The Problems with Biblical Parenting and Discipline December 2, 2011

The Problems with Biblical Parenting and Discipline

I’m one of those people who wish that theists and atheists could just bury the hatchet and move on; I, personally, would benefit greatly from such a cease-fire, and I have no doubt that there would be plenty of atheists with theist friends and family who would benefit as well. I’m also one of those people wishing there were a magic button to push, or wand to wave, or lever to pull to make all weddings and births and holidays and deaths free of religious strife. Given the chance, I would pull that lever in a heartbeat…if such a lever existed, I think it would be more useful than a god.

Earlier this month, I saw the infamous Hillary Adams beating video, where a 16-year-old girl was beaten viciously with a leather belt by her father, a family court judge in Aransas County, TX. After watching it, the entire, horrifying, awful seven minutes of it, I was just sickened. Sickened that someone would feel it appropriate or justified to beat a child like that in any situation, sickened by his profession, sickened by his subsequent comments… but mostly I was sickened by how familiar the situation was to me.

I knew people who were beaten with all manner of weapons for minor to major infractions: belts, switches, paddles, wooden spoons, and spatulas. To them, parenting in this way is both a God-given right and a responsibility of the parent. And the household I was raised in was not what I would consider fundamentalist or extremist in any sense. My siblings and I were pretty normal kids with loving parents who came to my soccer games and school plays and always gave me a bit of money to go to those rock concerts they hoped were a fad. My parents are genuine, nice people… but the things that came from their church’s pulpit often horrified me.

Recently, I went back and attended a church service with them. On the day I was there, the church was performing a “child dedication ceremony” –- different from a baptism in the sense that the parents are being placed with the responsibility of raising the child according to Biblical principles. Choosing to participate in the ceremony indicates that the church members have a responsibility to ensure that the parents follow through. From my understanding, it’s a quite common practice in churches that reject infant baptism.

It wouldn’t have been a big deal… except for the fact that the “Biblical principles” that the preacher cited should have sent spidey-senses tingling down the spines of Amnesty International members around the world. The stuff was heinous.

Red flags were flying all over my mind when he opened the ceremony with an anecdote about a parent whose child had made a huge turnaround after the father converted to Christianity and adopted discipline “the way God intended it.” The pastor said that the man had been “deceived” by, of all people, the child’s pediatrician, who had advised the man not to employ corporal punishment. The pastor went on to ask the congregation if they would rather “parent the way the world wants them to” or if they wanted to “enjoy the blessings of parenting according to God’s will.”

He went on to make his case for corporal punishment by citing the following verses (conveniently organized in one place here):

  • Prov 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
  • Prov 19:18: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
  • Prov 22:15: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”
  • Prov 23:13: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.”
  • Prov 23:14: “Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”
  • Prov 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”

This pastor is not alone, either. Here’s Focus on the Family’s Chip Ingram:

“When you spank, use a wooden spoon or some other appropriately sized paddle and flick your wrist. That’s all the force you need. It ought to hurt — an especially difficult goal for mothers to accept — and it’s okay if it produces a few tears and sniffles. If it doesn’t hurt, it isn’t really discipline, and ultimately it isn’t very loving because it will not be effective in modifying the child’s behavior.”

It’s a commonly held belief that spanking will help mold a child’s character.

It doesn’t achieve that goal, but there is one thing that this tactic is remarkably good at: obedience and fear.

Instead of being able to explore right from wrong and discern it for themselves, scores of Christian children are being subtly taught that obedience to authority means avoiding punishment — not that it’s morally correct to avoid the behavior in question. Like so many others, I was obedient in order to avoid physical punishments (and, later, removal of privileges), which led me to focus more on finding the right path through the punishment maze rather than sorting out what I actually believed for myself.

The crux of the issue lies in the rabid desire for children’s obedience — rather than a desire to help them grow and develop — in mainstream Christianity, and it is two-fold: One, it complicates children’s abilities to know who is deserving of respect. Two, it prevents children from developing sincere relationships with their parents. It is an unfortunate fact that babies have no choice in who brings them into this world and cares for them, and there is no “opt out” feature when it comes to childhood indoctrination. It’s not a real choice if one party is wielding a weapon.

So why care, as an atheist? As a feminist?

Since there are a million and one reasons flying around my head at the moment, I’ll give you two to chew on:

  1. Extolling the virtues of “Biblical discipline” while vilifying medical professionals creates a culture in which abuse is preferred and promoted as morally superior. Just as the issue of pedophilia in the Catholic Church is not limited to a few misled individuals, the promotion of corporal punishment of children is not limited to your Focus on the Family readers, or the few thousand people that have purchased Michael and Debi Pearl’s book.

    Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church had this to say about discipline in a 2002 sermon transcript:

    “Proverbs 23:13-14, “Do not withhold discipline from a child. If you punish him with a rod, he will not die.” Okay, a spanking should not wound, mortally injure, kill a child. I’m not talking about that. It’s a sting. It’s not an abuse. They will not die. They should not die. Now, will they sound like they are dying?


    He goes on to say that “correct” Biblical discipline is carefully enforced and used for correction, not punishment. That’s all well and good, but how far back does your arm have to wind up before you call it abuse? What angle? What tool? Is a wooden spoon ok to use? How about some rubber tubing? How sore does a butt have to be before we can say that a spanking was too much?

    The issue is the imperative to perform physical punishment at all when legitimate, trusted organizations and studies suggest that there is little to no benefit at all from corporal punishment. Dr. Alan Kazdin of the American Psychological Association says:

    “There is a good deal of research that has already been conducted that shows that anything beyond very mild physical punishment does not work in the long term and has negative consequences. While not all child development experts agree, my advice to parents is to avoid physical punishment altogether; there are simply more effective ways to teach and discipline your child.”

    We need to get serious about aiming our Laser Beams of Reason at religious institutions that harm children; while Hillary Adam’s father claims that she waited seven years to upload the beating video in order to exact revenge, all I could think was that she had to wait seven years until she felt safe enough to take action. Too often, the emphasis on obedience and conformity silences the victims until they escape the environment. We need to understand that Hillary’s experience is not unique; it’s being sold by many Christian families as morally right and proper.

    When it comes to the rights of children, I think it’s important to level all of our vinegar and contempt at organizations that harm them. While the anti-theist in me is pleased at the black mark on the Catholic Church due to the pedophilia scandal, my background and experience tells me that the work is not nearly over… and it’s not just Catholics and their dogma.

  2. Parenting with an emphasis on patriarchal hierarchy and the need for obedience divorces parents from the realities of developing children. In addition to being horrifying, it’s just kind of sad. Patriarchal family structures place undue pressure on the man to “perform” as the head of the household; women and children’s options are severely restricted, both immediately and long-term; children are forced to fear rather than respect the parents. Listen to how Libby Anne of Love, Joy, Feminism puts it:

    My parents trusted that God would fulfill his promise of a perfect godly family if they only followed his guidelines as taught by [Christian apologetics sources and parenting guides] No Greater Joy and Vision Forum. Somehow, though, they can’t seem to trust him with their children when their formulas go wrong. Instead, they have to fight tooth and nail to bring their erring children back to “the truth.” I think this may be born out of confusion as much as anything else. Their system didn’t work. Everything they built their lives around failed. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

    In some sense, though, the actions of my parents and others like them make sense. After all, my parents aren’t used to trusting their children to God. Rather, they’re used to trusting that God has promised that if they raise their children just so their children will turn out to be just right. This idea puts my parents at the center, not God. They are responsible for how their children turn out, not God. And now that we’re grown, that habit may be difficult to kick.

