Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Biblical" Parenting, Conclusion

This is the final part of a series of posts reviewing Reb Bradley's book "Child Training Tips".
Read the introduction here.
Read criticism #1 here.
Read criticism #2 here.
Read criticism #3 here.

Read criticism #4 here.

To briefly review, my first criticism of Reb Bradley's book "Child Training Tips" discussed the way his advice pushed parents toward the worst possible interpretation of their child's behavior at the expense of mercy and understanding.  My second criticism looked at the extreme level of control that parents are urged to have over their child's mind and body, which can prevent the child from maturing and can put the parent at risk of developing abusive habits.  My third criticism looked at the shockingly broad definition of rebellion and the abusive use of spanking to force children to change their opinions and feelings.  My fourth criticism discussed how isolation weakens families by removing other sources of support, and how isolation negatively affects children's social and emotional development.  Now here is my conclusion:



To parents:


Being a parent is incredibly challenging, and the constant stream of conflicting advice about parenting only adds confusion to the challenge.  There's an extra level of stress for many devout Christian parents because raising upstanding citizens is not enough for them; they also desperately want their children to share their faith and religious convictions.  It's not surprising that even good and caring Christian parents could get sucked into this severely authoritarian parenting approach, believing it to be in their children's best spiritual interests; they need to feel in control of their child's destiny because they believe the stakes are so high.

If you are one of those parents, perhaps it will be a little easier for you to see the relational damage of this parenting approach if you witness a parent outside of your own faith employing these techniques on their child.  Is it ok for an atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, or Orthodox Jewish parent to force their child to follow their beliefs about religion, punish their child for expressing disagreement, and isolate their child from other influences?   In another religious context, doesn't this look like abusive parenting?  Doesn't it look like the parent cares much more about their own opinions than about their child?  Don't you feel sympathy for the poor child, and suddenly find yourself believing that the parent ought to let their child have the freedom to choose his or her own opinions?  What makes you think that the experience is any different for the child if the parent happens to be a Christian?


Yes, it's hard to realize that your child's destiny is outside of your control, but it can also be incredibly freeing.  It allows you to be relationship-focused rather than goal-oriented toward your child.   Parenting mistakes are impossible to avoid, but as much as possible, let your errors be on the side of unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness, understanding, patience, grace, peacefulness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.  A parent who personally lives a sincere and virtuous life and who also has a positive, open, and accepting relationship with their child will make a much more valuable contribution to their child's life than any parenting technique from this book ever could.


If your children are already grown and your relationship with them is strained, please don't underestimate the power of a heartfelt apology, of repeatedly telling them how proud you are of them (without a hint of disapproval), and of absolutely never giving them unsolicited advice.  My own nearly-destroyed relationship with my dad was able to come back from the brink of total destruction because of these changes that he made, and today, amazingly, we actually respect each other and enjoy each other's company. 


To kids who grew up with this type of parenting:


It's very likely that your parents had your best interests in mind, and that they made personal sacrifices in order to participate in this lifestyle.  Because of this, they may be very resistant to acknowledging that their choices caused you harm.  Don't let that stop you from processing your past for yourself, acknowledging your own feelings, and trying to overcome the negative effects of that lifestyle for yourself.

The word "bitter" gets thrown around a lot whenever a person faces their past and admits their pain.  See that accusation for what it usually is: the defensiveness of people who feel threatened because they have not come to terms with those experiences for themselves.   Realize that your emotional pain, like physical pain, is there for a reason, and should not just be ignored.  Luckily, it is possible to face your past and create a better future for yourself, even without the support of your parents. 

You may feel like you don't deserve to be loved.  You may have a lot of trouble having and voicing your own opinions.  You might avoid getting close to people out of fear of rejection.  You might feel disconnected from the rest of the world and excessively worried about its dangers.  You may feel socially lost, confused, and anxious.  You might feel like you don't know how to enjoy yourself or have fun.  You may feel like every problem or even emotion you have is nothing more than your own spiritual failure.  These are some of the effects that I experienced, but every person is different; some people are affected more while others are affected less

I personally found it helpful establish a lot of personal space between my parents and me, meet a lot of different kinds of people, hear about the experiences of others who have left fundamentalism, talk extensively about my own experiences and memories with a few empathetic and nonjudgemental people, experience unconditional love from my spouse, and see a good therapist.  There have been ups and downs, of course, but overall the life I have today is better than I ever imagined possible.  I hope for the same for you!

