NY Times on Spanking

I wrote a post a while ago on child discipline and spanking, interrogating whether or not spanking is violence.  The post relied implicitly on Michael and Debbie Pearl and their books on child training.  For those who found that post interesting, I would like to direct them to an article in the New York Times today on the Pearls and recent deaths possibly associated with their child disciplining methods.  Any thoughts?

4 Responses to NY Times on Spanking

  1. Rachel says:

    First of all, I think these stories are so sad. Those kids and any kids should never be treated this way. I can’t believe some parents can be so out of their minds that they would act out in these cruel ways.
    I have read several of the Pearl’s books. I think that people are quick to make a judgement of them just like people are quick to pick something out of the bible and twist it. If you really were trying to be the best parent then you would read his books and take what you can apply to your family and leave the rest, but read the book thoroughly as not to leave certain parts left out.
    I spank my children, but rarely and I hate doing it. No parent should enjoy or spank their children uncontrollably. It always has to be when you are calm, and then to talk to them afterward about why they received a spank and make sure they know they are very loved.
    I think the same applies for not disciplining your children at all. I know a family that uses no form of discipline in their home. Their children have told my children that they hate their parents. My kids don’t want to hang out with them anymore because of how mean they are. People judge home schooling families just like anyone, but did you know that in public schools, they are having their kindergartners sign a pledge that they will be drug free that year? Most of the kids don’t know what drugs are and then learn from their teachers what drugs are. Planting information in their head that they are not ready for. I have met parents who kids bully my kids in their sports, and their parents are the most wealthy and prestigious people in the community. How do they discipline their children? They don’t, they just yell at them in public uncontrollably.

    So no, I don’t think the Pearls are to blame. The parents themselves are to blame. I have met parents who spank and parents who don’t spank and they both have amazing, happy children. I don’t think it has to do with how they discipline, it has to do with how much time they spend with their children, how much energy and love they invest in their children, and how the family is together behind closed doors. Whether you discipline with time out, spanking, or both, at least you are taking time to train your children. No children will learn about right or wrong without learning first how to obey and why they need to obey.

    I have not read the Pearl books to learn about how to spank as much as I have read them to continue to inspire me to be a better parent. They incorporate their children in with everything they do. Whether they are baking, hunting, building a shed, canning, or driving a tractor, they always have one of the kids working alongside them. Our kids are happiest when we do that with them. Yes it takes more time to get things done, and it ALWAYS makes more of a mess, but we are making memories and enjoying being together at the same time. So get out and enjoy your children, the time goes by way too fast.

  2. arbutustree says:

    If you hit an non-consenting adult the way the Pearls instruct their followers to hit a child, it would be the crime of assault and battery. It’d be animal abuse if someone were caught beating a dog like this. I’ve never understood why it’s not assault and battery to beat a child. However, I do remember that there was a time in America when animal abuse laws were used to prosecute child abuse, as there were no laws on the books to protect children.

    Direct quote from To Train Up a Child:

    “At this point, in utter panic, he will rush to demonstrate obedience. Never reward delayed obedience by reversing the sentence. And, unless all else fails, don’t drag him to the place of cleansing. Part of his training is to come submissively. However, if you are just beginning to institute training on an already rebellious child, who runs from discipline and is too incoherent to listen, then use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender. No compromise. You are to rule over him as a benevolent sovereign. Your word is final.”

    I don’t quite see how the Pearls can claim that they didn’t advocate lengthy and brutal beatings given this.

  3. Dan Orr says:

    I still fail to understand how spanking is not a kind of hitting. Perhaps you can draw a picture of spanking without hitting. That would be helpful.

  4. Ben Dunlap says:

    It sounds like the parents described in the NYT article were under severe psychological strain, to state it gently — probably can’t really generalize at all from those situations.

    That said, I think the Pearls have an impoverished view of human nature. I don’t have any problem with corporal discipline/punishment in principle, and the basic practical guidelines the Pearls give are very helpful — don’t spank in anger, spank to train rather than to punish, one’s “technique” should aim at getting the child’s attention without causing physical harm, etc.

    But some of the scenarios described in the book seem more appropriate to dealing with an animal than a human person. Pearl talks about giving a child a toy and letting the child become thoroughly engrossed in it — then calling for the child’s attention and applying discipline if the child doesn’t immediately leave off of the toy.

    The implication that I saw in this was that being at the beck and call of one’s parents trumps all. This is not self-evidently true and I don’t recall that Pearl argues for it apart from a far-fetched anecdote about the time he had to tell his kids to jump out of a moving vehicle because of an impending collision that only he could see coming, and they just did it without hesitation. Thus saving their lives, or something.

    On the contrary, I would think that even a very small child has a certain interior integrity that its parents must respect, and intrude upon only with great trepidation and when absolutely necessary — and definitely not in the course of a contrived conditioning exercise. We are stewards of our children, not slave-owners.

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