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Careful Mother vs. Assertive Mother

Careful Mother vs. Assertive Mother

When I taught 4th grade in public school, back in the 1900's, I had a student who was absent from school at least once a week. He had a hard time keeping up with assignments, so I scheduled a meeting with him and his mother. She revealed to me in the meeting that he was absent so often because there were days she just couldn't convince him to get up and get in the car to get to school, so she really had no choice except to let him stay home.

I was shocked. She couldn't convince him to get up? We're talking about a 10 year old here. I silently wondered what she had in store when he became a teenager.

I turned to "Jared" in the meeting. "Do you want to pass 4th grade this year? Or do you want to repeat it next year while all your friends go on to 5th grade? You are a smart boy, but you can not continue to miss school each week and get all of your work done."

He assured me that he wanted to pass, so I felt like we had reached an understanding and hopefully an end to the problem.

Surprisingly, though, he was not at school bright and early the next morning. Around 9:30 his mother knocked at my classroom door and this conversation followed:

Mother: "I was able to talk Jared into getting up and dressed and in the car, but when we got to the parking lot he refused to get out."

Me: (astounded)

Mother: "I don't know how to convince him to get out of the car. What should I do?"

Me: "Class, everyone write your spelling words 3 times each. I will be right back." (walks out to parking lot with a confident stride.)

Mom: (opens car door timidly) "Jared? Do you remember that Mother has to go to work today? Do you want Mother to be late for work again? Don't you want to go to school? Won't you please get out of the car, Jared?"

Jared: (arms crossed, unmoved)

Me: (eyebrows raised, leaning in, assertively) "Jared, get out of this car. Now. You still have time to practice your spelling words before the test. Now, get going and quit wasting our time!"

Jared: (gets out of car and goes to school)

Since that interaction 18 or so years ago, I have noticed that it is quite fashionable for mothers to persuade, cajole, beg, and ask their children very politely if they won't pretty please obey them.

Sometimes this is called "picking your battles" or "modeling good choices".

Mothers, I am giving you permission today and from hence forth to tell, not beg, your children what to do, without apology.

You do not need to be Careful Mother, in order to preserve your child's delicate feelings or self esteem. You can be Assertive Mother, created by God to be in charge of your child's safety and well being, and still be a warm, sensitive, loving mother with a confident, secure child.

I have seen similar scenarios played out time after time, and I wonder if the mother knows that she is making her life more difficult than it has to be and that she is not doing her child any great favors by bestowing upon him power that he isn't ready to wield.

Here is another true story of a conversation I witnessed while standing in the crowded aisle of a movie theater waiting for a Careful Mother to convince her 3 year old to move from the aisle seat so she could sit by the baby in the infant carrier. I have included the dialogue an Assertive Mother would have used.

Now, I can already envision the emails I will receive from those of you thinking, "That Smockity is so insensitive! She doesn't understand that my child has OCD/ADD/ODD/ADHD/INSERTLETTERSHERE!"

What you may or may not know, and I'm sure that most of you don't, is that I have some of my very own children with some of their very own letters. I still manage to state what I want them to do and have them obey it in as few words as necessary.

I also tuck them in at night, read stories to them, smother them with kisses, hold them in my lap, hold their hands while taking walks, laugh with them, and hug them 27 times each day.

Being Assertive Mother doesn't have to mean you are less loving than Careful Mother. It means you are confident in your role of authority and you are not afraid to tell your child what to do.

Mothers, do yourselves and your children a favor. Stop being Careful Mother. Be Assertive Mother and show your children what confident leadership looks like.

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  1. Super! Thanks so much for sharing. :)

  2. Amen! Well said.

  3. AMEN Sister! =) AND we need to remove the word “OKAY?” from the end of our instructions.

    • Michelle A says:

      Tammy, I completely agree!! I was just thinking about how we say “We’re going to do this or that…okay?” Then I think to myself, “That was not a question, why would I state it as a question or as if I am asking the child’s permission?”

      • I don’t know; I say “okay?” as a way of checking that the child has heard and understood the instruction, and as a prompt to them that they need to respond to me.

        • My husband & I require our five children, now ages 9-18, to reply with a Yes Mam/Sir after we have asked them to do something. Their reply notes that they did heard us & it also keeps them accountable to their actions because they did hear us.

    • I did hear a Christian author say to add “okay?” to the end when you have a really strong willed child. You are still requiring them to do it and not begging, but then they feel like it was their choice. I’m definitely the assertive mom, but commanding my strong willed child to do something turned into a battle of the wills. When I just added that little word at the end, I got much more cooperation without the battle.

      • Debra, yes, I was also told the same thing with a strong willed child. They need some sense of control. I have always believed that you should never say “okay?” after….until I was given a strong willed child.

  4. No kidding! And these moms don’t understand why no one likes their kids. Because they are brats! And it’s the parents’ fault!!

