INDIGNEZ-VOUS! GET ANGRY! CRY OUT! It is only natural to question the reasons for the failure of our societies. When you live in a society that is malfunctional, the very first reaction is be outraged. - Stéphane Hessel 'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

November 16, 2011

Corporal Punishment, the Abuse of Authority and the Rights of Children

Chain The Dogma   November 16, 2011

Corporal Punishment, the Abuse of Authority and the Rights of Children

Protecting children's rights protects human rights for everyone

Perry Bulwer

Abuse of authority is a theme common to most of the posts on this blog. It applies whether I am writing about corrupt religious leaders, corrupt politicians, or corrupt police, three groups I frequently criticize here. But there is another group of people I have not yet specifically written about that regularly abuses their authority. Those people, as you probably guessed by the title of this article, are parents who believe that corporal punishment is a just and effective way to discipline children. My first draft used 'spanking' in the title, but corporal punishment often involves far more than hitting just one body part. Here is what I wrote in the main article on the home page of my archive, Religion and Child Abuse News:

 Of course, there is an awful lot of physical child abuse that is not related to religion. Children are easy targets. But it is more than just sad when religion is used to justify assaulting children, it is immoral and criminal. Corporal punishment takes many forms ranging from slaps to torture. In my opinion, even a slap is an affront to the dignity of a child, or any human for that matter. Spanking children is not necessary. There are better ways to train children than hitting them, so why do believers who claim to have superior morals to those of unbelievers think it is okay to assault vulnerable children? If a slap is ok, why not a punch, or a beating, or a whipping, or water torture, or other tortures? Some believers don't know where to draw the line and children suffer or die.

Furthermore, the term 'corporal punishment' also applies to situations where no physical assault occurs, but where necessities of life are purposely withheld, such as forced fasting, sleep deprivation  or deliberate and prolonged exposure to the elements causing hypothermia, or other similar evils.

The words 'discipline' and 'disciple' are obviously related, and it is no surprise that religious people who believe it is their duty to make disciples of their children  are the most ardent supporters of corporal punishment. For example, some of the scriptures most often cited by Christians to justify assaulting their children are Proverbs 13: 24; 19:18; 22:6,15; 23:13,14; and 29:15.  Those verses encourage beating children with an instrument as the proper way to discipline or train them. While Proverbs 22:6  does not specifically refer to beating children, it does indicate that such training, or 'training up a child', is intended to instruct children in the right way or path according to that dogma, so that when they become adults they will not depart from it. In other words, Biblical corporal punishment of children is specifically directed at so thoroughly indoctrinating them with dogma that it becomes extremely difficult to escape it, even when they become adults. There is no choice or freedom for children imprisoned by such dogma, they simply must obey authority without question: do it because mommy, daddy, or God says so. Those children certainly have no freedom of religion, for they are told exactly what to believe, and threatened with punishment if they do not.

By the way, To Train Up a Child,  is the title of a very popular book among Christian fundamentalists that teaches them how to properly beat children. It was found in the homes of at least three families where children died as a result of the methods taught by its author, pastor Michael Pearl, who insists that the Bible gives parents authority to assault their children and violate their inherent human rights. Michael Pearl is an evil man. At least two of those murdered children were adopted, and may have been victims of the evangelical movement's use of international adoptions for the religious conversion of children.   Undoubtedly, there are many more victims we may never hear about.

Authority is synonymous with power, so to abuse authority is to abuse the power one holds over another. Such abuse is evil. In The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil,  Philip Zimbardo wrote:

Let's begin with a definition of evil. Mine is a simple, psychologically based one: Evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others—or using one's authority and systemic power to encourage or permit others to do so on your behalf. In short, it is "knowing better but doing worse."

Continuing with that theme, William Antonio Boyle, in a footnote to his essay on "Sibling Rivalry", wrote the following about abuse of authority (emphasis in the original):

Abuse of power or authority may be the prime source and true essence of moral EVIL - Evil is the ABUSE of power. Moral EVIL begins to exist when someone refuses to accept responsibility for the welfare of others, especially those naturally under his or her direct care. It can be said that someone has POWER, if that someone can decisively influence (the) reality (of others).

In this context, AUTHORITY is power that derives from a social accord or convention, such as the laws or customs of a social group such as a state or an organization. So then, what is "abuse of power"? ABUSE OF POWER is the illegitimate use of power.

ABUSE OF POWER is that situation that exists whenever someone who has POWER over others, (that is, the capacity to impose his or her will on those others) for example, by virtue of his or her superior mental dexterity, social position, physical strength, knowledge, technology, weapons, wealth, or the trust that others have in him or her, unjustifiably uses that power to EXPLOIT or HARM those others, or through lack of action, ALLOWS exploitation or harm to occur to them.

It follows that someone who does not have (a particular form of) power cannot abuse it. It also follows that the main (and perhaps the only) principle of human ethics and morality should be to avoid the abuse of power.

Obviously, parents have some natural authority and power over their children, but it is not absolute, at least not in a civilized society. Not only are there national laws forbidding parental neglect and mistreatment of their children, but the international community has recognized in various declarations, conventions and treaties that, unlike parents, the vulnerability of children requires they be given special rights and protections, as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention),  which all nations have ratified except for the United States and Somalia.

Although the rights of parents and legal guardians must be taken into account when considering the rights of a child, that balancing act is always weighted toward the child since the primary consideration must be the best interests of the child (see Article 3). When articulating specific rights of children, the Convention also considers the developmental stage of the child. Those various considerations are also set out in Article 5:
Article 5

States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.

That article indicates that the rights and obligations of parents must be directed towards ensuring that their child is able to eventually exercise all of their Convention rights, which would be in the best interests of the child, though not necessarily the parents. The phrase "evolving capacities of the child" also appears later in the Convention in relation to religion. It recognizes that as children mature they are increasingly able to form their own thoughts, opinions and beliefs, and that their exercise of particular rights is on a continuum according to their maturation level. While parents "... have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child [t]he best interests of the child will be their basic concern." (Article 18) In other words, the authority of a parent over their child is not absolute, for not only is it limited by national laws related to child welfare, it must also be directed to ensuring the best interests of their child in accordance with their inherent human rights as set out under international law in the Convention.

Before getting back to the issue of corporal punishment, which the Convention addresses in Article 19, other Articles addressing the issues of freedom of speech and freedom of thought, conscience and religion are also instructive for determining the proper balance between parental and children's rights. Article 12 states:
Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

That article addresses a child's right to freedom of expression, and so does Article 13. Article 12 speaks to the obligations of States Parties, in other words, those governments that have ratified the Convention. The age and maturity of the child is specifically considered in that Article because it concerns all matters and decisions that affect the child. The more a matter effects the child, such as in a custody dispute, and the more mature the child is, the more weight given to their views on the matter. Moreover, while sub-section 2 indicates that although a child's right of free expression on matters affecting them is particularly important in judicial or administrative proceedings, the right is not confined to that. Article 13 clarifies that point by speaking directly to a child's right to freedom of expression, without any regard to parental rights or the maturity and capacity of the child.
Article 13

1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.

2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

Importantly, freedom of expression for children includes the right to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds". And just as important, there are no specific parental restrictions on this right. However, this right may be violated by authoritarian parents more often than most others, except for the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. After all, it is rather easy to control a child's access to information and ideas, even in this information age. Books can be banned or burned,  access to university  and the internet can be denied, thoughts, opinions and facts  can be censored. Many religious people home school their children and many religious groups set up their own private schools for precisely that reason, but in direct contradiction to the principle of the best interests of the child. It is not in any child's interest to be denied their right to freely seek and receive information of any kind in any form. And it is also not in any child's interest to be denied their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as set out in Article 14:
Article 14

1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

2. States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.

3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

Article 14 is crucial for establishing the proper balance between parental and children's rights. Clearly, children have the right to freely form their own thoughts and conscience, and choose their own religious beliefs, or none. After all, freedom of religion for children, and for adults, would be no freedom at all if it did not include the right to be free from religion. Since parents also have the right to the same freedoms, it is inevitable that conflicts between those rights will arise. As it must and does throughout, the Convention sides with children. Sub-section 2 clearly states that the rights and duties of parents in this regard must not be directed towards protecting their own freedoms, but towards ensuring their children are able to exercise their personal religious rights in accordance with their evolving capacities. Anticipating objections from parents who only read the first few words in sub-section 2 and insist that their own religious freedom gives them a right to indoctrinate their children, sub-section 3 clarifies that the right to religious freedom is not absolute. A parent's right to religious freedom does not give them the right to deny that same freedom to their child, regardless of the child's age. Or, as the U.S. Supreme Court famously said:

Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.

That quotation also touches on the principle of the "evolving capacities of the child" as well as the concept of a child's right to an open future. That is a right that is not specifically set out in the Convention, but is implied in this Article and elsewhere. After all, if a parent makes an irreversible religious decision on behalf of their child, such as to rely on faith alone and refuse necessary medical treatment  and the child dies, then that child has no future at all. Circumcision of both boys and girls  is another common example of a religious decision made by parents that causes irreversible harm to children. But even where death or injury does not occur, a child's right to an open future can still be easily denied them through indoctrination that cuts off their capacity for critical thinking  and ability to freely form their own thoughts, conscience and beliefs.

If a child is indoctrinated into a particular religious dogma by authoritarian parents from the earliest age, their right to freedom of expression and information denied through restrictive, narrow-minded 'education', and they are unaware of the full extent of their human rights, it becomes impossible for them to exercise those rights, either as a child or later as an adult. I have encountered countless believers who are so unaware of their own rights that they insist that religious freedom does not include the right to be free from religion. But if the right to freedom of religion has any meaning at all, it must mean that everyone, including children, is free to choose their own religious beliefs or none. When that freedom is denied to a child, it is also denied to the adult that child will become. Protecting a person's rights while they are a child is the only to way to protect that person's rights once they are an adult. That's what a child's right to an open future means, reaching adulthood with their capacity to exercise all their rights still intact. Protecting the full range of children's rights protects human rights for everyone.

Finally, we get to the heart of the issue of corporal punishment and children's rights in Article 19 of the Convention, which states:
Article 19

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

It could hardly be stated clearer than that. State Parties, that is every country in the world except the U.S. and Somalia, are required to take all measures necessary for protecting children from all forms of harm while in the care of their parents. In other words, children are vulnerable and therefore need protection from all forms of harm, even from their own parents or guardians. The question then becomes: does corporal punishment harm children? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not endorse corporal punishment  for any reason because it is ineffective for changing behaviour in the long term. But there is also evidence that, even if a milder form of corporal punishment such as spanking does not cause physical harm it still causes emotional  and intellectual harm.

According to Zimbardo's definition of evil, any action that among other things demeans or dehumanizes others is evil, in other words, harmful. Corporal punishment, even in its mildest forms, certainly demeans the dignity of children, but even worse, it dehumanizes them. Long before Michael Pearl's book became a best seller on how to beat children into submission, James Dobson, another evil evangelist and founder of Focus on the Family, wrote a book in 1977 called Dare to Discipline, in which he "glorified a sadomasochistic/spiritual ritual of discipline." And in his 1992 book, The Strong Willed Child, Dobson compares beating children to beating dogs. After describing his efforts to make his defiant dog obey him, he writes: "Just as surely as a dog will occasionally challenge the authority of his leaders, so will a little child, only more so."  Not to be out done, Pearl writes in his book that he uses "the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules".  To those evangelical child beaters and others like them, such as Bill Gothard,
children are mere chattel,  or personal property, akin to slaves or domesticated animals, without any personal rights. They are not just using dogs and mules as metaphors for how to train children, they are using exactly the same methods on children as they use on animals. If that is not dehumanizing, therefore evil, I don't know what is. And it is an evil they call good (Isaiah 5:20),  which makes it even more evil.

If you have followed any of the links here to news articles detailing the horrifying results of corporal punishment you will understand that referring to it as evil is not hyperbole. Some will object that my examples are all extreme cases and that most corporal punishment takes the form of mild spanks or slaps that do not cause physical harm, and therefore it is unfair to call that evil. However, as I have pointed out, growing evidence suggests that even that type of corporal punishment can cause emotional and intellectual harm, in violation of Article 19. Furthermore, consider the issue from a child's point of view and imagine what it must be like to have a giant human who is several times larger and more powerful in every way hitting you for reasons that may not be entirely clear to you. But because most corporal punishment is hidden behind closed doors, it can be difficult to imagine what corporal punishment is like for children, even after reading horrific accounts. So, here is a video, courtesy of a Texas judge,  who adjudicated dozens of family law cases, beating his teenage daughter with a belt. Now, imagine again that same brutality or even worse being applied to even younger children, and tell me that is not evil. By the way, the judge would have been criminally charged, but the statute of limitation had run out. That video contradicts claims by many advocates of corporal punishment that it is only used against young children, as do the well documented abuses in the 'troubled teen' industry of boot camps or similar behaviour modification programs.

I have used the ordinary meaning of 'assault' in this article to refer to physical blows by one person against another, but in most common law jurisdictions (where I'm writing from) the legal meaning of 'assault' refers to threats of harm to another, while actual physical contact is called battery. The point is, the law in those jurisdictions protects adults not just from physical violence but also from threats of violence. Even the most benign threats can attract criminal charges. For example, a Canadian police officer had a young female protester arrested for assault for blowing soap bubbles in his direction. So, if adults are protected from even the mildest forms of assault, why are children who are far more vulnerable not similarly protected? Of all the countries using the common law,  only New Zealand,  Kenya and Tongo are among the 31 countries that have enacted laws prohibiting all corporal punishment  of children, as Article 19 of the convention requires all parties to do.  In all other countries, including here in Canada, it is illegal to threaten or hit adults, but it remains legal to threaten and beat children, in direct contravention of their inherent human rights recognized in the Convention. And that is a crying shame.


Respecting a Child's Point of View

Book by former Missionaries of Charity nun describes abuse in cult of Mother Teresa

Quakes, Quacks and Kidnappers: Baptists, Scientologists, DreamHealer and Bad Consequences of Good Intentions

Brother of home church pastor pleads guilty to physical and psychological child abuse for using corporal punishment

Christian evangelists in US plan to increase use of international adoptions to spread gospel and indoctrinate children


  1. Texas' top court suspends judge in beating video

    By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN, Associated Press November 23, 2011

    McALLEN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Supreme Court suspended a judge Tuesday whose beating of his then-teenage daughter in 2004 was viewed millions of times on the Internet.

    Aransas County court-at-law Judge William Adams was suspended immediately with pay pending the outcome of the inquiry started earlier this month by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, according to an order signed Tuesday by the clerk of the state's highest court.

    The order makes clear that while Adams agreed to the commission's recommended temporary suspension and waived the hearing and notice requirements, he does not admit "guilt, fault or wrongdoing" regarding the allegations. His attorney did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.

    Adams' now 23-year-old daughter Hillary Adams uploaded the secretly-recorded 2004 video of her father beating her repeatedly with a belt for making illegal downloads from the internet.
    William Adams has not sat on the bench since the video went viral. It has been viewed more than 6 million times on YouTube.

    The public outcry over the video was so great that in a rare move the, State Commission on Judicial Conduct announced publicly Nov. 2 that it had opened an investigation. A statement from the commission then said that it had been flooded with calls, emails and faxes regarding the video and Adams.

    William Adams appeared in court Monday for a day-long hearing regarding the custody of his 10-year-old daughter. His wife had sought a change in their joint custody agreement, and another judge imposed a temporary restraining order effectively keeping William Adams from being alone with his younger daughter until he reached a decision. An order was expected in that dispute Wednesday.

    As Aransas County's top judge, William Adams has dealt with at least 349 family law cases in the past year alone, nearly 50 of which involved state caseworkers seeking determine whether parents were fit to raise their children. A visiting judge has been handling his caseload.

    After reviewing the investigation conducted by local police, the Aransas County district attorney said too much time had passed to bring charges against William Adams.

  2. A Puritan's war against religion

    By John M. Barry, Los Angeles Times Op-Ed February 5, 2012

    In January, while conservative Christians and GOP presidential candidates were charging that "elites" have launched "a war against religion," a federal court in Rhode Island ordered a public school to remove a prayer mounted on a wall because it imposed a belief on 16-year-old Jessica Ahlquist. The ruling seems particularly fitting because it was consistent not only with the 1st Amendment but with the intent of Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island expressly to provide religious liberty and who called such forced exposure to prayer "spiritual rape."

