Sweden’s brats

I get some flack from time to time here on the Internet because I am not opposed to corporal punishment of children by their parents when done in a loving and appropriate manner.

(Aside: Yes, I know… Some of you who will come across this post believe that “loving, appropriate corporal punishment” is one big oxymoron, and my own reflections and observations on my own upbringing are a lie my heart whispers to me. Got it. Also, some of you who will come across this like to say “hitting children” instead of “spanking” because you think equivocation is a great way to win arguments without actually making your case. Got it. Thanks for playing.)

It’s a topic that I visit from time to time. Some related posts that come to mind (rather, that pop out of a textual search on my blog) would be…

It came to mind, this morning, when I read this Wall Street Journal piece: “Is Sweden Raising a Generation of Brats?” (article may be behind a pay wall or require registration, I am not sure).

In 1979 Sweden became the first country to make spanking children completely illegal on a national scale. Consequently, the current state of its “social experiment” is of interest to many–and, as I will try to make sure I mention, erroneous conclusions will surely be drawn by both sides of the issue (or by all three/four/five/etc. sides of the issue–in case I missed anyone). So what is going on with Sweden’s children?

Well, apparently if you ask Dr. David Eberhard, they are being turned into undisciplined tyrants who are increasingly running their families and the country. That seems to be the thrust of his book How Children Took Power, published last year.

Dr. Eberhard is a Swedish psychologist and father of six, and his book is apparently splitting the sentiment of Swedes down the middle. And, to be clear, he isn’t necessarily saying that spanking should be allowed again in Sweden; rather, he is arguing that the child-centric policy of the country is ruining children, families, and their society. As the WSJ reports:

“Dr. Eberhard says Sweden’s child-centric model has ‘gone too far’ and his book suggests the over-sensitivity to children and a reluctance to discipline has bred a nation of ouppfostrade, which loosely translates to ‘badly raised children.’ ‘All this kowtowing to the kids actually causes kids and society more harm than good,’ Dr. Eberhard said in an interview. He suggests the trend could contribute to higher anxiety levels or depression at a later stage in life for these children.”

He admits that his book is not based on particular scientific studies but, rather, on his own observations:

“Core to Dr. Eberhard’s argument is his observation of an increase in anxiety disorders and self-harming problems as Swedish children get older and find themselves ‘poorly equipped to deal with adult life,’ he says. Dr. Eberhard is head of the psychiatric ward at Danderyds Sjukhus, a hospital north of Stockholm.”

Again, to be clear, he says, “I’m not advocating going back to slapping (sic) kids,” lest anyone say I am trying to imply he does. Rather, he ties what he sees into a much larger modern, cultural package that has enthroned children at their own expense.

However, do I believe that the move Sweden made to ban loving, appropriate spanking under any circumstances is a symptom of the attitude that has caused the mess that Swedes are beginning to see? Yes, I do.

Could the good doctor be wrong? Certainly. One teacher outside of Stockholm is quoted by the WSJ as saying, “The kids of today, who are the children of parents who did not experience much discipline themselves, become very obstinate and self-centered,” but, you know, maybe she’s wrong, too. Some who point to what seems to be a deteriorating childhood culture in Sweden will want to fix on the ban on spanking as “the” cause, while others who believe permissiveness is a virtue and that restraints on childhood wants and passions in violations of their rights as, what Sweden calls, “competent individuals” (in contradiction to Proverbs’ statement that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child”) will look for what silver linings they can point to, instead, and proclaim victory.

For me, it isn’t just one thing (extreme anti-spanking fanaticism), but one thing (extreme anti-spanking fanaticism) can serve as a telling symptom indicating the possible presence of much larger and more destructive issues (anti-children worldviews masquerading as pro-children worldviews).

The ramifications of some choices can take a lot of time to show themselves. Child-rearing philosophies? Sometimes multiple generations. And, whether they will be happy with the results in the end or not, multiple generations of Swedish citizens are apparently serving as the world’s lab rats concerning a minimal-discipline philosophy. Barely two generations in, the real results–the full results–are yet to be seen.

