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.

Alberta considering draconian, anti-family “tolerance” law

I just read an alert in the weekly update I receive from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) that described a chilling law the Canadian province of Alberta is looking to pass.

Here’s a summary from the HSLDA which includes what appears to be a quote from the bill:

The legislative proposal known as Bill 2 in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta would explicitly require that all instructional materials “reflect the diverse nature and heritage of society in Alberta, promote understanding and respect for others and honour and respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act.” The bill further requires not only public schools, but also private schools and homeschools to comply with these requirements (§ 1 “interpretation of school”).

The alert also includes this quote from Alberta Minister of Education, Thomas Lukaszuk:

“Whatever the nature of schooling—homeschool, private school, Catholic school—we do not tolerate disrespect for differences.”

…and this quote from his assistant director for communications, Donna McColl:

“Whatever the nature of schooling—homeschool, private school, Catholic school—we do not tolerate disrespect for differences… You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life; you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction.”

Please understand: I’m not one to jump at conspiracy theories, and I hear my share. I’m not one who believes all the governmental “Straw Man” arguments, 501(c)(3) lunacy, etc. But these comments should be chilling to anyone who cherishes their ability to act on God’s command in Deuteronomy 6:6-7,

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

English: self authored by chen siyuan. release...
Teaching your kids that certain behaviors are sin? The Alberta Legislature might have something to say about that... (Image via Wikipedia)

Actually, these comments are both disturbing and revealing in a number of ways. For instance, it seems to make a magical distinction between “family life” and education and instruction–the exact opposite of what Deuteronomy 6 says, which describes instruction as interwoven with family life, teaching as you sit, walk by the way, lie down, rise up. Those who think that “family life” and “educational life” are two completely distinct things have fallen for a lie meant to weaken the family. (Not that they invented the lie or purpose to do wrong in their heart. It is from the father of lies, and those who believe it often think they are doing people a service.)

Also, it forces families schooling their children at home to be hypocrites. For instance, if Alberta decides that tolerance for homosexuality should be taught and the parents believe that it is a sin, the parents are somehow supposed to teach “affirm in their family life” that the the choice to engage in homosexual practices is to be avoided as displeasing to God and not to be respected as an allowable choice on the one hand while simultaneously actively teaching that homosexual lifestyles are to be respected and upheld as just as good as proper sexual relations within marriage.

(It would be nice if Alberta allowed that a family could teach that truly respecting a person doesn’t mean one has to tolerate the presence of sin in their lives but that, quite the contrary, truly loving a person means being willing to warn them about the dangers of that sin in their lives and describing that sin for what it truly is: something noxious to their Creator. If someone in Alberta could help me see that this is what they mean by “respect,” I’d be much obliged.)

Of course, the comments are also irrational and misleading. After all, “disrespect for differences” is all over the place in both law and common society and is widely approved. Those who differ from the rest of us on how ownership should be understood are arrested when they steal. Those who differ on what constitutes “consent” in sexual matters are still arrested when they break applicable laws. How are those differences “respected”? It is a matter of what differences the government gives you the right to disrespect, of course–part of the ungodly idea that government determines right and wrong instead of God. The words “right and wrong” may be removed from the discussion, but they are implicitly present all the time in such legislation. As better men than me have noted, proclamations of government and legislature are inherently moral in spirit and tone and it is folly to pretend otherwise. This is often all the more blatant in laws dealing with education.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

As English literary giant Samuel Johnson once noted, “The supreme end of education is expert discernment in all things–the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the good and genuine to the bad and counterfeit.” Alberta’s proposed bill seeks to rob from parents the right to teach their own children how to distinguish the good from the bad and how to prefer the good and genuine to the bad and counterfeit. And worse still, it seeks to force parents to be the instruments of the state in indoctrinating their own children in the government’s ideas about what is good and bad–forcing the parents to be agents in teaching their children to believe things they do not themselves believe. How satanic.

More could be said, but I don’t have much more time–and it’s probably best that way, as my ire would probably keep me going for a while. As I have said many a time here on my blog, I am not political in the sense that I do not participate in the political life of any country (e.g., I do not vote, do not endorse political candidates, do not seek to affect legislation) — nor does anyone who shares my faith. I believe that Christ has called me out of that. But sighing and crying over the state of things is another matter (cf. Ezekiel 9:4), as is crying aloud about them (Isaiah 58:1) and looking forward to being empowered with Christ at His return to make a real, lasting difference (2 Cor. 10:4-6, Rev. 20:4, 6).

