Thursday Morning Quickie #5

[Note: The following text was taken verbatim from the “M Men-Gleaner Manual, Love, Marriage, and You” used in 1956-1957. Previous entries in this series can be found here.]

Lesson 23

Wise Guidance

White explorers visited a village deep in central Africa. They lived with the natives for several days and observed their interesting customs. One member of the expedition was particularly fascinated with their family life and noticed that punishment seemed to be lacking; a child was never spanked or punished physically.

One day the explorer observed a three-year-old child pick up a stone and start to destroy a wall of an adobe-looking hut. The parent saw the child, took the stone away from him, apparently gently told him not to do that, and then went on with his chores. The inquisitive explorer, through the help of an interpreter, asked the parent why he didn’t spank the youngster. A frown appeared on the brow of the parent. He thought for several moments and then questioned, “But wouldn’t that hurt him?”

Quickie Questions

1. Why was the explorer surprised at what he found?
2. Should a child ever be spanked?


Thursday Morning Quickie #5


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    This is a cool one because of the ambiguity in the manual’s perspective. Did they mean that the native’s nonspanking approach was the wise guidance? Or that it would be wise guidance to spank? Read by today’s cultural standards it seems to be geared to the former, but from the 1950s, it might be the latter.

    If it really is skewed towards the former perspective, then I think this is a remarkable snippet from a manual distributed over 50 years ago!

  2. You nailed it Kev–when I first read it, I could not decide whether it was pitching the natives as ignorant fools or wise parents. I’m still not sure.

  3. It really sounds to me as if it’s against spanking.

    I wonder if asking “Should a child ever be spanked” in the 50s would cause the same furor it would today.

  4. When I read: “White explorers visited a village deep in central Africa.” I got all excited. It didn’t quite go the direction I was hoping. Too bad.

    I can’t discern for the life of me whether its taking the pro or anti-spank position.

  5. Peter LLC says:

    The missing link here is the fact that the hut, while adobe-looking, was actually concrete. Thus, no harm done to the building, no harm necessary for the child.

  6. My gut said anti-spank, but on further reflection I’m wondering if it meant to take neither position–as there’s nothing in the text to support either position–and I think that’s actually far more remarkable for a church manual of any age.

  7. It’s anti-spank, else the question would be worded as “When is it necessary to spank a child?” The question as phrased calls for “No,” because it would be unnatural to say “Yes, a child should ever be spanked.”

  8. 152,
    I know what you mean. When I got to the sentence about the white dude watching the native boy with the rock, I thought for sure that he was going to go and spank the kid himself.

  9. I thought he was going to hit him with the rock.

  10. I thought he was going to give him a pack of color markers and tell him this is how kids in advanced civilizations destroy walls.

  11. Having actually lived as a white man in a village deep up-country in Central Africa (U.S. Peace Corps, Kembe, CAR, 1988-90) for two years, I can report firsthand that I never saw anyone spanked, and only rarely beaten.

    Any adult can order any child to do (almost) anything, and that child does it. Even I did this a couple times (but I tipped a couple CFA). Older kids in turn had authority and responsibility for younger kids: I saw a 5-year-old carrying a 2-year only on his neck walking a half-mile away towards the water source to get water. If the youngest were to die on the way, Nzapa a ye da (It was God’s will). There is not the luxury of sheltering kids through adolescence. Once they can walk, the whole village tends to their upbringing and the children are given great freedom and responsibility.

    I did see people some (mostly teenage boys) struck and beaten a couple times for getting mouthy or lazy, and I heard from a fellow female PCV that wives are routinely beaten by husbands if dinner is not ready or they were caught sleeping around that wasn’t taboo until the white missionaries got there. (Yes, both men and women sleep around a lot, I have seen the walk-of-shame at 5am on my early walks, and I imagine they thought I was doing the same!).

    I do not fully understand the control structure, but I think it comes from life being far too uncertain for someone to want to upset the village harmony. Imagine living in an LDS ward that you can’t move away from. You are there from birth to death. Everyone knows everyone’s business. Everyone’s job and callings are fixed for life (though as you age you are given more respect and can work less).