All too often, I hear stories that span every inch of the spectrum of estrangement, from emotional estrangement (“I can’t connect with them because they don’t see me as a real person”) to literal, physical estrangement (“I no longer speak to/visit them”). Too often, I hear about the hurt that people have suffered, present or past, that prevents them from having any sort of intimacy in their relationships with their parents.

This dogma, in addition to being potentially physically harmful to children, can create needless and senseless emotional strife. Children are being harmed, but parents, too, are being cheated out of potentially healthy relationships directly because of their religious belief.

Parents are being led to believe, through lies, dogma, and misinformation, that children are objects that can be led and molded and “trained”, and this belief has devastating ramifications — while not as incendiary as child abuse, it should also give us pause when we consider the belief’s long-term effects.

After all, it would be nice to be able to write this whole thing off as a Christian problem within Christian culture; annoying, but largely harmless enough to allow them to continue. Unfortunately, the effects of abuse and poor parenting ripple through society in all-too-frequently quiet ways. I don’t want my neighbor believing that she needs to shut up and be subservient to her husband. I don’t want the children in my future classroom believing that the beatings they might be receiving at home are justified. I don’t want to work or associate with the kind of men that needs to have a chokehold on his home — none of those scenarios add more scientists, teachers, or playwrights to society. If anything, we are robbed of the collective benefit that the women who could have become scientists and teachers and playwrights; we are robbed of who-knows-how-many children who could have gone on to do better, greater things had their options not been restricted by religious belief.

It’s not just those people who hurt and get hurt; it’s your coworkers and neighbors and friends and check-out clerks and lawmakers. For that reason, and for the betterment of The World At Large, the atheist movement should respond — loudly, and not in kind.

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  • JimG

    In Robert Massie’s book “Peter the Great,” he describes the 17th-century Russian marriage ceremony: the bride’s father hits his daughter three times with a small whip, then passes it to her husband, symbolically handing over authority for beating her into obedience. The husband says he doesn’t think he’ll need it – but tucks the whip in his belt anyway, as a warning. Given that women weren’t considered any more responsible than children, I don’t see much difference between that and the pastors quoted above.

    How lovely that so many American Christians haven’t made any significant advance beyond medieval Russians.

  • Germonik

    ” Instead of being able to explore right from wrong and discern it for themselves, scores of Christian children are being subtly taught that obedience to authority means avoiding punishment — not that it’s morally correct to avoid the behavior in question. Like so many others, I was obedient in order to avoid physical punishments (and, later, removal of privileges), which led me to focus more on finding the right path through the punishment maze rather than sorting out what I actually believed for myself. ”
    It’s like you’re talking about me. I was raised this way, not with full on corporal punishment (save the spankings that most parents still administer), but with the heavy heavy emphasis on submitting to authority, avoiding punishment, etc. And now, as a grown, moved out, “independent” adult, I don’t know how to live. I can’t explain it any other way. Nobody is telling me what to do? Guess I’ll sit here and play minesweeper for three hours. 

    From your post, I get the sense that you had a similar experience. So I ask:  how do I deal with this. My parents broke me, how do I fix it.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    The video was bad enough, the excuses were just deplorable. That was sickening. If that’s christianity, count me out.

  • Rieux

    I’m one of those people who wish that theists and atheists could just bury the hatchet and move on….

    In light of everything that follows in this post, isn’t that a notably dubious, if not flat-out ugly, preamble? If obscenities such as the actions you report on here aren’t enough reason for atheists to bear “the hatchet” toward religious ideas and practices, what in the world would be?

    Religious faith, religious authority, and religious privilege make the lives of millions of people on this planet a living hell—as you, among a thousand other reporters, are describing in this post. A non-negligible proportion of that hell is experienced by atheists, who are a despised and (at least) disempowered minority in effectively the entire religious world. By hectoring the victims and most outspoken critics of humanity’s continuing religious tyranny to “bury the hatchet,” aren’t you doing the tyrants a big favor?

    You (rightfully) reference feminism in this post; would you have told Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Betty Friedan, or Anita Hill to “bury the hatchet” with their misogynist opponents? Or is the struggle against atheophobia, religious privilege, and religious power less just than theirs?

  • Pulmguy

    Being from the south, I’ve often heard the expression “s/he’s getting to big to spank”.   What it really means is “the kid is big enough to fight back”.  I’m certain that all you teach a child by hitting them is that if you are bigger and stronger than someone else you can have control through violence. (sorry,going all caps with an exclamation point, but this should be yelled) DON’T HIT KIDS!

  • BrandonUB

    That this was a 16 year old girl and not what I’d really describe as a “child” makes it seem all the more creepy to me. Not exactly “worse”, but an entirely different dynamic. I know, and think of, 16 year old people as quasi-adults. They don’t have full legal privileges, but they have some and are entirely capable of rational, adult thinking. While beating a child is, obviously, genuinely horrible, there’s something about the desire to make a near adult continue to submit to authority through sheer force that strikes me as being even more galling.

    Given that normal excuses of disciplining a child overly vigorously don’t apply even a little bit (in my opinion), this takes on an additional dimension of apparent sadism. There’s something quite a bit more wrong with Judge Adams’ head than even what I’d say of someone who smacked their 8-year old around.

    Am I way off base? I think I’m having a hard time articulating my meaning.

  • “hey, remember how scared of you I was when you were bigger than me? Well now I’m bigger than you”

  • Jess

    My Xtian minister sure didn’t believe in sparing the rod… or the belt, or the boot, or the fist. Of course, being a minister meant he wouldn’t POSSIBLY do such a thing as beat his children, so we either stayed quiet or faced accusations of being liars and drama queens. Or, in my case as an adopted child, told that I should be grateful I even a home and to stop bringing it upon myself. Generally the only fault we committed was interrupting his incessant reading of the bible. The abuse continued until the kids all moved out, or in my case, started fighting back. 

    One of the things that helped me make peace with those horrible years was finally realizing there wasn’t some spiteful god who was too busy watching the damn sparrows to care about our suffering, and that my dad was just another random prick on a planet full of pricks.

  • Anonymous

    If you re-read the post, you might notice it says something like “I wish we could bury the hatchet, BUT…” You’re attacking the writer for holding the same position you espouse. You might want to go back and re-read it, this time with an attempt at comprehension.

  • Rich Wilson

    My mother never spanked me,  but a handful of times she lost it and slapped me across the face.  I distinctly remember the last time, because by then I was although small, at least bigger than her, and we shared a look of realization/fear that I could hit her back a lot harder. 

