Here's a chilling piece by Jim Benton on Christian fundamentalist child-abuse manuals. Sweden outlawed all forms of physical discipline in child rearing in 1979.
Bible Based Baby Beating[More blog entries about children, parenting, Christianity, childabuse; barn, föräldraskap, barnmisshandel, kristendom.]
By Jim Benton
Warning: the following will be and should be disturbing to many of you, particularly parents. If you are squeamish, or think that children are individuals to be loved rather than creatures whose main job is to obey mindlessly, you might want to avoid this. But you may be the ones who most need reading it. And I can't avoid saying that any of you who are involved in an American political election where one candidate is supported by the Religious Right and Focus on the Family in particular, should challenge this candidate to say whether he accepts practices and attitudes like these.
Two preliminary notes:
1. I can't take credit for the research on this, which is mostly based on the work of Dogemperor on the Talk2Action and websites, and the conservative Christian home-schooling mothers of Stop the Rod who grew sick of the advice they were getting about raising their children.
2. I refer to the authors and their ideas as "Christian" because it is the term they use and they claim to have biblical backing. However, I have no doubt that most Christians, no matter how conservative, would be as disgusted at this matter as any other reader. Maybe more so because it is their religion that is being slandered.
People who discuss Focus On The Family and similar groups tend to look at what such groups are against: gays, abortion, contraception, pornography, sex in general. But there hasn't been enough attention to the sort of things such groups are for. What sort of families do they focus on? What do they think about how children should be raised?
Thanks to the writers mentioned above, I've started focusing on these Christian Right families themselves, or their ideas on child-rearing.
Let's start with James Dobson himself. The quotations below are from his 1992 book The New Dare To Discipline, quoted by Dogemperor, himself a survivor of Christian child abuse, and Stop the Rod. When I use the term "child abuse" here I am referring to physical, not sexual abuse. Of course, as with any quotations, readers should check their accuracy. But having checked Dobson's web sites, I see no reason to doubt Dogemperor.
"My primary purpose ... has been to record for posterity my understanding of the Judeo-Christian concept of parenting that has guided millions of mothers and fathers for centuries." p. 18
Dobson advises to hit a child for "willful, haughty disobedience" and when a child says "I will not!", Dobson advises to "respond to the challenge immediately." Challenging authority and "disrespect" deserves corporal punishment. p. 20
Dobson turns parenting into a contest of wills: "You have drawn a line in the dirt, and the child has deliberately flopped his bony little toe across it. Who is going to win? Who has the most courage? Who is in charge here? If you do not conclusively answer these questions for your strong-willed children, they will precipitate other battles designed to ask them again and again." p. 21
Dobson says parents must not "yield authority to their infants." "A child's resistant behavior always contains a message to his parents, which they must decode before responding. That message is often phrased in the form of a question: ‘Are you in charge or am I?' A distinct reply is appropriate to discourage future attempts to overthrow constituted government in the home." p. 29
Dobson claims that "Nothing brings a parent and child closer together than for the mother or father to win decisively after being defiantly challenged." p. 34
Are we talking about unruly teenagers here? No, as we see with the last series of Dobson quotations (comments mine):
Dobson describes a mother shaking her 3-year-old for spitting. The child spat again. This was "embarrassing" to the mother; she was "too weak or tired or busy to win." (Three years may be too old for shaken baby syndrome. Maybe.) p. 28
Dobson says "spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause genuine tears." p. 35
Dobson's wife whipped their 15 month old daughter for going onto the patio in the rain. Dobson says to show "parental warmth after such discipline" and to have a "loving conclusion to the disciplinary encounter." p. 36
Dobson recommends painful squeezing of the trapezius muscle on the neck to obtain "instant obedience." p. 36
Dobson says "sick and deformed" children can be hit too. p. 57
Dobson recommends using switches and paddles to hit children. p. 64
Dobson recommends starting whipping at age 15-18 months, and "there is no magical time at the end of childhood when spanking becomes ineffective." p. 65
Dobson recommends hitting a toddler when he "defies his parents' spoken commands". He advises to hit toddlers when they have tantrums, and when a toddler "hits his friends". Toddlers should be "taught to obey." Toddlers can be given a "firm rap on the fingers." p. 66
Spank children if their bedwetting is an "act of defiance." p. 68
If a child cries more than a few minutes after being spanked, hit them some more. p. 70
If spanking a child doesn't produce obedience, a parent needs to "outlast him and win, even if it takes a few rounds." Parents must always punish "acts of defiance." p. 71
Spanking should not be "too gentle." p. 72
"With most children, tantrums are a form of challenging behavior that can be eliminated by one or more appropriate spankings." p. 108
But Dobson is in fact a fairly mild advocate of Christian child abuse. Let's just take a quick look at some other quotations from supposedly scripture-based child rearing manuals.
