If a defiant and disobedient child needs to be corrected with the ultimate object of leading him to become an adult with self-discipline and self-restraint, then the first question would naturally be what method will be effective in accomplishing this task? If one studies the literature on this topic, one is simply inundated by a deluge of conflicting ideas, arguments and research results. If one analyzes these conflicting ideas, however, one soon discovers that the wrangling is mainly between two parties, the one endorsing spanking or corporal punishment (to use the term created by humanists), and the other opposing it.
Until a few decades ago, spanking was believed to be the most effective method to correct defiant children. Spare the rod and spoil the child was a common saying and, as seen in the following report in the Reader's Digest of May 1963, the virtues of this time-honored method were unequivocally proclaimed:
The bailiff rapped for order in the city court of the small industrial community of Whiting, Ind. Judge William Obermiller glanced at the youths, aged 15 to 20, whose names led the docket. They were slouched in a defiant row. Police had arrested them at a beer party on the town's Lake Michigan beach just as they began an unprovoked attack on three passersby. All the boys had records of minor delinquency loitering, truancy and fighting. Their friends sat in the back of the court, grinning, waiting to see the defendants put this judge in his place.
On the bench, Judge Obermiller studied their soiled records, then their soiled faces. Brassily, they returned his look. All of the boys, he observed, wore black leather jackets with broad belts, combs sticking out of breast pockets like badges, long, greasy ducktail haircuts.
These defendants are not prepared for trial, the judge announced at last. Bailiff, take them to a barber.
Across the street, two barbers started snipping to Judge Obermiller's specifications. Make them short, he directed. Make them GI.
Judge Obermiller first received notice outside his own community last year when the juvenile court referred to him four boys, two 16, one 15, one 17, charged with fighting, hit-and-run with a borrowed car, and being drunk in public. After the quartet had swaggered into court, the 15-year-old insolently leaned an elbow on the bench, pulled a roll of bills from his pocket and spoke sharply to the judge. Okay, he said. What's the fine? How much do you want?
Sit down, Obermiller directed the boy. He turned to the rest of the court. This case is continued until next Thursday evening, he said. And, bailiff, I want the parents of these four boys to appear here with them.
Thursday night the surly quartet again stomped up to the bench. When the youngest barked an impudent reply to the judge's first question and his mother remonstrated quietly, the son snapped at her, Shut up! Judge Obermiller half rose from his seat, then settled back, looking grim.
How long since you spanked this boy? he inquired of the father. Never? You never spanked him?
Then, addressing the bailiff, the judge said, Have the officers turn the boy over and hold him, bottom-up. Then spank him hard with your bare hand. Give him 15 whacks. Maybe that will teach him not to sass his mother.
While the policemen held the squirming youth, the bailiff spanked as directed. Judge Obermiller glanced around the courtroom. The young ruffians who had come to see their gang hero put the law in its place were sneaking quietly away.
The four boys answered questions respectfully the rest of that evening. They were put on probation, ordered to report regularly to the judge. According to Whiting school superintendent G. O. Burman, three of these four are showing great scholastic improvement and are settling down, causing no trouble in their classes. The fourth boy has moved away, and Whiting has no report on his progress.1
One can talk to practically anyone from the old school and they will tell you similar stories that confirm the effectiveness of the rod of reproof. In a letter to a South African newspaper, a certain Mr. Van der Merwe writes about a magistrate M. J. Bestbier, with whom he used to work in the 1950s. In those days an accused of eighteen years or under could be sentenced to ten lashes with a light cane. If there was any doubt about the age of the accused, it was recorded as eighteen and the magistrate would sentence him to ten lashes with the cane. It seemed to work well, testified Van der Merwe, as the crime rate in the district dropped by 50 percent during the two years he worked with Bestbier, from about 5,000 cases per year to less than 2,500.2
When recalling the past, one would hear some people say things like I wish I had a dime for every time I got a whipping. I'd be rich. Others would tell you, I used to get a whipping at school and get whipped again when I got home.3 Terms like brutality and abuse, that one frequently encounters these days when some people refer to spanking, are never used by those reminiscing about the good old days. In fact, as the following letter of Richard Miller shows, a hymn of praise is usually sung to the individuals who administered the whippings:
What is wrong with the fathers of this state? First, you read about boys wanting to kill their school principal and fellow classmates. Then, you read in the paper about boys chasing a 73-year-old man out of his home and doing damage to it and also raping some girls (More arrests sought in Madison crime spree, Nov. 21).
Don't the fathers believe in using discipline on their boys any more? Fathers now should have what my father had when I was small, as did most fathers at the time: a razor strop, which was used for something more than sharpening a razor.
