Monday, April 17, 2006

Happy obedient children

The discussion in homeschooling circles about the Pearls and their punishment methods, and what role, if any, their methods played in the death of a homeschooled boy, rages on. Increasingly, parents who make use of corporal punishment are realizing that the Pearls are not good allies, and that their ideas of discipline cross the line into areas sane parents are unwilling to go. If you doubt, read their own book, To Train Up a Child. There is no shortage of horrifying passages (pulling an infants hair for biting when nursing; using tree branches to strike children; switching infants as young as seven months). Here is the desired goal:

"As we sneaked a peek at the proceedings, she continued her 'mother practice' session. Several situations arose with her rag baby which she promptly and firmly dealt with like an old pro. In fact, I could not have handled the make-believe situations any better. She told the screaming child (a rag doll). 'No! That's not nice. You can't have it now. Stop your crying. SWITCH, SWITCH. If you don't stop crying, Mama will have to spank you again. SWITCH, SWITCH, SWITCH. OK, stop crying now. That's better. Now see if you can play happily.'
Here is a three-year-old 'mother' already prepared to rear happy obedient children."

What is it, anyway, with the "peace churches" (the Pearls are Amish) and hitting children? I have the Rod and Staff teaching handbook for Mennonite schools, and while there's a lot of good teaching advice, the section on corporal punishment is horrific. I quit reading at the part about how you could only whack unbaptized children. I guess "pacifist" means different things to different people.

Meanwhile, here is St. John Bosco on Christian discipline:

"Punishment should be your last resort. In my long career as an educator, how often this has been brought home to me! No doubt it is ten times easier to lose our patience than to control it, to threaten a boy than to persuade him. No doubt too, it is much more gratifying to our pride to punish those who resist us, than to bear them with firm kindness.... To strike a child in any way, to make him kneel in a painful position, to pull his ears, and other similar punishments must be absolutely avoided. The law forbids them, and they greatly irritate the child and degrade the educator."

And Maria Montessori:

"As to punishments, we have many times come in contact with children who disturbed the others without paying any attention to our corrections... When the case proved to be that of a normal child, we placed one of the little tables in a corner of the room, and in this way isolated the child; having him sit in a comfortable little armchair, so placed that he might see his companions at work, and giving him those games and toys to which he was most attracted. This isolation almost always succeeded in calming the child; from his position he could see the entire assembly of his companions, and the way in which they carried on their work was an object lesson much more efficacious than any words of the teacher could possibly have been. Little by little, he would come to see the advantages of being one of the company working so busily before his eyes, and he would really wish to go back and do as the others did... I do not know what happened in the soul of these children whom we found it necessary to discipline, but certainly the conversion was always very complete and lasting. They showed great pride in learning how to work and how to conduct themselves, and always showed a very tender affection for the teacher and for me."

3 Comments:

Blogger MrsDarwin said...

The problem with advocating hitting a crying child to hush it up is that if the crying is getting on your nerves that badly, you're liable to hit harder than you mean to and harm the child. Spanking a seven-month-old baby is horrific.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Myrtle said...

A lot of people have been blogging about this lately. This is the first time I've seen someone offer an alternative worth thinking about rather than focussing entirely on expressing moral outrage.

It can't comprehend someone using physical pain of any kind intentionally against an infant, but then again I was at YouTube a week or so back and saw a video of the face of an 8 year old boy right as he was having his hand amputated as punishment for stealing a piece of bread. I stopped the clip. It was just too much to finish watching it. It takes more than simply expressing moral outrage to make people stop destroying children.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Faith said...

Congrats for being the only blogger in your Catholic web ring to post on the
Ezzos and the Pearls! I also like that you give alternative modes of thinking. I am a young Catholic mom and have used physical punishment in the past and have come to the conclusion that it is harmful for both the child and myself. It is sad that I have had to research this so extensively on my own-- I really think that the Church should come out with a definitive statement.

3:14 PM  

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