Conservative Christians promote a lot of awful values, but spanking has to be somewhere near the top of the list. It’s not just the few notable examples of parents who beat their children to the point of death — but parents who spank their kids at all. It makes no sense to think that you could actually “fix behavior” through violence.
Lately, Michael Pearl and Debi Pearl‘s book To Train Up A Child is getting a lot of press because parents who beat their children to death were proponents of the Pearls’ methods of corporal punishment:
In the latest case, Larry and Carri Williams of Sedro-Woolley, Wash., were home-schooling their six children when they adopted a girl and a boy, ages 11 and 7, from Ethiopia in 2008. The two were seen by their new parents as rebellious, according to friends.
Late one night in May this year, the adopted girl, Hana, was found face down, naked and emaciated in the backyard; her death was caused by hypothermia and malnutrition, officials determined. According to the sheriff’s report, the parents had deprived her of food for days at a time and had made her sleep in a cold barn or a closet and shower outside with a hose. And they often whipped her, leaving marks on her legs. The mother had praised the Pearls’ book and given a copy to a friend, the sheriff’s report said. Hana had been beaten the day of her death, the report said, with the 15-inch plastic tube recommended by Mr. Pearl.
“It’s a good spanking instrument,” Mr. Pearl said in the interview. “It’s too light to cause damage to the muscle or the bone.”
The Pearls are firmly against physical abuse — they don’t think their version of spanking constitutes that — but they are feverishly in support of mental and emotional abuse. They want children to fear their parents. They want children to know that stepping out of line will not be tolerated. They want children to believe their parents always know best no matter what.
It’s no way to raise children. While you want to set an example, you also want to teach them that it can be ok to color outside the lines. You want them to challenge authority — in reasonable ways and with good arguments. You want them to experiment and try new things. Along the way, of course they’ll screw up. But hopefully they learn from that.
Physically hitting someone isn’t going to steer them away from what they did. It’s going to make them want to do it more — and it’ll sow the seeds of resentment against you.
Reader Amanda is sickened by this whole ordeal:
The reason it hits home so hard for me was that my best friend for years and years endured physical and verbal abuse throughout her high school years at the hands of her father figure in their conservative, Baptist, Quiverfull home (she was homeschooled, but we met on the rec league soccer team in the town and became fast friends, despite my attending public school). He beat her until he drew blood multiple times, along with who-knows-how-many “accidents” that were a direct result of his violence.
She died last December of a pulmonary embolism (probably complications due to the cast her leg was in from a car accident the month prior). I grieve for her every stupid day — my best friend is dead, after all. But what makes me angry — beyond the fact that she was only 24, beyond the fact that her other 7 siblings have to live in that household, beyond the fact that it happened on my last day of student teaching, beyond the fact that her son would turn 1 three weeks later…all that aside, it enrages me that she died without a single apology or admission of guilt from her “father”. To this day, he hides behind his doctrine to deny guilt.
And that’s one crime of religion that I’ll probably never forgive.
Has spanking ever worked for any of you (as parents)?
If you received them when you were a child, did it steer you in the right direction? Or am I just a naïve person who doesn’t get it because I don’t have children yet?