Sunday 1 May 2016

More on childrearing

(I hope Greg doesn't mind, but his comments on the recent spanking post really deserve a wider audience. Consider this a "guest post".)

The most interesting thing to me about Samuel Martin's argument is his research citing ancient rabbinical sources and commentary that even the corporal punishment approved in the Bible never was of small children--only of young men. Furthermore, it was not for behavioral modification as much as an ancient theory of pedagogy or learning: if a young man was being taught and got an answer wrong to a question, the idea was that if you beat the crap out of him, that would teach him to pay better attention and improve the chances that he would get the correct answer the next time, and thereby learn faster.

That was the basic idea anyway; to help the young man more effectively learn what his elders were teaching him and be more attentive to their wise words by beating him when his attention strayed. Samuel Martin's interesting point is that whatever views one may have today concerning the merits of this ancient educational theory for the purpose of improving the learning process in teenage young men, it never applied to toddlers or small children.

Incidentally, has Mark Armstrong ever repudiated the horribly damaging advice promulgated for years in his father's booklet, "The Plain Truth About Child-Rearing?" He would be in a position to do real good in the Church of God community--a small step toward redemption and healing--by absolutely repudiating the toxic advice and legacy of that booklet--and who he is would give his words credibility if he were to do so in a strong voice.

If he does not do so, he remains part of the problem, which holds true for all of the other COG groups' leaders as well--all leaders who continue to advocate and legitimize the intentional physical infliction of pain and humiliation on defenseless small children ... which has justly become illegal and criminalized in a growing number of nations, 30-some now at current count, including nations such as Israel, Germany, most European nations, New Zealand, and more, all since Sweden started as the first nation to do so in the 1980s. It is comparable to the worldwide movement to abolish slavery of earlier centuries, which although slavery had been done for thousands of years, succeeded. Except the worldwide movement to ban corporal punishment of children is succeeding far faster than did the earlier abolitionist movement against slavery.

Any sincere COG person who is open to sober consideration of this issue, Samuel Martin's honorable work is thoughtful and factual and worthy. To go even deeper, seek out the writings of the late Alice Miller, a remarkable, courageous Swiss dissident psychiatrist influential in Europe, who wrote powerful, impassioned, deeply thought-provoking books on this subject that I do not think anyone can read and remain unaffected. Be forewarned though: reading Alice Miller may take thoughtful readers brought up in WCG culture into personally uncomfortable and painful issues going to the core of Armstrongism's effects on children (even though neither she nor her books had anything to do with COGism). For example, Alice Miller goes straight for the jugular and questions the traditional interpretation of the Fifth Commandment as at the heart of the problem, going deep into the history of how that has been interpreted and why...

Scroller (Greg D.)


Pam said...

One thing I've never noticed anyone comment really can't find a scripture that indicates that female children (whether little children or teens) need or should receive "the rod." :-) And that command about stoning to death a rebellious offspring...that one is aimed in context and by the Hebrew wording directly at male offspring too.

This was one area in which the ol' WCG (and its offsprings) decided to be non-discriminatory for a change, and apply what seem to be commands that apply specifically to affect females too. Little girl children were spanked as often as little boys by many parents. How magnanimous it was of the ministry to encourage such equality.

Anonymous said...

I have never spanked a child, and I never would. I don't even give my pets a light swat when they leave a wet spot on the carpet. I can't stand inflicting pain, even mild pain. But, having said that, I think you guys have gone to an extreme! I got a few spankings when I was a kid, and the few I got worked. I rarely repeated the mistakes for which I was spanked, and I don't feel the least bit damaged from having received them. I might have been better off had I received a few more, but my parents very rarely used the "rod." When they did, it hurt them more than it hurt my butt, so they usually just had a long talk with me when I had done something they did not approve. That worked, too. But if any of you guys dare suggest my parents were in any sense abusive for having spanked me, I'll just call you ignorant and tell you that you don't know what you're talking about. So just don't do it -- OK? What they did was for my benefit. Even if it wasn't ideal, they thought it was best for me.

