Spanking in Nursery

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Stacie Duce, over at Mormon Times, recently related an experience in which a Nursery worker in one ward spanked someone’s child for being unruly.

I recently got a call from a nursery leader who went on vacation and came back to find her class had been a vortex of chaos in her absence. Actually, it wasn’t that bad. But her mild-mannered assistant, who grew up during an era when spanking was an appropriate form of schoolroom discipline, had swatted the backside of a perpetually aggressive nursery child.

She added:

In defense of the spanker, apparently, it worked. The boy settled down and the parents did not need to be disrupted from other classrooms in the church.

Spanking should be a decision left to parents. Period.

In a church setting, I do not believe that parents should expect Primary workers (Nursery or otherwise) to be their children’s disciplinarians, nor do I think Primary workers should expect they shouldn’t disturb the children’s parents.

Parents have a responsibility to raise their children, and that includes disciplining them to behave properly in social settings. No one else should do this work for them.

32 thoughts on “Spanking in Nursery

  1. Spanking is very effective at changing behavior — in the short term. But at what cost? All it does in the long term is teach kids that the way to solve problems is to hit people. And that is never appropriate.

  2. Unless they chose to become boxers? Actually I disagree with the absoluteness of comment #1.

    Being in a small ward I always took my kids to nursery and made sure I had their attention when I told the leader they absolutely had my permission to spank them. It never happened, but given they were related to most of them it was always a possibility.

  3. To think that no one else will discipline your children is living in a dream world, I think. People will need to discipline children often and I hope they will. That being said, I don’t think spanking is an appropriate form of discipline in any church setting.

  4. I sincerely hope this nursery assistant was released from her calling. At no time should a teacher in church or otherwise physically assault a child. Having been Primary President previously as well as serving in 3 other Primary Presidencies, at no time were teachers ever given the impression that it was ok to discipline a child in that manner. A child was given one warning. If the behaviour continued, the child was removed from the class by a member of the Presidency. At that time the child would be given the 2nd warning. If it continued at that point the child would be given back to the parents who would be told that the child would not be permitted back to class that day UNLESS the parent remained with the child the remaining time. In all the years I have served in presidencies, I could count on my fingers how many times we had to do this. NEVER EVER would a child be physically assaulted where I thought they needed it or not. All that teaches a child is it is ok to hit someone smaller then you.

  5. In the UK (and probably everywhere else in Europe), this would be a criminal act, and the perpetrator would be expected to be reported and prosecuted. It is inconcievable that someone doing this could continue to work in nursery. In fact, they would, as far as I understnad, likely be legally prohibited from working with children and vulnerable adults in the future.

  6. When people say things like:
    “All that teaches a child is it is ok to hit someone smaller then you.”
    It is like saying all I learned in HS was the subject material of the classes I took.

    It is a short-sighted emotional response. There is a lot more going on, just like any other experience in life. Not that I am advocating beating kids, but calling all forms of physical discipline assault diminishes your argument.

  7. Sally,

    From your perspective, I abuse my children by spanking them. From my perspective, you abuse children by not allowing them to be spanked. Whatever shall we do? Lock us both up?

    Granted, there are other forms of punishment. For instance, the National Hockey League has had tremendous success with timeout. Do you ever see hockey players misbehave? I think not! LOL!

    That being said, I would never spank another parent’s child, which is also why I would never work in any calling involving the spoiled, rotten, disrespectful, and undisciplined little brats I see at church.

    As far as my children go, just ask any of the primary workers in the Platte City, MO. Ward about the Hartman children. Ask them if my children are a joy or a curse to have in primary. Ask them who the best examples of the primary are.

    By the way, would those that oppose physical punishment advocate applying those same standards to the government and their enforcers (police)? If I started beating you, Sally, in front of a cop, how do you think the cop would react? Surely you would oppose the cop reacting in a physical manner against me, as a physical reaction is always wrong, right Sally?

  8. If I started beating you, Sally, in front of a cop, how do you think the cop would react?

    Probably with reasonable force. Based on my experience, that is generally separating the two parties and restraining the aggressor.

    Now imagine you forgot to use your signal to change the lanes, a cop pulls you over, then punches you repeatedly in the head.

    That would be unreasonable force.

    So would spanking a child because he was being “aggressive”.

  9. By “aggressive”, do you mean one child assaulting another? Is failure to signal a lane change an equivalent to assault?

