Parenting Positively Means Much More Than Not Hitting

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Din Jimenez.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on May 11, 2015.

Yesterday as Sally climbed into the car, she knocked over a can with flowers in it, something she’d brought home from school, and in the process spilled water on the seat. Sally began to fret about the water, but I didn’t have a towel or other rag in the car. Since we were about to head home home, I suggested that she sit on the wet spot, soaking up some of the water with her dress, and that she could change when we get home. Sally responded that the water was in a corner of the seat, so she couldn’t.

By this time I’d been out with the kids to the park and elsewhere an hour and a half, and we’d already had to go back to the park because Sally left her backpack there, and I was feeling overwhelmed and annoyed. So when Sally followed her fretting about the water up by saying she couldn’t soak it up with her dress, I was just done.

Fine,” I said. “But if the car rots—”

And there I stopped myself. I’d been about to say “if the car rots, it’s your fault!” But then the entire point of such a statement would be to make Sally feel bad—to use guilt and blame to manipulate her feelings. This is the kind of thing I’m trying very hard not to do! Sally already felt bad that she had spilled the water and was already worried about the car. Why make her feel worse? Why wield her own emotions and feelings as a weapon against her? That’s really not okay.

So when I actually finished the sentence, it looked like this:

Fine. But if the car rots—we’ll deal with it.”

Sally looked relieved as she buckled her seatbelt. “That’s right mom,” she said cheerfully. “We’ll deal with it!” And somehow, just like that, the mood shifted from antagonistic to cooperative.

Giving up corporal punishment was easy. It’s giving up the rest—the myriad ways parents can be punitive and negative in their parenting—that is difficult. Not physically abusing a child is so much easier than not emotionally abusing them.

While I was at the park, before Sally left her backpack and then spilled the water, I observed an interaction between a father and son. My own son Bobby was swinging, as I gave him pushes, when a little boy of about two came up and wanted to use the swing. His father tried to call him away, telling him he should come play on the playground equipment until the swing was open. The boy stepped back and stood by the swings. His father called to him again, from about fifteen feet away, but the boy didn’t move.

“I’m waiting!” the boy explained.

I could hear the boy’s words because he was standing only a few feet away, but his father could not. Instead, all he saw was a boy who wasn’t doing what he said. The father was growing increasingly upset and agitated, and began raise his voice.

Get over here and play like I told you to!” he yelled at his son.

I winced. Who would want to go play when told to do so in such a tone?

The boy’s father did not take the time to come over to his son, get down on his level, and have a conversation with him. If he had, he would have known that the boy understood he would have to wait his turn for the swing, and simply wanted to stand by the swings and wait patiently. If the father, for whatever reason, had still wanted the boy to go play on the playground equipment, he could have explained that to him, and they could have talked about it, and the boy probably would have listened. But he didn’t do any of this. Instead, he yelled at his son in the middle of a park outing.

The thing is, on some level I understood. The father was there alone, without the backup of a parenting partner, and he had a baby under his arm. I used to go to the park on my own with Sally and Bobby when Bobby was a baby too, and it could be very trying. The boy may have spent the drive to the park fretting about something or nagging his father for something, or the father may have had short nerves for other reasons—he may have had a hard day at work, or perhaps things were tight financially.

I know how easy it is to snap, to become frustrated and angry. Raising little people is hard work, and just being an adult in and of itself can be stressful. I’ve raised my voice on occasion too. But just because something is understandable does not make it justified. As parents, we need to call ourselves to extremely high standards, because we hold our children’s hearts in our hands.

We often talk about parenting as though there are abusive parents and good parents—a dichotomy of sorts—but real life isn’t this simple. It’s a continuum. Some abusive parents are more abusive than others, and plenty of parents we wouldn’t term abusive are sometimes unkind to their children or parent in suboptimal ways. For some, this dichotomy may make it easier for bad parenting to go unchecked, because being self-critical of our own parenting can be difficult when the only parenting categories out there are “good” and “abusive.”

In our society today there’s also much more recognition of the problem of physical abuse than there is of the problem of emotional abuse. Emotional abuse can be horrific. I know people whose parents never laid a hand to them who were nevertheless horribly abused. In fact, in my experience, the effects of emotional abuse can last longer and be more severe than the effects of physical abuse. Even parents who are not emotionally abusive overall may do things on the emotional abuse checklist at some point without even realizing it. We are in serious need of awareness raising regarding emotional abuse and children.

I find it helpful to think in terms of practicing healthy relationship skills with my children. Would I have snapped at a friend if she spilled some water in my car, angrily telling her that if the car rots, it’s her fault? No. Would that father in the park have yelled at a friend of his for not coming when called, rather than walking over to him to clarify the plan? No. Sure, adults and children are at different developmental levels and different developmental needs, I get that, but I think remembering that a friend could walk away but your child can’t is incredibly important. We need to get serious about how we treat our children.

While I understood the frustration the father in the park felt—as perhaps will anyone who has been to the park with an infant and toddler—I felt strongly for his son, who was trying to communicate and in response being ignored and yelled at. In the car with Sally, I was only able to stop myself and turn the conversation around because I paused for a moment to step out of my frustration and put myself in my daughter’s shoes. As parents, we need to do that more often.

Parental frustration should be a prompt to be careful about our actions toward our children, not an excuse for bad behavior. A boss taking out his frustration at his impending divorce and the collapse of his home life on his employees may be understandable, but no one would see it as justified. I think we as a society make more allowances for bad parenting than we realize. Because of their dependence—and because they cannot simply walk away—children are incredibly vulnerable, a sort of captive audience. We should see that as a reason to be only more careful about how we treat them.

If you’re a parent, there are probably times you’ve snapped at your children when you shouldn’t have, or times you vented your own frustrations onto your children. I know I have! Some mothers, especially those raised in abusive or dysfunctional families, beat themselves up over their mistakes and wonder whether they are “bad” mothers (there’s that dichotomy again!) or worry that they are becoming their parents. Other mothers glibly point out that “no parent is perfect” and then go on their merry way without a further thought or any intent to do better in the future.

I would call for a different response, one where past mistakes lead not to dwelling on guilt but rather to resolve to do better in the future, and where mistakes aren’t glibly justified as acceptable rather than merely understandable. We may not be able to control actions we took in the past, but we can control our actions in the present. We can also apologize when needed. Our children don’t need to think we’re perfect. There’s no facade we need to uphold—they can see right through it. Being honest and real with our children is important.

Parenting in a healthy and positive way means so much more than just not hitting your child. It’s not something I could achieve immediately or automatically by giving up spanking, though I had once hoped it would be. Instead it’s something I have to keep doing, over and over, every day. It takes intent and commitment, and it sometimes means stopping myself in mid-sentence or pausing to take a step back from a situation and reset my approach. But when my daughter throws her arms around my neck and declares “I love you, mommy,” when she is unafraid to be open with me, when she is comfortable in who she is and in her relationship with me, I know that it is so, so worth it.

My Regret: Phoenix’s Story


HA note: Phoenix blogs at The Eighth and Final Square.

Content warning: descriptions of infant spanking.

Two years old. Rebellious. Self-willed. Wicked. Too young to like or dislike anything. Too young to have opinions.


Uhh yeah, that’s my parents for you.

They don’t believe in the “terrible twos”…they believe in “terrible hearts”.

You know, the verse in Proverbs that says foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of correction will drive it from him. And the verse that the heart is wicked and who can know it. So the first problem is, they don’t come to parenting with the view that these are people. They come to parenting with the view that these are wicked little sinners who need a radical change, whose thoughts and feelings and opinions and likes and dislikes don’t matter because it is all selfish willfulness.

Cue the dinner table. There’s a very small child in the high chair, whom dad is feeding. This child is a baby, really…crawling, maybe walking; can’t even say real words yet.

“Open up!” dad says, moving the spoon towards her.

She accepts that bite, but doesn’t like the food, and spits it back out.

“No, you eat it,” dad says, scooping it back up and attempting to give it to her again.

She makes a disgusted face and turns her head. We all laugh at the cute little shudder she makes.

“Don’t laugh, it encourages her,” dad says, still trying to force the bite with the slightly more stern command “Open”. He presses the spoon against her soft mouth, trying to force it open.

