Monday 3 September 2007

I've Been Spoiled

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.


  1. Welcome to the wide world of fundamentalist Christians! It's staunch. It's unwavering.

    It's also quite the opposite of Jesus.

    I have friends who still spank their teenagers.

    When my son was four, he and his sister were invited to the circus with another family. Once my son got to their house, he got very homesick (this was his first time to do something like that away from us). He wouldn't stop crying. Before calling me to come get him, they tried many different things, one being the father threatening to spank him!!!!

    There's not enough room in this little box to explain how this still makes me feel today.

    I'm glad you're spoiled. It's a pleasure to easily be able to surround yourself emotionally with those that support your Christ-like parenting.

    The only other non-spanking mother I know in our whole town is Pagan. How backward is THAT?

  2. Spanking is certainly not the only method of disiplince, however, it is a Biblical method.

    Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof five wisom. But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.

    Proverbs 22:15 Foolisihness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

    Proverbs 17:10 A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understaning than a hundred blows into a fool.

    It seems to me the only verses in the Bible that deal with discipline either mention using the rod "spanking" or rebuke and reproof. I believe it is Biblical to use the two together.

    That does not mean you have to spank your child for every wrong heart attitude, there are other forms of discipline to employ, but you must be consistant in rebuking your child's heart, whatever the method.

    Spanking is definately a hot button issue. I suppose the thing to remember when talking to other Christians about discpline is that each probably truely believes are are doing what is Biblical.

    I think spanking is Biblical, (although there are some qualifiers regarding how it should be done-mostly with a right heart) you disagree. I know you must believe not spanking is biblical,so you do not use it. End of story, there does not need to be hostility on either side of the issue.

    To imply that those who spank don't react with love an grace towards our children is insulting. To say that those who spank are not guiding thier children gently but firmly is sad. TO think that I, although I spank my son do not cuddle and hug my baby boy is absurd.

    It is okay to share you opinions, but you are so harsh in doing so. There is a clear division of Christians who spank their children and don't spank them, but we should not be so thoughless to one another.

  3. @Anon, I don't see how those verses support spanking...but that's really beside the point.

    I'm not sure how you got any of that out of what I wrote. I'm sorry that you did. I was writing about so much more than just spanking. I was writing about my own discovery of the attitude within parts of the Christian church that children are things to be brought into submission by any means necessary, not to be held too much for fear of spoiling them, not to have things explained to them because they should just jump when their parents tell them to without needing to know why, and so on and so forth. It was that controlling and heavily punitive method of childrearing that I was talking about - not merely spanking.

    And althought this post is more than a year old, I still very much see this attitude coming from Christians more than I see it coming from anyone else. I think that is such a sad reflection of what the church has become. Regardless, if that's not you, then good - great. I wasn't talking about the sort of parent you are.

    You're right, it is absurd to assume that a parent who spanks their child does not cuddle and hug them as well - thank goodness I wasn't suggesting as much.

    I'm sorry that you were insulted and felt that I was harsh. It was harsh for me to discover that this attitude was so prevalent in the Christian church, when I had been surrounded by a group of Christian women who didn't have that authoritative attitude as far as their children were considered. It still makes me very sad - and if that showed through in my words, well, I'm afraid I still stand by them.

  4. So I just came across your blog the other day, and I just wanted to say I loved this post even though it is like 3 years old. LOL
    Thanks for the encouragement to be a loving, grace-filled parent. :) I often have that feeling of "Am I crazy or did that person really just say _____" whether it is about discipline, a breastfeeding myth, etc. Nice to hear I'm not the only one that feels that way sometimes.