  5. Yes!!! Can this become required reading for new parents? If you want your child to do something, don’t ask, then you’re giving them permission to say no. Give lots of choices, but some things just need to be given as a direction.

  6. Melissa M. says:

    Where oh where was this wonderfully written story when I could’ve used it two weeks ago? School started and we have a few students whose mothers and fathers need to read this. I am not a parent but an aunt, teacher, babysitter who does NOT let children act this way. I would like to know if this is how the parents were raised. I surely wasn’t!

  7. SO true!! This drove me batty with my old SAHM group, as they ALL seemed to do this! Maddening to watch . . . and forget getting them to follow through on a “consequence.”

    “Oh honey, stop that right now or we’ll have to leave. I mean it, if I have to tell you again, we’re leaving. Okay, how many times do I have to tell you to stop? Mommy needs you to stop that. Do you want to leave now, is that what you want?” Repeat, repeat, repeat. Ugh.

  8. could you please make the assertive/careful mother a pinable pic?

  9. ok it was…thanks!

  10. Awesome post! I’m so glad someone is finally saying this! Thank you Connie! Oh, and don’t forget the, “I’m going to count to three…”

    • “1…2…3…” (child still not obeying)
      “Do I have to count again? 4…5…6” (child still not obeying)
      “7…come on!…8…” (child still not obeying…mother keeps counting)
      I’m pretty sure the kid just wants to see how high his mom can count.

  11. Oh, I needed to see this. I have been careful mother to the point of my children’s detriment. I was so afraid of not giving them enough freedom to make their own decisions, not giving them a chance to learn from natural consequences, yada, yada…
    Well, now I have a 4 year old who often acts as though he does not hear me when I speak to him; who does not do as he is asked unless it pleases him, and who has started to think that hitting and throwing things is okay, as well as a 2 year old who is already on the path to controlling the household. THIS is a big problem! So now, careful mother wants (NEEDS) to be assertive mother. But assertive mother is laughed at (literally!) by a 4 year old! We don’t spank in our household, (though I would be lying if I said the thought hasn’t crossed my mind..) but at this point we are having to start at square one with discipline. Telling my son “now” does nothing, because, like Lana said, I was terrible at follow-through. I asked rather than told my children what I expected of them, and I gave them ten thousand and one chances… It is terrible for everyone, and I wish every. darn. day. that I had just been the PARENT from the beginning. I was so big on teaching by example, “Mommy is picking up the toys now” and thinking eventually the children would see that every night before bed we pick up toys. What I really taught is that it is easy to walk all over mommy (and eventually others) to get what you want. Not okay… Sigh.

    • I soooooo have been where you are at. It is possible to take control, but let it be known, “foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it from him.” Even if you had started as “assertive” without proper reinforcement (ie spanking), you would probably still be laughed at by a four year old. There are some really great books about how to handle spanking correctly. Proper spanking for sure isn’t just striking children out of frustration… it’s careful, loving, firm instruction. Maybe Connie will address this…

      • I would love if you could recommend some of these books… Spanking absolutely terrifies me. I am not at allapposed to the idea of learning the technique behind it, I just do not want to simply whack my child, tell him why, and leave it at that. You know? My husband comes from a family of 6 brothers who were all spanked. All of them are productive, loving adults who have nothing but love for their wonderful mother, and all are fabulous fathers themselves. I just cannot bring myself to do it. I KNOW there is a huge, huge difference between spanking and hitting, but the one time I did spank my eldest I FELT like I hit him. I felt like I owed him more respect than that, and I caved and apologized, allowing him to end his time out- Essentially rewarding him for refusing to stay in his room and throwing his toys. I am so stuck in this “positive parenting” trap, and it is not beneficial to my family in any way!

        I CANNOT imagine doing this with 4+ children! We have actually decided to stop trying for #3 until we get our household under control!!

        • “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” – excellent resource for this.

        • Kelley,
          I always recommend 2 books to parents:
          1. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
          2. Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman

          Maybe Connie has an even better parenting book recommendation but I have found these two to be the best because they are grounded in Biblical truth and they put the emphasis of discipline where it should be…. changing your child’s heart (not just their behavior). Shepherding a Child’s Heart addresses the Biblical and loving way to spank your child(ren).

          I have 5 children (ages 2 to 14) with a few “strong-willed” children in the mix. Amazing thing is that once we started disciplining and training our children based on God’s Word we saw our strong-willed children move from being rebellious and stubborn to being strong and steadfast in God’s ways! It did not happen over night. It took time and consistency and the power of God’s word working in our children but it did change. Praying for you right not that God would give you the wisdom to change things!

          • Thank you so much, Janelle.

