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October 15, 2002
Parenting and Discipline

My friend Cis sent me this disturbing story about a father in Texas who used a stun gun to discipline his 8 year-old son. Apparently he kept it on a setting equivalent to a "very bad bee sting," and used it because he found it to be "the only effective method of discipline with the boy."

First, I'm sure the boy is unruly and unpleasant to be around. I'm equally sure that such behavior is the direct result, except in extremely rare cases involving chemical imbalances, of poor parenting. Finally, I'm certain that this case will become one more anecdote in the arsenal of activists seeking to criminalize corporal punishment of children.

I'm humbled because Cis asked my opinion based on her belief that I am a good father. I have two confessions to make. First, I'm not nearly the father I would like to be. Second, the fact that my children are well-behaved is more a product of my wife's work than my own. But I've learned a thing or two from her and other good parents, which I'd like to share with you. I can't speak about this in other than spiritual terms, because to me this is an essential part of our covenant with God. I think much of what I will say can be useful to those of you outside the covenant, however.

Recall that a literal reading of the book of Proverbs yields the following admonition: "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." Read that again, notice the word "hate." It is no coincidence that modern Americans have transmogrified this passage into "spare the rod, spoil the child." Spoiling children, after all, is something cute that grandparents are supposed to do. The Judeo-Christian scriptures are clear, however, that in the eyes of God, to forego discipline is to hate your child.

This is what I've found to be true both in action and consequence. The parent who does not provide steady discipline for his child is unwilling to endure the pain and hardship required to do so. It is far easier to let poor behavior slide, to give the little darling what he wants, to make him happy today, if only so he'll smile and shut his yap and let us watch the football game. The fact that this happiness is fleeting, and that one purchases it at the cost of future selfishness, is easily overlooked. It is only the parent who truly loves his child and has a vision for the child's future who foregoes short-term pleasure today in order to stem bad behavior. The selfish parent who chooses immediate satisfaction for his child (and, let's not forget, in so doing chooses immediate satisfaction for himself), creates an adult who will be perpetually unsatisfied, incapable of giving sustained effort toward achievement, and profoundly unhappy.

In short, he who spares the rod behaves, in the long run, no differently than someone who hates his child.

Of course there is that question of what one means by "the rod." The problem with corporal punishment is that, like having children, any idiot can do it. Large numbers do it incorrectly, giving the whole enterprise a bad name. Many parents provide inconsistent discipline, and spank out of frustration and anger. Their children simply learn that consequences for their behavior are undependable, sometimes yielding a payoff (i.e., the parent yields, in order to achieve peace), occasionally yielding a beating. They learn that violence is the proper response when one is angry. They learn that the representatives to them of God and law, their parents, are unpredictable and fickle. They do not learn what a good parent should teach them, which is that sin has negative consequences.

The purpose of corporal punishment is not to physically hurt the child. It is to teach him that punishment follows sin. This is, to the Christian, to people of other faiths, and to many secularists, a reality of the universe that must be imparted to the child for his own well-being. It need not really hurt or be very frequent if done properly and begun at an early enough age. Many well-meaning parents make their first mistake by waiting until their child is two years or older before beginning to discipline. Hence the "terrible twos." Many parents -- and the child development experts who abet them -- are highly skilled at dreaming up excuses for the poor behavior of their children. (A word of warning to new parents: someone who warns you that your child will suddenly become more difficult to manage when he is [insert age at which their own parenting fell apart], as if poor behavior were a physiologically determined event, is a poor parent whose advice is useless.)

If you wait until your child is two years old to begin holding him to expectations, you will have trained him to whine, wheedle, cry, scream, lie, and deliberately disobey you to get what he wants. A fool reading this is now saying to himself, "my God, this monster expects us to beat a one year-old." Of course not. Discipline can begin as soon as a child is capable of connecting consequence to action, which means it need not be painful. For example, experienced mothers will tell you that a simple method of keeping a six month-old from biting the nipple when breastfeeding is to gently thump him on the forehead. It won't hurt, but it is irritating. Soon enough he'll learn not to bite. A gentle thump on the hand of a seven month-old when he tries to grab your eyeglasses, along with a stern "No" in a deep (but not raised) voice will teach him not to do so. These practices are easily extended to other areas. By the time your child is one year old, he should understand what "no touch" in a stern voice means, and obey, even though he doesn't understand the literal meaning of these words.