You would try something like these boys did, and it wouldn't take long for my father to get that strop off of the hook and lay it on your bottom good and hard. It sure would make you think twice before doing something again.
I know people will say, Oh, that is child abuse. My father did not abuse me. He was trying to teach me to be a decent person and not one to cause trouble. I don't believe in child abuse. I would never want anybody to abuse a child.
But not believing in spanking a child is foolish. A good spanking didn't hurt us when we were small and it sure isn't going to hurt anybody now.
That strop hurt like blazes when it was laid on me, but it taught me to respect my parents, teachers and everybody else. Maybe it is time for fathers to get back to the old days and get a strop in their house and use it when it is needed.4
In a letter to the Tampa Tribune, Linda S. Iwersen stated:
I do not apologize for the fact that I was raised many times by the belt. In fact, I am quite proud of the four children my parents raised that way. We are now all in our 40s and, not amazingly, have not been arrested, jailed, imprisoned or placed on probation, costing the government $50,000 or more a year to keep us away from society. Teaching us the hard way not to lie, cheat or steal made us quite productive, taxpaying and voting adults. We all pay our own bills, have consistent work histories and ethics and aren't on welfare or food stamps. We keep our automobiles insured and registered. We have driver's licenses, Social Security cards, bank accounts and homes. We follow the rules. We were taught responsibilities, duties and discipline!5
If one reads articles and letters such as the above, it is hard to understand why so much suspicion is being cast on this time-honored tradition. In fact, suspicion seems to be a mild word. There are many people nowadays who violently oppose the idea of spanking a child. I am really disappointed to read the opinions of all those who are in favor of spanking, one mother responded to an Internet poll entitled To spank or not to spank:
I shudder when other parents say I was spanked as a child, and I thank my parents. I don't see much difference between that and battered women who feel they deserve to be beaten. It makes me sick. Lots of people have said there is a difference between being spanked and beaten. What, exactly, is the difference? Is it the velocity of your hand/belt/hairbrush/etc. as it hits your child's backside? Or is it the place on the child's body you're actually hitting? Or is it the number of times you actually hit? In my opinion, spanking is a nice word people give to a violent practice. I believe that spanking is a stupid, lazy response to children's misbehaving.
The majority of today's experts on child education would undoubtedly agree with the above-quoted anti-spanking mom especially Murray A. Straus, who authored the book Beating the Devil out of Them in 1994. His work is most frequently quoted in recent times to call corporal punishment in question. According to Straus (1) all the really violent societies in the world allow corporal punishment of children; (2) the greater the degree of approval of corporal punishment in a state, the higher the murder rate; (3) the more corporal punishment in schools, the higher the rate of violence among students; (4) the more corporal punishment in middle childhood or early adolescence, the greater the probability of crime and delinquent behavior; (5) corporal punishment is associated with poor interpersonal and managerial skills, depression, suicide, and alcohol abuse; (6) more corporal punishment means a lower likelihood of graduating from college; (7) corporal punishment increases the risk of becoming a generally angry person; and (8) the more corporal punishment a man experienced the more likely he is to beat his wife.6
Other adverse effects, often claimed by anti-spanking activists, is that spanking on the buttocks can create an association between pain and pleasure in the child's mind, and lead to sexual difficulties in adulthood. Spanking wanted advertisements in alternative newspapers are frequently cited to make the point.
According to Chigbo, an advocate of spanking, much of the writings of the anti-spanking league reveal little evidence, much opinion, and a good deal of exaggeration and moralizing.7 And their arguments are fraught with illogicalities, Chigbo might have added.
THE ILLOGICALITIES OF THE HUMANISTS
According to the logic of anti-spankers, the first half of the twentieth century should have been a hellish period of violent crime in America, as more than 90 percent of American parents spanked their children then. Notably, it is the second half of the twentieth century that is characterized by violent crime, a trend that had its onset at the same time that American psychiatrists and psychologists began to cast doubt upon this time-honored tradition. Influenced by these experts, many parents have abandoned this tradition in favor of modern disciplinary practices, such as the withdrawal of privileges or taking time-out. Many parents who spank their children today do so only as a last resort when all else has failed. A survey of American parents shows a drop in the use of spanking as the main disciplinary method from 59 percent in 1962 to 19 percent in 1993. In the same period, corporal punishment has been outlawed in many American states. Even in states where it has not been outlawed, school principals are often reluctant to administer this kind of discipline, fearing that it could land them in legal trouble.
