Derek!" I yelled as my young son trotted into the street. I prayed that if my little boy didn't stop, the oncoming car would.
As parents, we all know how important it is to have obedient children. At times, their lives will depend on it. But as Christian parents, we also understand that discipline is about much more than shaping a child's behavior, it's about shaping a child's heart. And that's why we decided to stop spanking our son.
When Derek was born, we put a lot of thought into how we wanted to discipline our children. I turned to the stack of books I'd gathered, read several manuals on discipline, and even attended a Sunday school class demonstrating the appropriate grip and hold to use while spanking. By the time my baby became a toddler in need of correction, I felt fully convinced that spanking was the most effective means of discipline.
Whenever we spanked Derek, we'd follow the spanking with a time of hugging and assurances of our love for him. We didn't spank in anger or as an impulsive reaction. We always surrounded a spanking with instruction and follow up to make sure that Derek understood why he'd been spanked. Over the course of a few months, Derek became an obedient, well-mannered toddler.
One day I was talking to my mother and telling her something about Derek when she suddenly said, "I don't think you should be spanking him." I couldn't believe my ears! Couldn't she see how well it was working? Hadn't she spanked me as a child? But more importantly, didn't she know that the Bible commands it? I went to the Bible to copy down all the "rod" verses in Proverbs. I knew that would prove to her that I was following God's command. But in trying to prove my mother wrong I found instead God turning my heart around.1