THE PLAIN TRUTH ABOUT CHILD REARING
by Garner Ted Armstrong
1963, 1970, 1971, 1974 edition
Chapter One - WHAT IS A CHILD?
Chapter Two - CRIMINALS ARE MADE, NOT
Chapter Three - HOW YOUR CHILD LEARNS
Chapter Four - YOU CAN PUNISH YOUR
CHILDREN IN LOVE
Chapter Five - HOW TO GET RESULTS
Chapter Six - SHOULD CHILDREN BE SEEN
AND NOT HEARD?
Chapter Seven - YOUR CHILDREN AT
Chapter Eight - HOW TO PREPARE YOUR
CHILDREN FOR SCHOOL
Chapter Nine - HOW TO HELP YOUR TEEN-
HOW TO GET RESULTS
IF YOU have really seen, and you know that you can and must
punish your children when they need it -- and do it in love -- then you
need to know how. What do you use?
You've heard of the old razor strap, the belt, the buggy whip,
the ruler and pencil of the school teachers of a few decades ago.
But should these implements be used?
What Should You Use?
We have already seen how two or three fingers of the hand
should be used for a very young child, and first tested on your own
forearm or thigh. Generally, it is best to spank with the hand.
But, again, there are many cautions.
First, never try to spank a small child with the whole hand
through his diapers! Before you would ever accomplish the job of
administering a proper spanking to drive the lesson home, you might
run the risk of injuring the child's back. The whole hand against
one or two thicknesses of diapers would not really be felt except
as a clubbing type of blow to the child.
As mentioned previously, you should raise the corners of the
diaper, and sharply swat the child with only two or three fingers.
Make sure it is felt -- but first try it on yourself.
Before continuing with these methods, let's understand where
you should spank a child. It is certainly all right to swat the
back of a child's hand as he reaches for a forbidden object, such
as a lighted stove, china vase, or something he may pull down and
break. In fact, as one author states, "A slap on the hand of the
infant who is reaching for a forbidden object has the advantages of
immediate and direct association with the misbehavior and of being
quickly over. To do any good the slap must be sharp enough to be
felt, but should not be severely painful" (Hohman, op. cit., p.
But these are the only areas in which you should ever spank a
child. Either high on the backs and sides of the legs, directly on
the buttocks, or occasionally on the backs of the hands. You should
NEVER "box his ears" or strike a child about the head or face.
Any time a parent is seen slapping a child on the face, or
thumping him on the head, striking him anywhere else but the areas
described (and then never hard enough to bruise or injure) that
parent is probably punishing in anger, and is truly "hitting" the
child -- not really punishing in love.
Generally it is going to be better to spank with your own
hand. That way, you can feel it, too, and you will be even surer
you are not overdoing it.
Many parents utilize a small switch, which will sharply sting,
but never break the skin or bruise. As the author already quoted
said, "Spanking or nettling small legs with appropriately small
switches are only two of the methods that may be used" (ibid.).
Certainly, nothing in the old-fashioned buggy-whip category
should ever be used. An extremely effective implement is one of the
lighter ping pong paddles, applied to the bare buttocks.
Use common sense. Punish your child in love -- calmly, never in
the heat of emotion -- and you need not fear "over-punishment."
It is very strongly recommended not to use anything that could
properly be considered an "implement" for punishment short of one
year of age. Parents are strictly cautioned to be EXTREMELY CAREFUL
in the application of proper punishment to a very tiny child. BE
careful! DON'T HARM THE CHILD!
Now that we have discussed how spanking should be done, let us
cover, in principle, other important things to remember.
It Must Be Prompt
To be effective, spanking should always be prompt. Frequently,
because of "embarrassment" in the presence of friends, being in a
public place, driving in a car, or some other such difficulty which
seems to make the immediate application of punishment somewhat
problematic, parents will defer punishment until a later time. This
should never be done! The child (and the younger the child the
truer this is) will tend to lose sight of the seriousness of his
offense, and the exact relationship between the offense and the
punishment meted out will become somewhat unclear in his mind after
a period of delay.
