You may have noticed No Greater Joy and Michael Pearl receiving a lot of negative press lately over advocating corporal discipline as part of a comprehensive child training program. Television reporters came out to the office. We were in newspapers from coast to coast. Even CBS, after running an uninformed criticism of us, offered to fly us to New York to answer their unfounded charges on The Morning Show. I was eager to answer, and readily agreed. Those of you on our email list were immediately informed and many of you prayed for the will of God to be done. CBS called for a pre-interview and then canceled the afternoon before the show. I think they discovered in the pre-interview that I was not the Bible-thumping caricature they had hoped. One news outlet reviewed our website and gave a very positive review, saying there was nothing in our material that would ever lead to child abuse. On the bright side, our sales skyrocketed this month. Even before this recent publicity, one out of every 75 Americans have been introduced to our ministry.
It’s a battle I would not have fought so boldly twenty years ago when we still had small children at home. The potential for institutional retribution is too great—almost a certainty. But I am now too old to be intimidated, and the battle is much bigger than the spanking flap. They’re not just coming after me, but all parents who believe parenting is a God-given responsibility.
The anti-spanking campaign is a front for an anti-family agenda, a progressive socialist movement to reengineer society with government the only mentor of children. A few well- placed individuals in government, media, and the educational system religiously promote a new world order where the collective state replaces God and the Constitution. They must control the minds of the citizenry if they are to institute their totalitarian policies; and they are well aware from history that mind control must begin with the youth—thus the public school system. But homeschool parents and Christian parents protect their children from corrupt worldviews. The socialists know that the last remaining bulwark against brainwashing children is parental headship—thus their hostility toward the family. As long as parents are free to pass on their culture and faith, totalitarian government is impossible.
Their earlier promotion of organic evolution was an effective wedge against Biblical faith and the dignity of man, but it has taken them as far as it can, for it is losing credibility in the face of genetic discoveries and contrary evidence. The leading edge of the attack upon parental authority is now the anti-spanking movement. They will use any means to police the home and mandate parental conduct, but they know that to receive public support their home incursion must be seen as a necessary act of compassion. They paint themselves as concerned now for the children they would have aborted a few years earlier.
Public schools are the propaganda wing of the socialist agenda. They rewrite history books and social studies, purging the texts of the part fundamental Christianity played in forming our constitutional republic. They are teaching America’s children to be ashamed of our past, to despise free enterprise and individualism, knowing that when the kids grow up they will be willing to adopt the more “moral” socialists’ agenda that puts the powers of God into the hands of the state.
But along came homeschooling, growing larger every year, and with it a general awakening to the fact that the subtle changes occurring around us are not just encroaching liberalism, not just ideological evolution, but an orchestrated purge of truth and human dignity with totalitarianism as its end. In the progressive vision individuals are of no importance beyond their contribution to the perpetuation and health of the State. One judge presiding over a custody case said, “The children of homeschool families will not fit into the new world order.” He was dead right. The first countries to ban spanking were the most ardent communists and fascists. Leading the way were China, Russia, and North Korea, followed by some of the socialist countries of Europe.
My critics don’t bother to read our material. They get their quotes—supposedly my statements—from web sites that got their quotes from other web sites that along the way sliced and diced my writings, changing words like “spank” to “beat” to create a caricature that any clear thinking person would find offensive. They build a straw man and then expect us to defend it. I am not whining. It goes with the territory. But why all the lies and hostility?
Why All the Lies?
There are many ordinary people in our country that do not identify themselves with the progressive/socialist faction, yet unknowingly are spokesmen for some of its important tenets. You see them duped into supporting the global warming crowd, the radical environmentalists, animal rights activists, the gay agenda, and any number of “social justice” movements. They may join the crusade against spanking, “hate speech”, cult indoctrination or any number of social issues that are none of their business.
How do otherwise ordinary people get caught up supporting some part of a movement to re-engineer society? They have big compassionate hearts, and the social engineers have painted each of these issues as a moral struggle. Who doesn’t want social justice (in the classical sense,) and to “save the planet,” and save the children from cruelty? Many people need a crusade, and the media, especially television, offer them causes that make them feel they are part of the solution.
The uninformed who listens to the media would think that spanking is something done by the fringe, an angry and abusive minority. The media uses inflammatory rhetoric like “beat” instead of “spank” or “corporal punishment” instead of “physical discipline,” obscuring a line that is extremely clear to responsible parents.
I read an anti-spanking article by a psychologist that said she did not believe in spanking, but she went on to confess that on occasion she got so angry with her children that she did scream at them. She told of receiving a ten minute lecture in a grocery store from another shopper rebuking her for angry, abusive language toward her children. She also confessed that on occasion her anger had caused her to slap her children in the face. She was ashamed of her behavior and was making a candid confession, but she went on to use her experience as an example of why parents should not adopt a policy of “hitting their children.” The occasional slips were bad enough; don’t institutionalize the practice, she said.