The tendency of violence to increase when spanking/corporal punishment is questioned or outlawed is mirrored in other countries. The Swedish government outlawed spanking in 1979 and started an extensive education program to wean parents away from it. Since the ban, police reports of teen violence have soared sixfold in the following decade. What is happening in Sweden is gang violence mobbing as they call it over there, Dr. Robert Larzelere reported on the Swedish situation a decade after the banning.8
In Britain, corporal punishment was outlawed in state schools by the 1986 Education Act after a 1982 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. Ten years later, in 1996, three newspaper polls showed that two-thirds of the people wanted corporal punishment to be reinstated. This change of heart was brought about by the breakdown of discipline in schools and order on streets,9 and the growing violence among young boys.10 The Ridings School in Halifax, for example, was closed by the local authorities after reports of assaults on teachers. The Daily Telegraph told stories of fights in classrooms, of teachers being bombarded with fireworks and spittle. One 14-year-old boy boasted that he had set fire to a window frame with a cigarette lighter. This is the sort of behavior that has led teachers at the school to ask for the expulsion of sixty hard-core troublemakers about 10 percent of the pupils.11 Another newspaper reported a woman teacher of this school being sexually assaulted while a male teacher was punched in the face.12
In New Zealand, corporal punishment was outlawed in public schools in 1990. Violence, however, did not decrease. In fact, a 1997 report stated that 70 percent of secondary school teachers in New Zealand had been assaulted physically by a student in the previous year.13
In South Africa, corporal punishment in schools was abolished in 1996. Less than a year later, the Cape Argus published an article warning that action is needed urgently to prevent playing fields turning into battlegrounds. In one case, a twelfth grade student and martial arts expert hit a younger boy so hard that he had to have reconstructive surgery. At another school, a boy cutting in line at the snack bar during break was stabbed with a bread knife. Violence became fashion overnight, one principal said. Bring back corporal punishment. A good whack or two on the behind is not child abuse or violence, it is just effective punishment.14
At Manenberg Senior Secondary School in South Africa, where pupils have manhandled teachers, the principal, Abdurahman Petersen, says the abolition of corporal punishment has tied the hands of teachers and brought about mayhem:
Taking away corporal punishment is a disservice to children, and to education as a whole. We have to call in parents every time children get unruly. We detain them [the children], but this does not work on many occasions. The children defy us because they know there is nothing we can do. Sometimes we suspend unruly children, but this is a tragedy because it deprives the child of an education. Discipline fell away after corporal punishment was abolished last year. The boys swear at and manhandle women teachers. If a child knows they can be punished, they will behave much better.15
A teacher, Mike Hagennan, stated:
I'm a Christian at a state school in South Africa. Many of the problems that you experienced in the USA 10-20 years ago, are starting to surface here. Our academic standards are declining and our students are getting more and more uncontrollable as the humanists have stripped teachers of virtually all their authority. Corporal punishment was outlawed last year and things are visibly worse!!!16
Except for the abolition of corporal punishment in the schools, the majority of South African parents have abandoned spanking as a disciplinary practice in favor of American practices, such as the withdrawal of privileges or taking time-out. Those who still cling to this tradition are frequently ridiculed in the press. They are continuously reminded that times have changed. They are right, times have changed, but children obviously have not. Without the rod of reproof many act like little vandals, having no respect for other people or their property.
The situation in Japan is somewhat different. Although corporal punishment in schools is legally prohibited in Japan the first law prohibiting it was passed in 1879, repealed in 1885, reinstated in 1890, repealed again in 1900, and once again reinstated in 1941 the hickory stick was still much in use in Japanese schools by the end of the 1970s. While Americans were debating classroom discipline at that time, many believing that sparing the rod was saving the child, there was not much debate in Japan.17
An increasing number of disciplinary actions against Japanese teachers, however, have caused this practice to be gradually phased out. In 1996, a record number of teachers were disciplined for inflicting corporal punishment on their students. A total of 436 teachers at public schools were subjected to disciplinary measures ranging from suspensions to pay cuts,18 which have brought this practice to a halt. While the age-old concept of konjo as it is called was losing its place in the classroom, discipline in Japanese homes was going astray at the same time. The result is telling. One Japanese teacher described how one of her students broke windows, hit other children, spat on the floor, and even urinated publicly. Other kids fidget, chatter incessantly, leave class without permission and won't help clean up the classroom. Things are so bad one local government sent a letter to parents reminding them to teach children manners and obedience. This is once again evidence of a startling development in a society once known for its courtesy, deference to legitimate authority, obedience, and manners.19
The logic of anti-spankers should also imply that countries such as Singapore would swarm with criminals. In this country caning is not used only for children, but also for adult lawbreakers. Until very recently, Singapore provided an extreme example of a spanking society. In the home, most Singaporean parents caned their children and strongly approved of this form of discipline. In schools, headmasters whipped unruly delinquents, and Singapore still whips adults in its criminal justice system.20 The laws in Singapore are strict and punishment severe. Its paternalistic government strictly enforces laws that prohibit pornography and ban smoking, eating, chewing gum, or drinking in designated public places. It is even illegal to fail to flush a toilet. The possession of drugs is punishable by death, and being caught for vandalism or rape can lead to a jail sentence, a fine, and caning.
