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Location: Allentown, PA

I'm a Christian wife and a mom to three daughters and two sons. I'm a member of the board of directors of EmPoWeReD Birth. In my "spare time" I'm a doula, and a certified childbirth instructor.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Discipline of Children

In the interest of not "taking over" Anne's blog in her comments section...I'm going to post some comments here on my blog in regards to a discussion that has gotten going in the comments to one of her posts...

Molly said:
A great example is the Pearl's themselves. From everything one can read, it seems their 5 children turned out wonderfully.

Well...I think that I turned out "wonderfully" too. That doesn't mean that anyone should emulate my parents' methods. {snip--go to Anne's blog if you really want the details}

I wanted to follow up just a bit on the concept that the Pearl’s kids turned out so great…this is a comment that one of their daughters made in an article:

For years, I stumbled around trying to get a grip on my emotions (anger, hurt, or disappointment), but it never worked. I could suppress them for a time, but then I would let go and erupt like a volcano, letting insults fly. Also, once emotions were let loose, it was easier to turn them towards the little ones when they misbehaved.

(Editted...Color me embarrassed...when I went to get the URL where this quote could be found on the Pearl's "No Greater Joy" website I realized that it was NOT one of Pearl's daughters who wrote the article, but rather someone named "Marie." However...I still stand by my position that just because children seem to have turned out "wonderfully," that doesn't always tell the whole story.)

Here we have her revealing just a glimpse into her “real world,” and it isn’t exactly pretty. Its actually very familiar to me, as I had the same struggles until I addressed the issues from my childhood. We need to remember that just as we put our “best foot forward” when we go out in public, so does every other family. What is seen on the outside is not always reality. What people thought of my family growing up was that my parents must be doing a great job because my siblings and I were so helpful and obedient…and my brother and I did SO well in school (he went to college a year early, I skipped a year in high school…lets just say we were motivated to get out of our parents’ house…).

Molly said:

And the Pearl's condoning abuse within the family, especially incest? I'm thinking this may be yet another case where they are being taken out of context... The Pearl's tell the wife of an incestuous man to call the police, report him, testify AGAINST him, and get him locked up for a long time. If she wants to stay married to him, fine, but to keep him in jail for as long as the children are still in the home. I fail to see how that is a terrible horrible thing...?

I never said they "condoned" abuse or incest within the family, I said that "their position on abuse within the family, especially incest, also sickens me." And it does. Michael instructs that a women in a physically abusive relationship should stay in it, and comes pretty close to saying it is her fault in my opinion. I believe that he does "allow" that she can be separated from him if he is physically harming the kids, but quite frankly, I don't feel like taking the time right now to verify that.

As for incest...its hard to get a "stranger rapist" locked up for the 20-40 years that Pearl advocates even with a solid conviction against him, let alone an incestuous father. There is often little to no physical evidence as the incest often is revealed significantly after it occurred. It is EXTREMELY hard to make a conviction for incest "stick." Even if it does, the sentence is usually light. Even if the sentence is not light, Pearl does not say "if she wants to stay married to him, fine." He says that she should stay married to him--implies that she MUST to be in obediance to scripture--and that she should take him back into her bed (he specifies that) upon release from prison regardless of whether or not he has repented (though he assumes the father will repent, as he describes prisons as a great place for contemplation and repentance...). What kind of message does that send to the victims if mom takes dad right back--regardless of whether or not he repented? What kind of risk is she exposing her grandchildren to? What kind of a person do you think he is going to come out of prison being? Given how child abusers are treated in prison, do you really think he is going to be a Godly husband to the wife who turned him over to the authorities?

