On childish mistakes

Of the many things that happened at our house this morning, this was one of them: My littlest (20 mo) found a stick, came into the kitchen where I was washing dishes, and poked me, HARD, with it.

I wish I could say that I handled it well. But I can't because I didn't. I reacted in anger and disciplined my son.

Immediately afterward, I regretted my response as I remembered this from Elisabeth Elliot's devotional recently:

A word of caution: spanking, in my opinion, should be for deliberate disobedience only. When a child spills his milk or stuffs peanuts up his nose or pours your talcum powder all over the carpet, he is not being disobedient. He is only acting his age. You have not forbidden him to stuff peanuts up his nose. If you have, and he does it anyway, spank him. If, in defiance, he dumps his milk on the floor, spank him. But childish mistakes and messes must be pointed out, and by all means he should be made to rectify them or clean them up as best he can. Think of punishments that will fit the "crimes," but reserve the stick or the switch for deliberate disobedience. He will soon learn that when he defies you, a spanking follows as sure as the dawn follows the night--even if you are in church or the supermarket. Take him out to the car and spank him. Explain the whole system to him again (after the spanking), if necessary. Put your arms around him, assure him of your love, and change the subject.

I believe this wholeheartedly.

In fact, when people have asked me how to know when to administer the rod of correction, I would say this: "If you've told them NO and they do it anyway, they are defying you and need to be disciplined."

As for the stick, it may be arguable that my son knew better than to poke someone with a stick. But in hindsight, I know that he was not trying to be naughty. He was curious about this stick he'd found (if you're wondering what a stick was doing inside the house, it was actually a dowel I had lying around for some project). He picked it up and was experimenting with how to play with it. I had not told him not to touch it, not to poke me with it, etc. And yet, I reacted. As if he was willfully disobeying me. Which he wasn't.

Don't these childish mistakes happen often at your house? They do mine. My son plays with the toothpaste and ends up getting it all over himself and the entire bathroom. Because he's curious. He's seen mommy squeeze out the toothpaste; he's imitating me. Or when he's trying to "help" unload the dishwasher, like he sees me do. But the dishes are dirty, and now they're all over the place.

What a wonderful reminder to allow our children to act their age-- unless we've told them not to.

The title of this devotional is A Child's Obedience. To read it in it's entirety (and I recommend that you do!), go here. And if you're not already getting Elisabeth Elliot's daily devotionals emailed to you, I cannot emphasize enough that you should.

Have a wonderful day with your children!

Update: Or, for instance, when you're making Christmas cards and your boys discover a stamp pad and wipe it all over their hands, faces, pants, and the floor. Which is what happened about an hour after I posted this entry. And, yes... things like these-- definitely a regular occurence at our house. Good thing I'm working on my response!


  1. Dec. 9, 2006 - Untitled Comment
    Posted by Anonymous
    Oh, wow, Stacy. Every mother can relate to this post! I can even relate to being poked with a stick - hard!
    I love the quote from Elisabeth Elliot. It's right on. I know, I KNOW that someday, spills and holes and bruises and messes will not be important. But I still lose it. Often.
    Taking the time to react is key for me - as soon as I feel the storm cloud brewing, when lightning gets ready to strike, I have to step away for a second. It's always better that way.
    So, have I got the market cornered on this slow to anger, quick to patience, clear-headed-when-it-comes-to-deciding-if-this-is-a-crime-worthy-of-a-spanking thing? Absolutely not. That's why I love reading posts like this. It's a yes YES moment. I know these things. You reinforced them. I will start again.
    Thanks, Stacy!


    Dec. 9, 2006 - Untitled Comment
    Posted by Anonymous
    Whoops - sorry! That last comment was by me - Elise from Joy in the Morning! www.mamahooper.blogspot.com
    I'm so forgetful. But if I ask my husband why I feel like I'm forgetting everything, he just tells me "You've just already used up your quota of brilliance for today, sweetie! It's okay!" : )


    Dec. 9, 2006 - Untitled Comment
    Posted by Rebeca
    Or, like when my son took a marker and drew on his sister's face! This is a good reminder.
    It's nice to be back and read what you've been up too- quite the adventure with your tree. I'm glad it all turned out well.


    Dec. 9, 2006 - Untitled Comment
    Posted by marchn341
    Oh how funny~ we made Christmas cards today too, with new stamps and stamp pads they received as gifts this morning! "Stamping" was a new experience for my girls, and they did beautiful work. Seems like boys have a different kind of fun with stamps!
    We all got a good laugh out of your tree story. We used to live up north and miss going to cut down our own Christmas tree!
    Not sure when I'll be back blogging, but will be sure to let you know!
    Blessings, Christy


    Dec. 11, 2006 - Untitled Comment
    Posted by Anonymous
    Things like this are a regular occurrance at our house, too. And yes, I need the reminders as well! Thank you, Stacy.

    I loved your Christmas tree story! :) You are quite the adventurers!


    Dec. 11, 2006 - Untitled Comment
    Posted by Anonymous
    That was me -



    Dec. 11, 2006 - Hey Stacy!
    Posted by Joni
    Just checking in...have you not been able to post yet since the upgrade? I have noticed a few different things, and r...ea...ll...y slow page loading, but I didn't have trouble posting. Looking forward to a new post soon!

    Love Ya,


    Dec. 11, 2006 - As usual...
    Posted by Michelle
    As usual, Stacy....great words of wisdom...a great reminder!! It seems that as B and E have gotten older, there are fewer "ooops" moments...but when they do occur, they are "bigger"
    (like the internet cable that got tangled in the lawnmower!!)...and now we are starting it all over with M....thanks for your encouragement! I am heading to sign up for the devotional now. =)

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