    In such a closed interdependent environment, spanking would be hopelessly ineffective. A child who does not understand the possibility of death from throwing rocks at a wall does not need a spanking. Funerals are three days of 24-hour wailing for a boy/man, four for a girl/woman. Then they are never mentioned again. A child who has sat through one one these (i.e. every village child, they happen once or twice a year) has a much better teacher than the open hand.

  12. Huh. When it said that this group never spanked, but that the explorer saw the child pick up a stone and start to destroy a wall of the hut, I thought for sure the whities were gonna say, “See?! See what your failure to discipline produces? Ill-mannered kids!”

    But then it didn’t. The lawyer in me loves this type of conversation starter (which I find conspicuously absent from today’s lesson manuals).

  13. Steve G. says:

    Wow Dan, thanks for that insight.

  14. Steve Evans says:

    Dan, I would think you’re describing the idyllic African village, which sounds pretty nice… as opposed to those suffering under the increasing scourges of child abduction, rape, forced servitude and induction into the military, now found in many troubled parts of Africa. Though I am not sure whether spankings would take place in those horrors (probably outside the scope of the M-Gleaner manual to boot).

  15. Very interesting experience, Dan. Thanks for sharing that. I also wonder (like Steve suggested) what level of variation on this lifestyle has across the cultural and national boundaries in Africa.

  16. Steve Evans, I was only describing Kembe, CAR, 1988-90, from the no-doubt-biased eyes of a stranger in a strange land. CAS was a country still under neocolonial rule (which would collapse badly only 5 years later, which its neighbors’ problems also intruded). As such, while I was there, village/small town society was largely peaceful, moderately prosperous, and ordered.

    I don’t think it was particularly idyllic, nor am I praising the “noble savage” myth. Life was hard and monotonous. During droughts, the féticheurs (sorcerors) claimed to have done it, and were locked up in prison and beaten until the rain started. Child mortality was so high that the average lifespan of late-40s turned into mid-60s if you included only those who made it to 5 years old. Resistance to inexpensive malaria drugs was I because the locals took it (along with an aspirin-caffeine pill) as a palliative, not in curative doses. One minority tribe had political dominance over the country.

    But none of the above was relevant to the spanking discussion. Most boys carried machetes around (one helpfully killed a poisonous snake for me on the road), and if they wanted to (or were urged to by some warlord), they could have hacked other tribes to death rather than manioc plants. Who would dare spank a child with a machete! But Rwanda came after my watch, so that idea luckily never occurred to me. Igorance is bliss.

  17. Steve Evans says:

    ‘mbote man! We should talk some time about the wonders of Leopoldville. I know you’re not talking about noble savages, etc., just pointing out the obvious fact that being a child in much (most? almost all?) of Africa means a really crappy life.

  18. Also, the Mormon “morning walk of shame” would be…

    A) admitting to the EQ Pres that you didn’t do your home teaching,
    B) being seen by a ward member at the grocery store with a 12-pack of cola in your cart,
    C) being outed as a Democrat during Sunday school.

  19. hahaha, closet Democrats, priceless.

  20. I think this story is quite clear, the ambiguity is due to two things, 1st our innate prejudice reading “White explorers visited a village deep in central Africa. They lived with the natives for several days” we thought we new what was coming already.

    2nd our modern day manuals are so literal, and condescending we are not used to something that throws a curve ball.

  21. Steve, true. But many Americans have this weird idea that if only given a chance, Africans would emigrate here en masse. That was not my impression. A teacher colleague of mine had spent a year studying in Paris, and he thought that 1) the weather and people were much too cold, 2) people were racist, 3) everthing was too expensive, 4) you couldn’t pee at the side of the road.

    Ok, I made that last one up but it’s true. In the CAR you can pee just about anywhere (even women, though they went offroad a bit), and that was a great feeling of freedom, something we’ve lost a bit of in our socialist Obama zeal at enforcing public health through oppressive taxation and communist engineering. (Oops, sorry, wrong thread! :( )

    Scott, one difference is that there was an unofficial rule that if you were out before daybreak, people prentended that you weren’t there and it was never mentioned. If you got up late and walked home in the light of day, you were publicly ridiculed. I guess that was a Central African don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy at work.

