Isn't it funny how time and age and experience change the way we see our favorite books and movies from our childhoods?
The other day some friends and I were discussing reading the Little House on the Prairie series to our own children. The series was a favorite of ours as children and aside from the nostalgia of reading these books there is a different perspective now; that of a parent.
We were musing over how well behaved the children were and how well they listened to their parents and followed directions; carrying out many difficult chores day in and day out; and all with just a few handmade toys and no DVDs. What made these children so hard-working and obedient?
Of course, times have changed...a lot. But for one thing, there was corporal punishment; and the kids knew this and expected it. There was a certain amount of fear mixed with respect when it came to their parents.
Today, as I discussed in yesterday's post, there are many different schools of thought about the best way to discipline and raise a fine, upstanding, well-behaved child. However, there is a point where so-called discipline crosses the line and becomes abuse; even murder. There is a book that has been the cause of concern for parents, social workers and prosecutors in the last several years.
Excuse to Abuse
This book advocates for using spankings on children as young as 6 months old to train them to submit to authority; to essentially break children in the same style that the Amish break their stubborn mules. Michael Pearl self-published his book, To Train Up a Child, and it has become popular in ultra-conservative homes, especially in Christian homeschooling households.
This book, which suggests using a switch for spanking a child in one example, describes how to use a quarter-inch flexible plumbing line for hitting the arms, legs or back and even advocates for periodic fasting for children, has now been linked to the deaths of several children. These children all died at the hands of their parents after being systematically beaten, most with the plumbing tubing mentioned by Pearl, having food withheld from them and subjected to other means of "discipline" supported by Pearl. Pearl's book was found in the homes of each of these children.
When Discipline Becomes Abuse
This is not to say that the book is to blame for these parents lashing out and killing their kids in an attempt to train them to submit to their authority. The parents are to blame. However, these parents had been led to believe that such behavior is acceptable. It is not.
Pearl has said it's not his fault if delusional, mentally ill parents took the wrong idea from his book. I think they understood his general principles and they just took it a step further, which resulted in the death of their children.
I would say it is never, not even once, acceptable to hit your child on the arms, back and legs with a switch, rubber tubing or any other instrument. This is abusive behavior that will only teach your child to fear and hate you.
The parents who followed Pearl's book, albeit extreme cases of following his teachings, were indicted for murder and are serving prison sentences now. Their discipline was most certainly actually physical and mental abuse. Their praying during or in between beatings does not make it alright either.
There is a wide expanse between parents who use spankings as a way to discipline their children and parents who withhold food and use various instruments to hit their children in the name of discipline. If you feel that you need clarification of where the line is drawn between discipline and abuse, see this link to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.
Abuse in the name of discipline is still abuse. Abuse is a criminal offense. Abuse hurts everyone.
Teaching respect, trust and reason makes for a stronger, kinder, more confident child and adult. Over and out...