To Train Up A Child, chapter 5, part 1
We just finished chapter 4, “Tying Strings.” Today we begin chapter 5, “The Rod.” In this first section we look at how Michael disarms parental conscience by telling parents that God has commanded them to apply the rod to their child, and that if they truly love their children they therefore most do it whether they feel it is right or not.
“I LOVE MY BABY TOO MUCH TO SPANK HIM”
I observed a child possessed of continual discontent. His mother was vainly trying to elicit obedience to a simple command. He was miserable, constantly complaining, whining and angry. The mother, made miserable by the little tyrant’s rebellious antics, was ill-tempered toward him. But she continued to plead with him as if she were trying to remember what it was she heard about “positive affirmation” and not “stifling his personal expression.”
As an objective observer, concerned for the child’s happiness and well being, I said to the mother, “Why don’t you give him a spanking and make him happy?”
I quoted this section at the end of the last chapter, remember? As we will learn as we progress through the book, Michael really does believe that spanking a child really does make that child happy, and that not spanking will leave that child miserable. And he doesn’t just believe this is a “if you spank her she will learn immediate obedience and the whole family will be happier” sense, though that would be bad enough.
The shocked mother, replied, “Oh, he will grow out of it. It’s just a stage he is going through.”
If she truly believes this is an inevitable, natural stage (a condition for which little Johnny is not responsible), why does she sometimes become enraged, demanding a different conduct or attitude? The mother, while excusing him and maintaining a “patient” vigil for the “stage” to run its course, and in spite of her verbalized philosophy, does blame the child. Down inside, she knows he should be—could be—decidedly different. His attitude problem is heightened by the criticism and rejection he feels from a disapproving mother and from the public.
Oh look! Michael is reading people’s minds again! How exactly does he know that the mother internally and contrary to her spoken word actually blames the child? He doesn’t! He simply asserts it, because Michael, apparently, is all-knowing.
Also, Michael’s suggestion that people would never become upset or annoyed with something that actually really is a natural stage is utterly ridiculous. When I was pregnant with my children, I had major food aversions that sometimes had me sending Sean to do things that might have looked crazy (such as refusing to enter the house until he had rid it of every last pita, for instance). I’m sure there were plenty of times this annoyed Sean—and as for me, I hated every day of it!—but that didn’t make it any less natural or normal or something to be waited through.
Michael did say that even though she acknowledged it as a phase the mother was still being ill-tempered toward the child in response to his “whining.” Not infrequently, Michael points to actual bad parenting. The problem is that his solution is often one of those cases where the medicine is worse than the disease. Michael’s solution is for the mother to respond to her son’s “whining” by spanking him. The thing is, the mother is right—things like tantrums are indeed a stage most children go through. Michael, as we’ve noted before, wants to short-circuit children’s natural development by beating them out of the tantrum stage. Michael, as you will remember, doesn’t like it when children are annoying or inconveniencing and views children as problems that should be fixed.
If you’re at all a frequent reader here, you’ll know what I would suggest the mother do. When my own children are “whine” I respond by listening to them, talking with them (as opposed to at them), and considering their perspectives and feelings. I consider what is developmentally appropriate to expect at their age and work on developing my children’s skills at cooperating and finding compromises. I’m not saying it’s always easy, but this does work. And you know what? Today I very rarely get angry at my children, even when they are pitching a fit or being all manner of troublesome, because I have become accustomed to considering their needs and feelings as well as my own.
When Michael gives an example of parenting that supposedly proves how necessary his methods are, he never gives an example of the sort of positive parenting I do. Instead he offers what I think are his stereotypes of this sort of parenting—I think he thinks positive parenting means saying pithy things about this just being a stage while at the same time getting more and more angry at a whining child throwing a tantrum on the floor. He’s wrong.
We have progressed to the place where a discussion of the use of the rod is in order. Let’s talk about spankings—sometimes called “whippings.” “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (Prov. 13:24).” This seems to go exactly opposite to the feelings of many parents and educators. The passage clearly states that a failure to apply the rod is due to the parents’ hating the child. “No!” cries the mother, “I love my child too much to spank him.” The parent who responds thus does not understand: 1) the authority of God’s word, 2) the nature of love, 3) his (or her) own feelings, 4) the character of God, or, 5) the needs of the child.
1. UNDERSTANDING THE AUTHORITY OF GOD’S WORD
The wise God who said: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not… (Mark 10:14),” also said:
* “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” (Prov. 19:18)
* “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (Prov. 13:24)
* “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Prov. 22:15)
* “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 (Prov. 23: 13-14).”
* “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” (Prov. 29: 15)
* “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shah give delight unto thy soul.” (Prov. 29:17)
There are all sorts of biblical issues going on here. First, the rod that is referred to is the shepherd’s staff, and shepherd’s don’t use those to beat their sheep, they use them to guide their sheep, moving them away from danger and toward good grazing land or water. Second, the word used for “son” or “child” in these passages is actually the word for “adolescent.” Michael, in contrast, focuses on children applying the rod to their smallest children, which is not something any of these verses suggest. There are lots of other points various Christians make to argue that those like Michael are interpreting these verses incorrectly. I’m not going to go into them all here, but this link offers a good summary.
2. UNDERSTANDING THE NATURE OF LOVE
You may have strong feelings that prevent you from spanking your child, but it is not love. The God who made little children, and therefore knows what is best for them, has told parents to employ the rod in training up a child. To refrain from doing so, based on a claim of love, is an indictment on God himself. Your actions assume either God does not desire what is best for your child or you know better than He.
Parent, you need to know the difference between true love and sentiment. Natural human sentiment—often taken to be love—can be harmful if not submitted to wisdom. Love is not sentiment. That is, love is not the deep feelings we often have in association with those close to us. Such feelings can, and often are, self serving.
Love is not an emotion at all. Love, in the purest sense, is goodwill toward and good doing for your fellowman. True love is disinterested. That is, there is no thought of personal return nor of personal loss in the act of loving.
This is toxic. This is how Michael convinces otherwise gentle and loving parents to beat their children with plumbing supply line. I really don’t know what else to say here except that this section is so toxic it takes my breath away. What Michael is doing is telling parents to turn off their consciences and their natural human love for their children, because beat their children they must. We like to think of child abuse as something that is only done by angry, hateful parents. Sadly, because of books like this, that is not true. If you want more evidence of this, I suggest you read the story of how Samantha’s father broke her tailbone applying the Pearls’ methods—and of his horror afterwards.
If you truly love your children, you will beat them, as God has commanded.
This is so toxic I feel sick to my stomach.