When she continues resisting, he moves her head to face him and commands sternly, “Open.”

She may open her mouth at that point, or she may not; in which case he takes the tray off the chair and gives her a few loud swats, sets her back down, and resumes with the “open” stuff.

Meanwhile the rest of us try to ignore it and eat our dinners.

If she still doesn’t open her mouth, again with the swats, and she sits there crying, looking at him with terror in her eyes, her nose running all over the place. If her mouth is open from crying, he shoves it in. If she tries to spit it out, he doesn’t let her, and she accepts that she has to keep it in her mouth.

Then comes the battle to get her to swallow.

What one-year-old do you know who knows the meaning of the word “swallow”, let alone “open”? Most one-year-olds are lucky to know the word “no”.

I’m sitting there, dying inside, longing to take her in my arms, wipe her tears, blow her nose, and cuddle her safe in my arms.

Nobody, not even mom, was allowed to give her any comfort. Not even dad did, until she did whatever he wanted. And if he got tired of spanking her, he sent her to bed…and when she got up she had to eat the same thing she disliked. Because her likes and dislikes didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except that she obeyed the first time, every time.

My only regret is that I didn’t stick up for her, for them, every time it happened with I don’t know how many of them, probably all, at one time or another.

The last time it happened when I was there, I was so close to exploding that had he spanked her one more time, I would have done something. I just wish I had…that I had stood up long before.

And that is my regret.

I Still Blame Myself: Shyla’s Story


Content warning: descriptions of sibling physical abuse, sibling sexual abuse, and corporal punishment.

My 2 brothers and 4 sisters and I were homeschooled from k thru 12.

I have a brother that is a year and a half older than me. We were not exactly close growing up and have very little contact now, even though he has apologized profusely. My parents believed firmly in spanking, they spanked each one of us until we left home. I was 20 when I finally got married and moved out . The spankings were always done in the living room with the whole family watching, which could be very embarrassing.

Out of the seven kids I was probably the worst at taking the spankings to be honest.

I have always had a very low threshold for pain. My brother who I mentioned earlier (I will call Andrew) noticed this. One day when I was 8 and he was around 10 he overheard me and a friend talking and using foul language. He waited until my friend went home and he told me he was going to tell our parents that I was using foul language. I begged him not to tell.

He said that he wouldn’t tell if he would be the one to spank me.

I was very scared of my parents and allowed him to do it. We lived in a rural area and went out to the large area of trees past our backyard. He found a tree stump and sat down and told me he was going to do this like mom and dad did. He made me take my pants down and bend over his lap. He spanked me with his hand.

It hurt and was embarrassing, but not nearly as painful as mom and dad doing it.

Little did I know that this would go on for 7 more years. Typically once or twice a month he would catch me in a “sin” and we would have a secret session in the woods again. Some of these sessions became more brutal as I matured.

He frequently started using a switch along with his hand.

When I was almost 16 I got tired of being hit by him and started telling him I didn’t care if he told Mom and Dad anymore. I threatened to tell on him and he became very nice all of a sudden. I did end up confiding in my grandmother and she told my parents even though she told me she wouldn’t.

My brother was in a lot of trouble and got a severe beating. But I got also got in trouble for letting my brother see me with my pants down.

I was shamed quite a lot and spanked as well.

My brother has tried over the years to apologize and make amends. My parents are also trying to heal the rift between us. I feel he took advantage of me and derived some type of sick pleasure from spanking me. He used my fear to coerce me into some very humiliating situations.

I still blame myself for not being strong enough to stand up to him.

Transcript of Voddie Baucham’s “Child Training” Sermon at Hardin Baptist Church

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HA note: The following is a transcript of Voddie Baucham’s sermon “Child Training.” Baucham delivered this sermon on the subjects of patriarchal marriage, Quiverfull fecundity, and corporal punishment on November 4, 2007 to Hardin Baptist Church in Hardin, Kentucky. This sermon has received substantial media attention due to Baucham’s call to spank a child “5 times before breakfast” and labeling shyness in children as “sin.” Baucham is the Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church, which is the host of Baucham’s Voddie Baucham Ministries and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. This transcript was created by HA Community Coordinator R.L. Stollar.

Click here to read other transcripts by and posts about Voddie Baucham.

Content warning for transcript: advocacy of intense corporal punishment and descriptions of corporal punishment sessions.


(Transcript starting at 1:40 time stamp)

There are two sides of my life that are incredibly important. One is the area you’ve heard much about — the area I call the professional side of my life where I have the privilege of serving as a professor and as a pastor and preaching different places around the country. And then there’s the other side of my life where I am the husband to Bridgette and the father to Jasmine and Trey and Elijah and Asher and all of those arrows yet to come. And it is that side of my life, really, where the rubber meets the road. It is that side of my life that lends validity to everything else in my life. The fact of the matter is, if I am a failure as Bridgette’s husband and as Jasmine and Trey and Elijah and Asher and whoever else comes’s father, then whatever I say as a pastor, professor, or whatever else, is illegitimate as far as I’m concerned. Because that is where I am who I am. That is where I demonstrate the veracity of what I say in every other realm of my life.

There’s a place where those two things come together. A place where my emphasis on cultural apologetics and this emphasis in family come together. Apologetics quite simply is a defense of the faith, a response — a reasoned response — to those who question the faith, either passively or aggressively question the faith. Cultural apologetics is an idea that really was made popular by Francis Schaeffer. And it’s the idea of applying these principles and the discipline of apologetics to cultural issues and cultural trends. And I do that specifically in the area of biblical manhood and womanhood, marriage, and family. Because I find that so many Christians are unaware of the influence that the culture has had on us in these areas.

We have been lied to in the areas of biblical manhood, womanhood, marriage, family. We have been deceived. We have bought into the deception, specifically in 3 areas that I’ll mention — and one I’ll spend a little more time on.

Area Number 1 is the area of marriage. We have been deceived in the area of marriage. We have bought a cultural lie as it relates to marriage. We do not value marriage properly. We do not value marriage biblically. We do not hold marriage in its proper esteem. We don’t. We think marriage is something to be avoided as long as possible. That’s what we teach our children.

If you don’t believe me, just talk to anyone that was in my circumstance: My wife and I got married the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college. And church folks gave us fits for doing that. It was as though we were in sin. Had we been living together, we would not have received as much ridicule from church folks as we did by getting married before we graduated from college. Because evidently somewhere over in Second Hesitations it says, “Thou shalt no marry until after college graduation.” You know? And I mean, we believe that. We do. We believe that a college education is more important than marriage.

That’s a lie from the pit of hell. A college education is nowhere near as important as a marriage. Nowhere near as important. But we don’t believe that. We really don’t. I’ve had people come up to me — I’ve had a woman come up to me not long ago, weeping, wailing, over her son. Just, I mean, you know, the chest-heaving cry? You know? Was one of those. Could barely stop it. [engages in mock crying from woman] And I’m bracing myself. I’m like, “Man, whatever she says, I gotta be pastoral. I can’t be shocked.” ‘Cuz the last thing somebody wants when they tell the pastor something is for the pastor to go, “I don’t know if God can handle that one!” So, you know, I’m just, I just really… [engages in mock crying from woman] “It’s my son.” I go, “Wow, it’s her son. She’s weeping for him.” I put my hand on her shoulder and she’s just, [engages in mock crying] “He’s… he’s… he’s…” “It’s ok…” “He’s… he’s… he’s getting married…” “Come on, you can tell me…” “He’s… he’s getting married…”  “Ok…” Something horrible is happening, like her life is over. Her son’s getting married.

And it just dawned on me. I just stopped and said, “It’s… to a woman?” Nowadays, you know, that would have explained the hysteria — if it wasn’t. And she stopped crying: “Yes it’s to a woman.”  Like she could tell by my posture that I was no longer feeling very, you know, empathetic here. And that was her deal: “My son’s getting married and he’s not through with college.” Needless to say, by the time we finished our conversation she found I had gotten married earlier than her son was about to get married and I was absolutely in favor of it. Absolutely in favor of it.

