Tuesday, April 05, 2005

In response to Jennifer...

Wow, I love a good discussion! I knew when posting the original write-up to Kim below, that there would be some interesting responses and I truly appreciate them all. I will address Jennifer (who responded in the comments to my post to Kim) because she was the only one with questions and/or comments that necessitate an answer. I am thankful your post was not an attack and appreciate the dialog we can have as people on a subject we may never agree on. You gave me the opportunity to do further study and I hope you take the time to read my answers.

Like I said in my original post, you really need to read the entire book series to understand a lot of what is behind their words, and I always recommend this. Perhaps that is unfortunately, but I do think you can glean a lot from the first book alone. I am not going to attempt to speak for them entirely because they have a website and can do that pretty nicely for themselves. I will say that their entire book/tape/VHS series *have* been viewed by the local child protective services and they came away just fine. They do not advocate abuse in any form, but correction that is intended to sting to be a reminder.

In reality they do not tell us that we are to “thump” our babies on their heads. In the entire paragraph dedicated to this subject in To Train Up A Child they only state: “When the baby bit, she pulled hair (an alternative has to be sought for bald-headed babies). Understand, the baby is not being punished, just conditioned. A baby learns not to stick his finger in his eyes or bite his tongue through the negative associations accompanying it.” He ends the paragraph by saying, “The biting habit is cured before it starts. This is not discipline. It is obedience training.” This is the same type of association that happens when a child sticks his finger in the fire of a candle for the first time. If they are smart they don't do it again! They are not asking you to thump or beat or hit your child, but to tug on their hair so as to associate biting the nipple as a negative. Associating negative things with slight pain – or really discomfort with hair pulling - is effective without being mean or abusive.

The training sessions are not setting your child up to fail, but are helping them to learn to succeed in obedience. If I want my two year old to obey me without question when I call then I need to make sure she will do it when she is engrossed in an activity at home - where she is safe. If she does not come she gets a “swat,” as they term it, not a beating! She gets a small reminder of her need to listen to me at any time. What if we were in the parking lot of a busy store and she decided not to come to me when I called her and a car was approaching us? I am a busy mother of five and I need her to listen for her own safety. How is this harmful? You call this “B.F. Skinner behaviorism techniques.” I have no idea if this is the case, but it seems pretty straightforward to me and not riddled with any real psychological dangers.

You wrote about the Pearl’s children: “The Pearls are lucky that their children were grown and out of the house before they published TTUAC or I would have called Child Protective Services myself!” Well, someone *did* call CPS on them and as I linked above, I will do so HERE as well. I would say that there is no issue with CPS and we all know how strict they are when it comes to children.

With regards to their faulty doctrine, I completely agree and said as much in my original post below. I am a Reformed Presbyterian and while I am no Bible scholar, I do understand they have glaring theological errors. See this article for a good write-up on that.

Yes, I also agree that children are to be treated with respect, love, and honor, but they are to be trained and disciplined too. Spanking is not punitive – at least not the way it is supposed to be done. Certainly it is possible to view it in that way, but that is not the way the Pearls view it. They have always clearly stated that it is to be for training and discipline. “Train your child in the way he should go…” Christ bore our punishment, absolutely, but we do require training and discipline from our Savior too.

In fact, the Bible does say quite a bit about training with the rod and even God using the rod at times:

2 Samuel 7:14 (New American Standard Bible)
I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him.

Notice that it says that he will use the rod of men, but that His lovingkindness shall not depart from him!

Proverbs 13:24 (New American Standard Bible)
He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

Proverbs 22:15 (New American Standard Bible)
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13 (New American Standard Bible)
Do not hold back discipline from the child, although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.

Proverbs 29:15 (New American Standard Bible)
The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

Now, do I think the rod is a means unto its own without the love behind it? Absolutely not! In their chapter entitled "Tying Strings," they state:
There is a mystical bond between caring members of a loving family. I can look at each of my children and feel that union. It is as if we were joined by many strings of mutual love, respect, honor, and all the good times that we have had together. When two or more people are living together, their interests, opinions, and liberties sometimes clash. Selfishness, indifference, pride, and self-will often cut the strings that unite. When there is not a constant tying of new strings, family members soon find themselves separated by suspicion, distrust, and criticism. The gap can grow so wide that family members become virtual enemies. When this happens between parent and child, it is a serious crisis.
Then they say later on in that chapter:
Tie some strings. You must be knit together with your child before you can train him. Confess your failure to God and to your child. Ask your child to forgive you for anger and indifference. At first he will suspect it is just a manipulative ploy on your part and will keep his distance. But when he sees that you are sincere, he will respond with forgiveness. Begin the rebuilding process immediately.
Then they say:
The strongest cord of discipline is not found in the whip; rather, it is the weaving together of the strings of mutual love, respect, honor, loyalty, admiration, and caring.
If you will cultivate fellowship with your child, you will have such cooperation and compliance that you will forget where you last left the rod.
This does not sound like abuse or punitive punishment to me.