  22. Steve Evans says:

    Dan, totally agree with you. Even the refugees I’ve met would, life/liberty permitting, prefer to have remained in their home countryies.

  23. Maybe the lesson is: if you are visiting Africa, don’t spank their kids; they don’t need it. Maybe the lesson isn’t about spanking per se but situational ethics. Maybe?

  24. Mark Brown says:

    In connection with this post, we should note that president Hinckley advised specifically against spanking several times. He said that children should be raised with the rod — the fishing rod. He also said that his own father never spanked the children in the family.

  25. I’ve got three comments “awaiting moderation” and I get why, but could my second comment be released? (the longer one) I think its relevant as a stand alone.

  26. I would say my experience in the townships in South Africa were quite different from the OP and from Dan’s experience. I saw a lot of kids physically reprimanded. From my experience I would say it was excessive and at least somewhat common.

  27. StillConfused says:

    Maybe they were saying that some kids don’t need spankings and some kids do. Little African kids obviously are in the don’t category. I only say this because I had the type of kids who responded to logic but my brother has a child that only responds to corporal punishment.

  28. Saying that a child “only responds to corporal punishment” says far more about the parenting than the child. Kids don’t “need” spankings, StillConfused. Let me be as clear about this as possible — it is wrong to hit a child. If you’re confused about that fact, ask your local child protective services.

    Folks, I am dumbfounded that people would assert that a child ever needs to be struck, “whooped,” beaten, spanked or hit. The suggestion is repulsive and offends the Spirit. If you think otherwise, let me know and I will happily ban you from this site forever.

  29. Boz, you bring out the best in the bloggernacle.

  30. From my hotel room in Dakar:

    White explorers once visited my village of Pleasant Grove and observed my kids throwing rocks at our house. They made the same observation and I sicked my dog on them. They grabbed their pith helmets and ran.

  31. KLS lurves you, Bosworth.

    And yeah, I’m a little jealous.

  32. Jealous of which one, Hunter?

  33. Cynthia L. says:

    What Steve said #28.

  34. That’s it, Steve — YOU’RE BANNED!

    Oh, wait.

  35. Peter LLC says:

    Where’s Geoff “[spanking] is a useful arrow at times so I am annoyed when people claim it should not be in the quiver at all” J when you need him to set the record straight?

  36. All I know is the (very) small handful of times my children have been spanked, it’s been about my anger or lack of patience, not about proactive parenting. EVERY SINGLE TIME. It’s not good parenting, and there is no kid that only responds to corporal punishment. That’s a lazy strawman.

  37. Sometimes you really, really need to get the message across, like when you catch a child who is just about to run into a street and a car is coming. I have found that a swat or two on the backside in that situation goes a long way towards avoiding a similar situation in the future. Of course, if you spank a child every time they need correction, it loses it’s effect.

  38. Spanking =/= Beating

    Let’s not lump all forms of corporal punishment into the same category. There are certain kinds of discipline, physical and otherwise, that are inappropriate for for any child in any situation; there are other forms of discipline that are only appropriate for certain children under certain circumstances.

    As for my own children, they are incorrigible and don’t respond to any kind of discipline. I blame the parents.

  39. My children only respond to extortion. Which is why I allowed my wife to take those embarrassing pictures of them on the little training potty.

  40. What I find interesting is that if you wait a little bit and the parent is cooler, and then go in to discipline, how often would that parent still opt for a spanking? Of course spanking =/= beating- but amazingly most wouldn’t chose that spanking once the heat of the moment had passed.

    Regarding dangerous situations- there are creative ways to teach street safety. I have a friend who parked her kids in the driveway, and then drove the car slowly over a cantaloupe to illustrate what would happen if a car hit them. Those kids never, ever ran into the road again.

    I threw a watermelon out the upstairs window onto the patio last summer to show my boys not to horse around near the windows. Graphic? Yup. But they never mess around near the windows.

  41. 33 – Cynthia, if you think my comment in ANY way said it was a good idea to spank or beat children, I believe you’ve severely misread it. My point was that the parental abuse was a direct cause of the children’s mis-behavior. I went on to say that it was evil.

  42. In pre and post apartheid South Africa corporal punishment was widely used. Both in black and white areas by parents and teachers.