    As Williams' nearly 400-year-old comment demonstrates, the conflict over the proper relationship between church and state is the oldest in American history. The 1st Amendment now defines this relationship, but understanding the full meaning of the amendment requires understanding its history, for the amendment was a specific response to specific historical events and was written with the recognition that freedom of religion was inextricably linked to freedom itself.

    The church-state conflict began when Puritans, envisioning a Christian nation, founded what John Winthrop called "a citty upon a hill" in Massachusetts, and Williams rejected that vision for another: freedom. He insisted that the state refrain from intervening in the relationship between humans and God, stating that even people advocating "the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or Antichristian consciences and worships" be allowed to pray — or not pray — freely, and that "forced worship stinks in God's nostrils."

    Yet Williams was no atheist. He was a devout Puritan minister who, like other Massachusetts Puritans, fled religious persecution in England. Upon his arrival in 1631 he was considered so godly that Boston Puritans had asked him to lead their church. He declined — because he considered their church insufficiently pure.

    Reverence for both Scripture and freedom led Williams to his position. His mentor was Edward Coke, the great English jurist who ruled, "The house of every one is as his castle," extending the liberties of great lords — and an inviolate refuge where one was free — to the lowest English commoners. Coke pioneered the use of habeas corpus to prevent arbitrary imprisonment. And when Chancellor of England Thomas Egerton said, "Rex est lex loquens; the king is the law speaking," and agreed that the monarch could "suspend any particular law" for "reason of state," Coke decreed instead that the law bound the king. Coke was imprisoned — without charge — for his view of liberty, but that same view ran in Williams' veins.

    continued in next comment...,0,7524085.story

  3. continued from previous comment:

    Equally important to Williams was Scripture. Going beyond the "render unto Caesar" verse in the New Testament, he recognized the difficulty in reconciling contradictory scriptural passages as well as different Bible translations. He even had before him an example of a new translation that served a political purpose. King James had disliked the existing English Bible because in his view it insufficiently taught obedience to authority; the King James Bible would correct that.

    [note by Perry Bulwer: it is no coincidence that many fundamentalists who practice brutal corporal punishment of children prefer the King James Bible.]

    Given these complexities, Williams judged it impossible for any human to interpret all Scripture without error. Therefore he considered it "monstrous" for one person to impose any religious belief on another. He also realized that any government-sponsored prayer required a public official to pass judgment on something to do with God, a sacrilegious presumption. He also knew that when one mixes religion and politics, one gets politics. So to protect the purity of the church, he demanded — 150 years before Jefferson — a "wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world."

    Massachusetts had no such wall, compelled religious conformity and banished Williams for opposing it. Seeking "soul liberty," he founded Providence Plantations and established an entirely secular government that granted absolute freedom of religion. The governing compact of every other colony in the Americas, whether English, French, Spanish or Portuguese, claimed the colony was being founded to advance Christianity. Providence's governing compact did not mention God. It did not even ask God's blessing.

    Williams next linked religious and political freedom. It was then universally believed that governments derived their authority from God. Even Winthrop, after being elected governor in Massachusetts, told voters, "Though chosen by you, our authority comes from God."

    Williams disputed this. Considering the state secular, he declared governments mere "agents" deriving their authority from citizens and having "no more power, nor for longer time, than the people … shall betrust them with." This statement sounds self-evident now. It was revolutionary then.

    The U.S. Constitution, like Providence's compact, does not mention God. It does request a blessing, but not from God; it sought "the blessings of liberty," Williams' "soul liberty." As Justice Robert Jackson wrote, "This freedom was first in the Bill of Rights because it was first in the forefathers' minds; it was set forth in absolute terms, and its strength is its rigidity."

    Eight years after the Constitution's adoption, the Senate confirmed this view in unanimously approving a treaty. It stated: "[T]he government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

    Yet the argument continues. Presidential candidates and evangelicals ignore American history and insist on injecting religion into politics. They proclaim their belief in freedom — even while they violate it.,0,7524085.story

  4. Spanking School Children? The 5 Weirdest Things on the Texas GOP Platform

    Here's a look at the most outrageous beliefs Texas Republicans apparently hold.

    By Travis Waldron, ThinkProgress June 27, 2012


    4) It opposes multicultural education and "critical thinking":

    ... Texas Republicans also believe "controversial theories" such evolution and climate change — which aren't controversial at all — "should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced." There's more: the GOP also opposes the teaching of "critical thinking skills" because they "focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

    5) It supports corporal punishment in schools: "Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas," the platform states, adding that teachers and school boards should be given "more authority to deal with disciplinary problems." Actual research, however, shows that corporal punishment is bad for children and their education. Research shows that corporal punishment is "associated with an increase in delinquency, antisocial behavior, and aggression in children," according to the American Psychoanalytic Association, which "strongly condemns" the use of such punishment. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents and schools use other forms of punishment because "corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects."

    read the full article at:

  5. Spanking may be linked to later mental disorders

    Positive reinforcement techniques preferred for discipline

    CBC News July 2, 2012

    Adults who were subjected to physical punishment such as spanking as children are more likely to experience mental disorders, say Canadian researchers who encourage other forms of discipline.

    Monday's issue of the journal Pediatrics includes a study on the proportion of illnesses such as depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse as well as personality disorders that may be attributable to physical punishment.

    Physical punishment was defined as pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping and hitting in the absence of more severe maltreatment of a child through physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect or exposure to intimate partner violence.

    "It definitely points to the direction that physical punishment should not be used on children of any age and we need to be considering that when we're thinking about policy and programs so we can protect children from potentially harmful outcomes," said study author Tracie Afifi, who is in the department of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba.

    Afifi hopes the findings from the study that involved more than 34,000 U.S. adults will make parents think twice about spanking.

    Afifi acknowledged it's not a causal effect and the study design can't prove the link, but she said the statistical association is clear.

    "Parents need to be aware of this relationship," Afifi said.

    A surprising finding was that increases in education and income were associated with higher odds of harsh physical punishment, the researchers said.

    "It is important for pediatricians and other health-care providers who work with children and parents to be aware of the link between physical punishment and mental disorders based on the study," Afifi's team concluded.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child for any reason and the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that physicians strongly discourage the use of physical punishment.

    The authors suggested a more explicit position that spanking, smacking and slapping should not be used with children of any age.

    Spanking is outlawed more than 30 countries. It is legal for parents to use physical punishment on their children in Canada and the U.S.

    "Everybody's tempted when kids are bad, but there are other ways of teaching your kids the right behaviour," said mother Nikki Quinn of Halifax.

    Afifi recommends children be disciplined with positive reinforcement techniques, which have been reviewed and supported in medical literature.

  6. Spanking: Parenthood's Dirty Little (and Common) Secret

    by Claire McCarthy, M.D., Huffington Post July 2, 2012

    This week a study was released saying when children are disciplined using harsh physical punishment like spanking, they are at higher risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other mental health problems -- even if they aren't otherwise abused or maltreated. This is scary, because I just recently read an article in the Boston Globe that said that 70 percent of Americans think that spanking is sometimes necessary -- and 90 percent of parents of toddlers spank them.

    Ninety percent?

    Clearly, as the article pointed out, this is happening behind closed doors. If you even talk about spanking your kid, let alone do it in public, there's a reasonable chance that social services will be knocking on your door.

    Although I wouldn't have guessed 90 percent, I certainly know that parents spank their kids. As a pediatrician, it's part of my job to talk with families about discipline -- and in those discussions, spanking comes up relatively frequently. And when those investigators go knocking at my patients' doors, as part of their investigation they call me. So I've had lots of conversations with families about spanking.

    What has been very clear to me is that the vast majority of parents who spank do it in an effort to do the right thing. They aren't out to hurt their kids; they are good parents. The Globe article quoted Dr. Murray Straus, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire who studies the effects of corporal punishment on kids, as saying that people think that spanking will work when nothing else does. From what I've heard from parents over the years, this rings true to me.

    Parents see spanking as a way to make their children understand that they are really serious about something. My mother spanked me as a child -- but she reserved it for two circumstances: when I did something dangerous (like running out into the street) or when I told a lie. These were the things she most didn't want me to do, and she saw spanking as the way to get that message across.

    But research shows that actually, spanking isn't more effective than any other form of discipline -- and it can end up having effects that parents really don't want. It's not just mental health problems like the current study and other research show. Spankees are also more likely to have trouble controlling their temper -- not surprising, given that so often parents do it in moments of frustration or anger or both. It's not exactly setting the best example for temper control. They may even have a lower IQ.

    continued in next comment...

  7. continued from previous comment:

    The most common "side effect" of spanking, though, is that spankees are more likely to hit other children. This makes sense to me, and is something I talk about with parents a lot. When you spank a child you are teaching them that hitting is okay -- especially that bigger people can hit smaller people. Is that a lesson you really want them to learn?

    Now, not every kid who is spanked turns into a depressed, angry high-school dropout who beats people up. There are plenty of kids who turn out just fine. But if it's not more effective, and there are other ways to discipline your child, why take the risk?

    I don't spank my kids. But that doesn't mean I haven't thought about it in those moments when I have either been pushed to the absolute limit of my anger or frustration -- or when one of my children has done something that has scared the bejesus out of me and what I wanted more than anything was to be sure that they never, ever did it again.

    But I don't do it. My memories of being spanked are filled with humiliation and pain, and those aren't memories that I want my children to have.

    Until I read the Boston Globe article, I didn't know that many countries -- like Sweden, Germany, Spain and Venezuela -- have banned spanking. Attempts to do anything similar even on a local level here in the U.S. have fallen flat pretty quickly.

    Although I understand why spanking is parenthood's dirty little secret (nobody wants social services at the door), I wish we could find a way to talk more openly about it. If we don't talk about it, we don't get the chance to help people understand why it can be harmful -- and help them learn about other ways of discipline. If we don't talk about it, we miss a chance to reach out to stressed parents and give them support. Parenthood is really hard work -- we do better at it when we have help.

    We all want our kids to be safe, well-behaved and to learn right from wrong. I think we can do that without spanking -- especially if we work together. Only if we work together.

    To see the links embedded in this article go to:

  8. Spanking debate raises bigger questions about parenting

    By Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times July 20, 2012

    Since my column on spanking last weekend I've been mocked by old-school advocates of spare the rod, spoil the child. And I've been lectured by parents and therapists who blame spanking for crime and social ills.

    The only thing the two sides seem to have in common is absolute certainty that their way is the only right way to raise children.

    I wrote about a study in the journal Pediatrics that concluded that children who are physically punished by their parents — hit, slapped, grabbed or shoved — are more likely to suffer from mental and personality disorders as adults.

    It's become the latest indictment of spanking, a parenting tool that even its biggest proponents can't claim to love.

    Some readers accused researchers of tilting the results by lumping spanking in with hitting and slapping.

    It's part of an "anti-spanking crusade" that has left us "surrounded by narcissistic, ill-behaved and self-absorbed young people," wrote Giuseppe Mirelli of Westwood.

    And several teachers complained that education suffers because of foul-mouthed, disrespectful students who haven't been sufficiently disciplined at home.

    Teacher Mark Overstreet said he has "heard a number of students [middle school and elementary] tell their parents … that they would call the police if the parent spanked them."

    But others said the findings condemning spanking were common sense and common knowledge.

    "Anyone with half a brain," one father wrote, "would know it's wrong to hit a child."

    Still, facts aren't always strong enough to dislodge the forces that shape real-life moments.

    "There really isn't any 'debate' about spanking or hitting children," acknowledged David Dozier, a San Diego State University public relations professor with a PhD from Stanford.

    Spanking is "degrading, humiliating and terrifying" and can set a family's "moral compass" for life, he said.

    Yet, as a frazzled single parent in the 1980s, he took to spanking his two young children. Years later, "after lots of therapy," he said, he apologized to his daughters.


    My inbox was like a peek inside families and homes, where differences in philosophy and temperament produce wildly varying parenting norms.

    Parenting is a battleground, and the prospect of a spanking is equivalent to the threat of a nuclear bomb which, "when wielded properly, need never be used," wrote a Costa Mesa father.

    "Parents who discard the tool from their arsenal, especially those who announce it, put themselves at a disadvantage," he said. "Unilateral disarmament is unhealthy to the parent/child relationship."

    continued in next comment...

  9. continued from previous comment:

    On the other side was the man who said he had never punished or even spoken sharply to his two children, now college students, and they "have never been in trouble or had any other social issues."

    "People who think that parents aren't supposed to be their kids' best friends are idiots," he declared.

    San Diego psychologist Jerry Adams didn't go that far, but he does consider punishment a parental dead-end. And he's not just talking about spanking.

    Reprimands, time outs, social restrictions — they are all part of a flawed approach to parenting, one that isn't very effective in "teaching responsible behavior," he said.

    The polarizing debate over spanking obscures a bigger issue, he said.

    Punishment doesn't help children learn to make good choices, said Adams, who has spent more than 20 years counseling families and teaching parenting classes. Discipline should rely on positive reinforcement.

    Adams backs the claim with his blog,, which advises parents to ignore inappropriate behavior and reward good choices instead.

    It's not rocket science. But his process involves a heavy familial investment — daily meetings, detailed "targeted behavior" charts, endless monitoring, maintaining, reforming.

    I imagine any parent organized, consistent and patient enough to keep that routine going for long is the sort of super-parent who wouldn't have needed to punish anyway.


    Studies are good, and so is expert advice. But in parenting, no one size fits all.

    The daring child needs moderation, the fearful child encouragement. Some children are delightfully cooperative, others frustratingly defiant. It's the parent's job to figure out what works best and steer them toward maturity.

    That's both freedom and responsibility. And it's what makes spanking so perilous. A smack on the butt in one home might be a string of beatings in another.

    So why not just be done with it and outlaw spanking in this country?

    That was a frequent refrain among readers. Most used Sweden as an example; it's the poster child for enlightened, nonviolent parenting.

    Sweden was the first country to outlaw spanking. In 1979, it banned corporal punishment of children and dozens of countries followed.

    Sweden was also a pioneer in mandating paid time off for parents. The country has one of the most generous parental leave policies in the world.

    You would have to be blind to not see the link.

    Parents in Sweden are guaranteed 16 months of paid time off in the first eight years of a child's life. It can be taken in bits and pieces, and has to be split between both parents. More than 85% of Swedish fathers spend some time as stay-at-home dads.

    That reflects a sort of family-centered agenda that the U.S. is a long way from emulating.

    Over the years, I had a series of young Swedish women living with my family. They were kind and gentle with my children — and horrified that we expect new parents to be back on their jobs within weeks.

    The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not mandate paid time off for new parents.

    Our federal laws provide only for three months of unpaid leave. That's an option that many families can't afford, particularly in this fragile economy.

    Good parenting can't be constructed from discipline formulas and expert advice. It requires being in sync with your children, in tune with their lives.

    If we really want to talk about ending spanking, we first need to look at what we ask of families.

    I don't think we need more studies. We need a cultural imperative that values children.,0,597903.column

  10. Taser use on hearing-impaired boy preventable, report says

    11-year-old child had been in residential care from a young age

    CBC News February 7, 2013

    The police use of a Taser on a hearing-impaired 11-year-old boy in Prince George, B.C., could have been prevented, a new report by the B.C.'s representative for children and youth has found.

    The unidentified boy was hit with the stun gun in April 2011, in a stand-off with police after he allegedly stabbed a 37-year-old man. He had been in the province's residential care system from an early age.

    Thursday's report, entitled Who Protected Him? How B.C.’s Child Welfare System Failed One of Its Most Vulnerable Children, examines the boy's life circumstances.

    Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said the involvement of the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development with the boy and his family fell well below the standard any reasonable person would expect.

    “It has failed to provide this child with safe, therapeutic care and supportive, behavioural interventions. Instead, he has been retraumatized and harmed, and his basic human rights have been minimized and even ignored," she said.

    The report found significant shortcomings in the province's residential care system and also documents serious errors made by the child protection system.