This kind of discipline takes effort. Children are little high-powered observational learning machines, and any lapse in consistency sets you back ten-fold. It is hard, but it is worthwhile, because your job as a parent is not to earn $20,000 for every year in your age, it is not to have a new car every two years, it is not to have a fulfilling career, it is to train up your child in the way he should go. If you do not do this, then you are a failure. No matter what else you achieve, no matter how great is your acclaim among men, you will leave behind on this earth an unhappy and poorly equipped human being, and that is a sorry legacy. Remember that the next time you read about captains of industry and entertainment whose children are utter beasts.

That is not to say that God doesn't love you, or that he won't forgive you, but we should take very seriously this warning: "whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."

But we started with a question: what to think of the man in Texas who uses a stun gun on his son? He is, of course, a failure as a father, because that kind of violence should never be what is required to gain obedience from a child. He is certainly innovative, however, which should serve him well in prison.

I think perhaps the reason so many people are quick to condemn someone like him, however, is because we need such parental villains to assuage our own guilt over raising children who are spiritually directionless, amoral, and unhappy. We fail to give them the gift of self-discipline, we hand them over to strangers in their early childhood years and to state bureaucrats in their later years, all so we can pursue our own fulfillment, and then we are shocked when neither they nor their own children are truly, deeply, happy.

And that leads to a good question to ask yourself, during what I call the 3 a.m. moment, when you are lying awake, completely stripped of the ability to deceive yourself. Are your children joyful? If you remove them for a day from their toys and their television and their supervised group activities, would they rejoice in simply being alive on God's earth? Do you even know what joy looks like? If so, God bless you and them. If not, God help you.

Finally, because no lecture is complete without a reading list, a few recommendations. The first two are small books written by Michael and Debi Pearl, entitled To Train Up A Child and No Greater Joy. They can be ordered, along with lots of other great parenting materials, at the site linked here. Another great resource is Ted Tripp's Shepherding A Child's Heart, which you can order here. Whether you are a successful parent, or a struggling parent, don't give up hope. This is one of the highest callings someone can have, and God gave you your children for a reason. Don't let them down.

Posted by Woodlief on October 15, 2002 at 09:32 AM


I'm going to link to this from my blog, if you don't mind. If I don't hear from you within about 12 hours, I'm going to go ahead. Of course, I can always remove it later if you don't get to me in time.
I especially appreciate the references to your Christian faith. I, too, try to approach my faith with reason and logic, rather than just following the "Christian traditions"; the difference being, you KNOW why the traditions are there, so you know when to apply them and when not to, having thought through God's purpose.
I have a post on my faith on my site. I'd appreciate your feedback on it.

Posted by: nathan at October 15, 2002 10:17 AM

House keeping note: The post is appearing twice on the page.

Gratitude note: Thanks so much for answering my call. Your point about the father not doing his job earlier so that it gets to this point was dead on and not something I had been able to put into words.

I've still got lingering internal questions though. First, if the "pain" associated with the stun is equivalent to thumping a baby on the head, then is it ok or is it using technology like a stun gun wrong no matter what? I have very negative feelings about the gun that I wouldn't have if he was following the kid around with a paddle and no real reason for explaining the difference.

Also, the fact that he is the boy's stepfather and did not raise him and does not use this kind of discipline with his other children, does that make it less wrong? Yahoo doesn't give enough specifics in the case and I'm sure part of my uneasiness about the whole thing is the unprofessional and completely inappropriate glee the investigators seem to be exhibiting. Talk about not handling something they feel to be child abuse seriously! They sound like it's a game and they're happy he's such an ass. Like they want to break up and ruin this family instead of gravely trying to salvage what's left of the family and protect the children.

Posted by: Cis at October 15, 2002 10:20 AM

Nathan -- everything on the Internet is open season, so link to your heart's content. I'll be sure to get to your site soon.

Good questions. First, we know the pain associated with the stun gun isn't equivalent to a gentle thump, so I'm treating this as a hypothetical (which is how I think you intended it). My answer is that it strikes me as wrong still. I think it is important when possible not to use one's hands for spanking -- as the Pearls put it, the parent's hands are for loving. At the same time, a stun gun is just that -- a gun. I don't like the thought of it. A good wooden spoon works just fine, although by the time the child is eight, if he's still extremely disobedient, serious round the clock interaction is required, to retrain parent and child.

I don't believe the fact that he's the stepfather makes it less wrong. He entered into a covenant agreement with the boy's mother, and became the boy's father. He is now responsible for the boy, and obligated to raise him. He is clearly out of his depth, but no less responsible.

Yes, the slavering (hey Dr. Weevil, I got it right this time!) state officials are unseemly. They think incarcerating the father and putting the children in foster care will solve the problem. Maybe so, but I think their glee stems from the relief many parents feel upon learning that there are really bad parents out there. It allows us to ignore our own failings.