"Punishment, to be effective, must be prompt, especially with
a very young child. Prompt punishment does not mean hasty
punishment, in anger. Rather, it means bringing the results of an
act close enough to the event so that a child, whose memory is
short, will not have forgotten why he is being punished" (Figure
and Anderson, op. cit., p. 179).
The parent should think more of the child and of the child's
future than he does of another uninterrupted meal. He should
quietly and calmly take the child OUT of the restaurant -- preferably
to a PRIVATE PLACE such as his automobile, apply the proper
punishment, and return, rather than deferring the punishment until
"The fundamental in all discipline is to be SURE you are
right, then go ahead. Go ahead in a way which leaves no shadow of
doubt whether you or your child wins. Whatever you do, do something
decisive. Do not tell a child who coasts down a dangerous and
forbidden driveway that he cannot use his coaster any more that day
and then let him coax you into giving it back in five minutes. Do
not spank a child and cuddle his tears away, murmuring: 'Daddy is
sorry he had to spank you'" (Hohman, op. cit., pp. 50-51).
Only when punishment is administered immediately after the
offense, and especially is this true with a very young child, will
it be truly effective. This is the only fashion in which the very
young child can be expected to associate the immediate chastisement
with the wrong action.
The more swiftly the punishment can follow the act of
disobedience, the more effective it will be. This is a principle
which should never be forgotten.
It Must Be Consistent
To punish for an infraction one day, and then to allow the
same infraction without punishment the next day is totally
confusing to a child.
"The habit of obedience should be developed by the second
birthday and firmly fixed by the third. It should become automatic.
By the end of the first year, the foundation should be laid. This
foundation arises out of a firm, calm, CONSISTENT treatment of the
child during the first year. The child will get his first lesson of
obedience in learning inhibitions. There is something which babies
should not do; mother says 'no' and sees to it that the baby does
not do the forbidden thing [by punishing immediately if an
infraction occurs]. The mother must be sure that the first lessons
are absolutely successful. She must say 'no' only with good reason,
but when she says it she must see that the child obeys" (Pyle, op.
cit., pp. 148-149).
I have observed many parents make the gross mistake of totally
inconsistent punishment and training. The underlying cause for
inconsistency is that the parents have lapsed into the habit of
punishing their children only when the children finally "get on
their nerves" to the effect that the parent becomes angry, and
"lashes out" at the child in retributive haste.
Frequently, parents will say, "But I DO spank him," and then
go on to argue, "But it doesn't seem to do a bit of good!" Always,
at the root of a statement such as this, is discipline that is
totally ineffective because it is not being done consistently.
This is perhaps the most common of all parental failings in
administering just and loving discipline. On one day, mother may
spank little Johnnie for having pulled a knife out of the drawer.
On the following day, she may totally ignore Johnnie as he plays
with a whole fistful of knives and forks.
Speak Only Once
Here, too, is one of the greatest errors of parents today.
"Johnnie! Get back up there on that chair and finish your
dinner!" says the parent. But Johnnie ignores the parent, going
about his own pursuits as if he had not even heard the voice of the
parent. Most parents are taken in by this "ignoring" which all
children will "try" with their parents, and so are convinced
Johnnie really didn't hear the command. The command is
repeated -- and repeated -- and repeated. Finally -- the child may even be picked up
and placed on the chair by the frustrated parent. Or
what is just as likely (in the practice which I myself have
observed on many occasions) after five or six fruitless
admonitions, the parent himself may turn away from this futile
attempt at child training and go back to his newspaper or other
pursuits, letting the child have his own way. Parents who say, "Did
you hear me?" are those who always speak more than once. Parents
who say, "What am I going to do with you?" are parents who always
speak more than once. Parents who say, "Am I going to have to give
you a spanking?" are parents who always speak more than once.
Have YOU been using these phrases? Do you speak more than once
to your children?
Speak to your child ONCE! Then, if disobedience follows,
immediately apply the proper punishment. It is only in this way
that punishment can be truly effective.
It is truly amazing the degree to which a child's hearing may
be sharpened by only speaking once, firmly, and sharply.