  • Rich Wilson

    I think I get you.  I get how people think corporal punishment is a good idea for small kids, because in the short term it IS effective.  And people have trouble envisioning the long term.

    But when you’re using violence on a 16 year old, it should be pretty obvious that the effect is EXTREMELY short term.  Hence it’s not about helping the kid in any way, it’s straight out anger/revenge/sadism.

  • I wrote about the Pearl book not long ago: Corporal Punishment deaths blamed on Christian book –

  • David B.

    Hmm, doesn’t Christian discipline also say:

    “Anyone who attacks their father or mother is to be put to death.” (Ex 21:15)

    “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” (Ex 21:17)

    “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.” (Lev 20:9)

    “If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. […] Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death.” (Deut 21:18-21)

    “If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. […] If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.” (Deut 22:13-21)

    And this from the same ‘covenant’ as the Book of Proverbs…

  • The Other Weirdo

    You sound surprised that there haven’t been any “significant” advances. I would argue that there haven’t been any advances, period. What we see as advance is actually the wider society forcing its will unto people that want nothing to do with it. And I’m not just talking about punishment. Christians still quote the bible in support of everything and anything. No theological advances have been made, either..

  • It saddens me that people even think corporal punishment is necessary. My parents on rare occasions spanked me and my brother when we were very young (open hand, couple swats on the butt, nothing more) and my mom has actually apologized to me as an adult for even that level of physical discipline because they now realize it was unnecessary and there were better ways to handle things.

    I don’t have children but my brother has a 2yo boy and he’s never been spanked and never will be. Instead he is put in time out (for now since there aren’t many privileges that can be taken away from a 2yo). If anyone doubts how effective it is would just have had to see the reaction the first time his grandfather (who he idolizes) put him in time out. He was devastated that he disappointed his Poppa. Fear of disappointing someone you love and respect is far more effective than fear of physical pain.

    The only place I think physical pain belongs in teaching a child is in letting them learn from their mistakes, assuming the danger in what they’re doing is minimal enough to just sit back and wait for the inevitable bumps and bruises.

  • Observer

    Here’s my interpretation for these beatings: I think a problem is that, in a society that demands order, imperfection is out of the question. Since humans are “imperfect,” (and it’s our fault apparently, since blaming such a “perfect” god for flaws is a no-no) it would have to be beaten out of us.
    But it seems like that this creates a weak morality: We do good things, not really because we want to, but because doing what’s “wrong” will be dealt with pain. This gets worse when morality is subjective, so the parents may punish the child for what could be a good deed or action (hence why I put “wrong” in quotes).
    It also seems like a lazy strategy: humans are learning creatures, we know what’s right from wrong by our empathy, and the consequences. But why do it the hard way, when it’s so much easier (and apparently the easy way is God’s way) to just beat the already imperfections out of your child? Never minding the fact that, depending on what age you beat your child, they’ll have little to n idea what is right or wrong. So for all intended purposes, you’re beating them up for nothing. Hell, if I painfully recall this one bit in the Pearls’ book, if the child struggles while being beaten’, it’s struggling, not to escape the pain, but the discipline. In other words, the child is rebellious, and knows it, so it’s trying to escape order (funny how struggling to avoid order is smiler to avoiding pain…).
    In the Bible, God kills his creations to “teach” them what they should do & shouldn’t do. If it’s good enough to the creator to kill his creations in the name of order, it’s good enough for the parents to beat the shit out of their own creations to install order. And we get a fucked up scenario of “it’s for your own good.”

    …Now that I think of it, granted my knowledge of the Bible is rather minor, but I don’t think following God’s laws ever promised good health, nor happiness…unless you count your own god killing you. In other words, you follow God’s laws so he don’t kill you, not because it’ll be better for you. So this whole idea about being “moral” isn’t about doing what’s good, but ultimately about control.

  • BrandonUB

    That’s exactly what I was thinking. Thanks for articulating it more coherently.

  • Like Amanda said, it’s not just religion. But religion does play a role in what is acceptable. Even now, at age 21, I see how my past abuse affects me. You want to know what I thought when I saw that video? “Please… just do as your father says, before he starts using the belt buckle instead of the belt itself.” Yeah, that was my thought, even in just watching this video I went to “survival mode.” And it’s scary. My father beat me with the belt and when I still didn’t comply, he would use the belt buckle instead. Then he would leave for a little while, and come back and toss me a towel to take a cold shower, so that my bruises wouldn’t be as visible. I once even remember he came into the shower and gave me a hug right then and there and told me he loved me, and that he only does this so I could understand somehow… at was around 8 – 11 or so.

     Even today those years for me are blurred… from birth until about 13 years old. I just remember fragments of horrible things that happened, and not very many good things- and I don’t even remember the specific age each thing happened. The clearest memory I have of those years was when I went to El Salvador for a month when I was 9. Around 12 years old my parents divorced… my mom still doesn’t think what happened was a big deal. I need to make a point one day and show her this video, so that maybe she gets an idea. She didn’t cause the harm, but she fed it. I wanted to tell my teachers, but her and my dad said if I did, worse things will happen to me because the family I’m sent to could be the biggest scum of the earth. A lot of drug use happened after the divorce, and I had a strained relationship with my mom… I still do, but it’s not so bad because I live 16 hours away now. She feels comfortable with what happened because it’s all “God’s plan.” My father, frankly, if he died, it wouldn’t make a difference to me. If I cry it would be because *I* was cheated of the chance to have a loving father rather than a sick one. My plan is once I have my children, to let them see their grandfather once, and after that disappear once more. I would prefer to have a non-existent relationship with my father. And no, he wasn’t all that religious.

    Just to show that there is a lot of us out there… And to Amanda, thanks for bringing this issue to light on F.A. This really disrupts all of our society… for a few years I even thought this pain even BENEFITED me, and boy has it been hard to let go of that thought process. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. That judge deserves life in prison without parole. Like me, although his daughter might still function in society, he still has forever chained her to her past.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post… It just really hit home to me.

  • Emily

    I was never physically punished with a spank or anything. But my mother was abusive. Verbally/Emotionally mainly. Sometimes it got a bit physical – trapping me with her body in a corner or into a room, blaring the car radio so loud or screaming directly into my ears so that it’d hurt, pulling my hair, knoking my glasses off my face, “Accidentally” scratching me enough to make me bleed a tiny bit because she was flailing so angrily and was out of her control… ripping a bracelet I loved off of my wrist, breaking it, punching my acoustic guitar violently and leaving a whole in it… ignoring my little brother as he tried to defend me so completely that it seemed in her enraged state that she didn’t hear him which caused him to be so frustrated that he punched a doorframe and broke his hand (he didn’t want to risk making her more mad by hitting the wall and hurting the wall) and then refusing to take him to a doctor because he wasn’t crying. When I list it all like this, it seems quite bad. But growing up, I never was taught that this type of minor abuse really counted as being bad enough to be truly illegal. So I never wanted to risk telling anyone like a teacher. It would just be risking my mom getting way more mad and nothing good coming from it.

