The Biblical Cruelty of Child Beating

In 1877, the great freethinker Robert Green Ingersoll wrote these words about the then-common practice of corporal punishment:

I tell you the children have the same rights that we have, and we ought to treat them as though they were human beings. They should be reared with love, with kindness, with tenderness, and not with brutality. That is my idea of children.

…I do not believe in the government of the lash. If any one of you ever expects to whip your children again, I want you to have a photograph taken of yourself when you are in the act, with your face red with vulgar anger, and the face of the little child, with eyes swimming in tears and the little chin dimpled with fear, like a piece of water struck by a sudden cold wind.

Even back then, Ingersoll recognized the barbarity of punishing children with beatings and pain. Even then, he was a much greater man, a more loving man, a more compassionate man than the evil, sadistic fundamentalists who still exist today – the ones who believe that whipping a child is an appropriate response to disobedience, that parental decrees should be enforced with fear and pain. Two such people have just been sentenced in California after pleading guilty to beating their 7-year-old adopted daughter to death.

Lydia Schatz’s parents were followers of Debi and Michael Pearl, whom I’ve written about before – the Christian couple who believe that an abused wife’s only recourse is to pray to God to strike her husband dead. The Pearls also teach that beating a child is the proper way to make them obedient, and they specifically recommend implements to use for the purpose, such as belts, wooden spoons or quarter-inch plumbing supply tube.

The CNN interview shows the disturbingly large influence the Pearls have in the Christian community – their warehouse full of books, covers boasting “660,000 Sold”. Predictably, they deny all responsibility for Lydia Schatz’s death, though the interviewer probes no further than that. He also doesn’t mention that, in one respect at least, the Pearls are correct: the Bible does teach parents to beat their children. In fact, the Bible treats child-beating not just as one method of discipline among others, but says clearly that it is essential:

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

—Proverbs 13:24

“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”

—Proverbs 19:18

“The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.”

—Proverbs 20:30

“Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

—Proverbs 23:13-14

So, yes, the Christians who advocate whipping children are following the Bible. That’s how we know the Bible is a wicked book, one that teaches a flawed and savage morality far inferior to the compassionate humanism of Robert Ingersoll. Punishing children with beatings doesn’t make them moral; it makes them cruel, by teaching them that inflicting pain is a legitimate way of solving a problem. As studies have found, corporal punishment correlates with aggression, antisocial behavior, mental illness, and abuse of one’s own family later in life.

The harm done by religion to helpless, vulnerable children is enormous: whether it’s religious sects which shun medicine and let their children suffer and slowly die from treatable illnesses, or religious sects which advocate mutilating a child’s genitals, or religious sects which actively teach the goodness of beating and torture, or religious sects which simply teach children to be terrified of being attacked by demons or of burning forever in a fiery hell. Lydia Schatz is dead because of cruel and evil teachings like these, and she probably won’t be the last. (Did her parents call themselves “pro-life”, do you think?) Robert Ingersoll had advice that seems like it was written just for the Schatzes, advice that I hope they’ll follow some day, hopefully many years in the future, after they’re released from prison:

If that little child should die, I cannot think of a sweeter way to spend an autumn afternoon than to go out to the cemetery, when the maples are clad in tender gold, and little scarlet runners are coming, like poems of regret, from the sad heart of the earth — and sit down upon the grave and look at that photograph, and think of the flesh now dust that you beat. I tell you it is wrong; it is no way to raise children!

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Penguin_Factory

    I’ve never been a fan of corporal punishment. The idea that it’s okay to inflict pain on someone simply because they’re young makes no sense.

  • aerie

    “It is a shameful thing to insult a little child–it has its feelings, it has its small dignity; and since it cannot defend them, it is surely an ignoble act to injure them.”
    ~Mark Twain

  • Jim Baerg

    Anger is to some extent is a natural reaction to the child being recalcitrant about doing something the parent knows is necessary. Encouraging the parent to hit the child then cannot be good. Encouraging the use of a rod whip etc is likely to be disasterous, since there isn’t the reminder of pain in one’s own hand that one is going too far.