    According to the report, the boy had an aversion to sudden change, but was moved 15 times after entering the care system in 2001.

    The investigation found he was left subject to abuse and neglect, both in his birth home and in residential placements by the ministry.

    “This case is among the most difficult we've reported on, but sadly, it is not the only one in which a safe and therapeutic residence has been unavailable for a child in care who has complex special needs,” said Turpel-Lafond.

    "The provincial government must fulfill its role as prudent parent and immediately take steps to ensure that British Columbia children in its care who have complex special needs are provided with residential settings that meet those needs."

    The stun-gun incident could have been prevented, the report says, had the ministry invested in a care system with trained, qualified staff, behaviour therapy and other support to help the boy recover from the trauma of his early years.

    But according to the investigation, the boy was retraumatized by being repeatedly isolated in a so-called “safe room” in various residential placements, a practice not permitted by law or condoned in the care system's policy.

    The report recommends a system of senior management oversight for all cases of children with complex special needs and the development of an internal clinical unit to deliver training and support to staff working with such children.

    “In this child’s case, it was clear that decisions were made for bureaucratic reasons or to manage a crisis and not in his best interests,” said Turpel-Lafond.

    "I urge the ministry to implement the recommendations of this report and begin to provide for these children as a prudent parent should.”

    B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux said the ministry has accepted all the report's recommendations.

    "Nothing that's raised in this report is acceptable to me," she said. "I am heartbroken that the system failed this child, and I am committed to fixing it."

    Cadieux says her ministry is already taking steps to address gaps in the system, strengthening clinical support oversight for children with highly complex needs and opening a six-bed facility to meet the specific needs of such children.

    A police investigation after the incident found the officer in question was "justified" in using the Taser to subdue tthe boy and concluded no charges would be recommended against the officer.

    The boy could not be charged for the alleged offence because he was under 12 at the time.

  11. NOTE: The following article concerns a Canadian citizen, a former child soldier indoctrinated from birth by his family, who was convicted in an unjust U.S. military kangaroo court in Guantanamo Bay of non-existent crimes created by the criminal U.S. government in its so called war on terror. He was extradited to Canada, where the criminal Harper government has repeatedly denied both his Canadian Charter rights and International human rights, and kept him imprisoned on false charges of terrorism. This is an extreme case of corporal punishment and abuse of authority.


    Validity of Khadr’s guilty plea in doubt

    by PAUL KORING, The Globe and Mail February 28 2013

    Appeals court rulings that tossed out the convictions of two al-Qaeda operatives mean that Omar Khadr was also wrongfully convicted and should be freed, his lawyer and rights experts say.

    A court of appeals last month overturned the U.S. military court in Guantanamo Bay’s murder and terrorism convictions of Ali Hamza al Bahlul, a Yemeni who was Osama bin Laden’s publicist, on the grounds that the charges on which he was convicted were not internationally recognized as war crimes.

    Mr. Khadr’s lawyer and others say such rulings raise grave doubts about the validity of Mr. Khadr’s guilty plea to terrorism and murder charges in the same court, because those were not war crimes in 2002 when the Canadian teenager was involved in a gun battle in which a U.S. soldier died.

    Mr. Khadr, currently in a Canadian maximum security prison, wants his plea-bargained conviction appealed, said his lawyer, Dennis Edney.

    And human rights experts believe he has a solid case, although the Canadian government seems keen to keep Mr. Khadr, now 26, locked up as long as possible.

    Mr. Edney said Mr. Khadr was wrongfully convicted and wants the Pentagon to appoint counsel to appeal.

    Mr. Edney wrote in a Jan. 29, 2013, letter to Bryan Broyles, deputy chief defence counsel for the U.S. war crimes tribunals, that Mr. Khadr wants to “appeal all of the convictions entered against him in October, 2010,” and asked for a legal team to launch the appeal. Mr. Broyles has yet to reply, and declined to respond to written questions from The Globe and Mail.

    “It is astounding no notice of appeal was filed on behalf of Omar Khadr while other detainees have had their appeals filed and successfully appealed by military defence counsel,” Mr. Edney said.

    After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out the convictions against Mr. al Bahlul, Mr. Broyles denounced the original prosecution saying: “The only basis on which the United States relied was their fanciful notion of U.S. common law of war, something which doesn’t actually exist.”

    The same appeals court had earlier tossed out the terrorism conspiracy conviction of Salim Hamdan, one of Mr. bin Laden’s drivers, on similar grounds, that the crimes he was convicted of did not exist until they were created by the Bush administration.

    Mr. Khadr’s chance of having his convictions vacated are complicated by several circumstances, not least that, as part of his plea bargain deal, he waived his right to appeal. He is also now back in Canada, outside of U.S. jurisdiction.

    Mr. Khadr also agreed to plead guilty to murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism.

    continued in next comment...

  12. Even if Mr. Khadr threw the grenade that caused the death of U.S. special forces Sergeant Christopher Speer, killing a combatant on a battleground is not a war crime under international law except in some circumstances. Even if Mr. Khadr should have faced charges for the killing, said Andrea Prasow, the senior counter-terrorism counsel and advocate at Human Rights Watch’s U.S. program, it should have been as a criminal homicide in Afghanistan.“These weren’t crimes in violation of the laws of war at the time they were committed,” Ms. Prasow said in an interview. “They weren’t then, and they are not now,” she added. That was the fundamental reason the U.S. appeals court tossed out the Guantanamo convictions of Hamdan and al-Bahlul.

    That a child soldier – Mr. Khadr was 15 in 2002 – was charged at all, let alone by an offshore war crimes tribunal created by the Bush administration to skirt U.S. constitutional protections, has outraged rights groups for more than a decade. But unlike Britain and Australia, which insisted on the rapid repatriation of their citizens, successive Canadian governments wanted Mr. Khadr held and tried in Guantanamo.

    Although the military jury sentenced him to 40 years, the plea deal added only another eight years to the eight Mr. Khadr had already spent in Guantanamo, and the chance to be sent to Canada, the country of his birth, to serve most of the remaining sentence. Under Canadian law, he is eligible for parole on July 1, but the Harper government is expected to opposed his release vigorously, arguing he is a dangerous, convicted terrorist.

    Were a U.S. appeals court to overturn the conviction on the grounds that the crimes on which he was convicted didn’t exist in 2002, Mr. Khadr might be entitled to immediate release.

  13. CORPORAL PUNISHMENT: Ending legalised violence against children - Global Report 2012

    Jointly published by Save the Children | 11/12/2012 | Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children

    The Global Initiative’s global progress report for 2012 is now available (attached), published jointly with Save the Children.

    Ending legalised violence against children: Global report 2012 – the seventh report following up the UN Study on Violence against Children – reviews the progress and delays in prohibiting corporal punishment of children throughout the world, with examples of regional and national developments. It shows how prohibiting corporal punishment is not only a child rights issue but is closely linked with the rights of women, the rights of persons with disabilities, and the right to health. It lists the 33 states which have achieved prohibition in all settings, the 26 which have not fully prohibited corporal punishment in any setting, the 75 which have accepted recommendations on corporal punishment made during the UPR, the 28 which have rejected such recommendations and the more than 80 states with immediate opportunities to enact prohibition.

    In a message to the report, Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Independent Expert who led the UN Study, writes:

    "The Global Initiative has painstakingly mapped the legality and prevalence of corporal punishment in every state, as well as the cumulative pressure on states from human rights monitoring bodies including now the Universal Periodic Review. The detailed analyses make all too clear that states must be kept under unrelenting and explicit pressure to fulfill their immediate human rights obligations to end the legality of violent punishment of children. States cannot plead lack of resources to delay extending to children full protection under the law. As the report demonstrates there are legislative opportunities now in more than 80 states which could be used to achieve a ban in some or all settings; we must work together to ensure active advocacy to achieve this essential reform."

    For hard copies and further information, contact

  14. NOTE: I've placed the following article here because forced medication of children with anti-psychotic drugs, often in cases where a child is not mentally ill, but defiant, rebellious, anti-authoritarian, etc., is a form of corporal punishment.

    Psychiatrists call for action over premature deaths of mentally ill

    Experts say it is time to close the gap between treatment of physical and mental illnesses

    by Jeremy Laurance, The Independent UK June 19, 2013

    An international group of psychiatrists today launches a drive to end the global scandal of premature deaths among people suffering from severe mental illness.

    UK figures show their death rate is nearly four times higher than that among the general population. On average, young people diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses die 15 to 20 years earlier than their peers as a result of a combination of the effects of anti-psychotic drugs and a poor lifestyle.

    But psychiatrists say the epidemic of early death could be curbed if mentally ill patients were given the same treatment for their physical illnesses as enjoyed by the rest of the population. The Health and Social Care Information Centre released figures yesterday showing people with mental problems use hospitals twice as much as those with physical problems.

    Last February the centre published figures showing the death rate was 3.6 times higher than that among the general population in 2010-11. In a statement published today, psychiatrists from 11 countries including the UK and Australia say young people with severe mental illness suffer “stigma, discrimination and prejudice” that prevent them from leading healthy, active lives. They are up to three times more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes and up to four times more likely to smoke, but their problems often go undiagnosed and they are not offered treatment or help.

    Anti-psychotic drugs prescribed to people with mental illness often cause rapid weight gain, with some patients becoming clinically obese. Many patients also self-medicate with alcohol and drugs such as cannabis.

    Targets set by the international group include ensuring at least three-quarters of patients gain no more than 7 per cent in weight over the first two years and blood tests for diabetes and heart disease remain normal.

    Dr David Shiers, co-author of the “Healthy Active Lives” statement, said: “The evidence is now clear – weight gain, cardiovascular risk and metabolic disturbance commonly appear early in the course of emerging psychosis and are potentially modifiable. As clinicians, if we dismiss these disturbances as being of secondary to controlling their psychiatric symptoms, we may be inadvertently condoning a first step on a path towards physical health inequalities for these young people. This vulnerable group needs a far more holistic and preventive approach.”

    Professor Sue Bailey, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “A person’s physical and mental health influence one another: deficiency in the care of one can lead to serious problems with the other.”

    The statement says that two years after the onset of psychosis, fewer than 30 per cent of patients should still be smoking and more than half should be taking recommended levels of exercise. The aim is to reduce the inequalities suffered by people with mental illness and close the chasm that exists between the quality of their treatment and that of people with physical illnesses.

  15. Spanking for Jesus: Inside the Unholy World of Christian Domestic Discipline

    What do you call it when a husband beats his wife with a paddle for disobeying him? Some would say domestic abuse. These people say he’s doing God’s work.

    By Brandy Zadrozny, The Daily Beast June 19, 2013

    On a pain scale of one to 10, Chelsea ranks the epidural-free birth of her child as a six. Her husband’s spankings? Those are an eight.

    First, he uses his hands for “warm-up” slaps. Then comes a combination of tools based on the specific infraction. The wooden spoon is the least severe; for the worst rule-breaking—like texting while driving (“It could kill me,” Chelsea admits) or moving money between accounts without his permission—she’ll be hit with something else: a hairbrush, a paddle, or a leather strap.

    But this isn’t domestic abuse, Chelsea says. This is for Jesus.

    Chelsea and her husband Clint, who asked that I use only their first names, belong to a small subculture of religious couples who practice “Christian Domestic Discipline,” a lifestyle that calls for a wife to be completely submissive to her husband. Referred to as CDD by its followers, the practice often includes spanking and other types corporal punishments administered by husbands—and ostensibly ordained by God. While the private nature of the discipline makes it difficult to estimate the number of adherents, activity in several online forums suggests a figure in the low thousands. Devotees call CDD an alternative lifestyle and enthusiastically sing its praises; for critics, it’s nothing but domestic abuse by another name.

    Clint was in the room while I talked to Chelsea. They do everything together, including running their blog, Learning DD, which chronicles their exploration of domestic discipline. When Chelsea gets flummoxed by a question, she asks Clint for guidance in a voice so high-pitched that it belies her 28 years: “Honey, how long does the spanking usually last?” (About 5 minutes, Clint says.)

    He has left bruises, Chelsea says, but it’s rare, and she attributes them to anemia.

    You don’t have to be a Christian to practice domestic discipline, although many of its practitioners say they believe that domestic discipline goes hand in hand with their faith. Specifics of the practice vary by couple, though CDDers all seem to follow a few basic principles. Foremost, that the Bible commands a husband to be the head of the household, and the wife must submit to him, in every way, or face painful chastisement.

    When a wife breaks her husband’s rules—rolling her eyes, maybe, or just feeling “meh,” as one blogger put it—that can equal punishments which are often corporal but can also be “corner time”; writing lines (think “I will not disobey my master” 1,000 times); losing a privilege like internet access; or being “humbled” by some sort of nude humiliation. Some practice “maintenance spanking,” wherein good girls are slapped on a schedule to remind them who’s boss; some don’t. Some couples keep the lifestyle from their children; others, like CDD blogger Stormy, don’t. “Not only does he spank me with no questions asked for disrespect or attitude in front of them, but I am also required to make an apology to each of them,” she writes.

    continued in next comment...

  16. After discipline, many wives report being held and comforted. And on Internet message boards dedicated to the practice, couples emphatically advocate for the CDD way of life. As such, there’s a temptation to file away domestic discipline into to the “different strokes for different folks” category. But mental-health and abuse experts see a potential for danger.

    Jim Alsdurf, a forensic psychologist who evaluates and treats sexual psychopaths and is the author of a book on abuse in Christian homes, says CDD isn’t about religion—it’s an outlet for emotionally disturbed men with intimacy deficits.

    “No fool in his right mind would buy this as a legitimate way to have a relationship,” Alsdurf says. “A relationship that infantilizes a woman is one that clearly draws a more pathological group of people.”

    For Alsdurf, though, CDD sounds less like an act of violence and more like of an act of distorted sexual arousal. “If people want to spank each other, go ahead,” he says. “The problem of course, is if it’s done in a controlling and a mildly abusive way.” Like with all outer variables of sexual expression, he says, “If they’re not done in a healthy way they can become about abuse and control.”

    Others are less equivocal. “It’s sick,” says Wendy Dickson, who runs an emergency shelter for women and children fleeing abusive homes in Evanston, Illinois. Women who receive beatings in the name God, she says, are no different than the women she sees every day in her shelter. Domestic abuse, which one in four U.S. women (PDF) will experience at some point in their lifetime, often conjures scenes of thundering rage, broken bones, and black eyes. But the most dangerous kind, Dickson says, is the emotional kind, because it keeps people trapped. “The definition of domestic abuse is power and control over another individual,” she says.

    And as for women who seem content? Dickson says many of the abused women whom she helps also make excuses for staying in an unacceptable relationship. “Everyone just wants to maintain and tell themselves this is what they want,” she says.

    Perhaps for these reasons, CDDers are a private group. As they see it, they’re fighting (and losing) a culture war against liberalism and feminism. There are no brick-and-mortar churches where adherents gather to pray and paddle. Instead, the ties that bind the community are formed in largely anonymous online communities.

    There are dozens of online meeting places. On Fetlife, the Christian Domestic Discipline group has more than 500 members. The private Yahoo group boasts some 4,000 members. The topics on these forums range from the banal (“Happy Flag Day, everybody!”) to the political, such as a thread on whether Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly got it wrong on bread-winning moms. And then there are posts that are just plain disturbing: “My wife cries and writhes and begs me to stop during spankings, should I?”

    continued in next comment...

  17. Some women post questions about how best to convince their husbands to begin disciplining them, or pen distressed posts when the punishments wane in number or intensity.

    Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find women who seem to want out. They describe being scared and in physical and emotional pain. The responses range from suggestions to submit more fully and try harder to leaving the relationship.

    “I wanted the spankings to stop and my husband told me it was either DD and marriage or divorce,” one user named “Michelle” wrote on a popular domestic discipline blog. “I chose divorce. I couldn’t handle the pain of spankings anymore, emotionally or physically.” Leah Kelley, a CDD blogger and author of “spanking romance stories,” split from the man she had described as her “knight in beat up armor,” in 2010, citing her husband’s “deep-seated mental issues,” as the reason for the marriage’s end.