Feel free to share your perspective, opinions, and experiences in the comments, or send me an email: pasttensepresentprogressive [at] gmail.com. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Biblical" Parenting, Criticism #4: A Parent Who Isolates In Order to Control

This is part of a series of posts reviewing Reb Bradley's book "Child Training Tips".
Read the introduction here.
Read criticism #1 here.
Read criticism #2 here.
Read criticism #3 here.
Read the conclusion here.

To briefly review, my first criticism of Reb Bradley's book "Child Training Tips" discussed the way his advice pushed parents toward the worst possible interpretation of their child's behavior at the expense of mercy and understanding.  My second criticism looked at the extreme level of control that parents are urged to have over their child's mind and body, which can prevent the child from maturing and can put the parent at risk of developing abusive habits.  My third criticism looked at the shockingly broad definition of rebellion and the abusive use of spanking to force children to change their opinions and feelings.  Now here is my fourth criticism:

Criticism #4: Parents are urged to isolate their families in order to maintain extreme levels of control over their children without outside interference. 

Of all the bad parenting ideas we've seen so far in this book, this one is really the last nail in the coffin.  The parental suspicion, the extreme levels of control, the abusive spanking--this combination is very likely to lead to a severe family crisis.  And when some members of the family reach their breaking point, they will tragically find themselves isolated from all other forms of support, advice, and information, thanks to Reb Bradley.

First, Reb Bradley wants parents to isolate themselves from other sources of advice, information, and support.  He warns parents not to listen to advice from nonChristians, explaining: "Psalms 1:1 tells us that we will be blessed if we do not seek advice from those without Christ.  Although they have the appearance of wisdom and offer insights that may seem reasonable, their thinking is infected with worldliness, and leads to regret" (p. 21).  In other words, he thinks nonChristians don't have anything helpful to offer; in fact, he thinks nonChristian advice is actively dangerous, even if it sounds reasonable.  Then, as he continues to explain, Reb Bradley widens his warning to even include Christians who happen to disagree with his version of Christianity.  "God tells us that those lacking the fear of God, whether professing Christian or not, are hampered in their thinking an do not have even the basics of wisdom....Christian leaders have undiscerningly received 'wisdom' from the world's experts, then christianized it, and passed it on to the Church" (p. 22).  So, even the advice of most other Christians is suspect, according to Reb Bradley.  Parents who take him seriously are very alone indeed.

In giving these warnings, Reb Bradley effectively cuts off parents from the support of professional therapists and Child Protective Services, even if the professional therapist and social worker happen to be Christians.   This seems far too naive an attitude for a pastor to have, not to mention incredibly irresponsible, since pastors are required by law to report endangered children to authorities in most states, including Reb Bradley's home state of California.  There are many complex issues that people face, Christian or not, and sometimes those issues put others in harm's way.  Sometimes, we don't have the luxury of time, of "waiting for Jesus to change hearts".  What about cases of children being physically or sexually abused, or severely neglected?  In cases like these, the answer can't be a simplistic "Everybody just pray more and try harder."  Sometimes, the situation calls for professional intervention, Christian or not, in order to prevent more harm and tragedy.

Although Reb Bradley claims that his Biblical advice will lead to blessings, while other nonBiblical advice "guarantees trouble" (p. 21), I personally found the opposite to be true.  As an older teen attending his church, Hope Chapel, I struggled for years to conform to an ill-fitting "God-given" role, as taught by Reb Bradley.  Finally, absolutely miserable and out of my mind with desperation, I went to Reb Bradley privately to ask him for help because, as a legal adult, I was finding it impossible to submit to a controlling father who seemed to actively despise me.  Was there anything I could do differently, I asked?  The answer was no.  All I could do, according to Reb Bradley, was to stay home and try even harder to be a submissive daughter, trusting that one day God would honor my obedience by making my dad a better leader.  In other words, keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

Luckily, when we reached our breaking point as a family, we were able to reach out for other help, which saved our family relationships from complete destruction.  A professional therapist coached my parents in how to treat me more like an adult, against Reb Bradley's "Biblical" advice.  Around the same time, my debilitating depression started to give way to new hopefulness as I finally moved out of my parents' home to go to college at age 23, which was also against Reb Bradley's "Biblical" teachings.  The reality is that a professional's "unBiblical" advice was far better for my family than Reb Bradley's simplistic "Biblical" advice.  And I know my family's story is far from unique.

