I love my kids. I love them completely, unconditionally. There is no other love to compare it to in this present existence.
Romantic love, brotherly love…no comparison.
If God truly exists in some sort of paternal relationship with mankind that is beyond a human anthropomorphic rhetorical device, then I imagine my love for my kids…and their love for me…is about as close to an earthly glimpse of the Divine as we’ll get.
I appeal to your Conscience as a Christian parent…especially if you’ve been taught by a conservative fundamentalist evangelical church that beating your kids with rods “for Jesus!” and breaking their “spirit” is right and righteous. Let me be extremely clear: It is evil and you are wrong. You have bought into a lie.
Don’t hurt your kids. Don’t teach it, don’t rationalize it, don’t justify it. If you are hurting your kids now, stop. If you are a pastor who is teaching child discipline and you appeal to the Old Testament and verses that tell you to beat your kids with rods and leave stripes and scours (bruises and wounds)…and you teach that a parent must beat the “rebellious spirit” or “will” out of your children…you are teaching evil and you are sinning. Jesus does not want you to beat your kids into submission and Jesus does not force people into submission. You imposing your power physically and mentally and spiritually over your children to “break” them so they conform to whatever whim you have in your home is being a bully and is being an abuser and is an incredibly destructive misuse of the power and responsibility God has given you, toward the children he has also given you.
God does not want you to beat your children to “break” their will. That is what enemy military and the mafia does to extract information or to force compliance with a particular agenda…or to just be plain evil bastards who like to hurt and scare people.
Corporal Punishment Parent: “But, it is abuse to let my kids run wild without discipline! God says I’m to keep them in full submission! I would be a bad ungodly parent if I don’t ‘spank’ my children and make them conform!”
First, let’s define “spanking” and legal discipline…then let’s discuss the goal of discipline and the responsibility in discipline…and the child’s psyche and what science and statistics show are the results of corporal punishment that often opens the door from mere legal “spanking” to much more violent abuse.
All States (and Romans 13:1 applies here, read it) have Child Abuse laws on the books that define what is and isn’t “abuse”.
In the vast majority of States, the legal definition of abuse is hitting a child with an object or your hand and leaving bruises or marks or some sort of physical marker that the child was struck hard enough to leave a mark. Abuse also includes threatening a child (psychological and mental abuse) and scaring a child to death, as well as neglect (not providing basic necessities). Other “abuse” is defined as imprisonment, like locking a child in a small coat closet (my brother Geoff was imprisoned by my step-dad in a small coat closet as a form of discipline). Hitting and striking your child in the face or head with your hands is abuse. Punching or kicking your child is abuse. Grabbing your child violently and throwing them against a wall is abuse.
“Spanking” is not abuse when it leaves no mark, is done to a degree and in a manner that does not psychologically or physically harm the child. This is usually defined as using your hand on a clothed rear-end and not in an inordinate amount of blows and not a blow that would harm the child physically.
Do not “spank” your kids with belts, paddles, rods etc. Do not “spank” your kids while they are naked, that is a form of sexual abuse, you are forcing them to be naked in front of you in a very humiliating and vulnerable and dominated position. That is wrong.
All of the things I’ve described above have happened to me and my brothers (and more). I lived it. I witnessed it first hand. I will never be able to escape the memories of the abuse and while the physical scars have long healed, the spiritual and emotional and psychological scars are a part of who I am in both good and bad ways.
Parents, if you really truly “love” your children and want what’s best for them…do not hurt them. Do not have as your goal to “break their will” and to force conformity to your particular whim or agenda or view of a particular situation. You do not want God forcing you into compliance. You would press charges against me if I walked into your home, grabbed you by the collar and beat you into submission if I wanted you to stop doing something.
Your children are sentient human beings. I am a sentient human being. My brothers are sentient human beings. Your children have the same rights you do, they are just as important to God as you are.
There is nothing more dehumanizing than crushing the spirit of another human being using fear, force, violence and humiliation.
Let me repeat that and let it sink in: There is nothing more dehumanizing than crushing the spirit of another human being using fear, force, violence and humiliation.
Grown soldiers face years of issues after being tortured in prison camps, dominated, humiliated, hurt physically in an effort to “break” them. Men who go to prison and are beaten violently or dominated by other inmates face similar humiliation and have psychological and emotional scars that haunt them for life. How much more a child. How much more a child at the hands of the very people that are supposed to love them and protect them. How much more your pastor who represents “God” and “Jesus” to you and your family.
Child abuse is a prevalent problem despite public efforts of victims and advocates to raise awareness.
According to Child Help USA that tracks national child abuse statistics and advocates on the behalf of the abused, children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving more than 6 million children (a report can include multiple children). The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.
- A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds
- More than four children die every day as a result of child abuse.
