Thursday, April 3, 2008

Why I Don't Hit People to Make Them Do What I Want

Do you believe that your children are people? Do you believe that they are just as human as you are, or are they more like untamed donkeys that need to be whipped into domestication? I'm not saying this to be funny. I'm going to be brutally honest and stop pussyfooting around about this issue. I believe that some of you will be angry with me, or hurt that I disagree with your methods. Well, I'm sorry, but you're big, and they're little, and they need more protection, not less.

I do not hit, beat, spank, slap or grab my children by the arms because I believe for them to remain truly compassionate humans (anyone who has observed young children see they are the models of compassion, vulnerability, and even Christ said that "the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these), they need to be respected for the human beings they already are, complete with gifts to give us and talents to share with the world. I want my children to be internally motivated. This is a huge difference between those that practice gentle, mindful parenting and those that injure their children into "obedience". I want my children to make decisions with their minds and their desires to be like Christ, not because in the past, or looming ahead of them at the moment, a much larger or more authoritative person than themselves is threatening to injure their bodies if they don't choose correctly. Fear-based obedience scares the crap out of me. It conjures up images of Hitler.

If you hit your children, you need to know that if they are under the age of five, they still don't quite have the developmental concept down yet of cause and effect. So in addition to not taking into account their blooming ability to learn to perceive how their actions will affect themselves and others, you are also preempting it with the most basic primitive animal emotion - fear. They better obey, or they will be hurt.

Gentle discipline takes a lot longer than punitive discipline. It may take years for your son or daughter to finally understand what you have been trying to teach them, rather than having them obey your command immediately, that moment, that day. Punitive discipline through threats of violence or isolation also CAUSES children to sin, rather than preventing them from it. If they are threatened with being punished, they will lie, because they are afraid. We are so blessed that our almost four year old daughter continues to come right up to us and tell us that she thinks she did something wrong, because instead of punishing her, we talk, at length, about it and learn together about how to help her be more successful.

I could say volumes and volumes and volumes more on this, and I am by no means the perfect parent, but now that I've opened up Pandora's box, lemme have it. Email me, flood the comments with descriptions of what a bad Christian I must be. Tell me all about how children are little brats, will never learn unless there's a consequence (and by the way, I also don't agree with timeouts/isolation tactics). Tell me all about how THE LORD says in the Bible to beat the crap out of your children, the rod verses, God punishes those He loves, etc. And I will show you a merciful Jesus who said, with a child next to him , "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Matthew 18:5

I don't hit children because I believe all people are born with the right to be free from physical injury, and I believe children are people. If you don't believe children are people, then I guess you can disregard my comments.


Sierra Mama said...

No nasty comments here! I am in agreement. We need to love our children and have compassion NOT beat them into submission.

Stephanie said...

I have blogged about this here and there and it's been on the lists lately.
It is disgusting to see christians preach physical abuse and yes hitting is abuse period.

If I believed for one second that God wanted me to beat(hitting is beating) my children I would NOT be a Christian. You can quote me on that!

Hilaree said...

Thank you both so much for the support and for all you do in educating parents! There are SO many options for people who are seeking to have a more peaceful, joyful, respectful relationship with their children, and you both deserve applause for putting your ideas out there. This issue is on my heart constantly and I finally got up the nerve to just blog about it. I knew I would feel the love from the RCUers. Peace to you both and your gorgeous families!

Amy said...

I think you make some great points and I also agree with the heart and spirit of your post.

I read it earlier, and went about my night and something keeps nagging me. I worked with abused girls in a group home, and some of them were beaten by their parents, and what was done to them physically and emotionally is a far cry from what happened to the children of the friends I know who do spank.

I do not spank my child, and as she comes into the age of 2 with her will being asserted, we are grappling with how best to direct her will. She has a sin nature, one she was born with. God has given her to us and among other things, it is our job to teach her about her will, and how to bend it to the will of her Creator. To encourage her to embrace and be directed by the Holy Spirit. I don't know what the best way to do that is, but I also know that some level of discipline is going to be involved. I'm not sure that needs to be physical, and I think "spare the rod, spoil the child" is way overused, and abused.

But I also find, in Psalm 23:4,

Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.

My understanding is, the rod was to correct and the staff was to guide. Those things in combination should bring protection and comfort. If the discipline method you chose brings protection and comfort to your child, I think you have God's heart.

girl with a flower tattoo said...

Just saying hello to my new blogging friend, haha - technology is so weird.


jewlsntexas said...

That's awesome -
And neat that Hitler randomly came up in both of our blogs today.
Great words.
I have spanked in the past - and wish I could turn back time and do things differently. But what I can do right now is better for today.

jewlsntexas said...

Hey - I think I'm the missing link between you and the girl with the flower tattoo - because she is my friend IRL. ha ha

Jeremy said...

I completely agree with you, Hilaree. I'm about to rant, so watch out.

