The above image is an advertisement that used to run in Christian homeschool magazines. “The ideal tool for child training,” reads the test below an image of a long, thin shaft with a handle, a rod intended for whipping children. “The means prescribed by God,” it reads. And there’s a poem: “Spoons are for cooking / Belts are for holding up pants / Hands are for loving / RODS are for chastening.” This “flexible nylon rod” with its “cushioned vinyl grip” was marketed by Steve Haymond, and was primarily purchased by Christian homeschooling families.
By 2006, the internet and the activism of several concerned homeschool parents had taken its tole on Haymond’s whip-selling business. Raymond had advertised his whips in Christian homeschooling magazines for years (see the image above), and had also begun advertising on the internet. But as the public caught wind of Haymond’s business, things went south. Under mounting pressure, Haymond shut the business down. In the years since, his rods have been used in several high-profile child abuse cases, and young adults who were beaten with his rods have spoken out. But today, Haymond is back—and he doesn’t want you to know.
A guest on podcaster Phil Ferguson‘s show recently provided him with a letter from Haymond announcing that he was starting his business back up, with newly designed rods, but asking that that information not be shared with the internet. Ferguson promptly posted the letter to Facebook. “Let’s show him how the internet works,” Ferguson wrote on his posting. “Please share.”
Here is a transcription of the letter:
April 7, 2016
I am contacting you as a former customer of Child Training Resources. As you may know, we stopped selling our chastening instruments and closed our business in 2006 due to external pressures and family reasons. Since that time and after 10 years of periodic request sand inquiries, we have decided to again making these chastening instruments available — but only on a private basis and without a web site or ANY internet exposure.
To jog your memory or for those of you unfamiliar with our instrument, the blue spanker is 9” long, 1.5” wide and 3/16” thick. Made of virtually indestructible polyurethane, it is extremely flexible and quite portable (easily fits in a purse, back pocket or diaper bag).
[price, shipping, and payment instructions]
One more I’m,portent thing. Feel free to let other Biblically-minded parents know about this chastening instrument, but do not post anything about it on the internet and please exercise discretion as to who you tell about them. Although proper chastisement is legal, there are some (even among family members) who mistakenly believe that spanking of any kind constitutes child abuse. Our willingness and ability to make these instruments available to parents who believe in Biblical chastisement depends both on their responsible use by us as parents (see our tips) and care in who we tell about them. Thank you for your sensitivity on this.[closing and signature]
There’s a sort of perverse pleasure to seeing people who think they can keep the ethically sketchy things they’re doing off the internet find out it doesn’t work like that. But you know what? This story has to be about more than that. It has to be about more than laughing at Haymond, and sharing the story on your Facebook with something about how stupid people like him are to think they can hide things from the internet. It has to be more, because I was that child.
I was a child when putting advertisements for whips in Christian homeschool magazines was a thing. My own homeschool mother used a wooden paddle, and liberally. The homeschool child rearing guru she followed advised using quarter inch plumbing supply line. At one point someone convinced my mother that she should spank us with rods we cut from the trees outside; she soon found that this approach drew blood, however, and returned to her ever-handy paddle. It may be hard to fathom, for some, but the debate over what implement should be used for beating one’s children into obedience was quite active in the Christian homeschool community of my youth. But it wasn’t just a debate—it was a business.
Haymond was never the only person selling whipping rods. As I remember it, you could walk into just about any Christian homeschool convention in the country and purchase implements for beating your children. I’m not sure whether this is still true, ten years after I left home for college, but I did go to a Christian homeschool convention several years ago, and guess who was there? One of Michael and Debi Pearl’s children, selling his child abuse manual. And yes, I think I can call it that—it’s all right there in his book, down to breaking children and beating them into complete and total submission, and much more.
The books, the implements, the conferences, the workshops. An entire industry has been built around helping parents beat their children into submission, and while Haymond may have shut his business down for a decade, Michael Pearl never did—and nor did many, many, many others. Some children have died, and many others have come of age haunted by a childhood spent in fear of an implement, of a hand, of a moment, the complete and immediate obedience whipped into them during childhood forever warping their adult interactions with their parents—if they decide to continue those interactions at all.
This story isn’t a funny read, or a punchline. It’s a travesty.