You may have heard of the children who were startled into
humble quietude by the mere "clearing of the throat" of their
father as a warning. You may have heard of other children who could
have been silenced with a mere look. But by far the more average is
the child who can't be quieted with a thousand admonitions, and who
never listens to his parents.
This is such a common failing of parents that it deserves
ample discussion. Check up on yourself. Begin to speak only once.
If you want your child for something, simply say, "Johnnie,
come here!" If the child ignores you, wait just a moment or two,
then arise from your chair, calmly bare the child's bottom and
apply about five or six good sharp swats. If Johnnie pretends he
"didn't hear you" and tearfully tells you he didn't realize you
were calling him -- you may be positively assured that if you explain
the reason why he is being spanked, he will hear you the next time.
I have seen so many dozens, yes, even hundreds, of parents
speaking time and time again to their children without any visual
effect, that it is truly amazing.
You, as a parent, should begin to speak to your child only
once. Say, "Eat your dinner." And then, if, after a few moments,
the child is still toying with his food, showing disinterest, or
daydreaming -- calmly take him down from the dinner table, into
another room, lower his pants and give him a good effective
spanking. Allow him to remain in his room until the crying has
completely subsided, and until he is settled down again, and then
firmly place him on his chair and say, "Eat your dinner!" This
time, you may be fully persuaded, the chances are far more likely
that he is going to finish his dinner. However, let's assume he
doesn't. What then? This brings up the next basic principle.
Always Finish What Is Started
Never cease. Never quit. Never give up. Once you have begun
teaching your child the meaning of the word "no," and to respond to
a single command, don't ever give up. Let's assume your child does
not learn to eat his dinner after this one spanking. If he eats
only two or three bites after the first one, and then begins to toy
with his food again -- repeat the whole process. Don't speak again
you've already done that -- simply arise from the table, take him
into his room, and administer another spanking.
Perhaps it may seem unnecessarily harsh to you -- but you should
continue this process as long as is made necessary by your child's
There is going to come a time in the life of every child when
he is going to "try" his parents almost to the breaking point. He
will rebel. It may be over a simple thing such as eating his
dinner, picking up his toys, coming when you call, going to bed
quietly, or any number of things. My son, on one occasion, simply
refused to blow his nose! My wife would say, "Blow!" and wait,
holding the handkerchief to his nose. He had been blowing his nose
by himself for quite some months -- there was no question but that he
knew how. He rebelled. My wife spanked him, and then told him,
"Blow!" again. Again, he refused. My wife spanked him the second
time. Finally, my wife called me. I took over the situation, and he
still refused to "blow." It took a number of separate spankings.
However, after the last one -- he BLEW!
Had I let my son win that battle, I may never have gained
control of him again!
My child was not bruised -- he was not injured -- and the pain was
all over in just a few moments. But the lesson he learned is still
with him to this day. My wife and I then explained to him that he
would never have needed even one spanking if he had merely blown
his nose as he should have -- in the beginning. We impressed this
firmly upon his mind, telling him that spankings are not enjoyable;
they are not "fun" for anyone concerned, but that because we love
him, we must teach him what is best for him, in order that he will
grow up to be an obedient, loving, respectful child, always doing
exactly what his parents tell him.
I have seen many parents spank their children once or twice
for an infraction, and then give up because their children
continued to rebel. This is disastrous to teaching real discipline.
Use caution, however. NEVER go to an extreme and beat your
child. Punish wisely, in love.
Punishment, to be truly effective, must always be just and
graded to the nature and degree of the offense. Never punish
harshly, or overly much for a small infraction. Never punish
lightly, or too little for a major infraction. Use wisdom and
judgment. I never punished very hard for reaching for a knick-knack
or teacup. I punished very firmly for running out into the street.
The one offense, if repeated, might result in a broken teacup; the
other, if repeated, might result in the loss of the life of the
most precious possession any parent can be given.
Use Right Psychology
Punishment must be adapted to the individual child. However,
in explaining this, I may run the risk of having some parents
retort, "My child never needs a spanking!" But this would be sheer
ridiculousness. Any and every child needs spankings. It is a vital,
integral part of his positive teaching and training. To be left
without punishment is to be left without a very precious tool for
instilling a deep sense of respect, discipline, self-control and a
settled, orderly appreciation of loving authority.