To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl (1994; I have this downloaded and will give more quotations in the future. These are my own selections and have no page numbers because the original does not.)
"One father tells of his training sessions with each new toddler. He sets aside an evening for ‘booty' camp, which is a boot camp for toddlers. The child of ten to twelve months is left alone to become deeply interested in a toy or some delightful object. From across the room or just inside the other room, the father calls the child. If he ignores the call, the father goes to him and explains the necessity of immediately coming when called, and then leads him to the father's chair. The child thus led through these paces is being programmed.
He is returned to the toy and left alone long enough to again become engrossed. Another call, and, if no response, the father gives a patient explanation and demonstration of the desired response. The parent, having assured himself of the child's understanding, once again sets up the situation and calls the child. This time, if there is not an immediate response the child is lightly spanked and lectured. The father continues this throughout the evening until the child readily and immediately responds to a summons. Thereafter, until the child leaves home, he is expected to drop everything and come upon the first call. As long as the parents remain consistent, the child will consistently obey. This "obedience training" is carried out in the utmost patience and concentration. The spanking should not be viewed as punishment, but as reinforcement to commands."
"The parents who put off training until the child is old enough to discuss issues or receive explanations find their child a terror long before he understands the meaning of the word. A newborn soon needs training. The child needs holding, loving and lots of attention, but the mother often has other duties.
As the mother, holding her child, leans over the crib and begins the swing downward, the infant stiffens, takes a deep breath and bellows. The battle for control has begun in earnest. Someone is going to be conditioned. Either the tender-hearted mother will cave in to this self-centered demand (thus training the child to get his way by crying) or the infant is allowed to cry (learning that crying is counterproductive)."
"Clearly, the lines were drawn. The battle was in array. Someone was going to submit his will and learn his lesson. Either the father would confirm that this one-year-old could rule his parents or the parents would confirm their authority. Everyone's happiness was at stake, as well as the soul of the child. The father was wise enough to know this was a test of authority. This episode had crossed over from ‘obedience training' to discipline for attitude."
"We have progressed to the place where a discussion of the use of the rod is in order. Let's talk about spankings -- sometimes called ‘whippings'. ‘He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (Prov. 13:24).' This seems to go exactly opposite to the feelings of many parents and educators. The passage clearly states that a failure to apply the rod is due to the parents' hating the child. ‘No!' cries the mother, ‘I love my child too much to spank him.' The parent who responds thus does not understand: 1) the authority of God's word, 2) the nature of love, 3) his (or her) own feelings, 4) the character of God, or, 5) the needs of the child."
"The guilt burdened soul cries out for the lashes and nails of justice. Your child cannot yet understand that the Creator has been lashed and nailed in his place. Only the rod of correction can preserve his soul until the day of moral dawning. That is why the soul of man never rests until the conscience has been pacified by a believing look at the bleeding, crucified, substitute of the Lamb of God."
Shepherding a Child's Heart, audiobook by Ted Tripp (1995; from Stop the Rod).
"You need to direct not simply the behavior of your children, but the attitudes of their hearts. You need to show them not just the ‘what' of their sin and failure, but the ‘why.'" p. xx
"You want to control the flow of events so that it is never chaotic, but rather a well-structured home." "I am interested in helping parents engage in hand-to-hand combat on the world's smallest battlefield, the child's heart." p. 23
From birth to age 4, "The most important lesson for the child to learn in this period is that HE IS AN INDIVIDUAL UNDER AUTHORITY." p. 133
"Acquaint your children with authority and submission when they are infants. This training starts the day you bring them home from the hospital." p. 134
"It is imperative that children learn to honor and obey. The disobedient child has moved outside the place of covenant blessing." p. 135
"Obedience means more than a child doing what he is told. It means doing what he is told --
Without Delay." p. 138
"When your directives are met by a discourse about why what you have asked is not fair, your children are not obeying. When you are met with excuses or explanations, they are not obeying. When they refuse to respond at once, they are not obeying. When you say to your child, ‘Dear, I want you to go to bed now', there is only one appropriate response. It is not, 'I'll go after I finish coloring this page.' There is only one obedient response. It is to go to bed without delay. If you accept any other response, you are training your children to disobey. You must challenge disobedience and persevere until the lessons of submission are learned. Victory does not come to the faint of heart. Never allow your children to disobey without dealing with them." p. 139
"You must provide examples of submission for your children. Dads can do this through biblical authority over their wives, and Moms through biblical submission to their husbands." p. 142
"Don't waste time trying to sugarcoat submission to make it palatable. Obeying when you see the sense in it is not submission; it is agreement. Submission necessarily means doing what you do not wish to do. It is never easy or painless." p. 145
"Your children must understand that when you speak for the first time, you have spoken for the last time." p. 151
A parent poses the question "What if my child says, ‘But I didn't hear you?'". And Tripp's answer is "One of our children seemed to have much trouble with ‘hearing.' We sat down with this child and had this conversation: ‘You are having trouble hearing. I think, therefore, that you better start to develop the ability to pick my voice out of the other noise in your world. When you hear my voice, you should perk up your ears. From now on, if you fail to obey because you ‘did not hear', I will spank you for failing to listen to my voice.' We only had one spanking for failure to hear. After that the hearing problem cleared up." p. 155
What the Bible Says About ... Child Training (ellipsis in title) by J. Richard Fugate and Richard Fugate (1999; Stop the Rod has scanned the whole of Chapter 17, "The Correct Use of Chastisement" onto its website. I can only quote and abstract ideas.)