For the record, I know someone very well who was sexually abused by her older brother (4-5 years older than her) for several years. Her other brother was aware of the abuse, but kept a pact of silence with her that she insisted on because she did not want the abusive brother to go to jail. When she finally revealed the abuse her family got councilling. I met her at that point in her life. Because her brother was no longer in a position where he could abuse her or at that time in a position where he had any access to other young girls that he could abuse, she did not report the abuse to the police. It took several years, but the relationships in her family have been restored. Her brother, several years after the abuse was revealed, began to be convicted of his sin, and asked her forgiveness. The change in their relationship has been beautiful. She trusts her formly abusive brother, and has no fear at all that he would abuse his own daughter the way he abused her. If you were to meet her today and see her interact with this brother you would never suspect what happened between them. I know that restoration CAN happen, and when it does...that is a wonderful thing and a display of God's power.

But sadly, that is the only example of restoration I can give you. All of the other women I know who were sexually abused--and I know many--can tell you sad stories of attempts at Biblical reconcilliation that were rebuffed, leading to broken families...or others who simply never confronted their abusers and thus the relationships remain strained or broken.

Molly said:
What happened in your childhood is disgusting. But do you, for example, stop using the bathroom now because they were abusive towards you (regarding only letting you go three times a day?). I've been known to make my children wait to go to the bathroom (when we're in the middle of a trip to town and have 5 minutes to go, and they announce that they have to pee or they'll die!). *grin* Is that abuse, or is it just practical (no bathrooms in sight for 5 minutes!).
Is all discipline a bad thing, because your parents abused their parental authority? You see what I'm saying...
The analogy doesn’t work. My parents were unreasonably restricting a necessary bodily function. To make the analogy a LITTLE bit closer to “working” we would have to go with me “never restricting the child’s access to the bathroom.” And as you point out, that is unreasonable as well. There is a middle ground—sometimes the child will have to wait. But I don’t arbitrarily tell my children how many times they are “allowed” to use the bathroom each day.

I never said that “all discipline is a bad thing.” Discipline is necessary and commanded by scripture. But I don’t think that the Pearl’s brand of “the rod is magic” discipline is right.

Do I think that all discipline in the form of corporal punishment--"spanking" or "swatting" is abuse? This is something that I've been really grappling with over the last couple of months. It seems too judgemental to out and out say that any use of corporal punishment of children is abusive. So I've attempted to draw an analogy, and it has steered my thinking a lot.

Is it appropriate for a husband to “discipline” his wife? I think it is. I think that part of the role of a husband as the head of the household is to teach his wife, to help guide her in Godly maturity. My husband does not hit me to “discipline” me. He prays with/for me. He talks to me. He models the correct way to do things, perhaps even walking me through something step by step. He suggests books for me to read. If I reach toward a power tool that he is using while it is turned on he does not "swat my hand" and tell me to keep away. He might grab ahold of my hand and pull it away (or he might verbally warn me of the danger), but he does not swat me.

I would assume based on reading some of Molly's blog that she would agree with this concept of discipline between a husband and wife. Given that assumption…is ever NOT abusive for a husband to hit his wife to “discipline” her? I don’t believe it is. I think every time a husband hits his wife to “discipline” her it is an abusive event. Now that doesn’t mean I think that the over all relationship is abusive—it may not be. He may be deeply grieved to “have” to hit her, but may feel it is something he must do so that she will learn godly behavior. But I do believe that regardless of the motivation, if a husband hits his wife to “discipline” her that it would be an act of abuse.

There was a time in the not so distant past that the corporal punishment of wives by their husbands was defended in the mainstream using verses in Proverbs discussing the rod of correction for the back of fools ("domestic discipline" is still promoted by some people, but thankfully it is no longer accepted by the Christian culture at large). I think that was a gross misrepresentation of the scriptures. Similarly, I think that attempting to use the verses in Proverbs that connects the rod to parenting in an attempt to support spanking of young children is a gross misrepresentation of the meaning of these scriptures.