Now as an ex-fundamentalist, I can see that the tendency of many fundamentalists to isolate themselves reveals their deep insecurity about their beliefs.  This insecurity is because many of their opinions are emotionally based rather than intellectually based, so they react emotionally instead of responding intellectually when their opinions are challenged.  A person who is truly confident about their opinions can face challenges without fear; and a person who is genuinely interested in the truth is not afraid to have their opinions challenged because they are willing to adapt their opinions when the evidence is convincing enough.  There is no healthy reason for people--especially not adults--to isolate themselves from ideas and information.

I suppose though that such isolation is necessary based on the fundamentalist's worldview: the Biblical way is supposed to go against our human instincts and tendencies, while the worldly way is supposed to be easy and appealing.  It's because of this type of thinking that we see contrasting sentences like these: "upon hearing biblical principles taught, some parents wrestle with accepting them" (p. 23); contrasted with "those without Christ...offer insights that may seem reasonable" (p. 21).  However, I can no longer accept this simplistic view because I believe that life and morality, even in the Bible, are far more complex than that.  After all, parts of the Bible appear to condone or overlook actions that today are recognized as immoral by Christians and nonChristians alike: committing genocideoffering a daughter to be gang rapedattempting child sacrificeactually sacrificing a childkidnapping slaves and wivesabandoning a wife and childmurdering a child for rebellionfantasizing about getting revenge through killing infants, establishing the death penalty for homosexuality, etc.  Clearly, both Christians and nonChristians are capable of having noble and harmful desires, good ideas and bad ideas.  Therefore, if something seems reasonable and good, it doesn't matter to me whether the source is Christian or nonChristian.   Similarly, if something seems harmful to myself and others, I disregard it even if the source is a Christian and even if there are Bible verses that appear to support it.  I have a mind and a responsibility to use it.

Reb Bradley, in contrast, sees the mind as such a dangerous thing that he even warns parents against paying attention to their own childhood memories.  He says, "Those parents who were victims of poor training are right to avoid the mistakes made by their parents, but they must guard themselves from rejecting solid biblical principles, just because they seem close to what they experienced.  If our parents' approach seemed close to biblical parenting, yet bore bad fruit, we can be certain it was not biblical" (p. 24-25).  Don't trust your own experiences, parents--just do what Reb Bradley says is Biblical.  If it works, then you did it right.  If it doesn't work, then you messed it up somehow, even if it was pretty damn close.  This type of thinking is what allows Reb Bradley to give advice freely, take credit for any good that comes of it, and avoid taking responsibility for the bad.

In addition to urging parents to isolate themselves from other advice//information/support, Reb Bradley also urges parents to consider sacrificing their children's social connections for the sake of parental authority.  Although he says that he is leaving it up to parental discretion as to how much isolation is necessary, his intention is clearly to plant doubt in the parents' minds about the benefits of peer involvement for their kids.  He provides a helpful list of potentially dangerous activities for children:
"Too few parents stop to consider the spiritual and moral dangers of the day-to-day situations in which they place their children.  They have wrongly considered to be absolutes things like school, youth group, choir, summer camp, sports, friends, theater productions, music, dances, dating, Sunday school, Christian clubs, etc.  None of these are inherently evil, but each puts your children under the authority and influence of someone else - someone who does not love your children as much as you do, nor will be held accountable on Judgement Day for them.  Is it possible that one or all of those activities or settings has more of a corrupting influence than a redeeming influence on your children? ...Too many parents have thwarted their own efforts at training up godly children, because they assumed they needed to send them off to a community program or to a church-sponsored event" (p. 153-154). [emphasis mine]
Keep in mind that Reb Bradley's primary audience is fundamentalist homeschooling families who are already prone to over-sheltering their children.  Yet here he is, suggesting that some children may need to be entirely cut off from the outside world.  Here he is, speaking in support of parents who don't allow their homeschooled children to have peer friendships or even attend Sunday school once a week for an hour.   I know from experience exactly how much damage this can do to a person.  For many of my teenage years, I only left the house once a week to go to church, where I was not even allowed to participate in Sunday school; I was 17 years old by the time I managed to make my first friend as a teen.  The resulting social confusion, anxiety, and feelings of disconnect still affect me today.  And I'm not the only one who has noticed these lasting effects that social isolation has on children and teens.  People like me are the reason that the stereotypical homeschooler is a socially awkward misfit.