“But why didn’t you wait?” “Well, a couple of reasons. Number one, I didn’t want to communicate to my future bride that anything was more important to me than her. I didn’t want to start my marriage off by saying to her that school was more important to me than she was. Secondly, the wisest man in the Bible, the most godly man in the Bible, and the strongest man in the Bible all fell into sexual sin. I was not wiser than Solomon, I was not stronger than Samson, I am not more godly than David, so I got married. Amen, somebody?”

All of a sudden her eyes got huge. “Your son want wants this woman. And you’re asking him to stay in contact with her, committed to some day consummating a relationship with her and to fight it for two years? You don’t need to ask somebody. Go let that boy get married!” But again, we’ve bought the cultural lie: Wait. Live your life. 

Let me just put it in plain English. What we’re saying to our young men today, when it comes to marriage, here’s what we’re saying to our young men: Young men, this is the attitude you ought to have toward a woman someday. You walk up to her, you look her in the eye, and say, “I have sucked all of the joy out of life, now I’m ready to give you the leftovers.” That’s what we’re communicating.

You don’t believe me? Talk to somebody who has a child. 10, 11, 12, 13 years old. And ask them about their future goals for that child’s college. They’ll tell you have much money they’re saving, they’ll tell you how much it’ll cost by then, they’ll tell you why they moved to where they lived because of the schools in that neighborhood, they’ll tell you the classes they have their children taking. And all of the things they have them doing so that they’ll get the right SAT scores to get into the right college. 10, 11, 12, 13 years old — they’re already doing things to prepare their children for a college education.

Then ask the same parent: “What are you doing to get them ready to be a husband or a wife?” They’ll look at you like a calf staring at a new gate. They’re doing nothing to prepare their children for marriage. Why? Because we do not value marriage. We don’t. We don’t.

You who have sons and daughters, let me ask you something: What do you think will shape their future more? The degree they get from some university or the person with whom they enter into covenantal marriage and start a family? Think about it. We’ve bought a lie, people. We’ve bought a lie.

It is far more important for me to prepare my children to be husbands and wives and mothers and fathers than it is for me to prepare them for an entrance exam.

We’ve bought a lie.

Secondly, we’ve bought a lie in the area of child bearing. Our attitude towards children is “a boy for me and a girl for you and praise the Lord we’re finally through.” That’s our attitude. There is an unwritten rule in the church — it’s not written anywhere but almost everybody in the church knows what this rule is — and that rule you is, You get two. And there’s one exception, one exception where you can get a third. That is if you got the same sex the first two times, you get to try for the opposite sex on Number 3. That’s the only way we will allow you to have more than 2 kids and not ridicule you. In the church. Because we do not believe Psalm 127. We do not believe Psalm 128. We believe that children are a burden and a blight and not a blessing. We are the richest culture in the history of the world and one of the only ones that talks about how many kids we can afford. It’s sick. It’s godless.

We have bought a lie when it comes to children. An absolute lie. We mutilate our bodies so that God won’t bless us with more kids. Some of you, if your child came home with a tattoo — a tattoo — on their skin — you’d have a conniption fit. You’d go pass out somewhere. But if they have 2 children and get a vasectomy, or a tubal ligation, go under the knife, disfigure themselves, we celebrate that. Tattoo? Don’t do that! Mutilate your body so that God can’t bless you with any more kids? Amen!

Are you hearing me, people? This is where we are now. We’ve bought a lie when it comes to marriage. We’ve bought a lie when it comes to child bearing. By the way, those of us who don’t mutilate ourselves will put things into our bodies that actually cause abortions. You ask your doctor about what birth control pills do. Do they always prevent pregnancy? No, they don’t always prevent pregnancy. Sometimes they just end them early enough for you not to know that you just had an abortion. Ask them about IUDs. Talk to them about these things. It’s amazing: some of the most pro-life people in the world, some of the most pro-life men and women in the whole world are putting things into their bodies that are actually causing the abortions that they say they’re against. Marinate on that one for a minute.

We’ve also bought a lie when it comes to child training. And that’s where we’re going to spend our time. Open your Bibles with to me Ephesians, Chapter 6. Ephesians, Chapter 6. We’ve bought a lie when it comes to the way that we raise our children. And we don’t get it. We don’t understand it. We don’t know how to do it. We’re not taught this. We don’t see this. It’s not modeled for us. And because of that, we got parents who just really don’t like their kids. But we explain it away. You know? We explain away the reason we don’t like our kids. We got teenagers who are 13, 14, 15 years old, they’re look at us eye to eye, they’re going word for word, they’re working their necks, clucking their tongues, smacking their lips, slamming doors, and we can’t stand them. We love it when it’s youth group time ‘cuz we get to pass them off on somebody else. We love it when school starts back. We have parties. Parents have parties when school starts back ‘cuz they can’t stand having their kids around them. Because they’re brutish beasts. But that’s ok because it’s just the “phase of life” — “Hey, those are the teen years.” No, that’s sin. And it don’t matter what name you put on that, it’s sin.

And here’s what’s worse: That sin is basically what we’ve produced. Because when it was small, we laughed about it. It was cute. “Oh aren’t they cute at that age?” No, that’s a viper in a diaper and you better get it under control. It’s not cute. It’s not funny. But if we ignore it at that age, it grows up. And then we’re mad at them for being what we’ve taught them to be. Amen, right? And we can’t stand them. We just can’t stand them.

But we want them to grow up and walk with God. What are we supposed to do? And I’m saying this to you today, if you’re here today — let me tell you why I think this message is important. For at least a couple of reasons. Number One, first let me speak to those of you who have earned some gray hair. ‘Cuz you may be sitting here thinking, “That’s great, you talk about training children, well I’ve already raised my children.” That’s great. Then take your Titus 2 responsibilities and don’t coast on the second half of your life. But grab some young person by the hand and show them how to do what you did or what you should’ve done in raising your children. This is for you. This is for you.

And if you’re a young person here today, and you’ve got kids, and you’re already pulling your hair out, — and a lot of people, the reason they mutilate their bodies so that God doesn’t bless them anymore is ‘cuz these blessings are wearing them out. Ok? That’s why they do it. And for those of you who are in that situation, listen: I recognize that you’re like me. We got married somewhere between sophomore and junior year, I just turned 20 years old, we had our first child 10 months later. We were efficient. And we didn’t know “come here” from “sic ‘em” as it related to being parents. Ok? We just were clueless. And that’s where some of you are. You just don’t know. Nobody’s ever told you. You don’t even know if the Bible addresses these issues. Well, it does and this morning we shall.

Ephesians, Chapter 6, Verses 1-4, I want to take you through 3 things. I want you to see 3 things. 3 phases in the training of our children.

Phase Number One is the discipline and correction phase. The discipline and correction phase. These are the first few years of life. Incredibly important. It’s where we lay the foundation for everything else. The discipline and training phase. In this phase we’re saying to our children, “Give me your attention. Give me your attention. You need to pay more attention to me than I do to you. Give me your attention. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Your world revolves around me.” That’s what we need to teach our children in those first few years of their life. Because they come here and just by nature of things they believe that the world revolves around them. And for the first few weeks, you know, that’s okay.

But eventually we have to teach them that that’s over. “The world no longer revolves around YOU. Your world, toddler, revolves around me, around me.”

So Phase Number One, the discipline and training phase: give me your attention.

Phase Two, the catechism phase. So we’re teaching what to believe and why to believe. And Phase Two, we tell them, “Give me your mind. Give me your mind.” That happens as soon as they become verbal — we start working on that.

Phase Three, the discipleship phase, when they enter into biblical adulthood. Biblical adulthood is considered from age 12 or 13 to age 30. You ever notice we only see Jesus at two ages in the Scripture? At 12 and at 30. Why? Because according to the biblical model, childhood is from birth to 12. At 12 there is a ceremony. Some people still do it. It’s called a bar mitzvah. And at 12, that ceremony means you’ve gone into Phase Two [sic], which is adulthood — 12-30. At 30 you’ve entered into senior adulthood. By the way, at 30 is when you can become a rabbi. That’s why we see him at those two ages. Because they’re the two breaking points in the life cycle and development cycle. And so at that second [sic] phase, it’s that discipleship phase and that phase is, “Give me your hand. Give me your hand.”

Phase One, give me your attention. The discipline and training phase.

Phase Two, give me your mind. Let me teach you what to believe and why to believe it.