So yes, I do believe that corporal punishment of children, even if it occurs in the context of a loving family relationship, is abusive. It's more "politically correct" to say that "I don't believe that the scripture endorses spanking, but perhaps some parents can use it in a way that is beneficial and good..." But I think that is taking the "easy" way out of the question, straddling the fence in many ways. It is not really "easy" for me to say in a public forum that I believe all corporal punishment of children is abusive. I am saying that the majority of parents in America have engaged in behavior toward their children that I believe is abusive. I am saying that I have engaged in behavior toward my children that I believe is abusive. I struggle with this. It creates "cognitive dissonance." But it is where I am at right now.


Anonymous molly said...

First of all, I don't really appreciate being quoted out of context. I don't do that to you on my blog (nor have I done it to Tulip Girl), though I'll admit to being sorely tempted at times--heeheehee! I can only hope readers go to the original posts to see what we were talking about, because I certainly feel like my words are being taken out of context (and selectively chosen).

Secondly, where exactly did you find that *supposed* quote from one of the Pearl's daughters? I would like to see that actually substantiated, as I have never heard or seen anything like that before. (On the contrary, she has shared that her transition into being a wife and mother has been fairly natural)...

Thirdly, you accuse me of misusing an analogy, and then go and do worse yourself. Equating a man beating his wife, something never advised in Scripture, to a parent spanking a child, something alluded to (if not outright condoned) in Scripture...?

God never once says He beats His wife (the Bride), and yet He more-than-once says he spanks His children.

I'm afraid you will have to find a different analogy to make your case pass any sort of test beyond the emotional.

You've asked for "proof" before, wondering how someone can "justify" their position on corporal punishment. We've been discussing that very thing on my blog. Here's a link to the latest installment, with links to the prior arguments.

I'm not expecting you will agree with it one iota, as you already have your mind quite made up... But now that I know a little of your past, it helps me see better where you are coming from, and why you would take such an extreme position. However, maybe it will help you see where others who differ are coming from. You seem to have them all wrapped up in a box with Ezzo and Pearl and Abuse! labels all over the top. Well, here's something different. :o) And (*gasp!*) we even have exegetical reasons for it.

Warm Regards,
(Who doesn't view this issue in a "my way or the highway" light at all, she just gets rather irritated when others do)...
Another link on this regard:
(Re. "My Way or the Highway" Parenting")

10:58 PM, March 01, 2005  
Blogger Jenn said...


If you'd tell me what specifically I quoted out of context I would be more than happy to apologize. But as it stands, I don't believe that I did so. Obviously I did not quote EVERYTHING you said...but I think that I fairly represented what I interpretted you to mean.

If you can find one place where the word "spank" occurs in scripture or one place where a description is given of a person striking another person on the buttocks (or any place other than the back or legs) for disciplinary means, I would drop this discussion and declare you correct. But I don't think you can find that.

As for my analogy being incorrect...as I said...it wasn't so long ago that the scriptures were used to justify the corporal punishment of wives. "Just a good slap to remind her who is in charge." Not always beating--though beating was also justified using scripture, and is actually where the term "the rule of thumb" originated--a man could beat his wife with any rod that was not thicker than his thumb. Actually, as I researched this topic more, I found that its not "in the past" that the Bible has been used to justify the coporal punishment of wives--it is a current teaching in some circles. This article talks about it--debunking it. http://www.themarriagebed.com/dd.shtml I will note that this article endorses corporal punishment of children...but I think that many of the "dangers" that they point out with the "domestic discipline" movement can also be applied to corporal punishment of children.

As for your blog...well I'm writing a reply to it right now. ;-)

12:02 AM, March 02, 2005  
Blogger Jenn said...

BTW...your comment about the "supposed quote" from Pearl was taken just as I'm sure you intended it...as an inference that I was making up the quote. Just to clear up that misconception, I did go and find the article, and now have it linked. Its actually one of the currently featured articles. "Marie"--who I assumed to be one of the Pearl children, wrote the article. I made this assumption because other than the "letter to the editor" type stuff, I've never seen an article in "No Greater Joy" that was not written by a Pearl. But upon further investigation it appears that she is not a Pearl...though I don't know who she is then?

