I recently heard a sermon about children that didn’t sit well with me. I held my breath through it waiting for the pastor to get to “discipline” a.k.a punishment in most Christian circles.
While he didn’t come right out and talk about spanking/hitting children, his words and phrases implied spanking such as:
”This is gonna hurt me more than you.”
“When a football player gets a penalty, they get it and then move on to the next play.”
“Sixty seconds of pain helps prevent sixty years of disappointment.”
And he cited James Dobson a couple times in his sermon which anyone familiar with Dobson knows that he advocates spankings and other harsh punishment for children.
It’s sad that he even mentioned the children in the sanctuary looking like, “oh no, not discipline” as true discipline should not make children squirm in their seats. As I have pointed out a great deal throughout my book and this blog, yes, discipline can be painful as children learn how their actions affected another person or when they don’t get something that they really wanted. But discipline never inflicts pain on a child!
So, does 60 seconds of pain really help prevent 60 years of disappointment?
In my experience, no, it does not. Yeah, I was abused, but even people who were spanked/hit “lovingly” experience disappointment throughout their lives. Why? Because disappointment is a part of life.
If anything, being spanked and punished makes it harder to deal with disappointment because it doesn’t teach us how to handle it in a healthy manner. For example, spanking/hitting a toddler for either not accepting a limit or getting very upset about it doesn’t teach them how to handle disappointment. It just makes them more upset and confused. They either lash out more, which will end in more spanking/hitting and/or other punishment or it teaches the toddler that his/her feelings don’t matter. This can lead them to lash out as adults or repress their feelings as adults when disappointment comes their way. It can lead to real problems in their lives.
The pastor used an example for this “sixty seconds of pain” concept of a child that was permissively parented and ended up in prison. Yes, permissive parenting also sets up children to not be able to handle life’s disappointments in an unhealthy way. If they always get what they want in childhood, then they will probably get very angry as adults when things don’t go how they want.
The problem is that trying to imply that if you don’t spank/hit children they will become criminals is very erroneous. The fact is that the majority of prisoners were physically punished as children! Violent parenting makes children feel powerless. This can lead some to use aggression as adults to get what they want as that is what their parents did to them.
The rest of the prison population is usually permissively parented.
Pain makes us angry, sad, confused, and anxious. Why would you set up children to experience pain from you in order to “prevent” sixty years of disappointment? It makes no sense.
Disappointments happen from birth and its our job to get on their level and say, “I’m so sorry you are sad, frustrated, and disappointed. This is the way it has to be but I am here to help you.” Teach them healthy ways of expressing their disappointments by giving them words, encouraging art expression, using music, petting an animal, reading a book–anything productive that truly helps them.
The number one thing we can do to prepare children for disappointment is to show them that we are there for them and will listen to them. Teach them that they can always count on us and God. Because sixty seconds of pain will never prevent sixty years of disappointment.