In the early days of advocacy for abortion, proponents said that ending unwanted pregnancies would eliminate unwanted children and therefore child abuse. Instead of eliminating abuse, however, the disregard for the life of a fetus seems to translate into a disregard for the well-being of children.
Child neglect and abuse and accompanying activities such as child pornography, pedophilia, and sex trafficking have risen to horrendous proportions.
In 2007, 1,760 children died as the result of child abuse and neglect. (“Child Protective Services,” Wikipedia)
As a result, the government has stepped in with stringent laws and burgeoning social service agencies in an effort to protect children from battery and other forms of abuse. Nevertheless, the problem continues to grow.
Once thought to be a problem involving only a few thousand children a year, child maltreatment has since been identified as nothing less than a national emergency. (“Child Maltreatment”)
Estimated child fatalities per day due to maltreatment have risen from 3.6 in 2000 to as high as 4.8 in 2009 (Child Help).
Interestingly, and also ironically, the attitude in western societies toward corporal punishment has turned decidedly negative. Once, “taking a child out to the woodshed” was an understood and accepted, even expected, form of discipline. For some, part of the process included cutting the switch by which they would receive their spanking. Other parents relied on something more immediate, like a belt. Still others, even some school administrators, kept a special paddle for the occasion.
Spanking actually has roots in Scripture. The book of Proverbs contains a number of passages indicating that corporal punishment is part of forming a child’s character. Take Proverbs 29:15 for example:
The rod and reproof give wisdom,
But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.
Or how about Proverbs 13:24.
He who withholds his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.
These and other such passages undergird a Biblical view of child discipline that includes spanking.
As society has moved away from the authority of Scripture, however, it has also moved away from corporal punishment of children. Time out, yes; spanking, no. Hitting, the critics say, only teaches children to use violence.
Into this environment of increased child abuse and decreased corporal discipline, football player Adrian Peterson, running back with the Minnesota Vikings, was indicted for reckless or negligent injury to a child because he spanked his son with a switch.
Helpful as always, ( :roll: ) the media, thinking the public ignorant of what a switch is, re-defined it as “a tree branch.” I don’t know about you, but when I hear “tree branch,” I think of a fairly sizable, sturdy piece of wood, along the lines of a baseball bat at least.
A switch is nothing like that. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as “a slender flexible shoot cut from a tree.”
Still, apparently Peterson marked his son. I haven’t learned the precise details of this case, but I suppose someone—medical personnel, perhaps—reported the injuries to the Child Protection Agency. A grand jury was convened and Peterson ended up being charged.
Sports reporters are horrified since this allegation of child abuse comes so closely to the released video of Ray Rice punching his fiancée in a hotel elevator.
I think that’s unfortunate.
I don’t want to see an instance of spanking lumped in with spousal battery. One of the verses in Proverbs says
Do not hold back discipline from the child,
Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die. (23:13)
Unfortunately, we’ve lost sight of this truth. In summary, this is where we are:
* In the name of “preventing abuse” we legalized abortion.
* Nevertheless, abuse is on the rise.
* To counter abuse, we have constructed an elaborate system of laws and organizations to enforce them, often separating families needlessly and placing children in the foster care system.
(Sadly, reports show that more children are abused in foster care than in their own families.)
* At the same time, psychologists have persuaded a good number of people that spanking is not beneficial and might even be harmful.
I don’t know if Adrian Peterson inappropriately used force to discipline his son. I have no doubt that he was acting to correct him, though. His actions are not in any way comparable with Ray Rice’s and shouldn’t be lumped into the conversation about domestic violence.
Instead, I think it would be a healthy thing if we opened the discussion about spanking as a legitimate means of discipline. I think it would be helpful and healthy to discuss the difference between spanking and beating and to look at the pros and cons of this kind of discipline.
Above all, parents need to understand their role as disciplinarians. They need to accept the responsibility for training their children. Instead, too many parents shirk from this aspect of their duty. They may not neglect a child by withholding food or clothing or education or social interaction. But by refraining from discipline, they are sending the message that they do not care what their child does and therefore, do not care about their child.
I’ve also seen parents who put up with a child until they lose their temper. Then a child is in serious danger, vulnerable to verbal, emotional, or even physical abuse.
Parents need to learn how to discipline their children. But who is teaching this? Once grandparents critiqued parents in their job. Wives tempered their husbands or husbands tempered their wives. Now we have so many of the supports removed from a parent that they have little chance to learn how to discipline correctly.
Wouldn’t this be a good role for the church to take up? Ought we not provide help for parents who are struggling with strong-willed children or children reacting to their unstable environment caused divorce or overly active children or children seeking the love and attention of their busy two-career parents?
At a minimum, I’d hope we can at least discuss spanking and not react to corporal discipline as if it is no different than domestic violence.