            My son is strong willed to say the least. Shepherding a Child’s Heart seems like it is just what I am looking for. He simply does not care what toy/privilege he loses, how much time he spends in his room, how many extra chores he has to help with, etc. He is SO stubborn, and I have allowed him to be in control for so long, that I don’t think he (especially at 4) quite even grasps why what he is doing is wrong. I know this is a result of my (lack of) discipline, and while this is a path that we absolutely MUST take, I want to be absolutely sure that it is not damaging. I would love to see our relationship grow to a mutual respect, but I have learned that for this to happen, he has to firs learn what respect is..

          • Excellent book recommendations!

        • You would probably really enjoy Clay Clarkson’s book, Heartfelt Discipline. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with positive parenting, though we do want to discipline our children in a way that leaves them assured of appropriate, strong boundaries that mom and dad are actually in control of! I also highly recommend Loving Our Kids on Purpose by Danny Silk. Great stuff there. Praying for you!

          • Thanks, Misty.

            I don’t think there is anything wrong with positive parenting, either. I beleive that I personally lost the balance between mother and respectful overseer. I want very much to stand aside, ready to give advice and support as my children explore and learn from life. However, if I am not the one to steer in the direction of the right path, who will be? I think maybe I skipped a crucial step in teaching my children respect before offering it freely to them.

        • Kelly, do not wait until you read a book, or 10 books, before you begin to spank. Do it today. I would suggest immediately talking to your mother-in-law about the exact way that she handled spanking, as it sounds like she did something right! Also, call a few mommy-friends (now, today) and ask them EXACTLY how they handle spanking. Then begin immediately. Most important, tell your husband this is what you would like to begin doing, get his permission and encouragement, he’s probably not against it as I’m assuming he thinks his parents did a fabulous job disciplining and raising him. Let him tell you how he thinks it should be done and follow his advice. Spanking is handled a little differently in every family. Find out what is effective for yours.

          Kelly, the bible is clear about what happens to children who aren’t spanked, the bible tells us exactly what their behavior will be. Do you believe God’s way is best or your way is best?

          I can tell you are a sweet and tender-hearted mommy! I can tell that a mommy like you would never go over-board or cross the line. You will probably cry your eyes out the first few times you have to spank your little ones, and that is OK. God will be with you. He only wants what is best for you and your children. God is right there with us in the trenches of parenting!

          I’m going to say a little prayer for you as you try and align your discipline with the bible. Read the books suggested, they are wonderful, but don’t put off God’s advice for one more day.

          • Thank you, Gina.

            One of my daily struggles is allowing god to guide me. I know in my heart that his way IS the way, and that it will not always be the way that I am comfortable with. Though, I still sometimes get lost in trying to do things my own way. I know that if I could just submit myself to him in all things, life would come so much easier. Thank you so much for this reminder.

            I will call my mother in law this afternoon. I’m sure she will be pleased, as spanking is one of the very few things we have butted heads over. My husband is also very for spanking, but it has been a hard line for me for as long as I can remember, so once the issue was discussed, he didn’t bring it up again. I’m sure he will be supportive, if not relieved to reopen this subject.

            • On my 3rd child I discovered ways to do it with much less spanking, and she is obedient like the older ones… its all in how its done, and must not be in anger. I used a little switch made of water tubing (rubber about 1/4 inch diameter, 1 foot long)
              we read books by Michael and Debbie Pearl. No Greater Joy Ministries. They come across harsh sometimes but if you hear them right, they can be so helpful.
              The thing that might help to remember is that once your children are obedient right away when you tell them something, they are SOO much easier to enjoy. When you enjoy them, they feel it, feel loved, and WANT to please you more. Much of our task is to “tie strings” which is much easier when we like our children. I find it very hard to like children when they are so hard to manage, and get along with. Its sort of complex, but just have to start somewhere.

        • SusanCK says:

          Kelley, it’s 4 years later. How are things going?

          • I so hope she did not follow the recommendation for No Greater Joy. Children have died as the result of that advice.

    • You have to find what motivates your child. What is like money to him…and hold that out as motivation to do what he is asked. “When you pick up your toys, you can watch tv”. And nothing else happens until he does what you ask. (FYI, declutter the toys to bare minimum, that will help both of you.) Remember, you are the ADULT and you have the power to make his day very long and boring unless he does what you ask. NEVER back down once you have asked him to do a job, so be careful what you ask. As he gets older, he will begin to obey as a habit (at least most of the time, lol).
      ~Rebecka…mom to 6 ages 4 to 13

      • Thank you for this advice. We have been steadily decluttering the toys, (the whole house, really!) and the poor kid has pretty much lost all privileges save for going outside. We live in the Pacific Northwest, and don’t have a lot of sunshine, so when we do we take advantage of it.. We have yet to find the one thing that really drives him, but when we do, I’m sure he will let us know.. Loudly!

        • Kelly,
          I can highly recommend the website/forum “Gentle Christian Mothers,” I have received TONS of good advice there about loving, biblical, and effective parenting.

