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Tomato Staking

This here's a controversial topic among Christian parents: spank for every disobedience, for some really bad ones, or not at all and use "grace".

I feel like I've tried the "spank for everything" method with my firstborn, who gives me quite a bit of trouble, and it hasn't "worked" (he's got buns of steel), probably because I have a short fuse and should NOT have been using that method until I could exercise the self control necessary to carry it out biblically. For quite a while now, I let dad do it because I hated how I felt when I did it (usually because I was mad) and dad is next door most days, so he's available a lot if we need him.

Now he's getting older and spanking isn't really an option for me anymore. He's 70 pounds and 8 years old! So I found this very helpful information .

A reader wrote in with the following question. My situation is similar, only it's the little brother who gets the brunt of the bad behavior by his older brother.

Tomorrow--tomato staking-making him my personal assistant all DAY LONG. I need to get on my knees right now.

Seven year old won't repent

Question: Hello, I'm new, will try to post an intro later. We have 4 at home, out of 6. The 4 at home are a boy 11, girl 9, boy nearly 7, girl 4. The problem is with the 7 yo boy. He has been very jealous of the 11 year old boy for some time. The older boy naturally is able to do more things, etc. One example--our oldest son, before the 7 year old was born, gave all his legos to the middle son. The youngest son only sees that the middle son has more legos than he does. We explained that the oldest gave them to him before we even knew he was born--it doesn't matter. The 11 year old naturally eats more--he is in a growth spurt--the 7 yo only sees that he gets more food--The 11 yo had the top bunk--again, a problem.

He has developed very bad behavior as a result. He will suddenly scream (very shrill) when angry. He will accuse the 11 yo of things he did not do. Once he is angry, he is very out of control, screams, yells, is rude to me, runs away from me, etc.

It is hard to detail everything. The other 5 children are very obedient, rarely have had to spank any of them past the toddler age. This one is still being spanked almost daily--again, he only sees that the 11 year old is not being spanked and he is, and this makes things worse. We explain that the 11 yo does not do anything to get spanked and the 7 yo does. It does not compute with him.

Yet, he is often very sweet, loving and otherwise obedient. However, when he is not, I am often spending nearly an hour with him. I'm trying to make certain to spend time "tying strings" with him.

Any ideas for how to get through to him that the 11 yo is not our favorite? No one else thinks he is, not even the 11 yo. The 11 yo is very patient with his brother, does not try to get back at him, despite all he is put through.

Also, how to deal with the yelling and out of control behavior. He seems to care less about spanking, or any type of punishment. He yells loudly during the spanking, but it seems to be more anger than anything. He is never repentant. The spankings hurt, I know, because I've accidentally hit myself with the rod and it is bad--I've give up if I were at the receiving end. We use the Pearls recommended rod--a thin plastic plumbing line that is very flexible.

This is all I have time to post--any help is appreciated, and prayers, especially!

Answer: It sounds like overall you are doing very well with your children and this son is a unique problem.

I think I would cut back on the spankings. It's not that I think no 7yo should ever be spanked, it is because you appear to know what you are doing (as evidenced by your other children not needing to be spanked much after toddlerhood), yet still he is not responding. You say that he is "never repentant". If the spanking is not bringing repentance (even though you are doing it correctly - and most people aren't) then I think you should stop and try something else. He is an angry child already and he's just going to add spanking to his list of perceived injustices and become more bitter and angry.

You need to do something that will get to his heart and his conscience. Maybe something that is slow and time-consuming. Do not think in terms of "punishment". As long as he thinks that he can act up and just receive a "punishment" without really changing his mind, then he's going to keep it up. The real idea behind spanking and most other discipline is to get repentance - a change in spirit that leads to a change in action. This change is the most important thing and it sounds like it's not happening with this child.

What happens when you talk to him? The Bible says not to let the sun go down on your anger. I take that to mean that you MUST resolve differences and bitterness and anger immediately - "in the day you hear of it". Your son is not doing this (as you know). I think you need to work on this area.

I think I would move to a type of tomato staking combined with talking and grieving. The next time he acts up, separate him from his brother. Have him sit quietly on a chair near you. This is not a "Time Out". Classic "Time Outs" assume that the child can't help his angry outburst and just needs time to calm himself down. That is wrong and not the purpose here anyway. What we are aiming at is "reflection". Somehow you have got to get this child thinking aobut what he has done wrong.

Do not send him to his room for this. Without supervision he will just be nursing his grudge and becoming more bitter.

Okay now, once you have him sitting down, just have him sit there being quiet for a while. Then I'd make calm, serious attempts to talk to him. Don't try to "talk him into" better behavior. Don't plead with him or whine at him. Have a serious, sober attitude. Dwell on your disappointment with his attitude. Dwell on the concepts of what he is doing wrong. Dwell on his wrong thoughts. Ask thought provoking questions: "Do you know why you are sitting here? Do you think it is acceptable to get angry like that? Would you like it if Dad got angry like that? How do you think you should act when something happens that you don't like?". Focus on his attitude toward his brother: "Do you think you have the right attitude toward your brother? Do you think the things you are saying about him are true? Do you think it is right to expect everything your brother has? Do you think you deserve every he has even though you are 4 years younger? What do you think God thinks about a brother who is selfish and angry at his brother all the time? What do you think I should do about your attitude? What do you think you need to do about your attitude?"

I hope you get the idea here. Don't whine at him. Act disappointed and sober and serious. Watch for any sign of repentance. Drag this out and don't let him get distracted. He should not be talking to anyone or playing. Just have him sit at the table and be bored. After you talk a bit, just make him sit them some more. Try to avoid getting too involved in other things yourself. You can clean the kitchen and take care of necessary things, but leave the impression that you are thinking (grieving) about the situation with him all the time. After a while come back and sit down and talk some more with him. Don't expect in-depth responses from him, just a change in attitude. Look for him to realize that he is wrong. If you don't get that, then keep him sitting there until you do.

Now once you get this at least to a small extent, then you can move to a sort of tomato staking. Keep him will you as your assistant 100% of the time. (Or sitting at the table ALONE, doing his schoolwork with your supervision.) Explain to him that he has to earn the privilege of being allowed to play with his siblings. Explain that if he can not love all his siblings equally then he can not have the privilege of playing with any of them. Say these things with a quiet, sober and disappointed attitude. If you get angry you will just be giving him an excuse to feel he is in the right.

Personally, I would keep this up until there was a really change in his attitude, whether it took days or weeks. I'd keep looking at his heart and working at the root issue. If it works then slowly release him but go right back to it at the first hint of a problem.

I want you to know that I don't have experience with this type of child to this extent, although many children go through the same thing occasionally, so I am giving you my best guesses based on what I "think" I would do. You know him best, so don't be afraid to use your own good judgment. Forget the "punishment" and focus on getting to his heart.

Here is one of the verse I remind my children of at times like this:

Prov 6:16-20
16 For there are six things the Lord hates-- no, seven: haughtiness, lying, murdering, plotting evil, eagerness to do wrong, a false witness, sowing discord among brothers.

I try to instill in them a love for their siblings and also humility, which should prevent sibling rivalry. If this is a chronic problems with your son, the solution will probably take a long time as well. Don't give up.

P.S. I don't want to overlook the "tying heartstrings" issue. Keep that up, it is tremendously important.


I was not familiar with the "Tomato Staking" idea - well, maybe not the term, because we do this kind of thing but we never called it that... :grin:

This is some good stuff. I am glad to have read it. I have an 8 yr-old daughter who has been flexing her muscle - I need to get to the issue in her heart. A good reminder.

October 23, 2007 at 11:49 AM  

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