What are the effects of spanking? Is it true that as long as one does it the “right, loving, godly” way that there are no harmful effects to the child? Are the research studies claiming that spanking is harmful biased and inaccurate? What about the studies claiming that not all spankings are harmful? These are just a few of the questions I will explore throughout this series. We have already explored why Scripture or God does not support using physical punishment with our children despite what many Christian pro-spankers say. We have read many stories of parents trying to do the right thing for their children, but harmed or killed them in the process all because satan had tricked them into believing that using physical punishment was what God wanted. In this series, we will hear from many who were spanked as children and how it affected them and their relationships with God. If God hasn’t spoken to hearts in my previous series, I pray He will with this series. Please, allow God to speak to you as you read this series. He will not condemn you.
I have touched on my story here and there throughout my series, but I haven’t actually told my story until now. What I am about to write is quite difficult for me. Parts of it my own husband didn’t even know. But I am trusting God to use my pain for His Glory. I grew up in a non-active Christian home. We had Jesus figurines and the Ten Commandments on the wall, but we didn’t go to church. I had Bibles and Bible storybooks, but God was not emphasized. I was born with severe Cerebral Palsy. When I was born, I did not breathe for roughly 40 minutes. The doctors were about to give up on me but my dad about punched one of them and told them not to give up on me. I’m grateful God did not let my dad allow the doctors to give up on me. God had/has a plan for me.
I have three half-siblings. We grew up with my parents with my siblings visiting their mom every other weekend. My childhood was, overall, okay. I had a lot of love for my parents and they loved me. They raised me as “normally” as possible despite my severe physical disability. I have a lot of happy memories with my mom and my dad (my dad died in 2003 of a massive heart attack) and would not trade them for anything. They believed in me and encouraged me to be all that I could be. And they fought hard to make sure I got the services and education that I needed and deserved. I will always be grateful to them for that!
But, my childhood also had a very dark side. My dad had quite a temper at times. My first memory of his temper was when I was quite young. I was no more than 3 or 4 years old and we were eating supper. I do not remember if it was my mom or me that made him angry, but I remember him throwing my plate of food on the floor and my mom and him fighting. My mom held me as they fought and he kept throwing stuff. I just remember screaming and crying as I buried my head into my mom.
I do not remember the first time my dad hit or got rough with me. I seem to remember a man hitting me at my mom’s workplace. I do know who did it. All I remember is fussing in a playpen and being hit rather hard. Being hit was a common occurrence throughout my childhood by my dad. Due to my Cerebral Palsy, I have a great deal of spastic, involuntary movements. If Dad felt I wasn’t doing my best to relax and cooperate during my care, he’d get angry and hit me or get rough with me, forceful. I remember being afraid to be left alone with him sometimes if I knew he’d have to do something with me in which I had trouble relaxing. My mom always came to the rescue when she heard me crying with him. Once he hit me in the face while giving me a shower for a reason I cannot remember, and Mom came in and when she saw the red mark on my face, she was so angry with Dad. She finished giving me a shower and showed Dad my face, and yelled at him. The mark didn’t last more than an hour or so. Due to my dad’s violent temper, my mom could not exercise any control over him. He would not listen to anyone.
I remember Dad hitting me a few times for actual misbehavior, but I tried not to push him that far. My siblings are all older than me and I saw how Dad treated them when they did something wrong, so all he had to do was yell and I’d cry. Sometimes he’d tell me not to cry or else. One time, he made a wooden paddle with holes in it to use on my siblings. Although he never used it on me, I was absolutely terrified of it.