    Spanking should be rare.

  43. oh, were you talking to a post 27 that is no longer there? I get the feeling you might have been. Sorry.

  44. Melons make for wonderful object lessons, Tracy – I like it!

  45. I once ate a watermelon in front of my kids as a warning to stay away from that canibal family that lives across the street.

  46. Tracy =/= Melon Mellon

  47. safe, legal, and rare, bbell?

  48. p.s. No need for jealousy, Hunter. There’s enough Scott to share.

  49. Losing one’s temper is a FAIL, and spanking for shock affect has got to have diminishing returns after the first use. But I do think a form of corporal punishment can be good parenting for small children (< 5).

    Little kids need to learn consequences, and for them immediate consequences are best. After an explicit warning or two and a slow count of three I haul them to the sink and splash their faces. It doesn't hurt them, but they don't like it. They're warned of the consequence, they know the reason for the consequence, they experience the consequence, and it's over (except perhaps for a little residual wetness). I used this with 6 kids, and I really can't see any adverse results. We didn't do it often, but it even helped with temper tantrums.

    To be honest, though, I can't really see a difference between that and spanking, since spanking isn't supposed to do bodily harm either.

  50. Steve G. says:

    Every kid is different, my oldest daughter does not respond at all to spanking. As young as 3 years old she’d just stand up and ask for another. As we got better at parenting we realized it was futile to even attempt it and worked at finding other means. A small tap on the butt as a wake up call was never a problem for my other 2 kids when they needed an immediate consequence, but that is only affective at about age 3 and diminishes quickly the older they get. The most effective thing we found is to just put them to work around the house. They hate it and it always pays off in a cleaner house.

  51. My problem with spanking is that even if it does not cause “bodily harm,” it implies that more serious harm might be on the way.

    I think spanking is for parent who cannot think of more creative ways to screw up their children.

  52. “I think spanking is for parent who cannot think of more creative ways to screw up their children.”
    My plan exactly!

  53. What is your plan? Spanking or the more creative path? My kids just think that I am mean. I need to be more creative. I do not spank because at 350 pounds, I have issues with hitting being less than one-fifth of my size. Doesn’t seem right.

  54. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 47
    Was thinking the same thing, KLS.

    The best discipline is meted out by uber-WASP types. My German grandma could choke the life out of you from across the room with a glance, like Darth Vader. She never raised her voice or spanked any of her children or grandchildren. Remarkable, really.

  55. I am frustrated, sad, and angry that some parents here think the damage of spanking is limited to the actual event. That is a grave mistake.

    Spanking is psychological violence that leaves lasting harm (in my case, half my life). It is a betrayal of the trust a child has that the parent will protect her/him unconditionally. My parents were saints (though not Saints) who were themselves victims of their times, but even so I had nightmares about my father until my mid-thirties. Oddly, I did not connect it to corporal punishment for over a decade, but when I finally did (after therapy), the nightmares went away.

    I was a challenging child. I provoked confrontations to get attention and thereby hopefully understanding (of my increasing awareness of my non-heterosexuality). I got attention all right, but it drove a wedge in our relationship that has only healed in the last five years. I interpreted their momentary frustration as rejection of my sexuality and there were serious trust issues thereafter. I never did get the understanding I craved until decades later (and yes, that has something to do with SSM, but that’s a different topic). Parents, do not assume you understand why your child is acting out. It may be nothing, or it may be something very serious.

    Our house was as calm as possible given that my parents raised six children on one income, with the wait-til-your-father-gets-home thing. How unjust to my father. I am sure that spanking happened only when my parents were so crazed with temporary insanity they wanted to do real harm to me. My experience growing up in such a large household may be the reason that I never ever wanted (and still don’t want) to raise children of my own, though I am a proud godfather and uncle.

    It is not fair to parents: children need so much more than the parents can give. But betrayal and abandonment (physical and psychological), though few in number, are among the strongest memories I have. How I wish they did not color my other wonderful memories of my childhood for so long.

    My parents, whom I love more than my own life, deserved better, but so did I. We have since talked about this, and forgive each other for our flaws. The wound has healed, but the ugly scars remain as a lifelong reminder.

