I just read an article by Donald Kraybill which examines Amish and obedience (http://goo.gl/Sb7e7).  In the piece, Kraybill explains why Amish use physical punishment to discipline children, citing an Amish mother named Hannah:

Hannah explained that, when children are about two years old, their wills need to be broken. If it’s not done at that stage, she said, they will likely become disobedient, rebellious adults. The spanking helps correct them and “make them nice.” Another mother explained that when children learn to fold their hands at prayer time, they are old enough to be reprimanded with light spanks when disobedient.

The article has been getting some interesting responses.  Not everyone in the comments section agrees with the Amish approach to corporal punishment, or even has a favorable opinion of the Amish, for that matter.

Some of the commenters say that they do not or did not use physical discipline with their own children, for example favoring time-outs instead.  One remarks that after spankings received as a child, she felt only “resentment”.   Another critic writes that “Few parents would brag that they hit their children, but change the word to “spank” and suddenly the behavior is fine.”

At the same time a number of responders commend the Amish approach.  A mother of five states that “Without discipline, children will fail in life, period.”  Another cites a bad experience at a restaurant, sitting next to a family with two extremely disruptive children.  “For too many children today, a little Amish-style discipline would be a very good thing,” notes the commenter.  “Children need to learn that the world does not exist to satisfy their selfish whims.”

Amish feel that spanking must be done with the right motives and state of mind, as Kraybill explains:

Parents are quick to say, however, that spanking and other forms of physical discipline should never be done in anger or frustration. The child should understand the reason for discipline so that “punishment ends on a happy note, sweet and forgiving,” says Naomi, a mother. She adds that because correction ultimately “leads to happiness … [discipline] must be the result of our love for the child’s happiness, both now and in the hereafter.”

Parents out there, what do you think?

Spare the rod, spoil the child?

Or is physical discipline taking things too far?

And: read more on Amish child discipline, including punishment in Amish schools.

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