Like Button

Friday, October 25, 2013

Parenting with a Rod?

A recent study from the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics tells us "Children who get spanked as early as age 5 have demonstrably more aggressive tendencies by the time they reach 9 years old." According to the article in the Medical Daily, "The data is admittedly foggy" (beginning with the fact that the study was solely with "Fragile Families" - families with unmarried parents who are "at greater risk of breaking up and living in poverty") but we can still be sure that it's bad. "There's just no evidence that spanking is good for kids,” Professor Elizabeth Gershoff, of the University of Texas at Austin.

No evidence? Interesting claim. Because another study suggests that "children who are spanked may grow up to be happier, more productive adults." Newsmax noted that "Two recent analyses – one psychological, the other legal – may debunk lenient modern parenting." Wait ... two? But didn't we just hear that there is just no evidence that spanking is good for kids? How can this be? Isn't science the god we worship? Odd.

One of those two studies came from Sweden "which 30 years ago became the first nation to impose a complete ban on physical discipline." Complete ban! Obviously this would produce skyrocketing child abuse rates (since they defined "corporal punishment" as "child abuse") (child abuse rates exploded over 500%). But, as it turns out, this "enlightened" parenting (the phrase, complete with quotation marks, is in the article, not from me) has produced more violent preadolescents and teens. Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics, these other studies are concluding that there can be benefits to corporal punishment. Of course, the U.S. media generally skips this kind of stuff, even when it comes from American sources. Dr. Diana Baumrind of UC Berkeley examined 164 families for over a decade and found that spanking can be helpful and "no evidence for unique detrimental effects of normative physical punishment" was found. "She also found that children who were never spanked tended to have behavioral problems, and were not more competent than their peers."

Okay, so here we are. You can go with scientism and run into the certain wall of conflicting studies. You can go with tradition and run with whatever that might be for you. Or you can go with Scripture. Oh, now, that would be a horse of a different color, wouldn't it?
Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him (Prov 13:24).

Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death (Prov 19:18).

The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother (Prov 29:15).

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him (Prov 22:15).

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol (Prov 23:13-14).

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:11).
The Bible seems to have a lot of input on the topic of corporal punishment. And it appears to include physical discipline -- spanking. Now, there are some who would like to argue that none of this says anything about spanking. So that whole "if you strike him with a rod, he will not die" is really hyperbole because you should never strike a child and, of course, if you never hit him or her, she will not die from it. Huh? "The problem," they assure me, "is that you're misunderstanding the words."

My problem occurs in Hebrews. Hebrews 12 (Heb 12:4ff) has a passage on discipline ... our discipline. It talks about God's discipline of His children. "The Lord disciplines the one He loves," it says (Heb 12:6). "Oh, that's okay," they tell me, "because 'discipline' simply means 'to teach'." But wait! What it says is "The Lord disciplines the one He loves and chastises every son whom He receives." Now that's a bit different. That second term is not "educates", but "scourges". Yes, with a whip. The context, in fact, begins with striving with sin "to the point of shedding your blood" (Heb 12:4). And this "chastisement" is said to be painful (Heb 12:11). Now, I have to tell you, this doesn't sound much like a "God-given timeout" to me. This passage suggests that God engages in painful means intended to teach us what we need to know. If corporal punishment is evil, then God is evil since this passage says He engages in it. And that, quite obviously, is a problem for me.

Now, I am opposed to child abuse. If child abuse is "physical, sexual, or emotional mistreatment or neglect of a child", I'm against it. (But I would consider neglecting a child's education by means of proper discipline as child abuse.) I would consider excessive physical pain abuse. I am opposed to striking a child in anger. I'm opposed to disciplining a child (with corporal punishment or otherwise) without love. And I am absolutely sure that sinful humans of all types can and do abuse this concept. But I would be cautious to make a decision regarding the very important subject of how to raise children -- the gifts God has given me -- based on questionable science, contrary studies, and modern, cultural "wisdom". I think, despite all the loud voices to the contrary, that I'd have to side with the Bible on this one and stand for the careful and measured use of loving corporal punishment. Now, there are voices out there that are arguing against it and I'm sure you can find some that you like better that tell you the Bible does not teach any such thing, but as for me, I'm kind of stuck with it. I can't see any way out of the conclusion that God's Word argues, despite all the studies you might want to cite, that loving parents applying loving discipline will use, on occasion, physical pain carefully applied. But you can check with my kids and see if they disagree now that they're all grown up and on the other side of that principle.


Danny Wright said...

Didn't you get the memo? "Science" isn't science unless it bolsters liberal opinions. It works like this:

1. We don't want there to be a God to which we are accountable, therefore, Evolution is a scientific fact.

2. We don't like our neighbors driving their cars on our roads and clogging them up, therefore, when they do we claim that it is a scientific fact that they are changing the temperature of the entire planet for doing it.

3. We don't like the way we feel when we think of a child being spanked (struck), therefore, that children grow up happier and healthier when this doesn't happen it is a scientific fact.

Stan said...

Yes, makes sense. "We don't like our neighbors clogging the roads, so we'll side with the science that says they're going to kill us all ... until, of course, we need to drive our SUVs to our favorite location. Then science is questionable."

David said...

I know there's always exceptions to the rules, but growing up, kids that never got punished for disobedience were not well-adjusted, pleasant people. My mother just had to deal with a non-punished teen that shoved over his mother and flipped off my mom. Can punishment go to far? Sure, but as the saying goes, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Anonymous said...

When we were young we knew if we broke the rules we'd get whipped with our clothes off. It hurt a lot but we learned to behave. I think there's something to be said for the old ways.

Stan said...

Anonymous, I think it's interesting that now, after thousands of years of corporal punishment as the norm (and, therefore, administered both by loving and unloving parents), the "smarter culture" has determined that this doesn't work. Given the fact that today's kids don't get that kind of discipline and training and today's kids are not a good example of well-behaved, polite, courteous, well-mannered kids, I'm not sure their argument holds water. All of that without even considering the clear presentation in Scripture that they're wrong. There is indeed something to be said for the old ways.