Granted, some children are of totally different NATURES than
others. Some are "easily upset" while others seem to be quite
stoical, almost imperturbable. It may take only one or two sharp
swats for one child to burst into a veritable flood of tears and
repentance. It may take more for another child to show equal
remorse. Surely, no one is in a better position to know and
evaluate this than you -- if you are wise and loving parents.
A child should always understand the purpose of the
punishment. Spanking should always be accompanied by the positive
teaching as to how to do the right thing, as opposed to the wrong.
Most parents have come to feel that spanking is entirely
"negative." This is simply not true. Spanking should be, if
properly utilized, the most positive method of child rearing there
is. With the proper teaching of the right action, both before and
after the spanking, a positive and negative side to the spanking
procedure is given. This will be lastingly beneficial.
For example, your child is frequently running in and out of
the house, and leaving the door open. Simply call him back, inform
him of his mistake and firmly tell him to always close the door
after him when either coming in or going out of the house. Assuming
he forgets within a few minutes and leaves the door ajar again,
call him to you, show him the open door and administer a just
spanking. Then, take the child to the door, and have him close it.
Have him then go in and out of the door five or six times, each
time he does it, opening and closing it properly. Instill the habit
Positive Instruction Necessary
Teach him the positive act he should be expected to do. In
this way, with the positive teaching immediately following and
accompanying the spanking for an infraction, a valuable and
long-lasting lesson may be taught.
Most of the time, your child is going to disobey
"accidentally." He will disobey through carelessness,
thoughtlessness, forgetfulness, or simply through a lack of
understanding what is expected of him. However -- don't be deceived.
There are occasions when a child will deliberately disobey -- and
needs to be spanked accordingly.
Let your child know you believe in his underlying good intent.
Frequently, the young boy or girl will say, quite tearfully, "I
didn't mean to!" You should answer, "Of course you didn't mean to!"
Explain to the child how you understand that he did it merely
through carelessness or forgetfulness. But say, "Had I thought you
would have done such a deed on purpose I would have punished you
much more severely. I know and understand that you wouldn't have
done this deliberately -- trying to be disobedient -- but because I
love you, I must impress upon you that you should never do this
through forgetfulness or carelessness again."
Then, when the tears have subsided after a spanking, love your
children -- take them up and show them some affection! Never allow
the child to run from the one parent who has done the punishing to
the other for the loving and the affection -- but always make sure
the child is loved, first of all by the parent who has done the
Yes, punishment when used properly and in love, is a truly
marvelous method of positive child teaching and training.
There are many methods of proper punishment -- not all of them
involving physical or corporal punishment.
Natural Consequences Sometimes Punish
Sometimes, natural consequences of a child's action may serve.
However, this should only be done when the natural consequences of
the act are not too severe, and no real injury or lasting harm is
involved. Obviously, a parent should not wait until a very young
child is severely shocked in order to teach him not to pull out or
play with electric cords. However, a child will oftentimes learn
unassisted by the parents, through natural consequences of his
acts, how to get along in his surroundings. For example, he may, by
bumping his head when raising up under the piano bench or the
table, learn to crawl out from under any such obstacle before
pulling up or standing. He will learn after one or two minor
brushes with a hot radiator to avoid it.
The parent may warn a child crawling toward a hot (but not too
hot!) radiator -- "no!" The child may disobey this command, and reach
out to touch it anyhow. Obviously, if it is going to result in a
severe burn, the parent should snatch up the child before the child
is allowed to touch the radiator and apply corporal punishment in
a right and loving manner. However, if it is merely going to result
in a momentary pain, the natural consequence may, in all
likelihood, serve to illustrate to the child that immediate
retribution and pain will follow the disobedience of the "no!"
Isolation may be used as a proper method of punishment if the
circumstances warrant it. Especially would this be beneficial if
the child is being uncooperative in playing with other children.