  • Natasha Zeigler

    I have always taken these phrases as advice from a parent to a child. If you find yourself in a place in time where for some reason you can not control your child and he or she is going to hurt themselves or someone else you should not hesitate to stop them by which ever means works first…with the least amount of harm.

  • Andrew T.

    Unfortunately, I think corporal punishment is still more common than a lot of people realize.

    Ten years ago, we did an informal poll in one of my high school classes to gauge how many of us had been punished this way in our youth…and every single hand other than my own went up. Moreover, what followed was a litany of “My mama beat me, and that was so good since that’s what made me the person I am today!” comments, and I was put on the spot of questions for breaking the unanimity.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    I have always taken these phrases as advice from a parent to a child. If you find yourself in a place in time where for some reason you can not control your child and he or she is going to hurt themselves or someone else you should not hesitate to stop them by which ever means works first…with the least amount of harm.

    That is clearly not what is being advocated in the Bible.

  • Niklaus Pfirsig

    I disagree with Penguin_Factory.
    “inflict pain on someone simply because they’re young”
    for toddlers, who respond more to the apporval and disapporval of an adult, it is not necessary to spank hard enough to cause pain, but it signals to the child that your attention is negative. thre or for swift swats from an open hand on their pullup clad bottom shows you are serious. For a toddler, it need not be hard enough to inflict pain.
    however, corporal punishment must be used sparingly, and only for situation where defiance or disobedience could endanger the child or others. Furthermore it should never be administered out of anger.

    There are some you believe parents hould never ever punish a child. Often the children in these families grow to believe that their action have no consequences. When the child defies a lesser punishment such as a timeout. However, if done correctly it doesn’t need to be done often.

  • Penguin_Factory

    for toddlers, who respond more to the apporval and disapporval of an adult, it is not necessary to spank hard enough to cause pain, but it signals to the child that your attention is negative. thre or for swift swats from an open hand on their pullup clad bottom shows you are serious. For a toddler, it need not be hard enough to inflict pain.

    If doing this really doesn’t cause any pain at all, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. However, if it doesn’t cause pain how would it have any effect? And also, how do you know it doesn’t hurt them? It seems like it would be difficult to judge precisely the amount of force that would “show them you’r serious” but not hurt them.

  • Demonhype

    Gotta love how “don’t use this disciplinary method ie. corporal punishment” becomes “never ever punish your kid at all”. No one is saying that.

    As for “what if your kid defied a time out–then what, mr. smarty pants? clearly the only solution is physical violence and pain!” I say you should watch Super Nanny. You wanted to have kids, you should be willing to put the time in to raising them right, rather than just take the quickest route to enforcing your will. My mom, who is an advocate of corporal punishment (and that has been a major bone of contention and one point on which I will never forgive her as long as either of us shall live*), has been recently watching that show and when I pointed out that those kids are far worse than we were and yet are being brought under control without violent methods she made some half-assed attempts to weasel out of it** before she had to finally concede. Yes, doing it right takes a little more work, but it’s worth it in the long run, for your family and for society (because kids who grow up in an environment where the strong can use violence on the weak to enforce their will will become adults who think that is the proper way to live, and it will affect the entire community on every level).

    *When I got big enough to hit back (and I went for blood, so they knew I meant business–you should have seen my father’s face when he narrowly avoided getting my knee in his fucking nuts), they learned to treat me like a human being. Yes, I have hit my mother and my father and no, I am neither ashamed nor regretful of it. If you think violence is the solution to getting your way, you should be prepared to get a little of your own medicine at some point. It so often seems that people who approve of corporal punishment tend to be the people on whom it will not be inflicted? Much like how we were discussing in ninth grade the idea of bringing corporal punishment back to the public schools and the only people who thought it was a great idea were jocks and cheerleaders–the very ones who already were never held responsible for their many crimes and sometimes managed to get the system to frame some unpopular nerd for their wrongdoings (if someone had to hang, anyway). For them, a return to that system would mean an entertaining show of watching other people be beaten and humiliated. The students who would actually be subjected to this, the non-jocks and non-cheerleaders, were absolutely against it. Same thing with parents who promote corporal punishment. If there was even a suggestion that it be inflicted on them, if the punishment for speeding was to drop your pants, bend over your hood, and get a paddling from the cop, they’d be livid at how “unjust” and “cruel” that would be–even as they insist that this is such a great and effective and healthy method of discipline and control for kids. Fucking hypocrites, all.

