Friday, May 04, 2007,10:14 PM
Spare the rod...?
So apparently there has been a lot of controversy in California recently regarding spanking. A bill was proposed that would have made it illegal for anyone (including a parent) to strike a child under the age of four. Well that pissed off a lot of child hitters, so the bill was revised to just make it illegal to discipline a child with a closed fist, belt, electrical cord, shoe or other objects. The bill would also make it easier to prosecute anyone who throws, kicks, burns, chokes or cuts a child younger than 18. Also included would be striking a child younger than 3 in the head or face, and vigorously shaking a baby or toddler. And a lot of people are still pissed off. (read more here)

Of course this bill is being labeled as intolerant and anti-christian. Apparently hitting children is the only godly way to get them to do what you want. While the revised bill does allow open handed spanking, that's not good enough for some groups that insist that harder objects must be used to break the child's will.

Why is this a bad thing to some? One church whose advice pamphlet on spanking will be challenged by this new law, says that "guiltiness of sin can only be removed by God at salvation, but God has established a method by which children can have human justice satisfied and thus remove guilt. This method is spanking," because "The reality about Biblical spanking is that it works in a child's life to help bring him to the point of salvation." This church advises parents that "children should be disciplined starting shortly after birth with spanking beginning at the manifestation of the rebellious will," and that if after spanking "If the will has not been broken, spank again. Some of the ways the administrator of discipline can tell if the child is still being willful is if he turns around or puts his hands behind him during the spanking, or if he screams during or after the spanking." Oh and the Bible is clear that you can only use a rod to spank. They also tell parents that "when parents know to spank for a disobedience but withhold the rod, they are sinning."

I guess they're going to have to revise their theology or finally be punished for abusing children.

I know most spanking advocates aren't as extreme as this church, but I really have a hard time understanding it still. Just like I really can't fathom how anyone could hold the mindset that women are inferior to men, I can't understand how anyone can think it's okay to hit a child. I see it happen all the time, but I still don't get it. If it was a man hitting a woman or even a person hitting a dog - they would be prosecuted. But to hit a child is considered an inalienable right. I posted this quote before, but it is fitting today -

"When a child hits a child, we call it aggression.
When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility.
When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault.
When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline." - Haim Ginott"

Why? To show that they are bigger and stronger and have power over the child? To teach that might makes right? To break the child's will/personality? To control the child? To instill the fear of discipline (or God)?

I do not want my child to think that just because someone is bigger and more powerful than she is they can do whatever they want to her (no matter what our national war policy might imply). I do not want my child to be a good person because she fears physical harm if she isn't. I do not want my child to love/serve me or God out of fear.

There's something messed up about having to use laws to punishment parents who hurt children in order to punish them. One would hope common sense and love would dictate that, but other forms of rampant violence (spousal abuse, rape...) show that control and intimidation through physical violence is too often the norm. So if we need to add laws that protect babies and children to those that protect women, then so be it.

Tags: ,

Labels: , ,

posted by Julie at 10:14 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 5/05/2007 09:50:00 AM, Blogger John

    Julie, great post. I appreciate your line of reasoning and after reading it becomes a strech to justify the act of spanking. I had never heard it put like that before.

    I have two yong ones (2 1/2 and 6 mths) and the 2 year old is asserting her will at times excessively. My wife and I do the time out thing and often she tests it as far as it will go. We count to three and she waits until we say three before she responds. It can be quite frustrating and often she truns it into a game.

    I grew up in a home that excessively spanked and I think it led me toward further rebellion. It acctually went beyond spanking...and I feel I am no better for it. Had it not been part of our discipline, I think fear would be less of a motivator and dignity would have been a reality.

    I have been tempted beyond 'time outs' but after reading your post, I am inclined to resist.

  • At 5/05/2007 11:01:00 AM, Blogger scott m

    Thanks for the post Julie. And actually, Bethel's guide bears a lot of similarity to Dobson's book "The Strong-Willed Child". The theme of breaking the will as a good thing to prepare them to submit their will to God later comes straight from that book. And Dobson is about as mainstream in evangelicalism as you get. Bethel carries it further than I remember Dobson doing, but the connection is obvious. (Sidenote: I've heard there is a new edition of that book out. I haven't looked at it. I don't know if he toned down some of his advice in that edition or not.)

    For a wide array of reasons, which I won't go into here, this is one of the areas that has made it a struggle for me to really find a place in American christianity. I have found myself filled with rage at times at some of the things I've heard. And so I tend to always be a little on guard so I can control myself and what I say (which is typically nothing).

    I remember once sitting in a service with a sermon on parenting and a story from the aforementioned Dobson book was read. I don't remember the details, but it had something to do with a child doing something wrong, the parent reacting to 'discipline' with something that was immediately at hand, and holding it wrong so the buckle struck the child. (I think it was a personal anecdote of Dobson.) And the story was phrased as humor and a positive illustration. And people laughed! That's all I really remember other than the fury that swept through me that anything like this would be publicly advocated as 'christian' in any sense. It made my wife angry too, but she could tell how strongly it impacted me. The other thing I remember was her reaching over and holding my hand with both of hers. That became my focus so I didn't just stand up and walk out, but I don't remember anything else about that service.

  • At 5/06/2007 03:56:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    John- my 2 year old is very assertive herself. we are still experimenting with how to respect her as a person and still get her to do things that keep her safe and healthy. Letting her have a voice in the family is important - even if it means like yesterday we all HAVE TO wear our "horns" (university of Texas longhorns) t-shirt out in public...

    Scott - Dobson's stuff scares me. The whole concept of breaking a child's will is just so hurtful and leads to so many other issues down the line. I often feel very alone in the christian subculture on this one as well. Even in progressing emerging churches, this is one of those issues that has yet to be touched. (we're still debating equality for women, how long will it take until to topic of equality for children is even mentioned!)


Links to this post:

Create a Link