    When my now seven year old was in nursery, she was continually beat and bitten by the other children. She was so terrified of nursery that she just downright refused to go, and rightfully so. Why? Because of nursery leaders and parents that share your philosophy. The toddlers that were biting and hitting had no incentive to stop. The punishment they were receiving wasn’t even close to being adequate retribution for their actions. They had no incentive to stop, and they didn’t, even after numerous complaints.

    My children do not bite or hit other children, because if they did they know what the consequence would be. My children are continually taught that spanking is a consequence for certain actions. If they choose to engage in those actions, then they are also choosing the known consequence. It’s their choice, not mine.

    Webster’s defines punishment as “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution”. I have no problem in lovingly causing my children suffering, pain, or loss for retribution on their actions. Just as my Father in Heaven has no problem causing me suffering, pain, or loss for retribution on my actions.

    Corporal punishment is also not the only arrow in my discipline quiver. I’ve also been known to take all toys to the dumpster. To have my children stand in the corner. Not for a couple of minutes, of course, but for an hour, or more. They have no problem sitting in front of a TV for an hour, so I seriously doubt an hour in the corner will cause any permanent damage.

    How often do you think they engage in behavior that results in strong consequences? Hardly ever. As I as say, I spank my children so that spanking isn’t necessary.

    By the time my children are four years old I almost never punish them. I can count on one hand the times I’ve disciplined my five, seven, and eleven year old this entire year, combined! I’ve given warnings more often, but not punishment.

    That being said, I can’t count how many times this year that I’ve disciplined my one and two year old’s. They will, in a few short years, eventually learn that the consequences are not worth the bad behavior that causes them. They will eventually see that listening to Mom and Dad is preferable to not listening to Mom and Dad. That being a good child is preferable to be a bad child.

    As they say, by their fruits ye shall know them, and I encourage everyone to get to know what kind of parent I am by looking at my children.

  10. By “aggressive”, do you mean one child assaulting another?

    I don’t mean anything by it. The article I quoted and to which I linked used the word. For all I know, he was taking toys from other children. I have no idea.

  11. Punishment in the psychological sense is adding/removing something from the environment to decrease a behaviour (if that is helpful). FWIW reinforcement is the adding/removing to increase a behaviour.

  12. Brent you said “From my perspective, you abuse children by not allowing them to be spanked”.. how do you figure by NOT spanking children I would be abusing them? I would love to hear that explanation.

    Hockey players are adults.. that scenario does not match the one mentioned above with a child and an adult.

    You said “Ask them if my children are a joy or a curse to have in primary”…would you not rather have children behave properly because it is the right thing to do rather then behaving properly so they don’t get beat?

    You said “If I started beating you, Sally, in front of a cop, how do you think the cop would react? Surely you would oppose the cop reacting in a physical manner against me, as a physical reaction is always wrong, right Sally?”…again you are talking about adults and adults not the original post regarding a child and an adult. Of course I am assuming you are an adult? In this particular situation with the police officer, the first thing he would have done had he been standing there watching would be to get me off of you. You would have gotten one hit and that would have been the end of that particular scenario. But just for arguments sake you came up behind me and surprised me and he saw it, he would have pulled you off of me to restrain you. Had you taken your aggressive behavior onto him he would have used force to control you. But again we are talking about adults and adults NOT an adult and a child.

  13. Brent you said in your last post “That being said, I can’t count how many times this year that I’ve disciplined my one and two year old’s. They will, in a few short years, eventually learn that the consequences are not worth the bad behavior that causes them. They will eventually see that listening to Mom and Dad is preferable to not listening to Mom and Dad. That being a good child is preferable to be a bad child.”…

    Having just babysat my 15 month old granddaughter last night before I read this post, my heart aches for your babies. The thought that came to mind when I just read this was of Christ saying, “Bring all your little children unto me…” I for one am not looking forward to standing in front of Him on judgment day and try to explain why I thought it necessary to hit one of His little children.

  14. Sally,

    Who knows, maybe Christ will whip me like he did the moneychangers. Either way, at least my children won’t be running around out of control during my trial.

    Bad behavior results in bad consequences regardless of age. It’s better for children to learn the harsh reality of bad behavior from a loving parent than from an unloving world.

    They will feel pain eventually, and a few swats on the butt is a far less painful lesson than the inevitable alternative. Believe me, I know. I had parents like you.

  15. Wow, Bret, there’s actually research on your method of parental control. Bottom line, kids punished like yours are are little angels when people are looking, but have no internal ontrols. Good luck with them as they approach adulthood. I’ve known a number of kids raised like you’re raising yours. The phrase “off the rails” comes to mind, and it is really, really sad.

