To Train Up a Child

27 August 2011

A recent article in the DomPost drew attention to a book written by Michael and Debi Pearl in the United States.  The book promotes the use of implements on a child to “train” the child to behave as his or her parents want.  The premise appears to be that children can be trained to behave as an adult wishes through the infliction of pain when a child misbehaves or is disobedient.  Behind this unfortunate scenario seems to be the authors’ justification that the Bible requires parents to physically punish children.

Children learn to behave over time when they are loved, secure, developmentally ready, understand what is wanted of them and their good behavior is noticed and appreciated.   To suggest that a baby or young child makes a connection between what they are or are not doing and the pain that is being inflicted on them is to invest the young child with capacities he or she does not yet have.  Modern neuroscience informs us that experiences of violence severely damage normal brain development essential for social and emotional health.  There is a great deal of research available nowadays indicating that physical punishment of children at any age is clearly linked to poor outcomes in children. 

Even more horrifying is the notion that if the child's “will” is not broken by infliction of pain, more pain is indicated. The following links tell a very sad story and remind us that child abuse deaths are often the unintended outcome of physical discipline.