Despite all of this, I was a happy child for the most part as well as extremely determined. I did not act up all that much. However, outside of the fear that I had, I also dealt with some aggressiveness. I’m not sure if anyone knew this, but, though I’ve always loved children, as a child, I remember sometimes hitting them on purpose as they walked by at my babysitter’s house. I was between 5 and 7 or 8 years old at that time. This makes me sad, but I would always hit the younger ones. Thankfully, I didn’t hit them for very long before I stopped on my own. Believe it or not, I never got caught hitting the children. And I didn’t enjoy it all that much. I believe it was my way of dealing with being hit and seeing my siblings get hit even worse than I did. Another way I remember dealing with the aggression was when I was playing with my Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. I had one named Elroy that I’d pretend got into trouble a lot. I would yell at him (quietly since I’d sometimes cuss) then spank him hard. After I’d spank him, I’d hold him and pretend to comfort him. I don’t know why but I believe I only did this routine with that doll. I had many Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. I think my mom may have picked up on this some, but I was obviously good at hiding my aggressiveness.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I did not spend every waking minute terrified of my dad. I loved sitting by him in his chair. I loved playing with him and going places with him. When I was little, I also wanted him to put me to bed because he also made me feel safe at times. That’s how parents are; no matter how badly he hurt me, I still loved him and knew he’d protect me. I also missed him so much when he went away on business trips. Even though I was relieved that I didn’t have to worry about making him angry during the time he was away, I still counted the days until he’d come home and was so excited to see him when he arrived home. I truly loved my dad.
Dad ended up driving my siblings out of the house when they were teenagers. My siblings all rebelled and lived hard lives. Two of them have managed to get past the abuse and have created good lives for themselves now. The other is still struggling. After my siblings left, my parents divorced as a result of my dad’s continuing violent temper. I was in 7th grade at the time. I was very upset about the divorce, but I also remember being relieved that I no longer had to worry about making him mad until the visits, as I’d visit him every other weekend. I remember soon after visiting him I realized that Mom could no longer rescue me when he got angry with me. I truly believe that my mom thought Dad would be better with me since he didn’t get to see me as much. Also, Dad would have probably fought hard if he had not been given visitation rights, making things worse for me. I soon began always dreading the weekends spent with him. On the Fridays before I visited him I’d get a sense of sickening dread as people told me to have a good weekend as I left school. The week visits were also anxiety producing. But I never told anyone exactly how I felt due to a sense of shame. I also loved him and didn’t want to hurt him. I actually would have been more upset if I were kept away from him. And, of course, fear. He could also make one feel very guilty. When he did hit me or get rough with me, he would apologize, especially after the divorce. I believe he truly was sorry most of the time. The older I got, the more I dealt with anxiety and depression. While I don’t attribute all my anxiety and depression to my dad as I had a lot of other issues going on, I am sure some of it was indeed due to him.
My mom wasn’t perfect but I was never afraid of my mom. As I said in Part 3 of “The Christian History of Spanking,” she only hit me once when I was 13 for a misbehavior that I could control. Of course, it really upset me, but it helped that she felt bad aftersward. Most of the time she just put me in my room for misbehavior. In general, I was well-behaved. I respected her most of the time. She truly was a wonderful mom to me as she sacrificed so much for me. She’d take me shopping, we’d go to Chicago with her boyfriend, and she made sure I had everything I needed. We are still close today.
I did go through a rebellious stage between the ages of 13-15 where I wanted to get drunk, high, and have sex like a lot of my friends were doing. Thankfully, God kept me from being able to do that due to not being able to be left alone or sneak out. If I could have, I definitely would have just as my siblings did. Anything to forget the pain and fear and to be “normal” like everyone else. At that point, I probably would have stopped visiting Dad regularly, but my disability left me no choice. I do remember getting angry with him and hitting him back during one visit during this age range. He didn’t do anything, thankfully.
I came to Christ at the age of 15 thanks to another one of my babysitters. Going to church with friends was a huge comfort to me. I felt God’s love for me and I know He is how I survived the rest of my childhood because Dad did not stop hitting me until I was 17 and I was the one who finally got up the courage to make it stop. My husband and I actually began dating when I was 17. We hid our relationship from everyone for several months as he is older than me. Besides Jesus, he is the best thing that ever happened to me! We emailed for a couple months before going on our first date. Believe it or not, he was one of my dad’s best friends and was a part of my life since I was a young child. He was younger than my dad and was nothing like him except for being a Ham radio operator and enjoying camping. My husband had no idea that my dad was abusive to my siblings and me. See, my dad knew how to make himself look good and would tell people how “hard” his life was. I believe very few people knew the truth about who my dad really was. When I told my mom about my husband and me, she was concerned but not upset. She took it a lot better than I thought she would. We didn’t tell my dad until I was 18 because we were afraid of his reaction; especially me, though no one completely knew why, my husband included. It wasn’t until 6 months into our relationship that my husband finally found out exactly who my dad was.