- It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
- Approximately 70% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.
- More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
- Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
- About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
- In at least one study, about 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
- The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2008 is $124 billion.
- 14% of all men in prison and 36% of women in prison in the USA were abused as children, about twice the frequency seen in the general population.
- Children who experience child abuse & neglect are about 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.
- Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.
- Abused teens are more likely to engage in sexual risk taking, putting them at greater risk for STDs.
- One-third to two-thirds of child maltreatment cases involve substance use to some degree.
- In one study, children whose parents abuse alcohol and other drugs were three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-abusing families.
- As many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children.
- More than a third of adolescents with a report of abuse or neglect will have a substance use disorder before their 18th birthday, three times as likely as those without a report of abuse or neglect. –Statistics courtesy of Child Help USA, 2014 based on government data.
Fundamentalist conservative evangelical parent (and others)…if your true goal is to “help” your kids by providing loving boundaries so they have a chance at turning out to be good productive citizens as adults…the statistics overwhelmingly demonstrate that crossing lines into abuse is doing more to hurt your kids and more to ruin your kids than some nebulous “devil” and “enemy” you appeal to that is supposedly after their souls.
Parents, many of you are that “devil” that is ruining your kids. Many of you are the very evil you say you are against and guarding your kids from. If you want to screw your kids up big time, just do what my step-dad has done…hurt your kids, dominate them, force them into conformity, strip away their humanity and use fear and guilt and shame and beat any good they have right out of them. You cannot beat Jesus into your kids…but you sure as hell can beat Jesus out of them.
Personally, I refuse to spank my kids, even within the guidelines of legal spanking. I find it doesn’t work very well if the goal of discipline is to be rehabilitative and corrective rather than punitive and hurtful and retributive. I found most of the time the “spankings” we got growing up were more for my step-dad to release his rage and vent (akin to kicking the family dog) vs. the goal of loving corrective and a teaching moment. Even done responsibly, it just isn’t your best option and teaches your children that violence is a proper means of getting another human being to conform to your will. I don’t like that. You shouldn’t either. Violence should only be used in self-defense or the defense of others…never to force conformity onto another outside of a War context or a police action etc.
We employ a parenting philosophy we call Grace-based Parenting…and I lead that effort in our home. My wife came from a very healthy and loving Christian home that disciplined responsibly so she is not nearly as sensitive to the issue as I am…but she has seen the results of what happened to me and my brothers over the years and understands the dynamic and the cause-effect correlations that come with abuse.
My daughter is very obedient. Some kids are just born with a nature of compromise and wanting to get along. It is very easy to provide boundaries for her and we rarely have to discipline her…and when we do, it is after the rules were clear and there were chances to moderate the behavior (by verbal warning) before an actual punishment.
My son is not very obedient…he takes after his mother (don’t tell her I said that LOL, actually she recognizes it and it has caused her to thank her mother for being so patient with her growing up).
I love my son so much (as well as my daughter) and I knew early on that my role as his father would be very important in his development as I knew we were going to have a challenge in the home in incorporating his will and spirit into the family unit. I know full well the wrong way to handle him…which I count as one of the few good things, but a very important thing, to have come out of my abusive upbringing.
There is rarely a day that goes by without some sort of conflict in the home, in varying degrees, related to something my son has done or said or not done (or all three).
The first rule of Grace-based Parenting: Make up your mind early on and know that your goal is NOT to force absolute conformity and to have realistic goals and know and accept that your spirited child is…not might…but IS going to give you trouble. Don’t be shocked when he or she does. Know that the issue will be a recurring issue…just as there are things about you (parent) that you struggle with, sins that you struggle with all the time that you repeat and don’t conform to God all the way in some areas. Good parenting is a process…it’s not an event. You are not going to win every battle. Let me repeat that: YOU ARE NOT GOING TO WIN EVERY BATTLE. If you can accept that, if you are realistic about that, you will be doing yourself and your kids a great service. Strict 100% compliance on every issue is not the goal…no more so than you would respond to another adult in a more powerful position than you. Imagine if your boss at work treated you like you treat your kids…or if your spouse did (which happens often) or the cops did, or your pastor did or your doctor did etc.