          Also, I HIGHLY recommend Dr. Sear’s “The Discipline Book” which has real, practical, and specific solutions for raising children.Dr. Sears offers lots of “alternatives” to spanking (which in my experience have been WAY more effective longterm), but he also recognizes that some parents will spank and offers advice on how to do it if one must. He has a Christian parenting book too, though IMO it’s more appropriate for parents of infants and contains mostly the same material as his other books (he and his wife are strong Christians and their faith influences everything.)

          Also try “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk” (I’m ALMOST positive I got that title right, lol! Really good stuff there.)

          I also second Clay Clarkson’s book–it’s really good.

          Hope that helps :)

          • Smockity Frocks says:

            Don’t Gentle Christian Mothers disdain those of us who spank? That has been my observation.

          • Yes, Smockity, they do. They are intensely anti-spanking, regardless of how horrible their children behave or how little they themselves even *like* their own children.

            Kelley, be very very wary of Gentle Christian Mothers, and if you do decide to take a look, take some time to read through their discipline boards, to see the fruit of the advice you are considering taking. Just a 20-minute perusal of the outcomes and behavioral outbursts there should be enough to convince you to look elsewhere.

          • Don’t let all these pro-spankers persuade you to hit your child, You know what you;re doing is wrong- that is why it is so hard for you to strike your child. Don’t parent out of fearl it is lazy, archaic, and does not teach them anything. You said yourself what your problem was getting the tots to listen- lack of consistancy, and that will do it every time. There is a reason spanking is illegal in some countries, and coincidentally those countries have less crime, less murder, and less war. Don’t take the easy way out of frustration. I Also recommend Dr. Sears- he’s a name in our household, and trust me, our child is strong willed yet still…well behaved and respectful and loving. No hitting required. :)

            • Smockity Frocks says:

              So… illegal = bad. Legal = good?
              According to this logic, abortions and prostitution are good and drinking raw milk is bad. I think my readers like to use their own minds to decide what is worthy, instead of letting the government tell them.

              And what research are you citing to show that countries that outlaw spanking have “less crime, less murder, and less war”?

              • Spanking has been outlawed in Sweden since the late eighties, and you don’t hear of too many military conflicts there. It also has a very low crime rate- you can look this up yourself. The country isn’t overrun with brats either- actually, they seem to help each other out and be more relaxed than America. I’ll never forget when I found out people leave babies in their strollers out on the sidewalks while they duck into shops for a bit of coffee in the Netherlands….I seriously felt sad because it’s just too scary to do that here. Canada is in this same boat- it may not be illegal there, but it is highly, highly restricted. There are 30 countries in Europe that ban or restrict spanking. You can argue the majority, but it still stands that it just encourages violent behavior and causes more problems than it solves. Our kids model everything from us. We teach them, they are a direct imprint of us in so many ways. Just as a family of chain smokers is likely to have child that winds up smoking, someone that hits their kids is likely to grow up being more violent. I can’t understand why this is even a debate- it would be illegal to hit anyone else (Assualt) but why is it okay to discuss whether we should hit our most vulnerable population, our kids? Also, it has been studied that spanking leads to more anxiety/depression/mental issues in adulthood. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jul/02/news/la-heb-spanking-mental-health-problems-20120702

                • Smockity Frocks says:

                  And here’s research that refutes your study. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/25/us/findings-give-some-support-to-advocates-of-spanking.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

                  ”The scientific case against the use of normative physical punishment is a leaky dike, not a solid edifice.”

                  It turns out that anti-spanking folks lump careful, measured spanking with beating a child.

                • On my 3rd child I discovered ways to do it with much less spanking, and she is obedient like the older ones… its all in how its done, and must not be in anger. I used a little switch made of water tubing (rubber about 1/4 inch diameter, 1 foot long)
                  we read books by Michael and Debbie Pearl. No Greater Joy Ministries. They come across harsh sometimes but if you hear them right, they can be so helpful.
                  The thing that might help to remember is that once your children are obedient right away when you tell them something, they are SOO much easier to enjoy. When you enjoy them, they feel it, feel loved, and WANT to please you more. Much of our task is to “tie strings” which is much easier when we like our children. I find it very hard to like children when they are so hard to manage, and get along with. Its sort of complex, but just have to start somewhere.

    • Sounds like it’s time to start spanking. This is advice from a 7-months pregnant woman with a 5yo, 4yo, and 2yo who NEVER embarrass me in public or laugh at me in private because they KNOW I don’t put up with it for one second. Get thee a wooden spoon, sister!

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      Kelley, It is never too late to improve!

      If you are absolutely against spanking, you will need to find some Very Unpleasant Consequences that you carry out whenever there is disobedience.

      There *are* things your child finds unpleasant. You just have to discover what they are and follow through.

      First, explain that from now on you will be expecting him to obey you and if he does not, XYZ will happen. Tell him that as sad as XYZ will make you, if is your responsibility to teach him to obey, and this is the new system.