    What seems to be the most obvious explanation for CDD, one acknowledged by some domestic discipline advocates not tied to the Christian church, is that the practice is a means to justify the fulfillment of a sexual fetish. On a CDD blog, “Sue” writes, “Boy do I wish more of the women in DD would admit to this. It’s a sexual fetish. There’s nothing wrong with it, but they try to make it so much more than it is.”

    But the moral constraints of the church make it difficult for couples to be honest about the sexual nature of their desire, says Paul Byerly, who with his wife runs The Marriage Bed, a site dedicated to sexuality and religion. Byerly, who calls CDD a “distortion of what God intended,” believes that “women, particularly in the Christian church tend to be sexually repressed.” Domestic discipline, he explains, could be “a way around that”—a chance to explore sexual desires while still nominally acting in the name of Jesus.

    Still, CDDers themselves reject this pain-for-pleasure explanation. “The pure CDD people don’t go there,” says Vera, who is both in a domestic discipline relationship as well as into sex play. “A lot of folks think of Fifty Shades of Grey—but this is not that,” she says.

    Vera (not her real name), argues that abuse is all about intent. “He never punishes me when he’s angry,” she says of her partner. “He doesn’t yell. The worst thing I can do is disappoint him and I do that when I act on one of my character defects.”

    And do men have any of these defects? Who is there to correct them? “He’s not perfect,” Vera says, “but it’s not my role to point that out. He self corrects.”

    And as for what a man gets out of it, besides a woman who obeys his every command, Vera says her partner is satisfied by her growth. “He enjoys seeing the person he owns, his property, become the thing God wants her to be. It might sound weird, but that works for me.”

  18. In Germany's Twelve Tribes sect, cameras catch cold and systematic child-beating

    A documentary revealed the torture inflicted by a religious community on its young

    by TONY PATERSON The Independent September 10, 2013 BERLIN

    The little blond-haired boy is about four years old. He simpers as a middle aged woman drags him downstairs into a dimly-lit cellar and orders the child to bend over and touch the stone floor with his hands. Another little boy watches as the woman pulls down the first boy’s pants and then draws out a willow cane.

    “Say you are tired!” commands the woman in an emotionless voice. The swoosh of the willow cane is audible as it strikes the screaming child’s bottom three times. The little boy refuses to say he is tired so he is hit again and again – a total of ten times – until, in floods of tears, he finally says “I am tired.”

    Within the space of a few hours, six adults are filmed in the cellar and in an underground school central heating room beating six children with a total of 83 strokes of the cane. The graphic and disturbing scenes were shown on Germany’s RTL television channel last night.

    They were filmed by Wolfram Kuhnigk, an RTL journalist equipped with hidden video cameras and microphones, who infiltrated a 100-strong religious community run by the fundamentalist “Twelve Tribes” sect in Bavaria earlier this year. Kuhnigk claimed to be a lost soul to gain entry. “Seeing this systematic beatings made me want to weep, it made me think of my own two children,” he said. He collected 50 beating scenes on camera.

    The Twelve Tribes was formed in America over 40 years ago and has an estimated 3,000 members world wide.

    The fundamentalist organisation, which lives in isolated self-sustaining communities, has branches outside the US in Britain, Germany, France, Spain, the Czech Republic, Australia, Argentina and Canada.

    In the UK, the Twelve Tribes’ website says it has been running a community near Honiton in Devon for nearly 15 years and has been “searching for and finding those who are not satisfied with their lives”.

    Its members consider the Old and New Testaments to be God’s direct word. The sect says it openly believes in “spanking” disobedient children to “drive out the Devil”. Its website insists: “We know that some people consider this aspect of our life controversial, but we have seen from experience that discipline keeps a child from becoming mean-spirited and disrespectful of authority.”

    The sect has also been accused of racism. “Multiculturalism increases murder, crime and prejudice,” the movement said in a statement. Gene Spriggs, its founder, has claimed Martin Luther King was “filled with every evil spirit there is”.

    continued below

  19. In Bavaria the sect has been investigated several times over the past decade following reports that its members beat children, which is illegal in Germany. Police and youth workers claimed each time that they had not found sufficient evidence to mount a prosecution.

    However, Mr Kuhnigk’s clandestinely obtained evidence prompted police and youth workers to raid two “Twelve Tribes” communities in Bavaria last Thursday. Forty children who had been living there were taken away at dawn and placed in foster homes amid suspicions that they had spent most of their lives being subjected to interminable abuse.

    Kuhnigk’s film strongly implies that they were. The evidence he collected at the sect’s community in a former monastery near the village of Deiningen exposes a dark world in which children have no rights and are subjected to round-the-clock surveillance and persistent beatings for the most trivial offences.

    Sven, a 19-year-old former Twelve Tribes members who ran away at the age of 14 recalls how he was beaten for imitating an aeroplane. In the hands of one of the sect’s “educators”, he was beaten for days at 2 o’clock in the morning because he kept wetting his bed. “They said I had lost control of myself”, he says in an interview.

    “I was told I would die if I tried to escape,” he tells Kuhnigk, “I was a child who was not allowed to be a child,” he added.

    The film shows how children are made to get up at 5am and stand though an hour-long prayer session. They are obliged to labour with adults in the community’s farm plots and workshops. They attend the community’s own strictly religious schools. “It’s normal to be beaten every day,” said Christian, another former member who escaped five years ago.

    The film also shows disturbing images of a baby boy being forcefully gripped by the back of the head in a practice referred to by sect members as “restraining.”

    Alfred Kanth, a spokesman for the Bavarian youth welfare service described the film as shocking. “We never had proof that they do this. It is terrible, they preach peace but they beat their children,” he told RTL. Sabine Riede, an official from Cologne who monitors the activities of religious sects agreed that the beatings amounted to torture. “Sometimes parents wallop a child, but this is different, it is cold and systematic,” she said.

    The Twelve Tribes frequently claims it is the victim of systematic persecution by the authorities. Similar allegations at a Vermont community prompted the police to seize 112 children in a raid in 1984. However, no charges were brought and the children were released.

    Kuhnigk’s film ends with the police raid on the Bavarian Twelve Tribes community and the attempts by two elderly and bearded male sect members to counter the allegations that they beat children. “We do not abuse our children,” insisted one repeatedly. He appeared unwilling to respond directly to the allegations of child beating. Bavarian state prosecutors said they were continuing their investigation into the sect’s activities.

  20. Breaking Their Will: The Sick Biblical Literalism That Leads to Child Abuse and Even Death

    Authoritarian parenting and abusive practices are all too common in some Evangelical households.

    By Valerie Tarico, AlterNet September 24, 2013

    In 2008, Hana Williams was adopted from an orphanage in Ethiopia and brought to the United States where she died at the hands of her Bible-believing American parents. Their notion of Christian discipline required breaking her will, a remarkably common belief among conservative Evangelicals. To that end, they frequently beat her, shut her in a closet, and denied her meals. Ultimately, she was left outside where she died of hypothermia exacerbated by malnutrition. They were convicted of manslaughter this month.

    In carrying out their obsession with child obedience, Hana’s adoptive parents drew tips from Tennessee preacher Michael Pearl, whose spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child book, To Train Up a Child, has been found now in three homes of Christian parents who killed their adopted children. The title comes from a stanza in the book of Proverbs: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

    M. Dolon Hickmon is the author of an upcoming novel called 13:24 that includes religiously motivated abuse. Hickmon was raised by parents who subscribed to this kind of discipline, and he knows first-hand about deep and long-lasting scars from Bible-based childrearing. Hickmon left his 6,000 member megachurch after a pastor seized on Father’s Day as a prime occasion to teach the congregation how to shape and sand wooden spanking paddles. For Hickmon, the sermon triggered memories of the beatings he had suffered as a child—administered by Christian parents and justified by biblical teachings.

    While struggling to hold together his faith, Hickmon sent a letter soliciting advice from an online ministry run by the authors of a popular Evangelical parenting manual. He wrote as if he were a father experiencing marital conflict because his wife interfered when he hit their terrified, screaming six-year-old. In reality, Hickmon was describing his own childhood experience. (You can read his letter, which is full of intentional red flags, here ) The response: Your wife is at fault in coming to your son’s defense. Your son uses her. Either she stays out of the way, or you will have to stop being a real Dad.

    Mercifully, secular courts don’t agree that inflicting physical wounds is an acceptable part of parenting. Hana’s parents have been convicted for her death at their hands and will be sentenced in October. Their seven biological children and adopted son—they had also adopted a boy from Ethiopia ironically named Immanuel, meaning “God is with us”— are now safe from their abuse. It is noteworthy, though, that American children are being made safer by secular institutions, not adherence to ancient texts and traditions.

    Child protections have become established in most countries, and conversations about child-friendly religion are gaining ground. Even so, many children are subject to patriarchal groups that take parenting priorities from the Iron Age.

    continued below

  21. Evangelical Christians, fearing that their religion is losing ground, have ramped up recruiting activities targeting high school and college students but also young children. Their tool bag includes afternoon club programs and enticing camps. Some churches, like that of TV’s Duggar family, promote a high birth rate, adding young sheep to the fold the old fashioned way. Many churches encourage members—even those who already have numerous children—to adopt.

    Kathryn Joyce’s book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption exposes Evangelical ministries that have resorted to even lies and bribes to pursue their mission of getting children into good Christian homes. A more common criticism is that Evangelical adoption priorities fuel construction of aid-dependent orphanages rather than addressing the underlying systemic issues that cause maternal destitution and death, leaving children parentless.

    Many Evangelical families provide a balance of love and structure and moderate discipline that helps kids thrive. But even well intentioned and loving parents can be thrown off by a church or books that hold up spare the rod, spoil the child as advice from God. When parenting practices derive literally from the Iron Age texts of Bible, the price can be enormous.

    As a child, M. Dolon Hickmon collected bits he’d heard in sermons and adult conversations, trying to understand his fear and hurt. Ultimately he decided the fault lay in himself:

    Here are the messages I gleaned from the church of my childhood: that beating children is acceptable—good for them, in fact; bruises and welts are of little consequence; that fear is desirable, as is pained screaming and broken sobbing. I’d heard that kids were to be whipped for the least act of disobedience, with belts and sticks and plastic racecar tracks; on bare skin, and as often as an adult thought was necessary.

    A child abuser, on the other hand, is someone who doesn’t love you. A parent who never gives hugs because he is angry all the time. A child abuser is a drinker, a druggie, or at best some kind of wild animal. An abuser has no reasons or explanations. He just burns kids with cigarettes and gives them broken arms.

    My abuser loved me and hugged me, and he overflowed with explanations. I once got an hour-long lesson on disobedience for leaving a crayon on the floor. While the belt clapped with the measured rhythms of chopping firewood, I struggled to commit verses to memory and to answer quizzes on the metaphysical meanings of the word honor in scripture. . . .

    I tolerated being degraded, because that was what I thought a Christian child was supposed to do.

    Children generally have a hard time protecting themselves from abusive caregivers. Children who are made to believe that God is on the side of the abuser and that they deserve to suffer are all the more unable to fend off physical and psychological wounds. To quote Pat Benetar’s song “Hell is for Children,” love and pain become one and the same in the eyes of a wounded child.

    continued below

  22. As of late, critics have been raising awareness of the link between certain kinds of religious parenting and abuse. Janet Heimlich, author of Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment, recently founded the Child-Friendly Faith Project, a national nonprofit organization that educates the public about the impact that religious, spiritual, and cultural beliefs and practices have on children.

    We now know a great deal about how children flourish and how adults can manage parent-child conflict for positive outcomes. Psychologist Laura Kastner distilled two decades of parenting research into seven basic principles, which provide the structure for her book, Wise-Minded Parenting. When asked to comment on recent tragedies, Kastner suggested that we may have learned a thing or two in the millennia since our sacred texts were written:

    Our growing knowledge of child development suggests that authoritative parenting grounded in mutual respect works better in the long run than threats and force. It is a shame that factions among us still support the use of the “rod” when we have abundant evidence that non-violent parental strengths are the key to building success and character.

    Tragedies like the death of Hana Williams prompt soul searching. For example, the case has prompted calls for adoption reform. But what shape should reforms take? We cannot exclude prospective parents on the basis of their religious affiliation, nor should we. Many adoptive parents are inspired by their faith to step up and do the hard sustained work of loving and raising orphaned children despite their special needs and challenges.

    And yet beliefs matter. They can override compassion and common sense, as Hickmon’s experience so clearly shows. Encircled by like-minded believers, parents and children may get little exposure to outside parenting practices. This means that religious leaders have tremendous power to either cause suffering or to help families develop skills that are grounded in a genuine understanding of child development. As we collectively muddle our way toward a better future, we need to engage in a thoughtful, complicated conversation about parental power and children’s wellbeing, and the positive and negative roles religion can play in finding a balance that helps kids flourish.

    Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of "Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light" and "Deas and Other Imaginings." Her articles can be found at


    by Eleni Roumeliotou MSc, Contributor - Truth Theory April 23, 2013

    It sounds like science fiction but it is a scientific fact. A happy childhood leads to a healthy adult life. This is what scientists found when they examined the effects of childhood adversities to DNA. They found that the tiny protective caps of our chromosomes, which are called telomeres, shorten prematurely when kids consistently experience traumatic events. Scientists have found that long telomeres are associated with health and vitality, while short ones are usually found in seniors or chronically sick people. Telomeres somehow record the accumulative impact of different lifestyle factors in our health. Although the way they do that is not clear yet, one thing is certain: they are sensitive to oxidative stress. It is well known that psychological pressure exposes our cells in debilitating free radicals. This could be a reason why telomeres become prematurely short. Research shows that adults who had difficult childhood years have consistently shorter telomeres and are at higher risk of chronic and debilitating disease.

    If this sounds too exaggerated, think again. Doctors from the University of California have found that even when the expectant mother is experiencing consistent stress, the maternal hormonal and physiological responses are perceived and recorded by the fetal DNA. The research found that when women went through an intensely negative experience during pregnancy, their adult offspring had shorter telomeres, in comparison with individuals whose mother had a calm pregnancy. It looks like in some cases, adult disease is programmed in the fetal DNA. Psychiatric research now indicates that childhood maltreatment affects brain structure and in fact, the more serious the level of abuse, the more obvious neurobiological abnormalities are detected, especially in susceptible subjects.

    More studies have found that children who experienced or even observed domestic violence not only experience more often depression, anxiety and reduced cognitive abilities, but also have detectable structural differences in the part of the brain that processes visual stimuli. This may potentially impact brain functions, such as figure recognition, object naming and conscious perception of visual movement, all modalities that are controlled by the affected brain structure. Guarding the emotional balance of your child is of utmost importance at all times.

    Sources for this article include:

    About the author:
    Eleni Roumeliotou holds a Master in Human Molecular Genetics by Imperial College London, UK. She is passionate about nutrition and has been writing on a freelance basis about all things natural, nutritional medicine and primal health for the last three years.

  24. A Survivors Conversation With Christianity

    by M. Dolon Hickmon, Patheos September 12, 2013

    Six years ago I sent a letter to the husband-and-wife authors of a well-known Christian parenting guide. Criticized for its emphasis on corporal punishment and for being circumstantially linked to at least two child-abuse deaths, their book has nevertheless attracted a faithful following. As a result of their book’s polarizing effect, the guide’s authors have for many years featured in public spanking debates.

    When I wrote to these authors, I was newly reconverted to the faith of my childhood. It was to be my second go-around with Christianity. The first ended at the age of seven, when I realized that my prayers were doing nothing to keep my abuser from terrorizing my brother and me with the belt. As a second-grader, I struggled to understand how a living God could be so utterly disinterested. I resolved the dilemma by blaming myself. By puberty, I was privately thinking of myself as an atheist.

    Still, when I contacted the married authors through a form on their ministry’s website, I was Christian. How that came to be was complicated. Fittingly enough, the story began with an act of God.

    Hurricane Charley was supposed to dump lots of rain, but miss my part of Florida by hundreds of miles. Instead, the eye passed directly overhead. Due to the inaccurate forecasting, malls and schools were closed, while shelters never opened. My refuge was the thirty-year-old mobile home that I shared with two other guys. We joined our neighbors in covering windows. By afternoon, the TV was showing intense destruction farther south.

