Poppy, my sister is dating someone who has a two year old boy (who is constantly getting into trouble). I am, in general, not a big proponent of spanking as a punishment. However, I have believed that spanking as a corrective is a good tool, and my experiences with that little boy (my sister babysits him during the day while his dad is at work, when she has the day off, so I've spent a good amount of time around him - if for no other reason that he is so loud I can't usually sleep well). For instance, when he starts to go up the stairs, he gets popped on the butt (not too hard, but enough so he knows that he did something he wasn't supposed to). What is the reason for this? It's not because stairs are evil and he should be swiftly punished for trying to interact with them. Rather, it is because if he doesn't equate a negative feeling to going up the stairs on his own, it is likely he will try and go up the stairs, fall down them, and then equate negative feelings to stairs in general. James:
The example of the stove illustrates this perfectly. Children will frequently not listen when you just tell them "Don't do that!" This is especially true of young children. As a result, they are likely to try and touch a stove if you simply tell them not to. You then have two choices: 1.) Smack their hand/pop their butt every time they try and touch the stove, until they realize it's probably smart not to; or 2.) Let them go ahead and touch the stove. Option one will hurt mildly for a minute or two. Option two will result in severe pain, and - depending on how hot the stove is - the possibility of an emergency room visit. Which is the better alternative? Short-lasting, mild pain, or long-lasting severe pain? I think the former is preferred to the latter.
One could similarly compare this to God (of course, keeping in mind that He is infinitely wise, and so when He chooses to utilize a tool, it will always be the correct choice). When we do things we shouldn't, things that are bad for our bodies or our souls, God will sometimes inflict some sort of negative upon us. This isn't to punish us, but to correct us. He knows that, if he allows us to do as we please, we will wind up in a much worse state than we are if He inflicts a (relatively) mild punishment upon us. For instance, suppose you are driving drunk. Now, suppose God gave you the consequence of running your car into a tree, totaling it, and winding up in the hospital for a day or so. This may seem like a terrible thing. However, suppose God did it because He knew that, had He not, you would have not only totaled your car and wound up in the hospital, but also killed a child in the process? Was he wrong to inflict pain on you to prevent greater pain? While of course it is on a much smaller scale, this is quite similar to the parent who smacks their kid's hand when he goes to touch the stove: the parent does it to prevent a much greater pain from happening.
1) Kids on stairs:
Your premise is that pain is basically the only way to teach kids.
Do you think they cannot understand it when you give them commands? Like they are almost mindless dogs or pets?
If so, please remember that even dogs and pets are not trained by inflicting pain.
2) God works in mysterious ways. It could be that He works by inflicting pain as an educating punishment. But then we also have the example of the first Christians who were punished and harmed, but not for some evil. There is the example of Job who appeared to be punished alot by God, but for what?
On the other hand, alot of times the ancient Israelites thought they were being punished for lack of faith. Plus, sometimes bad things happen to people where they are killed as a result of bad decisions, like DUI. In those cases, it is hard to say that these bad things happen to teach them.
In Christian prayers we ask God to forgive us our sins. The idea with forgiveness and pardoning someone is that you don't hold the person's sins against them anymore and do not try to harm them as punishment or revenge. Thus, in the OT and NT, if God forgave someone, the idea was that he averted the strong punishment he was going to give them, I think. I remember for example it said if the Israelites repented, the OT said God would hold back his wrath.
Alot of people in modern society don't "get" this. They think that you can pardon someone and still try to punish them.
I could see your example about punishment for instructive purposes, but if the person repented and won't do it again, then it wouldn't be necessary for instruction anymore.
So the best is if you can give your kid at least the same respect you give some dog- use instructions rather than pain. Then the child is sorry, and there is no point in punishment at all. Plus, even if he/she isn't sorry, there are other ways of punishment besides the degradation of physical pain.
Fear, pain and shame makes the soul ugly, while love makes the soul happy and responsive. It seems possible that for some extraordinary people though, being mistreated could actually make them stronger, like a challenge they can overcome. Perhaps if you kick a dog and harm it, this may make the dog have a more ugly personality, but it may become more aggressive and a better dog-fighter as a result. Likewise, alot of hurt children become bullies, but on the other hand, the experience may also make them tougher. Perhaps the harm the early Christians suffered made them more resilient after all.
In any case, I think the best thing is to treat children like you would want to be treated- with compassion and understanding, rather than with painful punishments.