I’m Coming Out

by Cindy Foster

Ok.  I am finally coming out!

I’ve been wanting to do this for a very long time.  It won’t be much of a surprise to many of you since I have posted links to articles that reflect my leanings on this subject, but now? I am coming right out and saying it.

No, I’m not gay, agnostic, or atheist.  I am not leaving my husband or my church.  I am not ‘coming out’ in support of Obama (bet some are most relieved about that one!).

If you were hoping for something ‘juicier’, sorry to disappoint.

What this….’coming out’ is about, is that I am now emphatically and unapologetically OPPOSED to the use of corporeal punishment…better known as ‘spanking, beating, whipping, paddling, smacking, popping or whatever term preferred for hitting one’s child or anyone else’s as a means to ‘discipline’.

After rearing 8 children under the dogmatic belief that ‘sparing the rod’ meant you ‘hated’ them, I finally had to acknowledge to myself what I had always sensed, “This just isn’t right”.

I don’t ‘hate’ my children for questioning whether the literal use of a ‘rod’ to beat them is really what is meant by the verses that seem to indicate such.

One could certainly make the case that I could ‘hate’ them if I willfully neglected to discipline and correct them at all but I don’t believe that ‘beating’ them is the only biblical way to accomplish this.

I can say with all certainty that each and every time one of my kids committed some wrong considered a ‘spanking’ offense, though I dutifully, resignedly obeyed the ‘biblical’ dictum, I NEVER felt good or even ‘right’ about it.

How could this be?

If there is no question that the scriptures clearly required the committed, loving parent to apply a literal ‘rod’ to their disobedient child’s body, then why did I struggle so to carry it out?

I most always dismissed this feeling, falling on ingrained accusations that “it was my rebellious spirit warring against the ‘Truth’”, so, while they were very young, I would usually go ahead and spank them.

But as they got older, it was increasingly more difficult to follow through with it, so I would usually back down and consider it an act of mercy.

It would go something like this:  Kid commits offense, I call him/her to my bedroom after locating some kind of ‘beating’ apparatus, then scold and lecture and declare my determination to administer appropriate licks.

But something about looking into their faces, seeing their resignation, sensing their humiliation and somehow knowing in spite of all the ingraining, that this act really had nothing to do with discipline.

It was about mechanically following a practice–tradition, if you will–established by generations of ‘spankers’ before me and none to my knowledge ever really questioning whether it really was so biblically sound.

At this point, I had rejected the practice of spanking older children and teens. (Ironically, I have since learned that if there were any biblical basis for spanking at all, it was ONLY to the older, incorrigible boys-never girls, and applied by a ‘rod‘ to the fool’s back.  There is absolutely NO support for administering it to the buttocks! So, that means a major component of the practice is extra-biblical at the very least!)

By the time my youngest reached 12 years of age, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I can even remember the last time I tried:

He had been becoming more resistant of our efforts to correct him.  He was never really defiant, but more like stubbornly neglectful of doing what he was told.  Then when confronted, obviously suppressing anger and resentment.

This troubled me, for I knew there was something more to his resistance than just the impulse to defy authority.  There was something he was suppressing and if we weren’t sensitive to this, we would lose him.

The last time I called him into my room to spank him, he came in and just stood by the bed.  If he had truly been rebellious, there is no way I could have made him submit because he was as big as I was and much stronger.  But, he would never have fought me.

I appealed to his heart by telling him why I was so concerned with his behavior.  He stood listening, eyes welling up with tears,  and I knew then, he was struggling to understand more than I was.

I didn’t spank him then and never threatened to thereafter.  I couldn’t.  I was just smitten to the heart that day.

Of course, the old familiar guilt returned and hovered over me as usual, but it was one of those defining moments when I began to listen to that spirit within me that had I heeded it before, I probably would not have made the mistakes I did in the years before.

It wasn’t a quick fix.  The problems didn’t go away by my act of mercy that day.  But I believe the years following would have had a much graver outcome had I not begun with that change of heart.

Years later, while suffering consequences to some unwise choices,  he was able to share the cause of his repressed anger.  Apologies were made and the relationship between he, his dad and I was restored and renewed.  I doubt seriously this ever would have occurred had I ignored that small voice of hesitation and administered that religiously-sanctioned punishment.

So, that is only one story of the effects of our consistent practice of corporeal punishment out of our eight children.  Sadly, we didn’t exorcise that demon until that last child and incident.  All of our children have their own spanking stories.  Some were spanked more than others, though we didn’t practice it excessively.  But I refuse to minimize the ill effects in order to excuse our ignorance.

