“We were like horses, it was our parents’ job to break our wills….”

The following is a true story. The writer has requested anonymity. Stories like these demonstrate how the teachings of Bill Gothard, Michael Pearl, James Dobson and Richard Fugate spiritualized the abusive belief that God wanted parents to “break their child’s will.” Trigger warning: abuse. EE.

: :
I was twenty-two years old.
I was sitting in my therapist’s office, telling him the stories I’m about to tell you. He called them “abuse”. I didn’t believe him. Abuse is something that happened to other people. In other families. Not in ours.
Sure, maybe my parents got a little angry sometimes when they were spanking us, but didn’t everybody’s parents? Sure, sometimes the spankings left bruises and welts, but didn’t we deserve it?
Wasn’t it for our own good? Wasn’t this all out of love?
My brothers and I had been fighting again. We were supposed to be cleaning the basement, but instead we were bickering and fighting, as young boys tend to do. When my dad came downstairs, he was angry. We knew right away that we were in trouble. We sat there on the stairs in terrified anticipation. He walked over to a corner of the basement and found an old broom, with a wooden handle. While we watched, he unscrewed the head of the broom. With a carpenter’s handsaw, he cut the broom handle in half.
A decade later, I still remember the feeling of dread that settled over us as we watched him slowly, methodically cut though that broom handle. Our excuses, our arguments, our apologies were no good at that point. We knew what was coming.
The sawed-off broom handle was a favorite of both parents. Three feet long and an inch around, it was more effective than a wooden spoon. More resilient than a wooden yard stick.
We got used to it, too. A “spanking” consisted of five swings of the broom handle. We’d judge the first one when it landed; if it was too low we’d try to get a bit higher, if it was too high we’d raise on tiptoes. The trick was to get it right in the squishy part of the butt. Too high hurt more, but too low, under the buttcheeks, the bruises lasted longer.
Our sisters said us boys had it easier, because jeans provided better protection than cotton dresses.
We had other tricks, too. We knew that an angry parent meant a more severe spanking, so we’d try to find ways to delay it, to give them time to cool off. They rarely forgot, but it’d be calmer, softer then. Sometimes, when we knew the spankings were coming, we’d hastily apologize and ask forgiveness. That never worked; my dad always said that he could forgive, but there were still consequences.
Some days Mom didn’t want to spank us, so she’d just have dad do it when he got home from work. The dread would hang over us all day, knowing that no matter how well we behaved the rest of the day, we were still going to get spanked when he got home. He worked late hours. Sometimes we’d already be asleep, and he’d wake us up to spank us.
One day, he got home so late that he waited till the next day to spank me. He woke me up early, before anybody else was up, so he could spank me before he went to work.
I took my spanking without arguing, because I knew I deserved it.
He wasn’t angry, or abusive that time. He gave me the spanking I had earned, and then went to work. I remember that I had a really good day that day; I didn’t get in trouble at all. I remember telling my mom that it had been a good day because I’d gotten my “attitude adjustment” at the very beginning of it. That was what they called the spankings – “attitude adjustments”.
We were supposed to bend over and hold onto the bench in the laundry room, hold onto it tight while the broom handle landed hard on the back pockets of our jeans. If we squirmed too much, or yelled too loud, it didn’t count. They’d start over.
Sometimes, instead of the bench in the laundry room, we had to lay face-down on the bed. That way, we couldn’t squirm as much. It felt more helpless that way, but at least were were able to stifle our sobs in the bedspread.
Afterwards we were supposed to hug our parents and pray with them, but we rarely wanted to.
We learned not to cry. There was dignity in that, especially when the spanking felt undeserved. I could withstand a five-round spanking with no problem. But the compound spankings, the when multiple offenses stacked up, were harder get through.