Unless HSLDA has done the worst job humanly possible in describing Alberta’s Bill 2, it truly does represent a horrendous moral attack on the integrity of the family, homeschooling or not, and for the sake of those families living in our wonderful neighbor to the north who are striving to teach their children godly morals that go against the grain of government-approved values, I pray that the bill fails. And I pray, too, that politicians in our own country don’t get any ideas.

French Moms and Social Psychologist Silliness

Česky: Eiffelova věž z Martova pole Deutsch: D...
Should parents shout, "Vive la France"? (Image via Wikipedia)

This weekend, I read the Wall Street Journal’s wonderful article “Why French Moms are Superior” by Pamela Druckerman, who has written a book with the same theme (Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting) that is being published today. It seems to be similar in spirit to the recent “Tiger Mom” fad, inspired by Amy Chua’s book about the benefits her daughters had gained from her Chinese (versus nominally Western) approach to parenting.

Those who think such books are simply a matter of the horrific “Let’s adopt the practices of other cultures because everything truly American stinks” should think again, because they are not necessarily so. Judging by her WSJ article, Mrs. Druckerman’s discoveries in France match the parenting techniques and approaches that I have seen in many happy households here in the U.S. — frankly, many biblical approaches to parenting, that, indeed, are shamefully lacking on this side of the Atlantic. For instance, there is a focus on real parental authority in the home, “discipline” as training and not just as punishment, being loving but firm and expecting obedience, not seeing good parents as those who are “at the constant service of their children” (which, in reality, does a disservice to those children).

Reactions to the article and the book have varied, some good and some stupid.  Closer to the latter end of that spectrum were some of the reactions I saw in a Yahoo! “Shine” item on the book, “Are French Women the New Tiger Mothers?” provided by a “social psychologist” who “specializes in parenting.”

For instance, here’s the beginning of one such instance:

“While you can’t blame parents for everything, some popular parenting practices aren’t worth adapting. A 2003 poll found that 84 percent of French parents admit to slapping or spanking their child.”

You have to love that choice of word, “admit.” Interesting how the choice of a single word can make spanking seem like something one should be ashamed of, isn’t it? After all, who would say, “Yes, I admit that I kiss my wife on the cheek every morning”?

Expect the standard (false) equivocation: spanking = abuse. And to deliver on our expectation, the article provides the social psychologist “expert”:

“Anytime you hit or spank a child, you are teaching them that that’s acceptable behavior,” Susan Newman, Ph.D., a social psychologist who specializes in parenting, tells Shine. “There’s study after study that says abused children have the potential to become abusers themselves. From my thinking there’s no excuse for a parent hitting their child.”

Did you catch the switch? The move from “spank” to “abuse”? I’m glad that she qualified that last sentence with a “From my thinking” — that’s more qualification than most give.

(I’ve posted on spanking before — here and here. The “spanking = abuse” scam is one of the most damaging aspects of our society’s approaches to child rearing.)

But the “good advice well” in the article had not yet run dry…

But there are some things we can teach the world, too. “American parents are known for putting their children first,” says Newman. “As a result, children overall feel and know they’re special.”

This is a bit ambiguous, so I’d love to give our “expert” the benefit of a doubt as to what she really means. But does this mean putting the children’s “needs” at the very top of the family’s needs? If so, then it’s contributing to part of our society’s problems not the solutions.  If spanking them supposedly turns them into abusive monsters (it doesn’t), then why doesn’t making sure the children’s desires come first in everything turn them into narcissistic little entitlement monsters (it does)? We suffer from a terrible “I’m special and the world owes me” entitlement mentality in younger people today, thanks to the insidious influence of Darth Rogers. (Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. Mister Rogers was a sweet fellow. But read the article at the link for what I’m talking about.) And families have been ruined by the choices some parents make in putting their children’s wants ahead of even the health of their marriage, ironically and tragically sacrificing the most important foundation children need in the name of those same children.

If anyone reads the article or book for himself or herself, feel free to leave your comments below. But, as the above comments demonstrate, don’t expect it to be reviewed sensibly by a society that may see some of its most cherished “sacred cows” offered up as barbecue.