Christianity And Attachment Parenting: Do The Worlds Collide?

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Do Christianity and Attachment Parenting go hand in hand? I’m sure we’ve all heard that Jesus was breastfed, and I’m sure we’ve all heard the Christmas story enough to know that Jesus co-slept, at least until the wise men came. But my question is this: What would Jesus think of Gentle Discipline?

I grew up in a practising Christian, church going home, and although I wasn’t routinely beaten, I had my share of hidings. I wouldn’t class my upbringing as abusive, yet there was an implement of torture – the ‘PLAK’ (a leather strap with a hard handle) – that we would be threatened with from time to time. Primarily effectively so. As the oldest, I was sometimes punished for things that weren’t actually my fault. But still, hidings were a part of our culture, our belief and our upbringing. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” and all that. Or as Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares the rod hates his son: but he that loves him corrects him”.

In fact, Solomon went as far, in Proverbs, as saying, “Withhold not correction from a child: for if you strike him with the rod, he shall not die. You shall beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” (Proverbs 23:13-14)

Logically speaking, I don’t really see how you can beat someone into heaven. The two don’t really strike me as leading from one to another.

I have had discussions, at length, with Christians who question our decision not to smack our child. I guess at almost 14 months, that’s easy to say. She’s not a tantrum filled toddler yet. She’s not a stroppy tween, nor an infuriating teen. But we’ve decided to start as we mean to go on.

I struggle to equate love with pain. Or at least, a healthy, building, underpinning love. Like most, I have had love that has given me pain – or more accurately, it was the withdrawal of love from which the pain came. But I struggle to line up love next to the infliction of pain. I see very little difference between ‘I love my child, so punish with a beating‘ and ‘He beats me, because he loves me‘.

In both, the one being beaten is suffering because of the feelings of the beater, and the one being beaten experiences a succumbing to the obviously more powerful ‘other’. I cannot find a trace of love in this. This is why for us, with our child(ren) we are choosing to disciple with love, not violence. And I guess as the years pass, we’ll see what results.

When the Bible talks of the ‘rod’, as in, “Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me” it is using the analogy of the shepherd tending his flock. Phillip Keller explains his understanding of the ‘rod’ through his experiences with African shepherds who till this day still use a rod and staff in the fields. He says, “The rod, in fact, was an extension of the owner’s own right arm. It stood as a symbol of his strength, his power, his authority in any serious situation.”

In modern Christianity the focus has always been on the disciplinarian nature of the rod. But I wonder if there wasn’t also a more gentle, peaceful purpose to the rod: to guide, to direct, to point in the right direction. Perhaps when the Bible says, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” it is saying, “don’t guide your child, don’t direct him, don’t point him in the right direction and you will spoil, or ruin, the child.”

Vigeland Park, Oslo, NorwayAnd with that I can agree.

Perhaps it’s saying “He who spares the guidance, the direction, the pointing in the ways that are right hates his son: but he that loves him corrects him”.

I sure don’t see it saying “but he that loves him beats him.”

See, the Bible also tells us to ‘Correct your son, and he will give you comfort, He will also delight your soul. (Proverbs 29:17). Correction involves teaching, guiding, providing alternatives, holding back when needed, allowing to go when appropriate. It involves communication.

The Bible tells us not to provoke our children to anger (Ephesians 6:4) – I assure you, undeserved hidings made me plenty angry. It means we should not tease our children beyond what’s playful and we’re BOTH enjoying. It means we must allow them to have opinions, to have feelings and to be free to express those. (How frustrating is it to you or me when we’re just.not.heard?)

Jesus loved children. He still does. And last time I checked, the Bible also told us that love “is patient, is kind, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres and never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

So, can a Christian parent practice Gentle Discipline? Yes. I believe so. I believe it is what God intended. I don’t believe He ever intended us to raise our children with violence – sexual, physical or mental – nor do I believe that physical violence towards a child can foster a loving, caring, trusting relationship between a parent and their child in the long term.



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19 thoughts on “Christianity And Attachment Parenting: Do The Worlds Collide?

  1. I have a nine months old baby daughter and therefore have not reached the stage where I may need to use the rod. I must therefore admit that I don’t have enough parenting experience.

    I however feel that a gentle use of the rod, a little spanking perhaps, can help in disciplining kids. Even the Bible talks of a God who sometimes used some force to let his children understand that they were not living right. Exile to Babylon etc are some of the uses of the “rod” by God to discipline His Children.

    I also know that there is a fine line between discipline and abuse. But any responsible parent knows in his heart when he has crossed the line.
    Samuel Albert’s last blog post ..5 Tips On Looking After Newborn Babies

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  2. {Kathy} Of course Christianity and attachment parenting go together! I think this is an interesting debate, but we must realize that we much do what we feel is the best for the child and the parent — in light of our faith.
    Mothering From Scratch’s last blog post ..what does a christian mother look like?

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    Luschka Reply:

    I agree! On all counts :) As long as we truly understand our faith!

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  3. Amy

    Thank you for this, Luschka. :) There is so much to this issue and you have highlighted the example Christ left for us… to love one another, including children.

    Some people spank and think it is out of love, or for the child’s well being. There are other ways to guide children that do not leave life long wounds – physically or emotionally.