Posted by: Tony at October 15, 2002 10:59 AM

Absolutely excellent post, Tony. My brother and sis in law are raising two girls, 2 1/2 and one month. Haydon, the 2 1/2 yr old, is lively, curious and smart as a whip. She's also very well disciplined by parents who started day one with a consistent set of rules that she has always been expected to obey. It's absolutely amazing how young she was able to be obedient consistently, when consistent discipline followed misbehavior.

The thing that's difficult is that my mom and my sister have both been concerned that she is over-disciplined (she's not, IMHO), and my sister especially. How does my sister handle it? By letting Haydon break the rules when she stays with her. It's especially curious to me because when my sister's kids were in their teens, my sister put a moratorium on them riding in a car I was driving because I wouldn't agree not to go over the speed limit (and I'm not a wild driver, IMHO, this was 70 in a 65). I said to her, I'm driving what I'm driving, and if you don't like it, then I won't take them in my car. (I know, I was bad). And that's the rule she set - until it was more convenient for me to drive them somewhere than her, and suddenly the rule was gone. I love her kids, but they show the effects of that kind of parenting. And yes, I'm Good Aunt now, all home rules apply in my house too; however, if they have a rule they want enforced that I don't agree with, I also won't be mad if they decide not to leave their kids with me.

As for the stun gun thing, I've not read the article but that's never appropriate. It's too painful and too frightening of an implement. And you're totally correct - any child that's reached that age and is so out of control has either neurological problems or bad parenting to blame. While I'm at it, another good Bible verse to remember is "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath" (Eph. 6:4), which I think means, in relation to discipline, that it needs to be rationally connected to the offense both in nature and severity.

But then, what do I know :) I'm not a parent.

Posted by: susanna at October 15, 2002 11:56 AM

Being a father of eight children not yet teenagers I sure appreciate your words of wisdom about parenting and discipline. Like you, I know I'm not a perfect parent but insight like yours is a great help along the way.

Posted by: Kevin at October 15, 2002 1:27 PM

Great stuff, as usual. You should seriously consider contributing this to Carnival of the Vanities.

Posted by: Dodd at October 15, 2002 1:42 PM

very good stuff, and thanks for pointing out what good parenting is all about. Having grown up in a home where I was physically abused, I sure can appreciate what was missing in my life, and I sure am glad to see there are good people like you and Nate and Kevin who work so hard to think things out and shoulder the responsibilty of being a good parent. In my case, I left home and moved to the USA as soon as I could, and I havent talked to, or contacted my parents since I left almost 10 years ago, and I have no desire to do so anytime soon.

Posted by: Anonymous at October 15, 2002 2:08 PM

Tony et al,
I think the thing I don't like about the stun gun is it seems to humiliate as well as hurt. Or maybe it just smacks of Skinner's box. It also puts the source of pain into a device. What if the stepfather doesn't have it one time? Will the son rise up and beat the crap out of him?
One thing I disagree with, Tony (although I'm open to being persuaded): if you use a wooden spoon or other device, it's harder to know how hard you are hitting. With your hand, you can at least feel some of the sting yourself. My mom used to spank out of bad moods, and when she used an object it was always much worse.
I also sent the article to my wife's email (I'm deployed right now). She's been complaining that our 1-year old is stubborn and hard to handle. I'll be home soon to start instituting some discipline (if lack of it is the problem...I haven't actually seen any of this--I've been gone 5 months).
I'd also like to add my $.02 to anyone reading this who does not believe in spanking: Spanking does not teach kids to hit. Kids learn to hit from hitting (and so they usually learn from other kids). Spanking, on the other hand, ensures they understand that there is a power over them that can inflict the ultimate (to a child) punishment if their behavior warrants it. This is excellent training for life in a society that has the right to put you to death.
'nuff said

Posted by: nathan at October 15, 2002 3:00 PM

Excellent commentary. This is the most important word in the article, in my opinion:


Posted by: Davey at October 15, 2002 3:12 PM

If the spoon is used properly (i.e., consistently and early), one need never approach the bounds of inappropriate force. For some children, barely forceful tapping suffices. For others, a reasonable (but not hard) whap does the trick. The goal is to inspire a spirit of contrition, which does not come from the force itself.

Posted by: Tony at October 15, 2002 3:48 PM

Wonderful stuff, as usual! Thanks for this - especially the notes about spare the rod = hate the child and the *work* that this stuff requires. From "modern parenting" to "modern education" I think a lot of things I see to-day are just folks who are lazy, not wanting to do the extra work needed.

