That’s right, I’m talking about spanking. Slapping. “Corporal punishment”. I’m going to go on a little bit of a rant after watching a frustrated mother slap her toddler on the bus today.
Many Christian parents claim that they are ordered by God in the Holy Bible to use corporal punishment on their child. “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” I call bull. The “rod” used in this expression is that of a shepherd. “I am the Good Shepherd” says Jesus. Would a shepherd hit his sheep? No! A shepherd values his flock and lovingly guides his sheep using his staff. He uses his staff to protect his herd from danger and guide them to safe pastures. To hit his sheep kind of defeats the shepherd’s purpose. Christian parents are called to raise their children with love, patience, compassion, and wisdom - not violence. Above all, parents need to keep themselves accountable. They have been entrusted by God with the privilege of raising these children. Children are a precious gift, which are not to be abused.
In Canada we have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees everyone the right to life, liberty, security of person, and the right not to be subject to cruel and unusual punishment. Unless you’re a child. If you’re under 18 and your parents decides to “discipline” you by hitting you, that’s acceptable. If you’re over 18 suddenly that’s assault. Does something magical happen to a person when they turn 18, that all of the sudden their human rights come into effect? First, you’re not really a “person” until you’re born. Now you’re not really worthy of your full rights until you’re 18.
"Well, I was spanked as a child and I turned out ok". So what? In the 1960’s seatbelts weren’t mandatory but lots of kids "turned out ok". In the 1960’s women used to smoke and drink while pregnant, and their kids "turned out ok". That’s just pure luck. While corporal punishment may produce obedience, it does so out of fear, pain and humiliation. What does spanking really do to a child? How does it really affect them?
I will use an article written by Alice Miller:
"Why are spankings, slaps, and even apparently harmless blows like pats on the hand dangerous for a baby?
1. They teach it violence
2. They destroy the infallible certainty of being loved that the baby needs
3. They cause anxiety; the expectancy of the next break
4. They convey a lie: they pretend to be educational, but parents actually use them to vent their anger; when they strike, it’s because, as children, they were struck themselves
5. They provoke anger and a desire for revenge, which remain repressed only to be expressed much later
6. They program the child to accept illogical arguments (I’m hurting you for your own good) that stay stored up in their body
7. They destroy sensitivity and compassion for others and for oneself, and hence limit the capacity to gain insight
What long-term lessons does the baby retain from spankings and other blows? The baby learns:
1. That a child does not deserve respect
2. That good can be learned through punishment (which is usually wrong, since punishment merely teaches the children to want to punish on their own turn)
3. That suffering mustn’t be felt, it must be ignored (which is dangerous to the immune system)
4. That violence is a manifestation of love (fostering perversion)
5. That denial of feeling is healthy (but the body pays the price of this error, often much later)
How is repressed anger very often vented? In childhood and adolescence:
1. By making fun of the weak
2. By hitting classmates
3. By annoying the teachers
4. By watching tv and playing video games to experience forbidden and stored up feelings of rage and anger, and by identifying with violent heroes. (Children who have never been beaten are less interested in cruel films, and, as adults, will not produce horror shows).
1. By perpetuating spanking, as an apparently educational and effective means, often heartily recommended to others, whereas in actual fact, one’s own suffering is being avenged on the next generation
2. By refusing to understand the connections between previously experienced violence and the violence actively repeated today. The ignorance of society is thereby perpetuated
3. By entering professions which demand violence
4. By being gullible to politicians who designate scapegoats for the violence that has been stored up and which can finally be vented with impunity: “impure” races, ethnic “cleansing”, ostracized social minorities
5. (Because of obedience to violence as a child), by readiness to obey any authority which recalls the authority of the parents, as the Germans obeyed Hitler, the Russians Stalin, the Serbs Milosivic. Conversely, some become aware of the repression and universal denial of childhood pain, realizing how violence is transmitted from parents to children, and stop hitting children regardless of age. This can be done (many have succeeded) as soon as one has understood that the causes of the “educational” violence are hidden in the repressed history of the parents.”