All children need to learn how to relate to other members of their society in order to successfully enter that society as independent adults.  In fact, experiments have shown that even young monkeys who are socially isolated are later unable to relate to their age-mates normally, instead displaying more anti-social and emotionally unstable behaviors.  Isolating children does a huge disservice to both them and society as a whole.  Yet to Reb Bradley, giving children the opportunity to learn peer social skills is clearly not a priority, not compared to parental authority.  In "Child Training Tips", he never addresses the probable negative effects of isolating children from peer contact.  And he never mentions the numerous positive aspects of regular social connection for children--things such as learning how to get along with many different types of people, learning how to make and keep friends, being exposed to new interests/jobs/hobbies, learning teamwork, learning to receive and give criticism and compliments, learning how to communicate effectively outside the family, practicing leadership skills, learning to say no, etc.  Instead, Reb Bradley exclusively focuses on how children's social involvement can undermine the parents' goals for their children.  All he can see is that outside influences might interfere with parental authority.

It's not just the social interaction that Reb Bradley worries about though.  It's also the fun.  Yes, that's right, Reb Bradley thinks that fun activities are not good for children because they promote immaturity and lack spiritual value.  I wish I were exaggerating, but here it is:
"Childhood is so brief, why would we want them to spend excessive amounts of time doing something which offers no spiritual value, and does little to bring them to maturity?  If maturity is developed by denying self and responsibly serving others, and immaturity is fed by spending excessive time in self-indulging, entertainment-oriented activities, why would we want our children to spend multiple hours each week involved in such things?  We must evaluate their pursuits and decide if the time and energy required will actually make them mature and prepare them for their role as adults" (p. 155). [emphasis mine]
You know the bright-eyed grin of a child who is having fun?  That is the smile of a selfish child who is wasting time on unspiritual activities, according to Reb Bradley.  I really took this lesson to heart as a teen.  I had one fun activity in my life during my early teen years: horseback riding.  I had to earn the money for it myself, and I definitely kept to myself at the barn, but it was the one thing that I actually enjoyed for, you know, "multiple hours each week."  But then, when my family started attending Reb Bradley's church, Hope Chapel, I was suddenly "convicted" about wasting my time and money on fun.  I felt like God wanted me to quit my only hobby and save my money for Bible college instead.  So I did, and my life became a little emptier and darker that day.  But that, in turn, made me notice that I also enjoyed watching movies, which certainly didn't have any spiritual value.  So I made a vow to God that I would not watch any more movies for the rest of my life, and instead use my extra time to pray and read the Bible.  After that, it was unspiritual conversation topics and unspiritual trains of thought that plagued me--so I began to spiritualize everything, even to the point of thinking things like, "Jesus is the bread of life.  Jesus is the bread of life.  Jesus is the bread of life..." while making homemade bread.  And so it went; one by one, anything that I enjoyed became a source of guilt to me instead of pleasure, and I sank deeper and deeper into depression.  It has taken me years to undo that damage, re-learn how to enjoy myself, and start to feel alive inside again.  Ironically, it was Ecclesiastes that helped me with that at first; it matched my feelings that everything was meaningless, and yet still told me, "I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.  Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 8:15).  

Remember, in my case, eliminating the fun things from my life was done of my own initiative, as a sign of devotion that was just between God and me.  But Reb Bradley is telling parents to use their authority to force that type of devotion on their children.  Why can't he leave anything between the child and God, without a parent in the middle?  Why can't Jesus call the children himself, and why can't they respond for themselves?  Why has the verse "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24) somehow been changed into this instead by Reb Bradley: "If any parents want their children to come after me, let the parents deny their children, put crosses on their children's backs, and march their children down the street behind me."