Posted by: Huw at October 16, 2002 9:22 AM

It is so nice to see this written down and discussed / explained in detail. I have thought for a long time that "they" were wrong about punishment and discipline and I see it as a great failing of out society and a root cause of the condition of the public school system. I have spanked my children. I was spanked as a child. I know that hitting is different. I learned to fight from other children, not my parents (often my brother - and I gave as good as I got).

I am bothered by the statement "At the same time, a stun gun is just that -- a gun." A stun gun is misnamed. It is intended to be a non-lethal device. Certainly not a device for disciplining children. I'd worry that it could be at the wrong setting when he goes to zap the child. An oops here could have seriously bad consequences. At least with a spoon using too much force results in breaking the spoon.
Guns are something else entirely. A gun is meant to be a lethal device, and the subject of other serious discussions. I just want to say that the distinction between a gun and a stun "gun" is important.

Posted by: Carl Keller at October 16, 2002 9:46 AM


I'm from Memphis, TN, so I didn't get spanked I got switched - as in go pick out the "switch" or thin branch from a bush (usually the width of my pinkie) that my grandmother was going to lash my legs with after I removed all the leaves myself. We didn't get a new switch every time, she'd keep the last one around for awhile as a reminder, but just the added ritual of picking out our own switch was an extremely effective deterrant. Made us have to think about our punishment and what we did to cause it that much longer.

I definitely wouldn't want to contemplate my grandmother's hands EVER in the same way I did those bush branches. :)

Carl -

The potential for a serious accident to happen if the stun gun was set incorrectly or was used in the wrong hands is, I think, what was bothering me about it that I couldn't identify. Thanks for putting it into words for me. I think that clears up for me why I personally can see this being child endagerment even though I don't think corporal punishment is child abuse.

Posted by: Cis at October 16, 2002 11:57 AM

I know that physically they are quite different, but the action involved with the stun gun (name aside, though that commonality is relevant for my point) is very similar to that involved with a gun. As a result, it carries a terrible cultural similarity. If children didn't know what real guns are used for, I might not have this reservation (though I would still object for other reasons discussed above).

Posted by: Tony at October 16, 2002 11:58 AM

Thanks for your explanation on disciplining children. The phrase "This will hurt me more than it will hurt you" seems hollow, but it rings true once you have your own kids.

You started to go down the path, and I would like to continue: "The goal is to inspire a spirit of contrition, which does not come from the force itself." Once children are old enough to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, you should follow up after the "discipline" and find out if the child understands why he was punished and the consequences if he should misbehave in the future. It gives you a chance to hug on them and let them know you still love them, but that you did not like their behavior. Kids can get funny ideas of why they are getting spanked, so a chance to reinforce the reasons for punishment is helpful.

Posted by: MarcV at October 16, 2002 12:51 PM

A VERY good column - finally something that explains what I can't ever seem to get into words. I have a 6 month old daughter, and I hope to be as good a parent to her as my parents were to me.

I have several comments I think might be good reading/important contributions:

My parents spanked me when necesary - I always knew why they did it, because they told me. Consistent is incredibly important, but it is useless without understanding. "I'm being punished because I did [some specific wrong thing I knew about before I chose to do it]."

I couldn't figure out the problem with the stun gun until someone pointed out the danger of using the wrong setting. Also, the physical likeness to a gun (unless it's a stun baton) could also be bad. As to attaching significance to the object, a spoon (or in many people I know, their father's belt - for my wife as a child, it was the flyswatter) could become the same thing.

Actually, a stun baton specifically made not to look like a gun and not to be capable of a dangerously high charge might make a good tool for a large, strong man to be able to discipline his child whithout the fear of overdoing it and actually causing injury. Understanding and consistency would still be required. What if the "stun tool" (whatever you want to call it) also shocked the parent? Then, the child might truly understand that yes, it really does hurt me as much as it hurts you (and it's still important enough to me to do it). Yes, it could be used the wrong way, but so can spoons, belts, rubber hoses, hands, etc.

My parents did the best job of anyone I know in transitioning me from child to adult - it was a slow process that started when I was young and finished some time in college. My parents are now older, wiser friends of mine whom I occasionally consult for advice... which I am in no way bound to follow. I pray that the Lord gives me the wisdom and patience to do the same.