I was the good kid, so I didn’t have many of those. My brother wasn’t. He liked to piss of Mom and Dad. It wasn’t uncommon for his him to get hit forty, fifty, sixty, a hundred times in a row. He had earned it.
We’d listen when the other kids got their spankings, Mom screaming the whole time, the sawed-off broom handle crashing against the doorframe or the washing machine on the backswing. We’d try to disappear, or bury ourselves in chores and schoolwork, so that we wouldn’t be next.
We couldn’t get away from the round-robin interrogation spankings. When one of us kids had told a lie, or stole something, and refused to confess. We’d all be lined up, and spanked one at a time, over and over again. Before each spanking we were given the opportunity to confess. The spankings would continue until somebody did.
Waiting our turn for the next spanking, we’d negotiate with each other, try to coax the offender into confessing. With the twisted glee of a younger brother, he kept taking his spankings so that he could watch his older siblings get spanked too. We tried not to give him the satisfaction of hearing us cry.
One night, after a few hours of this, my dad got tired of spanking us. He lined us up on the couch where he read Proverbs to us for a while, all these Bible verses about how lying was wrong.
These spankings were just a part of life, really. We knew the rules, and when we broke them we got what we deserved. It wasn’t the stinging bite of the broomstick against buttcheeks that was the worst, or even the next day when it hurt to sit down. It was the fear before the spanking. The knowing that the spanking had been earned. The desperate negotiating and explaining that failed every time. The wondering how harsh it would be.
But spanking was good, right? If it wasn’t good, then why did the church have a spanking room in the basement, for parents to take their kids who misbehaved during the service? Why was there a wooden paddle hanging on the wall there in the church, with holes drilled in it for aerodynamics? Why did the pastor preach a sermon called “The Holy Art of Spanking our Children”? [ there's a link online. i don't have the courage to listen to it ]
We never knew. “Chaos” is the word the counsellor used. It was an unstable, dangerous place to live. Because it wasn’t always enraged, bruising spankings. It wasn’t always anger and screaming. But we never knew, from one day to the next, which it would be. Kindness and love, or anger and beatings.
Sometimes, when I was on good behavior, I could make it all the way through a day without a spanking. Those were good days.
Sitting there in the counsellor’s office, I still had a hard time believing it was “abuse”.
Abuse is what angry, alcoholic parents did. Our parents were Christians. They loved us. They wanted the best for us. That’s why they homeschooled us. That’s why they spanked us.
We were like horses, it was their job to break our wills.
To this day, I don’t know if our experience was unique in that church. Sadly, I’m afraid it was not. We were in an ultra-conservative pseudo-Mennonite cult for many of those years, the church with with the spanking room in the basement.
Copies of “To Train Up a Child” were passed around the church; I remember listening to my mom discuss it with the other homeschooling moms. I remember picking it up one day, flipping through its pages. It didn’t strike me as abnormal. It was pretty consistent with the abusive discipline culture of that cult-church. It was also apparently compatible with Bill Gothard and his homeschooling cult, an organization we were part of from the time I was in first grade.
I don’t think my parents were monsters. In a way, that made it worse. Because if they were monsters, I could write them off, curse their memory and block them out of my mind and life forever.
But I have all these memories, of screaming parents and sawed-off broomsticks, all mixed together with memories of happy conversations, and all the time and love they invested in us, and generosity and encouragement and kindness.
In a way, I don’t know which version of my parents is real. I like to think think that they were were terribly brainwashed – by the cult-church, by “To Train Up a Child”, by Bill Gothard and his perverted homeschool cult and all his empty promises.
Believing that makes it a little easier to pretend like everything is ok when I see them now.
  • Elizabeth Larson-DiPippo