12:56 AM, March 02, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Have you ever read To Train Up a Child? Seems like the above mistake would be impossible if you had...

6:51 AM, March 02, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


They do not have a child named Marie.

Think your preconceived ideas might color your reading a little???

After making such a bold but completely wrong claim, it might be kind of you to correct it in a public manner, instead of quietly. I don't think it's fair at all to the Pearl family to vilify them like that, and then silently remove the post. Previous readers really ought to know the truth.

More on your other stuff later...I'm sick at the moment...

10:15 AM, March 02, 2005  
Blogger Jenn said...


Yes, I have read "To Train Up a Child." Several times. I've written many a note in the margins.


I did not "silently remove the post." My original writing is still in the post, along with my retraction statement. Above and beyond that, I went to another place where I know this quote was attributed to Pearl's daughter, and informed that poster that she was not correctly attributing the quote. Not sure how much more "public" you want me to make it?

10:39 AM, March 02, 2005  
Blogger Jenn said...

Oh...and Molly, I'm still waiting to hear where I supposedly took you out of context.

10:41 AM, March 02, 2005  
Blogger TulipGirl said...

yet He more-than-once says he spanks His children. Ummm. No.

Unless you are reading through the cultural 20th century generic-north-american-protestant glasses and assuming "discipline" and "chastise" and "correct" mean "spank."

11:52 AM, March 02, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll throw my previous post in here just for fun. Looks like it applies...

OK, I said I would get back to you – and here I am, almost a month later.

You wrote, “this notion that you aren't justifying spanking with the Bible doesn't really square with some of your comments, particularly this one: ‘Nevertheless, [spanking] is one [tool] that I have been given to use, on good Authority, and I hope that I pattern my use of the "Rod" after His.’”

Actually, what I said was, “I am not of the opinion that spanking is Biblically mandated nor do I believe that it is even Biblically ‘recommended.’” That is not the same as saying that it is not Biblically justified.

I do not believe that the Bible recommends spanking for all parents all the time. Nor do I believe that the Bible forbids spanking. Actually, the Bible has comparatively little to say, directly, about parenting at all. What the Bible does command is discipline (same root as discipleship). The question is what does that look like, particularly in the context of the parent-child relationship? For that I have to look to the perfect model for parenting – God the Father.

What do I see in Him? I see Him striking a child dead as a consequence for a father’s adultery. I see Him nearly drowning a ship full of people and sending His prophet to the depths of the sea because of the prophet’s rebellion. I see Him killing an entire family, destroying all of a man’s possessions, turning all of his friends away, and afflicting the man with horrible physical pain – and this not even as a result of specific sin in the man’s life – but rather to teach him (and us) some important things about Himself. I see a threat to kill the father of all who have faith in Jesus because of his disobedience to the covenant. I see God buffeting His choice apostle with a messenger from Satan to combat the apostle’s pride. I see Him striking two members of a fledgling church dead on the spot for a little lie about money. I see Him bringing sickness and even death on His children who continue to abuse the Lord’s New Covenant meal (to keep them from ultimately falling away due to their sin, perhaps?).

You see, it’s just not as simple as proof texting the “rod” passages of Scripture in support of or against “spanking”, because that is faulty hermeneutics whatever steps you apply. The problem is that it fails to consider the whole counsel of God on the matter.

It seems to me, based on what I have read, that anti-spanking folks often misstate the purpose of spanking, when properly applied (this begins to touch on your second question). Spanking is not punishment as payment for trespass. Spanking, properly used, is a consequence. Yes, my sins are all paid for in Christ, to that we can agree. Nevertheless, I hope we can also agree that all sin has consequence of varying degrees. Grace frees me from paying my own way, but it does not free me from the consequence of my sins. You have to grasp that concept or you will never understand my application of corporal punishment with my children.