I suffered from low-self esteem back then with the abuse, not being able to do the “normal” things that teenagers do, being hurt by guys my age who couldn’t see past my disability, people telling me I would never accomplish my goals and dreams that I had set for myself, etc. I’m certain that I would not have survived without God and then my husband. As my husband became my boyfriend my during my senior year of high school, he showed me that I was beautiful and worthy of love. Being hit throughout one’s childhood usually ruins one’s self-esteem. Well, pile that with disability and others putting one down, and one’s got even less of a sense of worth. Yet, I was a good actor, so no one but God knew exactly how much I struggled. As my husband loved me, I got stronger. Then one weekend in May, I’d had it. I was especially spastic that weekend and he hit me and got rough with me for the last time. When I arrived home from Dad’s house after the weekend, I immediately broke down and told my mom. She was very sorry and understanding. She said that I did not have to go back to my dad’s. She held me as I cried. Then I had to tell my husband. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do except for writing this. See, being hit always brings a sense of shame no matter from whom it comes or how it’s done. I felt like I was always partly to blame. I should have been better to prevent it. I really didn’t know how my husband was going to take it. I didn’t want him to beat Dad up nor did I want him to think I was somehow defective either. He was quite upset that my Dad had been hitting me. He had no idea. And yes, he wanted to beat up my dad but didn’t.
After my 18th birthday, we told everyone about our relationship. My dad refused to accept it. In my opinion, he disowned me. I also believe that he couldn’t handle the truth about the abuse finally being out. I reached out to him several times but he absolutely refused to admit he was wrong about anything. We invited him to our wedding in 2003, but he refused to come. He did send us a card. It hurt that he refused to accept me or apologize. Then, three months after our wedding, he suddenly died. At first, I thought he had gone to Hell, but later found out he was a Christian even though he never acted like one. The year after his death was Hell for me. At first I was very angry mixed with sadness. I remember looking at his picture at the memorial service and being so angry with him for leaving and hurting his children yet again. Then the severe anxiety set in. I was having many, many panic attacks. I thought I was going to die. My doctor put me on Zoloft, which made it even worse. I just couldn’t deal with the pain while getting used to married life and living on my own for the first time. And I couldn’t talk about it because it was too painful. Finally, God led us to the program called, Attacking Anxiety and Depression by Lucinda Bassett. By doing that self-help program, I began to heal.
I still deal with anger and anxiety issues. My husband doesn’t get angry often, but it always makes me anxious when he does and raises his voice, though, he has never and would never hurt me. Sadly, I hit him in anger when we were first married, which made me very angry with my dad for creating that aggressive tendency within me. It’s never happened since then. I also still have nightmares once in a while of Dad hurting me. I never tell my husband about those. I also get very anxious and upset when a child is threatened and spanked, even “lovingly.” It hurts me too, so when I see a child beginning to act up in a store or at a gathering, I get tense and pray the child stops before he/she gets spanked.
I have forgiven my dad for everything. I do miss him at times. I’ve forgiven my mom as well, and do not blame her for any of it. It is important for me to note that my dad was physically abused as a child, and that my mom was spanked as a child. Both of my parents had at least Christian mothers. While I do feel my mom did her best to break the cycle of using physical punishment, my dad could not break that cycle of abuse. I also do not blame God for allowing me to go through all that I have because He is using me to help children, which brings Him glory and saves lives. Some of you may read this and think, “Well, that was abuse. If he would have lovingly spanked you, it wouldn’t have harmed you.” I know myself very well, and if my parents would have spanked me in Christ’s Name and told me that this was God’s Will, I would not be a Christian. It would have scared me away from God! People will blow me off and/or criticize me for writing this and this book, but everything that I’ve written is true. Hitting children is harmful no matter how it is done.
This series will show how harmful any form of physical punishment is for all children. May we “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” Ephesians 5:11.
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