    When we as a society teach children that the only thing that counts as abuse is cigarette burns or black eyes or broken bones… we’re always sending the wrong message. My brother & I were always terrified that our mother would get mad at us, even when we didn’t do anything wrong. She would yell at us for hours on end and other parents yelled at their children too… just not to that extreme degree nor for such unreasonable things. She got so mad at us for things that other parents would barely bat at eyelash at. She made me cry at least once a week. We need to start teaching children that this type of abuse, the kind that I suffered and also the kind that corporal punishment all too often is, also is ABUSE and it’s not something that any kid should have to deal with.

  • Light

    Like Amanda said, it’s not just religion. But religion does play a role in what is acceptable. Even now, at age 21, I see how my past abuse affects me. You want to know what I thought when I saw that video? “Please… just do as your father says, before he starts using the belt buckle instead of the belt itself.” Yeah, that was my thought, even in just watching this video I went to “survival mode.” And it’s scary. My father beat me with the belt and when I still didn’t comply, he would use the belt buckle instead. Then he would leave for a little while, and come back and toss me a towel to take a cold shower, so that my bruises wouldn’t be as visible. I once even remember he came into the shower and gave me a hug right then and there and told me he loved me, and that he only does this so I could understand somehow… at was around 8 – 11 or so.

     Even today those years for me are blurred… from birth until about 13 years old. I just remember fragments of horrible things that happened, and not very many good things- and I don’t even remember the specific age each thing happened. The clearest memory I have of those years was when I went to El Salvador for a month when I was 9. Around 12 years old my parents divorced… my mom still doesn’t think what happened was a big deal. I need to make a point one day and show her this video, so that maybe she gets an idea. She didn’t cause the harm, but she fed it. I wanted to tell my teachers, but her and my dad said if I did, worse things will happen to me because the family I’m sent to could be the biggest scum of the earth. A lot of drug use happened after the divorce, and I had a strained relationship with my mom… I still do, but it’s not so bad because I live 16 hours away now. She feels comfortable with what happened because it’s all “God’s plan.” My father, frankly, if he died, it wouldn’t make a difference to me. If I cry it would be because *I* was cheated of the chance to have a loving father rather than a sick one. My plan is once I have my children, to let them see their grandfather once, and after that disappear once more. I would prefer to have a non-existent relationship with my father. And no, he wasn’t all that religious.

    Just to show that there is a lot of us out there… And to Amanda, thanks for bringing this issue to light on F.A. This really disrupts all of our society… for a few years I even thought this pain even BENEFITED me, and boy has it been hard to let go of that thought process. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. That judge deserves life in prison without parole. Like me, although his daughter might still function in society, he still has forever chained her to her past. For years afterwards I abused drugs to cope, and somehow quit cold turkey when I finally realized that there were better options for me.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post… Just wanted to bring in the perspective of someone who was similarly abused, and how much even just whipping with the belt can affect the entire life perspective of a child.

  • Yup. My dad beat (I hesitate to say “spanked” because he never particularly cared where he hit us, only that he did in fact hit us) my brother and I with a belt all throughout my childhood. We got into a shouting match one day when I was sixteen and he whipped off his belt and drew his arm back to hit me with it. And I beat the ever living shit out of him.

  • JimG

    I would argue that there’s been some advance because the proportion of those who condone beatings among self-identified Christians has shrunk. Biblical cherry-picking is inconsistent, whenever it’s done; but if the verses picked for endorsement are those urging nonviolence and acceptance, I consider that a half-step toward embracing those principles without the need for religious sanction.

  • Saltyestelle

    First, believe that you are capable of finding your own right path.  I also suggest finding some positive role models, perhaps a mentor, and begin parsing out what is best and right for you to live fully.

  • Vanessa

    Ugh… this hits close to home. I was abused as a child in a Christian household, and I remember more than one occasion where my mom had read a few of those verses about punishing your child after she had beat me and my sisters. It’s absolutely sickening that people actually use the Bible as a verification to harm their own children.

  • Saltyestelle

    Excellent point about how the abuse of some children affects us all.   Emotions and attitudes are contagious…. pain, anger, shame and violence ripple through society and we all are hurt.  

    At the bruised heart of this debate, do we take care of and invest in one another, or do we ‘live and let live’, are deep psychological needs for belonging.  The religious tribalists are just doing it wrong.

  • rustywheeler

    I had a similar exchange with my mother around age 12. She slapped me, I whirled on her, we exchanged that look. She said, “… and if you hit me back you’ll regret it for the rest of your life!”

    And I said “It’ll be worth it.”

    I couldn’t follow through because I saw real fear in her eyes for the first time that day. Needless to say that was the end of the swats from Mom.

  • I was raised by parents that were huge fans of the AFA.  I can remember absolutely despising my parents from the age of 5 or 6 years old.   I remember specifically when I was 10 years old, my dad came home from work (at 2 am) and came in to my room to give me my spanking for the F on my report card.  It was my first year in public school.  I had been bob jones university homeschooled.  I lost count at 22 swats with a heavy leather mechanics belt.  I do however remember him distinctly remember telling saying I love you to me before he walked out of my bedroom and left me in a hysterical bruised heap on my bedroom floor.  He didn’t loose his temper.  He wasn’t mad, he actually did that with a calm hand and clear conscience. 
    That’s not to say he didn’t have a temper.  I remember more than once him chasing my oldest, autistic brother around our property with a belt, broom stick, baseball bat, whatever was handy.  I left at the age of 18 after a very violent incident between me and my parents.  I had $20 in my pocket, no drivers license, no education and I lived in a battered woman’s shelter.  Even after all this, I still, a year later tried to have a relationship with my family, but I can’t make myself be attached to them.  I no longer speak to them.  Honestly, if they died tomorrow, as awful as it sounds, I don’t know if I would be sad or not.  I wouldn’t be happy, but likely completely indifferent.

    I look at my children’s childhood now and I am literally astonished by how much my five year old little girl loves me.  It wasn’t until my kids got old enough that I am now able to see what a normal parent child relationship looks like.  When I was 5, if I had had another person step in and fill the role of my mother or father, I wouldn’t have missed them.  My children’s world would implode.  

    I am wondering just how long it is going to take for us to start going after these evangelical groups for recommending, even requiring, child abuse.

  • Thanks for quoting from my blog. I’m a mother of a toddler myself now, and people often say “wait till you have kids and then you’ll be in favor of spanking,” but the opposite is the case for me. When I feel exasperated with my daughter and want to just say “do X or I’ll spank you” I’m nevertheless fully aware that what that really means is “do X or I’ll hit you.” And how could I do that to my daughter? Spanking is wrong on SO MANY levels – wrong, ineffective, and problematic. 

  •  Thank you Amanda, for a powerful, thorough and thought-provoking post. It’s exciting to have these new insightful voices at Friendly Atheist.

  • Judith Bandsma

    Why do these people constantly confuse punishment with discipline? I discussed this with my next door neighbor once when he was beating his grandkids (horrible little monsters but they didn’t deserve that).