      XYZ might include going to bed before everyone else, standing in a corner, not getting ice cream when everyone else does, no candy today, no bedtime story, etc.

      • Thanks Connie. :)

        I am not against spanking, so much as I am uncomfortable with making an uninformed decision on the issue. These wonderful ladies have offered a few really great reading suggestions that I will be looking into.

        Right now taking away all screen time has been working-ish, (nothing seems to work for more than a few days) and we will continue to do a lot praying, sould searching, and investigating!

        • The main thing is being rock-solidly consistent. For four years now, you have engrained in him that he is in charge, ultimately. You will probably find that he bucks pretty hard for a while before finally yielding to your leadership and guidance… but ultimately, slow and steady consistency will “win the race”. He will come to understand that you are the parent. Hang in there!!!

        • Well, I typed a long wonderfully well-written :) post – and lost it! I just wanted to chime in to encourage you to hang in there – Gal. 6:9 applies to child training for sure! Also wanted to share a verse that really helped me when I was struggling to spank effectively. I was SO afraid of bruising! My husband found Prov 20:30 for me (“Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart. (Proverbs 20:30 NKJV)”) and it really helped me see that even if I did accidentally bruise my child, the long-term benefit of learning self-control through obedience FOR HER was worth the short-term soreness. I still reflect on this verse whenever I’m dealing with a strong-willed child…

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      Also wanted to say a firm and uncomfortable thump on the hand will do a lot to dissuade bad behavior if given swiftly and consistently.

  12. I am laughing because this was soooo me with my first children. Somewhere along the way I learned this truth. I think when you have enough children, out of necessity you have to be assertive. Could you imagine this scenario with someone with 4+ children? You would never get anything done as you carefully give instructions.

  13. Now I know this was suppose to be a serious post, and most certainly, I agree with you, but THIS:
    “What you may or may not know, and I’m sure that most of you don’t, is that I have some of my very own children with some of their very own letters.”

    Has me absolutely in hysterics. ROFL:D
    As soon as I catch my breath…..
    OK. Here is the issue that I see a lot of moms muddle up, and it is the difference between being gentle and being a pushover.
    The Bible tells us that a gentle and quiet spirit is precious in the sight of the Lord. The Bible also tells us to choose our words carefully, (and we should be careful with them.)

    It is entirely possible to be firm, expect obedience, and make sure they respect us,all while doing it in a spirit of love and gentleness. God has shown me over the years, (16 1/2) that the times I am most likely to be ungentle and contentious are the times I have allowed them not to listen to me or obey when they should.

    This was a great post!

    • A great post by Connie…If you see yourself as the Careful Mother (as I have often seen myself)…don’t despair…the fact that you are even reading such posts proves that you are making the effort to raise your children in the best way. With God’s help you will succeed!
      Michelle, you are so right in what you are saying…I hope everyone takes special note of your reply, and of your last 4 sentences especially.

  14. Bravo! I needed this, and I agree 100%. I’ve been known to cajole because I didn’t want to follow through on the consequences. But when I do consistently, and expect to be obeyed the first time, everyone is happier–child especially!

  15. I think I love you.

    This is fantastic. Thank you for posting!

  16. hahaha I know exactly what you are talking about! My 6 year old is now complete with a set of letters too :) And believe it or not, assertive mother actually makes him feel a lot more calm and secure that Careful mother. Things are so much more peaceful in our house now that everyone knows exactly what is expected and when. There is no more suggestions, begging or pleading. It is simply, “This needs to be done now.” and that’s that. But I wish I had known that earlier! It took 5 years to get this through my head.

  17. Way to go Mama Connie! Luv it girl. :)

  18. I love you more today than yesterday, Connie!

  19. AMEN!!!

  20. Love love love this post!!

  21. This is one of my favorite blog posts…… EVER!

  22. This is how I was raised and it sucked. Having the power in the parent/child relationship when you’re the child is awful. It makes you angry and stressed and defensive. So I really hope other mommas read this, Smockity, and take it to heart.

    Oh, and I am certainly an assertive momma. I say “jump” and the kidlets best be jumping.

  23. AMEN! I love the contrast of words. What a lot of breath we could save! It just MIGHT improve the ozone layer!!

  24. You put it right. Lovingly be assertive…it’s the only way to do it.


  26. Amen, amen, amen!

  27. What do you suggest if you live in a country where smacking/spanking is illegal? Are there any large families out there who don’t spank? If so, how do they discipline?

    • Smockity Frocks says:

      I would not like to live in that country, and I hope it never comes to that here in the U.S. I don’t know about all large families, but spanking works well to curb disobedience in our family. We have 8 well behaved and happy children.

      I am a very creative person, so if spanking were not an option I would employ some other Very Unpleasant Consequence to administer whenever disobedience occurred.

      • What other creative ideas do you have? I find I’m less than creative, and there are moments where I wish I could think of ingenious forms of discipline besides spanking.