    Of course, I don’t know enough about your parenting style to know that it’s as harsh as it sounds from the brief mentions above.

    The goal of all of us parents is to have our children internalize good behavior–that is, for them to behave when noone is watching, to behave because it is the right thing to do. You may be teaching them this, I don’t know.

    That being said, no child should be allowed to hit or bite another child, ever. I’m very sorry about the way your daughter was treated.

    Of course, I can guess a few things about your kids, from your description, and that is that they’re not all that difficult. Difficult is my brother. My parents were very strict till he came along. They then decided it was better to change their rules than be cited for child abuse. This brother would not respond to punishment, except to say, essentially, bring it on. There’s only so far a parent can go.

    Plus, (and quite possibly as a result) my mom had that insight that you can’t teach someone not to hit by hitting them back.

  16. djinn,

    While I might be as strict as they come when dealing with young children, I’m also as lenient as they come when dealing with young adults. If a parent hasn’t been able to instill good values by the time a child hits their teen years, then it is woefully too late. At that point the child must learn on their own through their own failings.

    Like I said earlier, by the time my children are four years old I almost never punish them. I can count on one hand the times I’ve disciplined my five, seven, and eleven year old this entire year, combined!

  17. Sally,

    You know, the type of parent whose heart aches for babies that have parents that can’t count how many times this year that they’ve disciplined their one and two year old’s. Thy type of parent who views a swat on the butt as assault. Yes, really, assault. That is the type of parent you are, isn’t it? Maybe I read you wrong. If so, I’m sorry.

    Personally, I don’t think I have the authority to involve myself in disciplining another families child. As I’ve said before, I believe in consequences. I think people should get what they deserve. Just as I’ll get what I deserve.

  18. Brett my heart aches because I grew up in an extremely abusive household that no child should ever go through. My father stopped drinking and became the kind of father that any child would wish. Unfortunately 4 of us 6 children had already ran away from home at that point and when we started raising our children we could only use our parents as examples. When we used to get together we had to learn to not talk about the old days as our 2 younger brothers would get mad at us wondering why we would talk about our parents like that. We didn’t have Dr. Phil, we didn’t have Dr. Oz we didn’t have the countless number of self help classes and courses and books out there that are available to parents now. I also was not a member of the church at the time I was being raised and missed the whole concept of children being a child of God. I totally missed the part where our children are on loan to us to take care to the best of our abilities, to return them in as good of condition as we received them. I forgave my parents many many years ago. The last words my father heard just before he died was me telling him how much I loved him. I never heard “I love you” once growing up. Our idea of being loved was going a whole day without a swat or a swift kick in the pants.

    You are right when you said that your children hardly ever need disciplining as teens or older children because they learned at a young age the consequences of their actions. I too learned the consequneces of my actions at a very young age. I learned to keep my mouth shut, I learned to stay out of the reach of my parents, I learned to depend only on myself.

    Each generation has to learn from the mistakes of the previous ones. My children probably would have wished I had learned my lesson BEFORE they were born. But I never speak to any of my children without telling them how much I love them. I never ever see my children/grandchildren ever without giving them hugs hello/goodbye even those that I see nearly every day.

    They will never go one single day without knowing how much I appreciate them being a part of my life. My children (all grown with children of their own) have all been told to never raise their hands to their children. Ever. I am ever thankful that my grandchildren never knew their grandparents the way they used to be. They only knew them as kind and loving people.

    My mother came out to see me a year ago when I had my surgery from my cancer and we talked a lot about the way they had parented us and how different things were with our children. She has seen how loving our children are with their children and how happy she is that things have changed. She cried as she apologized for our upbringing and I just kept telling her it was ok. I told her that we all make life better and easier for the next generation and we all have to learn from past mistakes. I wish I could go back and change how I raised my children but I can’t. I can only help them now try and be better parents.

  19. Sally,

    You said:

    “Brett my heart aches because I grew up in an extremely abusive household that no child should ever go through.”

    “Having just babysat my 15 month old granddaughter last night before I read this post, my heart aches for your babies.”

    You shouldn’t assume that my home is anything like the home you grew up in. Just because I spank my children doesn’t mean that they don’t feel loved. My children receive many more hugs than they do spankings.

    By the way, are you really suggesting that children who are spanked generally don’t feel loved by their parents? Perhaps children that spend countless minutes in timeout grow up resenting their parents as well, ya think? I know I resented every time I got caught doing something bad. How dare they tell me no! LOL! Isn’t the idea that we resent the punishment we receive? I just don’t think punishment works as well when it’s pleasant.