    He said that the only way to instill discipline was to beat it into a person. Seeing that he was a career military veteran, I asked him how often he had been beaten while in the Navy. He was taken aback by the question and said “never, they’d never do anything like that”. My next question was “then why do you think the ONLY way to teach discipline is with beating”

    He never spoke to me again

  • SparkplugBeck

    At age 10, I weighed as much as my mother and was nearly as tall. One day I had been falsely accused of some minor offense, and despite me telling her it wasn’t true and explaining what really happened,  she told me to go into the bedroom (always a precursor to being beaten with a ruler or belt).

     I went in, and when she walked in with the ruler, I put my back against the wall, lifted my chin, and said “You never get to hit me again. If you try, I’ll take that ruler away and hit you back and you know I can. If you want to punish me, you can ground me. Now I’m going to my room.”  And walked right past her, down the hall, into my bedroom, and closed the door. She never did hit me again. But I think that was when our relationship was ruined– I realized that I had been forced to threaten my own mother with physical harm in order to prevent *my* physical harm, and I lost the last shreds of the idea that either of my parents wanted to or were capable of protecting me.  

  • Rieux

    it says something like “I wish we could bury the hatchet, BUT…”

    No, it doesn’t—not with anything approaching clarity. The article concludes with a declaration that “the atheist movement should respond — loudly, and not in kind” to the religious tyranny the article documents and discusses, but it never actually draws a contrast between that conclusion and the “bury the hatchet” wish in the preamble. That happens to be the very function of the word “but”—which you used, but Amanda notably didn’t in this context: to draw a direct contrast between two discrepant ideas. Nowhere in this article does Amanda ever actually say that “burying the hatchet” is unwarranted or unjust.

    You have inferred that this article does not actually advocate “burying the hatchet” between atheists and theists. The textual evidence for this inference of yours is scanty and conflicted at best. If Amanda did, as you believe, intend to raise the subject of hatchet-burial only to argue against it, she did a notably poor job of making that clear—and in light of the structures of privilege and disparities in power that are basic elements of social discourse about atheism, that’s a substantial mistake.

  • Perhaps the word “wish” in the first sentence is important?

  • Ruby

    How about you accept responsibility for yourself and your actions as an adult and stop blaming others for your apathy?

  • Rieux

    That still doesn’t clearly express any kind of recognition that “burying the hatchet” is an unjust thing to expect. “I wish you atheists would shut up,” though it’s not what this article communicates, is nonetheless an example of a use of “wish” that conveys something other than “I don’t actually want this.”

    At best, the article uses a risky lede for the purposes of grabbing attention and then doesn’t do enough to clearly walk the “burying” idea back later on. But if so, that’s a mistake, one that I think is worth correcting.

  • Tom

    If what you say is accurate, you
    have my deepest sympathy.  The greatest harm done by raising kids based
    on strict obedience to dogmatic rules is not, necessarily, the methods
    used for enforcing obedience (although they are, frequently, both
    horrible and damaging), so much as that they don’t usually require you
    to think about how or why the rules are justified (indeed, thinking
    about rules can lead to awkward questions about exceptional situations
    or paradoxes that they can’t handle, and so is often discouraged), or on
    what basis they were formulated and, consequently, you’re now having
    trouble thinking on your own.  It also basically substitutes the parent’s will for your own, so perhaps, if they never let you choose any directions for your own life, you’re now having difficulty finding any goals for yourself, if you were always running on rails your parents laid out for you.  A lot of it can be parents trying to give you the best possible start in life – sending you to the best school they can, signing you up for extracurricular stuff, choosing practical clothes and food for you – but it can get stifling if they don’t leave enough room for you to begin to define yourself by making a few choices for yourself.  It goes both ways, of course – letting kids do whatever the hell they want 24/7 is a disastrous parenting plan as well.  Like everything in life, it seems, a careful balance between extremes is best; it’s also harder to pin down than extremes, and so a lot of people slip too far one way or the other – or give up even trying to find a balance, and become fundamentalists, because thinking is hard.

    Every one of us who has rejected dogmatic, absolutist morality has spent
    most of our subsequent lives facing moral dilemmas and ambiguities;
    we’ve made lots of mistakes, most of us, we’ve not always got it right,
    but even those times we got it wrong, we’ve usually learned something
    from it – all that time, we’ve been practising, learning, improving. 
    It’s horrible to realise that by being expected to unthinkingly obey
    canned rules of behaviour, you’ve been prevented from getting any of
    that practice for all that time; I reiterate, you have my deepest

    Take heart, though – they may well have set you back years in terms of
    experience in moral thought, but it’s important to realise that that’s
    all they’ve done.  The experience is still there for you to gain, you’re
    no less equipped to start figuring out who you really are now than we
    were then, and from your tone I dare say you’re quite willing to make up
    for lost time – hold on to that thought.  A lot of the rest of us have a
    huge head start on you, but don’t worry about that.  This is not a
    competitive race, all that matters is that you get there in your own
    good time.

    In fact, when it comes right down to it, volition is perhaps the most
    important thing.  If you really want to figure things out for yourself,
    to be a good person, to do what is right, to “fix” yourself, you’re more
    than half way there, even if you don’t think you can figure out how.  If you really mean what you’ve said, you’re already well ahead of all the psychopaths who often have quite a
    good idea how to behave morally, and just don’t have any inclination to
    do so.

    In any case, nobody’s worked out a foolproof moral calculus yet; we
    mostly get by on empathy.  I suspect that any rules that have been
    widely adopted are generally attempts to just have a ready reckoner for
    what the empathetic response to a complicated situation may be ahead of
    time, because if you’re standing on the trolley control platform in real
    life (see the “trolley problem”), you don’t have several hours to sit
    down and work out the morally optimal response.  They’re also probably
    useful for legally trying to enforce something approaching empathetic
    behaviour from the anempathetic – psychopaths, narcissists and so on.

    The best advice I think I can give you is to cultivate your own
    empathetic sense first, and only then start worrying about formulating
    rules and principles from that foundation.  To supplement that starting
    point, also take a good long look at the rules you were raised to
    follow, try to consider all the situations they could be applied to and
    the probable results, and see if you can figure out any general
    principles they may have actually been derived from.  There may well not
    be any, but you might find something useful there – pretty much
    everyone starts out being raised to follow authoritarian dogma, at least
    until they’ve developed enough to actually be capable of empathy or the
    consideration of others (look up Piaget’s stages of child development),
    and we often hang on to at least a few bits of our upbringing that
    continue to make sense after we’ve started really thinking about them.  It’s good that you don’t see any reason to follow dogmatic rules now you’re not being coerced into doing so, but be damn careful you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater if you can actually see any sense in some of them.  Case in point: nobody will force you not to play three hours of minesweeper, but consider that that’s three hours of zero physical exercise and really quite negigible mental stimulation.  Are you even really enjoying it?

    I don’t know whether I’m helping at all here, but I’m damn sure that an
    awful lot of those people we, as a society, put on pedestals as examples
    of good or moral or upstanding behaviour were also worrying the whole
    time over whether they were really doing anything right or not.  Perhaps
    the hardest thing to shake off from an authoritarian upbringing is the
    idea that some ideal list of rules governing perfect behaviour exists
    somewhere – it doesn’t, and even if it is theoretically possible,
    nobody’s found it yet.  We’re all improvising, to some extent, and that
    only comes through practice and, unfortunately, occasional mistakes.  By
    all means, try to figure out some hard and fast rules, but the odds are
    it’ll take you years and so, in the meantime, train your gut instincts,
    try to get a feeling for what’s right, and get good at improvising.

