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Monday, January 24, 2011

Disciplining Mormon Children

A recent Wall Street Journal article entitled, "Abuse Case Sparks a Clash Over Limits of Tough Parenting," by Miriam Jordan caught my attention. It details the story of a religious Ukrainian immigrant couple in Salem, Oregon who were convicted of abusing their children. Their defense was simply Biblical discipline. The case galvanized the small community of Ukrainian immigrants as well as the larger community.
Many of these supporters, Russian-born Christians like the Kozlovs themselves, believed the parents were disciplining their children according to Biblical law. In their view, the government was out to "destroy the family because of their faith," says Tatyana I. Bondarchuk, a counselor who helped brief authorities about the group.
Among the questions from the floor: "How can I keep my child from smoking if I can't beat him or her?" "What are parents supposed to do when a child, particularly a teenager, is disobedient?"
Contrary to what most people believe, the "spare the rod and spoil the child" is not in the Bible or in anything else Mormons consider scripture. It seems to be inferred from the following Proverbs:
22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
Given the visual imagery in the Bible, the simple interpretation is that you should reproof your children when they do wrong but it hardly condones beating them.

I can find nothing in Mormon teachings that condones physically striking children, quite the opposite in fact in either early teachings or more modern ones. Consider these examples.
Brigham Young lived in an era when parents, especially fathers, were often severe and punished their children frequently. His advice is remarkably modern, but it does not advocate the permissive philosophy by which so many parents today rear their offspring: “Instead of using the rod, I will teach my children by example and by precept. I will teach them every opportunity I have to cherish faith, to exercise patience, to be full of long-suffering and kindness. It is not by the whip or the rod that we can make obedient children; but it is by faith and by prayer, and by setting a good example before them.” (In Journal of Discourses,11:117.) See this link
We are very well aware that it is but little use to whip “Mormon” children. You undertake to thrash anything into them, and you will most surely thrash it out of them. It was never any use to undertake to drive or coerce Latter-day Saints, they never could be coerced in their religious faith or practice. It is not their nature, and the mountain air our children breathe inspires them with the idea that they are not to be whipped like dogs to make them learn. The manner in which it must be done is by moral suasion, superior intellect, wisdom, prudence and good straightforward management in forming the judgment of the pupil by cultivating his manly qualities. (In Journal of Discourses, 14: 374).
President Gordon B. Hinckley reiterated that “discipline with severity, discipline with cruelty inevitably leads not to correction but to resentment and bitterness”10 (see also D&C 121:41–44). “Children don’t need beating,” he emphasized. “They need love and encouragement.”11 See this link
I grew up in an era where spanking children was the norm. I don't know of anyone who didn't do it. My mother got a lesson once when she told one of my brothers when he was just a little tyke, "I'm spanking you to teach you a lesson." He replied, "Talking to me teaches me, spanking me just makes me mad!"

Teachers in school had paddles and I saw them used. In fact, one teacher spanked a boy so hard he probably had permanent nerve damage. That teacher is now retired and currently serves in a state legislature.

When I think of beating children, I think of a scene out of a David Copperfield dramatization (Charles Dickens). Miss Murdstone tells Davey's mother that Mr. Murdstone was beaten when he was young and "it didn't do him any harm." Davey's mother responds with, "Yes, but do you think it did him any good?"

1 comment:

  1. Recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson

    by Lesli Taylor MD and Adah Maurer PhD

    Most current research:

    Spanking Kids Increases Risk of Sexual Problems

    Use of Spanking for 3-Year-Old Children and Associated Intimate Partner Aggression or Violence

    Spanking Can Make Children More Aggressive Later

    Children Who Are Spanked Have Lower IQs