  56. Chris, see #40. I am opting for the more creative method- sometimes to a fault, methinks. :)

  57. Tracy, I got that, just messing with you. From what I hear, even complete strangers think you are just a wonderful parent.

  58. Latter-day Guy says:

    The best thing I’ve ever seen on child discipline: see here.

  59. Dan,

    “I am frustrated, sad, and angry that some parents here think the damage of spanking is limited to the actual event.”

    Not sure if you are referring to me or not, but I just want to say that I totally agree with you. My comments may not have been clear on that. Oh, and thanks for sharing you experience. Your last comment made me a bit emotional. Lots to think about.

  60. I’m a little slow on the uptake there, Chris. Sorry. ;)

    For me, the kicker was the one time I swatted Abby’s hand (totally not hard) she looked at me with teary eyes and said “Why did you want to hurt me, mama?” Oh, parenting FAIL. Never need to repeat that one.

    Instead I’m working on the Darth Vader stare, a la MikeInWeHo’s grandma.

  61. I prefer the Darth Vader stare over the guilt trip. I best not get into that in public.

  62. MikeInWeHo says:

    German grandma was Lutheran. Even though I was The Best Little Boy In The World, mistakes could still be made. One time I told her I had washed my hands before dinner when in fact I had not.

    Caught with dirt on my hands, I confessed instantly. Grandma said to me sternly: “Michael. Little boys who lie go to hell. Now go wash your hands.”

    I miss Grandma.

  63. Cynthia L. says:

    #41–I was just agreeing with Steve Evans’ ideas about parenting.

  64. He said that children should be raised with the rod — the fishing rod.

    President Hinckley just became my favorite prophet.

  65. Nebraska says:

    There are situations where all the professional and spiritual counseling will not change behavior. I have seen it with a family I know and regardless of who is on their high horse – a big spanking straightened the situation out.

    Mind you, they tried multiple school counselors, psychologists, shipping the child off to different family members, lots of patience etc… It got to a point that they either send the kid to live with the state – or their other children would be injured or corrupted by the out of control youth. The mother gave one last chance – something they didn’t do before. A major spanking. It worked and their son was saved. Maybe there was another way, but to hear the story told they had tried every conceivable method from a variety of paid professionals, books and old wife tales. In the end it was the rod that corrected the situation almost immediately.

    From what I have read my post will offend someone. Sorry.

  66. Nebraska, see my comment #28. Good bye. And good luck with repenting for your views on child abuse.

  67. I think I will just go ahead and pull out the ultimate trump card. The prophets have consistently discouraged spanking. So there.

    #51, thank you for your comment. I agree with you that the potential damage done by spanking goes far beyond the physical.

  68. Just to be clear, for those who know Steve as someone who, well, is less prone to spare the proverbial banning rod in the case of offending commenters — dismissing Nebraska was not just a response to the comment (#65) that defended the occasional, unfortunate-but-necessary “big spanking.” It’s a response to the earlier, now purged, comment wherein Nebraska made clear that “big speaking” refers to what by any conceivable definition is very, very serious, atrocious physical abuse of a child.

  69. My wife and I have no children yet, but we’ve talked about this already and we both agree that there are two things we hope to avoid: spanking and yelling. Neither one of us has ever seen any good of it.

    I will also cheerfully admit that I still have the strong influence of my child psychology and development course that I took nearly a decade ago that showed the differences among the four main “parenting styles” (authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and negligent). I totally believe in authoritative parenting, and I use the same principles in my classroom management. Rather than yell and scream at students, I simply let them know how disappointed I am. It works remarkably well. (I will point out that I consider yelling and raising one’s voice to be two very different things, in that I consider the former to be unnecessary and the latter to be quite useful at times.)

    If anyone thinks to bring this topic up again in the next several years, hopefully I’ll be able to report on the positive results we have seen in our no spank, no yell policy.

  70. Alex,
    I can’t even begin to tell you how disappointed I am in you for that comment. Really, really shoddy work, son. ;)

  71. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 68
    Thanks for clarifying, Brad.

  72. I don’t know if this counts as corporeal punishment – you, the bloggernacle decide!

    When I was a child and I misbehaved, my parents would tell me to stand in the corner and hold my arms up in the air. The first time they issued that command, I was incredulous. Raise my arms up in the air for ten minutes and then go about my business? Piece of cake.