The simple "no!" command for a very young child, or a longer
admonition, in the event the child is older, should always precede
any form of punishment. If the child is taking toys away from
others, or not playing in a cooperative manner, he may be secluded
in his own room, or removed and taken to a safe place (never a
darkened closet, cupboard, or small, confined place), preferably
his own room. He may be made to remain there for a SHORT period of
Deprivation of some special toy, some particular pleasure,
dessert after a meal, a trip to the store, or any number of things
will serve as a lasting admonition for SOME offenses.
For example, a child who is old enough to talk and can
understand such admonitions might be warned: "If you don't eat all
your spinach, you shall not have any dessert with the rest of us."
If the child persists in his rebellion, and does not finish his
spinach -- the parent should be firm, and deprive the child of
Voiced disapproval may be utilized in some instances. However,
mere "nagging" at the child, constant recriminations and rebukes,
or parental disgust shown over and over again will do nothing more
than frighten, dishearten and induce sulkiness in a child.
Never Use Short Cuts
None of the aforementioned methods should ever, under any
circumstances, supplant corporal punishment. There are thousands of
parents who will assure others that they can "reason with" their
children, and therefore have never needed to spank them. There are
many thousands of others who assure all who will listen that their
children can merely be "shamed" as a result of any wrong deed, and
have never "needed" a spanking.
These are simple excuses and attempted "short cuts" by parents
who don't grasp the central importance of corporal punishment.
Train Your Children Together
It is a heinous crime for one parent to nullify the
instructions of the other -- or to "take up for a child" because it
is felt that the other parent is dealing too harshly with him.
If the mother feels the father is being too harsh and begins
to loudly say so -- in front of the child or teen-ager -- it will
result in a sense of inner conflict within the child, and begin to
set the stage for the child's future HABITS of using one parent
against the other to get his own way.
If the father does ALL the punishing -- this will be an
automatic risk. Therefore, the parents should cooperate fully in
the positive teaching and training of the child, and also in the
disciplining. The father should certainly take the lead -- doing the
heavy share of the disciplining. However, in many homes, where the
father is at work during most of the daylight hours, and the mother
is with the children of pre-school age during the day, it is the
mother who will have to do the bulk of the punishing during those
A father who does discipline in a loving and proper manner,
and a mother who is against discipline and never uses it, is a
disastrous combination for child rearing.
Never Be at Cross Purposes
If parents are at cross purposes with one another in teaching
and training their children -- it would be far better if no children
had ever been born into such a family. The children would have less
chance than the proverbial "hoot in a whirlwind" for growing up to
be obedient, respectful, morally and emotionally stable.
In all the examples of teaching and discipline already given
in this book, each parent should follow the exact same procedures,
together. Oftentimes, both parents can share in the same period of
instruction. For example: If the father gives Johnny a command to
pick up his toys, the mother could follow the command immediately
with saying, "Johnny, as soon as you finish obeying your father in
picking up your toys, come here to the kitchen -- I have something
for you to do." In this way, the mother acknowledges the father's
priority, driving home the lesson that the father's command should
be FIRST obeyed -- and then enforces upon the mind of the child that
she too is to be obeyed with equal dispatch.
Never Take Sides
Let's assume the father really is disciplining just a little
What should the wife do? Should she reprimand her husband,
attempt to intervene in his handling of the problem?
The answer should be obvious! There is NEVER a time for the
mother to openly disagree with, disapprove of, or show contempt for
the teaching or discipline of the father.
What, then, is she to do? Suppose she's right -- suppose her
husband really is disciplining a little harder than he should?
Then the mother should wait until later -- wait until she is
alone with her husband -- and discuss the matter.
The child will not suffer any injury if the discipline is not
really overly severe. He would suffer far worse injury to his
permanent character if he saw his mother shrilly accusing his
father, and taking sides. It would be one of the most damaging
things she could do to her child.
Never take sides with your children against your mate.
Never try to countermand an order given by the other
parent -- whether that order is right or wrong!
If mother tells daughter she can't have a new dress, and
father countermands mother's decision -- father is guilty of taking
sides. He has hurt his daughter, his wife, and himself, more than
he begins to realize.
The simple answer, to avoid taking sides, is to talk things
over. Know how you intend dealing with your children under specific
situations. Know each other better. Cooperate with one another in
rearing your children.