TTUAC: Dogs, Soldiers and Disturbing Analogies

by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love, Joy, Feminism

To Train Up A Child, pp. 2—3

OBEDIENCE TRAINING

Most parents don’t think they can train their little children. Training does not necessarily require that the trainee be capable of reason; even mice and rats can be trained to respond to stimuli. Careful training can make a dog perfectly obedient. If a seeing-eye dog can be trained to reliably lead a blind man through the obstacles of a city street, shouldn’t a parent expect more out of an intelligent child? A dog can be trained not to touch a tasty morsel laid in front of him. Can’t a child be trained not to touch? A dog can be trained to come, stay, sit, be quiet or fetch upon command. You may not have trained your dog that well, yet every day someone accomplishes it on the dumbest mutts. Even a clumsy teenager can be trained to be an effective trainer in a dog obedience school.

This is so disturbing. Children are not animals.

Also, seeing-eye dogs aren’t actually trained for absolute obedience. They’re trained to stop a before a busy street even if their master tells them to cross, for instance. They’re explicitly taught to pay attention to their surroundings and make appropriate decisions based on those surroundings regardless of what their master may tell them to do. And you know what? Given the context, this seems kind of important and relevant!

If you wait until your dog is displaying unacceptable behavior before you rebuke (or kick) him, you will have a foot-shy mutt who is always sulking around seeing what he can get away with before being screamed at. Where there is an absence of training, you can no more rebuke and whip a child into acceptable behavior than you can the family dog. No amount of discipline can make up for lack of training.

It’s absolutely true that what is described here is bad parenting—although the whole animal analogy is, again, disturbing. It’s absolutely true that waiting until a problem manifests itself and then responding by lashing out at your child wrong and ineffective. But this is not the only alternative to training your child into total submission. This is not an either/or kind of thing. It is possible to address problems before things are out of control and to respond to a child in a holistic and consistent fashion without applying the “training” Michael is advocating here.

Proper training always works on every child.

It sure didn’t work on Sean Paddock or Lydia Schatz or Hana Williams. But then, Michael does give himself an out here—he would probably say the training employed in those cases wasn’t “proper” training. No True Scotsman much?

To neglect training is to create miserable circumstances for yourself and your child. Out of innocent ignorance many of you have bypassed the training and expected the discipline alone to effect proper behavior.

Thing is, I don’t actually expect “discipline alone to effect proper behavior.” I actually don’t either “train” or “discipline” my daughter at all, by Michael’s standards, and she’s not either out of control or badly behaved. And you know what? We’re not “miserable.” Not in the least.

But then—what exactly is “proper behavior”? I get the feeling that Michael and I have a very different definition. I don’t place any value at all on complete and total obedience. I would much rather raise a child who is compassionate, creative, and cooperative than a child who is simply obedient.

“TENNN—HUTT!!”

When headstrong young men join the military, they are first taught to stand still. The many hours of close-order-drill are simply to teach and reinforce submission of the will. “Attention!” pronounced, “TENNN–HUTT!!” is the beginning of all maneuvers. Just think of the relief it would be if by one command you could gain the absolute, silent, concentrated attention of all your children. A sergeant can call his men to attention and then, without explanation, ignore them, and they will continue to stand frozen in that position until they fall out unconscious. The maneuvers “Right flank, Left flank, Companeeey–Halt” have no value in war except as they condition the men to instant, unquestioning obedience.

As in the military, all maneuvers in the home begin with a call to attention. Three-fourths of all home discipline problems would be instantly solved if you could at any time gain your child’s silent, unmoving attention. “TO THE REAR—MARCH” translated into family language would be: “Leave the room,” or, “Go to bed.” Without question they turn and go. This is normal in the well trained family.

Actually, this analogy may just be more disturbing than the first one. Children are not soldiers—and homes are not meant to resemble boot camp or military camps. Parents are not drill sergeants. Seriously, just no.

Michael has issues, and one of his issues seems to be a need to extract immediate obedience from every member of his family. This children-as-soldiers fantasy, laid out in such detail here, is neither normal nor healthy. Family’s aren’t military units, and they’re not supposed to be based on military discipline. Soldiers, at least, get to go home at some point and have a breather; the children in Michael’s world do not. Not surprisingly, Michael has this same fantasy regarding his wife Debi. In Debi’s words:

Your husband, dud that he may “appear” to be, is appointed by God to be your immediate Superior Officer in the chain of command. Your position under him is where God put you for your own spiritual, emotional, and physical safety. It is the only position where you will find real fulfillment as a woman. Don’t worry about the quality of his leadership, for he is under the oversight of Jesus Christ. He must answer to God for how he leads his “troops.” You must answer to God for how you obey the one he placed over you. It takes faith in God to trust him when all you seem to see is one carnal man leading you—to “God only knows where.”

I want to finish by pointing out that as with seeing-eye dogs Michael is wrong about soldiers—they are actually not trained to “instant, unquestioning obedience.” If a commanding officer orders a soldier to commit a war crime, that soldier is bound to disobey. The idea that soldiers are supposed to unthinkingly obey every command and that that somehow shields them from responsibility for their action is what led to Nazi Germany and the Nuremberg Trials that followed the war, and that’s why we explicitly don’t operate under that idea anymore. And as with the seeing-eye dog, this seems rather relevant!

Part 1 | Part 2

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Read everything by Libby Anne!

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism

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

 

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