Sparing the Rod

An outraged mom's campaign to ban a spanking tool marketed as biblically based.

A year and a half ago, homeschooling mother Susan Lawrence of Arlington, Mass. was shocked to see an advertisement for a child discipline tool called "The Rod" in a Christian homeschooling magazine. She launched a nationwide effort to get the product declared unsafe by the government. Though that effort has not yet come to fruition, the product's manufacturer says that it is no longer being made. Lawrence spoke to Beliefnet about why she believes spanking children is unchristian, what the Bible does--and doesn't--say on the subject.

Why did you decide to homeschool your kids?

I really believe a parent is a child's first teacher. I looked into homeschooling, and found that all the research does point to homeschooled children doing much better academically than both private and public schoolchildren, in general, and also doing better socially. The child gets all this one-on-one attention. Things are geared toward their levels and their interests.

You've said you believe that spanking children is unchristian. Why?

Yes, I do. It's against the Golden Rule, that's the number one rule that Jesus gave us for human relationships. You're supposed to treat other people the way you want to be treated yourself. And of course we don't want to be hit in any way, so we shouldn't hit other people. And of course, children are people. It's obvious that we shouldn't do that to children.

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The Rod was advertised in a magazine for homeschoolers. Was it a Christian homeschooling magazine?

It's a very fundamentalist magazine called Home School Digest. [

Note: Wisdom's Gate, the publisher of Home School Digest, declined to be interviewed or to confirm whether The Rod is still an advertiser.

]

Do you think that homeschooling parents spank more or less than parents who send their children out to school?

The homeschooling scene is very split. About half homeschool for religious reasons, and they are generally fundamentalists. And the other half is like me, I consider myself a mainstream Christian, and I do it for the benefit of the child. I believe in letting the child pursue their interests and have a lot of freedom, and so people in my camp generally are against corporal punishment of children. In the other camp they are generally for it because they take every verse of the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, everything, literally.

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