Phase Three, give me your hand. I’m gonna show you how to live out what I’ve taught you to believe.

K? These are the three phases. Let’s look at them in turn from Ephesians, Chapter 6, Verses 1-4:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

Stop there. So first of all, if I tell my child to do something and my child doesn’t do it, not only has my child just disobeyed me, my child has directly violated Scripture. Ok? So I tell my child to do something? My child doesn’t do what I tell my child to do? My child has disobeyed me? They’ve sinned. They’ve violated the clear teaching of Scripture if they don’t do what I’ve told them to do.

By the way, if I tell them to do something and they don’t do it when I tell them to do it? That’s delayed disobedience and the technical Greek word for delayed disobedience is disobedience. Ok? So if they don’t do what I tell them when I tell them, my child has been disobedient. And according to Scripture, I cannot tolerate that. If I tolerate that, I’m tolerating sin. If I tolerate sin, I’m teaching my child that sin is ok. Alright?

Verse 2:

“Honor your father and your mother. This is the first commandment with a promise — ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’”

So he goes back here to the 5th Commandment. So he must honor his mother and father. So now here’s what we add: In Phase Number One, my goal is to teach my child in those first few years of life to do what they’re told when they’re told and with a respectful attitude. If they do what I tell them when I tell them but they roll their eyes and smack their lips and cluck their tongues and slam the doors, they’ve still sinned and I can’t tolerate that. So I cannot have the attitude that says, “Well, at least they did it.” No. No, that’s sin. It’s a violation of the 5th Commandment.

It’s the first commandment that has a promise attached to it. And that promise is about longevity. We must not tolerate disobedience and disrespect from our children. We must not. We must correct them when they do this because they are in direct violation of the law of God.

“Well then, what are we supposed to do?” I’m so glad you asked! You know, we love Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the ways he should go and when he’s old he will not depart from it.” K? Now that doesn’t mean what a lot of people think it means, but that’s ok — that’s for another time. If I don’t make y’all too mad today, you ask me back, I’ll tell you what that means, alright? Now, you read nine verses later and you find the key verse, verse 15:

“Folly, or rebellion, is bound up in the heart of a child and time-out will drive it far from them.”

— that ain’t in the book, folks.

“Folly is bound up in the heart of a child and the rod of correction will drive it far from them.”

In other words, God says your children desperately, desperately need to be spanked.

Amen, hallelujah, praise the Lord! — and spank your kids, okay?

They desperately need to be spanked. And they need to be spanked often. They do. I meet people all the time, you know, and they say, “Oh yeah, I can think of maybe 4 or 5 times I’ve ever had to spank Junior.” Really? That’s unfortunate, because unless you raised Jesus the Second, there were days when Junior needed to be spanked 5 times before breakfast. If you only spanked your child 5 times, then that means almost every time they disobeyed you, you let it go. And almost every time they dishonored you, you let it go.

When they were 2 and you said, “Come here,” and they said “No,” — you should have worn them out.

But you didn’t. And so you think because they didn’t escalate to a certain point, that that means you didn’t need to spank them. No, they disobeyed. We can’t tolerate disobedience. They dishonored you. Can’t tolerate the dishonor. We can’t. We can’t.

So in those first few years of life, you might get tired somedays. Physically, emotionally. You might feel like picking up the phone going, “I think I’m gonna kill him.” That’s ok. ‘Cuz you know what Proverbs says about that? It says don’t spare the rod! ‘Cuz “though you beat him with the rod, he will not die but you may save his very soul from destruction.”

Couple of problems we have with that. Number One, we listen a lot more to Dr. Phil and Dr. Spock than we do to Dr. Jesus. That’s Problem Number One. Problem Number Two: we all hear horrible things about abuse and all these sorts of things. You know what, people who are abusive to their children— again, first of all, it’s sin — but secondly, a lot of times those are people who don’t spank their children enough.

“What do you mean?” Here’s what I mean: Junior does 15 things by lunch time for which he should have been spanked. And you push it down and you push it down and you push it down and finally, when you can take no more, you unleash your wrath and your anger and then you’re in sin. Then you feel guilty about it. So guess what happens next time? You don’t address it again. And again and again and again. Until you fill up again. And there is this cycle that goes on and on and on. Whereas, had you been dealing with it consistently, you could have kept the emotions under control.

And again, I’m not just talking about flying off the handle. Absolutely not. It should be remorse full time. It is. One of our children is right at the tail end of this phase. One of our children is a 3-year-old. And we’re right at the tail end of this phase. He gets spanked regularly. And so we bring Elijah in, you know, and I talk to Elijah about what just happened, explain to him where Scripturally it was a violation, and why it’s sin and how sin grieves the heart of God, and why Jesus had to die for sin, and why — as his father — I have been commanded to spank him for what he just did. Because God desires that he not be that kind of boy.

“Do you understand that?”

“Yes sir.”

And then one of the Scriptures that he’s memorized directly related to whatever it was, sometimes it’s this one — “Ephesians 6:1 says what, Elijah?”

“Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”

“And that’s exactly what you violated, is it not?”

“Yes sir.”

“So Daddy must spank you.”

So I spank Elijah. Firmly. And he weeps. And that’s all he gets to do. If he goes beyond that — if he screams and yells and throws a fit — then I spank him because that is rebellion. And if I don’t, then I teach him that he can embarrass me and make me not spank him. Hello, somebody?

A lot of your toddlers throw fits because you’ve taught them that that’s the way they can control you. When instead you just need to have an all-day session where you just wear them out and they finally decide, “You know what? Things get worse when I do that. Maybe I should stop.”

We finish. And we hug. And we kiss. And we pray. And then we rejoice when we go out. I’m not sending him to his room where he can sulk in his sin and build up anger and animosity towards me. No, I’m bringing justice. I’m bringing it swiftly. I’m bringing it Scripturally. And then it is over. I am not “mad” at him. I am not withholding affection from him. I am not building barriers and walls in my relationship with him. No, we deal with it. We deal with it swiftly. We get it over with. Then we go out rejoicing together! And his conscience is delivered!

You see this, folks? By the way, that takes time, effort, and energy. But when you got an obedient 3-year-old, it’s so worth it. Because not doing it takes more time, more effort, and more energy.

By the way, there almost must be training. Discipline and training. That’s the other side of it. Imagine a coach who walks out, day one — he’s a soccer coach. And he throws the ball out there and he’s got these kids and he says, “Ok, I want you to run this play!” And they go, “What?” “Just run it!” And they go out and they do all this sort of stuff and then he gets on, “You didn’t do it right!” But he never told them what it was! He never drew it up on the board! He never said, “You go here, you go here, you do that.” He never trained them or taught them what they’re supposed to do.

That’s what many of us do with our kids. We never have a session where we train them to do what we expect them to do. Let me give you an example — the prime example. The so-called shy kid, who doesn’t shake hands at church, okay? Usually what happens is you come up, you know — and here I am, I’m the guest, and I walk up and I’m saying hi to somebody and they say to their kid “Hey, you know, say good morning to Dr. Baucham!” And the kid hides and runs behind the leg — and here’s what’s supposed to happen. This is what we have agreed upon silently in our culture. What’s supposed to happen is: I’m supposed to look at their child and say, “Hey, that’s okay.”

But I can’t do that. Because if I do that, then what has happened is, Number One, the child has just sinned by not doing what they were told to do. It’s direct disobedience. Secondly, the parent is in sin for not correcting it. And thirdly, I am in sin because I just told a child that it’s okay for them to disobey and dishonor their parent in direct violation of Scripture.

I can’t do that. I won’t do that.

I’m gonna stand there until you make them do what you said.

“Well what am I supposed to do?” Train them. So on Saturday night, before you come to church — “Hey, listen, we’re going to practice! We’re gonna meet a whole lot of people tomorrow. We’re gonna practice. So the first time, I’m gonna be you, alright? And you’ll be the stranger. And I’m gonna show you what to do. The stranger’s gonna come up and say, ‘Hi Johnny,’ and then you’re gonna say, you’re gonna look them in the eye, shake their hand firmly, and say, ‘Good morning! How are you?’” And you do that four or five times. And then you say, “Now you get to be yourself. And I’ll be the stranger.” And you practice that five, six, seven, eight, nine times. Have a ball! When they do it correctly, rejoice. Act like they just won the Super Bowl. High five, hug, kiss, roll around on the floor, everything! Have a blast with it!