The idea that the "child rearing" booklet did untold damage is just silly! Come on, guys! Really! That Mark Armstrong could promote "healing" by repudiating the almost forgotten booklet is doubly silly. I read the booklet when I was a teenager, and I don't intend to go back and read it again, but, as I recall, the booklet stated that a parent should never punish out of anger but only out of love, and at the time I hardly thought of the described disciplinary techniques as particularly harsh. I've seen parents screaming at their kids while slapping them or beating them with an open hand or even a stick. If I recall correctly, that kind of "punishment" was condemned in the booklet. I really don't think the little butt-paddlings I got harmed me. The mild "pain" was over in a few moments, and the lesson was (usually) learned. I'm glad I got them! You're turning what may be a less-than-ideal method of correction into something cruel and monstrous. -- TC

Byker Bob said...

You are all wet, TC. If you re-read the section of GTA's thesis or booklet dealing with your child's first spanking, there is a pattern of escalation right off the bat. It becomes a battle of will between adult and child with the goal being one of breaking the child's spirit. The law of unintended consequences comes into play because in order to continue to be effective, pain compliance requires that the dosage of pain is constantly increased. This is how you end up with a parent administering up to 40 belt lashes per pants down spanking multiple times each day, and when that seems not to work, adding 24-48 hour fasts, removing privileges, shaving the child's head, and other draconian measures. Any child subjected to this excessive and unreasonable punishment will eventually punch out the parent, run away from home, begin secretly smoking and drinking, or take other retaliative action. Most children raised in extreme cults like Armstrongism can never repair their relationships with their parents, and because of the wretched example become crippled in developing loving relationships with other humans, and with God.


Pam said...

So, approved of the idea of "pulling back the diaper" of a months-old child that was crying in its crib, saying "NO," and then spanking it? That was step one of GTA's plan for discipline. The little bugger had to be taught who was in charge, and that no meant no. Because he/she had "carnal human nature" that needed to be broken. And that unless they had a damn good reason for crying, such as a wet diaper or stomach pains, they needed to just hush up as soon as mama or daddy said NO to crying. (To do otherwise was rebellion. And that's evil.) Even though it is utterly impossible for a child of that age and even much older to be able to clearly communicate what they are crying about. The parent had the right to "guess" what was or wasn't wrong, and spank accordingly.

Or spanking an older child and then insisting that they stop crying immediately, or they will get spanked again. And then spanking them again and again if necessary until they could "personally" stifle their own crying.

And while you may have read the book, it is obvious that you, as a teenager, didn't examine the fruits of it in the lives of vast numbers of WCG members. Nor hang out, outside the women's bathroom at Sabbath services or Feast services and listen back in the 1970s and before.

Everyone may have given lip service to always "spanking in love" and with suitable restraint, but the reality was that the restrooms were full of sobbing children and ranting mothers insisting that the child STOP CRYING or they'd get it again...and they always got it again. Even all these years later I can remember numerous times sitting in a bathroom stall and being almost ready to throw up from listening to the ritual going on in the stall next door.

The Child Rearing booklet "set the standard" for what was expected of Church Parents...if they didn't seem to have their children TOTALLY under control at all times as depicted in the book, they were subject to criticism by other members for their poor child rearing success and likely a "talking to" by the minister. So many went way out of their way to never seem "lax" in the slightest.

Children were to be seen and not heard AT ALL at church services. So you, as a small child, were to sit primly or lie down totally still on your little pallet on the concrete floor and BE QUIET. For two hours. No little muffled sounds of playing with a little car, or such. No restlessness. Not even "cooing" or giggling as a small baby. All of those things could earn you a trip to that dreaded bathroom. NO, I DO NOT EXAGGERATE. I saw and heard this all over the country when visiting other congregations and when going to many different feast sites. And many others from all across the land have told me identical observations over the years.

See the conclusion of my comments in my next post.

Pam said...


As someone else has mentioned, the glib teachings in the booklet, presented as THE perfect method of child rearing, gave tacit permission to...particularly men, although some women...who were inclined to harshness in the first place to be able to go to extremes in spanking. We had a WCG minister in Michigan in the 1960s who literally spanked his little toddler...a timid little girl...for NOT SMILING enough.