Posted by: Deoxy at October 16, 2002 2:41 PM

Cis and Tony,
I was spanked, and to be honest, I never once considered it was "the hands" that were doing it. You may be right, I just don't know. It's not like you hold the spoon or switch with your feet.
The big thing about getting the switch ready yourself is it gave you lots of time to dread the punishment and think on what you did.
The other thing I don't like about a switch (and also about a wooden spoon) is simple physics: force applied to a smaller area does proportionally more damage. It's not hard to get welts from a switch, but nearly impossible from the broad surface area of the hand.
I'm not telling you to NOT use those methods, I just want to offer a different way of looking at for those not comfortable with using an object, as I am not.
I also want to emphasize what MarcV said: explain and hug your kids afterwards. My 3 year old son knows we love him very much, and has no fear of my hand lifting to touch his cheek. When he was spanked 6 months ago for playing with the stove (the last time we had to spank him), he came back 5 minutes later and told us in 2 1/2-year-old level speech why it was dangerous to play with the stove. It was so cute.

Posted by: nathan at October 16, 2002 8:17 PM

Great post, Tony.

Michael and Debi Pearl in the book Tony refers to offer some great guidance about how to implement the rod. At our house, we use a 5 gal. paint stir stick from home depot. It is large enough to be a visual reminder, it makes lots of noise without necessitating a strident impact, and it is soft enough if one gets out of hand that it bends or breaks.

That said, the goal of punishment is a reminder of justice, and should also include a restoration to fellowship. Ted Tripp talks about first reviewing the biblical principle transgressed,explaining the punishment, adminstering the punishment, assuring forgiveness, and providing restoration (in our house in the form of a hug). In all cases, spanking when angry is unproductive and confusing to the child.

One thing I heard on the radio from a prison warden a few years ago stuck with me. He was talking with a group of parents and said something like this. "If a man doesn't learn respect and receive discipline from his parents, he might have to learn it from his teacher. If he doesn't get it there, he might learn it from his principal. If that doesn't work, he might learn it from the police officer. If he doesn't learn it there, they give him to me - and by then its too late."

Posted by: Steve at October 17, 2002 9:06 AM

Cis: I too used to get a "switchin" when I was little, and like you I also had to pick out my own from time to time. Very effective in the sorrow you know your hiney will suffer.

My mom quit the spanking when my brother and I began laughing one day – during the spanking. A slight woman - she didn't have the staying power to inflict the necessary pain and terror as we got older. Of course, then she took to saying, "wait till your father gets home". The waiting for the punishment was worse than the spanking.

All that being said, they would still sit down and tell us they loved us. We don't have a dysfunctional family. And we are all closer than ever (bro and I are in our 30’s now).

It’s truly distressing to see so many parents regarding all corporal punishment as “abuse”. Only an idiot liberal wouldn’t have the sense to tell the difference between a spanking and a pop with a stun gun or brutal beating.

And that’s really the tragedy: Liberals need government and/or a therapist to lay down ground rules and establish a quasi-morality. Common sense is out the window.

Posted by: Davey at October 17, 2002 1:41 PM

Thanks for the implication that we who raise our children without resort to violence, "hate" our children. You really make me miss my "Christian" upbringing. Not.

For the record, when we first started raising the first of our two children, I would resort to spanking him--in precisely the fashion recommended by this site--when he misbehaved. (Needless to say, this was how I was "disciplined" as a child; see "the cycle of abuse.") But my wife prevailed upon me not to, and after making that choice, we have never had reason to second guess that decision.

Do we forego discipline? No, we forego physical violence. Now, 8 years on, we have two of the sweetest, gentlest, *obedient* children we could ask for, children who aren't afraid of physical closeness, who cherish our love and respect, and who feel healthy shame when they fall short of the internalized moral expectations they have for themselves.

And it's not just our subjective opinion. We are regularly approached by total strangers in public places who just want to comment on how loving our family obviously is. How many "tough love" Christians reading this can say the same?

I came to this page from a link to "On Remembering," which was deeply moving on many levels. Then I made the mistake of coming here. Or maybe it wasn't a mistake, because once again I am reminded why, thank God, I'm no longer a Christian.

Posted by: Tresy at October 23, 2002 10:14 AM

"Thanks for the implication that we who raise our children without resort to violence, "hate" our children... For the record, when we first started raising the first of our two children, I would resort to spanking him--in precisely the fashion recommended by this site--when he misbehaved. (Needless to say, this was how I was "disciplined" as a child; see "the cycle of abuse.")"

If you cannot distinguish between the discipline I described and "violence," "abuse," or even "tough love," then I find it hard to believe that you did in fact discipline in the way I described. Your failure to understand that spankings need not be frequent or painful, but, when applied early enough, need be nothing ever more than taps, is instructive. Furthermore, if you weren't beating your child to the point of tears, I'm curious why your wife asked you to stop.