    Five minutes later, I’m begging for mercy and my parents discuss what I may have done wrong with my hands wavering wildly in the air.

    It took a few more sessions from time to time, and this was only reserved for doing things that could be considered Really Bad, but after a while, the mere threat (sometimes only expressed with them giving me The Parenting Look) would cause me and my siblings to throw ourselves on the ground, begging for mercy.

    My mother only spanked us kids once out of frustration, which only multiplied when us kids immediately jumped to our rooms, holding our bottoms, yelping and laughing along the way. With the more unique method, they never touched me once, and in the end, somehow I realized as a child that it was really my actions that resulted in physical discomfort, not anyone else’s.

    And to clear my parents’ name, they were never excessively cruel – I never had to hold my arms up for ten minutes. Only long enough to get the point across.

  73. I think it’s obvious that the lesson is meant to be anti-spanking. It seems as though from the very first the church believed in training kids by example and in loving ways rather than by any sort of harshness. This is one area (along with women’s rights back in the day) in which the church has always been way ahead of society. I’m proud of that.

  74. 63 – yeah, I realized after I wrote it that my numbering system is different than everyone else’s due to someone else’s earlier comments.

  75. #18, there are quite a few more. Here are just some that I’ve encountered:

    * People finding out that you came home early from a mission for whatever reason.
    * Reminding people that the World of Wisdom is a principle with promise of self-mastery and moderation, and NOT the Law of Moses (“hot drinks” means just that- they can burn and damage the throat if they’re not cooled first)
    * Reminding people that Jesus Christ, not Thomas Monson, is the Head of the church.
    * Reminding people that the church is not the gospel.

    And so on.

  76. PDeverit says:

    Good website: Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education President Hinckley is quoted a couple of times. Sister Hinckley too, when she said “You don’t teach a child not to hit by hitting”. It seems the Church has always counseled against hitting.

  77. John Mansfield says:

    This is a rare ocassion for BCC—comment upon comment blaming certain parents for the unruliness of their children. Also, Martin’s waterboarding-light (#49) is an interesting spanking alternative.

  78. Waterboarding-lite, nice.

  79. CW, speak not in judgment of that which you do not understand. See my comment #68. You literally have. no. idea.

  80. Brad I read your earlier comment. I. still. stand. by. my. comment. Hey the extra periods were fun, but I don’t think it made me sound any more authoritative. And the reason I “have no idea” is because the post was deleted. Why don’t you put the post back up and let the thing speak for itself? And why do you assume you know what I do or do not understand?

  81. CW, you’d better get, before Steve goes off on you like John D. Lee on the Fancher party.

  82. CW,
    If a commenter had posted a pornographic comment, Steve would have been unquestionably correct in removing it, notwithstanding possible accusations that he isn’t permitting alternative points of view on the site. Same goes for, e.g., comments that flagrantly slander Church leaders. The comment in question described and *defended as appropriate* behavior for which the parents should have been arrested, prosecuted, and excommunicated, without question. If your need to self-righteously demonstrate your enlightened superiority in the form of your equanimity toward sentiments encouraging child-abuse is still unsatisfied, find somewhere else to do it.

  83. #18,

    There must be pockets of the church where the whole coke thing is still an issue. I see fellow ward members all the time at the grocery store. There is almost always either coke or dr pepper in their carts.

    I do think there is a place for spanking small kids like 2-6 year olds. I would never spank my 7 and 10 year old however. I was spanked according to my parents. However I do not remember being spanked except when I hit my brother in the head with a rock and knocked him out and when I told my Mom to F off.

  84. bbell, just honestly curious- what happens between 6 and 7 that makes that a line for you?

  85. what happens between 6 and 7

    Potty training?

  86. They get more open to reason. They respond to time outs better etc. Corporal punishment looses its effect after 6 or so in my exp. I have 5 boys and only only speak to my own exp. After 6 or 7 they just get mad about being hit and the whole situation changes and turns the issue into the spanking rather then the original problem.

  87. Brother Matsby says:

    Steve is so judgemental when it comes to child abuse that he even thinks the mom in Precious was in the wrong.