As someone who was spanked, and with siblings who were spanked, I can say the only thing my brothers and I learned from it was how to lie. Fear of being spanked never kept us from doing anything, it just gave us incentive to cover our tracks, hide broken objects and outright lie about what had happened. A parent may THINK their child is better behaved, and they may, on the spot, pick up a dropped cookie or put down a toy for fear of being smacked, but they will never keep their hand out of the cookie jar. They'll just find ways to make the cookie jar look full after sneaking a few, and then, because they're full will lie about having a stomach ache at supper. So yeah, spanking is basically training to 1. fear and 2. lie. I've never seen any different.

On to the "rod" issue. The quote, "spare the rod, spoil the child," is from a poem, not the Bible, so we can ignore that. But there are two "rod" verse in Proverbs that seem to say something similar. I could quote them and explain how they've been misinterpreted in detail, but that would take up a lot of space. I'll simply say that Proverbs is a book of poems full of figurative language. In fact, the Hebrew word for "rod" is shebet, which can refer to many things, from a weapon to God's authority. But beyond all that, as Hilaree pointed out, Jesus is fairly clear about his love for children and protection of children from harm. Even if those who chose to believe the Bible endorses the hitting of children got it 100% right, I'll still stick with Jesus on this one. It wouldn't be the first thing he changed from the Old Testament.

As far as spanking not being the same as severely beating someone, from a human perspective, this is totally valid. We put degrees of severity on crimes. But to God, sin is sin. Stealing a dollar is the same as stealing a million. It's all vile to God. So I would say hurting a child via violence whether it "tans their hide" or breaks their leg is all the same to God. Some would argue its not sinful, but those are the same people misunderstanding the rod verses. AND why do Christian parents who spank feel so bad about it afterward? "This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you." Why? They either feel naturally guilty (because of the moral compass God instilled in all people) about performing an act of violence on a defenseless child OR its the Holy Spirit revolting inside them. They know its wrong, but have been taught otherwise and don't know what the alternatives are.

I'm winding down here. Bear with me. With the difference between spanking and beating, who decides which is which? What are the guidelines? If the child bruises, it's beating? If the child is sore for an hour, its not? Of two different children being spanked equally one might bruise and they other might not. Does that mean one was beaten and the other wasn't? I think saying one degree of violence is acceptable compared to another is dangerous because it leaves a lot of gray area in between. More than that, and I think this was part of what Hilaree was saying is that if I saw someone doing something wrong...lets say I caught someone in a lie at work. If my response was to give them ten good whacks with a switch...or even my hand, I'd be tossed in jail for assault. If I did the very same thing to a dog I would be thrown in jail for cruelty to animals. How then can we do this to children and think it's okay?

As the secular world moves away from corporal punishment (and makes it illegal--thank goodness) because it so clearly violates our built in moral code, I feel very embarrassed for Christians who fight for the right to hit children. They're severely misrepresenting Jesus to the world and are no doubt turning scads of people away from the faith because of their violence against children.

Jesus said about the adulteress woman, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." (they were going to stone her to death, just as the Old Testament instructs). Are children so much worse that adulterers that we can still control them through the threat of violence? Let he who is without sin, go fashion a switch, I say. The verse, and lesson, apply to ALL people, not just adults or adulterers. Children are people.

Stepping down from the soapbox now...

-- Jeremy

Anonymous said...

Thank you Hilaree, I totally agree with you. I've never hit my daughter, who at 9 is very respectful and obedient because she trusts me and knows I am very dedicated to her and what is best for her. She knows how much I love her and respect her, and she treats me with love and respect in return.

I can't even imagine God wanting parents to hit their children, it makes absolutely no sense. The God I love wants what is best for His children, and hitting only creates violence, anger, and emotional problems, plus risks physical injury.

It takes more thought and time to communicate well with your child, rather than just hitting them to obtain obedience. We are human beings, not TVs to kick. People require gentle loving care to grow, trust, and become our true selves.

Hilaree said...

Thank you again, everyone, for taking the time to thoughtfully comment!