But in any event, congratulations on raising children who are loving and obedient, and for guiding them to some socially acceptable set of internalized moral self-expectations that will give them happiness until such time as they, and you, meet your Maker.

Posted by: Tony at October 23, 2002 8:10 PM

In response to Tresy, all of the most spoiled, rotten, and selfish children that I have ever known were raised by parents who would not spank them. I have known a VERY FEW children raised without spanking who turned out well. Most of the children that I have known who turned out well were spanked when necessary. Playing the odds, I'd have to go with spanking when necessary.

Also, did you even READ the rest of Tony's post after the "he who spares the rod" part? Judging by your reaction, I'd find it hard to believe you did.

One last thing... do I sense a little bitterness against Christianity here? Just a little? Generally speaking, bitterness is very destructive... just sayin'.

Posted by: Deoxy at October 24, 2002 4:42 PM


I have pondered for several hours what I should say in response to you after reading your comment to my husband's post. After reading those before your own I found myself startled by the tone in your opening lines. It actually took me a moment to discern that you were not participating in the thoughtful and respectful discussion that had been taking place prior to your comment.I will openly admit there were many things I thought to say to you that were more closely tied to a loyalty instinct than out of an interest in responding in the same manner introduced by your predecessors and afforded you by my husband in his response to you.

None the less after some thought, prayer, and rereading of your comment I offer some thoughts that whether you accept it as such or not are given with truth and sincerity and not with contempt.

As I have already pointed out your comment read differently than the others. This explains Deoxy's reference to bitterness.

Well, I find myself pausing for I know that this as well as many other things I wish to convey will be unrecognizable to you. I fear you will be unable to see the thing's that jump out from your comment. It's like trying to convince a colorblind man that his sock is not the color he thinks it is. It is what it is to him regardless of how it looks to everyone else. But I am dogged if nothing else, so here goes.

Why did you thank God for no longer being a Christian? No kidding. Doesn't that seem odd, or were you attempting to be humorous?

In your first sentence you used the word Christian in quotes. This suggests that even you believe there is such a thing as Christian behavior but that your parents' was not in fact that but something disguised as that, or rather pretending to be. As perhaps you have gathered there are many who place themselves in a church environment but who do not know the Lord. There are many who know God's word for recitation purposes but who do not have it written on their hearts. And of course there are many who are Christians, followers of Christ, but who fall short, daily (All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Romans). In fact all of the Church is made up of sinners. To follow Christ is to love Him, to accept His forgiveness and death for your sins, but IT IS NOT to be perfect like Him, there is only one Christ. In Him we are perfected. That means it is ongoing. I am sorry for the upbringing that has led you astray of the meaning of God's word. It appears that you were correct in putting Christian in quotes. Your view suggests that indeed it was not an accurate portrayal of the love of Christ.

Please forgive me if I misunderstand you. I do not know you or your parents. I do not know the state of their hearts or whether or not they are/were Christians or "Christians".

Like Deoxy I find it difficult to believe that you read the rest of the post, or even any of the other comments. Your own comment diplays a sad hardness that leaves no doubt that you missed the redemptive portion of the discipline process (in the post, in the comments, possibly in your own upbringing), and possibly the redemptive portion of Christ's death. In fact I find myself mostly stunned that anyone could read the post "On Remembering" and still be so easily led to anger by anything that might follow.

Like some of your other choices in phrases it suggests there is something more to your story. You refer to the cycle of abuse. Were you really beaten or is it just a phrase easily taken on because you self-righteously disagree with your parents method of discipline?

Having met many who talk of having been abused I will stick my neck out and say there are two general categories: those who were truly abused and those who "feel" like they were abused. Again, I don't know you so I can not begin to know which category you fall into. Since both my mother and step-father agree that I was abused I know I fall into the former category. On the other hand in the same family I have heard descriptions of parental behavior that is not truly abusive, (physical marks, molestation, lifelong neurosis attributable to verbal denegration,...) but was instead upon recollection hurtful in the "I feel like I was abused" fashion. (I put this paragraph in to let you know that having been sexually molested in my own home for most of six years I know a little bit about those who know real abuse and those who throw it around because it elicits sympathy, or because it is fashionable to refer to discipline as abuse. Everybody's a victim these days, right?)