My troubled spirit that day, drove me to eventually allow myself to browse internet sites on the subject of corporeal punishment.  I discovered the http://www.nospank.net/main.htm#101
site and pored over the many articles, scientific studies and personal testimonies.  The information was compelling beyond resistance.  I then discovered Samuel Martin’s book, “The Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me, Christians and the Spanking Controversy” http://samuelmartin.blogspot.com/2012/05/pen-is-mightier-than-punch.html

I ordered it and read it.

His exhaustive study of the passages used to promote cp and additional information about the practice in Bible times as well as Jewish disciplinary practices was all I needed to be convinced.

Since then, I have read numerous articles and books on the subject from many varying ideologies and perspectives.  All have affirmed my conversion–even the pro-spanking ones.

So, with all the information there is available on the subject, I do not feel I can improve on what is already written.  With that, I will post links to the writings I feel make the very best case against the use of corporeal punishment as the only accepted ‘biblical’ method for properly rearing ‘godly’ children.

Mothers, listen to your hearts and open you minds….

This is important enough to at least warrant your consideration.

http://samuelmartin.blogspot.com/2012/05/pen-is-mightier-than-punch.html

http://www.nospank.net/main.htm#101

http://everythingisknowable.blogspot.com/2013/02/euphemisms-20-reasons-not-to-spank.html

http://religiouschildmaltreatment.com/

http://cdugan0.tripod.com/RoyLessinOpenLetter.html

http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/2011/09/25/spare-the-rod-the-heart-of-the-matter/

Comments open below

Read everything by Cindy Foster!

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Cindy Foster blogs at Baptist Taliban and Beyond.

Cindy Foster is “Mom” to eight gorgeous, talented, temperamental, noisy, opinionated, alike-but very different kids. She has been married to their daddy, Paul, for 34 years.

The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 

About Suzanne Calulu
  • JJ

    I spanked my first child a few times but always felt this awful gut feeling that is was not right and quit. Those resources on what the rod actually is and breaking down the verses helped me so much when I needed to stand against family and other Christians for not hitting. (People are passionate about sopanking!!!) Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Kimberly

    Yes, thank you! I only spanked my child a couple of times when he was a toddler, and I quit when it was so apparent to me that he was not receiving it as correction but as an assault. His immediate reaction was to defend himself, and it confirmed my gut feeling that this was nonsensical and seemed like a fight or a battle to him. As an intellectually gifted child, appealing to his reason was a much better approach. He developed a strong sense of guilt over his actions throughout the years, and I blamed myself, thinking that if I had spanked, perhaps he would have felt punished and then not felt so guilty. Oh how we can twist our thinking. So thank you for these links, which I think will release me.

  • SAO

    I find it amazing that a few firm swats on the bum of a toddler are lumped into the same category as beating a teen with a stick and they don’t deserve the same word. Corporal punishment should always be the last resort and only used to make a lesser punishment work. I gave my kids a few firm swats on the bum and then asked if they wanted a few more or to sit in a time-out. That’s how I made time-outs work. My son had trouble sitting still, so I made him write sentences, which he had to sit still and concentrate to do. My husband and I tested our swats on each other, so we knew that we were delivering a punishment that was uncomfortable and unpleasant for the tot, but not actually painful.

    The Christian/biblical discipline seems to ignore the work done on stages of child development. Most kids want to be good. Toddlers/pre-schoolers/tweens/young teens/older teens, these are all different stages of moral understanding, impulse control, and ability to reason ahead. Treating every instance with every kid as the same is stupid.

    But the most important point is, you have to evaluate the effectiveness of your discipline and if it’s not working, figure out why. More of what’s not working isn’t going to work better.

  • Tori

    Guilt is an embryonic stage of moral ideology. It’s actually perfectly normal. That’s an endorsement of your parenting hon, not a sign of failing.

  • Staceyjw

    I am glad to see people coming out against spanking as a biblically mandated tool. I think thats a dangerous way to look at child rearing. Good for you for stopping and being able to admit it was wrong.
    Also-
    Theres nothing wrong with supporting Obama! His opponents are the type of people you just escaped from you know. I also think he’s a more honest Christian than any of the current batch of fascist, anti woman, right wing Republicans.

  • madame

    This!
    “But the most important point is, you have to evaluate the effectiveness of your discipline and if it’s not working, figure out why. More of what’s not working isn’t going to work better.”
    I stopped spanking and threatening with spankings (which were basically a couple swats on the clothed rear of my young children) when I realized that they were cowering away from me and that the punishment wasn’t working.
    All this happened before we came to Germany, while we were under the teaching of a pastor who believes very firmly in corporal punishment.


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