Atheists and Discipline – Do you spank?

I get a lot of traffic from searches related to spanking and discipline. Some of you are landing on my page looking for spanking videos. Ha! But many of you come here looking for advice on discipline for your freethinking child, and you also come here to find out how religious parents discipline their children. I’ve written about this subject a few times before. You can read about the sleepover incident here, and about the spanking incident here. I’d like to go into more detail about our family’s approach to discipline and why we do what we do.


First of all, as you may have read in previous posts, I was disciplined by spanking with a heavy belt or thin tree branch (a “switch” in Southern terms). I’m sure I deserved punishment for whatever I did, but the punishment I got often left huge welts on my butt and upper thighs. Many times the spanking was done bare-bottomed, and many times it happened several hours after my crime occurred. This meant I had to dread the spanking until my dad got home that evening. I don’t want to make it sound like I was abused, because I don’t feel that I was. I do think my parents could have used punishment as a way to teach and guide me, rather than a way to inflict pain. What was accomplished? I became scared of my dad and his belt. I became fearful. I became angry.

As a new mother, I started out spanking my oldest daughter as punishment. However, I read a great book that was given to me by my in-laws called John Rosemond’s New Parent Power!. Actually, my copy is very old and is just called Parent Power, but it’s an excellent book with great tips on getting your kids to go to bed without fussing, dealing with common issues, and, of course, discipline. Rosemond says in my copy of Parent Power that spanking should happen immediately when the incident occurs, and it should always be the parent’s hand to the child’s butt. One swift smack to get their attention. This worked well for me in the beginning, but I began to use spanking for every. Little. Thing. I realized that it was becoming a problem and that my daughter wasn’t learning anything. She became scared of my hand. I was a new mom going off what I learned from my parents. But my husband rarely got spanked, and encouraged me to find a more effective and less traumatizing mode of discipline.

When my second child was old enough to get into trouble, my husband and I took a different approach. We now reserve spanking for only the worst incidents, and only to get the child’s attention if we can’t do that any other way. We’ve found that we spank very little (and almost never) these days. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I spanked.

Some people will say that not spanking is the reason children grow up with mental problems, but I believe that’s a whole other parenting beast related to parents simply not being there and talking to their children the way they should. Trust me, I struggle with this daily since my dad rarely talks to me. It’s been this way for years. I can understand how that would mess a kid up. But, I digress.

Not spanking has given us a chance to teach our children how to be polite, sensitive, and thoughtful people. We take every opportunity to get them to mind their manners, be kind to others, and respect their elders. We use time outs. We ground them from the iPad and iPod, which, by the way, have been integral to our oldest daughter learning how to read. I’ll do another post on that very soon. We get compliments on how well-behaved and polite our girls are, and I know it’s because we use discipline as a way of guiding, rather than punishing.

I don’t know why spanking seems to be a religious parenting thing, but I intend for the belt lashings to stop with me. It’s just not the way I want to do things. As an atheist, I approach child-rearing with the intent to teach and guide, rather than dictate and rule. Does this make sense?

That being said, I do not think there is anything wrong with spanking if it is used appropriately. I do not think my parents used it appropriately. I think they spanked out of anger and also because they didn’t know how else to get us to do what they wanted.

Do you spank? How do you discipline your children? Are there any discipline-related topics you’d like me to explore?

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