    It couldn’t hurt to read a lot of speculative fiction, either. 
    Pratchett, Asimov, Strugatsky, Lem – forget spaceships and zap-guns, all
    good speculative fiction is ultimately about people, how we think, feel
    and behave and, indeed, what’s right and what’s wrong.  You’d be amazed
    how well some of it can be at getting you to consider and re-evaluate
    your sense of morality or even your sense of humanity.  I’m sure plenty
    of people here can offer suggestions to read.  As a matter of fact, some of your post
    put me very strongly in mind of the final few paragraphs of “Roadside
    Picnic,” actually (one of my favourites) – I hesitate to quote it here, for fear of spoiling
    the whole damn book for you, but anyone else who’s read it will know
    what I’m getting at.

  • Inkhat

    Thank you for writing this.  It is absolutely true.  I was raised in a house where I belonged to my parents, and was physically and mentally reminded of this until I moved out.  It’s true that my parents still, as an adult woman supporting myself, have trouble seeing my actions and decisions as separate from them and their relationship with God.  They punished me physically until one day, when I was 16, I jumped out of a moving car to avoid a fist and I was never hit again.  Sometimes dramatic reactions are what it takes. I know that in college I had a tendency to end up in abusive relationships because I hadn’t realized that love and control were two separate things.  I was saved by my best friend and his family who told me, over and over, ever time I break down and take up the guilt of the world, that they were wrong.  I moved across the country and avoid them.  Going back for funerals and weddings takes serious mental preparation, still.  For the person who wrote “how do I fix this?” They were wrong.  You have to kill them in your mind. And don’t avoid telling them exactly what you think. Like my wonderful friend keeps telling me: You are an adult and as a human being deserve their respect.

  • I had the same thoughts run through my head when I watched the video.  Just roll over and take it and it won’t be so bad.  Awful isn’t it?

  • JoeBuddha

    Wow. I came from an agnostic household and endured swats and such, but just with open hand. The big problem is that I internalized that as being the way you raised children. Left to my own devices, I probably would have done the same. Fortunately, when I was married and had children of my own, I had a wife who knew better; before she died she taught me how to raise children. I’ve always engaged with them and made them part of all of the decision making and treated them as essential to the family. Never had to punish, yet managed to raise two awesome adults by myself. I’m hoping that they will now know what to do when (if) they have children of their own.

  • grcg

    wow.  what a great article.

    At some point when I was in early grade school, when I had been bad, my parents explained to me why they spanked me.  And it was a conversation, not just a talking to.  I don’t remember getting spanked after that.   Since then, my perception has been that appropriate spanking is a way to get the child’s attention to something being bad/inappropriate/dangerous until you can effectively verbally communicate that with the child.

    thanks so much for this article – Very thought provoking.

  • Anonymous

    Even with smaller kids there is a difference between using spanking in rare and extreme situation and making a habit of it or using it systematically.

    It’s wrong to say that any kind of spanking (and I mean spanking – not using belts or rods) is inherently harmful, but it shouldn’t be the standard tool to discipline children

  • Reasongal

    I have only one very important point to make – do not either seek out or tolerate relationships which replace the situation you left.  You may be tempted to just find someone who will tell you what to do because it feels “normal” but you know it is not; you also do not have to be dominated by pushy people out in the world.  Be aware of how you are communicating and responding, give yourself permission to say “no” and practice negotiation for your own best interests, not for selfish reasons (again, examine your conscience and needs) but to develop  critical thinking and a healthy self-esteem.  Good luck.

  • Hm. It seems to be a difference between teaching to discern “right from wrong” based on empathy, versus discerning it based on fear. This basis might be culturally useful in a stable fashion where a significant fraction are predisposed to markedly lower levels of empathy with other people, or with higher sensitivity for fear.

    Of course, “predisposed” leaves the problem of nature-vs-nurture effects.

    There question of “deserving of respect” also treats the respect given to prestige-based authority as equivalent to that given to dominance-based authority. Neurologically, they may be; philosophically, I’d say wisdom isn’t quite the same as power.

  • The worrisome part is the abstract possibility that there may be genetic conditions that leave someone abnormally low in empathy but abnormally high in fear response; in which case, trying for a pavlovian fear response may be not just lazy, but more socially efficient. 

    Of course, those most likely to use such strategies may be those lacking in empathy….

  • P4ul47

    How about you shut your self-righteous mouth?
    This is a real problem and he needs help not assolery. Parents damage their children everyday and those kids have to deal wit it later.

  • Writegurl

    Yes. Also, I’d like to note that the reason the kids were horrible little monsters was because they were being beaten. That form of punishment usually provokes the behaviors that it’s suppose to suppress. Consequently, many of these parents end up in a cycle: beat the kids; the kids misbehave more; the parents beat harder and more often; the kids misbehave harder and more often; and so it continues…

  • Waltz707

    I watched about ten seconds of this and had to close the window. I can not belive that anyone can cal this “the way of god” or “god’s will”
    Last time I checked, christians called their god good and merciful?

  • I just… it’s not okay to hit children. At all. Time out, grounding, removal of toys/privileges, earned rewards to reinforce good behavior, but NO HITTING.

  • Light

    It is almost scary how similar your story is to mine, particularly the “I love you so I beat you” mentality. It makes me sick. It makes me so happy to hear how much your children love you, and gives me hope for the future. I can’t wait until I feel ready to be a mommy so that I could give them all the love I felt I lacked growing up. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Wow…you’re a nasty piece of work.

  • Ruby

    What you don’t understand is, I AM trying to help him. By accepting the role as a victim he’s putting himself in a position where he can’t be in control of his own life. Accepting responsibility for your own actions and behaviour is what growing up IS, and as soon as he does he’ll be in a position of power over his own life. EVERYONE’S parents screw them up to some degree – humans aren’t perfect. I think that we all need to look into ourselves and come up with the strength to say that life is what it is; you are in the situation you are, and you can’t change the past. Constantly putting yourself in a subordinate position while you rail against your parent’s incompetence is actually going to do more harm than good. We all need to look into ourselves for strength to overcome all of life’s trials. The moment you stop doing that and start blaming others is the moment when you give up all control over your own life. So, while it came off as rude and abrupt, I was actually trying to help him.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, because comments like that are SO helpful. (/sarcasm in case you’re so thickheaded you don’t get it)  You seem like someone who tells a person with depression to just “get over it” or worse, tells someone with schizophrenic hallucinations to just stop seeing them and to only see reality.

    Now all you’ve done is post an even longer self-righteous rant and come off looking like even more of a tool.  Congrats…you’re a sphincter!

  • Michael

    In relation to what Penn was saying in a more recent post, is there a trend for certain Christian sects to support beating children more than others? Might this be a distinction worth highlighting to dispel the myth that all christians should agree on everything?

