Saturday, February 18, 2006

Child Beating is UNNECESSARY as well as EVIL

In response to those who defend (ie: owners of Homeschoolblogger) the doctrine of corporal punishment as put out by the Pearls*(see below), I say:

In teaching the doctrine of non-violence to my children, I explain in appropriate terms: "use the minimum possible effective force in order to provide yourself and those to whom you have a duty to protect with adequate defence".

My siblings and I were never, ever spanked. I can say of my siblings at least, that they are the most wonderful people. They are witty, charming, optimistic, beautiful, kind, professionally successful, have thriving personal relationships and are extremely good parents. Given that this was achieved without any corporal punishment whatsoever and given that there are very good reasons to encourage the doctrine of the use of the minimum of violence, WHY HIT???

How can you teach your child the benefits of the minimal use of violence when it is clear that it is used utterly gratuitously in the case of beating a child?

There are other MUCH BETTER POSSIBILITIES. A little imagination, reason and creativity would make this abundantly clear. For example, there is no need to hit a toddler to teach them not to touch an electric socket. They can learn through a simple mock demonstration of the effects. This worked extremely well immediately for both my kids and I am pleased to report that neither of them are dead, let alone have died from sticking their fingers in a plug socket.

I would hope that the Christian message of maximal non-violence could be promoted over and above this other message of gratuitous violence. I would expect responsible Christians to see the logic of this. If they were not to do so, I cannot possibly see how they could logically object to someone hitting them hard on the butt, and this for exactly the same reasons that they would use to justify hitting children.

*From another article in the News and Observer :

"This is a sampling of Pearl's advice from "To Train Up a Child" and his newsletter, "No Greater Joy":

PROBLEM Baby bites during breast-feeding SOLUTION Pull baby's hair PROBLEM Boy is a crybaby
SOLUTION "When he begins to scream his defiance or hurt, just ignore him. ... If he demands attention to a supposed wound, then reach in your purse, pull out a terrible tasting herbal potion and give him a spoonful. After he gets through gagging on the vitamin and mineral supplement, tell him that he is now completely healed, and invite him to come back for another dose if he again gets hurt."

PROBLEM Rebellious child who runs from discipline
SOLUTION "If you have to sit on him to spank him, then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he has surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring, and are unmoved by his wailing. Hold the resisting child in a helpless position for several minutes, or until he is totally surrendered. Accept no conditions for surrender -- no compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.

PROBLEM Child whines to mother after father disciplines him
SOLUTION Mother must go over to child and "give him one or two licks on his exposed ankles or legs while commanding, 'Obey your father.'

PROBLEM Child lies
SOLUTION Switch him 10 times at noon each day. Make him pick the tree branch.

PROBLEM What to use for a rod
SOLUTION For babies under age 1, a footlong willow branch shaved of its knots. For older kids, plastic plumbing pipe, a 3-foot shrub cutting or a belt to help turn a child "back from the road to hell."


Leo said...

Well said, but I don't think you understand the Pearls.

Your siblings might be good, creative, law abiding people but they are not fearful to God and repentant of their sins. They probably watch Hollywood movies, right?

To the Pearls and their followers that means they are evil and their lives will end with death and Hell while themselves and their obedient children will go to Heaven. They do not believe that without fearing evil and having instant gratification turned into pain by a loving authority it's possible for their children to follow a righteous path.

I am not saying this to defend them, obviously, but you have to understand people's motive properly to be able to criticise them.

Carlotta said...

You have a point insofar as I have not framed the arguement in terms that would be proposed by such as the Pearls but I have done this intentionally since I think it useless to engage a discussion where the final arbiter is one of irrational religious conviction.

I therefore attempt to re-frame the terms of the debate and put it upon more a more rational basis, partially implicitly in the hope of critiquing the irrational basis for the faith in child battery, but primarily to show that there is simply no rational basis for such behaviour.

Whilst I realise that this will not persuade those of the Pearl's inclinations, I hope that it will make sense to others who will see the importance of preventing the propogation of child battery

merry said...

I've come home to the TOS/Pearl debate and i have to say i am horrified by it. While i'm not fundamentally an anti-smacker, in that occasionally i've done it, though i hate myself for it, i was open mouthed at the baby training scenarios. Setting up a situation you know you intend to hit your child in, with an implement, is just the most utterly wrong thing i can imagine.

I do actually like my children to be relatively obedient, in terms of i expect them to know the appropriate responses to "NO!" and "STOP!" - i think these are commands useful when it comes to not getting run over, burned or damaged. I've occasionally smacked when one of my children has deliberately put themselves in danger by knowingly disobeying those commands in emergency situations. It has had the effect of making them think twice, or more to the point actually "stop" in the future. But in terms of the incidentals of life, like fiddling with a pair of glasses, there are about a million ways of teaching a child not to, and in this house, none of them include switching.

Anonymous said...

From a Chapter in a book by the Pearls:

"Any spanking, to effectively reinforce instruction, must cause pain, but the most pain is on the surface of bare skin where the nerves are located. A surface sting will cause sufficient pain, with no injury or bruising. Select your instrument according to the child's size. For the under one year old, a little, ten- to twelve-inch long, willowy branch (striped of any knots that might break the skin) about one-eighth inch diameter is sufficient. Sometimes alternatives have to be sought. A one-foot ruler, or its equivalent in a paddle, is a sufficient alternative. For the larger child, a belt or larger tree branch is effective."

Nice, eh! Jx

Leo said...


I thought you were appealing to Christians too.

I wish that those that find the Bible to be the word of God and the ultimate guide for life, would remember that still it was written by people and those people might have interpreted Jesus wrong or have the devil wispering in the other ear. I mean, the disciples tell the story of Jesus differently, there are loads of contradictions. Not to mention all the added distortions from the translations.


"I do actually like my children to be relatively obedient"

For relative obedience, your methods might fit. Total obedience is another matter. Total obedience requires a complete destruction of self-will. That's what the Pearls are after.

Most parents nowadays just use fear in situations where they think fear is the only solution. It's good if child rearing keeps evolving this way until a day all parents have the knowledge to never resort to authority. I don't know how damaging it can be, but we take note can't really guess what children think. Yes, some will just associate the pain with the danger situation, be able to see the parents distress and get the message. Others might just get confused and learn to distrust the parent. I think it's a risk better avoided.

The relationship with children is never the same once fear gets in the equation.

merry said...

Yes Leo, i agree. Relative obedience, as in obedience that promotes some commonsense and will save a life and make the lives of all around more pleasant and less stressful, seems to me to be a good thing. I'm not trying, in any way, to mould my children into stepford kids. I want them to be whole and happy and responsible, good citizens, careful and appropriate thinkers. That is not to say i think i can get that by even an occaional smack.

But the idea that you can mould your children by fear, urgh. How disgusting :(