A few quick quotes and abstractions (note that "chastisement specifically and always involves causing pain", and ideally marks that will "of course" fade rapidly:
The use of chastisement is revealed (quoting a long series of verses from "Proverbs") as a necessary factor in the child's being trained toward wisdom and away from foolishness.
Mothers should use the rod as well. It may go against her instincts, and "uninformed mothers may even try to interfere with the father's proper use of the rod." But she must learn to become a "godly mother" and learn that chastisement is necessary for the long-term benefit of her child.
The child's rebellion against parental authority is what is being punished, and the child may choose to end the pain simply by submitting. "He should be given the opportunity for an honorable but unconditional surrender."
It doesn't break a child's will or spirit to force him to obey, it just makes him choose obedience over rebellion.
Chastisement is not merely humane, it is Divine. Would it be less humane for the child not to learn the proper attitude towards authority and become a "criminal, a drug addict, or a homosexual"?
Let's end with a discussion of suitable size rods to use on children of different ages -- because the hands of a parent should 'symbolize protection, comfort, and beckoning' the Fugates say, apparently without irony. They oppose spanking, preferring to use rods of various sizes. The Fugates maintain that when a rod is used by a parent, the child does not focus on the person using the rod but the rod itself. A child should be, if necessary -- which it shouldn't be since he should be already trained to obedience by eight to twelve -- chastized up until the age of twenty.
(The last is the length of, and one third the thickness of, an average major league baseball bat.)
- From the time the toddler begins to crawl until about 15 months ("age is no real criteria [sic] -- how large and how stubborn the child is will be the real issue") use a blackboard pointer, a balloon rod, or an eighth-inch dowel rod.
- Age 1-2 a "tot rod" -- 3/16" by 24" dowel
- 2-4 "mob control' -- 1/4" by 24"
- 4-8 "train or consequences" -- 5/16" by 27"
- 8-12 "the equalizer" -- 3/8" by 27"
- 12+ "the rebel router" -- 1/2" by 33"
A few final quotes from the Fugates, courtesy of Stop the Rod.
It is un-Christian for a child to "seek attention, food or drink" or to play. p. 12
"Parents do not owe their child an explanation for their instructions. If you think it is necessary to explain your reasons, do so only after he has obeyed. … a clever child who is allowed to question his parents' instructions can confuse the issue and thereby avoid obedience. He may even turn your own words back on you: ‘But you said…' While it is true that you will make some mistakes with the use of your authority, it is not your child's responsibility or privilege to correct you." p. 94
Children "should be expected to follow the commands of their parents to the letter." p. 103
Emphasize "forced compliance" in children. p. 105
Starting at birth, "parents will decide when he should eat, sleep, and play" p. 108
"Women have to be taught when to withhold their natural love for their children." p. 124
"Adult sons who have been over-protected … may even become homosexuals. Biblical child training principles can be self-applied by any adult who identifies himself with this type of upbringing." p. 125
"A wriggling six-month-old baby who intentionally refuses to be diapered can be taught the meaning of "no" in one or two simple lessons. When he tries to crawl away during a changing, he can be told "no," pulled back, and held in place for a moment. The next time he tries to crawl away, he should be told "no" once firmly and lightly tapped once or twice on the upper leg with a small switch. The shocked look and tears will indicate you got his attention and that the command "no" has taken on a real meaning. An angry cry and continued squirming may indicate a strong-willed child who will require more pressure in both intensity and frequency." p. 127
"Never give in to a child who is begging for something he wants. … When a child consistently and instantly obeys his parents on command, he has learned the most important standard." p. 130
I will get back to this topic. There are many other relevant writers I have not mentioned.
Labels: children, Christianity, parenting