    The eye was twelve miles away when our power failed. We waited in stifling heat and darkness. The wind rose to a roar. We heard sounds of flying branches and peeling siding. Our carport blew away, and debris punctured the outside walls. Finally, a gust of wind picked up the entire trailer. I felt a floating sensation as we were lifted into the air. Then pop, pop, pop, as the wind tugged against metal tie-down straps. The house settled and was snatched up again and again. A corner of our roof flapped, then opened like a sardine can. Objects the size of tractor trailers could be heard blowing down the street.

    We’re going to die.

    I tried reasoning with myself, but my self insisted.

    Storms kill people in trailers all the time.

    Panic made me want to do something stupid, like run outside. At nearly the same instant, my friends,
    who had been barely speaking for the last week, faced each other and apologized.

    After that, nobody talked.

    I faced mortality from what I believed to be one minute away. With my toes dangling over eternity, I never prayed. Rather, the experience reminded me of a particularly fearsome whipping, back when I was no older than seven.

    Afterward, I couldn’t shake the memories that the ordeal had triggered: the belt; tears on carpet; my voice begging. Over weeks, more recollections emerged: my older brother wetting the bed; the belt; humiliation; him pleading.

    I called my brother on the telephone. “Could these things have happened?”

    He laughed. “That’s the least of it.”

    Memories haunted me, and at the center, there was our old church and my abuser’s worn-out Bible. I lost my job, all my friends, then my mind. Therapy didn’t work. Medication didn’t work. Nothing worked.

    I tried suicide.

    An uncle fetched me from the hospital. I hadn’t seen him in twenty years. He’d become a jail chaplain, the kind who wore a braided beard and motorcycle club patches on a black leather vest. His advice:

    Forget everything you know about Christianity—start again.

    I was exhausted. I wanted someone to take care of me. I turned to Jesus.

    I joined a church, played guitar at the prison, and taught Bible studies to inmates. Before long I was leading a men’s fellowship. There were benefits to keeping busy, but the nightmares and flashbacks never stopped.

    continued below

  25. My re-deconversion began at a Wednesday evening church service. Children were told to remain with their parents, rather than leaving for Sunday school. An associate pastor then used his Father’s Day speaking slot to explain the process of cutting and sanding your own wooden paddles. Parents didn’t have to worry, he explained, because the handles would break off if you hit your children too hard. Paddling could leave marks, but if you hugged your kid afterward, that was fine.

    I sat in the pew, heart racing. It was the lesson that my childhood pastor had given, thirty years ago. It was why I’d thought being beaten into submission was normal. It was the reason I’d never complained to anyone.

    My uncle had convinced me that our old church was strange. He’d insisted that in all his years, he’d never heard anything like it. But here were the same lessons, preached to a six-thousand-member congregation.

    I was angry, then confused.

    I knew this pastor! He seemed decent. He knew how to juggle.

    I approached him after service, and he agreed to a meeting in his office. I relayed a few details of the maltreatment I’d suffered and told him how the evening’s sermon had affected me. He attended, seeming as if he might cry. But when I asked him if he could see how his advice promoted physical abuse, he didn’t get it.

    “I said discipline in love and never in anger! I said that you must make clear what was done wrong and hug the child afterward. In this way, the child’s dignity is increased.” The pastor smiled beatifically, as if that settled that.

    I answered, “My abuser loved me, and I always knew what I’d done wrong. His attitude was not anger but grim determination. He was taught that beatings would work–and that if they didn’t, his only choice was to beat harder or longer. He hugged me when I was done crying. That made me feel worse, not better.”

    The pastor showed me verses from the book of Proverbs; told me those verses were promises—and God couldn’t be a liar. I was willing to believe, but things had happened to me that his verses could not explain.

    The pastor’s voice took on the tones of debate; but for me, there was nothing to argue. He’d chosen not to believe my explanation of events—but I couldn’t choose to have had a different childhood.

    He suggested that we agree to disagree. From that, it was clear that he hadn’t grasped the stakes: on the question of whether or not to spank, and if so, when and how, it is possible to share a faith and yet differ. But his sermon had reopened the fundamental religious dilemma of my childhood. My faith was critically wounded, though it would take years for me to be able to explain why.

    After that meeting, I pored over a century of Christian parenting counsel, including tomes by James Dobson, Richard Fugate, Larry Tomczak, Roy Lessin, and Michael and Debi Pearl. They presented similar views, with nearly identical scriptural underpinnings. Yet when I compared my memories of abuse to the authors’ instructions, there was nothing added or left out.

    This matters, because abused children rifle through our books; they hear our sermons and eavesdrop on adult conversations. I know because that is what I did. From these and other inadvertent sources, I tried to discern whether my brother and I were in need of protection.

    Here are the messages I gleaned from the church of my childhood: that beating children is acceptable—good for them, in fact; that bruises and welts are of little consequence; that fear is desirable, as is pained screaming and broken sobbing. I’d heard that kids were to be whipped for the least act of disobedience, with belts and sticks and plastic racecar tracks; on bare skin, and as often as an adult thought was necessary.

    continued below

  26. A child abuser, on the other hand, is someone who doesn’t love you. A parent who never gives hugs because he is angry all the time. A child abuser is a drinker, a druggie, or at best some kind of wild animal. An abuser has no reasons or explanations. He just burns kids with cigarettes and gives them broken arms.

    My abuser loved me and hugged me, and he overflowed with explanations. I once got an hour-long lesson on disobedience for leaving a crayon on the floor. While the belt clapped with the measured rhythms of chopping firewood, I struggled to commit verses to memory and to answer quizzes on the metaphysical meanings of the word honor in scripture. Afterward, I was too sore to sit or lie down.

    The Bible says, “Don’t exasperate your children by how you treat them.” But I’d been told that it was an adult’s job to make me regret the bad things I did. So instead of feeling exasperated, I pitied my abuser. After all, I was forcing him to do something that he assured me he did not enjoy.

    I tolerated being degraded, because that was what I thought a Christian child was supposed to do. I believed that in time I would come to appreciate my abuser’s good intentions. Instead, what dawned during my twenties and early thirties was that I was emotionally ill from being traumatized.

    Adults can debate whether my abuser was angry, in some calm, deliberate way; we can say that inflicting emotional injury is the opposite of administering loving discipline; we can draw fine lines between childishness and disobedience. However, such subtle thoughts are lost on a five- or nine-year-old.

    The cautions that bracket pastors’ paddling advice are inadequate—not because a few wackos might take the wrong portions literally (though many have), but because abused children certainly will. The evangelical boilerplate protects churches from lawsuits, but it doesn’t tell the youngest Christians that they must protect their bodies and sanity by making an outcry when they are maltreated.

    If God inspired my pastor’s sermons on child-whipping, why hadn’t he spared a word for that stoic kindergartner, shifting uncomfortably on his insulted bottom? Did God not realize that I’d been grasping at every mention of the subject of spanking, because the dread of being whipped was a physical illness that followed me night and day?

    God’s omission is something that I still have trouble reconciling.

    But I hadn’t formed such a thought when I wrote to the authors of that controversial parenting book. At that time, I was still Christian. But I couldn’t ignore the feeling of outraged disgust that grew with each word of that parenting book that I read.

    My soul said: This is wrong.

    It said: With backward glances and furtive fingers, abused children will read this. They will hear these ideas bellowed from pulpits, now and for the rest of their lives. As children, they will blame themselves for being beaten, and as adults they will wonder how a decent God could let a defective and incomplete message to continue going out in His name.

    It took years to distill that gut feeling into the words you have just read. The process involved spending hours per day studying and writing about every facet of spiritual and physical child abuse, PTSD, and corporal punishment. Halfway through, I realized that posing the right question would require an accurate depiction of abuse and survival.

    The essay I’d been planning turned into a novel.

    The result is a psychological thriller, called 13:24. It follows the son of an evangelical parenting expert as he progresses from a childhood in the church to a career as the singer of a Gothic heavy metal band.

    A murder investigation involving a fourteen-year-old fan leads to a long-delayed confrontation between the rock singer and his minister dad.

    continued below

  27. Though it reads like pop fiction, the book delves deeply into the political, cultural and scriptural underpinnings of religion-related child abuse, offering fresh insights, which are intended to add light, rather than heat, to public discussions of the role of the church in preventing child abuse.

    Below is the note I sent to the married Christian authors, formatted as a request for advice. The circumstances I described are representative, except that I am not the father in the story.

    I am the little boy who could not stop screaming.

    My son is six years old, and he cries excessively when I correct him with the Rod. I know the crying is unnecessary because he begins before I’ve even hit him. He falls on the floor and screams murder if I even look like I might be ready to spank him.

    I’ve shown my wife how he freaks out when I have not even touched him, but she insists on interrupting every time I spank. She’s taught him that he can get out of being disciplined by making a lot of noise. I spank at least twice a week, more often if needed. I use my belt, which is how my dad disciplined me. As I’ve said, my son is very theatrical. I have told him that he can either stand up or lay on the bed for his spanking. He chooses to stand, then hops around as if I am killing him. I aim for his butt, but with him moving I am getting his back half the time. He also likes to fall down and cover his butt by kneeling or squatting. If he won’t get up, I give him a few strokes on the back to encourage him. Sometimes even this doesn’t work and I wind up chasing him around the bed.

    My wife insists that I am spanking too often and too harshly. She gets upset if she sees a welt or a small bruise, especially above the waist. My son is quite the little actor. I’m glad we don’t have any neighbors nearby because by the sound of his screaming you would think a murder was going on!

    Aside from being plain annoying, his behavior is creating problems for me and my wife. She is so overprotective that my authority is undermined. The kids (I have an older son also) are carrying on like monkeys and she will not let me spank, or when I do, she will not let me do more than a couple of “love taps.”

    I tried spanking them when she was out of the house, but of course my younger son reported me to his mother and we had a fight. That one ended with her packing her suitcase and going to her sister’s house.

    I am at my wit’s end trying to figure out what to do about my wife’s meddling and my son’s screaming! Please help!!

    The response, from the female half of the writing duo, was brief:

    Your wife is at fault in coming to your son’s defense. Your son uses her. Either she stays out of the way, or you will have to stop being a real Dad.

    Exactly what our pastor told my mother thirty years ago.

    —M. Dolon Hickmon is the author of 13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession. Set against a backdrop of murder and heavy-metal music, 13:24 examines lives touched by spiritual child abuse and malicious physical punishment. Written with input from experts in relevant fields, it is a fast-paced crime thriller that entertains as it informs.

    Learn more at the book’s website:

  28. Kansas bill would allow spanking that leaves marks, redness

    Fox News - Associated Press February 18, 2014

    A Kansas lawmaker is raising eyebrows after she proposed a bill to allow parents, teachers and caregivers to spank children hard enough to leave redness or bruising.

    Rep. Gail Finney, a Democrat from Wichita, says the bill is meant to restore parental rights and improve discipline among the state’s children. KCTV reports Finney was introduced to the idea by McPherson Deputy County Attorney Britt Colle, who told the station the bill makes it clear hitting a child with a fist, with a belt or in the head or body is still banned.

    "This bill basically defines a spanking along with necessary reasonable physical restraint that goes with discipline, all of which has always been legal," Colle said. "This bill clarifies what parents can and cannot do. By defining what is legal, it also defines what is not."

    Current Kansas law allows spanking that doesn't leave marks, but Finney’s legislation would allow up to 10 strikes of the hand that could leave redness and bruising. It would allow parents to give permission to others to spank their children.

    Child abuse expert Amy Terreros tells KCTV spanking is an antiquated form of discipline, saying it has been proven to be less effective than time-outs and tends to lead to aggressive behavior in kids.

    Rep. John Rubin, chairman of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, also expressed doubt at the legislation, saying he isn't sure the committee will even consider the bill.

    Finney, who has three sons and four grandchildren, plans to introduce the legislation again in the next legislative session if the committee does not consider it, according to KCTV.

  29. How to Discipline Your Children Without God

    By Hemant Mehta, The Friendly Atheist blog April 2, 2014

    When Deborah Mitchell posted an article on iCNN about why she doesn’t raise her children with religion, it became a viral sensation.


    Now, she’s written a complete guide to atheist parenting. It’s called Growing Up Godless and it’s full of nearly 100 short essays on tackling the various obstacles atheist parents face in a predominantly religious world.

    In the excerpt below, Mitchell talks about how to discipline your children when they’re not raised to believe God is watching over them:

    How do you discipline children after you take God out of the equation? One parent told me that, when he took his two kids to church, he expected the church to teach his son and daughter morals and discipline, especially when it came to sex. It’s just easier to push these parental responsibilities off onto an institution that already has a structure in place to teach morality and discipline. The parent then becomes an agent of the church, reinforcing its teachings at home. But that is merely shrugging off our duties as parents by allowing religion to step in and indoctrinate our children.

    There is no doubt that it is easier to team up with God, the guy many children have been taught to fear. God can see and do anything, including give eternal life and take it away. Yet these are just threats:
    An invisible deity is watching you, and if you’re not “good,” you will go to hell as a result. You will live in pain. Forever.

    When we teach morals and discipline to our own children without religion, it takes a lot more effort, but we help our kids strengthen their own moral structure. Rather than telling children, “This is not how God expects you to behave,” we tell them, “This is not how I expect you to behave — and you should expect more from yourself, too.” As parents, we have to talk — a lot. We have to listen — a lot. We have to problem-solve and decide when to look the other way and let things slide, when to let things go with just a talk and when to impose some sort of punishment. It’s not easy. I have made a lot of mistakes. None of us are perfect parents. What redeems us is that we love our children and are trying our best; when we let them down or fall short, we get back up and try to do better.

    continued below

  30. What is discipline? It’s simply guiding children toward more appropriate behaviors. It has nothing to do with teaching or judging feelings — only actions. Unlike religion, we want to avoid personal attacks or judgments of character: Children are not dirty; they are not sinful; they were not born bad or evil.

    Yet kids are born with certain tendencies, and their disposition has nothing to do with us as moms and dads. Some kids are easier to parent, and some are more difficult. Some understand the need for rules, while others see rules as a challenge, as a curb on their freedom. Keep on trying, knowing that your job as a parent means that you hang in there and encourage your kids to become the best they can be. Before you know it, they’ll be eighteen and headed off on their own.

    Hold tightly, but not too tightly. Have a lot of patience. Ask yourself: Would I want to be disciplined for that? Spilling a drink is no big deal. Spilling a drink after you asked your child not to bring it to his room is, obviously, a different issue. When we ask our kids to do something, give them a little time before they must “hop to it,” but not so much time that they seem to have ignored us. We have to teach kids to be internally motivated not just to do the right thing, but to do things at the right times.

    Here are a few other suggestions:

    For young children (up to two years old), diversion and distraction are the best ways to redirect them. Lecturing or discipline at that age isn’t very helpful.

    Point out the consequences of their actions. Hitting hurts me — see the red mark? Throwing balls inside the house breaks my favorite figurine from Aunt Helen.

    I don’t believe in spanking, but I know some feel strongly that it is a good tool for children younger than ten, as long as it is not done out of anger and is only administered to the bottom.

    Avoid character attacks. (For example, “You’re lazy.”) Instead, offer reasons why cleaning up is important. “We have to keep our rooms neat so that we can find items when we need them.” Or “We have to rinse and place our dishes in the dishwasher so that we don’t invite bugs to live in our house.”

    Give kids a little time on requests. “Please clean your room as soon as you are finished reading that chapter.”

    Ask a lot of questions. “Why are you fighting with your sister? Is there a way to resolve this so you both can stop arguing and move on? How do you think arguing in the car is affecting the person who’s driving?”
    If you treat children as if they are competent, they will learn that they are competent.

    continued below

  31. When they are a little older—around age seven or eight, ask them to participate in discipline. “You disobeyed my request and could have hurt yourself or others. How do you think you should be disciplined?”Or “Your brother asked you not to take that toy from his room. Since you’ve broken it, what should you do to make amends?” Reparations can be made not just with money from their piggy banks, but also with their own toys or with work. (“I’ll do his chores for a week.”)

    When my son talked too much in school and the teacher notified me, I told him to write a letter of apology to the teacher, making sure that he noted why talking in class was not a good behavior. (It makes the teacher’s job more difficult and distracts other students.) It’s important to teach kids to respect authority at school and understand how their actions affect the group.

