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.

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.

Previous Post Potpourri!

Busy day, today (spending it with the family after being absent for much of this week) and what’s on my mind at present I would rather wait until tomorrow to discuss.  So today I present a Previous Post Potpourri!  The following links are those that seemed to catch someone’s fancy in the last few weeks or so (call them “reruns” if you will).  I’ve thrown in a few new links for some added benefit.  And, as a bonus at the end, I give you my highly anticipated, very technical, and thoroughly exhaustive review of Apple’s new iPad.

  • The State of the Union speech hasn’t changed my opinion of the state of our union, I’m afraid, and I still believe that Peggy Noonan really did a fair job of hitting the nail on the head in her October 29, 2009 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.  I discussed it in my post “A Nation Run by Callous Children” and will note, here, that you will see a similar theme in her piece published online today, “The Obama Contradiction.”
  • It generated more talk on Facebook than it did out here on the blog, methinks, but it’s apparently an issue many are talking about: “Spanking bans, good idea or not?”
  • Yes, my children will be taking over the chess world soon.  We discussed their marvelous and innovative chess strategies here.
  • The post “‘Avatar’ and, believe it or not, 2012” on worldwide academic acclaim for providing a much-needed phrase to the English language: “naked space smurfs.”
  • I’ve been linking to the Living Church of God’s countdown of 2009’s most downloaded items, and I realize now that I have missed the publishing of #8 & #7.  Here they are!Top 10 Website Downloads in 2009: #8 (click here) & #7 (click here)

And, finally, as I promised, I present my exhaustive, in-depth technological review of Apple’s new iPad:  Bleh. It’s just a giant iPhone.

(My apologies for the technological lingo I had to employ in that extensive review.  Some nuanced concepts can only be communicated through the specialized and somewhat esoteric words that are specific to a technical field.)

That’s it, and I apologize that you had to sit through this post — I’m in a bit of an odd mood, today, and I suppose my posting reflects it!

Have a wonderful Sabbath!

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Spanking bans, good idea or not?

The title above refers to the choice of some nations to completely outlaw spanking as a tool for discipline for parents.  The choice is generally made by leaders and legislators who equate any spanking at all — any sort of corporal punishment — with child abuse.

I clearly do not feel the same way.  Now, I certainly do feel that if spanking is the only tool a parent has for disciplining a child, he or she is an ineffective parent, indeed.  And I feel that choosing to spank takes wisdom.  (How many aspects of child-rearing do not?)  But to completely equate the spanking of a child by a parent to child abuse without any qualification whatsoever is ignorant at best and dogmatically stupid at worst.

I’ve written about this topic before.  Most directly, you can read my thoughts in these two posts:

But I mention it now because of a Wall Street Journal article I read on the topic that is really balanced, discussing the scientifically demonstrated benefits to children of appropriate spanking and the mistaken thoughts of those who believe spanking is all there is to disciplining children.  You might consider reading it yourself: “Spare the spanking, spoil the report card?” (Subtitle: “What a new study and the Bible say about punishing children.”)

Reading the article should be encouraging to those who believe that spanking is a valid tool for parents who are devoted to rearing successful, happy children, while also serving as a warning to those who wield it unthinkingly and unreflectively.

Actually, it reminded me of another article I had read in, of all places, the Akron Law Review: “The Science and Statistics Behind Spanking Suggest that Laws Allowing Corporal Punishment are in the Best Interests of the Child” by Jason M. Fuller.  (The website contains the abstract of the paper, but the entire paper is downloadable from there.)

As these articles make it clear, those countries that ban spanking outright really have no idea what they are doing and may end up harming more children than they help.

I’ve discussed before other things my wife and I have done instead of spanking (e.g., “Children in Church Services” and “Twilight and Children in Church sure bring ’em in!”), but I readily and happily admit that spanking has also been among our tools in child-rearing.  It’s certainly a topic that deserves more discussion than this blog post will give it, but I really thought that the WSJ article and the Akron Law Review article were both worth passing along.

We have great resources on the Tomorrow’s World website, as well, including our booklet “Successful Parenting God’s Way” and many articles, such as this one by the late evangelist John H. Ogwyn, “What Is Happening to Our Kids?” (which I found by doing a search on the word “discipline”).  Check them out!

(Click to read or order free booklet, "Successful Parenting God's Way"