My advice to this professionally trained mother is, “Don’t hit your children; don’t even think about spanking; you need to receive counsel from a hillbilly mother with a sixth grade education before you have any more children; you are out of control.” But her confession points to the reason a small minority associate all spanking with hitting and violence, and why they are categorically against it to the point of pushing for laws criminalizing parents who spank their kids. Indeed, knowing their own weakness and anger, they transfer that violent nature to all parents. When you add to the equation the movie and media characterization of stern, legalistic parents “beating the fear of God” into their kids, they have reason to stand against all spanking. The opponents of corporal discipline have never experienced the kind of peace and stability that allows a parent to spank in love for the good of the child. They know that when they strike their children, it is definitely abusive, and they project that motive to everyone.
They see government as the savior of all children, standing between cruel parents and their helpless children. They would have us believe that untrained parents are incapable of knowing what is best for their children, while a few hours of liberal arts training and personal therapy transforms on-duty government employees into wise and loving mentors.
No one advocates “hitting children,” but our angry opponents can’t seem to read. We say “switch;” they quote us saying “tree branch.” We say “spank;” they quote us as saying “beat.” They deliberately do not distinguish between the loving, compassionate, measured spankings we advocate and the out of control violence of parents reacting in anger and aggression toward helpless children.
Parents who strike out in anger are most often anti-spanking proponents who reach the end of their tolerance curve. Not having spanking as part of their toolkit, they end up frustrated with their rebellious children and eventually explode in retribution. In contrast, parents who wisely employ spanking with their training soon have such happy and compliant kids that no one is ever provoked to anger.
History will show that parents have not abandoned physical discipline because it proved to be ineffective, but because many parents have become ashamed of the way they apply it. That is why No Greater Joy teaches parents to patiently “train up a child in the way he should go.”
Dr. Aletha Solter, founder of the Aware Parenting Institute, argues that corporal punishment teaches violence to children otherwise born innocent: “What happens in each home is at the root of world peace. If we’re going to be hitting children, they’re going to go around wanting to hit and hurt other people. If we raise them with gentle discipline, then we’re creating a gentle world.” Well, ten percent of the children never get hit. Are they examples of world peace and emotional stability?
Opponents make the false assertion that children who are “hit” by their parents grow up to be violent, citing studies that support their claim. But if you look at the details of their studies, you will note that they gather their data from interviews with violent criminals or psychiatric patients. “You murdered six women; were you spanked when you were a child?” Since 90% of all U.S. parents spank or “hit” their kids, what do you think the results are going to show? That’s right; nine out of ten violent criminals were spanked when they were children. I have never seen a study that asked a group of well-adjusted professionals if they were physically disciplined as children and what part they thought it played in their success. What would our critics conclude by the fact that 90% of the successful, nonviolent professionals were spanked by their parents?
Research Supports Spanking
Many pediatricians believe that responsible spanking outperforms faddish disciplinary approaches. Marjorie Gunnoe, a developmental psychologist at Calvin College, did a study of 2,600 people, about a quarter of whom had never been physically chastised. She concluded that young children spanked by their parents may grow up to be happier and more successful than those who have never been spanked. According to the research, children spanked up to the age of 6 were likely as teenagers to perform better at school and were more likely to carry out volunteer work and to want to go to college than their peers who had never been physically disciplined.
Child psychologists Diana Baumrind and Elizabeth Owens conducted a study. Owens is a research scientist at the Institute of Human Development at the University of California at Berkeley. As a mother of a three- and a five-year-old, Owens says, “As a parent I am morally opposed to spanking.” But as a scientist, she says, “A blanket injunction against spanking is not warranted by the data. If you look at the causally relevant evidence, it’s not scientifically defensible to say that spanking is always a horrible thing. I don’t think mild, occasional spankings in an otherwise supportive, loving family will do any long-term harm.”
The media campaign against spanking is designed to win the perception war. If they can make parents think that they are out of the mainstream, part of an unpopular minority, they will come to doubt their natural parental instincts and shrink from their responsibilities to continue the tradition of nurturing the young through tested means, of which spanking is a part. The progressives will then be free, without dissent, to pass unconstitutional legislation making any form of physical discipline a crime punishable by imprisonment and loss of their children to the state.
Common Law Right
A Minnesota trial court has ruled that “laws against school paddling do not supersede the common-law right to spank a child.”
The Supreme Court in Ingraham v. Wright, 1977, held that school corporal punishment of students does not violate the federal Constitution—does not amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
The constitution of the United States recognizes the existence of common law rights and offers protection in the exercise thereof. These rights are said to be unalienable. That is, these rights, springing from God, being part of our nature, are inherent in our humanity and cannot be transferred to government, nor can government assume those powers that belong to the individual alone. It is no wonder that we should find it addressed in Holy Scripture, for before it was a Biblical precept it is found to be a natural right embedded in our human natures.