  20. I had an extremely difficult sibling. I had an extremely difficult child. I have an extremely difficult neice/nephew. Difficult children don’t resent punishment. They, rather, thrill that they’ve maneovered you into this exceedingly difficult position; unless you like it, in which case either you or they are headed towards a very very hard fall. You got off easy, Mr. Br. Brent. Go easy on those of us that don’t meet your very high standards, or not.

  21. At some point this difficult sibling of mine realized he was causing our mother distress; his behavior changed in an instant. Teaching your kids that misbehavior results in pain doesn’t work when you’re not around to inflict the pain. But empathy works for an entire life. Your poor kids.

  22. I never felt loved by my parents whilst being spanked as a child. Why would you? I did feel my parents loved me, of course. But not while I was being hit.

    Although I don’t deign to tell any other parent how to discipline, I don’t believe physical force is correct at any time. It’s amazing how many parents think it is perfectly ok to hit their child and yet if someone were to hit THEM that would be considered assault. But it’s ok to assault children.

    That said, I regretfully admit that I have in the past spanked my children (2) on isolated occasions. NOT because they deserved it and not because I believe in it. I don’t. It was because of my frustration that I did it. Did it work? Maybe surfacely. was it right? oh I don’t know. How would I feel if Heavenly Father hauled off and spanked me? Can we evern conceive of the idea that the Lord would be justified in HITTING us? Of course He would be justified, but would it be the right thing to do?

    Now that said it is never never ever ok for anyone to physically discipline anyone else’s child. I would have that person released immediately. It is always the parent’s realm to discipline their child.

  23. Wow….this has been an interesting discussion.

    I agree that spanking isn’t appropriate in church. I don’t think it’s an effective form of discipline in any setting.

    I’m not sure releasing someone that spanked a nursery child would be appropriate either. It could be a great way to teach. Should people be released when they make mistakes? I would think not. It’s a wonderful thing to give people the opportunity to do better.

  24. Dawn,

    I don’t know, this would be my gut reaction as a parent, that someone physically disciplined my child. Call it mother bear coming out. I just think it’s totally inappropriate. In some places (such as schools) a job could easily be lost for something like that.

    Ironically my instinctive reaction would be to uh…strike the person…ironic, I know. Not that I would do it, I would just want to. But then it’s kind of like when my children hit each other. “He hit me, so I hit him”.

  25. ok, and actually (well Dawn and my mum in law of course already know this) I don’t have 2 children, I have 4. But only the 2 eldest have been spanked (not extensively and only on a couple of rare occasions) and my guilt afterward was awful and led me to repent and to seek learning from the Lord where I did learn (and still learn) better ways of discipline and more patience. See, them getting spanked was MY lack, not theirs.

  26. I totally understand.

    My friend’s child was in a class once where the teacher would yell at the children often. It really scared her child and so she talked to the teacher about it. The teacher said, “I can’t help it. I’m Italian and we yell a lot.”

    I told my friend that I would have responded, “Well, I’m a farm girl and I punch people who intimidate and scare my children. I can’t help it.”

    The truth is, we all need to use a little self-discipline in life. It’s a life long battle in relationships. I often shake my head at people and the ways they talk to children. There is no way they’d talk to another adult the same way. I saw it a lot when I was teaching school and vowed I’d never talk to my kids like that in public or private.

    Wish I could say I had kept my vow perfectly! We’re all on a learning curve, I guess.

  27. The teacher said, “I can’t help it. I’m Italian and we yell a lot.”

    I told my friend that I would have responded, “Well, I’m a farm girl and I punch people who intimidate and scare my children. I can’t help it.”

    Dawn, that’s fantastic! It’s so cool I almost hope that I have a chance to use it sometime. Not really, but if the situation regrettably comes up, I at least hope that I can remember it.

  28. Dawn I love that line!! And truly being a farm girl I like it even better! I hope I never have to use it. with my short term memory non existent most days you will have to remind me ;)

    Brett I want to apologize if my comments to you came off like I am holier then thou for lack of a better phrase (sorry have been working on 160 evaluation forms and brain cells fried).. we all have to raise our families the best we can and we all have to account for our actions.

    When our children were teenagers I was beside myself with frustrations.. on every level.. having 3 -15 year olds and 2-13 year olds at the same time, a husband out of town working most weeks, working a full time and part time job putting my husband through school and trying to keep my kids in jeans and sneakers on top of trying to keep their hollow legs filled with food was a never ending stress factor. I tried talking to other mothers of teens that I knew and always got the same reply.. oh we don’t have those problems.. I felt like the world’s worst mother let me tell you.

