In my June 24th episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered a question on whether the corporal punishment of children is ever justified. Two weeks later, I was stunned and thrilled and blown away and elated to receive this email from a total stranger who found Philosophy in Action via the Stitcher App. Here, see for yourself (with his permission).

Dr. Hsieh -

I recently discovered your podcasts when I subscribed to Stitcher and the app suggested it as something I might like. The app was correct.

The first podcast I heard was the one in which you discussed corporal punishment of children.

I was raised by parents who scolded, yelled, punished and frequently spanked me repeatedly with a belt. Until now, I had prided myself that when I spanked either of my twins I did so only once with my open hand and only when they were “out of control” – but if truth be told I have also noticed that I only spanked them when I was frustrated and angry at their behavior as well.

You really made me think when you asked the question, “What are you teaching your kids when you hit them?’ But you made my jaw drop when you matter-of-factly stated, “Obedience is not a virtue.”

It was a simple yet grand statement that I instantly realized was TRUE. It was grand because I had never thought of it before.

I have, in fact, been trying to teach my children to be obedient. Obedient to me to be sure, but obedient nonetheless. Since hearing it, your statement has been ringing in my head like a bell and I’ve realized that obedient may be that last thing I want my children to be – and that includes being obedient to me.

I want them to be strong, intelligent, confident and self-directed. I want them to question everything and take no statement for granted. I want them to internalized a father who loves them and values and respects them as rational beings.

So, a day or so after I heard your podcast I sat down with my 4 years old son and daughter after giving them breakfast and I told them that I had decided that spanking them was wrong and that I would not do it anymore. Their eyes lit up at hearing this and something changed in our relationship at that moment. I also hit upon, quite by accident, the principal argument and rationale that I have since used over and over again to convince them to cooperate with me. I asked them to help me.

Children generally love to help their parents and I now regularly ask them to help me get them ready for school, or ready for bed. I ask them to help us get things done so we can do other things. There are still times when they are willful and uncooperative and I get frustrated and angry, but I’ve kept my promise to not spank them and instead I tell them honestly how I feel and I usually refuse to help them with some trivial request that they’ve made pointing out that they didn’t help me when I asked them to.

Now, I find their willful episodes becoming less and less of a problem – much less than when I would spank them for it. Instead, they seem to be learning that kindness and cooperation beget kindness and cooperation.

I thought that you might like to know that all this has come from you saying to me, “Obedience is not a virtue.”

I thank you for that truth.

- Christopher J. Wieczorek, PE

Wow, just wow. My hearty admiration and congratulations to Christopher. He’s quite a man — and quite a father.

If you missed that episode on spanking children, have a listen:

Also, if you’re interested in taking your parenting to the next level, I interviewed Jenn Casey and Kelly Elmore on “Parenting without Punishment” on the next Wednesday. That’s here:

  • Nicholas P.

    Wow . . . Kudos all around!

  • Rachel Miner

    What a lovely story of success for all :)

  • JP

    I never thought that spanking was about enforcing obedience per se. It was for a time when what the child had done could easily have lead to drastic consequences that they were as yet incapable of understanding, so obedience would serve as a stand-in until they could understand what the rules were there for. When I become a father, corporal punishment will be used, but if I raise them right they should have no problems understanding why the rules are there by age 10.

    For example, I tell my 5-year-old child not to run out into the road, no matter what. He does. I spank him to enforce obedience; not because I want him to obey forever, but because he won’t be able to understand my rules yet. By the time he is 8, though, understanding what getting hit by a car will do to him will make him understand the rules. And once he has really understood one rule, the rest should follow. Whats more, once he gets that understanding, then I will be able to trust his judgment when it comes to bending the rules.

    That’s the point, I think. You don’t spank them because obedience is a virtue; you do it because you don’t have another means of getting through to them yet. You want them to live long enough to become independent adults, after all. Sometimes corporal punishment is the only way they’ll get there.

    This is why its probably a good idea to let the kid touch the hot surface on the stove at least once. The burn won’t do any real damage, and he’ll learn his lesson quickly.

    • facebook-502752253

      I recommend that you never have children. Or at the very least, before you do have children you take some time to actually learn the first thing about them. Your empirical model for child behavior and child development is not consistent with the facts of reality.

      It’s not a moral failing to have a false view of the world. It is a moral failing to persist in error after you’ve been alerted to it. It is possibly criminal if you end up hitting another person, or deliberately allowing a child to suffer injury (touching a hot stove) to serve your deluded view of the world.

  • Kevin Delaney

    I’m completely against spanking anyone, until they’re old enough to enjoy it!

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