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Beat those Kids for Jesus

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Michael Pearl :: Preacher's parental advice raises abuse questions

"Spare the rod and spoil the child" is the message Pastor Michael Pearl preaches to hundreds of thousands of parents. Perhaps even one-sixth of the nation's estimated three million home-schooling families follow his advice. Through the internet, book sales and conferences, Rev. Pearl teaches parents that they need to "switch" out the bad attitudes of their children by using willow rods or plastic plumbing pipes to beat the devil out of them. According to Pearl, his strategies are the "same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules." One of his books is even called "To Train Up a Child."

That's where Lynn Paddock of North Carolina says she learned the strategies which lead to her beating her children and suffocating to death her 4-year-old. Beat those kids for Jesus. Among the methods Pearl recommends to break those stubborn little mules include using willow tree switches on infants while older kids need to be whipped with belts and shrub branches.

Of course, Pearl is not responsible. He warns parents always to whip in joy, never in anger. Ironically, his ministry is called the "No Greater Joy Ministries."

Never mind that scientific authorities such as found at the American Psychological Association found several negative benefits of spanking while only found one positive benefit, compliance, which was short-lived. In other words, spanking is minimally ineffective while potentially being highly counterproductive. Any student of learning theory can tell you that of the forms of discipline, positive reinforcement always works best. Negative reinforcement, or the taking away of positive reinforcement, comes in second place. Time out is generally considered a type of negative reinforcement and is effective when consistently applied. The problem is that it takes work and a lot of people would settle for a quick fix, however temporary it might be. The least effective form of discipline is punishment, characterized by techniques such as degrading, getting mad, name calling, ranting and raving, scolding and whipping.

As to the argument, "spare the rod and spoil the child," I've heard it a million times. Many of the times have been from parents' of children whom I was evaluating for physical and/or sexual abuse on behalf of the state. Why, it's right there in the Bible, they say, about sparing the rod and spoiling the child. Forgive them. They know not what they say. Spare the rod and spoil the child comes from a poem by the English writer Samuel Butler. The actual Biblical verse from Proverbs 13:24 reads that "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." There is nothing about spoiling a child because you spare the rod.

Moreover, what are you to do if the child turns out to have ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and if spanking only makes the child meaner, what are you supposed to do if you want to follow the inerrant word of God found in the Old Testament? Are you to follow the command given at Deuteronomy 21:18-21 to turn a stubborn and incorrigible child over to the village elders for stoning to death? Sorry, but there are far more effective methods of parenting without resorting to brutal public executions of miscreant children.

Naturally, there are those like Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Research who say that "When science and the Bible differ, science has obviously misinterpreted its data." Or as the Right Reverend Jerry Falwell put it: "The Bible is the inerrant . . . word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible, without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etc." Let's do pray that he doesn't fall off the ends of the earth. Perhaps such beliefs help explain why 20 percent of Americans still believe that the sun revolves around the earth.

Nor should such beliefs be allowed to shelter child abuse. Not that I'm by any means that all parents who spank are being abusive. But I'm saying anytime you spank, you should consider it a failure that you have not used alternative and more effective parenting techniques to have ever prevented the problem in the first place.

My approach is that raising a child is a bit like handling a bar of soap in the shower. Squeeze too tightly and the bar shoots out of your hand. Loosen your grip too much and soap slides right on down. So while I'm at it, let me talk about the dangers of parents who are too indulgent.

Some parents seem to think that their children are their intellectual and moral equals. In other words, they treat them as equals who are fully capable of reasoning. They sound something like "please, honey, clean it up? Okay? I'm ready to go know and need you to clean it up." The consequences need to fit the actions. If a child spills a glass of milk then s/he needs to learn how to clean it up. One extreme is to yell at the kid and them how stupid they are and to otherwise punish them. The other extreme is to pity the poor baby and clean it up for them because you knew that s/he didn't mean it. This is also an extremely dangerous option for raising children.

Indeed, one of the worst cases I have ever seen in more than25 years of professional practice involves remarkably indulgent parenting. Take the case of Rex and Regina Dandelion and their offspring, Jr. Rex was highly successful and had been all his life. He had excelled as a child, at school, in athletics, the military and in business. While Rex had come from a wealthy family, he was often away enriching that fortune while Regina stayed at home and tended to Jr.

Unfortunately, little Jr. wasn't the brightest penny in the pile. Worse, he had significant learning problems. Jr. sure didn't appear like he would ever fill his daddy's boots. But mommy said her little Jr. was going to be an even bigger man than his daddy. So little Jr. could do no wrong. If he was to make a mess somebody always cleaned-up for him while praising him for having done so well. No matter how badly he did, his daddy always made sure that he got the very best results. Even when he was a young man, his daddy helped him get money for businesses that Jr. ran into the ground. But daddy always came to his rescue and by the time that Jr. became a grown man with a family man, he had never accomplished one thing on his own. So what do you think happen to this incompetent, spoilt-brat, Mama's boy? Among other things, he developed an arrogant sense of invincibility and started believing that he was God's chosen man because no matter how much he mucked up, things always came out smelling roses. Little Jr. also became president of the United States, in large part because of the vigorous support given to him by the crowd who believes that if you spare the rod, you spoil the child. Can there be a better example than Dubya of what happens when someone is given everything without ever having to earn it on his own merits? Can there be a better example of the hypocrisy of the right than for them so enthusiastically endorsing as their poster boy someone who is everything they say they despise?

Now, the great irony in this American tragedy is that it will not be the conservative crowd that uses the proverbial rod to discipline Dubya and posse. Right now, they appear more upset with him not stopping abortion and a future outbreak of gay marriage than they are about him having lied us into a deadly ambush called Iraq. The Great Decider might have once said that he didn't have to explain his actions to anyone but when November comes and a majority of Democrats win control of Capitol Hill, Dubya is going to finally heed the advice of his daddy. George Sr. will tell little Dubya that he needs to imitate the father and issue blanket pardons to everyone involved. And then, hopefully, Dubya will object by saying that it might make him look bad. Then the father can repeat Dubya's response when asked how he thought history would judge his administration: "Who knows what history will say? We'll all be dead by then."

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Richard Mathis Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

B. 1952, GA, USA. D. To Be Determined. Beloved husband, father, grandfather, lover, confidant and friend of many from bikers to Zen masters; American writer and speaker, known for his criticism of Mammon's unholy trinity of big business, big (more...)
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