One of my favourite examples of calm and respectful Christian parenting seen in the public eye today would be the Duggars. Michelle is ever calm and patient with her children. She gets down to their level and speaks with love and compassion. This is her answer to the question of whether they spank their children:
"We have people ask us that all the time. We’ve really chosen to focus on praising our kids for good character, for Godly character. And as we do that, we find that we have a lot less trouble with correction when we are constantly looking for ways to praise them.
When we see them do a kind deed we praise them publicly. We always say, “You deserve praise.” You praise someone publicly, but if you’re going to have to correct someone, you correct them privately. You take them aside and talk to them privately so that you don’t humiliate them in front of people.
And by doing that I think it really sets a tone in your home of peace and harmony and a joyful place to live – it really is a happy place to be. The kids don’t dread coming home because they know this is the place they’re going to get strengthened and encouraged, and they’re going to have the energy to go out and do great things from here. To be able to stand alone when tough things come their way and know in their heart, “You know, that’s not right. I don’t want to partake in that because I can see the destruction that’ll come.” So when the home is the center of their worth as far as them being strengthened and edified and encouraged, they know they can go out and do anything set in front of them and do great things for God. That’s our goal.
So in training the little guys, day in and day out, if I see the little ones not being kind to each other, I will take them aside and I will deal with them and talk to them and have them work this out amongst themselves and learn to communicate and be kind to each other. And then when I see them being sweet and doing what’s right, I make a big deal! “Oh, Jennifer, you were such a sweet big sister! You got Jordyn a cup. You are so sweet! What a kind thing to do!!”
We’ve learned all the character qualities — we’re working on that for these little guys now. But the bigger ones, when they were little, we [talked about the] the definition of kindness: Seeing needs in the lives of others as opportunities to demonstrate love for Christ. “So when you got your sissy that cup of water, you were showing her love and kindness by doing that. You didn’t have to that; it wasn’t your job. But you saw that she was thirsty and you did that just because of your love for your sissy and because you love Jesus and Jesus tells you to be kind to others.” I always point them back to the reason why they want to do what’s right. And when you praise that character of kindness, they want to be more kind. Every time they get an opportunity, they’re going to look for a way to be kind.
And it doesn’t just have be our kids. Our spouses, the people we work with every day, people at school, all of us need to be encouraged. That’s why God gives us that scripture that says, “Encourage one another and build each other up, for this is right.” So often the natural inclination of us would be to look at all the negative, “They didn’t empty that trash. They know that’s their job. I can’t believe they didn’t do that …” We usually will spot the negative things – those tend to be the first things we see.
I think biting your tongue as a parent and saying, wait a minute, hold on. Let me look for something good. Surely there’s one thing good that they did! (Laughs) I’m going to find that one thing and then I’m going to find the character quality and praise them for it. Even the tiniest little effort they made, you’re building character. When you focus on the Godly character, it makes a much happier place to live. Learning to bite your tongue when you want to be negative and praising each other – it’s contagious. Then our children learn to praise by example. And so there’s a lot less correction going on.”
I’ve recently discovered that a particularly gruesome “Christian” book about child beating is being carried by Amazon. “To Train Up A Child” by Michael and Debi Pearl. It teaches parents how to whip their child with a flexible plastic plumbing hose whenever the chils ”acts up”. The Pearls write about how they started hitting their own children when they were just 6 months old and were crying to be held. Several parents in the USA have been found guilty of beating their children to death, and claim to have been following the teachings of this book. How this behaviour is not illegal just boggles my mind. We make a big stink in the media about Muslim books shops carrying books that talk about beating your wife, but we could care less when these Christian books are being praised by Bible-loving parents? Come on people…
"When in Sweden legislation prohibiting corporal punishment was launched in 1977, 70% of the citizens asked for their opinion were against it. In the latest survey, 20 years later, the figure dropped to less than 10%—most of them fundamentalists. These statistics show that the mentality of the Swedish population had changed radically in the course of a mere 20 years. A destructive tradition, upheld and acted upon for thousands of years, has been done away with thanks to this legislation. Where is the rest of the world?" - Alice Miller
I pray that we all rise to the call of treating everyone, regardless of age, with dignity, love and respect. Love your neighbour as yourself.
God Bless :)