All of what I have said folds into what I mean when I talk about properly applying spanking. However, expanding on that would take a whole lot more room than I should here. I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel and I think that Molly is doing a fine job on her blog expanding on some of what I would say anyway. If you want to know what it looks like, go check out her series on the matter.

If you don’t spank, perhaps you are a more creative, or smarter, spend more time with your kids, or are “perfect,” or God has taken you to some deeper understanding, as some have implied and stated explicitly in posts on this matter that I have read recently. Perhaps, but I am inclined to think not necessarily.

Bottom line, if it is not a tool that fits properly, don’t use it. If you do not spank your children, I am sure you have very good reasons not to, but one of them cannot be that it is contrary to Scripture.

Grace and Peace,


6:12 PM, March 02, 2005  
Anonymous Sozo said...


Good comments and I respect your honesty in admitting the scripture is pretty much neutral on the idea of spanking.

Couple of thoughts though...

"It seems to me, based on what I have read, that anti-spanking folks often misstate the purpose of spanking, when properly applied... Spanking is not punishment as payment for trespass. Spanking, properly used, is a consequence."

Not all of the "spanking is mandated" crowd claim that spanking is a payment for trespass. However some do, namely Ezzo. Given his popularity, it's not unreasonable to think that this would be an argument the anti-spankers would respond to.

"Bottom line, if it is not a tool that fits properly, don’t use it. If you do not spank your children, I am sure you have very good reasons not to, but one of them cannot be that it is contrary to Scripture."

I do think that the Bible is neutral on spanking. What I'm wondering is if we can take the same stance towards a husband administering corporal punishment to his wife. The Bible is neutral about that too, right? In what ways is the parent-child relationship different from the husband-wife relationship, such that corperal punishment is ok for one and not the other. The parent is in a position of authority over the child. The husband is in a position of authority in the marriage relationship. So what are the differences.

Note : This is just a thinking excercise. I'm not looking for an excuse to spank my wife :)

9:33 AM, March 03, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry I just saw this. Thanks for retracting your earlier statement.

I look at the relationship between the Bride of Christ and Jesus... Does he wash and cleanse her, helping her become mature? Yes? Does He ever discipline her (ie, does the NT ever refer to Him physically disciplining her as a Husband?). No.

Then look at the relationship between the Father and His children. Does He love us? Yes. Does the NT ever refer to Him disciplining us (including physically)? Yes.

I think that helps dilineate a difference.

One question--do you view all authority relationships as essentially the same (husband/wife the same as parent/child the same as boss/employee the same as elder/church-member the same as...)? If not, why?

And, other than that...what Greg said. Greg, I'm handing you my blog. Email me and I'll give you my user name and password. I just took up ten gazillion posts, to say what you said in a few paragraphs. Yeesh. You do it next time, brother...



11:55 PM, March 03, 2005  
Anonymous Sozo said...


A couple of questions/problems here.

1) Where in the N.T. does it say that God physically disciplines His children?

2) You're trying to make the analogy do too much. Just because the Father/children analogy is used to talk about God does not mean that we(as earthly) have authority/responsibility to do to our children whatever God does to his spiritual children. An analogy is generally used to make a specific similarity clearer, and we have to make sure that we understand what similarity is being "analogized"(look! i just made up a word!). Now, perhaps you have a specific analogy you're thinking of which implies that parents should disicipline as God does. And then perhaps you can tie that to physical discipline. If so, I'd like to see it.

3) Similar thing for the Christ/Church->Husband/Bride analogy. The analogies used to talk about this are not the sum total of a real, earthly, husband/wife relationship. There is much more to it than that. You can't just say "Hmmmm, I don't see this certain aspect in the analogy so therefore it can't be present in the earthly relationship".

4) I do not view all authority relationships the same, and I don't really see your point in asking. My point was what makes the parent/child, husband/wife relationship different so that corperal punishment is acceptable in one and no the other. And pointing to the analogies you did just doesn't do it.