Amy, your post was so thoughtful and peaceful and I appreciate that you were giving it thought as you went about your night. I think Jeremy addressed some of the topics you mentioned and I wanted to bring up one more - I understand completely what you're saying about "the will" of children, especially toddlers, and how conscientious parents want to do their best in dealing with that, especially when trying to model for them that their holy Father is the best and most awesome thing to desire and follow. So difficult to know what to do. The mistake that I think many Christians make in this area is first, not having an understanding of child development, and secondly, having a "doing to" rather than a "working with" kind of relationship with their child. Christian parents seem to think that if their child is not punished for a wrongdoing with a timeout or a spanking, then they will grow up to be rebellious, out of control teenagers who steal cars and smoke crack. Discipline does not have to be DONE to children - it is so much more complex than that, so much more difficult than, "When she lies, she gets two minutes of timeout, and when she won't go to bed she gets one hard slap on the butt." People think there's some prescription to follow, when in reality the best way, in my opinion, for children to see that following Jesus and bending their wills to His is by having parents who do the same, and happily. No one can MAKE an adult bend their will to follow God, so why do we think that punishing children would make them do that? The point is, EXTERNAL motivators are weak and temporary. Children need to be accepted for who they are, loved unconditionally, and given words for their feelings and frustrations. They are doing things for reasons, especially toddlers. When they throw a tantrum because they can't open the oven door and climb into it, we can hold them and say calmly, "You're so frustrated right now, and so sad. Mommy wants to keep you safe. The oven is not safe. Let's go look out the window. (or whatever)" And show them somewhere they CAN climb and be safe, because the climbing is a genuine need. They also may need to tantrum for a long time, but they need to see that our love does not change because they are asserting their emotions and wills. Also, through all of it, they can see that while they do not yet have the self-control we do, they see us in control of our emotions and learn that we are safe for them to express themselves around. Maybe that was a weird example, but it just popped into my mind. Anyhow, I guess what I'm wordily trying to say is that children need to be given the opportunity to struggle and learn and feel very safe and respected through it all. I am only halfway through an amazing book entitled Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn, and its blowing my freaking mind! Its chock full of enormous amounts of child development research and makes the case for doing away with all forms of EXTERNAL discipline - through punishments AND rewards. Really, in the long run, I want my children to be internally motivated to be Christlike and to follow their bliss. Kohn has all kinds of great examples on ways to parent that are respectful and gentle and I just love it so far.

lilpeasinmypodfrom~God said...

WOOHOOO from a fellow peaceful parent. We dont really inflict discipline of any sorta. We allow natural consequences to occur and guide gently.

girl with a flower tattoo said...

yes, the artwork is Schiele, except for the post you commented on which is Chagall. Both are amongst some of my favorite artists!

e e cummings is brilliant! haha
i love the way the words just roll of your toungue...

Collinskymama said...

The argument is that children grow up to obey God cheerfully and without questioning, by being taught (through spanking) to obey their parents cheerfully and without questioning. You must "make" the child "submit his will to yours" so he will know how to submit his will to God. This perspective is based firmly in human fear and need for "control."

This mindset not only stifles the child's natural learning process and connection to their emotions (which is VITAL for true compassion), but it also misses a vital aspect: children are very black-and-white. What are you really teaching your child? By being conditioned to obey their parents, they are conditioned to grow up to obey other authority figures (PEOPLE) who they perceive to be more powerful than them. It really is that cut and dried.

How do children learn to "submit their will" to God? By having parents who cheerfully obey the Lord, whose delight is in Him. It is that simple. This is how children learn everything, through our example. Do we want that to be one of coercion or one of compassion? What do we want our children to learn? What do we want to be the foundation of our relationship?

I personally do not obey God because I am afraid of punishment. I obey God because I love God and I trust that God loves me. He tells me over and over in His Word that He does, and that He will care for me and help me and that He wants good things for my life. The obedience springs from a relationship, not from fear. Sadly, because most Christians seem to be focused on the "vengeful God" aspect, who live in fear of His wrath, and they obey coming from that place, they can't see God any other way. And the reason they see God that way is most likely *because they were spanked* as children: manipulated by fear of punishment, establishing the pattern of their life.

I could train my children to do what I said, when I said... but I would be cutting off part of our relationship to do that. Parents who choose to spank can have wonderful loving relationships with their children, and have a strong bond between them... but they are not aware that they have sacrificed something to have a child who "is obedient."

Hilaree said...

Thank you, lilpeas and collinskymama. I really appreciate you guys reading my thoughts and responding! C-mama, I think you're so right - especially about the way we view our loving Creator and how that reflects on how we parent our children. Thank you for your articulate and wonderful message to us.

unschoolermom said...

I loved your article! I totally agree with what you are saying. I actually have a pretty good example. When my five-year old was little, people would tell him, "Give me five." He would happily slap their hands. Then he got to the point that he would slap people, in the same merry mood. He didn't understand the difference. When we asked people to stop asking him for "five," he stopped slapping. In his own mind, he could not differentiate. How much more difficult would it be for a child to understand spanking?


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Linda said...

Jeremy is wrong. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" IS in the Bible. It is one of the Proverbs.Get to know your Bible, Jeremy, before you make comments like that.

If you all are going to use God's word (the Bible) as your reference, you'd better not be picking only scripture that tickles your ears. (The Bible speaks about people who want that kind of religion too). If you believe a handful of scripture, and call it God's word, you'd better be ready to accept the whole Bible. IT IS GOD'S WORD, PEOPLE!! Not yours!
If you wrote a book and someone was picking one or two lines out of it and totally misquoting and changing the whole context, you'd be upset.
People! You can't ride the fence. Either you take the "whole" of God's word, or you don't.
God's word DOES say to swat your child, but do it out of love. You will see great rewards for saving that child from being lost forever. God punishes when we do wrong. We are His children. Don't, for one second, believe that it is our ruin. Nor is your harsh punishment of your child. The Bible also promises that your child will rise up and call you blessed.