    sobbing and numb at the same time.

  • Hannah Kouwen

    This is so difficult to read and yet I understand everything the writer is saying… I was raised in an extremely similar church, perhaps the same one, and my dad preached the sermon the writer mentions. This brings back so many horrible memories… And that terrible feeling to my stomach… It is awful to realize that more people are trying to work through the things I am … And yet comforting to know I am not alone in this nightmare. Dear writer, I am sorry for your pain and your horrible memories… I am so sorry for my dads part in it…

  • B.K.

    Thank you for sharing this. I am so sorry that the author had to endure such torture — and all in the name of God. :-( Sometimes I want to scream from the rooftops for Christians to wake up. Our God is LOVE… LOVE! Not hate. It is hateful to hurt someone else, especially those who are smallest and weakest among us. And the thought of a spanking room in the church basement is absolutely horrifying.

  • KTG

    I was given these books as a new mom. I trusted older parents in my church who look like they have solid families. After hearing stories like these I cannot accept these teachings.
    I believe the more light you receive personally from God the more He will change your life. Perhaps the way we behave as parents will leave the biggest impression on our children. I prefer to let God do His work and that’s why I believe in Him.

  • Nancy

    I am so sorry for the legacy of pain and confusion you’re working through. Though I don’t know you, I feel a fierce pride (the good kind!) that you are working hard to heal. God bless you as you do that.

    • Anon. Writer

      Thank you.

  • Hannah

    Thank you. I get strange looks when I include Dobson along with Gothard on this list. But I remember him and Fugate as being highly influential in the way discipline was done in our home, and I remember my brother’s spirit being broken at a young age… And I believe, permanently. I don’t have good things to say about Dobson’s stance on discipline.

    • Caroline Moreschi

      It seems that Dobson got more extreme as time went on. We had some of his books (though my parents didn’t really follow them – they were just around), and his later ones were worse than the earlier ones as I recall.

      • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

        Dr. James Godson is one of the most Christlike men to have ever lived on our privileged planet. He has been my mentor for 34 years. I am the person I am today due in large part to him and Focus on the Family.

  • Beatrice

    Gosh that was triggering. In my family it was a belt – but the sentiment was the same. Being belted was unavoidable – it was a part of life. They were trying ‘to break our wills without breaking our spirits’. My parents took their advice from James Dobson and I wish I could say it was better. I hate that man.

    Our church didn’t have a basement, but there was a paddock out the back and I remember seeing children being dragged out of church, hearing them hit and then seeing them brought back in. It is just awful. And I am still so so angry now. I sometimes forget how angry until I am confronted with it again through triggers. And unexpected can trigger those feelings.

    I am so sorry that other people have been through this. It makes me feel less lonely to read other people’s stories, but so angry that our parents were able to get away with it – and we never questioned them, believing that they were doing it because they loved us. And I was told my whole life that I had such a fantastic child hood. It was only in the last few years that I have been able to separate what i have been told to believe about my childhood from what I actually felt about my childhood. There were good times, but the constant fear and hurt was always there. It was not fun for me.

    I am 32 and still trying to work through it. I don’t know if I ever will. But I am trying to because I want to be better for my own children. They deserve better. I deserved better and so does anyone else who had parents who did these things to them. It is not okay.

    • Caroline Moreschi

      A paddock? I guess that’s more honest – it is treating children like animals.

  • Ty Alexander Huynh

    I grew up being spanked and disciplined in ways that most people would consider abusive. I don’t condone abuse whether it is given to a child or adult. However, we cannot lose sight that discipline that is painful (not in an angry uncontrolled way) is necessary. God had good reason to say “whoever spares the rod hates his children (Proverbs 13:24). He certainly disciplines us for our sin and it is not pleasant (Hebrews 12:4-11). We have to understand the reasons for it and not simply adhere to the worldly notions of love that many people preach, which is unbalanced love without the regard for the consequences of taking discipline out of the equation. You can’t rightly teach anyone to value good behavior and shun bad if there is little or no bad consequences for doing bad. Giving only positive reinforcement or only superficial punishment does not help to change bad behavior, because people reason that the pleasure or gratification of the bad behavior outweighs the consequences, and so will keep on doing it. Discipline needs to be very painful, but not “abusive”. Parents should not give in to tears and relent in giving discipline. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11). We must, however, always be controlled and gentle (fruits of the Spirit; Galatians 5:24) in disciplining our children, though we need to make the punishment painful. Sometimes that does require a spanking, though my opinion of spanking is that it is only useful up to a certain age, like 10 years old, and must be controlled and not done angrily.

    • M.S.

      I suppose though, writer’s like this man and other commenters on this blog are proof that spanking does more harm than good. Clearly it didn’t yield a “harvest of peace” for this man but rather a bout of traumatic issues….

      • Ty Alexander Huynh

        A point I was trying to make was that parents are not disciplining their children appropriately – either with too forceful abusive punishment or too little as to be ineffective. We have to in control of ourselves when we discipline or our kids only see the acts as rage that is out of control. We’re supposed to be stern about it but do things with wisdom and temperance, not constantly screaming and hitting our children.