I don't doubt you don't remember any of this yourself. :-) Men seldom disciplined the children at church, as they were supposed to be "freed up" to pay close attention to the sermon. Thus the job was shunted off to the wives in that setting. The men took over back home, where they couldn't be seen. So you wouldn't have heard this kind of thing in the MEN'S bathrooms at the Feast. Or been aware of the constant circuit of women going in and out with children "needing a spanking."

I can literally remember the first time I saw a father deal with a fussy baby at a church service, as it was such a shock. It was at the FOT in Niagara Falls in 1974. The fellow took the baby to the back of the hall and walked back and forth rocking it in his arms until it fell asleep. I almost bawled to see a man acting so tenderly in a church setting, and caring for the little one instead of trying to "break its spirit" and make it obedient to the Rule of Silence.

You have seriously miscalculated the widespread extent of the negative effects of that arrogant booklet.

Anonymous said...

I admit not having read the booklet in my 25 years tenure.
I wonder if it was mostly an American problem/Anglo Saxon problem/Or a Worldwide problem.
First time I heard of the practice was while visiting the UK churches and meeting the campers from the US.

Perhaps some Philipino's or Europeans visiting can weigh in their experiences.
(For South Americans it might be a cultural thing too, I found the Maya most cruel.)

Glad I was not an Australian Aboriginal "corrected" by the "rearing" of the government in the fifties.

Steve D said...

On the subject of killing a rebellious son: One Jewish commentary explained it this way. For most of the capital offenses, seldom was someone executed. Num 35:30 says, "Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer . . DO NOT ACCEPT A RANSOM FOR THE LIFE OF A MURDERED." For other "capital" crimes, a ransom was paid, as in the case of a rebellious son. So why classify rebellion as a capital offense? It was done to impress upon the people the seriousness of the offense. But, it was not to be carried out. We now what the Bible says, but we oftentimes don't know what it means, considering the difference in language and culture.

Pam said...

Steve D wrote "But, it was not to be carried out. We now what the Bible says, but we oftentimes don't know what it means, considering the difference in language and culture."

The problem I have with all this is that the "commentaries" you are quoting were written by men 3,500 years or so AFTER the Bible. We have NO written "commentaries" from any period until very near the time of Christ. Which was probably 1,500 years or so after the Pentateuch was written down. I'll be blunt... ALL these guys are winging it when trying to "explain" what was and was not "carried out" in Old Testament times. And what the "culture" of ancient Israel in, for instance, David's time, was like.

For pity's sake ... in 2 kings 2 we are told that during Josiah's reign (about 600 BC) they "found" the Book of the Law which had obviously been lost for generations. And Josiah was distraught that they hadn't been doing most of what was in that Found Book. If they were oblivious to even the written word of what was in the book, how could they have "carefully" kept what it actually was supposed to MEAN "in practice"?

You may be able to pin down from sources such as Josephus what the practices of Jews were in the time of Christ. But to make the broad assumption that those people had based those practices on clear knowledge of "what the Bible meant" in very ancient times is, I believe, very naive.

One thousand years is a LONG time. One thousand years with virtually no written records in between that describe the "culture" during those centuries gives huge leeway for later "sages" to speculate however they want on what "must" have been done. :) The notion that many, if not most, Christians have, that the modern Jews, or even the Jews of the time of Christ, had "inside information" on what life was like in very ancient times has no basis in reality.

I am convinced that when you read a modern Jewish commentator insisting, for instance, that SURELY they didn't ever stone rebellious sons, you are reading his wishful thinking. He is NOT basing that opinion on ANY "written records" of what was ACTUALLY done way back when. There are none.

Jewish scholars are just as good at "apologizing" with their apologetics for the brutality and barbarism of much of the Old Testament laws as are Christian scholars. :)

Anonymous said...