As always, warmly written,


Imladris2 said...

Thanks so much for responding, Kate, and not with the usual attacks we anti-TTUAC folks usually get.

In the state of California (for sure in Orange County, but I think its probably statewide), spanking your child with anything except your hand is against the law, so i guess that's where my frame of reference is based when it comes to child abuse and when social services would intervene. I used to work for a large non-profit organization that helps abused and neglected children so I've seen a lot of abuse cases, many of which became social services cases because the parents excessively spanked. This organization's techniques are, in part, based on behaviorism, so I am aware that it does work, however, spanking or pulling hair or whatever is not the only way to condition a child. In fact, research shows that it is not the most effective way to train a child.

As for the "rod" passages you listed, I'm wondering if you had the chance to look at the link I posted in the other comments to a Bible study on the "rod." I think it might be a valuable read for you as this lady shows that "rod" does not always mean a tool used to "spank" children. The *principle* here is to discipline children- if we neglect to discipline our children, they will end up hating us.

I understand that they love their children and that they do not intend to be abusive. I understand that they emphasize tying heart strings but I don't understand how this works when they recommend that you switch your child every time they don't come when called. And aren't you kind of setting up your child to fail if you put a tempation in front of them you KNOW they can't resist? You know they will fail going into it. I guess its all in the way you look at things.

I made a mistake when I suggested that the Pearls' techniques are based on BF Skinner (operant conditioning). Its actually more like the classical conditioning developed by Pavlov (remember Pavlov's dogs?). Its not biblical- its psychological technique. I apologize for the mistake.

I guess it really is in the way you look at things. We won't be using the Pearls' techniques because we believe them to be abusive. I was spanked as a child once in a while and I don't consider that abuse. Its being spanked for every single offense, whether minor or major, that we find to be abusive. We also take issue with spanking very young children (under a year) when all they can understand about what is happening is that mommy or daddy is hurting them. We don't believe spanking is as effective as treating our child (and children in the future :-) as God our Father treats us. God doesn't hit us when we sin. He teaches us to follow Him by allowing us to live out the natural consequences of our actions. If I break the law by speeding and I get pulled over, I receive a ticket. We believe spanking to be punitive so we won't be using it.

How one parents is a personal choice- there is no one way to parent biblically. We can respectfully disagree and even have strong opinions about it. I get the feeling that the Pearls believe that theirs is the only way to do things and that if you don't do it their way, you aren't parenting biblically. I couldn't disagree more.

I appreciate that you have thought about these issues, Kate, and that you have thoughtfully defended your position. I respectfully disagree with you, but I am grateful for the respectful forum you have created to discuss these issues.

Sorry for the long post. Maybe I should write something about it on my blog instead of filing up your comments :-) I have to get going though. My son is crying and I feel that a good cuddle is in order. Take care!!

Imladris2 said...

Oooh, just found another mistake in what I said. I commented that, in CA, it is unlawful to spank a child with an object other than one's hand. This is how I was trained where I worked. HOWEVER, in doing a bit more research, I found the following:


Its an opinion in which the former Attorney General concludes that it is not unlawful to spank a child with something other than an open hand when "the punishment fits the crime" so to speak and when the object used is reasonable. I am unsure as to whether or not this is the actual law, but I am quite confident that switching your child when they don't come into your presence the first time they are called would not fall under this provision.

Sorry for my mistake :-)

Anonymous said...

Another "rod" advocate I remember reading stated that it is actually been shown to be better to use a *small* switch from a medical viewpoint. When a parent spanks with the hand it can too easily become a beating with a blunt object whereas a very thin rod (like they and others advocate - similar to the willow switch from days gone by) you only get a surface sting.

I wish I could remember where I heard it and could verify it though.


BGK said...

I think your exegesis was thoughtful and your assesment accurate.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, some people are so "Pearl-phobic" that if you say To Train Up a Child has some good points they consider you a potential child abuser. Personally, while I don't agree with everything the Pearls say, I do believe their basic principles (obedience, parent-child fellowship) are sound. It is good you have quotations to back up your belief that the Bible does not condemn spanking. Rather, I think the onus is on those who say corporal punishment is NOT advocated in the Bible to prove that the rod is simply a "metaphor."

Emily (ehelgersen@yahoo.ca)