The second rule of Grace-based Parenting: Don’t die on every hill. Pick your battles. Don’t make every last issue full-on nuclear war. Kids are human beings and they are full of energy, full of mischievousness and sometimes full of naughtiness. Remember, they take after you. Show some grace over petty issues. Give them the power to speak for themselves and the power to push back and explain themselves. Don’t silence your kids. Don’t take away their voice…that is very destructive. Have good boundaries…have rules…but not petty stupid stuff. We were often smacked in the head or face while our hands were forced to be kept at our side whenever our step-dad perceived a “bad attitude”. Don’t worry about a facial expression that expresses disappointment or discomfort or non-agreement. Your kids are human beings! Those are biological and physiological functions. They are not robots and they are not animals and they are not prisoner’s of war for God’s sake. We have Boundaries in our home and we do discipline. We choose to die on the big hills: Don’t hit your sister. Don’t hit your mom. Do your school work and chores. Make sure we know where you are. When big lines are crossed, we warn. After the warning, we enact a previously defined punishment (that is non-violent). This punishment usually results in the loss of a prized privilege (think video game use or playing or having to do additional chores). Lines are crossed often. Punishments are enacted, with and without an attitude. I don’t like being punished when I do something wrong…and I don’t expect another adult to force me to be happy about it for my “own good”. Let your kids be the human beings God created, don’t stifle all their emotions and personality and natural responses.
The third rule of Grace-based Parenting: Give your kids the power over their punishments. My son crosses the line…often. He does the crime…and he serves the time. But, he also has the keys to let himself out of punishment (metaphorically speaking, we DO NOT lock up our kids…I saw it happen to my brother growing up…he was forced to stay in a small coat closet in the dark and it was terrifying and evil, like solitary confinement in prison only done to a child). The punishment begins and we simply tell our kids…if you want to end your punishment then correct your behavior. When they correct that particular issue, then so ends the punishment (unless it’s hitting the other sibling, then the punishment stays in tact for its duration). Often times these punishments are over as soon as our kids finish their chores or complete their homework or correct whatever other behavior or task it is that mom requires. Our kids respond very well to this. It gives them some hope and tends to be much more corrective than punitive and retributive.
The fourth rule of Grace-based Parenting: Tell your kids how much you love them…often. Back it up with actions of love. Tell them you WILL NEVER hurt them in any way on purpose and that your goal for disciplining them is to correct a particular behavior or action…not because you are mad at them or because you say they are evil or bad or rebellious or whatever other verbal hurts abusive parents think of. Don’t tell your kids “God wants me to do this to you!” If you want to really screw up your kids…just tell them God told them to abuse you. We tell our kids that God does not want us to hurt them and that hurting them is wrong. When my son acts out toward me and screams at me…I ask him to stop and remind him that I don’t treat him that way and that I love him and respect him and I ask him why he thinks it’s OK for him to treat me in that manner. He usually responds very reasonably on these rare occasions and then I hug him and tell him I want to help him and ask him why he’s so upset. This empowers him. It makes him feel like he is truly loved and a human being, not an object, not a dog and not a prisoner in his own home. When you tell your kids you “love” them…and then you hurt them and yell at them all the time and crush their spirit and scare them and threaten them etc, they are not stupid. They know that you don’t love them…it’s just a word you use. Kids are very perceptive and they learn to not trust you very quickly when you cross lines and are abusive and mean towards them. When you lose your kids’ trust, you have failed miserably as a parent.
The fifth rule of Grace-based Parenting: Mom, dad….parents…I want to let you in on a little secret…you are a sinner, too…and you are wrong more often than you realize. Be honest with your kids, don’t have double standards and don’t be afraid to say, “I was wrong, please forgive me”. If your kids aren’t supposed to hit others and yell at others…how can you be a trusted and honest broker if you treat them much differently? If you lose your cool, repent quickly and let your children know you are sorry for your actions and that yelling was wrong…just as when they yell it is wrong. If you find yourself consistently losing your cool, you have a problem and you need to get help. It is not normal, both moms and dads, for you to fly off the handle all the time and to scream and yell and “lose your temper”. My step-dad was famous for his self-described “temper problem” which he used instead of his “child abuse problem”. If you cannot control yourself, if you cannot deal with another little human being not being perfect and not complying perfectly to your will and you freak out over this (my step-dad would blame his abusiveness on being “provoked” often by my brother Geoff…which is wrong, Bob is responsible for his own abusive behavior) then you have a major problem and you need professional help. Get it under control or you may end up in jail, you may end up on a blog someday and you will end up with grown kids who are damaged and who will never forget how you hurt them.
The “fruit” of Grace-based Parenting? My kids aren’t sinless perfect angels…they are good kids in general and both are very smart and very confident and very secure. Most importantly, they KNOW and believe they are loved…and they trust me and my wife. They believe me when I tell them, “I love you…I will always love you…and I will never hurt you”. The “fruit” of Old Testament Law-based parenting? Read the statistics…and read this blog and many others who have been abused.
I don’t know if my kids will or will not turn out well. That is ultimately between them and God and I cannot control that outcome. What I can control is how I treat them as their father.
April is Child Abuse Awareness Month…Church, Christians, Calvary Chapel and others…don’t hurt your kids…be a Grace-based Parent as Jesus wants you to be…and spread the word.