No,Pam, I'm not OK with the method you refer to. As I said, I have never spanked and never would? Inflicting pain, even mild pain, goes against my nature. I can't stand it! I would not sleep well at night if I did it. My point is that some here are a bit extreme in their reactions to the advice in the booklet, especially given the societal norms of the time the booklet was written. I don't think GTA was the only one who took issue with Dr. Spock's (not the Vulcan) anti-spanking advice.

My worst experience with "spankings" was in school, not at home. The principals and teachers would not hesitate to tear our butts up when we got "out of line." (We're talking '50s and '60s here.) Even bus drivers were known to paddle rambunctious kids from time to time. One of my junior high-school teachers had a baseball bat whittled flat with holes drilled in it and used it as a butt-whuppin' paddle. I experienced the humiliation of having to go up before the class and "assume the position" at the end of her desk while she laid five hard licks onto my behind -- and, believe me, it hurt BAD! But, as physically painful as it was, the greatest pain was the humiliation. And that happened to lots of kids. On another occasion, in elementary school, the principal gave me about 25 licks to the backside with a Bolo paddle. The only other time a teacher struck me was when I was banging on something in the hallway, making lots of noise, when the teacher came up from behind me and started chewing me out and beating me on the shoulder and upper arm with her open hand. (And, hey, I was one of the "good" kids who didn't require much discipline.) I never saw anything like that in the WCG. But I would bet that my teachers, had they read GTA's booklet, would have seen it as well within the boundaries of acceptable child-rearing advice.

You're right; I did not see all those things in my WCG experience. I definitely did not hang around the mothers' rooms or ladies' bathrooms. I've been in many homes of other church families, and all of them seemed very loving and close-knit. I'm sure disciplinary measures were used, but I rarely saw it, and most of the children I knew back then grew up to be normal people who maintained a closeness with their families, both those who stayed with the WCG and those who left it.

Some of our parents have told of how their parents dealt with them. My dad's dad once used a bullwhip on him (a single "pop" to the backside, but that's all it took), and my mom's dad would have her hold out her jaw for him to slap. They turned out okay anyway, and they always loved and respected their imperfect dads. That goes to my point: I seriously doubt that all kinds of terrible emotional damage came from people applying the spanking advice of the child-rearing booklet. No, Pam, as I said, I'm not "OK" with it; it's just that it was but a tiny speck in a world where disciplinary measures were far worse. People made it through the "far worse" measures just fine and went on to become happy citizens of society. So, again, this kind of focus on a single out-of-print and all-but-forgotten booklet is a bit extreme.
-- TC

Pam said...

"People made it through the "far worse" measures just fine and went on to become happy citizens of society. So, again, this kind of focus on a single out-of-print and all-but-forgotten booklet is a bit extreme."

It might be helpful to remember "context" here. I doubt anyone commenting on this blog thinks that GTA's advice was worse than all sorts of other abusive situations in religious groups and elsewhere. C'mon...when Jim Jones commanded his 600 or so followers to commit suicide in 1978, they obeyed...and 300 children were killed that same day first, by their own parents with cyanide. You don't get much worse than that for abuse.

But THIS blog is dedicated to sharing information and providing for discussions of the COG experience. A few comments to a single blog entry is not "extreme focus." :-) And it's not necessary to preface all negative comments in a thread about the situations in the WCG every time with "of course, it wasn't as bad as XXX or YYY or ZZZ." Everyone knows that. Yup, "Herbert was bad, but at LEAST he wasn't Attila the Hun." :-) But knowing that doesn't prevent a value in discussing just HOW bad he and his system sometimes were. Including the child-rearing practices.

IF someone read my latest comments to you about those bathroom experiences, they might decide to jump to the conclusion that I am deeply concerned about all of it RIGHT NOW and have obsessed about it constantly for the past 45 years. Not so. I almost NEVER think of my COG experiences these days, and haven't for over 20 years, unless something on a forum or blog triggers a distant memory. THEN, FOR THE MOMENT I may wax eloquent about the circumstances, and condemn what went on. The memory is vivid FOR THAT MOMENT. And in that moment, I may even find it a bit cathartic to share that memory with others who may have had similar experiences.