    • Spanking is illegal in some states here in Australia, and while it isn’t illegal in my state, most people feel like they can’t take the risk in public. While it isn’t often prosecuted without signs of other abuse, it just takes one overzealous person who decides they need to ‘protect’ my child from me to cause serious issues. It’s hard, with a toddler the extent of my spanking right now is generally a smack on the hand if she dosen’t listen to an instruction not to touch, or not to run off, etc. my daughter, at 18 months, already knows to some extent that she can get away with more in public (when she’s older and can understand, we can delay it until we get home, but obviously at this age that isn’t an option) because I, like most parents here, are too nervous to even give a smack on the hand to a toddler who is touching what they should not and not listening to me say ‘do not touch’.

      Having said that, many homeschooling families here smack within their own homes. It’s harder if your kids go to school, because if someone asks your 5 year old ‘does mummy ever smack you when you’re naughty’ they’re likely to, completely innocently, say yes. And an older child being taught their ‘rights’ at school might be going through a stage and might decide to get their parents in trouble, not realizing just how much trouble they were going to end up with. (my sister threatened to call child services about spanking once because she and mum were currently butting heads over her not doing chores diligently. Mum tried to put up a strong front, but since the school had said kids have a ‘right’ not to be forced to do chores that they don’t want to do as well, she had to back off, because my sister was not yet mature enough to know what she was doing (she was probably 8-ish?) and all my sister could see was ‘if I tell teacher that mum smacks me and makes me do chores then I won’t have to anymore!’. It was a messy situation. When society teaches kids about their ‘rights’ when the children are too young to understand their responsibilities and the consequences of those ‘rights’ it’s a bad situation.

      I digress.

      If you homeschool, you’re generally fairly safe to spank in your own home. If you don’t, then after the toddler ‘spanking’ that comes with learning to follow instruction, it gets too risky with an older child. All we can do is do the best we can with alternative methods, and those alternative methods do work, you just have to find what clicks with your kids. One child might respond to losing privileges, another to extra chores. A very sensitive child may find knowing mum is disappointed and a stern look is enough. Try and work out what gets a reaction from your kids.

      I see a lot of people throwing around the verses about the rod in the bible and I’d just like to give different perspective. The word used for ‘rod’ in those verses is the same as is used for a shepherding stick, and the scepter extended to Esther. I believe the rod described is not one for spanking, but rather, a reference to guiding and teaching your child, in similar context to a shepherd. A shepherd dosen’t allow a sheep to wander off because it ‘wants to’, but he dosen’t hit the sheep either. A shepherd takes absolute control of his herd, and cares for the sheep, at the same time. I think spanking is a valid form of discipline, but I do not believe it is required by the bible as THE form of discipline. I know kids who simply didn’t care about being spanked, they needed another approach. You should do your own study, but this is what God has convicted us of, and my husband was extremely pro-spanking when we married.

      • Smockity Frocks says:

        Wow, what a frightening situation for your family! (And potentially for all families who spank.)

        On the subject of the “rod”, I am not an expert by any means, but Proverbs 23:13-14 seems to indicate that the rod was used for striking children.

        “Do not hold back discipline from the child,
        Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.
        14 You shall strike him with the rod
        And rescue his soul from Sheol.”

        I can’t think of any other conclusion from these verses besides it was being used for spanking.


  29. yes! yes! yes! i dont have kids yet but that is how my husband and i feel parenting should be. love this post!

  30. LOVE this. I have a 2 year old and a 9 month old. I feel like I am an Assertive Mother and that people look at me like I am insensitive or something. Then, on the other hand, they compliment us for having such a well behaved 2 year old. He knows we love him and he also knows that we are in charge.

  31. Well said!! Society pressures parents so much to cater to our children’s whines and demands. That is not the way God designed it to be! Parents need to step up and be parents. Some of my friends and I have started a little inside joke that we are proudly members of the WME (worst moms ever) club. We chose to love our children enough to be their mom, and refuse to give in to the ideas that our culture tries to force on us. Thank you for this post!!!!!

  32. Wish more moms would read this :)… Kids are more secure in a ‘ruled’ house. They know what is going to happen and why without a lot of fan fair….. Makes life so much easier knowing that if you X then Y is going to happen instead of ‘I lets test if I do X will Y or Z happen?’ Every day is a question mark on discipline. It doesn’t work that way at a job so why do you want confusion at home for your little ones? The best words I ever heard from my daughter (only child that was spoiled in many ways) was when she said, “Oh God, I have turned into my mother!” when she told me about disciplining her daughter… and she was NEVER going to be like me!

  33. I have two reasonably well-behaved kids, one is an eleven-year-old girl who is starting to get some pre-teen hormones ( I remember what that was like, not too much fun) and the other is a fifteen-year-old boy who has Asperger’s Syndrome. I’ve never had discipline problems with either of them. This is partially because they are pretty easy-going by nature, and it needs to be said that a child’s basic personality does have a lot to do with how easy it is to discipline them. Parents of strong-willed kids have a much harder time through no fault of their own.

