A daughter killed by her own parents. Can anyone imagine a more heart-wrenching story? A California couple have been charged in the death of their 7 year old daughter.
Children are precious blessings from God. To beat them until their will breaks is a monstrous offense against God. I understand that for some children, a swat on the backside might be an appropriate punishment from time to time. Perhaps several swats.
In my judgment it is a mistake to ever use anything other than an open hand on the backside. And it is a mistake to ever initiate an open-ended, physical punishment with the idea that you will not stop until the child submits or repents. A spanking is a specific, limited punishment. 3, or 5, or perhaps 10 swats for something really serious. And then it is over. Regardless of the child’s reaction. Children will react in unique and different ways. At least one of our children would burst into tears at a frown or a sharp rebuke. At least one of them once responded to a spanking with a defiant, “that didn’t hurt!” Youthful bravado. I suspect the spanking had exactly its intended purpose, regardless of their comment.
But to hold a child down for an hour? And beat the child with a flexible plastic pipe? Because she mispronounced a word? Monstrous.
The parents must answer for what they have done. And those who taught them that this was an acceptable manner of discipline must answer for what they have taught.
I will not condemn those who never spank. I have known parents who were quite successful without ever using a spanking. I also will not condemn those who, on infrequent occasions, administer a swat to the behind with a hand. I know many warm, loving, compassionate parents who believe that at times, it is necessary. And they have lovely, loving, affectionate children.
But I do call on those who use physical punishment as their first, or most frequent discipline tool to stop. And I condemn any parent who would use a plastic pipe to beat a child. Ever. I condemn anyone who would instruct others to do so.
Read Ephesians. Read it again. Husbands and fathers – focus on what Paul calls husbands and fathers to do. Love your wives. Love your children. Deny yourselves and lay down your life for your wife. Be patient and kind. Do not exasperate your children.
Every child is a precious gift from God and dear to His heart. Even when they stomp their feet and disobey – it is a misguided sense of pride to think that this in any way impugns our position, dignity, or competence as parents.
Focus on love – not on creating an image of obedience and perfection.
Put away wrath. Put away the idol of perfection. Put away the damn plastic pipe!
Please, as a father and a teacher – as an encourager of fathers, I appeal to you. Make your spankings rare and short. And your beatings never.
Other bloggers have written posts on this tragedy which are worth reading:
There is a remarkably even-handed article in Salon by Lynn Harris, which was published today. It literally drove me to my knees in anguish. A word of caution! The comments are almost uniformly hostile to Christianity in general and spanking in particular. This would NOT be the place or the time to defend corporal punishment. Read the comments if you dare, but set aside your anger. The death of Lydia is a tragedy, for the loss of her precious life. It is also a scandal to the whole body of Christ. We must acknowledge this.
Update: SpunkyHomeSchool blog (Karen Braun) has a thoughtful post up that is also worth reading.