Earlier this year, in February, I wrote about an article I came across entitled Spanking kids can cause long-term harm; Canada study. In it Joan Durant, a professor at the University of Manitoba, and co-author Ron Ensom, with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario at Ottawa, wrote that “spanking children can cause long-term developmental damage and may even lower a child’s IQ.” Their words did not go unnoticed.
In an editorial dated September 4, 2012, in the Canadian Medical Association Journal the editor-in-chief John Fletcher agreed with Durant and Ensom. Fletcher opined, “Parents need to be re-educated as to how they discipline their children.” But Fletcher takes the matter to another level when he says, “It’s not just parents that need to change, though. The law needs to be changed too.” He calls for the abolishment of section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada that permits parents to spank. The following is almost a verbatim reprint from my February article.
On Christmas Day 1957, I was five. We were celebrating the holiday with 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 my father turned my world upside down, literally. This was my first spanking (a wholly inadequate term) I can remember. 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 wrote in Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from him.” 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 hateful. But the Bible says the opposite is true in Proverbs 13:24, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”
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. If a child never learns to respect the authority of parents he can see, he will not learn to respect the authority of the Father he cannot see.
I understand the concerns. There need to be laws to address child abuse. 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 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 are prone to “depression and substance abuse.” I am not 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 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 sixty 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-five years ago. Study that.
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