    Boys and girls have a lot of energy and are rambunctious, so when they start bouncing off the walls and knocking over lamps, tell them to run a couple of laps around the block. This is a great way for them to burn off energy and it helps them get into a better mood. Push-ups work, too, especially if you tell the kids that their old mom or dad can do more.

    Allow teens to help set some of their own boundaries. Tell them that you trust them to decide when they need to go to bed. A couple of late nights will help them understand that they need to care for themselves and get more sleep. For older teens, ask, “What time is a reasonable time to be home?” In our house, there are no curfews as long as certain conditions are met: My son tells me where he is going and when he will be back. And then he must be where he says he will be and be home when he has promised.

    Last, but perhaps most important: Punish sparingly. Instead, help kids recognize positive behaviors by acknowledging their kind words or helpful actions. If Johnny helps his younger sister get a toy from a shelf that she cannot reach, thank him for helping his sister. If your kids have an argument, and they are able to resolve their disagreement and move on, tell them how much you appreciate that they were able to work things out. Thank older kids for keeping their word, for helping pull their own weight, and for being a responsible part of the family.

    If we put in the time to help kids learn how to regulate their behaviors and resolve conflicts early in life, as opposed to just imposing punishment for infractions, by the time they are teenagers, our job as parents will be much easier, and our children will make a smoother transition into adulthood.

    (Reprinted with permission from Growing Up Godless ©2014 by Deborah Mitchell, Sterling Ethos, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.)

  32. Spanking the gray matter out of our kids

    By Sarah Kovac, Special to CNN July 23, 2014

    Editor's note: Sarah Kovac is a motivational speaker and author of "In Capable Arms: Living a Life Embraced by Grace." The opinions expressed are solely the author's.

    (CNN) -- How to discipline the next generation is a hotly debated topic. In 2012, a national survey showed more than half of women and three-quarters of men in the United States believe a child sometimes needs a "good hard spanking."

    Science tells a different story. Researchers say physical punishment actually alters the brain -- not only in an "I'm traumatized" kind of way but also in an "I literally have less gray matter in my brain" kind of way.

    "Exposing children to HCP (harsh corporal punishment) may have detrimental effects on trajectories of brain development," one 2009 study concluded.

    Harsh corporal punishment in the study was defined as at least one spanking a month for more than three years, frequently done with objects such as a belt or paddle. Researchers found children who were regularly spanked had less gray matter in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex that have been linked to depression, addiction and other mental health disorders, the study authors say.

    The researchers also found "significant correlations" between the amount of gray matter in these brain regions and the children's performance on an IQ test.

    Several other studies support these findings. A 2010 study published in Pediatrics found that frequent -- more than twice in the previous month -- spanking when a child was 3 was linked to an increased risk for higher levels of child aggression when the child was 5.

    Another, from the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma, found that corporal punishment doled out from the mother was independently related to a decrease in cognitive ability relative to other children. Corporal punishment had the largest effect on children 5 to 9.

    Behind all this science-speak is the sobering fact that corporal punishment is damaging to children. That gray matter we've been spanking out of them? It's the key to the brain's ability to learn self-control.

    "The more gray matter you have in the decision-making, thought-processing part of your brain (the prefrontal cortex), the better your ability to evaluate rewards and consequences," write the authors of a 2011 study that appeared in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

    continued below

  33. The sad irony is that the more you physically punish your kids for their lack of self-control, the less they have. They learn how to be controlled by external forces (parents, teachers, bosses), but when the boss isn't looking, then what?

    Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has been studying corporal punishment for 15 years, and is known as the leading researcher on spanking in the United States today. Over the years, Gershoff has done a systematic review of the hundreds of studies on the effects of corporal punishment.

    "There's no study that I've ever done that's found a positive consequence of spanking," Gershoff said. "Most of us will stop what we're doing if somebody hits us, but that doesn't mean we've learned why somebody hit us, or what we should be doing instead, which is the real motive behind discipline."

    Initially it was believed that spanking, at the very least, was associated with immediate compliance in children, and that parental warmth would buffer any harmful effects.

    But the finding that spanking produced compliance "was overly influenced by one study," Gershoff said; it turns out spanking "doesn't make your kids better behaved. You think it does. ... It doesn't."

    What is spanking associated with? Aggression. Delinquency. Mental health problems. And something called "hostile attribution bias," which causes children, essentially, to expect people to be mean to them.

    This bias makes the world feel especially hostile. In turn, children are on edge and ready to be hostile back. Over time, across cultures and ethnicities, the findings are consistent: Spanking is doing real, measurable damage to the brains of our children.

    And yet in 19 states, Gershoff notes, it is still legal for schools to paddle children.

    For those thinking, "I was spanked, and I turned out fine," or, "I spank my kids and they're great!" consider that you don't know who you would be or how your children would behave in a world without spanking.

    It could be that your children are thriving not because you spank, but in spite of it.

    To see the links embedded in this article go to:

  34. It is Time for the U.S. to Ban Spanking

    by Dan Arel / Patheos September 17, 2014

    Studies show that spanking is harmful — and unnecessary

    I know very little about the case of an NFL player hitting his child, I have seen the photos in articles and it disgusts me that a grown person thinks it is ever okay to do that to a child, especially when you are the size of an NFL player. Not that ones size makes abuse any different, but to know you are a massive, strong person, and then unleash that strength upon a child, you are a vile human being.

    But leaving the NFL behind, and looking only at the action of spanking, what is one to do? It is not uncommon in the US to hear of parents spanking their children, I was spanked, I know friends who spank, and I fully disagree with their decision to do so.

    If my friend does something wrong, even terrible, it is illegal for me to hit them, it is assault and I can be jailed for it. Yet if my child eats a cookie when I tell them not to, I am legally permitted to hit them, or spank them as we call it because hitting sounds to violent. Yet there is no difference between hitting and spanking a child.

    The defense in spanking is that by doing so you teach your child to stop an action you no longer want them to do. Spankers believe that the pain of being hit will remind them to listen and obey. But is this true?

    No, it does not work, according to research done by Yale University psychology professor and director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, Dr. Alan Kazdin.

    You cannot punish out these behaviors that you do not want,” says Kazdin, speaking to the American Psychological Association. “There is no need for corporal punishment based on the research. We are not giving up an effective technique. We are saying this is a horrible thing that does not work.”

    Even more so, there is evidence that spanking actually causes harm. Even cause the The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a directive in 2006 to call physical punishment “legalized violence against children,” and urging the practice be eliminated through legal and educational process.

    continued below

  35. Thirty countries around the world have banned spanking in all settings. These countries do not use the bans as threats against parents, but as tools to educate parents about better ways to discipline a child. Often, parents use physical punishment as a way to train a child, but if it doesn’t work, the parent then escalates the punishment and can cause even more severe physical and psychological damage.

    In his book The Primordial Violence, Murray Straus says that spanking does correct behavior, but further explains:

    “Research shows that spanking corrects misbehavior. But it also shows that spanking does not work better than other modes of correction, such as time out, explaining, and depriving a child of privileges. Moreover, the research clearly shows that the gains from spanking come at a big cost. These include weakening the tie between children and parents and increasing the probability that the child will hit other children and their parents, and as adults, hit a dating or marital partner. Spanking also slows down mental development and lowers the probability of a child doing well in school.”

    The author continues:

    “More than 100 studies have detailed these side effects of spanking, with more than 90 percent agreement among them. There is probably no other aspect of parenting and child behavior where the results are so consistent.”

    With such research and a huge understanding of spanking why is it still condoned in the US as a valuable practice?

    Religion has a lot to do with it. Many religious groups condone and endorse corporal punishment techniques, with books like To Train Up a Child that is responsible in teaching physical punishment techniques that have been responsible for multiple deaths as a result of their endorsed methods.

    While most religious parents do not go as far as To Train Up a Child suggests, the practice is highest among born-again Christians, according to research shown by FiveThirthyEight. (See article for graphics.)

    They also show that spanking is associated with your political beliefs and demographic location in the US, and it is most likely no coincidence that Christian beliefs align much the same in these areas:

    So really, is it any surprise the practice is still condoned in the US where the religious majority endorses the practice? Would it be going too far to speculate that a campaign in congress to end physical punishment would be met with cries of religious persecution?

    We have a duty to protect children, and knowing that physical abuse is not only painful and unnecessary, but also psychologically damaging, we must act and bring this practice to an end.

    Dan Arel is an author, journalist, speaker and secular activist. He writes on secular and humanist values on subjects such as secular parenting, church and state separation, education reform and secularism in public policy.

  36. Biblical Spare the Rod Parenting Tied to PTSD, Chilling Revenge, and Adrian Peterson Child Abuse Case

    by Valerie Tarico, Away Point September 21, 2014

    When is it acceptable for a muscular man who weighs 100 kilos and stands 1.85 meters tall to grab a stick and repeatedly hit a skinny, scared person half his size?

    According to many conservative Christians, such behavior is acceptable when the small, skinny person is a four-year-old child and the big one is his father. In fact, some claim that beating children is not only acceptable, it is a crucial sign of parental love and devotion – and obedience to the will of God. And besides, it’s the way things have been done for a generations.

    This is the skeleton of an argument being made by fans and supporters of American football star Adrian Peterson, above, who was recently suspended from play in the National Football League after pictures emerged of the bruises and lacerations he had inflicted on his four-year-old son.

    According to the police report accompanying the images, Peterson stuffed the child’s mouth with leaves and whipped him repeatedly with a branch. The pictures showed dozens of wounds, including to the front of the child’s legs, the genital area, and the arms. Peterson admitted to striking the boy, including on the scrotum, but defended the punishment.

    Peterson is the highest paid running back in the NFL, on a $96 million contract that provided a base salary this year of $11.75 million. The victim is one of seven children that Peterson has fathered with five different women, and the case marks the third time that one of his children has been the subject of physical abuse allegations.

    Earlier reports indicate that a whipping delivered to another son by Adrian Peterson resulted in a cut to the child’s face that left a permanent scar. A third son was beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend.

    Despite the family history, Peterson’s admissions, and the graphic photos, loyal fans of the Minnesota Vikings team have rallied to his side. One woman arrived at a Sunday game in a Peterson jersey, with a beer in one hand and a symbolic stick in the other.

    Research evidence shows that children grow up healthier and better disciplined without corporal punishment, and in fact traumatic punishment may neurologically prime later adult psychiatric disorder such as PTSD. But the practice of beating children remains shockingly common in many American communities. Among African Americans like Peterson, 89 percent of parents say that they spank their kindergarteners, as compared with 79 percent of white parents.

    In a New York Times op-ed, sociologist Michael Dyson traces the African American inclination toward physical punishment back to the practices of slaveholders, who beat adults and children alike. But another factor to consider is the high rate of biblical Christianity among African Americans, who are the most religiously devout ethnic group in the US (Peterson himself has a history of religious tweets that proclaim America a Christian nation.)

    continued below

  37. Almost half of Black Americans identify as Baptists, a Protestant sect that treats the Bible as the literally perfect word of God. The implications for parenting are enormous because many Bible stories implicitly or explicitly treat children as possessions of their fathers and “wisdom” texts admonish parents to beat their children. Preachers and Christian parenting experts who teach “spare the rod, spoil the child” often cite chapter and verse, to which they add their own detailed instructions on how best to break a child’s will as God intends. The combination can make it remarkably hard for devout Bible believers to come down on the side of child protection, even after children die from Christian discipline gone awry.

    To some, the question is one of intentions. As a defender of Peterson put it:

    He was trying to discipline his child. Too many people need to mind their own business. We are already becoming a nanny state.

    Even the victim’s grandmother came to Peterson’s defense, calling her son’s suspension cruel during an interview with the Houston Chronicle:

    Most of us disciplined our kids a little more than we meant sometimes. But we were only trying to prepare them for the real world … When you whip those you love, it’s not about abuse, but love … People are judging him, but they don’t know his heart. This was never his intent.

    But in a wave of recent op-eds and editorials, many have failed to find merit in Peterson’s religious rationalizations. In one such column, published at On Faith, child abuse survivor and novelist M Dolon Hickmon details the broken relationship between him and his now deceased father, graphically illustrating the pain and lingering consequences of terrifying whippings that were, ironically, doled out after the author’s alcoholic father sobered up and began following a Christian pastor’s parenting advice:

    My Father Repented of ‘Christian Spanking’ Too Late

    My father’s old-fashioned discipline was rooted in the advice and example of his community, his parents, and his church.

    For me, the photos of the injuries Adrian Peterson inflicted on his young son stirred a particularly difficult memory: In it, I stand at the foot of my parent’s bed, frail and blond. Behind me, my father utters yet another masculine grunt of exertion. The belt licks my bare skin, and the pain is alarmingly severe – something of a surprise for a preschooler who’d grown accustomed to losing count after forty lashes.

    The edge of the belt rips a gash, and a slick of wetness forms on my back. I plead: “Daddy, stop! I’m bleeding!” He goes on chopping, not missing a beat. With each lash, I grow more certain that this is the time that he will go on long enough to kill me.

    Thirty-four years later, that memory remains as vivid as if it had happened this morning. The images loop through my mind; I shake and pant like a wounded beast, my ears ringing and my heart racing.

    continued below

  38. My parents were not stereotypical child abusers. Sure, both were reared in what many would now consider abusive homes, and when they met they were both alcoholics. But the horrific beatings didn’t begin until my parents joined the Baptist church and gave up drinking.

    Prior to becoming born-again, my father would whip my brother and me much the way his father had beaten him: snatching his belt from his slacks in a fit of pique and then raining lashes until his tension was relieved. It was a pastor who taught him the “right” way, which involved beating his children for the tiniest transgressions, reading scripture before, during, and after punishment, and the necessity of continuing and escalating until his children were reduced to submissive, plaintively whimpering heaps.

    My parents divorced and my father left the state when I was fifteen.

    As an adult, I didn’t speak to my abuser for more than ten years. I spent my late teens and early twenties in intensive group and individual psychotherapy. By my mid-twenties, I’d hit my stride; it seemed that I’d finally found a way to work around the emotional and psychological scars of abuse. But a chance encounter with a secondary trauma caused the flashbacks and nightmares to return — this time, so severely that I couldn’t function personally or professionally. Clawing my way back to normal would cost me six more years.

    Before reaching that point, I despaired. In the grip of a terrifying madness, my thoughts turned from contemplating suicide to plotting to murder my dad. Sometimes, I pictured it quick and bloody; I’d pulverize his skull, splashing brains and bits of bone on the ceiling. Other times, I’d imagine revenge served with frosty deliberation: I’d keep him chained up somewhere, so I could return each moment of pain and humiliation that he’d burned into me.

    I tracked him down by calling companies that sold supplies related to his trade. When I’d located him, I drove for hours to sit in my car, observing his habits. He worked for himself, out of an isolated woodshop in the back corner of a mostly unoccupied industrial park. He was by himself all day, every day. There were power tools. It would be perfect.

    When I entered his shop, my father was hunched over a sawhorse ….

    Click here to read the conclusion of this account at On Faith.

    Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of Subscribe at

    Writer and activist M Dolon Hickmon explores the intersections of religion and child abuse in articles around the web, as well as in the pages of his critically acclaimed novel, 13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession.

  39. Pastor brags about punching ‘dangerously bright’ kid

    by Michael Stone, Progressive Secularist Humanist January 10, 2015

    Sometimes Christian love requires violence: In a disturbing video clip, a pastor brags about punching a “dangerously bright” kid in the chest for “not taking the Lord serious.”

    In the video, an unnamed pastor talks about his days of being a youth pastor, and explains how he assaulted a “smart aleck” kid for “not taking the Lord serious.”

    In the video the pastor says: "I punched him in the chest as hard as I could. I crumpled the kid."

    The clip ends with the pastor explaining: “There’s times that that (assaulting children) might be needed.”

    The problem is not only with the pastor who believes it is fine and dandy to assault children, and then brag about it. Perhaps even more troubling is the “good Christians” listening to their pastor justify child abuse without objecting.

    It is frightening to think of how many Christians would agree with this pastor, and see nothing wrong with this sort of child abuse as long as it is in service to the Lord.

    And that’s what they call Christian love.