Your use of the words "cycle of abuse" in reference to the non-violent remarks made in the post suggests that you are either seriously scarred from some very real physical abuse, in which case you are right to avoid corporal punishment in disciplining your children, or you have an overwhelming emotional sense that you were abused (because you did not like the method and disagree) and are taking out your anger on your "Christian" upbringing. If it is the latter then your parents did do something wrong. Either they got it wrong because they weren't truly following the Lord, or they got it wrong because they missed displaying the redemptive part of the discipline process, in which case thay are forgiven, just not yet by you. Or better yet they actually did it all right but you are still a work in progress and God is perfecting in you the work He began.

You refer to "tough love" (your quotes again) Christian families. What I don't understand is where that phrase came from. Not in any of the post, comments, or within the suggested readings is the term "tough love" used. If I am not mistaken this is the term used to describe the behavior or actions taken when all else has failed. If you had read it in its entirity you would have grasped that precisely the point being made by everyone is that the goal of discipline is that it is NOT a last resort to changing unacceptable behavior.

The reference in your first paragraph of "I would resort to spanking him" also suggests that you missed the point that discipline and training are not effective as a "resort", they are ongoing, loving, and restorative. You are absolutely correct thet they are worthless and abusive if they are used as a last resort.

Now, since you asked, regarding being approached about the joy, well being, and self disciplined behavior of our children, I can honestly say I have, as well as all of my closest friends, been in that rewarding position, Christians (not "Christians") all. What a wonderful blessing that your family has experienced this. Perhaps when you are less angry you might enter the discussion with some of the practical ways you train and discipline your children without the rod. Your current approach is not yet swaying me to believe that I am grossly wrong. It is however causing me to be more prayerful of my own actions as a Christian, that I might avoid - in my own actions towards my children - causing the result evidenced in your comment.

I will say that since you are not a Christian it would be inappropriate for you to use God's Word as your standard for raising and disciplining your children. Therefore your own internal standard for methods of discipline is adequate in your home. Therefore the passage in Proverbs is meant for the followers of God, that is God's standard. If I understand His Word correctly we are to only help and hold other Christians to this standard, it is the Lord who will hold everyone else to this standard on Judgement day. Sorry I probably lost you there.

The point is in order to instill any value of what is right and what is wrong one must have a reference point, for you it is this internalized morality, from where you don't say, for Christians it is an internalized morality that is the Holy Spirit. By this standard we use God's Word to direct our own teaching as well as that of our children. Soooo... for those who know the love of Christ to discipline any way but God's way is to "hate" or rather not love with the love of the Lord your children. Because you would then be putting your own will and desires above the instruction of God. I think Eve tried that once.

Therefore you do not hate your children, you love with an earthly love, a love dictated by what feels right to you. Christians are called to love with the love of Christ, a love that embodies sacrifice of the human will and human desires.

As I reread your post yet again,I am surprised by the bite in your words. I pray my own response is not received in any way but the manner it was intended. Perhaps you will have the opportunity to reread these posts and rethink the motive for your approach. In the meantime I am always grateful to hear of a family raising well adjusted children, regardless that we disagree on the method.

Any misspellings, unclear thoughts, poor grammar and/or punctuation all belong to me. I would claim that it is difficult to write this while caring for a toddler and an infant but alas they are not at fault for they are napping and my vaccuum is calling me, loudly. At any rate my husband may later chide me for my amateur doctrinal references or anything else that appears to be something other than what I was thinking but this is solely my writing today.

Tony's wife :)

Posted by: Tony Woodlief at November 8, 2002 4:57 PM


In response to the hand vs. switch/paddle/spoon debate I would say that if you are confident that your child has developed an ability to distinguish between the hand of discipline and the hand of gentle touch (probably because of the preceeding behavior as well as that following) then I can't say that your choice is wrong.

In our home our children have a different look in their eyes when the hand is used instead of a spoon. Perhaps it is because we almost always use the spoon that the hand is more hurtful to their feelings. But I can say they are definitely more crushed by the use of the hand and miss the point of the spanking for having their feelings hurt.

I don't recall if it was you or someone else, but someone remarked that a hand did not leave a welt as another implement would. I disagree. Many a time my stepfather's hand imprint stayed on my behind into the next day, longer if it bruised. Anything done in anger or without self-control can hurt beyond the moment, including the words of a non-spanking parent.

So rod vs. hand, I'd say it's a personal call. But now you know at least why we favor the rod.

God bless you in your parenting,
Wife of Tony

Posted by: Tony Woodlief at November 8, 2002 5:10 PM

Regardless of one's opinion of corporal punishment, I am very saddened that you recommend the Pearl's book.

