Saturday, August 14, 2010

Breaking a CHild's Will?

It has been a very long time since I have had a post on this blog. I don't completely know why. I can't say, either, that I am turning over a new leaf and will be back to making regular posts. Still, this one seems to be calling for expression, so here it is.

As I have described before, on this forum and elsewhere, I am of the opinion that Christian fundamentalism tends toward family violence. I have written about the relationship between fundamentalism and intimate partner violence (spousal abuse). In fact, I have conducted a statistical study of the phenomenon. I have also written concerning fundamentalism and child abuse. What I want to discuss here is a common notion that many evangelicals and fundamentalists take as a credo when it comes to raising children: A child's will must be broken.

The notion here is that children are willful and that that willfulness is sin and tends toward more sin. It must be removed. A child's willfulness is overcome by requiring that a child ABSOLUTELY comply with the wishes of the parent. In short, the parent must win all showdowns. When I was a fundamentalist, I was also told to "tell em' once." I was to tell my kids what to do one time. If their willfulness came into play and they refused to obey, I was to "break their wills."

Breaking their wills meant much more than just delivering consequences for misbehavior. It meant that my children had to do exactly what I said. Say my child misbehaved in some way. It was not considered enough to warn my child of the consequences of misbehavior and, if he continued to misbehave, deliver the consequences and get on with life.

In contrast to facing the consequences and then defusing the situation by moving on, the situation had to be revisited until my child did EXACTLY as told. If it took 40 spankings (so I was told), so be it. The important thing is that the will is broken.

Bad choice! You see, all my children will ever have (they are now adults and it is all they still have) is their wills. How can they learn to stand strong in life when they have been cowered into submitting to everything someone else demands? I'm not saying there should be no consequences for misbehavior (no physical violence, of course), but a child's will should never be forced. S/he must understand that s/he has a choice. S/he can obey or accept the consequences. When a child is forced to bend to the will of another, the element of choice is taken away. With no choice, there can be no real moral growth. All that remains is a pathological brainwashing, perpetrated by an irresistible power.

What is worse, it is not forgotten. It all returns sooner or later. All of the anger, brokenness and fear.

So, the point of all this is simple, my friend. Don't attempt to break, or demolish the will of a child. In the end, the child will suffer and you will be the one who knows true brokenness.

1 comment:

  1. This is a concept I just was recently considering. I was wondering why it is that we say a child must be broken. I'm pretty sure I like my children as the whole beings they were created to be. The challenges of will can be exhausting and leave me perplexed at times, which is what brought me to this blogpost as I am researching. Appreciate your thoughts on it.