Let us also be totally blunt here...the WCG claimed to be the ONLY TRUE CHURCH on earth today. It claimed for ITS childrearing practices the endorsement of God Himself. It promised its followers that if they scrupulously used the prescribed methods, put forth by God's Special Spokesman Garner Ted Armstrong, their families would be close to perfect. (Just like Herbert's and Ted's were... uh huh. :-) ) That dad you mentioned that used a one would make the claim that he was reflecting a loving heavenly father. Shouldn't one expect MUCH BETTER from those who claimed to be God's Chosen People? Who were in training to be the Perfect Teachers of all mankind in the soon-coming Wonderful World Tomorrow of 1975?

As for that booklet being "all but forgotten" are wrong. There are no doubt thousands of people who still have miserable memories of it...either as they "endured the methods" used by their own parents and realize it was all because of religious deception, or look back in mournful regret as parents of the time to how they treated their children because of what they thought was perfect Godly instruction. I've talked to lots of them.

And in spite of what you may think from your own surface observations, it did indeed ruin many family relationships permanently, and drive many grown children away from any desire to be involved in any way with "religion." I've talked to lots of people for whom that was true too. You can find "memories" of many of them posted on "spiritual abuse recovery" websites around the Internet. Discounting their stories, because you are aware of "worse circumstances" that you feel led to people who "turned out OK" (although you may well be unaware of the inner emotional life of many "happy citizens"), is, I believe, a mistake.

Byker Bob said...

It wasn't just the booklet. That had been sanitized, since it was for the general public, and part of the church's recruitment efforts. There was also the oral teaching from the pulpit, and in private counselling. The false doctrine of the church eras was incorporated into the childrearing, as members were reminded that there were "Philadelphian" parents, and there were "Laodicean" parents. False prophecy was also used to amplify the booklet. Parents were forced to contemplate what the Germans might do to their children if they did not qualify to escape the tribulation. These additional factors made parents more extreme than the seemingly measured tones of the GTA booklet would have indicated.

There were stories of various Spokesmen's Clubs having strong hardwood paddles made up as a public service to the brethren, some of which had holes drilled through them for less air resistance, and higher velocity. Many of the parents of Imperial School students in Pasadena actually "swatted" their kids at home a second time as punishment for getting swats at school. It is no wonder why there was a marijuana epidemic at Imperial during the early to mid '70s, with many of the ministers' kids not only involved, but actually dealing. No last names given to protect the guilty, but some first names that usually came up in this regard were Mark, David, and Matthew.

So, TC, you are just wrong on this topic. I don't know where you attended, and which splinter you might be part of now, but you don't know your butt from a hole in the ground. People died in Viet Nam because of the harshness of the church's childrearing doctrine!


Anonymous said...

Pam said: We have NO written "commentaries" from any period until very near the time of Christ. Which was probably 1,500 years or so after the Pentateuch was written down. I'll be blunt... ALL these guys are winging it when trying to "explain" what was and was not "carried out" in Old Testament times. And what the "culture" of ancient Israel in, for instance, David's time, was like.
May I ask, Don't the Jews have a rich oral tradition, called the Midrash, that were passed down over time? Perhaps that is where they get their understanding of Num 35:30.

Anonymous said...

I did what I had no intention of doing. I re-read a portion of the infamous child-rearing booklet (BB, it was apparently the "sanitized" version -- the only one I know of and have been talking about in this entire discussion). The result: I found more good advice than bad. In fact, Pam, if those WCG mothers you wrote about were really doing the things you said (or at least implied) they were doing, they were NOT following the advice in the child-rearing booklet. I do not endorse everything in the booklet, but my point stands: It did NOT result in vast numbers of damaged children, and an apology from Mark Armstrong would NOT promote "healing." And none of what I said has ANYTHING to do with whether or not people thought the Armstrongs were God's special spokesmen or the WCG was the one true church. BTW, I'm not defending the Armstrongs and would have nothing to do with them if they were still alive. I lost all respect for them many years ago and have serious issues with a lot of their teachings. But when I examine something one of them wrote, I am able to do it objectively. BB, I am not wrong about what I never saw (key word is "I") in the WCG. I'm not sure about what you personally witnessed, but, according to your own words, at least part of what you report are "stories" you had apparently heard. Whether or not they're true is irrelevant to my point. I've been talking primarily about a freakin' BOOKLET here (read my last post again, please) and how the advice in the booklet compares with corporal punishment methods "in the world" at that time. READ the chapter on how parents should disciplining in love, NEVER out of anger or for self-serving purposes. In a world where corporal punishment was generally considered a necessary part of child-rearing, that advice was moderate and quite good. You, like Pam, are missing my point. -- TC