    Anyway, I know that I’m terrible at follow-through so I try very hard never to make my directives end with an “or else.” It’s simply “Time to clean your room.” If there’s some balking it’s “Your room is gross and that wasn’t a request.” I very rarely say that there will be a consequence for not doing something, I just say it with the expectation that they’re going to do it. Sometimes I have to say it a couple of times and when they were little I occasionally had to physically move them to where they needed to be but I usually manage not to make things into an ultimatum. “You WILL do this.” period. It REALLY helps if you’re bad with follow through because the “or else” frames things as a potential struggle and it gives them the option to take the consequence as opposed to doing what they need to do.

    I say it like I mean it. It seems to work most of the time.

  34. Jennifer H says:

    I am assertive mother. And you are so right that you have to find the consequences that matter to your child. Spanking and time-outs did not work with us. Missing bed-time stories with me did. Even though I was the “bad guy”, he still wanted me to spend that time with him. Now, just the threat of it is usually enough to change behavior.

    As he gets older though, I know I will have to find something else. Reasoning sometimes works at age 9.

  35. Great post! I was super strict (beyond assertive) with my oldest, and it back fired on me. I was not as strict with the second born. Then 7 years later, we had our 3rd child and I swung totally in the opposite direction to be the Careful Mom. Of course, that went totally against my grain and wasn’t working either. Now I’m trying to learn that happy medium of Assertive Mom. Plus, they’re all so different. What works with one, doesn’t work with the other.

  36. Connie, great post!

    Kelley, I want to applaud you for immediately becoming willing to call your mother in law and ask her advice on a subject you had previously disagreed upon. What a beautiful, humble spirit you have shown. May God bless you as you learn something new about parenting.

  37. Amen Momma! Thank you so much for such a refreshing post! I think many parents are so scared to be the parent and expect their children to do what they ask because they might hurt their child “fragile psyches”. My husband and I give our children plenty of opportunities to make their own decisions, but when we ask them to obey, they know that’s a pretty poor time to try to debate us.

  38. Jackie Sherwood says:

    Well said. Having successfully raised 3 children as an ASSERTIVE mother and having watched the botched raising of children under “careful” mothers, I really can speak up with some experience. And I was a teacher for a while. I also have grown g-children from under an assertive mother now. Children want strength. They want walls–to hammer, climb, challenge, yes–but they want them. In fact, to feel secure enough to grow, they NEED walls. Why is that so hard to understand?

  39. Yes! Yes! Yes! Why are mothers so weak these days? I am so tired of hearing how they have to be sensitive to their children because the child has a ‘strong will.’ My first daughter has a will of iron. And I am telling you it was in full force by her first birthday. We battled everything! In the car, out of the car, hat on, hat off, shoes on, shoes off…everything! But I always won! Always! I said what I meant and I expected it to be obeyed or I handed out a consequence. And if the consequence didn’t work then I thought of a better one that got the results I was looking for. This momma only uses consequences that get results! I really wondered sometimes if I was doing the right thing because the other moms I knew were so different. Now I think it may have been the best thing I ever did because she was the sweetest child by 2 years old and still is just an absolute joy to be around. I cannot imagine if I hadn’t put my foot down then. And I homeschool partly to keep all those other kids from having an influence on mine.

  40. Yes! This!
    We are their parents. Kids need to treat us as such.

  41. Their very own letters :)
    The “move over, I need to sit next to the baby” is such a no-fuss way. Before long IMHO they start responding just because you are giving such simple instructions. You can save your breath and spend it on being cheerful, inquisitive and chatty with them.

  42. Amen! We’re setting them up for disaster as adults when we tiptoe around them now. The world is not a cushy if-you-want-to kind of place!

  43. I have three well behaved chilren who have been baptized in Christ, and I never laid a hand on my children.

    I am called to be Christ-like, and I do not see where Christ would have ever, hit a child. He offered them the kingdom of heaven. Old testament laws were covered by “love on another”.

    • Here’s a good answer to that comment, Keri– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6Z52mOrW8U&feature=g-vrec

      And my own thoughts about it: Jesus is the one in whom and by whom all things hold together. He is the one who existed from the beginning, was with GOD, and was God. He is the only one called “The Word”. And “The Word” clearly gives clear instructions about physical discipline of children. If He’d been a dad, you’d better believe, as a Jewish-law following father, He’d have expected, trained, and disciplined His children into obedience. Just as He does for all of us:

      (the final verse of that passage sums it up: “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”)

      It’s fine if you don’t feel free to spank; that’s fine, but Scripture CLEARLY connects “painful discipline” to child rearing. New Testament Scripture. This is not just some Old Testament law, with some twistable use of the word “rod”. This is a theology of discipline, that connects pain– PAIN!– painful discipline (painful at the time, you’ll note… so this is clearly not the same as physical abuse or out-of-control anger which leave scars– emotional and physical) & fruitful outcome.