    • Anon. Writer

      Ty,

      As a child growing up in an abusive home, I had a very skewed understanding of the word “discipline”. I thought that it meant physical pain inflicted on me. However, I’ve come to realize that this is not a healthy or true way to understand “discipline”. When we speak of an athlete being “disciplined”, it’s not about inflicting pain. It’s about becoming healthy and strong.

      If we continue to speak about “the discipline of God” in the same breath with “painful punishment”, I’m afraid that we’re damaging our understanding of what God’s discipline is really like. To say “discipline needs to be very painful” distorts the purpose of discipline. Rather than teaching children to be strong, healthy individuals, such punishment instils fear-based compliance.

      Having experienced that, I can say that it does not work. Sure, it makes kids be on good behavior in public, but I’ve heard countless stories of the same families where it was living hell behind closed doors – including my own. And when the children become teens or young adults, they are no longer easily managed by inflicted pain, and often find themselves in very unhealthy behavioral patterns.

      In short, I haven’t seen “painful punishment” yield righteousness or peace – not in the short term or in the long term. If it did, why would parents continue to spank their children day after day for years? And why would these children grow up angry and hurt and wounded and speaking out against it now?

      True discipline WILL yield righteousness and peace, but if that’s not the result then we need to go back to the drawing board and see what went wrong.

      • Ty Alexander Huynh

        The discipline that Hebrews 12 talks about is not the “sports” or “strength of will” discipline. You must understand God’s Word correctly and in context (2 Timothy 2:15). God does discipline us (punish us) for our sins. He is Judge and does bring bad as well as good (1 Samuel 2:6, Ecclesiastes 7:14). There are many many instances of that in the Bible. I’m sorry you grew up in an abusive home, but the abuse you got was not the kind of appropriate discipline/punishment I was recommending. Abuse is out of control and not in line with how the Lord wants us to discipline or punish our children. Do not forget the whole of Scripture. It damages you far more to NOT understand God’s complex nature and His Ways. Painful discipline is necessary as I said. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge… (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 14:27, 16:6). This fear is real fear, but it isn’t simply a quivering fear. The Lord is also our Father and Friend. It is a humble, respectful fear to know and acknowledge the Lord can bring us great sorrows and pain if we deserve it. How much of Israel’s history and the church’s were filled with weeping and still is? The Lord will renew and bring her back with the rest of His people today, but there is still yet much that needs to happen.

        • Terri

          It’s sad that you think discipline is punishment. They’re not the same at all.

          • Ty Alexander Huynh

            Surely, discipline and punishment are not the same, but God’s discipline IS punishment if it comes for our sins. Sometimes “discipline” that is not punishment is given to teach us values like patience and temperance and perseverance. That is not the discipline I was speaking of, nor is it the only kind spoken of in Hebrews 12. God’s discipline is more than punishment. And it is painful or fearful in order that we turn away from evil FIRMLY instead of letting things “slide, just one time” or the next time. God can be very fearful at times, but He doesn’t want us to be quivering in fear with Him. He is “fearfully” stern so that we turn from sin (Exodus 20:20). God wants us to hold firm to sinlessness and righteousness. Sin has serious consequences. Even though having eternal salvation negates sin’s final penalty of eternal death, it does not negate other consequences for it.

          • Elizabeth Larson-DiPippo

            Romans 2:4
            “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

          • Ty Alexander Huynh

            Are you trying to pass judgement on on me, Elizabeth? I am not trying to be contemptuous, but am speaking truth as God shows in His Word and in life. Later in Romans 2, it says, “God will give to each person according to what he has done.” (Romans 2:6). That statement includes everyone. All of us get discipline and punishment based on our sins and need for growth in the Life He has in mind for us. You have to realize that God’s great kindness and patience with us refers to giving us eternal salvation despite our many mistakes and allowing us to continue on in His nurturing but firm Hands. You should not read too far into God’s Word, but understand it as He means it to be understood. Interpretation belongs to God (2 Peter 1:20, Genesis 40:8).

          • Beatrice

            So do you believe that God goes out of his way to give us consequences for our sin? Because essentially that is what you are suggesting parents should do.

            I believe that God shows us grace even when we make mistakes. I think often we don’t know exactly how much grace he is showing us – and not just to Christians, but to non-Christians also.