    Then one day we received a snail mail letter (long before emails) from our Bishop inviting all parents of teens into a special meeting. When we got there, the chairs were in a horseshoe with the parents in the back row and their teens in front of them. As my husband walked in with me, the Bishop asked him to sit at the very last chair in the parent row. Not hearing him ask any of the other parents to sit in a specific seat I started sweating thinking oh no I am about to get called into the principal’s office in front of everyone. He started by telling everyone we would all get a chance to tell the others how we were doing as a parent of a teen/a teen of a parent. He started at the opposite end of the horseshoe where we sat.

    Parent by parent said “Oh we are fine, no problems”. As each parent spoke I sank lower in my chair. I was second to last and when it was my turn I said the same as the others hoping the word LIAR was not flashing on my forehead. I could feel Keith beside me turning in his chair and could literally feel his eyes burning into me and I prayed he would not be Keith. Our sons said the same thing.. no problems. The Bishop said Keith how about you? Keith as only he can do (he lives in a world only made up of black and white no grey zone) says I have no idea who this woman is beside me cause my wife was yelling at this son who is so innocently sitting in front of her and I had to remind them both that we were heading off to church and that probably wasn’t the best way to get in the reverent mood.

    He went on to say that there were times he wanted to throttle the kids; that he felt he would barely walk in the door from being out of town at school, or at work and I would be all over him to do something with the kids or they would be all over him saying Mom is so mean etc etc.

    At that point one of the fathers puts his hand up and said well now that you mention it, we have been having problems with our kids as well. That opened up the flood gates and what was supposed to be an hour meeting turned out 4 hours later. At the end of the class the Bishop went up to Keith and asked him if he wondered why he had been assigned a special seat at the end of the rows and Keith said yes he did. He was told that in his office he heard it all, that he knew there were so many problems in the ward with the youth and also knew that people weren’t helping each other. He then said that he knew that if nothing else Keith would be brutally honest and would never hide behind the “follow the Joneses”.

    It was that turning point in my life as a mother that I realized I was not alone, that I was not the world’s worst mother, that I did not have the world’s worst children, that I could be better, that Heavenly Father did love me and forgave me each and every time I did wrong. I vowed to be better and worked harder at it then I ever did with anything else in my life. I finally figured out how to be a mom but they were leaving home at that point. I look at my children and their families now and some are doing great, some are doing better then others, others maybe not so great. I was the same mother to all of them, raising them the exact same way, but just as I had to choose to forgive my parents for the way I was raised and had to learn to do better (as much as I didn’t always think I was any better)they too have had to learn from my mistakes and raise their children in a better more loving way. They have had to make choices based on what information they have.

    I remember at one point when I was probably at my lowest as a mother, speaking to my MIL (who was the BEST ever) telling her that I couldn’t wait till they all moved away from home and she patiently told me to enjoy those moments because I would worry even more after they were on their own raising their own families. I snorted of course telling her there was NO WAY!! I would be so happy to stop worrying and listening to that never ending quarreling of “he’s looking at me…he’s touching me.. she is getting away with this or that.. I’m telling.. it wasn’t me… well they did it first..they made me do it…. “

    Then one day not that long ago it hit me. She was right. I do worry about my children more now then I ever did when they lived at home. At least then I knew they had food in their stomachs, warm clothes, a roof over their heads, and we had no debt. Now I worry if their children have enough food, do they have enough money to make ends meet, do they have enough clothes to keep them warm, is their home warm enough?????

    If I had my way, we would live on a huge acreage with all our homes next to each other,so that if there was a need with either our children or grandchildren, we would be able to help. I also would be able to see cause there are SOME of our children that have too much pride to always ask for help thinking they have to do it alone.

    I did have a point when I started this but it’s gone now.. Just know I am sorry if I came across better then you as a parent. I’m not. I can only be better then myself. I can only be better then I was. I have grandchildren who think I am Barbie pretty, that the sun rises and sets on what I say, who think their Papa is the funniest man on earth, that they are never too big to sit on our laps to snuggle, that even at 15 are never embarrassed to give us hugs in public, and who know that they can tell us their deepest secrets without fear that we will squeal on them. They know that Mom and Dad’s rules at home will be followed at our home, that we will never tell them that it’s ok to do the opposite. I’d like to think that we are responsible for a small part of that. That it is PRECISELY because of the way we raised our children that they have worked even harder to become better parents then we were.

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