The next day, they’ll surprise you. They’ll be nudging you when they see people and they’ll go, “Can we do it now?” And you walk over and they’ll do it and it’ll be awkward — “ok, shake the hand, look at the eye…” — you know? But they’ll do it. And when they do it, you just look at them and you say, “I’m so proud of you. You just hug them and kiss them all over the face and everything. You high five them and they’ll go, “Let’s do it again!”

If they don’t, you take them to a private place and wear them out.

Because they have just been directly defiant after you trained them and told them what to do. I have a pastor friend of mine. One of his daughters was just really defiant in this one particular area. And they had one instance where they had drawn the line and they were like, “This has to end today.” And they told her, did the training, everything else. And so they were leaving and there was a deacon — there was a deacon family — and they walk out, you know, supposed to greet, say bye to the deacon, shake the deacon’s hand. She won’t do it. Pastor goes back in the office, goes through that whole process — spank the child, comes back out, child won’t do it again. Goes back again, asks the deacon, “Will you please wait here?”

Thirteen times.

Thirteen times.

That deacon was like, “Little girl, please…”

They never dealt with it again. Never dealt with it again.

Are you gonna reign in your home or is sin gonna reign in your home? Which one?

Next part of the text says,

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger or to wrath.”

How do you do that? Here’s some ways you do that, let me just explain this. Some ways I’ve done that. Some ways I’ve actually helped my children, coached my children, to be more sinful. Right? One of them was by yelling. By yelling, k? And I’d yell — [unintelligible example of yelling] — I was yelling. Now, how is that coaching my children in sin? Basically what I was teaching my children was not “you must do what I say when I say it,” [rather] “you must do what I say somewhere between the first time I say it and the time I begin to yell.” That’s what I was teaching them.

I was also undermining my wife’s authority in the home. How so? I’m big and scary, got a deep, scary voice. If I teach my children to obey my big, deep, scary voice and my huge sighs, my wife doesn’t have any of that so they’re not gonna respect her the way they respect me. Men, are you smelling what I’m stepping in? All the yellers in the house, please hear me today: You’re undermining your wife’s authority in the home.

You’re also being a poor example to your children. And you’re also teaching them delayed obedience. “You don’t have to do it the first time I say it or if I say it with a whisper. You only have to do it when I become frustrated enough to yell.” You’re teaching your child delayed obedience. You also teach them delayed obedience by telling them things three, four, five times. Then you’ve just taught them, “You don’t have to do it the first time. You have to do it somewhere between the first time and the time that I use all three of your names and the veins pop out of my neck.”

Tell them once. If you think they might not have heard what you said when you told them the first time, you clarify. You don’t tell them over and over and over again. That is coaching them in disobedience. You’re teaching them delayed obedience.

Another way we teach them delayed obedience? The famous count. “Boy — 1, 2, …” You just taught sin. “You don’t have to do what I say when I say it. You have to do it somewhere between when I say it and when I count to 3.” By the way, I’m telling myself now. These are things I had to learn. Ok?

Also, inconsistency. Inconsistency. Couple of ways we’re inconsistent: One, mom and dad have a different philosophy on this. And instead of going — we call it the war room. K? We go into the war room and we deal with these things. Not that there’s a war between myself and my wife. But basically that’s where we strategize for this war against the sin that wants our children. And we go into the war room and we say, “Listen, here is going to be the standard.” ‘Cuz we can’t have two standards. That’s provoking our children to anger. That’s not consistent. Can’t have one standard for mom and one standard to dad. You get on the same page.

And Dad, it’s your responsibility to lead here. It’s your responsibility to set the tone here. Wife, when your husband sets the tone and the standard, you live by that standard — whether he’s there or he’s not. If you don’t, you are undermining the authority of your husband. You are not being submissive. And if you are not submissive to your husband, don’t you dare get mad at your children for not being submissive to you. Amen?

It amazes me, how many times I sit down and talk to women and they are having these huge problems with their children — first question I’m gonna ask a woman is, “Describe for me your level of submission to your husband.” “Huh?” “Yeah. You want order in your home, right? And you want your children to be submissive and obedient to that order in your home, right? Are you modeling it for them in your submission to your husband? Or are you modeling for them that that order is meaningless?” That’s where we gotta start. Because if the sergeant is disrespectful to the lieutenant, don’t expect the private to be respectful to the sergeant.

If you can’t say amen, you gotta say ouch.

I hope we’re beginning to see here some of the problems that we’ve created for ourselves. I hope that’s what we’re beginning to see here. Ideas have consequences. When we buy into these ideas, and allow them to take root in our homes, they have consequences. And sometimes they have consequences for generations to come.

Second Phase. We don’t have much time for these phases but I want to get to these two phases. The catechism phase. And I call it the catechism phase because catechism is the tool that we use. Catechism is learning doctrine and theology through a series of questions and answers. When our kids are little, for example, we use the Children’s Catechism. Some of you may be familiar with the Children’s Catechism. Most people are familiar with the Westminster Catechism. You know, Westminster — “What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” K? That’s the Westminster Catechism, Question Number One.

Well, the Children’s Catechism, you know — “Who made you? God made me. What else did God make? God made all things. Why did God make you and all things? For his own glory. How can you glorify Go— I mean, why ought you glorify God? Because he made me and he takes care of me. How can you glorify God? By loving him and doing what he commands. Who is God? God is a spirit. He does not have a body like man. Where is God? God is everywhere. Can you see God? No, I cannot see God but he always sees me. How many gods are there? There is only one. In how many persons? There’s just one God exists, in three persons. Who are these three persons? The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit.”

Now I’m only gonna go that far ‘cuz that’s where our 2-year-olds get. They’re learning doctrine and theology through a series of questions and answers. They’re learning what to believe and why to believe it. We also read Scripture. We have them memorize Scripture, the great songs of the faith, ok? We’re pouring it in there. We’re getting it in there.

Now, one of the objections I sometimes hear from people is this: “Well, you know, I just don’t, I understand what you’re saying but I want my children to love God and have a relationship with him and not just rote memorization.” Really? Then how come you teach them, “A, B, C, D, E, F, G,” but you want them to love reading? And not just “rote memorization”? How come you teach them 2×2=4, 3×2=6, 4×2=8? Why you teach them the times table? That’s, that’s rote memorization. How come rote memorization is ok everywhere except in theology? Help me understand that, somebody. Why is it that in every other area we understand that children must start with rote memorization but when it comes here, it’s, “I just don’t want them to have rote memorization.” Well, you better pour everything you can in there. “Well, I just, you know, I don’t want to force, I don’t want to force religion on them. I want them to grow up later and be able to make that choice on their own.” Really? What if I said that about education? “I don’t want to force education on my children. I want them to grow up later and make a decision on their own whether or not they want to be educated.” How ridiculous does that sound? That’s how ridiculous it ought to sound when we talk about the same thing from the standpoint of doctrine and theology. Get it in there! Amen?

And when you think you’ve got enough in there, just stuff a little bit more. K? Get it in there. And as much as you can, get it in there. Do it regularly. Deuteronomy, Chapter 6: “These words I am commanding you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons when you rise up, when you lie down, when you walk along the way.” Get it in there. Teach them God’s truth. Teach them God’s word. And then teach them and teach them and teach them some more. From the time they become verbal, get it in there.

Give me your mind. Teach them what to believe and why to believe it.

You know, often I have people that come to me and they go, “You know, my kids are, they’re 14 and they’re 15 and do you think that, you know, they can handle, you know, some doctrine and some theology by now?” When they’re 14 or 15 they have a theology already. You might be too late. All things are possible with God. But by the time they’re 14, 13, they already have a theology. They don’t necessarily know that, but they do. By the way, this is why some of you have had conversations with your 13 or 14-year-old and they’ve said things that are in complete contradiction with what you believe about a particular issue and you’re going, “Where in the world did that come from?” You didn’t teach them theology so somebody else filled the void. MTV taught them theology or somebody taught them — the movies that they watch, the music that they listen to. They’re being taught theology constantly. Constantly. Get it into them early.

