Fatherhood Friday: Beatnik Dad

It is wholly possible that I am a hippie. I hold the writings of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg in the highest regard. Sometimes, when I disagree with people, I try to empathize with their point of view. Among my beliefs are the legalization of weed, marriage equality for all, and gun regulation.

And I don’t beat my children.

There has been a great deal of hubbub lately about a book titled To Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl. I haven’t read it. I want to since everyone is talking about it. I feel like I should admit that little ignorance up-front. However, it’s difficult to support a book with my money when I am so greatly against what people are telling me it endorses. At the same time, it’s almost impossible to condemn the book without reading it for myself. ‘Tis a dilemma to be certain.

What’s the noise all about? Well, according to The Examiner, three sets of parents who have killed their children have been linked to methods advocated in this book.

Before I argue anything, let me say this: I do not blame a book for the deaths of three children. That’s no more useful than blaming video games for school shootings (another hot debate that I will not be getting into here). Instead, I choose to believe that people are responsible for their actions and should be held accountable. In my opinion, if parents read a book that told them to beat their kids to death (not that To Train Up A Child says that – again, I haven’t read it), the parents should be held fully accountable.

But when it happens three times it may be time to look at the book. So what does it say?

The Heart of Wisdom blog has some quotes from the text that caught my attention. Here are a few:

On pulling the hair of a breastfeeding baby (p.7).

“One particularly painful experience of nursing mothers is the biting baby. My wife did not waste time finding a cure. When the baby bit, she pulled hair (an alternative has to be sought for bald-headed babies).”

On switching their own four-month-old daughter (p.9).

At four months she was too unknowing to be punished for disobedience. But for her own good, we attempted to train her not to climb the stairs by coordinating the voice command of “No” with little spats on the bare legs. The switch was a twelve-inch long, one-eighth-inch diameter sprig from a willow tree.

On p.60 they recommend switching babies who cannot sleep and are crying, and to never allow them “to get up.”

But what of the grouch who would rather complain than sleep? Get tough. Be firm with him. Never put him down and then allow him to get up. If, after putting him down, you remember he just woke up, do not reward his complaining by allowing him to get up.For the sake of consistency in training, you must follow through. He may not be able to sleep, but he can be trained to lie there quietly. He will very quickly come to know that any time he is laid down there is no alternative but to stay put. To get up is to be on the firing line and get switched back down.

There are more. Go check out the blog to read them.

Over the last year or so I have been pretty clear about my thoughts on spanking. I’m not totally against it. I also believe that Asimov was right when he said that “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” It’s not difficult for spanking to turn into abuse, especially when it is inspired by frustration, fear, and anxiety.

I did not write this blog to condemn parents who occasionally spank their children. Nor did I write this blog to encourage it. I guess I wrote it to vent a little, as I often do.

In my own life, I have chosen to reason with my children as often as possible. This could be the worst idea I have ever had. I don’t know yet. We’ll find out I suppose. If my children grow up to be crazy crackheads then I guess I screwed up. If, however, my girls sprout into talented, intelligent women, and I never had to beat them, then maybe – just maybe – it’s possible for everyone else to do the same. I know that because I am along the bottom of the intelligence barrel; if I can do it, you can too.

I enjoy violence. It might be sickness, really. I love violent films and violent books and violent comics and violent music. I used to enjoy fighting as a kid. I often believe that some people need to get punched in the face. But violence (even spanking – and yes, that is violence) toward babies? No. Toddlers? Doubtful. Kids? Perhaps. Let me be as clear as possible: If you beat your children, especially newborns, you are a piece of shit and should be thrown in prison without ever seeing your kids again – but that’s just my opinion.

We all have the right to raise our children as we see fit. You do what you want, I’ll do what I want, and let’s both take responsibility for our actions.

As for that book? I won’t be getting it. I won’t be blaming it. I wont’ be writing about it any more. These days I prefer my violence to be fiction.

03 FatherhoodFridays