"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

Q&A Step Mother Asks: Do I Spank Teenage Stepdaughter?

Should Step Mother Spank Stepdaughter?

By Mark Benedict

Q: Dear Christian Parents Net

I have recently married a man who I love dearly.  My own daughter Mary is 10, and my husband’s daughter Rachel, is 16. I am a firm believer of corporal punishment and use spanking as a method to discipline Mary. I am responsible for discipline in the household and while I have no problem in punishing Mary when she deserves it, I do have a problem with Rachel, my stepdaughter.  

A few days ago, Rachel stole some money from home and stayed away from school all day. I had a long talk with her and she agreed that her behavior deserved severe punishment. I wanted to be fair with her and gave her the choice of punishments. I told she would be grounded for a month, or she could accept a spanking from me. Rachel opted for the latter and now I have a problem. When I punish Mary, I put her across my lap and spank her in the traditional way. I do not know how to punish Rachel.  I thought about giving her a spanking using a belt or maybe the cane. I would appreciate your advice on this. I would like to know what position to punish her in, and the number of strokes to give. Bearing in mind how serious the offence is I thought that I could punish her in more than one session if you advised a large number of strokes. Look forward to hearing from you.

BL

A: Dear BL,  

I do not recommend corporal punishment for older children.  By sixteen, they are in the process of being prepared for adult living and a different approach to discipline is usually more appropriate with a child that is generally compliant in behavior.  Although, some Christian parents have found in extreme situations, requiring “a tough love approach, that a spanking has turned around the situation with a rebellious teenager in most cases parents can be done with the need for corporal punishment before the teen years. 

It may be helpful to clearly distinguish between a “rebellious” and a “disobedient” teenager.  A rebellious child is habitually disobedient, while even a generally well-behaved teenager may occasionally disobey or have a lapse of judgment.   

With older children, treat specific acts of disobedience in accordance with their actions, with appropriate punishments to fit “the crime.”  Punishments with teenagers should involve restitution whenever possible.  Rachel appears to be a compliant child who appreciates the seriousness of her actions. 

While Rachel may need to feel she is accepted as your own daughter, and express a preference to for discipline in the same way, your approach to discipline must be flexible with each child.  It can be affected by the changes that come with adolescence, and the unique challenges of blended families.  In a blended family, discipline should always be a joint effort.  You and your husband should not lose sight of the fact that it can be complicated for your children to deal with the changes that come from trying to make a nuclear family out of two separate families.  In many situations, with older children, it is advisable for the biological parent to be the one to administer the discipline.  Discipline should always be a team effort, but dealing with a blended family requires much additional wisdom and prayer.

I would never recommend spreading corporal punishment over multiple sessions, as the object of the punishment is to change an attitude, not to render some kind of arbitrary balance to the scales of justice by rendering “just deserts” for the misconduct.  There is no “discipline” scale available to determine the appropriate discipline for a child’s misbehavior. I also do not recommend prolonged periods of restriction since this is most often counterproductive.  It frequently leads to brooding, resentment, and idleness that creates more problems.  Parents discipline to create an immediate change of attitude, as well as encourage future avoidance of bad behavior.  Corporal punishment should be sufficient to change the child’s attitude at the time of administration.  With older children, loss of privileges are often appropriate, to teach the lesson that past actions have residual effects continuing far into the future. 

As I mentioned, I do not recommend prolonged restriction. Any short periods of restriction need to done under close supervision.  During the restriction there should be positive activities to engage the child’s heart, or poor attitude and resentment is likely to develop.

Our prayers are with you.  Your stepdaughter will benefit from the time you spend with her and your continuing assurance that you love her unconditionally.

Regards in Him

Mark Benedict

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