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Child Discipline Challenged in Court: A Local Example

Written By: William Finnigan  |  Posted: Friday, November 2nd, 2012

            A young mother in Eau Claire, WI was recently charged with "child abuse" in regard to spanking her seven year-old daughter. The issue centers on a mother's right and responsibility to discipline her child as she sees fit. While there are certainly cases of reckless child "beatings" creating bodily and emotional trauma, this should not be compared to the firm and loving action of a mother's corporal discipline. This young mother was right, and within her rights. She understands the traits of human nature and how to deal with them. Let me explain.

            It's no secret that everything in the universe is under control. The 24-hour cycle of light and darkness is proof enough. Unfortunately, dealing with daily life on the planet is not so simple. Imperfection and struggle characterize so much of our interaction with others, particularly our own children. While the heavenly creatures like the sun, moon, and stars pose no moral dilemma, that cannot be said for those who inhabit this earth.

            We live in a fallen society, filled with greed, hatred, and violence. The daily news in any part of the world testifies to such. The increase in crime seems to correlate with the breakdown of the home. The attack on marriage and family structure has paid its toll. Even families with a father and mother are facing real challenges in the raising of their children. War begins in the human heart, and therefore is a constant threat to the well-being of our society.

            Having been on this earth for more than 75 years has convinced me that we have strayed from the basic understanding of children. Unlike the predictable sunrise and sunset, these young creatures are not predictable. Psychologists have given the impression that children are born morally "neutral," allowing parents to mold them as a piece of clay. Any honest parent knows that isn't the case; each child is born with a bent toward evil and rebellion. The first word out of his mouth is "no!" Soon after is the word "mine!"

            No matter how sweet the child may be otherwise, the battle for supremacy is on. He is quick to let you know that the universe revolves around him. It's a fight from the beginning as to who will run the show (home). Parents have been charged with the responsibility to raise their children in an orderly and fruitful manner. That is no easy task, but one requiring wisdom, love, courage, and perseverance.

            As a boy with a rebellious streak, I was taught to respect those in authority, like parents, teachers, police, etc. That understanding, however, did not automatically change my behavior. Someone's "command" for me to "do right" did not make it happen. But training or discipline with reinforcement did make a difference. When all else failed, the "board of education applied to the seat of learning" in the principal's office was effective. Anyone who has been through Boot Camp in the military knows this principle only too well. But the intent of such training is important, i.e. to prepare the soldier for the battles ahead and hopefully save his life. In this military setting, were not the "verbal abuse" and agonizing tactics of the Drill Sergeant really acts of true love and concern? Talk to those who came home alive from the battle field. Is this not the same motivating principle of a loving parent who desires the best for his child?

            There is something to be said about "sparing the rod and hating (spoiling) the child." In a perverted and immoral society, where genuine parental guidance is becoming a rarity, spanking has become "child brutality." If the truth were known, loving and firm child discipline is a preventative to such brutality. When the child is not "put is his place" in a proper way, the rebellion escalates; eventually, the parent "loses his cool" and retaliates. Thus, he crosses the line from true discipline to unfair, criminal abuse.

            I found over the years, that the "rod" was a definite deterrent to further negative behavior. In fact when used wisely and "up front" it changed the tide of disrespect, and was not needed anymore. Taking a firm stand with the child at an early age got his or her attention. The loving object is to break his stubborn will, while encouraging and cultivating his spirit.

            Everyone is born under authority, and that never changes. A child's freedom comes when he learns to submit to authority and thus enjoys the resulting freedom of personal development. Rebels are not free, but are slaves to their own warped nature. No one has authority and the respect of others who refuses to submit to those in authority. This is what prisons are about, in the extreme case. This scenario of love begins in the home. Years ago, someone coined the statement, "If we pay more attention to the high chair, we'll be able to pay less attention to the electric chair."

            The lack of child discipline at home has had disastrous consequences in our schools. A big part of the problem is undisciplined parents who grew up having their own way. Now they have no clue as to how to make their children obey. Then when teachers attempt to "quell junior's rebellion" in the classroom, the parents take offense. Thus, teachers and principals are disarmed, with no authority to put down the rebellion. Instead, the student can talk back, cuss and even punch the teacher out, and no one can touch him! The "inmates" are running the "asylum." No wonder our educational system is in shambles!

            Years ago, parents and teachers were friends on the same team. The teacher was always right and was given parental approval to deal justly with the student. To get in trouble at school was to get in trouble at home. Spanking was in, as a last resort, and the so-called "woodshed revival" under Dad's administration was very effective. Few people my age look back on these days with any regret. People loved us enough to set us straight and mold our character for the future. Now it seems that everything in the house is controlled by a switch, except the children!

            Child discipline is education with enforcement. Children are basically lazy and need to be stimulated with structure. Children also have different temperaments; some respond properly with just a look or a word. Others are more defiant, needing stronger persuasion. The need for parental wisdom and love is paramount; especially in a country whose growing liberal bent is making criminals out of parents who dare impose their personal convictions and rights in child rearing. Loving and firm child discipline is not to be interpreted as "child abuse;" Quite the opposite! Proper and loving child training is an antidote or preventative to "abuse," and promotes a lifestyle of obedience to the law.

             As mentioned above, the ongoing case of the young mother in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, illustrates the growing encroachment of the law in parental matters. Her two children were removed from her home because of some bruises found on her daughter's backside. In her affidavit, Amanda Parramoure relates how her daughter "repeatedly disobeyed clear instructions I had given…and imperiling her life and the life of her (five year-old) brother."  She went on to say that the bruises disappeared, were not disabling, and "her pain was momentary;" she (the daughter) "expressed remorse for her disobedience; I hugged her, forgave her; she fell asleep quickly and slept the night through without disturbance." There was no "abuse" here, but a normal procedure of parental correction. The court case is still pending.

            Criminal acts of child abuse are increasing. Children are hospitalized and even murdered by parents who have "lost it." But to designate loving discipline, or a few firm strokes on the behind as "criminal" behavior, is in itself criminal.  "Bruising" on the bottom could well promote a positive sensitivity to authority. It may also prevent the deep and irreparable "bruising" of the child's conscience and character in the future. What can be more beneficial?

                Bill Finnigan is a retired pastor.  He lives in Warren, Ohio.

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