  88. Tickling = the Iron Maiden’s lighter side?
    I think there are some parents who can spank. I think contempt and shame get short shrift in the race to be the worst parent, personally. I’ve seen them do more undoable harm than physical measures.

  89. The arms-up-in-the-air thing is OK for kids. So is sleep deprivation, exposure to loud rap music,extreme light, extreme darkness, extended exposure to cold, being told that one is being exposed to menstrual blood (but not actual exposure), withholding religious materials, clothing deprivation, “short-shackling,” sensory deprivation, and the occasional poke in the chest with an index finger. I have an opinion letter from Brother Bybee on the matter.

  90. #88 crazywomancreek,

    My whole point in #55 was that spanking is contempt and shame, at least as I felt it as a child. The physical pain was the least painful and quickest thing forgotton in a spanking. If only the psychological wound were overcome so easily.

  91. #89,

    That was awesome.

  92. 89: “being told that one is being exposed to menstrual blood (but not actual exposure)”

    That threat works because kids are scared of snakes.

  93. The best punishment I ever heard of came from my Bishop’s family. They had a hand-crank wheat grinder in the basement and when the kids needed a punishment they were told to grind 1 cup of wheat.

  94. MikeInWeHo says:

    Drama Reduction Suggestions For The Permas:

    If a commenter makes a comment so inappropriate that it requires deletion and banning, you might consider deleting all subsequent comments related to the incident. Disappear the whole thing, as it were.

  95. John Mansfield says:

    The grind a cup of wheat punishments are great, but don’t forget that they depend on the threat of something worse if the punishment isn’t accepted. Otherwise, why is a belligerent child suddenly going to suddenly see the error of his ways and start grinding wheat?

  96. Mike, is there anything about this site that makes you think that the permas are interested in a reduction in drama?

  97. John Mansfield says:

    Make that “something worse and administered with or without the child’s cooperation.”

  98. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 95, 97
    This gives other Christians with a belief in a fiery hell a great advantage when it comes to discipline, I suppose. There’s nothing like the threat of being burned alive forever and ever to scare the crap out of a little kid (believe me I know).

    What’s the worst afterlife threat an LDS parent has to throw out, eternal separation from one’s family? “Stop lying or you won’t be with Mommy and Daddy forever, Billy!” Nope, just doesn’t have the same zing.

    All joking aside, I do know many stories of religious threats being used to discipline kids. Catholics are notorious for that, and WASPs aren’t far behind. Are there any LDS versions of that?

  99. “re: 95, 97”

    Mike, you can’t treat me like this.



  100. “Are there any LDS versions of that?”

    Yes–“Knock it off this instant or it’s eternity without genitals for you.”

  101. John Mansfield says:

    “Are there any LDS versions of that?”

    The LDS version is directed at the mothers and their fears of empty seats at celestial reunions.

  102. MikeInWeHo (94.),
    I have been–imperfectly, evidently. There are like 20 comments in moderation, but the problem is that so many people keep responding that it is hard to keep track.

  103. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 99
    You’re always in my heart, gst.

  104. 90 Sorry, I expressed myself poorly. I was very moved by what you wrote and took your point.
    I was attempting to say that we sometimes excuse ourselves by saying, “I didn’t lay a finger on my child, ” when the reality may be more complex than that. A spanking administered by a parent in the context of a mutual understanding that the child is still cherished, the parent is acting in an understood way and there is no expression of anger or shame seems to be far less damaging than some of the things I have said to my own child or heard from other parents.
    I certainly did not mean to make light of the abuse you suffered or reframe it in a way that made it appear positive. Sorry if I did that.

  105. The above comments have given me a mini-“revelation”:

    Free agency is a burden that children cannot always fully support. The goal of the parent is to get the child to be able to accept the responsibilities and privilege of free agency as quickly as reasonable.

    A child acting up is effectively saying, “Right now, I need a break from being as grown up as I should be. Please treat me temporarily younger than I am until I recover my equanimity.” Rather than administer extra chores as “punishment”, allow the child to “buy” the privilege of childlike behavior (future chores are a good currency). The decision then rests with the child whether this is worth it. Haggling over a market rate for inappropriate conduct may give the child enough distraction to no longer need it.