A natural right is a moral duty. To breach a natural right against one’s neighbor is an act of violence and thuggery. For a government to breach that right in promotion of its own ends is tyranny. It is the duty of every man to promote the human rights of all men.
Society was more stable and more moral before government intruded into our common law rights. When I was in school in the fifties violence against teachers was unheard of. Kids always obeyed the teachers or were paddled with the oak “board of education.” I cannot remember a moment when things got out of control in school. There were no drugs, no alcohol, no cursing, and no talking back to teachers.
Note that 22 states still practice “corporal punishment” in public schools. The anti-spanking campaign Center for Effective Discipline, extrapolating from sample statistics collected by federal authorities, estimates that the number of students spanked or paddled in 2006 in U.S. public schools was about 223,000.
Contrary to the perception produced by the media, you do have a right to spank your children in all 50 states. In Tennessee, Child Protection Services says it is not abuse unless marks remain on the child 24 hours after the fact. You can read the laws for your state online.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines physical child abuse as “any non-accidental physical injury to the child, and can include striking, kicking, burning, or biting the child, or any action that results in a physical impairment of the child.” In my opinion, that is an acceptable legal definition of child abuse that does not infringe upon parental rights, but my personal definition of abuse would be broader, including mental, verbal, and physical abuse where the spanking is not severe but is not done in the proper spirit of love and good will. Yet I recognize that not all abuse rises to the level of requiring government intervention. When children are in genuine danger, under proper guidelines the government should step in and remedy the situation.
Opponents like to characterize those of us who advocate corporal chastisement as a minority, as fringe, less intelligent, behind the times, religious nuts. The opposite is true. Down through the ages in every culture, wise and compassionate men have promoted and practiced corporal training of their young. The practice is mainstream, traditional, grassroots, natural, and effective.
Corporal discipline is a natural part of parental nurturing, of caring parents seeking the best for their children. Hence, it is not surprising to find it promoted by God himself, the creator of all children (Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 29:15, 17).
But God also recognizes that parents can abuse their authority. Jesus warned, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). He continued by advising the offender of little children, “if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee.”
Many polls have shown that 65 to 75 percent of all parents endorse the use of physical discipline. Even the progressive ABC News conducted a poll that concluded that 65 percent of parents approve of physical discipline while 31 percent disapprove. Additional studies reveal that of those who say they disapprove, two-thirds of them confess to hitting their children in anger. Only about ten percent of parents profess to not believe in physical discipline and to not have practiced it. So who is in the mainstream? The traditional parents who believe in and practice corporal discipline are the vast majority and have the support of tradition and history. We likewise have the support of the Constitution and the findings of the courts. We also have the blessings of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the public schools who still practice it. Most of all, we have the support of God. The anti-spankers are the small minority who don’t trust their ability to act in a restrained and productive manner and do not believe you can either. Our children rise up and call us blessed; I will let their children tell us what they think of their parents.
The Exception Proves the Rule
Our opponents sit in front of their TV sets or computer screens waiting for months or years until some out of control parent beats his child to death in the name of corporal punishment. They then call for a ban on all spanking. They reason that if one parent can misuse the human right to physically train their children then all parents should be denied the traditional right. It is our contention that all authority is abused at some time or another by a minority, but that does not negate the need for that authority.
Every day several people overdose on prescription drugs and die. Many children die from just aspirin alone. The label warns against abusing the drug, but some people are not motivated by reason, and they or their children die. Should all aspirin be banned because it is sometimes misused? Obviously not.
Out of the five million people who are familiar with our teaching, our opponents may have finally found one family that severely abused their children. The anti-spanking lobbyists come alive like fire ants in a disturbed anthill. “It’s your teaching that led to this tragedy,” they scream. A tragedy is always tragic and sad, but why must someone else be to blame? Are men not independently capable of error or evil? If a man leaves an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and gets drunk, do you blame the twelve step program? If a man under psychiatric care commits a heinous crime, do we charge the psychiatrist? If a teen kills himself in an auto accident after taking drivers ed at school, do we stop the program? When an angry, abusive parent recognizes his need to reform and seeks help through our material, but lapses back into his predisposed habits, injuring his children yet again, is our material that teaches caution and moderation to blame? The bias and underlying agenda of the anti-spanking minority is obvious.
We will not be deterred from our sensible course by social engineers who want to replace parents with a failed philosophy. We will go on doing what our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents have done for many generations: we will train our children with all the means we deem best to bring them up to be responsible, emotionally stable, productive individuals. Get used to it. We are here to stay.
By the way, our happy children are multiplying at four times the national average. Your unruly and undisciplined children will soon need a job. Don’t worry; our properly spanked, highly motivated, well-educated kids will be hiring.