I no longer subscribe to cable television or a newspaper. My primary source of news is from the internet. Last week I came across a bizarre article, Spanking kids can cause long-term harm; Canada study. It seems that Joan Durant, a professor at the University of Manitoba, and co-author Ron Ensom, with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario at Ottawa, think that “spanking children can cause long-term developmental damage and may even lower a child’s IQ.” They did not know my father.
On Christmas Day 1957, I was five. Our family was celebrating the holiday with my father’s family at my grandfather’s farmhouse. For some unknown reason I threw my cousin Anne’s much coveted Christmas gift, a baby doll, into the living room fireplace. As it burst into flames; she burst into tears. Before I could bask in its glow and warmth my father turned my world upside down, literally. This was my first spanking (a wholly inadequate term). I was left with two impressions. The one on my posterior healed. The one on my psyche remains; respect what belongs to someone else.
The last time I remember my father disciplining me, I was fourteen. The corporeal punishments I received during the interim of these two events were not many, but they were memorable. I cannot recall a single time that my father punished me that I did not deserve it.
Solomon said, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him (Proverbs 22:15).” My father understood the principle that the foolishness of disrespect, selfishness and rebellion of authority can be driven out of a child’s heart by physical punishment. Many parents today don’t embrace this truth, because they do not understand what my father and Solomon did understand. They think physical punishment is barbaric and hateful. But the Bible says, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently (Proverbs 13:24).” A parent has to be both loving and disciplined to properly discipline a child.
Every time I witness a parent trying to negotiate terms of obedience with a three-year-old tyrant throwing a tantrum, or trying to bribe a child to be good, I am reminded of Proverbs 29:15. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.” Parents are supposed to love their children, not worship or adore them. It is shameful to do otherwise.
I do not believe that spanking is the sole means of disciplining a child nor, depending upon the circumstances, the most preferable, but there are times in child rearing when it is indispensable. For instance, it is appropriate when a child rebels against parental authority.
That is why I am concerned when Durant and Ensom write the sort of things they do and states like Mississippi want to make spanking a felony. Evidently the Hospitality State does not take kindly to parents spanking their children and is considering Senate Bill 2180. I can understand the lawmakers’ concerns. There need to be laws to address child abuse, because child abuse is on the rise. And for legislators it is a balancing act between what legitimate discipline is and what constitutes child abuse. But I hope they do not allow Durant and Ensom’s twenty years of research and more than eighty studies to supplant 2,500 years of biblical wisdom.
Durant and Ensom claim physical punishment predicts “aggressive and antisocial” behavior. I have never been arrested. They assert children who have been physically punished have “developmental difficulties” and are prone to “depression and substance abuse.” I am not pessimistic, nor am I an alcoholic or drug addict. Their studies “suggest it [corporeal punishment] may reduce the brain’s grey matter in areas relevant to intelligence testing.” If my father spanking me reduced my brain’s grey matter mass, it must have merely condensed it. I went back to college at the age of forty-two while working fulltime and carrying a full course load. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree while maintaining a 3.79 GPA. I recently took the GRE to gain access into a postgraduate program and scored better than two of my daughters in the verbal and quantitative portions, and they are both practicing Advanced Registered Nurse Practioners.
I am left wondering if Durant and Ensom had children. They said, “There are no studies that show any long term positive outcomes from physical punishment.” I am fifty-nine years old. Since that Christmas Day in 1957, I have not thrown someone else’s baby doll in the fireplace. That was more than fifty-four years ago. Study that.