:
    Five Love Languages for Children
    and any book by Kevin Lehman. These books take grace, mercy, and love into consideration and they are strongly scripturally based. On top of that, I can recommend them because they worked.

  10. 10 Sarah P. March 3, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Hello! Even though I’ve been following this blog for a while (and I’ve been very blessed by it), this is my first time to ever comment on here; I guess I’m a little timid! =)

    But, I wanted to share that we’ve been told that it is illegal to spank here in Costa Rica as well. I do not know what the consequences for spanking would be, but I feel like it is much more lenient here than what you all are experiencing in Scandinavia. We have observed our local church to get a good perspective on what would be considered appropriate and inappropriate ways to discipline/train (I like that you added that term, Kylene). We found that some in our church do spank as a form of discipline. It seems like here the law against spanking has challenged these brothers and sisters to form a careful, loving, and Biblical plan for discipline and training that seeks to glorify God in their kids’ lives, instead of conforming to what is acceptable in their culture. As relatively new parents, it’s a blessing for us to see that!

    Having said that, we very rarely spank our little guy (who is turning 2 today!) because he almost always responds to other forms of correction/training, and because God has blessed us in spite of our complete inexperience with a fairly obedient little boy. We’ll see what happens now that he’s entering the 2’s!

    Thank you for posting this discussion topic, and thank you for the opportunity of fellowship with like-hearted sisters around the world!

  11. 11 Teresa March 3, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I have no idea whether it’s legal or not, but here in India we have been told by several people to give our boy a little “beating”. As is so common here, there is a cultural conundrum – our son, being Caucasian, is treated like a Rajah; but at the same time, the staff pull us aside to encourage us to hit him.

    Corporal punishment at school is quite common. There are occasional news stories of children being permanently injured. Thankfully our children are at an international school that does not allow it. (or they wouldn’t be there.)

    As a Christian and a mother, I personally feel that spanking is sometimes allowable. If you can remain calm, do it privately, and it’s a situation where the child has put himself/herself or others in danger – then I spank. A spank is better than someone getting injured the next time they disobey.

    However each child and each parent is different. I think the Lord puts each child with parents (or parent) that can best raise them, and that He will guide them as to what that way is.

  12. 12 Andrea Pavkov March 17, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    We live in a country where there is an odd contradiction in raising children. In some ways they are not to be corrected or disciplined especially when they are young but at other times they are abused physically and considered a nuisance. It is confusing and heartbreaking. Yet, we are responsible for raising our own children up in the Lord amongst this culture. To us personally that includes spanking. Our boys are now 10 and 12 and we RARELY have to spank them anymore-like months go by however we are still open to it if we determine the need. Of course we also discipline them mostly in other ways at this point in their growth. We used spanking as our primary means of discipline when our boys were little and strongly believe God’s word to be true and that we have obedient, respectful children because we did not spare the rod. I would highly recommend the book “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp. It really shows us that our goal in discipling our children is not to have “good” children but to point them to the Father.

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