April 16, 2021

Do You Abuse Your Child?

There is a fine line between discipline and abuse.  Many good parents never cross the line.  Some do when they let emotions control them.

My pastor says that the line is when you stray from applying discipline where “God gave you extra padding.”  In California, the Assembly again has a bill that goes a bit further:

The bill targets people who “willfully” inflict “unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering” on a child.

The bill says physical pain and mental suffering are presumed to be unjustifiable in cases where certain “implements” are used, including a stick, a rod, a switch, an electrical cord, an extension cord, a belt, a broom, or a shoe.

The bill says it is also unjustifiable to throw, kick, burn or cut a child; strike a child with a closed fist; strike a child under the age of three on the face or head; vigorously shake a child under the age of three; interfere with a child’s breathing; or threaten a child with a deadly weapon.

A lot of these are definitely abuse.  The last few– with shaking– can cause severe brain damage.

My question is, how does one define mental suffering?  I believe that this is the part that would make any and all spanking for the purpose of disciplining illegal.  It would become up to the court to decide whether mental suffering was inflicted and whether or not it was justifiable.  Let’s just say we’d see a whole new round of parents being brought to court by their children.

Which brings us back to the tough question– just who exactly do the children belong to?

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18 thoughts on “Do You Abuse Your Child?

  1. My parents always taught me the difference between abuse and discipline is motivation. If you are motivated out of anger, frustration, etc., it’s time to cool down and step back from the situation. If your motivation is the well being of the child (inflict a little pain now to teach them to avoid real pain later) then you’re probably ok. Most parents (not all) whose motivation is pure and loving won’t do most of the things in that list that you’ve posted.

    AG’s last blog post..Fireball

  2. It’s much easier to have those views than it is to hold them. 🙂 It’s actually a good test of character– because most of the time you’re overtired, tired of the routine, and they constantly test you. The important thing to remember is that you’re there to help them, to train them, to love them. You have to have planned before the incident happens so that you’ll react rationally. You have to have the punishment fit the crime. You also have to enforce your rules. If you tell them something, do it, don’t warn them 30 more times.

    It’s a lot more work than it looks!

  3. THANK YOU! It drives me nuts when parents threaten their children with punishment and never follow through. Arg.


    If you’re too emotional to be godly while disciplining your children, then you need to wait and discipline them in half an hour or whenever you can do it in a godly way.

    I agree that you need to have preset punnishments. Children need to know where the boundaries are and what the consequences of overstepping them are.

    AG’s last blog post..Fireball

  4. The hardest part about waiting is that if you don’t do it right away it’s hard to tie the “crime” to the “discipline.” So, you definitely have to be prepared, and you definitely have to be consistent.

    As a coworker of mine once said, don’t tell them to do something if you aren’t ready to do something if they don’t. Choose your battles, and enforce every command you give.

    Too often we’re laze, give commands repeatedly because it’s easier than disciplining.

  5. The older the child is, the easier it is to link the crime to the discipline. It’s mostly with younger children that you need to discipline immediately.

    Also, if you’re not afraid to confess to your children that the anger you feel isn’t godly and you need to take ten minutes to pray, then come back and discipline them, I think it is an amazing witness to your children. Even after the fact, if you’ve acted harshly, tell them “Daddy (or Mommy) didn’t obey God when I yelled at you (or whatever you did). I’ll try not to be disobedient again. Will you forgive me?”

    AG’s last blog post..Fireball

  6. AG, I guess I see things based on where I am with my parenting. Having younger children, you tend to have more “incidents” and need to react because most of the time the kids can’t remember what happened this morning, let alone why they “didn’t get a candy in Children’s Church” today. I’m sure that the classic “Just wait until your father gets home” works when the children are older, but if you don’t have a good system of discipline in place (however you choose to discipline) when they are young, it just makes things harder as they get older.

    Christine, you’re right, California is a strange place. What we have to watch out for, however, is that a lot of what starts there spreads to the whole country.

  7. I’m not knocking an organized system. I’m all for it. But if your choice is between disciplining in an ungodly manner or disciplining after some time has elapsed, I think the Christlike choice is to discipline after some time as elapsed.

    AG’s last blog post..Fireball

  8. Understood. What I’m trying to say that if the goal of your discipline is to actually make a difference, you’re more likely to make that difference with younger children if you don’t wait too long after the infraction.

  9. Agreed.

    But you’ve got to be mindful of if you’re making a good difference or a bad difference. If you’ve got a temper and you know it, be aware of that when you discipline your children. If it gets out of hand, tag team their other parent to discipline and you get out of it. Having pre-determined punnishments seems like the way to go here, also.

    AG’s last blog post..Shout to the Lord

  10. I can get behind the tag-team to a point. If you’re not careful with the tag team you may find that the child respects one adult and not the other.

    Mothers that stay at home are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to this area because they have far more time around the children. Fathers that work have the “luxury” of not having as much time where they have to be consistent, so they are more often respected more than moms (unfortunately).

    I say all that to say that Father’s have a big responsibility to use this respect to reinforce the mom rather than squander this respect to make yourself feel like the parent the kids like!

  11. Dads should have more respect anyway, because they should have their wives’ respect. The trick is to be sure the child sees the parents as a team. I very clearly remember growing up that my parents did their best to work together and when they disagreed my mom deferred to my dad. That didn’t show me a weakness between them. Rather, it showed me the strength of their team.

    AG’s last blog post..Shout to the Lord

  12. Unfortunately, AG, this is the way that it should work, but it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes the husband can become “just another one of the kids.” It’s wrong, but it happens.

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