In conclusion, we can see that Reb Bradley's advice doesn't strengthen families, but instead weakens them by isolating them from the rest of society.  The parents will have fewer resources at their disposal, and will be less able to make changes when things aren't working well.  The children, meanwhile, will feel the great insecurity of knowing that every single positive thing in their lives is subject to their parents' imperfect and spiritually selfish whims, and that they will have no recourse and no allies when their parents take away everything that makes their lives worth living.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"Biblical" Parenting, Criticism #3: A Parent Who Tries to Change Minds and Hearts through Spanking

This is part of a series of posts reviewing Reb Bradley's book "Child Training Tips".
Read the introduction here.
Read criticism #1 here.
Read criticism #2 here.
Read criticism #4 here.
Read the conclusion here.

To briefly review, my first criticism of Reb Bradley's book "Child Training Tips" discussed the way his advice pushed parents toward the worst possible interpretation of their child's behavior at the expense of mercy and understanding.  My second criticism looked at the extreme level of control that parents are urged to have over their child's mind and body, which can prevent the child from maturing and can put the parent at risk of developing abusive habits.  Now here is my third criticism.

Criticism #3: Parents are instructed to use spanking as their primary tool of discipline, not only for behavior modification but also to force the child to change their opinions or feelings.

Spanking is one of those hot button issues; some parents are strongly against it in all cases, while others find it a useful last-resort parenting tool.  However, whatever your feelings on spanking, I think that we can all come together to condemn the abusive spanking instructions that are given to parents in this book.

You see, Reb Bradley views spanking not as one of many parenting tools, but as the only tool.  Before giving parents his specific instructions on how to spank, he reminds them, "Spanking is incorrectly used if it is a last resort rather than the first response for rebellion" (p. 71).   He adds, "Beware of trying to cure rebellion with 'creative alternatives.'  Any alternative to chastisement [spanking] is an alternative to Scripture -- God offers no better solutions to subduing rebellion outside the Bible" (p. 74).  What are those creative alternatives to spanking that he's referring to, that are apparently un-Biblical?
  • "When your authority is not sufficient to motivate your child to pick up their toys, you make a game of it, so that their desire for fun will gain their cooperation." (p. 61)
  • "When they will not obey your specific direction to go into their room for a nap, you become animated, playful, and silly, and make the walk to their room look like a lot of fun." (p. 61)
  • "Instead of giving them a direct order to go to bed, manipulate them by saying, 'Which do you want to take to bed with you right now -- the teddy bear or the doll?'"  (p. 61)
  • "When they will not cooperate, you create a contest to gain compliance, i.e.: challenging them to get their room clean within a time limit." (p. 61)
  • "A three year old who is throwing a fit, may forget that he was upset if an animated parent points out the window and exclaims, 'What could that be?'  However, the calming effect of the distraction does not subdue his will and should not be a substitute for chastisement [spanking]." (p. 62) 
  • "The parent who is unaware of his authority sometimes resorts to offering bribes to his children to evoke obedience: 'If you behave in the grocery cart, I'll get you a treat when we check out.' 'If you get into bed for your nap, I'll read your favorite story.' 'You may have cake for dessert if you eat your vegetables.'" (p. 57-58)
From his examples of un-Biblical techniques, we see that a parent is not allowed to do anything to diffuse tension, increase positive motivation, or add humor to the moment.   Reb Bradley claims that these parenting techniques are unBiblical even though they are clearly not forbidden in the Bible, and even though the Bible clearly doesn't claim to be an exhaustive child training manual.  Ironically, these so-called unBiblical techniques are much more in line with verses such as Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger," and Colossians 3:21 "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged."  Reb Bradley's advice, in contrast, seems much more likely to provoke, embitter, and discourage the child, since he urges parents to treat everything as a power struggle and to use only direct confrontation and physically-aggressive punishment to deal with it.   In addition, the techniques that Reb Bradley deems unBiblical are the ones that the child could most benefit from seeing modeled; offering positive motivation, diffusing tension, and using humor to promote cooperation are techniques that are useful in peer relationships and adult relationships, where spanking is less socially acceptable.