According to the logic of anti-spankers, Singapore should have been the most violent society on earth, a world where life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Yet Singapore was one of the most nonviolent of all industrialized societies. In Singapore, women walked the streets freely without fear of being mugged, assaulted, raped, or robbed. Children were well-behaved and respectful, vandalism and juvenile delinquency were rare, and Singaporean schoolchildren performed remarkably well on international measures of academic achievement.21
Although the cane still stings in Singaporean households, unfortunately more and more Singaporeans are abandoning their ways and following in the footsteps of the Japanese:
Many of us leave the disciplining of our children to the schools and many schools are reluctant to discipline their students. In secondary schools, discipline is getting from bad to worse even in good schools. Boys and girls are more difficult to control in class. Teachers are now at a loss as they find it difficult to handle their charges in class. Teachers cannot use the cane. They cannot impose corporal punishment on their students. That privilege lies with the principal. And more principals are reluctant to use the cane on their students, preferring instead to counsel them.22
The results are already being reflected in the Singaporean newspaper headlines, for example: Gang violence by girls on the rise (Straits Times, 18 October 1998) and Teen offenders on the rise (Straits Times, 15 April 1999).
The problem with some researchers is that they will find what they are looking for. If they want to prove that spanking leads to violence, that is what they will prove, no matter how they have to twist the facts and no matter how much their findings are contradicted by evidence from real life. The reason why they would deliberately fake research on this subject is obvious. If correctly applied, spanking is an effective tool in maintaining order at home and in the classroom (discipline in the here and now), and also in teaching children right from wrong (which eventually leads to self-discipline). As Proverbs 22:15 states, Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. As it is the goal of the humanists either to create chaos, or to free man from concepts of right and wrong, they have everything to gain by proving that spanking is destructive.
The story of Cyril Burt, England's first true psychologist, and one of its most distinguished ones, should serve as a warning to parents against too readily accepting the scientific findings of psychology and psychiatry. Burt's research on inherited intelligence proved that intellect is born, not made. His scientific findings were based mainly on large-scale studies comparing the intelligence quotient (IQ) scores of identical twins and nonidentical twins, and identical twins that had been reared apart. His work became the cornerstone of all theories of inherited intelligence, helped shape the British school system, and was considered of such consequence that, in 1946, Burt became the first psychologist to be knighted. And yet, within a year of his death, his methods, data, and honesty were in serious question. A horrified psychological community discovered that much of Burt's work rested on data that had been doctored and possibly made up. In fact, it appeared that Burt used perhaps up to twenty pseudonyms (names that he had invented) to promote his own journal.23
Burt's case is also not an isolated case. In 1988, as a further example of the readiness of psychologists to twist the facts, psychologist Stephen Breuning, an expert in the study of hyperactivity and mentally retarded children, pleaded guilty of falsifying data that he presented to the federal agency funding his research. This case is particularly serious because Breuning's research had a rapid impact on the choice of drugs used to treat certain behavioral disorders in mentally retarded children. As Robert Sprague, his accuser, put it, the issue of scientific fraud in research on psychotropic medications is not an academic game, but directly influences the lives and welfare of tens of thousands of mentally retarded people.
After reading Martin Gardiner's Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (published by Dover Publications, 1957) and also through our own research, it gradually became evident to us that people can be persuaded remarkably easily to accept and follow even the most illogical and clearly unproven ideas. Gullibility, it seems, is the biggest qualitative difference between man and animal. Nothing could ever persuade a lion that he is not a lion. Nothing could ever persuade a monkey not to be a monkey. Nothing could ever persuade an ant that he is anything but an ant. It took only one book, however, that of Darwin, to persuade millions of people that they are animals. Likewise, millions of parents were willing to abandon tried and tested traditions and the experience of parents over thousands of years in favor of totally unproven new and modern psychological ideas on child rearing. Have these modern views managed to make the world any better? The answer is a very emphatic NO. As more and more parents follow psychological gimmicks such as ignoring misbehavior and rewarding good behavior, withdrawing privileges and time-out, youth-related problems are becoming more and more acute. At the same time, homes are being transformed into stressful places. Many of today's parents are worn-out by their children's continuous misbehavior, some are forced to isolate themselves to avoid embarrassment in public, while others are afraid and even terrified of their own children.
