Friday, April 20, 2007

Before I take it back, I’ll add more to it

Some further thoughts on George Whitefield’s encounter with a disobedient child:

Many Christians take what I would call a “psychological approach” to child discipline. Their philosophy of child rearing is based on guidelines from Dr. James Dobson or some other author/psychologist. One almost needs training in child psychology to do all that these books say you should do.
My great-grandmother was born in 1896. She never went to high school, and never studied psychology. She didn’t learn child rearing out of a book, other than the Bible. The Bible and “mother wit” were her primary guides. Even if she literally slapped me upside the head, her discipline was with love, and it taught me, in no uncertain terms, there were consequences to mouthing off.

Incidentally, I only recall two times I was physically struck by her: the one time that I mentioned in a recent post, and another earlier time when she roundly spanked me on the behind (swatting me numerous times, not just once or twice, like the books would say). There may have been other times I was physically struck by her, but I only remember two occasions (Basically, I didn't need to be spanked or slapped for the same thing twice!). Despite how voices of protest are raised today decrying physical punishment, speaking as a grateful recipient of this kind of discipline, I can testify I’ve never had any lingering or lasting effects from either encounter I had with my great-grandmother. I received much love, care, sound advice, biblical instruction and wisdom from her.

Some would say you need to sit down and talk with the child, but (and I’m just speaking for myself, here) I was a stubborn child (and a stubborn adult!), and I would argue. Just talking to me would not have gotten the point across at all. For instance, my great-grandfather would fuss, and I would just fuss right back (I was really bad that way)! I always had an answer. Talking doesn’t work with every child; sometimes, you need to show a child just what you mean. In my opinion, it takes a physical “jolt” to get a child’s attention. That’s what corporal punishment does quite effectively.

I suppose what I’m trying to get across is that physical discipline does not automatically equal physical abuse. Not everything that causes “pain” is physically hurtful (i.e., causing welts, cuts, bruises, etc.). Incidentally, I do know what abuse is: My grandmother was abusive to her children (according to the testimony of my great-grandmother and her sister, as well as my mother and uncle who were the recipients of that abuse). That’s a whole other story altogether. There was absolutely no comparison whatsoever between the physical punishment dealt out by my great-grandmother (my grandfather’s mother) and my grandmother.

Most everyone of my generation that I’ve known, from a similar cultural background (working class, African-American), can identify with the type of discipline I experienced. We’re adults now, with children of our own, and I seriously doubt many of us have lingering psychological damage from the physical punishments we received as children and teenagers (in fact, I suspect abusive words potentially cause more damage).

As incredible as it may sound to some folks, I still thank God someone cared enough about me to “go upside my head”.

Although some people today may feel they know better how to discipline a child than those of Whitefield’s generation, I don’t think God disapproved of Whitefield’s actions.

Just my opinion.

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