Once again, child abuse is in the news. This time, a star football player beat his four year old son with a branch, leaving welts and marks all over the child’s body.
In the wake of his suspension, Peterson’s supporters are quick to claim we’re all mistaken. Ignore those welts, please. Adrian Peterson is REALLY a loving FATHER! His former coach: “he’s not a child abuser” and he’s “gentle toward children.” Peterson’s mother: when you “whip those you love, it’s not abuse, but love.”
I’ve heard this line of reasoning so many times I could barf. I have a whole chapter in my book called Love is Patient, Love is Violent. I’ve written before about how Christians conflate hitting with love.
And as my friend, Matthew Paul Turner pointed out, Christians often support spanking as the “false gospel” of godly child rearing.
You guys, we have a severe problem.
Too many Christians believe violence against children is love.
We call it “spanking” instead of “hitting.” We call it “discipline” instead of violence.
Violence by any other name is still violence.
Think about how children view spanking. The author of Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren, once wrote:
When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day, when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking–the first in his life. She told him that he would have to go outside himself and find a switch for her to hit him with.
The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.”
All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. And the mother took the boy into her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because if violence begins in the nursery one can raise children into violence.
Next time you are tempted to spank your child, think about it from a child’s perspective. In their eyes, you might as well be throwing rocks at them.
Even so, in defending spanking we often hear people say: “I was spanked as a kid and I turned out alright.” Um…no, no you didn’t. By defending spanking, you have turned out to be someone who perpetuates violence against children.
I get it. Those of us who were spanked are usually quick to say “we deserved it.” We defend our parents: “They were doing it out of love!” It’s really hard to look at what our parents did and say: “My parents hurt me.”
It’s even harder to say: “My parents permanently damaged my brain.”
And let’s be clear. That’s what spanking does. Spanking damages a child’s brain:
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…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 is the sad, scientific fact: if you were spanked more than once a month for more than three years, your parents spanked your brains out. Literally.
When I read this, I cried.
Because. Um. I got spanked WAY more than once a month.
Now, let’s talk about “hostile attribution bias.” This means you live your life expecting people to be mean to you. UM. WHOA. Hi, self. My ingrained response to the world is that people are mean and scary and out to get me. I am constantly surprised when people love me–and I have to repress the urge to be suspicious when they are kind.
Here’s my default thought process: What do they want from me? Why are they being nice? They must have an ulterior motive! Don’t they know I’m a bad person? I can’t trust them! BLOCK THEM OUT.
The hardest thing for me to do is receive love. There, I said it. I have a huge fear of intimacy because I just don’t trust people. This is my trauma wound.
I can’t go back and change my past. But I can change my future. I don’t have to perpetuate the cycle of violence. I can do something different. You can, too. Our children deserve it.
Note: I will delete any and all comments that defend the abusive “child-training” practices of Mike Pearl, James Dobson, Bill Gothard, the Ezzos or the Duggar family. I’ve already had that debate a bazillion times and I’m over it. My comment box is a safe place for survivors of childhood trauma. Period. My blog, my rules. You no likey, go write your own blog.