  40. Pope Francis says it is OK to smack children if their ‘dignity is maintained’

    Vatican defends comments about ‘disciplining with justice’ after facing previous criticism from UN over attitude to corporal punishment

    Associated Press February 6, 2015

    Pope Francis told parents it is OK to spank their children to discipline them – as long as their dignity is maintained.

    Francis made the remarks this week during his weekly general audience, which was devoted to the role of fathers in the family.

    Francis outlined the traits of a good father: one who forgives but is able to “correct with firmness” while not discouraging the child.

    “One time, I heard a father in a meeting with married couples say ‘I sometimes have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face so as to not humiliate them’,” Francis said.

    “How beautiful.” he added. “He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on.”

    The Rev Thomas Rosica, who collaborates with the Vatican press office, said the pope was obviously not speaking about committing violence or cruelty against a child but rather about “helping someone to grow and mature”.

    “Who has not disciplined their child or been disciplined by parents when we are growing up?” Rosica said in an email. “Simply watch Pope Francis when he is with children and let the images and gestures speak for themselves. To infer or distort anything else … reveals a greater problem for those who don’t seem to understand a pope who has ushered in a revolution of normalcy of simple speech and plain gesture.”

    The Catholic church’s position on corporal punishment came under sharp criticism last year during a grilling by members of a UN human rights committee monitoring implementation of the UN treaty on the rights of the child.

    In its final report, the committee members reminded the Holy See that the treaty explicitly requires signatories to take all measures, including legislative and educational, to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence – including while in the care of parents.

    continued below

  41. It recommended that the Holy See amend its own laws to specifically prohibit corporal punishment of children, including within the family, and to create ways to enforce that ban in Catholic schools and institutions around the globe.

    The recommendations were prompted by reports to the committee of widespread physical abuse and use of corporal punishment in Catholic-run schools and institutions, particularly in Ireland, that committee members said had reached “endemic levels.”

    The Vatican had argued that it in no way promoted corporal punishment, but that it also had no way to enforce any kind of ban on its use in Catholic schools, over which it has no jurisdiction. It noted that it was only responsible for implementing the child rights treaty inside the Vatican City State.

    That said, it stressed that the term “punishment” is not even used in the section of church teaching that refers to parents’ duties to “educate, guide, correct, instruct and discipline” their children.

    In its written response to the committee, the Vatican said that according to church teaching, parents “should be able to rectify their child’s inappropriate action by imposing certain reasonable consequences for such behaviour, taking into consideration the child’s ability to understand the same as corrective”.

    The head of the Vatican delegation told the committee that he would take the UN proposal to ban corporal punishment in all settings back to Rome for consideration.

    The Holy See isn’t the only signatory to the convention that has been singled out on the issue. Britain received a similar recommendation to repeal its law allowing parents to spank their children when it came before the UN committee in 2002.

    Some 39 countries prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, including at home, where most abuse occurs. Those nations range from Sweden and Germany to South Sudan and Turkmenistan.

    In the United States, parents can legally hit their child as long as the force is “reasonable”. In 19 US states, it’s still legal for personnel in schools to practice “paddling”.

  42. Kids temper tantrums can be solved with collaborative problem-solving, says B.C. psychologist

    Registered psychologist says showing empathy, reasoning with your toddler can stop fits and tears

    By The Early Edition, CBC News February 23, 2015

    Whilst most parents find it almost impossible to stop their children throwing fits, screaming, kicking and crying for what seems like no apparent reason, one B.C. psychologist says explaining their point of view could help.

    "Meltdowns are going to be expected … reasoning is going to be limited, but there are approaches that you can take to kind of mitigate that meltdown," Pam Narang, a registered psychologist at B.C. Children's Hospital, told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

    Narang advocates for an approach called collaborative problem-solving, pioneered by American clinician Ross Greene.

    The approach uses three steps to resolving a temper tantrum:

    1. Calm everyone down

    Narang said it's important to take an empathetic approach and try to put aside your own agenda while you work to understand what your child needs.

    "Start off by kind of disarming the situation a little bit, get everybody calmed down so that you can actually hear one another."

    2. Explain your point of view

    Narang advises starting by explaining your concerns around safety or the impact your child will have on another child.

    "If you would like to have a more harmonious home, it's usually a better idea to see both sides of the story."

    3. Come to a solution together

    Narang said one way she gets her own toddler to agree on a solution is through the "first … and then" approach.

    "For example, a child might really want to play or read a book, but the need in the moment is a diaper change … so you might say something like 'First diaper change, then book.'"

    She said this way, you acknowledge what your child wants to do, while still making sure the diaper gets changed.

    Narang is giving a talk called Getting a 'Win-Win' with your Child, on the collaborative problem-solving approach, with her colleague Tina Wang at 7 p.m. PT on Monday at Vancouver's Central Library.

    To hear the full interview with Pam Narang, click the audio labelled: Problem-solving temper tantrums.

  43. France gets rap on knuckles over smacking children

    By Cedric Simon, AFP March 4, 2015

    Strasbourg (France) (AFP) - A top rights body said Wednesday that France was in violation of a European treaty because it did not fully ban the smacking of children, reigniting debate over the divisive issue.

    The Strasbourg-based Council of Europe said France's laws on corporal punishment for children were not "sufficiently clear, binding and precise".

    France bans violence against children but does allow parents the "right to discipline" them.

    French law does forbid corporal punishment in schools or disciplinary establishments for children.

    More than half of the 47 members of the Council of Europe, including Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, have completely banned smacking.

    Worldwide, 17 other countries have a complete ban on corporal punishment for children, notably in South America, Central America and Africa.

    The Council of Europe was ruling on a complaint lodged by the Britain-based child protection charity Approach, which says that French law violates part of the European Social Charter, a treaty first adopted in 1961 and revised in 1996.

    France was one of seven countries included in the complaint. Rulings on the other six -- Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Italy and Ireland -- are due in the coming months.

    - 'Collective debate' -

    The case has revived the issue in France, with the minister for the family Laurence Rossignol calling for a "collective debate" but not new regulations.

    "For abusive parents, we have a penal code. For those that occasionally resort to corporal punishment, we need to help them do things differently and not discredit them by saying 'the judge is coming to deal with that'," the minister added.

    The government was more dismissive, with spokesman Stephane Le Foll saying there were "no grounds for debate".

    "No one in France is in favour of corporal punishment," said Le Foll.

    The subject came to the fore in France in 2013 when a father was fined 500 euros ($600) for smacking his nine-year-old son.

    Some people lauded the ruling, others found it disproportionately harsh.

    Pope Francis raised hackles earlier this year when he said good fathers knew how to forgive but also to "correct with firmness".

    He described as "beautiful" and dignified the response of one father who said he sometimes smacked his children "but never in the face so as to not humiliate them".

    Those in favour of a complete ban point to the mental and physical harm suffered by the child.

    Gilles Lazimi, from the campaign group "Foundation for the Child", said that smacking a child is "not only ineffective but also harmful for the health of some children".

    Being hit can "interfere with brain development, emotional development, the relationship with parents and... as the child ages, can result in a loss of self-confidence and self-esteem," said Lazimi.

    However, an opposition politician, Jean-Christophe Lagarde, said it was "ridiculous" to introduce laws that governed family life to that extent.

    "Are we going to be told how to stack our plates, whether children should be made to dry up and whether they can help their parent with the chores?" he asked.

    Unlike the European Court of Human Rights, the Council of Europe does not have the power to punish its members, only to slap them on the wrist.

  44. Should all forms of physical discipline against kids be made illegal?

    That is exactly what some children’s rights advocates want to see

    by Jill Drews, NEWS 1130 VANCOUVER March 3, 2015

    Advocates for children’s rights say it’s time for the federal government to catch up to other countries and get rid of Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada. It’s the section that allows parents to use reasonable physical force against their children for the purposes of correction.

    Section 43 of the Criminal Codes reads “Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.”

    There are times when corporal punishment is not allowed following a constitutional challenge out of Ontario. In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada added judicial limitations to better set out what exactly is considered reasonable force. Corinne’s Quest, a group advocating for the elimination of the section, lays out the limitations:

    Only parents may use reasonable force solely for purposes of correction

    Teachers may use reasonable force only to “remove a child from a classroom or secure compliance with instructions, but not merely as corporal punishment”

    Corporal punishment cannot be administered to “children under two or teenagers”"

    The use of force on children of any age “incapable of learning from [it] because of disability or some other contextual factor” is not protected

    “Discipline by the use of objects or blows or slaps to the head is unreasonable”

    “Degrading, inhuman or harmful conduct is not protected”, including conduct that “raises a reasonable prospect of harm”

    Only “minor corrective force of a transitory and trifling nature” may be used

    The physical punishment must be “corrective, which rules out conduct stemming from the caregiver’s frustration, loss of temper or abusive personality”

    “The gravity of the precipitating event is not relevant”; and

    The question of what is “reasonable under the circumstances” requires an “objective” test and “must be considered in context and in light of all the circumstances of the case.”

    Adrienne Montani with advocacy group First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition says 44 countries have eliminated this allowance, but the Canadian federal government has refused. “There’s no other human being that you are allowed to hit and so why should children be allowed to be hit? We have made commitments to children’s right to physical integrity, to health and safety, to non-violence. There’s no reason why they should be exempted under this kind of a defense.”

    Montani explains research has now shown using physical force to discipline doesn’t work. “It’s harmful to children’s health and development. It doesn’t work in terms of learning what good behaviour is. It can stop certain types of behaviours or make children operate out of fear, but the research on it is that it’s not helpful and that there are much more helpful ways for parents to guide their children.”

    There are many adults today who grew up being spanked or experiencing some other sort of corporal punishment who don’t feel they’ve been damaged. But Montani says that doesn’t mean it is best practice in parenting. “You can’t go to a single parenting class in this province or country, or Health Canada website and look for parenting advice and they will tell you this is a good thing to do. They will tell you hitting children is not the appropriate way and not the most effective way.

    She says with an election on the way, they’ve written to all leaders of federal political parties to see where they stand.

  45. Raffi joins Corinne’s Quest to work for an end to the physical punishment of children

    June 17, 2015

    Raffi Cavoukian, world-renowned Canadian troubadour and author, has agreed to join the steering committee of Corinne’s Quest—an organization dedicated to helping parents discover positive, nonviolent ways to raise responsible self-disciplined children.

    In announcing his support, Raffi noted that the goals of Corinne’s Quest – to end physical punishment of children and to advocate for enlightened and nonviolent parenting styles – have long been part of his Child Honouring philosophy.

    “The principles that underlie my Covenant for Honouring Children include Conscious Parenting and Nonviolence,” said Raffi. “I am honoured to join in helping Corinne’s Quest to provide a safer, more enlightened and violence-free future for Canada’s children.”

    “We are making this announcement near Father’s Day because of the critical role fathers play in child-rearing. It is also a time when all parents can reflect on this important job and consider their parenting styles,” he said.

    Raffi founded the Centre for Child Honouring Centre on Salt Spring Island, BC in order to advance Child Honouring as a universal ethic and an organizing principle for societal transformation.

    Kathy Lynn, parenting speaker, author and life-long advocate for ending the physical punishment of children, chairs Corinne’s Quest. The organization is named in honour of Corinne Robertshaw, a lawyer who dedicated her life to seeking repeal of Section 43—a part of Canada’s criminal code that permits the hitting of children under certain circumstances.


    For information on Corinne’s Quest, visit

    For information on Raffi and Child Honouring, visit

    Media contacts:

    Kathy Lynn — 604-258-9074

    Kim Wiltzen (for Raffi) –, 519-787-1234

  46. What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong

    Negative consequences, timeouts, and punishment just make bad behavior worse. But a new approach really works.

    By Katherine Reynolds Lewis | Mother Jones, July/August 2015 Issue

    LEIGH ROBINSON WAS out for a lunchtime walk one brisk day during the spring of 2013 when a call came from the principal at her school. Will, a third-grader with a history of acting up in class, was flipping out on the playground. He'd taken off his belt and was flailing it around and grunting. The recess staff was worried he might hurt someone. Robinson, who was Will's educational aide, raced back to the schoolyard.

    Will was "that kid." Every school has a few of them: that kid who's always getting into trouble, if not causing it. That kid who can't stay in his seat and has angry outbursts and can make a teacher's life hell. That kid the other kids blame for a recess tussle. Will knew he was that kid too. Ever since first grade, he'd been coming to school anxious, defensive, and braced for the next confrontation with a classmate or teacher.

    The expression "school-to-prison pipeline" was coined to describe how America's public schools fail kids like Will. A first-grader whose unruly behavior goes uncorrected can become the fifth-grader with multiple suspensions, the eighth-grader who self-medicates, the high school dropout, and the 17-year-old convict. Yet even though today's teachers are trained to be sensitive to "social-emotional development" and schools are committed to mainstreaming children with cognitive or developmental issues into regular classrooms, those advances in psychology often go out the window once a difficult kid starts acting out. Teachers and administrators still rely overwhelmingly on outdated systems of reward and punishment, using everything from red-yellow-green cards, behavior charts, and prizes to suspensions and expulsions.

    How we deal with the most challenging kids remains rooted in B.F. Skinner's mid-20th-century philosophy that human behavior is determined by consequences and bad behavior must be punished. (Pavlov figured it out first, with dogs.) During the 2011-12 school year, the US Department of Education counted 130,000 expulsions and roughly 7 million suspensions among 49 million K-12 students—one for every seven kids. The most recent estimates suggest there are also a quarter-million instances of corporal punishment in US schools every year.

    But consequences have consequences. Contemporary psychological studies suggest that, far from resolving children's behavior problems, these standard disciplinary methods often exacerbate them. They sacrifice long-term goals (student behavior improving for good) for short-term gain—momentary peace in the classroom.

    University of Rochester psychologist Ed Deci, for example, found that teachers who aim to control students' behavior—rather than helping them control it themselves—undermine the very elements that are essential for motivation: autonomy, a sense of competence, and a capacity to relate to others. This, in turn, means they have a harder time learning self-control, an essential skill for long-term success. Stanford University's Carol Dweck, a developmental and social psychologist, has demonstrated that even rewards—gold stars and the like—can erode children's motivation and performance by shifting the focus to what the teacher thinks, rather than the intrinsic rewards of learning.

    continued below

  47. In a 2011 study that tracked nearly 1 million schoolchildren over six years, researchers at Texas A&M University found that kids suspended or expelled for minor offenses—from small-time scuffles to using phones or making out—were three times as likely as their peers to have contact with the juvenile justice system within a year of the punishment. (Black kids were 31 percent more likely than white or Latino kids to be punished for similar rule violations.) Kids with diagnosed behavior problems such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and reactive attachment disorder—in which very young children, often as a result of trauma, are unable to relate appropriately to others—were the most likely to be disciplined.

    Which begs the question: Does it make sense to impose the harshest treatments on the most challenging kids? And are we treating chronically misbehaving children as though they don't want to behave, when in many cases they simply can't?

    That might sound like the kind of question your mom dismissed as making excuses. But it's actually at the core of some remarkable research that is starting to revolutionize discipline from juvenile jails to elementary schools. Psychologist Ross Greene, who has taught at Harvard and Virginia Tech, has developed a near cult following among parents and educators who deal with challenging children. What Richard Ferber's sleep-training method meant to parents desperate for an easy bedtime, Greene's disciplinary method has been for parents of kids with behavior problems, who often pass around copies of his books, The Explosive Childand Lost at School, as though they were holy writ.

    His model was honed in children's psychiatric clinics and battle-tested in state juvenile facilities, and in 2006 it formally made its way into a smattering of public and private schools. The results thus far have been dramatic, with schools reporting drops as great as 80 percent in disciplinary referrals, suspensions, and incidents of peer aggression. "We know if we keep doing what isn't working for those kids, we lose them," Greene told me. "Eventually there's this whole population of kids we refer to as overcorrected, overdirected, and overpunished. Anyone who works with kids who are behaviorally challenging knows these kids: They've habituated to punishment."

    Under Greene's philosophy, you'd no more punish a child for yelling out in class or jumping out of his seat repeatedly than you would if he bombed a spelling test. You'd talk with the kid to figure out the reasons for the outburst (was he worried he would forget what he wanted to say?), then brainstorm alternative strategies for the next time he felt that way. The goal is to get to the root of the problem, not to discipline a kid for the way his brain is wired.