    **She tried to equate a time out with baring and presenting a humiliating and sexually-erogenous body zone for the ritual infliction of pain, saying that if I thought the latter was abusive surely I must find the former abusive, because the kid is crying in either case. She was serious. I made short work of that bullshit.

    BTW, I have heard nothing about Ingersoll so far that I did not like. :)

  • Dan L.

    for toddlers, who respond more to the apporval and disapporval of an adult, it is not necessary to spank hard enough to cause pain, but it signals to the child that your attention is negative. thre or for swift swats from an open hand on their pullup clad bottom shows you are serious. For a toddler, it need not be hard enough to inflict pain.

    1. If you’re simply using a “dry spanking” to signal disapproval, you’re not really engaging in corporal punishment. Although as Demonhype points out, you are humiliating your child.
    2. Most kids prefer negative attention to no attention at all. A time out would almost certainly be more effective in the long run. And less humiliating.

  • monkeymind

    Ugh, the Pearls. They are quite a charming couple, aren’t they?

    The real issue isn’t even hitting vs. not hitting. I really wish the idea that it’s okay to hit children would just disappear tomorrow, but I wouldn’t label every parent who has ever spanked as a child abuser. If you have a good connection with your child, your serious voice is enough to show them you’re serious, and if you need to stop them doing something dangerous, just stop them.

    The real problems I see with Pearl, and why overwhelmed, undereducated parents following his advice might beat a child to death:

    1. The idea that “the rod is magic” – he literally says this.

    2. The idea that the child must be defeated totally whenever the parent decides to enforce a rule or exert authority. There is no advice given as to what to do when 10, 20, 30 or more blows do not achieve the desired result of a compliant child. On his website, he actually refuses to give a number of how many is too many. Also strongly implied is that if the whipping is not effective, it is because it is not painful enough.

    4. Michael Pearl was able to dominate and control his children without permanently injuring them, but he has zero knowledge of any parenting challenges outside his narrow range of experience. It’s actually pathetically easy to break the will of a child with normal attachment, who is emotionally dependent on the adult. That was obviously not the case with this family. There’s no indication that the child had any kind of disorder that would prevent attachment, but it does not happen overnight and adoptive parents shouldn’t expect it. The child obviously objected to having her will broken as a condition for attachment. She relied on whatever strength had allowed her to survive to that point to resist her oppressor, with this tragic result.

    5. In addition to being totally unqualified to give parenting advice, Pearl advises parents to self-segregate from other parents, and to avoid child psychologists and “humanistic” parenting advice. He never addresses a scenario where repeated beatings have no effect, because even to admit that this is possible undermines his advice.

    As for “it should never be done out of anger” – this death was not the result of a temporary loss of control due to anger. The beatings went on for hours, interspersed with prayer.

    In the third part of the series Jocelyn Zichterman makes some of these points. I really wish the interviewer had asked tougher questions in this segment though.

    Finally, the real problem is any parenting approach or philosophy that is overly controlling and regimented- and virtually all Christian parenting advice is that. Evangelical christianity in particular puts parents in an awful double bind – their children must “accept” Christ of their own “free will”, or be damned forever. Given that scenario, what parent can really let their child’s will be “free”?

    All right, enough rant, it’s time to dust off my “Free to Be You and Me” CD and play it full blast.

    Here’s the link to the 3rd segment with Zichterman: http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/17/video-ungodly-discipline/

  • Eric

    It’s unclear what the connection to religion is in this case:

    http://boingboing.net/2011/08/23/alaska-mother-convicted-of-child-abuse-after-taping-hot-sauce-torture-video-for-dr-phil-audition.html

    Forced exercise, cold showers, I call him Abu Ghraib boy. Check out the description to see who was filming the video. That makes it even worse.