Perhaps we should take the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal to heart. The prophets of Baal could not set the wood beneath the sacrifice on fire, even though they shouted, danced, prophesied frantically and slashed themselves with swords and spears until the blood flowed. When Elijah prayed to the true God, however, the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench (1 Kings 18:38). So far, nothing positive has come from the alien methods of psychology and psychiatry. The only visible result of all the frantic shouting, dancing, and prophesying of psychologists and psychiatrists, and of all their pills and potions, is just that it is utterly destroying our children. So, perhaps we should follow the ways of the Lord again, and we might discover a light burning in our children's hearts. Our old-fashioned forefathers relied on Him. They used His Word as the instruction manual in the education of their children. Although our forefathers were certainly not perfect, the truth remains that they were many times more successful in turning their children into adults with self-discipline and self-restraint. Such an outcome, however, is most improbable without discipline, without parents establishing rules and expectations of behavior, and enforcing them with correction if their children refuse to accept these boundaries. As seen in the cases of millions of children throughout this world, psychological gimmicks simply do not work. Even though it might make some people sick, the truth is that adults, who have been raised with the rod of reproof by their parents in a decent and respectful manner when they were children, can thank their parents. They have something to be thankful for, as their parents have made the right choices for their children.
We end this chapter with a letter by James Bell, which was published in Los Angeles Times in July 1998. Perhaps it summarizes this chapter:
For 10 years I spanked my children. Both of them. A boy and a girl. And I have paid a price. I have had to endure their straight A grades. I have had to listen to their teachers tell me what a pleasure it is to have them in their classrooms. And last year I had to sit and watch as my son, upon his graduation from middle school, was awarded the top prize for citizenship.
Yet the experts would have us believe that ever laying a paddle on a child's rear end is an immeasurable evil, likely to turn a priceless innocent into the second coming of Charles Manson.
The experts are wrong.
My two brothers and I were raised by loving parents. My dad was a strict disciplinarian, a World War II veteran who did not tolerate disrespect. He spanked my brothers and me when we needed it. It must be a shock to the enlightened authorities that we have all grown into successful, solid citizens. We have 10 children among us, all of whom were spanked and all of whom are wonderful. The oldest is a college grad, the next oldest is in the Navy and the third oldest is at Georgetown University. All the others are on a college track as well; none of them has ever been arrested, expelled, suspended or on The Jerry Springer Show.
But lest this be dismissed as merely anecdotal evidence, consider a recent poll commissioned by the Family Research Council, where 76 percent of the more than 1,000 Americans surveyed said that spanking was an effective form of discipline in their home when they were children.
What about studies that purport to show spanking is harmful? Those studies fail because of a rudimentary research mistake lumping controlled spanking with abusive forms of punishment like kicking and punching and calling it all corporal punishment. This basic flaw so defies common sense that one wonders if the researchers are purposely skewing the results.
But if it isn't spanking, what is the most common cause of childhood aggressiveness? According to one study, it's uncurbed permissiveness. Imagine that. Letting your kids do whatever they want is worse than spanking. Yet no one calls this child abuse.
Of course, there are parents who strike their children in anger, who abuse their kids horribly. But that is not the issue. We don't outlaw cars because some people drive recklessly. Child abusers deserve to be punished; loving parents who spank their kids do not. To equate them is fraudulent.
Enlightened guilt, however, is a powerful thing. It almost worked with me. When my children were very young, I researched forms of discipline. I was almost convinced by the experts that I was a wicked father for ever spanking my kids. The guilt almost drove me to give it up, but then reality intervened.
One night I went to a hospital for a group therapy session, as a support for a friend. Across from us sat a dad, an alcoholic who was the in-patient. Next to him was his silent wife and next to her their recalcitrant teenage son. Throughout the session the dad made some sad attempts to connect with his family. But his son, a look of contempt riveted to his face, barely turned his shaved and ear-ringed head his father's way. The wife seemed stuck in some twilight zone of despair and confusion.
At one point, the therapist turned the discussion to discipline options and the subject of spanking arose. The dad proudly stated to everyone, I've never spanked my son! And I never would! I don't believe in it, do I, son? He chuckled self-consciously and looked toward his boy, who immediately curled his lip and muttered, Shut up.