            Sure there are times when the consequences catch up with us – but there are times when we experience the consequence of sin without really doing anything wrong as well. To push consequences onto another person is wrong and two wrongs don’t make a right. You are not righting your child’s behaviour by punishing them, you are also doing the wrong thing.

            Kids need empathy, love and grace – in exactly the same way that we as adults need those things from God. I do not believe for one second that God goes out of his way to push arbitrary consequences onto us and even when we do experience the natural consequences of our actions – God is there, holding our hand and showing us Grace. Don’t your kids deserve that too?

            To not show grace to your children is exactly what the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor is about. God shows us grace – he holds our hands through our mistakes, loves us when we hurt other people and does not add to our pain by enforcing arbitrary punishments – yet we don’t do the same for our children. God has forgiven our massive debt, yet we can’t forgive our children there very minor debt in comparison.

            Think about what you are teaching your children about who God is. I had a very warped perception of him after my childhood. It has taken me a long time to see that he is a God of grace, not a God of punishment and torment. When we preach that God is our heavenly father and our earthly father inflicts unnecessary pain onto his children, what are our children learning about God? It has taken me a long time to work out that God is not the abusive a-hole my parents taught me he was (in their actions, not in their words).

            Teach your kids about the God of grace, by demonstrating grace to your children.

          • Ty Alexander Huynh

            God’s Grace abounds in us and continues on eternally. He is not a God of “punishment and torment” but you need to know our God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit, in whole, not just one or two parts. Remember, He is Judge, and He does punish those who did not actually commit the sin. The Lord punishes the children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generations (generational curses: Exodus 20:5, Numbers 14:18, Deuteronomy 5:9, Jeremiah 32:18). This is true and people need to understand more fully. Our personal sins don’t just affect us but our families too. It is why Luke said John the Baptist would go to “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children…” (Luke 1:17). He was referring to making us think about our children as well, so we do not commit sin and affect them too. Sin has very serious consequences and God does not want us to commit it. That is why the penalties for sin are so high and include our children and children’s children. I pray, Beatrice, that you continue to learn of God and His Ways in full, and understand that we need to also discipline and punish our children appropriately so they also turn to sinlessness and righteousness. That doesn’t mean we are unforgiving parents. So long as the discipline is not abusive, it means we love our children enough to guide them firmly when they need it in order they make the right choices in the future.

          • Beatrice

            The verses you have quoted there are mostly from the Old Testament. The New Testament is included because we no longer live by law but by grace. Jesus addressed what you are talking about here when the blind man came to him and the pharisees asked what sins his parents had committed. Jesus replied that neither of the man’s parents had sinned. Bad things happen here on earth because it is not the perfect place that God created – not because he is punishing us. The bible clearly says that Jesus has paid the penalty for all sin – it is not conditional on us accepting it or asking for forgiveness (though it is a common misunderstanding in many churches). We do not need to continue to be punished because the penalty is paid in full.

            I find it constantly astounding really that many Christians will base their ideas of parenting and punishment on the rod verses in Proverbs (which is poetry and not ever meant to be taken literally) but won’t look to the parables or what the bible says about how we are to treat each other as human beings. Our children are human. I don’t think the bible has any specific readings on how to parents because children are human and the bible is clear on how we should treat other people. For some reason, many Christians see their relationship with their children as different somehow – the only thing that makes it different is that they are our children and our natural instincts should mean that we treat them better than we treat other people. Sadly in our culture, it is not the case.

            Hitting anyone smaller than you, who is dependent on you – is abuse. There is no line where it is suddenly okay or not okay to hit your children. If you ever look at the dynamics of an abusive relationship, smacking or hurting your child to make them comply with your wishes tick every box. You are bigger than your child, your child is dependent on you – those things alone make it abusive to hit your child. It is assault to hit another adult and illegal by law, but it is okay to hit someone 5 times smaller than you who can’t get away from you. The biggest lie that the church has made any parent believe is that children can be smacked in love. It is not true. There is no loving way to intentionally hurt another person – especially a person that God has entrusted into your care to keep them safe. Children are people and they deserve so much better than this.

