I have very mixed thoughts about corporal punishment of children. As a child I was disciplined in this manner. Only a few times, mind you. It wasn’t my parent’s go-to method of discipline. As I got older that form of punishment was abandoned all together for more painful forms…like grounding. Because of this rearing I cannot say that I believe it to be inherently wrong to spank a child. Will I use that as a form of discipline for my children? It is doubtful.
Ultimately I believe that different forms of discipline work for different children. Because, as a child, my dad could speak to me harshly and I’d feel like I’d had a lashing I didn’t require a lot of physical discipline, corporal or otherwise. Neither did my siblings. My parents firm but loving stance on issues when I was small let me know where my boundaries were and what would happen if I crossed them.
Michael and Debi Pearl have been in the news again recently, having been linked to another child abuse case. I have not read their book To Train Up a Child. I don’t intend to. Maybe I should to give them a fair shake, but just reading the commentary about the book from it’s very own authors and advocates is enough for me to know that I would disagree vehemently with it’s contents.
In the book spanking for children as young as six months is prescribed. That is the most absurd thing I’ve heard in long time. Spank a six month old? What is more is that this spanking is prescribed with implements such as a thin dowel rod or pvc pipe or with a length of hose. Ridiculous. These methods are designed to break the will of a child. Break the will of a child? Is that what you want to do as a parent? I’m not sure it is. Now, If you have a strong willed child you may sometimes wish that’s what you could do. But isn’t what you are really after to teach your child how to use their will? If you break the will of a child, do they have any personality and thoughts of their own? Don’t you want your child to be an individual, not a follower?
Evidently this book also prescribes some form of isolation and/or fasting for the disobedient child. I’m not sure if this fasting is an isolated instance of sending a disobedient child to bed without dinner or if it is the prolonged withholding of food. Some grown ups I know could use a good time-out. But prolonged withholding of food and affection isn’t discipline, it’s abuse.
A number of parents who have followed the advice in the Pearl’s book have either taken this so far as to result in the death of their child or have been investigated and found guilty of child abuse. The Pearl’s deny any wrongdoing on their part. They say that these parents are taking their advice to extremes. Maybe so. This is another topic I am torn about. How much responsibility do the Pearl’s bare? By their own admission they are, in my humble opinion, abusive. Does that mean that others have to follow suit? Where does personal responsibility begin and end? Would these same parents be equally abusive without such a guide? Maybe the Pearl’s are arming already abusive people with tools to carry out their own sadistic tendancies.
Whatever my thoughts about forms of discipline, I believe it should be constructive not destructive. It is not necessary to destroy a child to teach them acceptable behavior. Discipline is not punishment, it is instruction. I’m neither an advocate of corporal punishment nor am I totally against it. I don’t believe it should be a primary form of disciplinary action. It should never be done in anger. No disciplinary action should be done in anger. It should be for the devolpment and instruction of the child.
This video is a prime example of corporal punishment carried to an extreme. It is difficult to watch and may be a trigger for some. It is yet another story of a parent or parents who cannot manage their own anger, transfering to the child. Train up a child indeed. Whatever and however you treat your children they are unlikely to depart from it, passing maltreatment or goodwill from generation to generation.