So spanking is the only tool a parent can use against rebellion, but what is Reb Bradley's definition of rebellion?  As I'm sure you can imagine, an extremely controlling parent has many opportunities to see rebellion in the child's behavior, especially when the parent thinks the goal of parenting is to completely subdue the child's will.  It's no surprise, then, that Reb Bradley has many strange and sad examples of rebellion to give us, which he separates into two categories: active rebellion and passive rebellion.

Active rebellion is defined as purposeful or premeditated disobedience, although it oddly includes things such as any form of sass and back-talk (p. 75), a toddler crying uncontrollably over not getting their way (p. 76), a child moving away from a parental hug or touch (p. 76), a child who attempts to get off the parent's lap without verbal permission (p. 77), and a toddler who arches his back against a seatbelt (p. 77).

Even worse are the examples of passive rebellion, which is "less conscious and premeditated than active rebellion...requiring parents to work harder to expose to them their rebellion" (p. 78):
  • "Consistent forgetfulness: When they can remember to set their alarm and dress themselves for soccer practice, but habitually forget to take out the garbage, they are demonstrating they can be capable when they choose to be.  They just need greater motivation" (p. 78). 
  • "External obedience with a bad attitude: They cooperate with your directions, but talk, complain, or whine about it the entire time, i.e.: The three year old who lets his mother shower him, but is permitted to complain throughout the shower: 'But I don't want a shower. I don't want a shower.'" (p. 79). 
  • "Obeying only on own terms: Does not come exactly when called; walks slowly...Dictates to parents when they will obey: 'I'm getting a drink first,' or 'I'll be there in a minute.'" (p. 79). 
  • "Doing what is required, but not how it should be done: Does chores, but not by parents' established standards, i.e.: dishes are not quite clean, bed is not made properly, bedroom is not ordered as required" (p. 79). 
  • "Violating unspoken, but understood rules: The toddler who is caught in the bathroom unrolling the toilet paper, may not have been specifically forbidden to unroll the tissue, but the tears he sheds, and the haste with which he continues his deed as he sees his mother approaching, verify that he knows he is doing wrong" (p. 80-81).
In other words, the child can never do anything less than instant, cheerful obedience to a parent's spoken and unspoken commands.  The child's obedience must be up to the parents' standards at all times in both speed and quality.  Anything less can be interpreted as rebellion.  Please keep in mind that, according to Reb Bradley, the only appropriate parental response for active and passive rebellion is to administer a spanking.  It's no wonder that children raised with this mentality often have trouble relating to the grace and love that Jesus demonstrated, since they learned instead to evaluate themselves by impossible standards and habitually feel deserving of punishment.

With all this in mind, let's look now at Reb Bradley's instructions on how to spank, which he calls chastisement: "Chastisement is a calm, controlled spanking on the bottom...uses a light-weight rod....is done after the first offense, while the parent is still calm" (p. 70-71).   He continues by explaining a common spanking mistake that parents make: "Many parents implement chastisement with their children, but are frustrated because it does not seem to subdue their wills.  The most common reason for this is incomplete chastisement -- it is administered as discipline for rebellion, but is ended before its goals have been accomplished.  What are the goals of chastisement? 1. To cause children to be humble before their parents' authority. 2. To cause them to take responsibility for what they have done. 3. To cause them to submit to the consequences of their actions" (p. 71).

What does incomplete chastisement look like?  Here are a few of the many horrifying examples that Reb Bradley lists:
  • "No obvious sign of brokenness or humility" (p. 72)
  • "Refuses to hug the discliplining parent" (p. 72).
  • "Cries out for the non-disciplining parent" (p. 72).
  • "Extended or extra loud crying (venting anger -- not pain or sorrow)" (p. 72).
  • "Expresses no remorse to God in prayer, and refuses to ask for forgiveness of those they offended" (p. 72).
In other words, if the child doesn't appear broken, doesn't want to be hugged right after being hit, cries in the wrong way, or doesn't seem sorry enough in prayer to God, then "the chastisement obviously did not work, and should be repeated a second time," or perhaps even a third time, although Reb Bradley apparently rarely hears of a third time being necessary (p. 73).  It would seem that Reb Bradley has mentally adapted the verse, spoken by Jesus, from "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them" (Luke 18:16), to a crusade-like mentality of "Beat the little children until they come to me and confess their sins with appropriate sorrow."  Reb Bradley also seems to believe that a parent can and should beat their child into demonstrating love through a hug, which is an absolutely disgusting attitude for a parent to have.

As if that's not horrifying enough, there is also a list of behavior during chastisement that "merits extra discipline" because they indicate resistance to parental authority (p. 73-74).
  • "Moving away from the rod" (p. 74).
  • "Putting their hand in front of their bottom" (p. 74).
  • "Pleading for mercy; making vehement promises of repentance" (p. 74). 
  • "Requesting limited number of swats" (p. 74).
  • "Extra loud, angry crying" (p. 74).
Why is it ok for me to ask God for mercy, but a child requesting mercy from a parent deserves more punishment?  Why is it ok for people like King David and Job to express strong negative emotion, sometimes even toward God, but a child who feels anger when hit by a parent deserves to be hit more?  And how is a child expected to override the subconscious physical reflexes that help prevent bodily injury?

If you are wondering what this type of spanking can be like from the child's point of view, here is a truly heartbreaking first-hand account.  Clearly, even calm parent using an "appropriate" rod can be abusive in their attempts to follow these guidelines of chastisement.

Reading this book, you notice right away that almost everything is a strong assertion that is not backed up by evidence, not even Biblical evidence.  The lack of support throughout the book makes the few verifiable claims stand out even more; unfortunately for Reb Bradley, the verifiable data from his book is easily disproved by a few simple google searches.  For instance, he claims, without citing his source:
"That society which does away with corporal punishment will raise undisciplined, self-consumed young people, who lack the security that comes from being required to stay within firm limits.  Sweden and Denmark, famous for their prostitution, drugs, and child pornography, are the world's first countries to have outlawed spanking.  Not surprisingly, since their first generation of undisciplined children has grown up, these two countries are now reported to have the highest teen suicide rates in the world.  Eliminating the rod is not a sign of a civilized society, but of one in moral decline" (p. 69-70).  
In mentioning prostitution, drugs, and child pornography, perhaps Reb Bradley is thinking of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where spanking was actually legal until 2007; Amsterdam, after all, has the famous Red Light District and legalized marijuana.  Sweden and Denmark, on the other hand, are certainly not famous for these things.  In regards to spanking, Denmark didn't outlaw spanking until 1997, after this book was written, and at least five other countries had already outlawed spanking before Denmark did.

So let's look at the three countries that first outlawed spanking: Sweden, where spanking was outlawed in 1966; Finland, where spanking was outlawed in 1983; and Norway, where spanking was outlawed in 1987.  According to Reb Bradley, these countries should now be showing increased rates of teen suicide.  However, the opposite is true.  In Sweden between 1969-1979, the suicide rate for teens aged 15-19 was 8.69 per 100,000 people.  That number had decreased to 6.30 by the 1990s.  In Finland between 1980-1989, the suicide rate for teens aged 15-19 was 24.54 per 100,000 people.  That number had decreased to 15.51 by the 1990s.  In Norway between 1980-1989, the suicide rate for teens aged 15-19 was 15.71 per 100,000 people.  That number had decreased to 12.12 by the 1990s.  

Although Reb Bradley doesn't mention crime rates, they are worth looking at too.  Currently, the homicide rate in the USA is 4.2 per 100,000 people; in contrast, the homicide rate in Sweden is 1.0, in Finland it's 2.2, and in Norway it's 0.6.  Murder rates in all four countries are on a downward trend, regardless of the legality of spanking.

This basic data certainly doesn't prove anything about whether spanking should be legal or illegal.  What is does show, however, is that spanking is not a necessary part of a harmonious society with low rates of suicide and homicide.  It also shows that Reb Bradley is extremely negligent in his research.

In conclusion, Reb Bradley's tells parents that hitting a child with a rod is their only possible response to perceived rebellion, and that the spanking should be used to control the child's behavior, mind, feelings, and even relationship with God.  In giving these instructions, he shows a severe misunderstanding of the Bible and serious scholarly negligence.