            Smacking children does not lead to making the right choices in the future. It often leads to unquestioning compliance which works okay as long as they grow, children have the right influences around them. In many cases, they grow into adults who will second guess themselves. But it also leads to mental health issues such as depression, drug and alcohol abuse.

            I pray for your children Ty. I really pray that you will change your thinking so that they can grow up free from the burden of physical abuse. There are better ways.

    • Amanda B.

      As someone who also grew up with an occasional swat, may I suggest that this is a really inappropriate context to debate spanking.

      What the author describes is abuse. Full stop.

      There’s no reason to do anything less than clearly state, “This was wrong, and should never happen to anyone.” To say “abuse is bad, but…” is to change the subject and to implicitly diminish the legitimacy of the pain described here.

      Weep with those who weep. Hash out the discipline question somewhere else.

      • Ty Alexander Huynh

        I wasn’t trying to change the subject. I was responding to the many comments that suggest that spanking or painful discipline is to be eliminated or avoided at all costs. I wasn’t simply speaking to whom wrote the original article. There is always a place for teaching what is right so long as the timing is right. If I hurt anyone with my comments, I apologize. That wasn’t my intent. We cannot always submit to our emotions, but try to understand things fully. Doing things based on our emotions is not how God wishes us to live.

        • Elizabeth Larson-DiPippo

          “Doing things based on our emotions is not how God wishes us to live”. Then why do we have emotions? This comment is beyond ridiculous.

          • Ty Alexander Huynh

            We are to live by His Spirit, Elizabeth. Not “follow our hearts” as the rest of the world. Emotions can mislead you and get out of control.

          • elizabethesther

            Hey Ty, thanks for engaging here. But this has been enough. Thanks.

  • Rachel

    I think one of the key components in the struggle to recover from this abuse and from spiritual abuse is understanding that the good memories . – ” memories of happy conversations, and all the time and love they invested in us, and generosity and encouragement and kindness” doesn’t make the abuse justified or moot. It actually is an indication
    of how incredibly twisted and deep-seated the dysfunction was in the
    lives of the abusers as well as the victims

  • M.S.

    Sooooo interesting to read and big kudos to this person for the courage to write it. He wrote so eloquently and well. I hope he finds healing and is able to reconcile his issues with his family. What they did was wrong, but I agree with him, in their own twisted way I think they were doing what they thought was best (please don’t think I am justifying their behavior!)

    • Anon. Writer

      Thank you, M.S.

      I have found so much healing in the years since then, through therapy, through my faith, and through healthy relationships in my community. It’s also been very healing to have my own family – for my wife and I to build a happy, stable home and learn that that word “home” doesn’t have to be one of chaos and fear.

  • stephanie10

    Thanks for writing this. My parents believed that spanking was the way to bring up good kids. From the outside, my siblings and I looked perfect. When my older siblings reached high school, however, one of them ended up running away from home and the other still won’t talk to my family to this day. My parents are some of the most genuinely loving people I know, but I believe they were just taught very poorly by Christian pastors and parents. I think they would do things very differently now if they had the chance to.

    • Anon. Writer

      Stephanie,

      I think your experience is so common – it certainly resonates with me and the many stories I’ve heard from others in the same circles. An appearance of perfect behavior, but a chaotic home and turmoil in the teen/YA years.

      I think that alone should give serious pause to folks that still advocate for systematic spanking as a healthy parenting method.

  • Nicole B.

    Wow. That sounds seriously messed up and I am sorry the writer and so many others have suffered in this way. As a parent, I think disciplining children is very difficult, which is perhaps why we parents look for guidance from books, church, etc… and why people like the Pearls are so dangerous.

    In my experience, whenever I encounter someone who thinks they have the whole discipline thing figured out, it’s due to one of 3 things: (1) they use very disturbing abusive strategies like articulated here, (2) they have easy to manage weak-willed children — lucky them!, or (3) they don’t discipline at all and their kids are out of control. The rest of us tend to muddle through with strategies we feel are least likely to require extensive therapy later in life (i.e. junk food or tv bribery, ridiculous reward charts, etc…).

    Even though I consider myself a Christian, whenever I hear a bunch of Bible quoting about discipline, I cringe and fear for those kids (here’s looking at you, Ty).

