Children Spanking Children

Do you ever have those moments where you wonder if you’re crazy, and then you receive confirmation that you most definitely are not? I had one of those today while reading an article by Michael Pearl’s daughter Shalom, called Training a Child to Come. The article starts out with this:

Everyone calls me the “soft-hearted Pearl”, and knowing this to be truth, I knew that I would have to train my children so well that I would not have to rely on spanking.

The Pearls have been trying especially hard lately to de-emphasize hitting and instead emphasize things like “tying heart strings.” Sometimes I wonder if the emphasis on absolute obedience without question that I grew up with was an aberration. Sometimes I wonder if the Pearls are, as they claim, misinterpreted. This article made me wonder that – at least until I got to the end, and then the bile rose in my throat.

You need to be creative in breaking this “well-trained” habit. You must create a new mindset. Get your husband or one of your other children to help. Have your helper play with your toddler to get him distracted, then call for him to come. Have your helper immediately take the child’s hand and lead him to you while telling the child, “Mama said, come.” Do this simple training exercise several times over the next few days until your baby begins to respond on cue. Most toddlers will respond correctly, but if he balks when your helper takes the little one’s hand, then have the helper spat the child’s legs to reinforce the command.

The “soft-hearted Pearl” suggests that you enlist the help of your older children in hitting your toddler if he or she won’t come at your command. Yes yes, the first part sounds fine – making a game out of learning to come, with your older children showing your younger ones how to respond when being called – but the enlisting of your older children in hitting the younger ones – and she describes doing this with her four or five year old as a helper with her one year old nephew – is absolutely, completely, totally, without question, WRONG.
It’s how I grew up, though. I was the older child hitting the younger ones, sometimes in my parents’ presence and sometimes when I was left in charge in another room or while they were away. I grew up in a family where children as young as five were enlisted in hitting the youngest ones. And let me tell you, this leads to nothing but heartache. It leads to pitting child against child and setting up an older sibling as authority figure and disciplinarian rather than simply as an admired or idolized big brother or sister. Here’s an excerpt from my earlier post:
Why was I made to be an authority figure to my siblings instead of a sister? My heart breaks because I inflicted pain on them. It hurts worse that I never questioned these things, never asked why, never said no. But what did I, at ten, twelve, or fourteen, know? What did I understand? I had never seen anything different from what my parents taught and modeled at home. My parents handed me the rod and told me to spank. And I regret it with all my heart. And now, all I can say is I am so so sorry.
I used to wonder if my parents’ practice of having the older children hit the younger ones, and requiring the younger children to return the same absolute obedience to the older ones as to the parent, was perhaps simply my parents’ interpretation rather than an actual Pearl teaching. I used to wonder if maybe my parents turned to this not because of the Pearls so much as because they had so many children that they found it necessary to outsource some of the discipline. I now have my answer.
That the self-described “soft-hearted” Pearl can speak of having older children hit the younger ones as if it’s just a matter of course, well, that only shows just how off the Pearls are when it comes to discipline. I am so glad that I threw the Pearls out before I turned one. I am so glad my relationship with my daughter can be based on love and understanding, not authority and hitting.
Note: For why I say “hit” instead of “spank,” see the end of this post.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Anonymous

    I feel sorry for little Gracie, Shiloh's daughter…

  • Maggy

    I was shopping earlier this evening when I heard a child crying loudly. It was a cry of exhaustion rather than a tantrum. There were four kids and two parents. The mother was paying no attention to the crying child, but a sibling just a couple years older was swatting at him like he was trying to discipline him. It was sad. It seemed like the crying kid could have really used some consoling from his mom.

  • http://janeyqdoe.com Janey

    It also seems that it is another way of taking parental love away from children. When a parent disciplines a child, the kid may be upset, but it still tells them that the parent cares enough about them to try to correct their behaviour. When they offload the discipline to the siblings, how can a kid not doubt where they are on their parents' radar? I hated my parents at times for how they punished me, but as I got older, I could see that they really did do it because they cared. Sibling discipline robs children of this understanding. I fear that it may make a kid feel like a nuisance whom their parents simply didn't care enough about to bother dealing with.Disclaimer- Of course, neither one should be hitting the child.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13930917517196516292 Jason Dick

    I don't even know if I like he idea of such obedience, even if it were to be done without any sort of physical punishment. Everybody should learn to think for themselves, not to follow authority. And enforcing a pattern of strict obedience from such an early age…I can't imagine that's too good for the child eventually growing up to think for themself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    I remember reading that article a long time ago. I so resonated with her label of "soft". Like her I was determined to do everything perfectly so that my children would be so well trained that I would hardly every "have" to spank. The "older" child disciplining the younger one in that particular article was still practically a toddler herself. My parents gave me disciplinary authority when I was a pre-teen, but I still feel awful about all the mind-wrenchingly boring days, where I was tired from working and the kids were restless and not listening and I punished them for it. We were all in the same boat, I just didn't realize it then.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    It's just so sick… and in a way it's teaching your children to be violent because, especially when they are young, an older sibling won't be able to separate what is "bad" behaviour from simple child behaviour. Apart form the fact that I don't think children should be spanked or hit at all.As Jason had said, I don't think that teaching them to obey automatically without thinking is good but I think mostly everybody here agrees to this in some measure. Critical thinking is very important even when you would prefer to not have to reason with your child and he/she shut up an do what you want because you are just so tired.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01641970264436339191 dulce de leche

    When I post on spanking, I get heartbreaking replies from readers who still have nightmares about the spankings their siblings endured. I still do, and also about the times I spanked him. I am grateful that our children will never wake in horror after reliving that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15654013636892916062 Erika Martin – Stampin’ Mama

    Yet, these same parents (like the Pearls) don't think it's appropriate for their children to be hitting each other, but yet they get them to help do it to their siblings with their sanction by putting the label of spanking on it. UGh!


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