However, it should get our attention that in a nation which we have often identified as one of the ten tribes of Israel, possibly Naphthali, some are seeing a trend that is reminiscent of the prophecy of Isaiah 3:12, “As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths.” Regardless, another prophecy of Israel comes to mind, where God says of those who abandon His laws and way of life, “Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb” (Deut 28:18, ESV). When a nation completely abandons God as a guiding light and trusts in its own wisdom apart from Him (Prov. 3:7), its children are going to suffer.

11 thoughts on “Sweden’s brats

  1. This was a good post with some interesting thoughts. As a foster parent for years, I had to maneuver around spankings. It was unlawful to spank a foster child in your care. While a loving swat to the backside would have taken less time and creativity, there are some ways around it. There in is the problem with some; they don’t want to spank but they don’t want to come up with an alternative either and thus the children get no discipline at all or a screaming and ranting parent that teaches the child that when you are perplexed, you just let it out at the top of your vocal cords. In other words we teach the kids to throw a tantrum.

  2. An exact phrase search for “best commercial ever steph l” on YouTube will bring up one of these brats selling yet another problematic ideology. (Viewer discretion is advised on the surrounding context of videos which will appear, which is why I haven’t posted this link directly.)

  3. Steve

    I’m not a psychologist or statistic expert. But I’m old enough to have actually seen the fruits of different parenting styles. The wild child who grew up in an overly permissive home always turned into a dysfunctional adult with problems. Guess their parents didn’t love them enough to show them how to grow up. The abused child who got slapped or hit for the smallest infraction turned into a hostile adult who got in trouble with the law. Guess their parents treated them like a piece of unwanted furniture.

    Kids are not little adults. They’re kids. They need structure, training, and discipline (gasp) in their lives. Otherwise they grow up confused, not knowing or experiencing how to be a grown up. And they need loving parents, involved in their lives, showing them and teaching, because those children are the most precious things in their lives.

  4. I have run across only one school of psychology which makes a lick of sense to me, and a big reason it does is that it shows the natural roles of adult, parent, and child (among others) are inherent, even “archetypal”, in the normal human psyche. But to make full sense of the empirical observations and the models which explain them, one still has to put them in a truly biblical context – and when I did, I was stunned (as if I weren’t enough already) at how anti-God and anti-family “the world, the flesh and the Devil” really are.

    So what do we do? We yield to those influences and think they’ll make no difference on how our personality and character grow. What a bitter lesson humanity is writing in the pages of history.

  5. This is a good commentary on a sad subject. I watched as one of these “lab rats” was turned into such a brat that by the time he was age 8, even his own grandmother did not want to be around her only grandkid. The video John pointed out is an example of this boy, who died age 29 in a single car alcoholic “accident.”

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  7. Yes some parents including some Swedish parents are to blame for their children’s bad behavior but since it appears that the Swedish government restricts or severely restricts on how parents and probably even teachers can punish or discipline kids and that 13 year olds in Sweden are too young to be charged with murder and perhaps other crimes ( if I’m not misinformed) I therefore in many ways blame the Swedish government for poor even delinquent behavior of some youths.It’s possible that some Swedish parents will physically punish or discipline their kids and if someone informs them that it’s a crime they may argue by feeling that ‘we will raise our children the way we see fit and as long as the government isn’t raising our children and as long we are not going overboard on how we punish or discipline our kids we don’t always have to listen to what the government says or the government has no business telling us how to raise our kids.’

    Though I trust it’s unlikely but I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Sweden’s government forces people to get attached,be buddy buddy (don’t take it literally) and even “bend over backwards” to please kids living in or visiting Sweden who have bratty tendencies or are difficult to connect with.If that were the case the Swedish government is acting more unreasonable and unjust so I therefore wouldn’t blame citizens for disobeying the Swedish government if they create such a ludicrous law.

    Finally though I don’t reside in that country the thing is that being upset at that country’s government is one of the reasons why I choose not to do certain things for Swedish even non-Swedish youths that are troublemakers and if necessary to mention I’m not against Sweden what I’m against is some of the Swedish government’s laws and or policies.

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