    The Bible is a progressive revelation and also talks about stoning and other practices from the time it was written that we would not think of doing now, and if someone did think of it they would not want it to happen to them – they would pray for the Creator’s mercy and forgiveness.

    The “rod of correction” is loving guidance, which Jesus clearly demonstrated with those who followed him. One such passage that talks about how we ought treat one another – applying to children also – is Matthew 5:38-48. He talks about the fact that we were taught an eye for an eye and he teaches us to not resist evil, but to turn the other cheek. I see that as extending to turning the other cheek towards what we want instead of resisting what we don’t want – which greatly applies to parenting… showing our kids the desired behavior rather than focusing on what we don’t want to see.

    I am currently working on a book that discusses this topic in detail… I’ll let you know when it’s complete. :)
    Amy’s last blog post ..Crabby Stretching for Families

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  4. Pingback: What are we doing? « Edge of the Ebenezer
  5. Found your website through peaceful parenting. Thank you for writing this article. Gentle Discipline is something I have come to feel very strongly for; yet I tend to be told that I “do not discipline [my] children”, which really means I don’t spank them. It is always good to find other Christian parents who know that discipline and physical punishment are NOT synonyms!
    Sonya-Justice’s last blog post ..Kindle- Kachingle- and Spam Comments

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    Luschka Reply:

    @Sonya-Justice, yes, I hear you! Not spanking really isn’t the same as not disciplining, is it! It baffles me how people can tell me I should just smack my child from time to time, then on other occassions those same people are amazed at how calm/peaceful/content AND OBEDIENT she is. Baffles me.

    As an aside, where did you find my site on peaceful parenting? I am a regular reader and haven’t seen myself on there! Thanks for letting me know!

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    Sonya-Justice Reply:

    @Luschka, a while back (maybe a week ago? I don’t remember) they asked on their Facebook page for other Facebook profiles that stood by three principles: pro-breastfeeding, anti-circumcision and…one other one. I actually don’t remember what it was at the moment. I was looking through the list and clicked on a few pages that looked interesting, and one of them led me to your blog. :)

    I used to spank my daughter. Frankly, it turned her into a monster, and it’s something I’m rather ashamed of. Since I’ve stopped spanking her and taken a more gentle, loving, patient approach to teaching her, she is almost a completely different child! It is wonderful. She still tantrums now and then (and that is when others suggest she needs to be hit–yeah right; I’m not doing that again!) but it is way less often (maybe every other day instead of 5 times a day) and she just such a far better child. She is almost three now. Her sister will be turning one soon and she never has and never will receive a spanking from me (and if anyone else ever does that to her they will be hearing from a very unhappy mama!). When we know better, we do better :)
    Sonya-Justice’s last blog post ..Go- Dog Go!

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  6. I actually just read and reviewed a book I loved called “Parenting with Grace” that explained from a Catholic perspective why attachment parenting practices do mesh so well with Christianity. It makes sense that some of the things that seem so natural, like breastfeeding and co-sleeping, are simply doing things the way God made them to work!
    Maman A Droit’s last blog post ..Parenting With Grace- Book Review

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    Luschka Reply:

    @Maman A Droit, That sounds really interesting. Do you have the name of who it’s written by? Thanks for leaving your thoughts :)

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  7. This is a great post. I agree with what you’ve said. I think much of the authoritarian attitude of Christian parenting comes from fear. Fear of having the out of control child. Fear of having the child who strays. Fear of being judged as a parent. We are not called to be fearful. Parenting out of fear isn’t where I want to be.

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    Luschka Reply:

    @Casey, Thanks for your comment! I totally agree – how much of life isn’t about fear?! I actually think you’ve hit on a very vital point there. Thanks for sharing :)

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  8. Amy

    I am a home birth, breastfeeding, cloth diaper, gentle mom to my four month old. But I do believe there is a time to exercise your authority to garner respect. For example, to create a sane household, practicing high chair discipline. And not changing your house (except for safety) to fit your child’s wants. Children who grow up in an environment where they are never told ‘no’ have a hard time in life after they leave their parents’ wing. (I’ve seen it.) I agree that physical discipline has the potential to become detrimental, but exercising that right as a parent once or twice, to me, will be worth it in exchange for respect and a household without nagging….

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  9. Lauren @ Hobo Mama

    This is so wise and true. It’s hard for me every time I write about Christianity as it relates to parenting, because there are so many forms of Christianity that someone will always step in to say “Well, my experience is this instead….” It sounds like we had a similar sort of upbringing, though — and a similar reconversion to a different theology or method of interpreting those Scriptures. As an adult and a parent, I simply can’t reconcile the idea of hitting my child with being what Jesus would have intended. But I still know plenty of people who believe otherwise.
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama’s last blog post ..Take off winter jackets in car seats

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  10. Interesting thoughts! Great article here: http://aolff.org/spare-the-rod

    And the Gentle Discipline forums here are a fascinating and helpful read. http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/community/index.php

    I am a Christian and a non-adversarial unschooling parent. I believe that scripture read outside of our cultural paradigm is NOT compatible with physical punishment as discipline. The verse in Proverbs 23 you quote is about an adult child, and saying it would be better for him to be beaten by you than die from his foolishness. It isn’t about young children, training a child in the way they should go is about the wonderful Jewish concept of “come let us reason together”. :-)

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