    The Ingersoll quotes are perfect and they remind me of my ex-gf. She had a child who died at age ten after suffering almost from birth from a siezure disorder that caused profound retardation. We were out together and saw one of those mothers who seem do do nothing but snarl and snap at their. She turned to me and said:

    “I just want to go up to them and say, “At least your child can talk. At least you have a child.”

    That last part of the Ingersoll quote reminded me of that.

  • karen

    These kinds of “parenting experts” are rife in fundamentalist circles. When my kids were born it was the Ezzo’s, self-styled teachers of the Growing Kids God’s Way method.

    It ripped through churches like the latest spiritual fad of the month (there were many) and eventually created a huge backlash when multiple reports surfaced of babies with failure-to-thrive syndrome whose parents were following the Ezzo method.

    The Ezzo method mostly involved putting newborns on rigid feeding and sleeping schedules and ignoring their cries for food and attention if they were off-schedule. The goal being to get them to sleep through the night and cure our “overly child-centered” society by teaching babies (babies!) how to wait their turn.

    What happened was that pitiful newborns cried themselves senseless for hours because they needed feeding more frequently than the Ezzos proscribed. (Their schedule of far-apart feedings was more appropriate for formula-fed babies than for breast-fed.) The little guys would be so exhausted from all that screaming that when they were finally picked up for a feeding, they’d fall asleep almost immediately and not get the full nutrition they needed.

    A vicious cycle developed that turned into failure to thrive: Perfectly healthy infants that did not gain weight and grow as expected.

    Of course the Ezzos also advocated smacking and spanking, and even sold a hard plastic swatter to use for this purpose, until real or imagined liability forced them to stop selling it.

    This site details the whole sordid story about how Ezzo misrepresented himself as a child expert (in fact he had only a high school degree) and how the whole family had financial misdeeds and troubles at other churches before they started their program.

    I’m sure they made a fortune off of this dangerous crap while they could. I hope they’ve been shut down by now. Thank goodness my inner skeptic and basic mother instinct kept me away from the Ezzo method when my own babies were young. There was a lot of pressure to adopt it.

  • Sakiru

    Thanks for the article. I really wish my mother and her mother knew a thing or two about this.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    I think we need to make a distinction here. Spanking (lightly slapping with a bare hand on the buttocks, especially if through padding) is not on the same level as beating with a rod. That should be clear. I am not a parent, but I’ve been around children my whole life. Children will not run wild to the point of needing spanking when their parents do not let them take advantage. Beating your child with a rod is not only inexcusable but more likely to make them use violence against others themselves, as commenters noted previously.

  • Penguin_Factory

    Against my better judgement, I’ve been reading more of the pearl’s website (it’s like a car crash you can’t look away).

    What struck me about the site (apart from the deep, rich vain of misogyny that also permeates the entire thing) is how bad the rest of their parenting advice is, even when they’re not advocating whipping kids with plastic tubing.

    In one section a reader writes in to ask about a friend’s 8 year old daughter who is extremely shy (nothing that “it almost seems like a form of rebellion” which made me face palm so hard I think I broke my nose). Speaking as someone who has experienced a great deal of shyness and social anxiety myself, both when I was younger and as an adult, their explanation is complete bullshit. They basically say it’s the girl’s fault for being too self-centered. I get the feeling this isn’t something she has any personal experience in and simply made the whole thing up, yet she speaks with absolute authority, as if she’s an expert.

    I really hate to think that parents are actually following these people’s advice.

  • Eric

    So Ezzo is a proponent of child starvation and breastfeeding failure. Makes me glad I always stuff the Ezzo books down the back of the shelves to screw up inventory control and face out Leach and Kitzinger to promote sales.

    Gotta fight the power!

