I've had the pleasure of being a part of a wonderful Gentle Christian Mothers forum since before my son was even born. Admittingly, I'm mostly a lurking presence on the board - even online, I'm shy as ever. But this forum has spoiled me.
I honestly came to believe that such beliefs were the norm for Christians.
I thought that Christians, being Christians, would automatically react with love and grace towards their children. That, knowing grace from our Heavenly Father, we would model it to our children. I thought Christians would guide their children gently but firmly, being positive and playful. I thought Christians would avoid heavy punitive parenting. I thought we would avoid resorting to physical force in order to bring children in line, but instead would find other more gentle yet firm ways to guide and correct them. I thought we would cuddle our babies and hug our toddlers and play with our preschoolers and enjoy our 'tweens and teens. I thought we would view our relationship with our children as one to be treasured rather than one of enmity and control. I thought we were willing to sacrifice (time, comfort, sleep, energy, etc) for our children.
I was wrong.
This has been coming to my attention gradually. First, a post on a different bulletin board from a non-Christian crunchy mom who disliked Christian homeschooling groups in her area because they were all pro-spanking and pro-CIO. Then, many similar experiences from other non-Christian moms who practice attachment parenting. Most recently, a post from a good (online) friend of mine, early 20's, single, no children. She was babysitting a two year old whose parents are overly permissive with him and who, as a result, has regular full out tantrums. So how did she handle it? She spanked him. Every time he had a tantrum.
I mean, it's one thing to spank your own child. I disagree with it for a number of reasons, but it's a parent's choice.
But to spank someone else's child??
And what's more, everyone agreed with her. No one expressed any surprise or disagreement with her spanking someone else's two year old. "Spanking's necessary," they all said. In every single one of their comments, the response sounded so cold and hard to me. They were talking about children, but it didn't sound like it at all.
I felt sick about it all evening. This girl is one of the kindest I know. One of those Christians that I look up to. Very close to God, very honest, very open, very sweet. And she spanks other people's toddlers?
So I asked my (currently) pro-spanking husband what he would think if a babysitter spanked his two year old.
He looked at me as though I was completely insane, and told me that babysitter would never be babysitting for him again.
I've recently read about churches who include sermons on spanking, even "how to" sermons. I can't believe this. Is this the sort of thing Christianity embraces? Is this how our husbands should gain submission over us wives? Hit us? Can you even imagine Jesus spanking a child? I can't.
Believe me, I think that permissive parenting is at least as bad, if not worse. But punitive parenting is not the only solution. Harsh punishments don't teach kids to make wise decisions, they teach them to lie and avoid getting caught next time. Or they teach them fear. Or they teach them that it's okay to hit. Or...or...or. None of them results that I want. I want my child to trust me, to know that I love him, to know that I'm always here for him (I am not only a parent during the daytime, or when it's convenient for me), to develop a maturity that leads him to make wise decisions of his own accord and not simply for fear of being punished (because what would happen then when the threat of punishment is removed?).
And so I find myself more and more at odds with popular Christian parenting advice. Like I said, Gentle Christian Mothers has spoiled me. I had no idea that other Christian mothers didn't want to keep their children physically close (babywearing, co-sleeping), that they believed that children as young as infants were capable of manipulation (and so refused to nurse their infants on demand or even at all during the night), or that they felt okay "training" their child using a harsh cry-it-out method (and were applauded for their "strength" in going through with it).
This Christian hippy housewife has different plans.