  • yeah the I love you so I beat you part is twisted and disturbing. The differences in your children from the way you grew will start showing starkly around the age of 3-4 years old, and it will shock you.  Don’t realize just how damaged your life has been until you start raising normal children.

  • Sue Blue

    This post really speaks to me.  As a child I was told that children were born sinful and needed punishment to keep them on the straight and narrow path to God.  However, I noticed at an early age that the punishment doled out to me and my sisters was motivated more by how pissed off my parents were rather than by any rational, moral “teaching” moment.   Much of my childhood in the 1960s and early 70s is a blur, but I have starkly clear memories of 40 lashes with a leather belt for eating the last piece of my dad’s chocolate birthday cake, of having my fingers broken when I put my hands over my butt to protect it while being hit with a chunk of 2×4 board for running into a sapling tree my dad had just planted while riding my bike.  The tree was knocked over but not broken, and survives to this day.  My fingers were taped to popsicle sticks by my mother and remain arthritic and crooked to this day. I remember being told that I was going to be “beaten to a bloody pulp.” I remember being beaten with a willow switch for playing in a nearby swamp and getting my good clothes muddy.  My mom put witch-hazel poultices on the welts on my legs.  I remember my Dad whacking my younger sister upside the head with a piece of stovewood she had dropped on our new tile floor.  She got a nosebleed, and I remember holding an ice pack on her face while my mom and dad argued about whether to take her to the hospital.   What was strange is that none of us considered this abuse.  Most of the kids I knew could tell similar stories.   The wooden ping-pong paddle used for corporal punishment hung prominently on the wall in the principal’s office, and I never heard of a parent suing any teacher or prinicipal for using it.  Apparently, anything less than life-threatening injuries requiring hospitalization was considered “discipline”.  Parents who didn’t spank their kids were addle-brained hippies who were going to raise a generation of spoiled, rotten, useless brats.

    When I had my kids, my folks were quick with the advice on how to handle crying, whining, temper tantrums and other realities of child behavior. I’m happy to say that neither of my children were ever spanked, much less beaten with paddles, belts, switches, or 2 x 4s – and my parents still wonder how they turned out so well-mannered, high-achieving, successful, and kind.  Their conclusion:  God must have heard their prayers and intervened to spare my children the evil results of a liberal, athiest, rod-free upbringing.

  • Oh, or telling a DV victim to “just walk away”? Things aren’t that easy, man. You can’t just go, “I’m going to change,” and immediately DO it — takes time, takes courage, takes strength, and there will be moments when, despite your best efforts, you fail.

    @Ruby — give the kid a break, he’s hurting, and he probably needs time to process it all. You’re not helping.

  • *hugs*

  • Anonymous

    Exactly..and not to mention that bad parenting and abuse can leave a lasting impact on the brain’s structure and chemistry.  A few people are gifted with super resiliency, however, most people will spend the rest of their lives struggling in some way to recover from the impact their experiences left on them.  To just say to someone to “accept responsibility”, “grow up”, “get the strength” essentially ignores how complex the issues can really be.  I don’t think Ruby understands that someone could actually be d0ing all of that and even putting MORE effort into, but still not be able to reach the same results that other people would get with barely any effort at all.  Unless you’ve been inside someone’s head you can never know exactly how easy or hard something is for that person.

  • Yup. I used to be the same way, “oh, but you can just walk away from him,” and then it happened to me, and I found out the hard way. I hope Ruby doesn’t learn this the hard way, too.

  • Rich Wilson

    Yes. Being an abuse victim is easy to sympathize with, but nearly impossible to empathize with.  If you haven’t been in those shoes, don’t criticize.

  • Ruby

    The poster I originally commented on said that he was never abused, physically or emotionally, just that his parents had everything planned out for him. Good job on jumping to conclusions all! I never said that in cases of abuse or DV or schizophrenia that people should just get over it. Obviously if someone has suffered abuse OF ANY KIND they should seek help. To me, that’s not what the above sounded like- it sounded more like someone who was unsure of their life and was looking for someone to blame. Part of owning your own problems and dealing with them IS getting help and seeking out therapy or medical treatment or whatever. Posting a short blurb in the comments of a blog? Doesn’t really apply. FWIW, I HAVE suffered from depression. And guess what? I got help. I didn’t blame someone else for causing problems in my own life. If all of you people are content to play the victim in your life and not own it and find ways to learn from it and carry on, then I feel sorry for you – life’s gonna be a bitch.

  • Ruby

    Exactly wmdkitty! I agree completely. It does take time, strength and courage and there WILL be times when you will fail. That’s life! But as long as you’re trying, that’s what counts. I never told him to get over it in a second, did I?

  • And people call ME a bitch…

  • Rachel Despres

    First off, I just wanted to say thanks for writing this. Abuse that proliferates under the banner of “correct” and “godly” discipline IS a relevant issue. The hard facts and statistics (including Hilary’s experience) cannot be denied, and any Christian who claims otherwise is kidding themselves. 

    I have not read through all of the posted comments, so it’s possible that someone with my perspective has already aired their views. However, in the interest of promoting a useful and reasonable discussion, I would like to describe my own experience. My father, an evangelistic speaker, and my mother are both believers. Their own views on “spankings” are as follows: 

    1) For all four of their children, myself included, physical punishments were implemented approximately between ages 2 to 12. At age 13, they considered grounding to be a more effective punishment. 

    2) Actual “beatings” were pretty rare. The most common punishment for us was a time out. The next step was a small slap on the hand. Generally, spankings were reserved for extreme misbehavior, where we were a danger to ourselves or others, or repeat offenses. 

    For example, the most memorable punishments I ever received were a result of my running haphazardly onto a busy street, playing with fire, and wrapping the cord of window blinds around my neck. I NEVER again attempted ANY of these actions following a spanking. It’s very true that, even to this day, I have a “psychological aversion” to messing around with matches. Personally, I fail to see how this is a negative thing.

    3) There is a very important process when it comes to spanking in my family. First, my parents were always very, very, very careful to never touch us while they were in ANY way still angry over our misbehavior. For this reason, we were sent to our rooms for an extended period of time, usually an hour or so. 

    Second, when my father or mother (the responsibility was more often than not divided between the two) would enter our room, their first words would be, “Do you understand why you are getting a spanking?” Once we were able to describe, in our own words and without their prompting, what it was that we had done, they asked us to place our hands on the bed and then informed us exactly how many times they planned to spank us. 

    Finally, following our spankings, my father or mother asked us to hug them (if we refused, we weren’t forced). Depending on the situation, they would then either remain in our room to discuss further why we had been punished, or they would end the experience by repeating several times, “I love you very much.” 

    I will never forget the afternoon I ran into traffic chasing a toy, despite my father’s repeated warnings. After my spanking, which was no more painful than usual, I turned around to see my father crying. When I, not understanding his distress, began to cry as well, he hurriedly  lifted me into his arms and patted my back. I will never forget his following words: “I want you to be safe, honey. But this really hurts me too.” 

