Reflection August 14, 2016
Protecting Our Children
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
Over the course of the summer, our church building is filled with children and young people who are in the daycare program. Every weekday I see scores of these young ones with their bright eyes and bright faces. I often say a prayer for children - beseeching our God to keep them safe.
I pray all children might be kept safe from any violence especially parental beatings that remain much too common. I find it both appalling and puzzling that in a survey conducted in 2012 some 70% of Americans agree that “it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking.”
Recently someone I know admitted that at least one of their children was physically punished because the child was too “strong-willed.” Is not a “strong will” a good thing? Are we trying to break our children’s spirits so they become more malleable and docile? Is docility a good thing in children? I don’t believe it is!
While it may seem to parents that physical punishment of children sometimes works in the short run, the long-term consequences are devastating. By beating our children, we are significantly damaging them not only in the present but far into the future. By beating our children, we are seriously damaging their futures! Children who are physically assaulted by their parents almost never overcome the effects of those assaults!
As the prestigious Brookings Institution notes: “Children spanked frequently and/or severely are at higher risk for mental health problems, ranging from anxiety and depression to alcohol and drug abuse. There is also robust evidence of an increased incidence of aggression among children who are regularly spanked.”
Whatever euphemism we call it: “spank,” “smack,” “pop,” “whup” - we are seriously damaging our children. There is absolutely no justification for such parental assault. NONE! And those who attempt to justify it by erroneously quoting the Bible are among the most deluded parents possible! I wrote about this in the March 6, 2016 edition of the Advance (available online).
The American Academy of Pediatrics officially recommends against parents spanking their children. One of the main reasons why they are against spanking is because of clear evidence that it makes children more aggressive. To put it boldly: Physically bullying our children turns many of them into bullies. Beating our children puts them at higher risk for maladaptive behavior and poorer cognitive outcomes. “Children who are spanked are at higher risk of academic failure.”
The Brookings Institution also notes “Hitting children is more culturally acceptable in the United States than in many other nations - not only by parents, but by teachers (corporal punishment in schools is still permitted in 19 states). In many nations, physical punishment of children has now been outlawed, even for parents.” (For instance, hitting children was banned in Brazil in 2014.)
In a recent New York Times article by Dr. Perri Klass (“The Connections Between Spanking and Aggression” - June 27, 2016), the author notes: “Some families get caught in a ‘feedback loop,’ in which children who are spanked respond more aggressively, and become even more challenging, reinforcing parents’ sense that only harsh discipline will work, so parents find themselves escalating the discipline, which in turn evokes more intense behavior (by the children).”
Parents who “spank” their children often feel at a loss to stop. One of the serious problems with parenting is that we naively assume that parenting is somehow innate within us. It is not! We need to learn how to parent our children. We desperately need to learn more positive parenting skills that can be used in the place of beating them.
Parents today, especially single parents, are often under a great deal of stress because of financial concerns and the many stressors woven into our society. Too many of us are feeling alienated, anxious, and angry because of what we see around us. We no longer have the support systems in place that helped alleviate stress in the past. I pray for our young parents who must face the relentless demands of contemporary life.
What can we do? One thing I believe helpful is for any parent who physically assaulted his or her child/children to apologize for that abuse - regardless of how long ago it happened. It’s never too late to confess and seek forgiveness for past sins. Confession is, as is often said, “good for the soul.”
Secondly, I’d suggest to parents who are caught in a “feedback loop” of abuse to get professional help. My beloved Beth (when she is again able) and I would be happy to help any parent escape patterns of parental abuse.
Thirdly, I’d highly recommend that parents do not allow their young ones to play violent video games which can damage their brains. Aggression in video games is both highly addictive and leads to increased aggressive behavior.
I’d also like to state that anyone who claims that beating children is somehow “godly” is deluded and is committing the worst kind of blasphemy. There is NEVER any justification for beating our children! It’s an especially ugly wrong-doing that continually cries out to heaven! May God protect all children everywhere!
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth, Pastor
Rev. Millie Myren, Support Minister