(Note before you read: Although I am very concerned about the results in any family who is spanking, my main concern in communication with FOF is their faulty teaching)
Thank you for your response. You are right, I do care very much about this topic, and about the impact FOF is having on the Christian community and the world at large. I am not a person who enjoys the “Mommy Wars” found so often in online communities. My main concern is not the parents who are carrying out corporal punishment in a “perfect” manner, because they so choose. My concern is for those who’re preaching that parents must spank to obey God, and for the imperfect parents trying to carry out these practices, fearing God’s displeasure if they do not discipline in this specific manner. This is what I find so dangerous, because a) parents are not perfect, and will not carry out this punishment with perfect control everytime, and b) if they fail, or the discipline doesn’t work to correct the behavior, they may continue it anyway, out of fear of disobeying God.
You stated in your response to me that, “a parent who is denied the use of [spanking] during this [early] phase of the confrontation may find that irritation, frustration, and anger increase as the problem continues unresolved”. As a long-time follower of Focus on the Family, I need you to be aware that the same thing occurs (mounting irritation, frustration, and anger), even when a parent starts out early in the confrontation with spanking, in the manner set forth by Dr. Dobson, if it does not resolve the behavior. Then, what has developed is an angry parent, with hand raised, not knowing what to do next. It is a very frightening, and very common, situation! Add to this the fear of disobeying God, and you have a parent repeating this tactic, with the same results, and no end in sight. The household can become a battleground. A family should not be so!
A major turning point in thinking for my husband and I was when we viewed a DVD set by the Rainy’s (which was purchased from Focus on the Family, if I’m not mistaken), entitled “Beginning at the End”. You may be familiar with the principle behind the title, which is, to think in the beginning of parenting, what kind of adult you want your child to become.
Towards the middle to end of the set, Mrs. Rainy related a time in their parenting years when spanking became so frequent, that she was becoming exhausted. (I should mention here that both Dr. Dobson and the Rainys suggest spanking harder, and more frequently, when the spanking doesn’t correct the behavior the first time.) At this point, she’d been spanking harder and more frequently, until, for the peace of their home, and to prevent further exhaustion on her part, they compiled a list of alternative discipline tactics to use instead of spanking, and posted it on the refrigerator, for use on such trying days.
It became quite obvious to us what we needed to do for our son and our household: begin at the end. That’s when we began searching for alternative discipline tactics. It makes me very sad for Mrs. Rainy that they did not do this in the first place. I can’t imagine the hurt a mother must feel at spending days on end in such a battlefield against her own child. It truly breaks my heart for families.
When we started researching other tactics, they were surprisingly difficult to find! Especially on Christian websites! Which is how we happened upon gentlechristianmothers.com. From there, we found GOYB Parenting.com, (which has by far been the most helpful tactic), ways to sooth a tantrum, teach our child (and ourselves) better ways to handle anger and calm down, ways to recognize the underlying need causing the behavior, and ways to model and teach the right way to behave instead. This is the kind of adult we want to see our child become.
I completely agree with you that there must be consequences for misbehavior. We believe the consequence must make sense, and hitting never really made much sense in any circumstance. (We’ve never had a problem with our children hitting other children, either.)
In the history of our country, the Bible has been misused, intentionally and unintentionally. I do not believe it is the intentional purpose of Focus on the Family to misuse Scripture, but that is what I see happening. There are verses in the OT which state that if a slave owner beats his servant to the point of death, they should be punished. People used to think this meant it was okay to own slaves, and beat them, as long as they didn’t die from a beating. If we were to follow the rod Scriptures exactly, we would literally need to beat our children with literal rods. But, we don’t, because we’re willing to admit it should be taken somewhat figuratively. (There is some doubt cast on if the verses refer to actual children, or adult offspring in rebellion.)
As I mentioned before, Christ showed us a different way, other than stoning, for women caught in adultery. We also know that, in the OT, adult children were commanded to be stoned, if caught in rebellion. But, Jesus gave us the parable of the prodigal son. Surely, if you cannot accept a figurative interpretation of the rod verses, you can see that Jesus meant for us to handle things in a different way.
When else in life is it okay to hit people? It’s only “okay” to hit children because they’re smaller than us, and we can get away with it? My children, including my very spirited, strong-willed son, have learned to obey, without us hitting them.
Again, I don’t presume to change the minds of our culture about spanking, but I beg of Christian ministries to stop teaching as though it is, without a doubt, God’s best plan for discipline. As Christians, we ought to be coaching parents on ways to control their anger, and disciple their children to obey, in effective ways. Instead, Christians everywhere are hitting their children in the name of “love”. It may “work” for some families, but we have to accept it may not really be what God meant for us to be doing, and it doesn’t always work, ESPECIALLY for strong-willed children.
Again, I love Focus on the Family ministries. It has been the light on my path for ten wonderful years of marriage. But, I am repeatedly dissappointed and ashamed of Christians telling other Christians that they must hit their children, because God says so. It is, in my opinion, the “gateway drug” to abuse in families. So, I just need you to know, in love, it doesn’t work, and it isn’t right to keep telling parents they must. In a way, I view Dr. Dobson as a loving “grandpa” in my life, with whom I’ve had a disagreement. I pray he’ll do the right thing.
With Sincerity of Heart, and Christian Love,
[My Real Name]