  • Scotlyn

    The underlying idea is that human beings should submit their will to God – ie a person’s will is untrustworthy and bound to lead them into trouble. I could see that someone with this view could, with all the love in the world, try to rid their children of their troublesome will by whatever means they can.

    Therein is the true challenge – to teach respect for one another’s will as a fundamental value. My children are my responsibility for a while – to feed, clothe, protect, and also to teach – by example – in the ways of survival in the world. But the life they live is their own, from birth – they are not stand-ins for me. If you respect their will, from day one, it is my experience (having been involved in parenting for roughly eighteen years now), that they learn to respect the will of others, and to gracefully negotiate among the needs/desires of many strong wills, in sociable ways, as we all do when in groups. If you consistently thank them, they learn to be thankful, if you appreciate their efforts, they learn to be appreciative – and productive.

    What can they learn from being beaten? Probably something to the effect of – “if you can’t beat them, join them…” and so the cycle continues.

  • Jeff

    I’m always saying “Don’t let them breed.” I have to remember to add “or adopt”.

    Oh hell, just don’t allow them anywhere near children, period.

  • https://plus.google.com/100177776801127531910/about The Nerd

    My father would excuse his physical punishment by saying that in the Bible, stoning would have been recommended for my talking back, so anything he did was good by comparison. Oh, well, as long as I’m still alive at the end, bring it on! /sarcasm

  • monkeymind

    Oh, yeah, Ezzo. His implement of choice is or was the glue stick, those long flexible ones used in glue guns. To be used on infants for infractions of “high chair manners”. He was an interesting test case of the principle that religion can make good people do bad things, because he had a secular book on infant feeding and sleep training, “Babywise”, with all religious references removed. The failure-to-thrive cases were all associated with the program that was used in churches. Only a parent threatened with spiritual failure would persist with the program in the face of an obviously hungry and unhappy baby.

  • monkeymind

    BTW, the Duggars, the smiling face of the Quiverfull movement, have promoted the Pearl’s “No Greater Joy” website, offering 25% off on the To Train Up a Child baby beating manual.

    http://www.duggarfamily.com/content/amazon_blitz

    Scroll down, its on the right under “25% off from”… The contact person for this promotion is also listed as “General Manager” on the Pearl’s website.

  • Niklaus Pfirsig

    It seems to me that many who responded to my last comment habe little or no knowledge of developmental pshchology.

    I have the benefit ofuniversity level training n developmental psychology. I fully expect the type of knee jerk reaction from people on this issue. Let me clarify.

    I do not advocate savage beating. Infants should never be spanked simply because they have no understanding. Toddlers, however, are curios about everything, and soon learn that some things can hurt. It is far better to deal an occasional spanking for misdeeds, combine with positive rewards for being good, that to allow them to behave in ways that place themselves or others at risk of serious injury or death.

    Dan, Spanking does not humiliate a toddler. The concept of humilation develops when the child becomes concerned about his image before his peers. Generally they reach this stage between 5 and 7 years old. After this age, spankings become less effective and can even have the opposite of the intended effect, as when the child gains the admiration of his peers by proving he’s tough enough to take it.

    The parents who beat a child also know nothing about developmental psychology. From what I’ve seen, most adults who were beaten as children either take one extreme or the other when they become parents. Some become too harsh and even abusive with disciplining the children, while others take a hands off approach, teach the child no discpline of self discipline at all. Both approaches are bad,

    I believe the best way to address this issue is to require parets to take a short courst in child psychology.

  • monkeymind

    Niklaus, only a few people responded to your last comment, and none of those were knee-jerk responses. But if you want to start a skirmish in the mommy/daddy wars, experience suggests you are on the right track.

  • ORAXX

    I’m in my sixties and I’m still upset over things my father did ‘for my own good’.

  • Mark V

    Niklaus:

    Argument by education isn’t terribly impressive. Because I too can claim training in the same areas and more. And that same training indicates that punishment results in negative outcomes. Current research indicates that the best you can hope for from corporal punishment is that there won’t be a negative outcome. If you seriously think that spanking a toddler teaches the toddler discipline rather than fear (or some other negative emotion or behavior) then I suggest you do some more research. Discipline is a good thing, punishment never is, and there is a difference between the two. Spanking is not discipline, it is punishment.

