I originally intended to lead with a discussion of the "spanking sticks" that are offered for sale and even for free on various xtian websites. The Idea is that the correct (xtian) way to encourage positive behavior from children is to use corporal punishment. Admittedly, some of the web sites were neo-nazi's or extreme fundamentalist but if they think it is a good idea then it must be. Specifically, without physical punishment children will grow into vicious monsters. Godless heathens that will in-turn destroy all that is holy. This is keeping with the entire xtian belief that humans are basically evil (sinful) and must have punishment or the threat of punishment to be good. In the big picture it is heaven and hell. In the day-to-day realm of bringing up children it works the exact same way. If that was true then wouldn't 2000 years have completely removed misbehaving children? Oh wait - no, we are not capable of being good because we are sinful and evil without a threat of punishment. This is the mindset behind the old Danish saying; beat your children every day, if you don't know what they did wrong - they do.
Does physical punishment, even in the extreme, actually work? Nope, not really. An oft quoted example comes from Victorian England. The punishment for being convicted of picking pockets was public hanging. The most common place for a pocket to be picked was during public hangings. Highly effective eh? I admit it works in the short term - some times. Those that were executed never picked another pocket. Children who are beaten for a discretion sometimes do not repeat that behavior. It is expeditious when a parent can't or won't find the root cause for the behavior and correct that. It works great for the lazy or stupid. It conforms to ancient myth and ritual. In fact, it has worked so well that now we have no crime from any church-goer. I have a friend that is involved in security at Disneyland - are you aware that shoplifting increases drastically when church groups visit? The Happiest Place On Earth increases security staff whenever there are large xtian groups. They don't require additional staff for most other large groups. Albeit somewhat anecdotal, it would certainly seem to disagree with the premise that those children that are beaten are better behaved.
I used the word "beaten" and some may take exception to that. Spanking and beating are different they would say. Really? How are they different? Is it the speed that the hand/fist makes contact? Is it where the blow falls? Is it whether or not the hand holds a chunk of wood? A wire hanger? A bull whip? These are varying degrees of the same thing. Physical violence encourages physical violence. Less than a week ago I was standing outside a restaurant waiting for a table. On a bench a few feet away was a family with three or four children milling around bored from the wait. Two of the children began quietly arguing over a toy that one refused to share. The tussle escalated to one child (the smaller of the two) hitting the other. The Mommy grabbed the child, slapped her and loudly exclaimed "stop hitting your sister!" I was instantly reminded of a cartoon that appeared in Mad Magazine in the 60's with the nearly exact same situation. It was almost laughable- I don't find the slap funny but the irony of the mothers words. It has been said that spankings do for a child's development what fistfights between spouses do for a marriage - they encourage physical violence to end disputes.
There are those that would say it is the very lack of parental violence that is ruining our children and causing the decline of the family. I don't agree with either of those ideas and don't know of any statistical support for them but spare the rod and spoil the child, right? I'd like to quote Alan E. Kazdin, professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University and director of Yale's Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic. He is also president of the American Psychological Association and author, most recently, of The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child. "Despite the rise of the timeout and other nonphysical forms of punishment, most American parents hit, pinch, shake, or otherwise lay violent hands on their youngsters: 63 percent of parents physically discipline their 1- to 2-year-olds, and 85 percent of adolescents have been physically punished by their parents. Parents cite children's aggression and failure to comply with a request as the most common reasons for hitting them." Oddly, (perhaps not) the percentage of Americans who profess membership in xtian-based churches are just about the same as those who physically discipline children aged 2 and under - (approximately 60%). What was that again? "Parents cite children's aggression ... as the most common reason for hitting them." I don't believe that I am the only person who find a dichotomy there.
I began a draft of this blog post just before Jaycee Dugard was discovered alive after 18 years of captivity. She was abducted when she was eleven - literally snatched off the street near her home by a very, very bad person. That person just happened to have a blog where he discussed how his invisible friend jesus had "blessed" him with the ability to control minds. He rambled and ranted and raved about it with all sorts of other nonsense. I would be willing to bet that he was raised in a corporal environment well before he was a convicted sex offender and later a kidnapper and rapist. Is there a connection between beating our children and mental illness? Yes. Does violence teach children to be violent? Yes. Do some xtians abuse children? Yes. Does xtian dogma encourage beating children? Yes. These are related.
The larger question of course is; does physical violence improve the quality of anyone's life? Go ahead beat them just like the invisible friend decrees, if that doesn't work there is always a pharmaceutical answer.