    On the other side, spanking is merely the parent’s nonverbal way of saying: “Right now, I’m at my wits end. I need a break from being responsible for you. Please treat me temporarily better than you want to until I can recover my wits.” Rather than spank, allow the child to “sell” you the privilege of some quiet time from his punishment account. The decision whether to bribe the child or spend the extra time and energy required for parenting the old-fashioned way may be just enough choice to give the frantic parent some sense of control.

    This thread has been very therapeutic for me. Thanks to all (yes, even the deleted comments have helped me).

    Of course, advice is so easy to give when you’re not a parent! :)

  106. Cynthia L. says:

    Dan, I really like that thought. Spanking is definitely a sign that the parent is asking the child to exhibit more self-control and maturity than the parent is able to muster in that moment.

  107. I never looked at it that way Dan, but like Cynthia, I think you’ve hit upon something succinct and interesting.

  108. Dan,
    Forgive me, but all good economists know that children differ from adults in terms of rational behavior almost only in discount rates. The idea that a child could properly value present and future chores, given kids’ near-infinite discount rate spells doom for your theory.

  109. Concerning bartering with children/parents…

    I know a guy who when he was younger would purposely weigh the consequences of an action before doing it. He would tell his mum afterwards, and she would punish him in the way he expected (time out in his room, usually). As a result, it wasn’t really a punishment. I think he sometimes would even ground himself… It got so frustrating for her that I think she eventually gave up and just hoped for the best. Now he’s a father and his son does the same things he did – and it drives the dad crazy!

  110. Mark Brown says:

    Something I’ve been thinking about is Sec. 121.

    I think we if we include spanking in the category of reproving with sharpness (and I think we must), then it is only OK if we are moved upon by the holy spirit. Does anybody feel the spirit prompting them to spank their kids?

  111. Mark, I don’t interpret “sharply” with “harshly” in any way – and certainly not with spanking. I interpret “sharply” in that passage as “with precision” – like using a surgical knife instead of a butter knife.

    I rarely have spanked my children, but I have come to see spanking as like using a butter knife to perform surgery – maybe ok if there is nothing better to use and if the patient is going to die unless an operation is performed immediately, but not a good idea in any other situation. Iow, in answer to your question, I don’t think I ever will feel that prompting – and I have never experienced it in the 20+ years I’ve been dealing with my children.

  112. Mark,
    Please don’t ask that question. The fact that someone answered with a very firm “Yes” to that question has been the source of much outrage and drama.

  113. I used to think the road danger was a reason to spank…but once we had children old enough to be in danger we just took the child inside, since they didn’t know how to behave safely outside. Generally there were other people playing outside. They didn’t like it and they learned. It took repitition, but it was effective.

    I have seen spanking “done right” so rarely. There was a consequence of spanking for lying. 3 spanks or something-a set number any way. It was all very calm and rational. Which was it’s own form of weird- rational violence.

    I really like the OP situation and set up. My parents were in Nigeria-they saw very obedient children-little coporal punishment. I was in south africa and that has already been documented…violence

  114. #89 – I admit, that definitely made me cringe a little. Having to raise my arms wasn’t the most fun thing in the world but I don’t ever feel like I was subjected to anything akin to torture. It was uncomfortable, yes, and pretty boring, but I don’t ever remember being in any real pain.

    I don’t have children yet myself and I don’t know a lot about child discipline, but how is, then, making a child sit in the corner or go to his room alone any different than a very mild form of solitary confinement or sensory deprivation? This post (and the subsequent comments) have made me re-think what I thought I knew about child discipline, and now I am in very uncomfortable mental territory. :p

  115. PDeverit says:

    People used to think it was necessary to “spank” adult members of the community, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do.

    The Church presidents have consistently counseled against it. President Hinckley pointed out “it does more damage than good”.

    The majority of professionals in child-related fields agree that its not healthy.

    Some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking by Jordan Riak,

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children by Tom Johnson,

    NO VITAL ORGANS THERE So They Say by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    Educational materials can be found at the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (

  116. Seriously? Pres. Hinkley has a talk about not spanking adults? Wow. I’m almost scared to think of what out of control Bishop that talk was targeting!

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