    "This approach really captures a couple of the main themes that are appearing in the literature with increasing frequency," says Russell Skiba, a psychology professor and director of the Equity Project at Indiana University. He explains that focusing on problem solving instead of punishment is now seen as key to successful discipline.

    If Greene's approach is correct, then the educators who continue to argue over the appropriate balance of incentives and consequences may be debating the wrong thing entirely. After all, what good does it do to punish a child who literally hasn't yet acquired the brain functions required to control his behavior?

    continued below

  48. WILL WAS STILL wielding the belt when Leigh Robinson arrived, winded, at theCentral School playground. A tall, lean woman who keeps her long brown hair tied back in a ponytail, she conveys a sense of unhurried comfort. Central, which goes from pre-kindergarten through third grade, is one of a few hundred schools around the country giving Greene's approach a test run—in this case with help from a $10,000 state anti-delinquency grant.

    Will, who started first grade the year Central began implementing Greene's program (known as Collaborative and Proactive Solutions, or CPS), was an active kid, bright and articulate, who loved to play outside. But he also struggled, far more than the typical six-year-old, to stay in his seat—or in the room. When he couldn't find words for what was bothering him, he might swing his hands at classmates or resort to grunting and moaning and rolling on the floor. A psychologist diagnosed him with a nonverbal learning disorder, a condition that makes it hard to adapt to new situations, transition between settings, interpret social cues, and orient yourself in space and time. At the beginning of second grade, Central designated Robinson as his aide.

    Out on the playground, she approached the boy reassuringly, like a trained hostage negotiator. "Do whatever you need with the belt," she told him gently. "Just keep it away from people." Slowly, Will began to calm down. They walked over to some woods near the school, and she let him throw rocks into a stream, scream, and yell until, at last, he burst into tears in her arms. Then they talked and came up with a plan. The next time he felt frustrated or overwhelmed, Will would tell another staffer that he needed his helper. If Robinson were off campus, they would get her on the phone for him.

    A few years earlier, staffers at Central might have responded differently, sending Will to the office or docking his recess time. In a more typical school, a kid who seems to be threatening others might be physically restrained, segregated into a special-ed room, or sent home for the day. Children with learning and behavior disabilities are suspended at about twice the rate of their peers and incarcerated at nearly three times the rate of the overall youth population, government data shows. Will, like most of Central's student body, is white, but for black kids with disabilities the suspension rate is 25 percent—more than 1 in 4 African American boys and 1 in 5 African American girls with disabilities will be suspended in a given school year.

    Before Greene's program was put in place, conventional discipline at Central was the norm. During the 2009-10 school year, kids were referred to the principal's office for discipline 146 times, and two were suspended. Two years later, the number of referrals was down to 45, with zero suspensions, all thanks to focusing more on "meeting the child's needs and solving problems instead of controlling behavior," principal Nina D'Aran told me. "That's a big shift."

    The CPS method hinges on training school (or prison or psych clinic) staff to nurture strong relationships—especially with the most disruptive kids—and to give kids a central role in solving their own problems. For instance, a teacher might see a challenging child dawdling on a worksheet and assume he's being defiant, when in fact the kid is just hungry. A snack solves the problem. Before CPS, "we spent a lot of time trying to diagnose children by talking to each other," D'Aran says. "Now we're talking to the child and really believing the child when they say what the problems are."

    continued below

  49. The next step is to identify each students challenges —transitioning from recess to class, keeping his hands to himself, sitting with the group—and tackle them one at a time. For example, a child might act out because he felt that too many people were "looking at him in the circle." The solution? "He might come up with the idea of sitting in the back of the room and listening," D'Aran says. The teachers and the student would come up with a plan to slowly get him more involved.

    This all requires a dramatic change in mindset and workflow. Central School diverted building improvement funds to divide one classroom into two spaces. One side was called the "Learning Center"—a quiet spot for kids to take a break, maybe have a snack, and problem solve before going back into the classroom. The other area became a resource room. The school also committed to 20 weeks of teacher training, with an hour of coaching each week from Greene's trainer via Skype.

    Will's breakthrough session happened in first grade, after several failed attempts, when D'Aran, then a guidance counselor, and his teacher sat down with him. He'd been refusing to participate in writing lessons with his classmates. Over 45 minutes, they coaxed Will through the initial moans and "I don't knows" and finally landed on a solution: Will said if he could use lined paper that also had a space to draw a picture, it would be easier to get started writing. Before long, he was tackling writing assignments without a problem.

    GREENE, 57, HAS curly brown hair, glasses, and the habit of speaking in complete paragraphs, as though he's lecturing a psychology class instead of having a conversation. At the annual conference of Lives in the Balance, the nonprofit he founded to promote his method and advocate for behaviorally challenging kids, I watched him address a crowd of around 500 teachers, psychologists, and other professionals. His baby face and tweedy blazer called to mind a high school social-studies teacher, but he worked up a full head of steam as he spoke of millions of kids being medicated and punished for misbehavior.

    The children at risk of falling into the school-to-prison pipeline, Greene says, include not only the 5.2 million with ADHD, the 5 million with a learning disability, and the 2.2 million with anxiety disorders, but also the 16 million who have experienced repeated trauma or abuse, the 1.4 million with depression, the 1.2 million on the autism spectrum, and the 1.2 million who are homeless. "Behaviorally challenging kids are still poorly understood and are still being treated in ways that are adversarial, reactive, punitive, unilateral, ineffective, counterproductive," he told the audience. "Not only are we not helping, we are going about doing things in ways that make things worse. Then what you have to show for it is a whole lot of alienated, hopeless, sometimes aggressive, sometimes violent kids."

    Greene was trained in behavior modification techniques—a.k.a. the Skinner method—as are most people who work with families and children. But in his early clinical work as a Virginia Tech graduate student, he began to question the approach. He'd get parents to use consequences and rewards, but the families kept struggling mightily with the basics—from dressing to chores and bedtimes. To Greene, it felt like he was treating the symptoms while ignoring the disease.

    continued below

  50. Around the same time he learned about new brain research by neuroscientists who were looking at brain functions with powerful fMRI machines. They found that the prefrontal cortex of our brains was instrumental in managing what is called executive function—our capacity to control impulses, prioritize tasks, and organize plans. Other research suggested that the prefrontal cortexes of aggressive children actually hadn't developed, or were developing more slowly, so that they simply did not yet have brains capable of helping them regulate their behavior.

    But brains are changeable. Learning and repeated experiences can actually alter the physical structure of the brain, creating new neuronal pathways. Nobel laureate Eric Kandel found that memory may be stored in the synapses of our nervous system. He won the Nobel Prize in 2000 for studying the Aplysia, a very simple sea slug, and discovering that when it "learned" something, like fear, it created new neurons.

    The implications of this new wave of science for teachers are profound: Children can actually reshape their brains when they learn and practice skills. What's more,Dweck and other researchers demonstrated that when students are told this is so, both their motivation and achievement levels leap forward. "It was all sitting there waiting to be woven together," Greene says. He began coaching parents to focus on building up their children's problem-solving skills. It seemed to work.

    By the early 1990s, Greene had earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology. He moved to Massachusetts, where he began teaching at Harvard Medical School and directing the cognitive-behavioral psychology program at Massachusetts General Hospital. He also began testing his new approach in children's psychiatric clinics that had previously used Skinneresque methods. In 2001, Cambridge Health Alliance, a Boston-area hospital group, implemented CPS, and reports that within a year, its use of physical and chemical restraints (like clonidine, which is a powerful sedative) in young patients dropped from 20 cases per month to zero. A subsequent five-year clinical trial at Virginia Tech involving 134 children aged 7 to 14 validated the method as an effective way to treat kids with oppositional defiant disorder.

    By 2001, when The Explosive Child came out in paperback, Greene had become a sought-after speaker, even appearing on Oprah. The first peer-reviewed paper in a scientific journal validating the effectiveness of his model appeared in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, and that led to even more invitations to speak at teaching hospitals and other facilities.

    In 2004, a psychologist from Long Creek Youth Development Center, a correctional center in South Portland, Maine, attended one of Greene's workshops in Portland and got his bosses to let him try CPS. Rodney Bouffard, then superintendent at the facility, remembers that some guards resisted at first, complaining about "that G-D-hugs-and-kisses approach." It wasn't hard to see why: Instead of restraining and isolating a kid who, say, flipped over a desk, staffers were now expected to talk with him about his frustrations. The staff began to ignore curses dropped in a classroom and would speak to the kid later, in private, so as not to challenge him in front of his peers.

    continued below

  51. But remarkably the relationships changed. Kids began to see the staff as their allies, and the staff no longer felt like their adversaries. The violent outbursts waned. There were fewer disciplinary write-ups and fewer injuries to kids or staff. And once they got out, the kids were far better at not getting locked up again: Long Creek's one-year recidivism rate plummeted from 75 percent in 1999 to 33 percent in 2012. "The senior staff that resisted us the most," Bouffard told me, "would come back to me and say, 'I wish we had done this sooner. I don't have the bruises, my muscles aren't strained from wrestling, and I really feel I accomplished something.'"

    Maine's second juvenile detention facility, Mountain View, also adopted Greene's method, with similar results. Incidents that resulted in injury, confinement, or restraint dropped nearly two-thirds between April 2004 and April 2008.

    LIKE THE LONG CREEK guards, staffers at Central were skeptical at first. When an enraged second-grader threw a chair at educational technician Susan Forsley one day, her first instinct was to not let him "get away with it." But she swallowed her pride and left the room until the boy calmed down. Later, she sat down with him and Principal D'Aran, and they resolved that if he felt himself getting angry like that again, he would head for the guidance office, where he'd sit with stuffed animals or a favorite book to calm down. Forsley eventually learned to read his emotions and head off problems by suggesting he take a break. "Is giving him a consequence—suspending him, calling his grandparents—is that going to teach him not to throw chairs?" she asks. "When you start doing all these consequences, they're going to dig their heels in even deeper, and nobody is going to win."

    Will had graduated from Central and outgrown most of his baby fat when I arrived for breakfast at his home one Saturday morning. As he and his brothers helped prepare apple pancakes and fruit salad, he took a break to show me "Antlandia," a board game he created to showcase his knowledge of insects. Now in fifth grade, he'd made friends at his new school and was proudly riding the bus—something he couldn't handle before.

    Between bites, Will consented to describe his experiences with the teachers and staff at Central School. "When they notice a kid that's angry, they try to help. They ask what's bothering them," he said, spiky brown bangs covering his eyebrows as he looked down at his plate. His mom, Rachel Wakefield, told me later that CPS had trained Will to be able to talk about frustrating situations and advocate for himself. Now, she said, he actually had an easier time of it than his big brother. "It's a really important skill as they enter into adolescence," she said.

    From Greene's perspective, that's the big win—not just to fix kids' behavior problems, but to set them up for success on their own. Too many educators, he believes, fixate on a child's problems outside of school walls—a turbulent home, a violent neighborhood—rather than focus on the difference the school can make. "Whatever he's going home to, you can do the kid a heck of a lot of good six hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year," Greene says. "We tie our hands behind our backs when we focus primarily on things about which we can do nothing."

  52. Government of Canada Pamphlet - What's Wrong with Spanking?

    This newly revised brochure, produced by the Public Health Agency of Canada in partnership with the Department of Justice, provides tips on child discipline and positive parenting for different age groups as well as a useful link (bottom of the page) to The Criminal Law and Managing Children’s Behaviour, which describes what actions are acceptable and what may lead to criminal charges.

    Tips to Guide Your Child's Behaviour in a Positive Way

    Sometimes parents feel frustrated by their children's behaviour and do not know what to do. All children need guidance to help them learn self-control. Positive guidance, or 'discipline', teaches children skills, raises their self-esteem, and strengthens the parent-child bond. Physical punishment is not positive discipline. Children need safe, stable and nurturing relationships with their parents.

    This pamphlet provides some tips to help parents guide their child's behaviour in a positive way.

    Why Doesn't Spanking Work?

    Spanking is not an effective way to change your child's behaviour. Spanking can harm your relationship with your child. Research shows that spanking teaches your child to solve problems with aggression.

    Your child needs your guidance.

    Your child needs you to be consistent and patient.

    Tips to Guide Your Child's Behaviour in a Positive Way

    #1 Calm down before you act.

    When we get frustrated, we can react without thinking. If you react in ways that are hurtful, you can make the situation worse by scaring your child. Try to breathe deeply when you feel yourself getting frustrated. Wait until your body relaxes and you can think clearly before doing or saying anything.

    #2 Think about what you want your child to learn in this moment.

    Your child will learn how to deal with frustration by watching how you deal with it. Children who are spanked are more likely to solve their own conflicts by hitting others. To teach children how to be respectful and non-violent, you need to treat them with respect and interact without violence. Show them how it is done.

    #3 Consider your child's point of view.

    Most of the behaviours that frustrate parents are normal reactions to hunger, tiredness, boredom, restlessness, fear, illness, pain, discouragement, frustration or stress.

    Has your child missed her snack?
    Was he up late last night?
    Did she miss her nap?
    Does he need to run outside?
    Is she getting sick?
    Is there stress in the family?

    Ask your child if something is bothering him. When you understand the reason for your child's behaviour, it is easier to handle the situation without losing your temper.

    #4 Think about your child's stage of development.

    Babies are just beginning to learn about the world. They need to know that they live in a safe place. They often cry because they do not have words to tell you how they feel or what they need. It can be hard to figure out what they are trying to tell you. Babies never cry to make you mad. They just need to be comforted and protected. They need to know that they are safe with you. You cannot spoil a baby. When your baby cries, try:

    feeding her
    changing his diaper
    holding, cuddling and singing to her
    rocking or walking with him

    continued below

  53. If your baby cannot stop crying and you are feeling stressed out, put your baby in a safe place. Spend a few minutes alone until you feel calmer. Ask for help from family, friends, a doctor or other community resources.

    Remember, never shake a baby.

    Shaking a baby can cause serious brain injury and death.

    Toddlers learn by touching and tasting everything. This is how they get to know the world. They are little explorers who want to know what everything is and how everything works. If a child's hand is slapped for touching things, they will be afraid to explore, so they will learn less.

    To keep your toddler safe while he explores:

    Put dangerous things out of reach.
    Distract her with a safe toy.
    Use words like 'hot,' 'sharp,' and 'ouch' over and over to teach him about danger.
    Always make sure she is in a safe place where you can watch her closely.

    Preschoolers want to do things for themselves and make their own decisions. They cannot express or control their feelings very well. When they get frustrated, they often have tantrums. Their emotions take over and this can scare them. Spanking will only scare them more and make the tantrum worse. Instead, you can:

    Stay close and keep your child safe.
    Take deep breaths.
    Stay calm to help your child gradually calm down.

    When your child has calmed down, hold him gently and help put his feelings into words. "You were mad because I cut your apple and you wanted to eat it whole." Show your child how to handle strong feelings without yelling or hitting. Teach her how to think of solutions to her problems. Help him to express his feelings using words. If something gets damaged, help your child learn how to fix it.

    #5 Create a loving and respectful home.

    Adults are important role models. Children learn from watching how adults treat each other, as well as how they treat children. Talk with your child and explain things so she can learn. Show him and tell him you appreciate his efforts. Respect her need to grow, learn and explore. Teach him about safety and distract him from things that can harm him. Respect her need for sleep and healthy food, which greatly affect her behaviour. Have a daily routine. Last but not least, have fun with your child!

    Parents are always learning.

    All parents need ideas and support.

    #6 Do not be afraid to ask for help.

    To find out where to find support in your community, ask:

    your family doctor
    your local public health department
    your family support worker
    child care centres
    family resource centres
    child and family service agencies
    parenting programs such as Nobody's Perfect
    First Nation, Inuit and Métis organizations and health programs
    multicultural or newcomer centres
    social media support forums

    What the law says:

    Most forms of physical punishment are considered crimes in Canada.
    The provinces and territories also have laws to protect children.

    For more information on the law and parenting visit The Criminal Law and Managing Children's Behaviour at: