Friday, September 07, 2012

Parenting & the Super Religious

Latebloomer from the NLQ Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network is working on a series right now based upon reviewing the parenting advice in Reb Bradley's book 'Child Training Tips' 

She's done an outstanding job so far on this topic and I have to admit it triggers me just a bit. Triggers some of my experiences back in the old church.

During my years in Fundamentalism Evangelicalism I never encountered Reb Bradley's book. The one that was pushed upon me constantly was Michael and Debi Pearl's "To Train Up A Child". I read through it once, horror-struck by the suggestions in the book, finding it ridiculously harsh and thinking that raising your children like little obeying robots wasn't going to be doing society any good. Now it would certainly give the kids some horrifying and ridiculous things to take some therapist one day. The book went against everything I'd learned about child development and child abuse through my job training at the time. After reading it I decided the book was such a bunch of nonsense that I threw it in the trash instead of passing it on to someone else or donating it to Goodwill.

Turns out there's been a number of cases involving the deaths of children whose parents chose to use the discipline advice of the Pearls. Tragic but not completely unexpected. I still know a number of people from my old church that used the Pearl's child rearing advice and I can't say any of their children turned out any better than those that were raised by other methods.

Looking back on all this I have to conclude that the sects that use these extreme child discipline methods don't value children in any way, treating them more as a nuisance or problem to be handled with no nonsense at all. Birth as many of those kids as possible but start punishing them for being 'sinners' early on. Makes me wonder if they remember that Jesus said that you had to be like a little child to inherit the kingdom. Why would He mention little children and say that He wanted those little children to come to Him if they are born so inherently evil?

They seek to quash any creative thinking or learning or personality. Everyone of them has to be fitted into the mold even if they don't fit at all. It does a huge disservice to both child and parent and breaks whatever natural bonds there should be between parent and child.

So why am I being triggered? Because I used to be criticized/scolded/talked too/whatever in my old church about my parenting skills. It started right when we joined the church because of a health crisis with Laura.  It all started when at 4 years old Laura contracted ITP and the treatment with biologic medicine led to her developing meningitis. I'd rushed Laura from the doctors office straight to UVA Hospital where they were waiting for us in the ER. I left with nothing, no clothes for either of us, nothing but the clothes on our backs.

I remember that drive, a little more than seventeen years ago. I remember driving through the Virginia Piedmont on a summer day much like this one. Extreme heat and extreme sunshine. I was struggling not to shriek and cry as I drove through the Charlottesville rush hour traffic near the university. I'd been told at our local doctors office that Laura had dangerously low platelets and they didn't know why but it was highly possible it could be leukemia. The trip took just over an hour but it seemed like it took forever. Looking back I know I shouldn't have driven I was such an emotional wreck, we should have gone down by ambulance.

We spent a total of nearly two weeks in that hospital and almost lost Laura a few times before it was discovered she had ITP followed by meningitis. Her platelet count was under 4,000. During that two weeks I stayed by her bedside, the only time I left was to go out once to buy her a robe, socks and slippers and a change of clothes plus toothbrush for myself. We'd been members of our new church a few months and they knew what was going on but not one person in that time frame once called to inquire how things went or to offer to bring me a toothbrush or change of clothes or anything. I should have taken that as a warning as to what they were all about.

I guess I should admit that I did a capacious amount of bargaining with God during that time. Begging Him to afflict me if He'd just heal my child. Crazy thoughts, crazy prayers.

And I have to give UVA hospital a big shout out. The childrens wing that Laura was in had all serious cases like hers and there was a small galley stocked with sandwiches, drinks, fruit, etc and a washer and drying for use by the parents. There was a nice lounge for the parents at the end of the hall with pastries and coffee open at all hours. Perfect place when it all started to get overwhelming and you had to step away. Talked to many parents in the lounge and many were from other states or far away parts of Virginia, came like I did with the clothes on their backs to this hospital. The other wonderful thing that wing had was a learning playroom staffed with an accredited educator that had nursing training as well. The only time I could get Laura to allow me to leave her side was when that room was open. We'd walk down there, me pushing her IV equipment and she'd rush in to play with the sand table. 

Once Laura was out of the hospital I still had to bring her in every week for a platelet count and treatment when it was low. Her health was up and down for a full year that initial bout. As a result of everything we'd been through together Laura ended up being clingy, wanting to be with Mommy all of the time. I felt the same way, I wanted her with me all the time. She was my little shadow for some two or three years after that hospitalization.

And that's where I started getting gobs of unsolicited parenting advice from those around me at the church. Many times I would be sitting in the pew with Laura and I huddled together listening to the sermon or whatever and I'd see the occasional disapproving glare,  not understanding exactly what that was about. Then later that person would approach and tell me I 'babied' or 'coddled' or 'spoiled' my child and she was manipulating me. At first I shrugged it off, knowing that they had no way of knowing just how scared of being sick again Laura was or how fragile her health was.

Then the copies of "TTUAC" started being handed to me. I still shudder thinking that they thought I should be spanking with a plumbing pipe a kid with low platelets. Eventually they stopped trying to get me to conform to their parenting standards but I'm sure they all clucked behind my back. I had no intention of harming my kids and none of them realized that I raised my kids using the Love & Logic books, making sure if there was bad behavior then there would be a logical discipline.

How did that work? Easy. Example. The first time Andy and Laura acted naughty during a shopping trip I gave them a warning that if they kept it up we'd just leave. They did, I did. They learned very quickly that when I said something I meant it. When I took them out of the store I merely said, "Well, it's too bad you can't get XYZ this week because we had the leave the store.. I'm sorry that you didn't get that XYZ."  Very much in control, no anger, even a little empathy for the child suffering the consequences of the behavior. I never had to leave a grocery store with them again. No physical discipline.

Have I been a perfect parent? Oh hell no! I've made my share of mistakes, but I think I did an okay job without making my kids terrified of me or physically abusing them. Laura is now a beautiful, outgoing smart 21 year old finishing up her business degree at George Mason and Andy is 24, has a good job while still working on the last few things on his degree.

For the life of me I cannot understand how anyone that loves their kids can possible justify hurting them physically from a young age. I do not get it and I find it reprehensible.

1 comment:

Retha said...

I believe they do not like their children, by their behavior. It is a general truth that if you have too much of something, you do not treat it respectfully. That is among the reasons why crime is higher in megacities - with so many people you do not know, it is harder to see individual people matter.

It is hard to see each individual child matter, where couples have 6 or 10 children...