This final phase is the discipleship phase. Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. These two words, again — teach them to believe like Christians, teach them to behave like Christians. And again, by doing this, we don’t guarantee that they’re saved. That’s the work of God, k? That’s a work of God. However, I trust God completely to take care of that work. But I also believe that he is sovereign over the means as well as the ends. And he’s given me the means. I’m going to employ them to the best of my ability and trust him to use them, amen? And this last phase, that 12, 13-year-old phase, we tell them, “Give me your hand. And now that I have taught you what to believe and why to believe it, walk with me and I’m going to show you how to live in accordance with these truths.”

Our son is not with me, our oldest son. Our oldest son is 14 and he travels with me full-time. I gave him the weekend off. We’ve been busy. But he travels with me full-time. We’re a homeschooled family. We homeschool our children. My son — one of the things that we’ve done in our home, we’ve just had the privilege because of the things that the Lord has given us and the way that we’ve been allowed to organize our lives when our sons reach manhood, we take them through a manhood ceremony and from that moment, my wife turns over the books and I become their teacher and their disciple-er. It scares her to death. Scares her to death, k? But what he needs to learn now more than anything else is how to be a man. And God put him in my home ‘cuz he intends for me to teach him that. Me to teach him that.

So my 14-year-old son spends every moment with me that is humanly possible. Every moment that is humanly possible. Because I’m discipling him. I’m pouring my life into him. I want to teach him everything I know about everything. Ok? Sometimes I teach him by doing well. Sometimes I teach him by blowing it.

My 14-year-old son was with me a while back — and I’ll close with this for the sake of time. And you know, we were together, and there was this guy who came up to me — this young guy who was twenty-something-years-old and wanted to have this, you know, discussion with me and may have been over the issue of marriage or ministry or — one of these issues, ok? So wanted to have a discussion. Really he wanted to have a debate. And this guy comes up, and he’s got a couple of his buddies with him and he just gets all up in my grill. And we’re talking. And when we’re talking, he won’t even look at me. He’s looking over there somewhere, you know? [pretending to talk like the young man] This kind of thing, just utterly disrespectful. And I said, “No, brother, you actually misunderstood what I said. ‘Cuz what I clearly said was this. So that’s not accurate.”

Well he wasn’t satisfied about that: “Well what about so-and-so and so-and-so? What about with so-and-so?” He’s showing off for his boys, ok? My son, who’s 13 at the time, who is with me — standing with me — this guy’s been disrespectful — finally I say, “You know, brother, here’s the deal. First of all, you don’t even have the respect to turn and look me in the face when you’re talking to me. Secondly, you’re asking me questions that I’ve already clearly answered. Thirdly, it’s obvious that you’re trying to impress your friends. This conversation is over.” And he turns and he goes, “How come you people always gotta turn it into a respect issue?” “‘You people?’ I really hope you’re talking about tall people. I really hope I didn’t just see the race card fall out of your pocket.” And he goes, “Yeah, you people always want to make this a matter of respect, like I disrespect you or something like that, and you can’t just —“ And I said, “You know what, sir? This conversation is officially over.”

He took a breath to say something else. I stepped forward and got about this close and I said, “This… conversation… is…. over.”

His buddies start backing up and grabbing him with them. ‘Cuz I guess at that moment they just had an inclination: “You know what? This man is saved but I think he remembers some stuff.” My son and I get in the car and we ride back to our hotel. Not a word is spoken. We get back to the hotel, we finish up, and we do our stuff. My 13-year-old son goes, “Dad, did that guy not know that you could crush him?” And I said, “Yes, son, he was very well aware of the fact that I could crush him.” “Dad, did you want to crush him?” “Oh Lord, yes I did.” And then he says, “But if you had crushed him, he would have won. ‘Cuz then you’re the angry, out-of-control black man.” And I said, “Yes, son, that is true.”

Couple of minutes later, my 13-year-old son — tears streaming down his face — and he says, “Dad, I’ve never been more proud to be your son.”

He can’t learn that in a book. Nor can he learn what happened the next day. When we had to stop at the airport, go back outside security and walk up to the gate agent where I had to apologize and say, “M’am, I was short with you and I was upset with you. You didn’t mess up my reservation. Would you please forgive me for my tone of voice when I spoke with you a few minutes ago?” And she wept. She wept. ‘Cuz they always get abused and never respected.

I don’t know what’s taught my boy more: the great victory that he saw or the broken man who blows it. But I know that his head was in mine and I was showing him the validity of all that I had taught him to believe and the reality of what it looks like when you live in accordance with those truths.

I have said to him, “Give me your attention,” and he has. He’s an obedient, respectful young man. I have said to him, “Give me your mind,” and he has. And now I say to him, “Give me your hand,” and he is. And he’s my best friend. I don’t hate my boy. I miss him like crazy. The teenage years don’t have to be like that. My 17-year-old daughter is my business partner. We started a business together. I miss them. I love them. I rejoice over them. I want to spend every moment with them I can.

That’s what we can have, people, if we stop buying the lie. Train your children well. They will become a delight to you and to others. And they will bring honor to you and to the kingdom — as opposed to disgrace.

Hurts Me More Than You: A Poem by Jessica

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.

Additional content warning for Jessica’s poem: intense descriptions of emotional and verbal abuse towards a child.


“Daddy Loves You,” a poem by Jessica

“Bless us, Oh Lord…” we all sit to pray,
But you neglected to do it well.
She scratched her nose and you opened your eyes.
Children like you two are going to hell.

Now you may eat, but just as I say.
Don’t take a bite so big!
If you stuff your face you’ll end up like mommy,
A nasty, big, fat pig.

Don’t clack your fork. Don’t smack your lips.
Don’t finish your dinner too fast.
But don’t still be eating by the time I am through!
You’re a fat, ugly cow if you’re last.

You are mean. You are nasty. And so full of hate.
You are retarded and dumb.
None of your friends actually wants to be near you.
Nope. Not a single one.

You make stupid choices, and I know you’ll end up,
Marrying a loser who will bail.
Oh, you’re going to be a horrible mother,
And your children will end up in jail.

You are rude. You are mean, and a horrible person.
So full of anger and hate.
You should be ashamed of all that you are.
I don’t care that you’re only just eight.

You’re retarded.
You’re lazy.
You’re going to hell.
You’re a liar.
You’re a loser.
You’re going to fail.

You just disappoint me and make me recoil.
I don’t even want you in sight.
Now come here and give me a kiss on the cheek.
Remember, Daddy loves you.

Hurts Me More Than You: A Poem by Merritt

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.


“Disagreement,” a poem by Merritt

Our eyes do not meet
As eyes seldom do in disagreement
You choose to revisit an old argument
I merely listen

There can be no discussion
Since you start out by ending it
“We have to stand on the Bible,” you said.
And that, as they say, is that.

Frustration wraps its strangle hold around my tongue
As words like “context,” “history” and “interpretation”
Die before they can be spoken
Because I know they cannot be heard.

“We have to stand on the Bible,” you said,
And nothing I can say will convince you
That the words you stand by were penned by an evil king
Whose wisdom turned to rot.

“If you beat them with a rod, they will not die,” said the king.
I wonder what the dying thought of that.

And I wonder why we revere this king
Whose evil counsel would have us beat our children
Until their skin splits and their spirits crumble
This is not the voice of God.

“We have to stand on the Bible,” you said.
And there is nothing more to say.

Hurts Me More Than You: Charis’s Story

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.


Charis’s Story

Our physical abuse was defined as love.

I used to think that there was only one thing that was not ideal during my childhood. What I remember as isolated incidents, the times that my mom was not ok with my dad’s behavior. I’m now seeing with different eyes the methods of ‘discipline’ and ‘training’ that my parents used. Realizing that what was abusive, I considered normal.

When it came to “training” or “discipline” there was no doubt my parents believed it was for our ultimate good. That it was an expression of their love for us. They “chastised” us because they wanted to keep our souls out of an “eternal lake of fire.” We were told many things about how this abuse was actually love, and demanded by God:

“I do this because I love you.” “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” “God disciplines those he loves.” “Parents who don’t discipline their children hate them.”

