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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.