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Speaking out against corporal punishment

This is a cooking tool, NOT a way to teach your child.

This is a cooking tool, NOT a way to teach your child!

I’ve had two days now to think about The Helping Boys Thrive Summit. 98% of the conference was mind-blowing amazing. But it ended with a really disturbing Q & A session about corporal punishment. I felt like the panel of experts made light of a serious topic and missed out on an opportunity to educate parents.

My position is clear. There are better ways to teach children than by hitting them.

At the conference, Michael Gurian, founder of The Gurian Institute, did say that spanking to cause pain, spanking on the skin, and spanking with an object is child abuse.

Dr. Greg Jantz, a nationally renowned psychologist and founder of The Center: A Place of Hope, said his family used natural consequences, which I assumed was code for Love and Logic methods. Love and Logic is absolutely opposed to corporal punishment as well.

Today I did a quick internet search and found this article from CNN, Effects of physical discipline linger for adults, where Dr. Jantz more definitely warns against the dangers of corporal punishment. Scroll down to the bottom third of the text and you will find his opinion.

I believe that parents and especially Christian parents need to speak out against corporal punishment. We are living in a society were there are 660,000 copies of Michael and Debbi’s Pearl’s book in print. There are three copies avaialable at my local library!

Punching a tween boy in the chest and hitting him with a foot-long paddle is child abuse. Joking about it to a crowd of strangers is emotional abuse. Anyone who laughs about it should be ashamed.

If you are interested in exploring discipline methods beyond spanking, here are some affiliate links to Amazon to get you started. Most of these books area also available at your library.


Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Little Hearts Handbooks)


Parenting With Love And Logic (Updated and Expanded Edition)


Parenting Teens With Love And Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood, Updated and Expanded Edition


Positive Discipline

To Train up a Child, by Michael and Debi Pearl

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Here is my “I Brake for Moms” column from yesterday’s Herald:

No child deserves parenting by the rod.

Luckily, I researched and wrote this article about Michael and Debi Pearl’s book “To Train up a Child” before I broke my wrist. One handed typing really slows me down. 😦

What I didn’t address in my column due to word count limitations, was homeschooling. I have carefully analyzed the copyright and decided not to share direct quotes. But page 101 is a crazed, bizarre manifesto, completely out of touch with reality.

There is a full-paragraph rant claiming that Planned Parenthood, the police, drug dealers, social workers and pharmaceutical companies are in league with the National Education Association to reap money by turning classroom education  into pits of despair.

The Pearls advise you to never put your children in private Christian or public school.They believe that leaving kids home to be corporally chastised is so much better.

To be clear, I support the right to homeschool your children. I understand that for many situations homeschooling is the best academic choice for children.

But I also believe that we as a society need to do something to protect homeschooled children who are in dangerous environments.

Now, I’m left with a conundrum. The intellectual in me would never consider burning a book. But I’m unclear about what to do with my copy of “To Train up a Child”. I truly believe that in the wrong hands, this book is dangerous.

So if you are a blogger who would like to review this book and help spread the word about the Pearls, I’ll send you my copy for free. It will be a relief to get it out of the house!

 

Wooden Spoons and Christians

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I come from a loving, atheist home that was completely absent of all corporal punishment. Not everyone is so lucky…

This week I’ve been reading stories from adult survivors of traumatic childhood discipline from Christian families and it’s made me think hard of some of the things I witnessed as a child growing up in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s.

It’s really difficult to take off my 2014 goggles. In today’s world, corporal punishment of children has been scientifically proven to be counterproductive as well as abhorrent. But a couple of decades ago, parents didn’t know better, right?

Right??? Um… I think???

The more I ponder, the more I realize that my childhood memories of what I witnessed happening to other kids are confusing and hard to process.

Which of these juveniles were being abused, and which were being lovingly disciplined?

  • The 8 year-old who had belt marks on her back that showed while changing into her swim suit
  • The teenager whose mother locked her in the bathroom in front of family and friends to humiliate and contain her
  • The 6 year-old whose mom gave him a bloody nose when she slapped him
  • The teenage daughter whose mother slapped her for talking back
  • The children whose mother brought a wooden spoon to our house to use for intimidation and discipline
  • The father who belted his teenage son

That was a trick question. I don’t know the answer. But with my 2014 goggles, it’s hard not to judge.

As a child, I had no idea. I thought that was all normal behavior in families that spanked. Plus many of those kids came from Evangelical, go-to-church-multiple-times-a-week homes. Their families prided themselves on being good Christians.

Now, I’m left wondering. Were the parents reading precursors to books like To Train up a Child? Were worse things happening that I wasn’t aware of?

I’ll never know.

Proverbs 13: 24 says “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. (NIV)

but…

Psalm 23: 4 says “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (NIV)

I’m not a Biblical school, but to me it seems that “the rod” is most likely a shepherds hook that you would use to keep your sheep safe–not beat them with.

There are so many better ways to discipline a child than with physical violence.

I hope that my childhood friends who grew up with corporal punishment are able to break the cycle.

I hope they have 2014 goggles on too.

Girl at the End of the World, by Elizabeth Esther

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Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future, by Elizabeth Esther, is so good and so powerful, that in addition to crying and laughing I also feel a little bit ill.

Elizabeth’s story of growing up in The Assembly, as the granddaughter of church founders, George and Betty Geftakys, is harrowing. Preaching on street corners by age nine, ingrained with the belief she would be Left Behind at any moment, taught that the natural curves of her body were to blame for tempting all men into sin, and spanked every day in the methods of Michael Pearl; no wonder this mom of five has PTSD. Reading about so much awfulness made me start shaking.

Gracefully, Elizabeth lightens her memoir with bits of this-is-so-messed-up-I-can’t-believe-it humor.  For example, when Elizabeth is finally permitted to attend public school, it’s only because her parents commissioned Elizabeth to bring her high school to Jesus.

The most stomach churning moments in this book have to do with child abuse. On page 41 she describes “obedience tests” aka “mat-training” or “blanket training”. Children were placed on mats and then spanked every time they reach off the matt. Elizabeth describes how some mothers would intentionally tempt their children by placing candy all around the mats, and then spank them when they reached for the candy. Pardon my French, but “What the fudge?”

There’s another section in the book where Elizabeth’s father tells her its God’s will (because Dad said so) that she give up her hard-earned position on the school newspaper–that had me in tears.

Thankfully, Elizabeth Ester has found healing. Part of her new life comes from the Catholic church. What I found so interesting about the last chapter of the book, is that Elizabeth is describing what Methodists like me call the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. It’s when we base our faith in God on four things: scripture, church tradition, reason, and our own experience. It took a lot of courage for Elizabeth and her husband Matt to lean on reason and experience, when they had been so spiritually abused by the other two.

Girl at the End of the World is a fabulous, fabulous, fabulous book. It’s a cautionary tale to all Christians. If we believe the Bible is the living word of God, then we need to let the Bible live and breathe. We need to stop letting people use the Bible as a weapon. If we believe God gave us free will, then we need to exercise our own opinions and stop wiping our wills clean.  If we believe Christ died for us so that we may have eternal live, then we need to live.

Live well, Elizabeth Esther. You deserve it!

P.S. You can find more about Elizabeth Esther by reading her blog. Thank you to Convergent publishers for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion and review.