      It is a sign of the spiritual blindness of our age that so many are so quick to adopt psychological nonsense over Scriptural, Jesus-centered, parenting that Jesus Himself endorsed by, Himself, being the WORD.

  44. I had to speak today my son is on the autism spectrum. I am an assertive mother and the mom of 6 boys. Don’t have the time or energy to fight with him. He had an issue with walking to school we talked with him and decided that once a month he gets a treat and he has to agree with his brothers what it will be. So everyone is happy. Just because a child has a disability does not mean he can not behave. I am known as the mean mom I will buy the toy set it on my desk and you have to earn it again. So I am the mom and you are the child you will do as I say.

  45. I am a careful mother: by this I mean I strive to carefully teach my children what is expected of them so that they will learn to control themselves! I have two boys who are…ALL boy, at 3yrs and 15 mo, with another baby due in March. It requires a great deal of energy, tenacity, and just plain WILL on my part but, I must diligently teach them to obey or they might actually be in tremendous danger. We do spankings, but it is a TOP priority for my husband and I to make sure that we are spanking as part of an over-all correction plan with our own attitudes/emotions under control. In my opinion, this is the REAL reason many do not spank, because it is more work/time to do the full, Tripp-style correction, repentance, and reconciliation. Spanking done out of angry, selfish parenting reaction is a sin like any other angry selfish reaction. I see many who won’t spank, but will withhold toys/treats/attention in the time-out chair, and I wonder how much of that is just as much sinful angry frustration….unaddressed because, well, we would NEVER spank!

  46. Regarding living in a place where you can’t spank, I’ve heard of people calling spanking “time out.” That way, you can be in the store and tell your child, “If you do XYZ, you’ll get a time out when we get to the car.” No one who overheard you thinks you’re going to spank your child. If the child even starts wailing, “No, no, I don’t want a time out,” it’s still not a problem. Of course, it would work a lot better for homeschoolers.

    I really liked this post. I hear a lot of the careful mothers around me, and it just doesn’t work well. I do use the phrase “choosing my battles,” though, but it means something completely different to me. By it I mean that you shouldn’t address issues that aren’t important enough for follow-through. For example, if my kids are playing loudly, I might be tempted to ask them to keep it down because I don’t like loud noises. But if they aren’t being too loud for indoors, and if they aren’t bothering anybody (no one needs absolute quiet for a good reason), then I wouldn’t discipline them if they weren’t quiet. So I just don’t ask them to get quiet. That’s choosing my battle. Once I decide that I do need to ask them to be quiet for whatever reason, then I WILL make sure they get quiet.

  47. I absolutely love this and couldn’t agree more!

  48. Thanks :)

  49. While this article appears to be peaches and cream it really kind of angers me. For one, why do we have to label ourselves as mothers? Secondly, let’s talk reality here. Like I said sounds like peaches and cream, but what about when you tell your child at the movies to move you need to sit next to baby and he says….”NO.” And then you pick him up and move him and he begins to scream and yell in a movie theater full of paying customers, not to mention you yourself have paid $40 in movie tickets. So you take him out and spank him and he is unconsolable. You pack up your things and leave with $40 out of pocket. Sucks. But this is really the reality of most parents. So what is my label for that scenario? Definitely not careful mother, but poor careful mother who wants a moments peace. It angers me that “careful mothers” will read this and once again feel like a failure. Which mothers already tell themselves 27 times a day. Come on, let’s not label each other! Let’s support one another and realize we are all doing the very best we know how. Thanks.

  50. Christa says:

    Amen. And further, if we work on being assertive IN the home when we go OUT of the home they will know how to behave. I’m not saying there will NEVER EVER be an incident where they misbehave, but we must allow the “but what do you do when” scenarios to be our excuse to not be assertive and play the “can’t we all get along?” card.

  51. I would like to add that I really like this article, but there are situations where a different approach is required. I’m thinking here of kids like my own who have been deeply impacted by mental health issues – in this case, not their own, but their father’s. He has serious anger issues, among other things, and the damage done to my kids by his approach to “discipline” is like nothing I could have imagined. I still regard myself as an assertive mother, but the way in which I go about it is necessarily different. Because of how they have been disciplined as little children, neither of them can understand a spanking as an act of love, so that does not happen in our house. They both have emotional problems which require me to be extremely calm and spend a lot of time working through *why* they are feeling this way at this moment, so that I can tear down the damage that has been done, and rebuild them in a positive way. I absolutely *have* to be a safe person for them to go to, and I have to guide their behavior whilst also allowing them to feel safe and free of coercion.

    As I said, I am not disagreeing with Connie, but I thought another perspective might help, or at least add to the discussion :)

  52. Great advice and good reminder.