  • TFM

    I wish Ezzo was so thoroughly debunked and discredited that it would be correct to describe his influence in the past tense, but he’s still quite influential via his book, “Babywise”. As monkeymind mentioned, it’s a secularized version of his “system”, and to the non-critical thinking eye, it looks as reasonable and expert as any other child-rearing book you might find. Go to any discussion board where new and expectant parents talk, especially discussions about sleep training, and you’re likely to see Babywise mentioned, often in glowing terms by parents who swear by it. Sleep-deprived parents desperate to improve their nights are willing to try just about anything. (I speak from recent experience.) What’s usually missing from those discussions is anyone who knows enough about Ezzo’s background to warn people of the dangers of his approach, and even if they do, they’re usually shouted down as being too judgmental of what might work for other people, so “just don’t do it if you don’t like it.” The Ezzo-debunking link that karen gave above in #13 is very good, and hopefully enough to even persuade other Christians that Ezzo is well outside of the theological mainstream, but most people don’t bother to go digging into the background of an apparently mainstream, secular parenting book. It is camouflaged very well.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    monkeymind (#11) – Thanks for pointing me to the third part of that video. I didn’t realize there was more. The interview with Jocelyn Zichterman was very good, although I definitely agree that the reporter who interviewed the Pearls did a dismal job of actually pressing them about the extent to which their philosophy contributed to Lydia’s death. It was pretty much just a he-said/she-said interview (the DA: “the Pearls are responsible” vs. the Pearls: “no we’re not”), which seems to be the gold standard of journalism these days.

    The idea that the child must be defeated totally whenever the parent decides to enforce a rule or exert authority. There is no advice given as to what to do when 10, 20, 30 or more blows do not achieve the desired result of a compliant child. On his website, he actually refuses to give a number of how many is too many. Also strongly implied is that if the whipping is not effective, it is because it is not painful enough.

    An excellent point. That does more to clarify the connection between the Pearls’ child-rearing lessons and Lydia Schatz’s death than the entire CNN segment did. It also shows – as Zichterman put it – that these Christians’ objective in parenting is to break the will of a child. The point isn’t to teach them to be compassionate or considerate adults, it’s to hurt them until they stop resisting and do whatever they’re told.

    The connection between this parenting philosophy and the worldview of Christian fundamentalism, where the whole point is obeying the commands of a psychotic sadist god without question so he doesn’t torture you, is pretty obvious. As Thomas Paine said, belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man, and these people are treating their own children just as they believe that God will treat them.

  • lpetrich

    Does anyone know of any good discussion of nonviolent discipline? Something that will show that violence vs. no discipline is a false dichotomy.

    I’d also ask if punitive-parenting advocates would treat their dogs the same way.

  • Phillip Moon

    @lpetrich – Anyone treating their dog, like some people treat children, would find themselves in jail. Confusing world where children can be beaten but dogs can’t.

  • Jeff

    @lpetrich – Anyone treating their dog, like some people treat children, would find themselves in jail. Confusing world where children can be beaten but dogs can’t.

    Comment #30 by: Phillip Moon | August 26, 2011, 7:17 pm

    Seriously. Keanu Reeves in Parenthood:

    You need a license to buy a dog, drive a car – hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.

    When I was in college, about thirty-five years ago, some academic suggested people ought to be required to take parenting classes as a prerequisite for having children. I suggested to a few of my friends that even though it couldn’t be made mandatory, it would be great if people would agree to it willingly, and they burst out laughing. They thought it was one of the stupidest things they’d ever heard; they didn’t think it was worth even responding to.

    Today, I say frequently that most people simply shouldn’t be allowed to have children, and no one laughs – in fact, I find that most agree. The world has changed in thirty-five years, and we’ve all seen things it never occurred to most of us we’d see.

  • Jeff

    The point isn’t to teach them to be compassionate or considerate adults, it’s to hurt them until they stop resisting and do whatever they’re told.