  • Ted Cassetta

    Abuse is abuse, whatever it’s guise. I’m a believer in a higher power but DO believe that the birth of Jesus was a pivotal event on the evolution of how Man should behave. That people use the Old Testament as a basis for how they live their lives and behave towards others negates their claims to being “Christian” since His birth was to be the New Covenant and that your belief in Him wad the way to God’s Kingdom.

    I too survived abuse, though not based on religion, but the social dogma that a mother’s love is unconditional and unlike any other in its goodness, made me believe that her inability to love me was my unworthiness. So too does the abuse of anyone using God’s love as the reason for it create the belief that they are unworthy of His love.

    For ME, Jesus is the Universal Teacher of Love and Compassion and Charity. He did not teach with the rod but with his heart. THAT is how we should teach our children.

    I’m here to say that that pain doesn’t completely disappear but it DOES get better and if we try, it can be used to make us better human beings. I hope your journey, as well as others’, continues as a healing one.

  • L.J.

    Just want to share that I was spanked as a child and I don’t have ANY regrets or anger or resentment about it. Of course I didn’t like it! Who does like discipline? Whether it’s a time out or a privilage taken away or a spanking – no one likes it! I definitely think it was effective and it taught me to respect authority. I also think that children nowadays with parents that have no control over them are a shame to the parents and will grow into adults who don’t respect authority! The bible plainly teaches this. I’m not saying that everyone HAS to spank their kids but I do think there is a place for it. And obviously I’m not talking about abuse here. That is another story altogether and I feel sickened when I hear stories about abuse. But I am here to say that I was NOT abused as a child. My parents told me what I did wrong, gave me a spanking and afterwards held me and talked with me about it. They never made me wait or woke me up for it or did it in out of control anger. I think those commenting should distinguish between what this author is talking about (some of it seems to be abuse) and what most Christians think about when they say “spanking”. I’m also here to say that my husband and many of my friends were spanked as children and are fine with it and plan to spank their own kids.

  • skj

    This is so terribly sad. And so not the kind of spanking we received. There are different kinds of spankings….yours were not given in love, nor were they spankings…but they were beatings. There should be no shrieking, no screaming, no bruising, no anger….it should be a quick lesson, and over with….and full of grace and love. Unfortunately, I doubt you can imagine that a spanking could be different. And I am sorry for the abuse you received.

  • melinda

    Have you seen Recoveringgrace.org? Its for Gothard victims. Looks like a good support forum for truth. Sorry this evil happened to you.

  • Lee Woofenden

    The “training” methods taught and advocated in Michael and Debi Pearl’s book “To Train Up A Child” are not Biblical, and they are certainly not Christian.

    It is, unfortunately, true that beating was a common form of punishment in Biblical times–as it still is in many places today. However, there is nothing in the Bible that in any way resembles the “training” techniques described and recommended in the Pearls’ book. As betrayed by their use of the term “conditioning” over twenty times in the book, their methods are derived, not from the Bible, but from the behaviorism developed by atheist scientists such as Ivan Pavlov and B. F. Skinner.

    If you allow links, I have recently written and posted a long piece on this subject:
    “To Train Up A Child, or: Spare the Rod? What Rod?”
    http://leewoof.org/2013/12/02/to-train-up-a-child-or-spare-the-rod-what-rod/

    The Pearls claim that the parents of the three children who died were not properly following the instructions given in their book. Perhaps that is true. But the principles taught in the book about reducing children to instant, unquestioning obedience through the use of pain-based behavior modification techniques lead inexorably to such deaths, and to severe physical and emotional trauma for thousands of other children whose parents accept the Pearls’ teachings and methods. The fact is, these methods just don’t work very well on human beings. And the “failures”–which the Pearls do their best to sweep under the rug–are heartbreaking.

    Make no mistake about it: the Pearls’ teachings are based on atheistic behaviorism, not on the Bible. Unfortunately, the veneer of “Christianity” with which the Pearls cover over their behavior modification regime makes it a toxic mixture that has lulled untold numbers of parents into beating and abusing their children in the name of love. The Pearls seem to be well-meaning people, but their teachings have done extensive damage both to children and to parents.

    Thanks for the work you are doing in publicizing the fallacy and the danger of these false, destructive teachings and methods.