When I was younger, spankings and time alone were the main methods of “discipline” that I remember. It didn’t really matter how old you were. A first time for one of us, I remember my sibling being around maybe eighteen months. My mom and I came home from the grocery store and my younger sibling was very… subdued? Dad said they had had their first training session, or something like that. No idea what, if anything, had been done wrong.

I know there was some statement by dad on how he had done it while my mom was gone because she would have been too soft.

I don’t even know how to describe what they used to strike us with. It was made of something like leather, very thick and smooth, too big to be from a belt.

There was always a pronouncement of how many times we would be hit. “That’s eight!” or the like. My mom had a penchant for counting, like some parents do when they want you to do something “one, two, three…” In our case each count represented another “spanking”. Before you could be punished, or “chastised”, you had to express absolute submission. This meant not crying, removing your pants and underwear, and bending over the bed.

Afterwards you had to hug them, and usually there was a drawn out discussion about what you had done wrong.

I remember being maybe five years old. It was after my dad had spanked me, and I was crying. I didn’t want to touch him, so I was backed up towards the wall away from him, and really didn’t want to hug. He was explaining to me that just like I was backing away from him, my sin separates me from him, and hurts our relationship.

Conditional affection, love defined as chastisement, and the blame laid to me for problems in our relationship.

I distinctly remember a “training” moment when I was a small person, at whatever potty training age was. I remember being given specific instruction to go in the toilet and not my underwear, or else. It seems like mom and dad left me alone to play for awhile, because I remember the moment when they came to my door and discovered I had gone in my pants. It seems like the reasoning was that I was rebellious or lazy, but I couldn’t say.  “Sins of omission” and all that. I was in big trouble, was given a lecture and spanked. I also remember that I was wearing orange.

I have a memory of playing in my room with a doll that cried if you turned it over. I was spanking the doll with the leather instrument my parents used on me and making my doll cry. My parents discovered me and I was in big trouble. To this day I have no idea what was so wrong, I was a child emulating my parents.


There is one term my dad uses to this day that concisely defines the picture of God I was painted.

“God’ll help you with that.”

Seemingly sanguine, it was used as a threat or condemnation. It meant something along the lines of: “If you don’t get your act together God will make your life living hell until you shape up.”

Similarly, if dad said “I can help you with that” it was meant as a threat. Figure out how to obey on your own, or the consequences would be severe.

Around eight I have fewer and fewer memories. The bottom dropped out of life and everything was hard, for all of us. Never got easier after that. From age eight until I moved out life was a constant stress. You never knew when something was going to happen, when someone was going to get hurt. Sundays were the worst because dad was home all day. There was plenty of ‘discipline’. I have no idea what was deserved and what wasn’t.

Something must have happened to the leather thing, because my mom adopted a sturdy wooden spoon. She broke a few of those with use. Dad, I think, used his hand for a bit because I remember his graduation to a board due to the strain on his hand.

I was around ten or eleven years old when dad made a board with a handle and put work into sanding and finishing it. I remember it being 2+ feet long and five or six inches wide. I only have the memory, nothing exact, and of course everything is bigger when you’re a child.

There was a big to-do about the whole thing. Dad talked about a board from his childhood that had holes in it and two separate layers along with a handle. One of those -you’re so lucky I had to walk to school uphill both ways- kind of things. I don’t even know if the story was true.

The existence of this new form of punishment was a big threat. I had no doubt dad would use it on us. At this point I was already afraid of hearing his truck in the driveway. I remember cleaning my section of the room immaculately. The hangers in our closet were so straight that looking at then made me dizzy.

The very first time dad pronounced punishment with the new board it was for me. We were getting groceries as a family. My younger sibling started to walk away to go be with dad. We got in trouble for being between parents alone in the store, so I grabbed my sibling’s sweatshirt and told him to stay. He went to dad and told him what I had done. Dad got in my face and said he was going to punish me with the board. I fell apart right there in the grocery store, absolutely hysterical. My parents herded us out of the store, I was screaming and crying the whole way home. My dad told me to shut up, no more noise on the way home. I couldn’t stop crying. Mom suggested to my sibling that we take the punishment together, split it or something. He would have been around five ears old. To this day I don’t understand why she said that. I don’t remember any more of what happened. It seems like mom and dad started dickering (maybe about her suggestion that I get less) and then dad left angry, for a long time. I don’t know for sure.

I figured out that if something mattered to you, they’d use it to punish you. If you did something wrong, they’d take it away. If you didn’t do something right, they’d tell you that you might have gotten what you wanted back, but now you wouldn’t.

I made it my mission in life to care about absolutely nothing.

If I didn’t want it they couldn’t use it against me. I didn’t care about eating. I didn’t care about spending time with them. I didn’t care about being alone. I had no friends after eleven, so they couldn’t keep me from seeing anyone. One sibling was particularly hard to use the method of removing “privileges” on. I remember my mom saying in exasperation that there was nothing that mattered to him, how was she going to take it away? Removing meals or no food for a day was an oft used punishment.

I remember distinctly the moment when I realized I could never be good enough. It was never going to stop.

I had made dinner for the entire family, cleared up and was just finishing washing every dish. My dad came into the kitchen and screamed at me. I remember dad saying that if I thought that was good enough I was crazy. I don’t remember anything after that.

I figured out there was nothing I could do to protect myself or my siblings. All I wanted was to find a way to prove that we didn’t deserve it. That we had done the right thing. We had obeyed even if dad didn’t think so. I became increasingly depressed and suicidal as I faced the reality that there wasn’t a standard of perfect that christians agreed to. Even if I were capable of perfection, we couldn’t even decide what it was.

The years from early grade school and all through my teens are a blur. I have very few isolated incidents that I remember. Screaming and cursing, unpredictable enough to completely catch you off guard.

My brothers definitely got the worst of the punishments. I don’t know why this is. Maybe they thought boys were sturdier or more rebellious and needed more force to make an impression. Maybe my parents had a harder time breaking their spirit. Maybe because they were younger than me and got the worst of my dad’s anger as his stability waned.

My dad beat my brothers. I have no difficulty calling it a beating. If you hit your child with a board using all your force countless times on a regular basis, that is a beating.

I know there was punishment that I never knew of, and sometimes there were things I heard about later. Dad would go into a room with one of us and I had no idea what happened. Most of the time I would intentionally go outside in the yard so I didn’t have to hear the screaming of my sibling.

Every day it shatters my heart to know that I was there, and there was nothing I could do about any of this. I wanted to do something, I wanted to protect my siblings. But I was helpless. I wished I could take it all for them, find a way to teach them how to avoid all of it, to be good enough. In hindsight I know it was fruitless.

This ‘training’ is not what love is, but I was raised to believe that it was.

Hurts Me More Than You: Clay’s Story

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.


Clay’s Story

My parents didn’t spank in anger, usually.

They were convinced that they were practicing biblical discipline.

They believed that spankings were to be delivered calmly, leave no serious injury (red marks and the occasional bruise were OK), end with reconciliation and a forced hug, and be painful. As a child I was spanked nearly every day. But I got off easy.

Dad said that children in the old testament got stoned to death for rebelliousness, so it was a good thing I didn’t live back then.

Spankings ranged from three to ten swats. I remember feeling really lucky the few times I only got one or two. Mom and Dad both spanked but it hurt more when Dad did it. I think that was just because Mom wasn’t capable of hitting as hard. When Dad spanked he swung with his whole arm like he was trying to hit a home run on our butts. We weren’t allowed to keep our pants on, but usually we could keep on our underwear.

When Mom or Dad spanked it was painful enough to make me see stars. One time after getting spanked by Dad the pain was so much I almost vomited. When I told my Dad this he laughed and said that was impossible.

We were supposed to be still and quiet while receiving a spanking. If we resisted at all we got spanked more. Spankings with our hands in the way didn’t count. If we screamed we got spanked more, and told that CPS would come and take us and we’d never see our family again. We were allowed to cry, but it had to be sorry cries, not angry cries, or we would just be spanked more.

My Dad chose wooden instruments that would leave as few outward marks as possible. Usually something flat like a wooden kitchen spatula. As my brother got older Dad spanked him more, and harder. He started breaking wooden spoons and spatulas on him. Dad made a paddle out of a thick piece of wooden molding or something. It was about two and a half inches wide, half or three quarters of an inch thick, and a couple feet long. He drilled a couple big holes in it so that there would be no air cushion, that it would sting as much as possible.