Byker Bob said...

Hey, go in peace. Just realize that the experiences which Pam and I shared were the general rule. We all have to sift through this horrible mess to decide what should be discarded, and what if anything should be retained. Whatever our own personal experiences happened to be while we were in the cult are going to be what informs us the most eloquently.

BTW, when I said "sanitized" version, I meant specifically that the printed version was a very mild version of what was actually taught from the pulpit. To my knowledge there were never revisions of the booklet itself. Even so, imagine how an individual who had been abused as a child might apply what is in the booklet. The result would be just as bad as a recovering alcoholic taking Passover with real wine.


Anonymous said...

"Even so, imagine how an individual who had been abused as a child might apply what is in the booklet. The result would be just as bad as a recovering alcoholic taking Passover with real wine."

First I need to state my sympathy with your personal experiences, since they are real.

Now I ask the question based on the above.

Gun control?
If a church teaches to take real wine at a religious day based on a holy book's writings. Is the problem the teaching or the alcoholic? Is the gun the problem or the people allowed to buy them?

The teaching in the Child rearing booklet are nowadays illegal in 42 nations through the UN treaty on child abuse. Good on those nations.

Of course the USA has not signed the treaty. Therefore my earlier question if any Philipino brethren, or European (non anglo saxon) or african members could chime in if present on this board.

Did the child rearing booklet modify 1950's US understanding of child rearing or was the booklet understood differently in different cultures?

I realize that the prophet muhammed liberated women and other people from a lot of oppressive measures in his time. Nowadays we look at those modifications as backward and even anti women, while at the time it empowered women. We progress in understanding and unfortunately to this day the USA does not abide with the UN treaty on corporal punishment for children. Rendering the wcg booklet perfectly legal in its time until this very moment because of the prevailing CULTURE.


Byker Bob said...

Armstrongisim is similar to Communism in that both systems' architects made them sound great on paper. It is when those who enforce begin to impliment them that the inhumanity and unworkability become obvious.

They are also both the types of systems that corrupt leaders. Phrases such as zero tolerance, conditional love, and unquestioning obedience begin to approximate the rationale behind and problems with Armstrongism,but even those fail to capture the full magnitude.

The contraction of Armstrongism is directly due to the plethora of knowledge available on the information super highway. No P.R. or marketing campaign could counteract that. For Armstrongism to ever be an effective scam again, one of the existential threats would need to blast humanity back into more primitive times. The ensuing loss of knowledge would be the modern day equivalent of the burning and sacking of the Alexandrian Library which partially facillitated the Dark Ages.

Short of that, the continuing failure and debunking will finish the movement off within the next decade or two.


Anonymous said...

"Just realize that the experiences which Pam and I shared were the general rule."

Great. But that was not the topic I was addressing. Bye now. -- TC

Byker Bob said...

No problem. You got the point which I was making anyway, the one the greater audience of readers already knew.


Anonymous said...

"Even a mild short war like the first Bush Gulf war" was sending back the people to churches in droves. Even crazier religions abound in times of peace.

Paper and practice.
I like that.
I know leading pundits in leading think tanks lobbying government fighting female mutilation in Islam. While in reality it is an East African cultural practice rejected by the vast majority of Islam.
Many Islamic immigrant parents don't recognize the religious behavior of their western educated children. Since the Internet influenced International Arabian Wahabism is so far removed from their original religion in their original home countries.