    No, I can’t tell you the exact amount of force or the precise angles of my spankings. But I can tell you, without a doubt, that they were a product of my parent’s love. Far be it from to EVER minimize the suffering of children abused in the name of Christianity. Indeed, this article has been both eye-opening and convicting for me, as a believer. That being said, I would like to ask that anyone who reads this consider the possibility of Biblical, corporal discipline, executed in the spirit of love and grace that is at the heart of true, un-twisted Christian ideals, as a safe parenting tool. 

  • What part of “hitting kids is ALWAYS WRONG” don’t you understand?

  • Rachel

    Really. Ok, great, thanks for that. Despite my entire childhood experience, “always wrong,” gotcha.

    Unfortunately, caps lock alone is not enough to convince me. Good thing there are other bloggers that actually enjoy quality discussions, because comments like this are a waste of both our time. 

  • amyc

    I’ve worked in child care, and we are not allowed to use corporal punishment. I used redirection, discussion and time-out to maintain discipline (get that, not punishment, not control) in my classroom–and it worked, even with 2-year-olds. Why is it that teachers are able to discipline children effectively without hitting them, but parents seem to not be able to do this?

    Side note: I was able to tell which little ones were being hit at home because they were the ones hitting their dolls and other children. When I asked them what they were doing, they would say they were spanking because the doll/other child had been naughty.

  • samantha


  • samantha

    ….again, Amen

  • Mimi

    You know, your a real joke, you have no idea what you are talking about.  I watched the Hillary Adams beating video and I agree he went to far, but at the same time his daughter refused to obey her parent.  If she would have obeyed her father and bent over the bed she probably would have only gotten a few licks of the belt. When she finally obeyed her mother she only got one good lick.  So that teenager caused herself more pain and frustration because of her arrogance in thinking that she knew much more then her parents.  Now don’t get my wrong, I agree with all of my heart that her father took it way beyond just a spanking, but she caused it.  Also once the mother got the belt and the father left the room he should have never come back in.  He was to mad he should have waited until he calmed down before trying to talk to her again.  There is nothing wrong with spanking a child if it’s done in the right way and as to it hindering close relation ships with parents or that the child obeys out of fear instead learning a lesson because it was spanked is the biggest crock I ever heard.  Everyone wants to stop the physical punishment, and as to that I don’t think that physical punishment is always the answer only at certian times, but yet when our children start shooting up their schools, bullying their friends to death, disrespect authority, etc…we cry what had gotten to our children.  We say things like “In may day a child wouldn’t dream of talking to it’s parent the they do today.” or “When I was growing up we never had to worry about some kid coming in and shooting up the school.” or some such thing, and it’s true, in our day kids didn’t do stuff like that. Why Not? because back then parents let the Bible be there guide to raising children not some scientist that had more hair then wit.  I’ve said all of my life Scientist are so smart to be some of the dumbest people up on this earth.  I’ve read some of the comments below and I’d really like to know how many that are claiming they’d fight back would truly honestly have the gall to stand up and hit their parents back? and the ones that wouldn’t is out of fear or respect? Truth be told they wouldn’t strike back out of respect for their parent.  Now I’m not talking about those that have really been abused I’m talking about those just don’t like it because their parents spanked them, see I’m from the south too and when I was growing up my mom used a switch, on my, on occasion it was a belt, but mostly a switch, it didn’t cause my to act worse, it taught me to respect authority so there for that’s the way I raised my children and that’s the way they are raising theirs.  You people need to crawl back in your closets and let the real adults handle it.

  •  Way to blame the victim.

    Blind obedience to any authority figure — even a parent, or *gasp* a God — is not a Good Thing.

    And it is NEVER okay to hit a child. EVER.

  • Mimi

    LOL…like I said you people are a joke and only hear half of what is said about something  but the sad thing is the joke is on you and one day you will see that.  I just hope and pray it isn’t too late for  you.  And besides that if the shoe fits… And as to hitting a child…I never said anything about hitting a child, what I said was that it’s okay to SPANK your child, IF DONE IN THE RIGHT WAY.  There’s a very big difference between HITTING and SPANKING. And that difference is Love and the Bible. There is a right way to go about corporal punishment and there is a wrong way, as is with anything and everything we do, say, etc…It’s a matter of being adult enough to find it. If corporal punishment is so bad and causes all of these bad things to happen to the child then tell how on earth did our ancestors manage?  It’s a funny thing to me that corporal punishment has been going on now for more then some 6000 years, but only just in the past oh say 20 to 30 years have begun to damage the children, now that’s a laugh.  No it isn’t corporal punishment that damaging our children it’s the lack there of , and also at fault are those SMALL MINDED people that seem to think that suddenly all of  this stuff is gonna damage us and /or our children, and that animals should have to the same rights as people and that a rain forest is much more important then people having homes and being able live in this world.  It’s funny thing to me that the world and the people in have been making it just fine and dandy w/out your help. Lets look at the odds, shall we…Since time began this world has thrived, the animals were used and treated as animals (not as humans), the rain forests and trees have been providing us with homes, paper med.s, food, etc., when children disobeyed their parents they were physically punished and every things was working fine.  People were God loving, prospering, families were staying together and children that had been raised w/corporal punishment was growing up to be doctors, lawyers, police officers, teachers, etc… I can’t see the problem there can you? Not if your really looking at you can’t.  Then we have all those people like “Peta”, the tree huggers, and other environmentalists  and conservationists groups and people like you who think that the bible is no longer needed when rearing our children or much of anything else for that matter, that corporal punishment is some how damaging our children, just to mention a few things. Now lets weigh the balances… Thousand’s of years of doing it one way to 30 to 40 years of your way of doing it…Sounds to me like the Bible way has a lot more weight on it’s side then do the people (like you) have on your side.  When it comes to raising and punishing my child I’ll stick with the that has be proven for thousands of years to work instead of you little foolish ideas. The sad thing in all of this is that one you and your kind, will know that what I’m saying is true, but by then I’m afraid it will be to late, and that my friend is heartbreaking.

  • tl;dr

    Thousand’s of years of doing it one way to 30 to 40 years of your way of doing it

    *cough*women are people*cough*

  • ufo

    Right.  My sister and I were occasionally spanked with a wooden spoon, but never very severely.  This was in the 1950’s and even though my parents were not practising christians, they were still influenced by the “spare the rod and spoil the child” meme.   In the 1980’s when my daughter was 2 or so, we occasionally spanked her by hand.  She always asked for me to administer the punishment because my wife was considerably more vigorous in this.    One day, a fellow employee at my office who was from Sweden pointed out that spanking was illegal in Sweden.  I looked into it a bit further and convinced my wife that we should stop doing that.  We never used physical punishment again and our daughter got through the “terrible twos” and all the way to fully functioning adulthood with minimal behavior problems.     One of my fondest memories was when she was about 4 years old and we were scolding her for some (now long forgotten) infraction.  She started crying and wailed “I want a cuddle!”.   We both just melted and that was the end of that attempt at discipline.    It is really amazing that folks can delude themselves into believing that torturing their children is moral behavior.  Of  course, given all the other horrors which the bible proclaims to be god ordained, I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising.

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