Rumoured to have its origins in Germany during the 1700's, the Four Step Technique for dealing with children was a traditional mantra or ritual used by parents, governess and matrons in maintaining discipline and control. Originating in the families of rich or aristocratic children, German, French or occasionally Russian, governesses tended to be trained by Matron Houses which specialized in the raising of children from wealthy families.
Central to the technique of raising such children was the understanding that - unlike with a common or lower class family - it was not appropriate to spank these children for every little offence and a rebellious child could usually get their guardian in a lot of trouble if a situation was not handled delicately.
The technique developed was referred to the Four Steps to a Better Person and was a well-used technique of raising children, becoming popular over time amongst many families in the UK and Western Europe - but never really drew any kind of public attention until the technique was published by Abbey Church in her 1844 novel Self Control and Self Deceit (no longer in print).
In this book she details for the first time the use of 'The Four Steps' as a means of maintaining control and discipline, both over the guardian themself and over a ward in their care - citing it as a means to reduce the need to spank, and to make sure that spankings when used had the most effect.
Considered a form of the crescendo principle, the technique has been re-iterated in a lot of spanking-related stories and has even been mentioned by name in recent comics and media - such as the Lurking Dragon stories. In most references it is however not mentioned by name.
"Four Steps to a Better Person" (extract)
The four steps to a better person are a guide used to teach children responsibility. With these four steps it is implied that most penitent youths will in time become repentant. In the same vein that the “Correct order for Punishment” assists the parent or person in charge in delivering a spanking, the “Four step” is the key for the person being corrected to understand them.
This isn’t simply acknowledgment that someone has done the wrong thing. Acknowledgment is a two way street. If you see your child or partner doing the wrong thing correct them. While it may be tempting to wait until the ‘crime’ has been committed in most occasions there is no benefit to doing so – especially with a young adult. While for children allowing them to make the mistake first may serve as a learning experience it can also put them at unnecessary risk, not to mention give them wrong ideas.
In both the case of a repentant child and a Penitent child the Acknowledgment on their part should be an understanding of what they did wrong, and an understanding of the consequences for their behaviour. Consequences are not “You’ll be spanked”. Consequences should be understood as something that would have happened if the person wasn’t caught.
This usually takes the form of a lecture.
Acceptance is the acceptance that punishment may be necessary. Those put in the position of authority may in certain situations feel that punishments are not necessary. Sometimes there are accidents, things happen – things get broken, work doesn’t get done – these kinds of things happen. It’s true.
Just because something was an accident does not make a person exempt. Just cause they confess or ask forgiveness does not mean there should be no punishment. The child should be made clear to understand this and all punishments made clear so that they know and expect the punishment without having to be told repeatedly.
Additionally, for the person being in charge Acceptance is also that sometimes a child needs to be punished even if you don’t want to or believe the lesson has already been learned.
Action is the punishment itself. Depending on the behaviour of the child and the situation this may be Time-out, Corner time, Removal of privileges, spankings or even worse if deemed necessary. Often times when a rule/law has been broken there will be ‘Something to clean up’. This means undoing what was done, apologizing to anyone who was hurt, Making Right What Was Wrong!
Once action has been taken there are the questions to answer. Was there a way to avoid the mistake, why did they do the thing, did they ask anyone first. Most times when a rule or law is broken the cause is from either not being aware of the rule or (more likely) failure to do things in the right order.
Also - the “Four-step” is not just for the person in charge. As a part of post discussion for rule breaking children (and those for who this is their first spanking or punishment) should be taught what the four steps are and guided through them By Number until they are familiar with them. This is done to make enforcing punishments easier.
"Five Stages of Discipline"
- 1. Announcing what has been done wrong
- This must be done clearly while you have the individuals full attention so they are aware of it and should include declaration of the punishment.
- 2. Initial Punishment
- This may be a few short smacks only or a lecture but either way it is some means used to grab the youth’s attention. At most this classifies as a Warm-up spanking.
- 3. Explaining in detail
- Here you define why it was wrong and the extent of the punishment. This is critical – depending on the situation (again, such as a public place) there may be a large gap between this and a full punishment.
If you are forced to stop at this point you should make sure to perform this step again before continuing with the proper punishment in a better environment.
- 4. Delivering the actual punishment itself
- Punishments should be scaled to the severity of the wrong-doing and to the child's age, severity of the behaviour and the individuals own experiences.
- 5. Confirmation
- This is THE most important step. So often after a punishment has been delivered the child is simply deposited in their room or in a corner. If additional punishment is warranted or the child has to complete a task then they should do this first but afterwards you should talk to the youth, clarify their understanding of the punishment and express that it was the behaviour you hated at and not the child.
Application in adult spanking
The technique described above is described in Self Control and Self Deceit as an experiment in humiliation and psychological punishment. The basis of the process is to make the individual being punished aware of the process, guide the individual through it by number, make a show of forcing the individual to admit to and ask for the punishment and to essentially beat down the individual emotionally. Used regularly, and using spankings to enforce disobedience to follow the procedure, the victim of a four-step is encouraged to seek out punishment for bad behaviour without being caught doing it.
As the technique focuses on the ritual use of spanking and punishment, the Four Step has since become associated with spankophilia as a possible source or origin for the development of the spanko genre. The process also has huge ties to BDSM and is frequently used in Domestic Discipline as means for the dominant individual to create and enforce spanking related punishments.
Four Steps in "Jade growing up again"
- Tell the parent "I was naughty" and say what they did. — (see also confession, contrition)
- Explain why what they did was wrong. — (see also offense, naughtiness, sin)
- Ask for the spanking to help them remember to obey. — (see also penitence, penance)
- Bare their bottom and get in the position ready to receive the spanking. — (see also cooperation, preparation)