7:27 AM, March 04, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


And here is where it always ends up, in all these sorts of conversations. It always comes back to how we view God, to how we see Him (not in part, but in whole).

You said,
"Where in the N.T. does it say that God physically disciplines His children?"

And I say,


Radical means of argumentation, I know, but it's the best I can do. :o) If you honestly cannot see God disciplining His children via physical means (in OT and NT), then... that leaves me sort of scratching my head and throwing out the big wonderfully-intellectual remark of...



2:56 PM, March 04, 2005  
Anonymous Sozo said...


How we view God depends in part on how we interpret scripture. If you knew me in real life you'd know that I am passionate about understanding scripture correctly whether I actually like that interpretation or not.

For you to ignore my explanation of how I think analogies should be used and say "Oh, it's just a difference in how we view God" really just seems like a blow off.

About the N.T. and physical punishment - since it is so obvious to you, how about giving me 2 or 3 verses from the New Testament which support the idea that God physically disciplines His children. I'll take those and write about them on my own blog and will leave this conversation alone.

10:04 PM, March 04, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm not sure you understood where I was coming from in my previous post. I am not admitting that Scripture is neutral regarding physical discipline. Nor am I saying that physical discipline is commanded. I am arguing against the notion that all physical discipline is contrary to Scripture and is in fact abuse, as some have stated in these forums.

Let me expand upon my previous comment for clarity. I said, "It seems to me, based on what I have read, that anti-spanking folks often misstate the purpose of spanking, when properly applied... Spanking is not punishment as payment for trespass. Spanking, properly used, is a consequence."

To be honest with you, I never even heard of Ezzo before I unwittingly stuck my head in this hornets' nest. The whole parenting thing was a lot more simple to me than what Ezzo tells me or GCM or anyone else.

However, what I found in some posts was that anti-spankers were projecting Ezzo's motives and teachings on all who disagreed with them, assuming that all spankers used physical discipline as a form of payment for sin. I made the statement above to point out that this is not so. I can appreciate that "this would be an argument the anti-spankers would respond to" but I would think they would respond to it when it is being made.

Anyway, I highlight my thrust again: "Bottom line ... if you do not spank your children, I am sure you have very good reasons not to, but one of them cannot be that it is contrary to Scripture."

I'm curious, regarding your question of Molly, did you read my previous post? And, what do you have against the First Testament?

Grace and Peace,


12:02 PM, March 05, 2005  
Anonymous Sozo said...


Sorry I misrepresented what you said. By "neutral" I simply meant the Scripture neither explicitly commands nor explicitly condemns spanking. Which still seems to be what you're saying so perhaps I'm being dense.

I did read your first post but I'm not sure why you're asking.

I simply asked for examples out of the N.T. because that's what Molly first referenced when she was drawing her analogy about God and His children.

2:07 PM, March 05, 2005  
Anonymous molly said...

Because Greg already referenced many. I can continue to give you more of the same, but I fail to see the point. No offense, but if you blow off what Greg has already said (which it appears you have, but maybe I'm wrong), what makes me think you will pay attention to anything I type?

Question for you, if you're up for it...maybe it will help me make more sense of your position. If you've read anything from my blog, you certainly should have an idea as to where I'm coming from, but I have yet to be enlightened as to the details of your opinions--all I really know is that you heartily disagree with mine.

!. How do you see God as a parent? How does He parent, in other words--what does it look like?

2.In what ways, if any, are we to express Him in our own earthly parenting, and in what ways, if any, are we not to express Him?

3. And...why?

11:13 AM, March 06, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, people either think Pearl's the greatest thing since sliced bread or the next Attila the Hun. There has to be some happy medium. Personally, I like a lot of his methods (first-time obedience, making ties to your children, etc.) and am lukewarm on some others (setting up children to touch a forbidden object). Then again, to each his (or her) own!


10:42 AM, May 19, 2005  

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