I always thought I was a bad kid. We got spanked more than anyone else we knew, so it followed that we must be the most disobedient. It didn’t occur to my childish mind that maybe my parents were spanking too much. I remember when I was eight years old realizing that I had gone three days without a spanking.

I thought that was really cool because I had set a record for being good.

Maybe if I had gone on that long I’d be able to be good forever and never get a spanking again. Alas, I got a spanking later that day.

I always wished I could be my cousins. It must be easy for them to be good. I wished it was easy for me to be good. I didn’t understand why it was so hard for me to be good. Impossible, in fact. My parents explained that it was because I was a sinner, but that didn’t explain why I was apparently a worse sinner than anyone else my age. I couldn’t wait to grow up, because grown-ups don’t sin — that’s why they don’t get spankings. My last spanking was when I was twelve, I think, but the threat didn’t go away. Mom would tell me that a teenaged friend of mine still got spankings for rolling her eyes, so I’d better watch myself.

My parents stated goal in all this discipline was to break our wills.

A child’s will was something evil, something that needed to be eradicated.

They never really explained what this meant in detail, but it had something to do with us never having desires that misaligned with theirs. I can only imagine that the desired result was to condition us to have a visceral reaction to the thought of going against their wishes. It worked very well on me. I learned early on that the best way to cope was just to go along with what they wanted, to say what they wanted to hear, to hold still and not resist, it would be over most quickly that way.

It didn’t work so well on my brother, he would fight. Not fight physically — he’d fight by not crying, or by saying that the spanking didn’t hurt. That’s why Dad had to hit him so hard that wood broke against his flesh.

Yet, I’m not convinced that my strategy was better. It seemed so at the time because it was the path of least pain, but there were long-term consequences. For years into adulthood I wasn’t able to act in my own best interest. Doing something just because it was the best decision for me was so far off my radar I rarely contemplated it. I lived my life with pleasing my parents in mind. It wasn’t even conscious, it just was. When I started making decisions I knew they would disagree with I had physical reactions that were so intense I would sometimes be incapacitated for days. It would start with my whole body shaking, then my throat would close up. Then my heart rate would soar, like my heart was trying to escape my chest. My mind would race, and then I would start vomiting. Even after the vomiting stopped it would take a day or so before I could eat normally again. It would take several to get my energy back.

I’m shaking just writing this post.

My parents always told me that they spanked us because they loved us. It is true that they loved us. But I don’t think that was their primary motivation in spanking.

Spanking gave them a tremendous amount of power over us: power to break and then remake us according to their will.

Hurts Me More Than You: Jennifer’s Story

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.

Extra trigger warning for Jennifer’s story: descriptions of blood in relation to physical abuse during menstruation


Jennifer’s Story

I am 17.

Funny how the majority of my life is a blur; I have very few clear memories of my childhood. I believe this is because my mind is suppressing the worst of the abuse.

But I do know that every day my oldest brother was beaten for mocking  and hitting me and that at least once a week I and my other siblings were beaten.

Rather than talk to my brother about why he felt the need to bully me, my parents used belts which only exacerbated the issue. And of course, I and my two other siblings were  ambiguously “disrespectful” and deserved beatings, no matter that everyone we ever had contact with thought us perfect.

I remember the times we hid from my father when he came  home and read the list my mother kept of infractions the children committed and deserved being beaten for. The four of us were always  found out and told to “line up.” Listening to my older siblings’ screams and being a helpless bystander knowing it would be my turn next was so much worse than the beating itself. Listening was much more psychologically damaging. Thanks to that damage, I was incredibly introspective.

It was a habit of mine in middle school  to sneak out and wander the streets by night, fascinated by the stars, doubting God. One day I was caught by a police officer, who called my mother at 3 a.m. I was  menstruating, but my father beat me anyway, until I had lost about a quart of blood, my legs coated in it. The combinations of cramps and blunt force created the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced.

That was four years ago.

Today, I still recoil when people reach out to me. I still cringe at the sound of a belt. I am still not free from them; indeed, today my sister has healing scabs on her arm from our mother clawing her.

And the worst, most depressing, soul draining thing is not the scars, but how I have no recourse but to watch her cry.

In my childhood, my parents mocked people who used the term “spanking,” saying they don’t call it what it is and they are right. Any form of physical punishment is violence and damaging. Not only to the one being hit, but to everyone hearing the screams.

Hurts Me More Than You: Robert’s Story

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Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.


Robert’s Story

I don’t remember anything about my young life before I was 5. They always told me I was a happy, quiet child.

The first memories I have of my childhood are extreme bouts of corporal punishment. As to whether the corporal punishment or the home education came first is as fine of a question as the chicken and the egg.

When I misbehaved as a young child my mother had the belief that “If you spare the rod, you spoil the child” in regards to punishment. In fact that’s what she told me before the belt came out.

The belt.

For the uninitiated a real leather belt taken off of a shelf can be a colossal terror for a small child. I suspect it was a 36″ model, the same size I wear now and that my father would have worn in his 30s.

My mother had a philosophy, that I assume was if I didn’t scream the neighbors would be less likely to intervene. Her exact words “Take it like a man”. Usually the beatings would be 10 at a time unless I cried or screamed, if a murmur came from my tiny mouth the count would be reset.

I cried a lot.

The beatings would continue until I was 13 and larger than her, at which point I took the belt from her by force and never allowed her to strike me again.

The “Education”.

As my young life continued I did not proceed to go to school with my friends across the street (we played their Atari and I found shelter in their house). Instead I found myself at home 24/7 with an abusive mother who decided that school wasn’t for her son. In my later years I found out that this was for religious reasons and to keep me from worldly things.

My childhood coursework consisted of whatever books she chose for me. I excelled in subjects I had interest in which led to much bragging among friends and family by mother about my proper education. Reading, biblical courses, basic math, American history (redux in a christian slant, obviously) and spelling were my highlights.

The Fallacy.

When I was in my teens I hit a glass ceiling in my education. The coursework – Algebra, Trig, advanced courses were all above my aptitude levels at that time. What’s the problem? a person might ask. You have a teacher right? Unfortunately this is where my truth and many of others comes out.

I was alone, in my room, studying without a teacher.

This was my home education. I was taught core basics in my early years, in my teenage years I taught myself as I had the basic skills needed to learn from a book. For me – it was a personal shelter and I was able to avoid most verbal abuse by keeping my head inside of a book and not admitting that I didn’t know what I was doing. This continued until I was 18 years old, I failed multiple courses of advanced subject matter and at the end my mother simply stated that I wasn’t good enough.

My mother attempted to kill my father and myself when I was 16 years old because “God told her to do it”. Somehow she avoided jail time, instead going for mental evaluation. My education did not advance past that point. PTSD took over my teenage brain and I lived my next two years in fear.

Growing up.

I removed myself from my parents home at 18 years of age after acquiring a GED (this was my way to graduation according to my mother and her home school group). My father filed for divorce from my mother less than a week after I left. He is a good man. He stuck around to make sure I was able to get out.

I didn’t know anything about the world and I didn’t have any experiences to fall back on. I immediately joined the wrong crowd, drinking and smoking at 18, smuggling large quantities of weed when I was 19 until I was ripped off, drunken driving in my 20s. I never went to jail and I deserved to so many times. The thing about homeschooling is that you just don’t fucking know what to do because you have no experiences and no peers. My family lived in the country for almost all of my childhood and had contact with others at church and small home school gatherings only.

I never grew to learn what not to do or the consequences of my actions.

Getting lucky.

Today I’m in my mid 30s. I am married to a beautiful woman who showed me true love. I have alcoholic, abusive tendencies that have gained me some trouble in my 30s along with depression and PTSD. Fortunately I am stable and with the help of my loved ones I am conquering my past.

If anyone is reading this story feeling alone in their struggle I encourage them to find peers that have been down the same road. We need each other.

One last thing — regarding “spoiling the child.” I am a strong atheist who has had no need for any gods and have been since my 20s. The rod will always fail you.

~ Robert, class of 1996