One of my biggest problems with To Train Up A Child is the implication that multiple, consistent spankings with very young children is Biblically mandated. I don't remember if the Pearls come right out and say that, or if it is just implied.

Regardless of a Christian's opinion on spanking, use of the Pearl's methods is simply a 20th century generic American protestant interpretation of the Bible. I have major red flags when sloppy Biblical interpretation is used to support any practice. Calling something "biblical" when it is simply man's opinion is very wrong.

My other big problem with TTUAC is that it very often leads to well-intentioned child abuse. The mothers who use TTUAC are usually dedicated Christians who really want to be godly, gentle in spirit, and raise their children to the glory of God. And though I know some claim that with TTUAC-like methods result in only needing to spank once or twice, the mothers I've observed using it have spanked "consistently" and a LOT.

I have seen this lead to well-intentioned child abuse. A mother thinks the best way to teach her children is through spanking. But from what we know about God's creation and child development, we see multiple and constant swats not being in line with the best way little ones learn. I have seen calm, kind, consistent spanks being given in such multitude that it objectively WAS child abuse. (Even though the mother would have never seen it as such.)

And when a mommy gets frustrated--even if she wants to never spank in anger--if her usual method of training is spanking then it is very, very easy to slip into spanking in anger, spanking harder, spanking in a way that is abusive.

Like I said, I'm disappointed that you speak so highly of a book that is Biblically questionable and has lead to abuse in many families.

Posted by: Sasha at December 13, 2003 5:50 AM

Another thought about the Pearls--this is cut-and-pasted from something a friend said better than I could, but echoes my thoughts and observations in Pearl families:

"You know, I just wanted to share with you, too, my thoughts on "training" in the Pearl's way. He often compares training children with training animals, i.e., dogs and mules. (Personally, I don't believe you have to strike a dog to train it, either, but that is another post.) The major difference as I see it is that a dog does not ever need to grow into an independant mind. If he spends his whole life obeying your every command, it won't be likely to have any negative consequence. But is this true of a child? One day, your children will be adults. It will no longer be in their best interest to mindlessly comply with others. It will become important for them to judge a situation for themselves, stand up against someone who would use and disrespect them, have a voice for themselves. Training them to "obey", no matter what can have very harmful effects when one comes in contact with an abusive boss, spouse or friend. I am speaking from experience, experience I wish I did not have. In his book, Mr. Pearl does brag that he can still obtain instant, unquestioning obedience from his grown kids when he orders them to perform a "trick", like sitting on the floor or taking the doorknob. He brags that he can cause them to let go of a glass of iced tea by saying "Hot!". It shivers my spine to think of how vulnerable such an adult is to abuse or (at least) being controlled by others. "

I see what Pearl advocates going beyond teaching children Biblical obedience to the point of controlling/abuse issues. I recommend the book, "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse" by David Johnson, Jeff Vanvonderen

Posted by: Sasha at December 13, 2003 5:57 AM

I just wanted to say that one can be a Christian, raise kind understanding, and well-mannered children without spanking. Would Jesus spank a child? To be honest with you, I have a hard time picturing him hurting a child. "Whatever you do to the least of these my brothers, you have done to me." How we treat our children is how we are treating our Savior.

I have three boys and I do not spank them. I try to treat them how I would treat them if Jesus were physically in the room (which he is but I can't see him). Here is what I do when I need to correct one of my boys:

1.)First off I explain the expected behavior before hand and have them repeat it back to me.
"Charlie's coming over today. Remember that when guests come we treat them nice and share our things with them."

2.)When child misbehaves I:
take child away from the situation
discuss it with child (why it is wrong and how to make the wrong right.)

3.)Next step is making restitution:
If someone is hurt then an apologie is in order and the child needs to do something kind for the child they hurt.
In our family part of making restitution is praying together and asking God's forgiveness.

God doesn't spank us but there are consequences for our misbehavior. We need to parent the same way. I believe in giving consequences that match the behvior and that they can use when they are adults.

You throw a toy. It gets put up.

You hurt someone you make it right with an apology and by doinging something nice for that person.

You tear a library book then you pay for it with your piggy bank money.

It takes being creative but one can parent successfully without spanking. To be a successful parent one must be consistant, expect the best from their child, compliment the positive behavior, correct the misbehavior, and show the child how to make restitution.

I just wanted to post and let people out there know that there are Christian parents who do not spank and our children follow our rules and are well behaved because we teach right from wrong, are consistant, and there are consequences (the consequences should be appriate for the behavior and bring restitution).

Posted by: Ruth at February 11, 2004 7:04 AM