    The connection between this parenting philosophy and the worldview of Christian fundamentalism, where the whole point is obeying the commands of a psychotic sadist god without question so he doesn’t torture you, is pretty obvious. As Thomas Paine said, belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man, and these people are treating their own children just as they believe that God will treat them.

    Comment #28 by: Ebonmuse | August 26, 2011, 12:05 pm

    This really is the crux of it, Adam. It’s who they are. There’s a lot going on there; I’ve become convinced it’s a combination of Antisocial Personality Disorder coupled with Altemeyer’s authoritarianism. Whatever it turns out ultimately to be, the bottom line is that it isn’t simply learned behavior; these people are inherently dangerous, and, for the most part, unsalvageable. It’s time we began acknowledging this and acting upon it. The only hope we have left as a civilization and as a species is to begin breeding them out of the genome as quickly as possible.

  • Niklaus Pfirsig

    I still stand by my earlier comments.

    The problem is that beating is not coporal punishment, and coporal punishment is not beating. But the knee jerk reaction from some, is that absolutely, under no circumstances, should anyone spank a child.
    Often these are adults who were physically or psychologically abused as children, and their idea was to attempt to be their children’s best friend. This doesn’t work, and eventually the parent loses self control and ends up beating the children like their parents did to them.
    It is actually about providing choices. Sometimes you can do this with rewards, but if you do this you must understand adaptive behavioural modification techniques to wean the child away from the reward. In essence, the expectataion of the reward is substituted for the reward.
    But, there are some behaviours that are self rewarding. For example. a toddler discovers she can get cookies for herself. To keep her from filling up on cookies, which are a reward, the mother puts the cookie jar on top of the fridge. The toddler soon figures out how to pull a chair next to the range, climb onto the chair and from the chair onto the range, drag canisters from the counter by the range to the counter top next to the fridge, and build a wobbly makeshift ladder from the canisters to climb to the top of the fridge to get to the cookie jar. ( You would be amazed at how quick a toddler can do this. This can transpire within a few minutes while mother is using the bathroom.)
    The toddler has learned a self rewarding behaviour. However, the child cannot appreciate the injury she is risking with her climing. She could get burned on the range if an eye is still hot after a cooking. She could fall and get serious injuries in the process.
    The mother catches the child on top of the fridge, takes her down, tells child not to climb on the fridge because she could get hurt. The child is thinking “I just did this and got all those yummy cookies, and I didn’t get hurt, so I do it again.” At the next opportunity, she on the fridge again. Everytime she sucessfully get to the cookies, the risky climbing behaviour is reinforced. Sooner or later, the child falls and gets hurt.

    In an alternate scenario, the mother takes the child from atop the fridge, tells her to ask for a cookie, and if she is caught on top of the fridge again she will be spanked. Of course the child will climb again, but if the mother on the second offence takes the child from the fridge, spanks her ( it only needs to be firm slap on the bottom, and tells the child “If you want a cookie, ask for one. I don’t wantyou climbing on the counters and fridge anymore.” This gives the child a choice, and makes the disired choice more attractive to the child.

    The oher scenario is when an authoritarian parent catches the child on the fridge, and from the first time, beats the child with a flyswatter, or a slipper , or whatever else happens to be handy. In this case, no alternative reward is offered, and the child decides to be sneakier about climbing for cookies. After a while the child fears the parent and disrespects the parent at the same time. This is the wrong thinking by the abusive parents, because they don’t know how to use the most basic application of child psychology, behavioural modification.

  • monkeymind

    Anderson Cooper is continuing the series! This time Gary Tuchman is covering Baptist group homes/ reform schools for teens that operate with NO government oversight and which have been allowed to abuse teens for decades. Gary Tuchman focuses on Hepzibah House for girls (better name: Hezbollah House) in Indiana, but Missouri is another state where “faith-based” abuse centers are given a free rein. There was an article in Mother Jones a few weeks ago about the Missouri homes.

  • monkeymind