choices and being allowed to make them, part three

child abuse

I realize the claims I’m about to make here are going to upset some. Many of you are going to violently disagree with me, and I’m anticipating that. I’m not accusing the parents who hold to these ideas as abusers– they have no idea that the system they so fervently believe in as “biblical” is abusive. I’m making some very big, very broad claims, and I’m making them without nuance or complexity simply because of time constraints. There is a Polemical nature to what I’m saying, and I’m aware of that.

Shortly before I married Handsome, I was in his childhood home, kicking around with his younger brother. We’d just finished watching a movie, and we’d been discussing all sorts of interesting things– the merits of a Confederacy over a Republic, for example, and the meanings of oligarchy and aristocracy. Smart kid, right? Well, Handsome came downstairs, and I’m not sure how we got around to this, but we started talking about some of their mutual childhood memories; namely, how they were taught to respect their mother. Handsome and his brother started reminiscing about how their mother would “count” in order to get their attention.

When I say “count,” I’m talking about what we see in the grocery store every day: “I’m going to count to three,” and the child has the opportunity to respond within that time frame, or, well, consequences. That is not how their mother practiced it– she used it only as a means of getting attention, with no threat of consequences implied — but that’s the typical perception of “counting,” I think. Hopefully you agree.

When they started talking about this idea, I scoffed. Probably rolled my eyes, too. “We’re not doing that with our children,” I pronounced, quite firmly.

Handsome turned to me, genuinely confused by my obvious hostility to the idea. “Why not?”

“It’s just teaching them that they can disobey however they want to. That I don’t really mean it when I call them.”

He stared at me, clearly not following. “Huh?”

“Children need to obey their parents. They don’t get to define how and when they obey– we do.”

What followed was a rather intense discussion that, in retrospect on my part, didn’t make any sense. I started trying to argue that “counting” was inherently a threat, and I didn’t want to threaten my children, but somehow completely missed that the kind of authoritarian, totalitarian, dictator-style approach to parenting I was advocating was based on threats.

During our conversation, I started feeling very triggered, and I could feel a panic attack coming on, which perplexed me. Why was I reacting this way? Why was I spiraling out of control? I could feel myself start to tremble all over, and I knew I had to leave. I went up to my room, curled up on my bed and cried, completely not understanding why I was panicking, or even what had triggered me. What was going on? What had caused this? Why was I so upset, when Handsome had not done anything remotely triggering?


At the time I attributed it to stress- it was a week before our wedding, and it had been a somewhat intense, although still friendly and open, conversation.

I know what it is now, although thinking about it is still very muddled. But, it is linked to the idea of instant, cheerful obedience that was advocated by nearly everyone I knew as a child and teenager. All the books we read taught it, and it was practiced by everyone in the community. Every child I knew had been taught since they were infants that they were to obey instantaneously and without question– and not just their parent. All children were required to obey all adults, and we could be punished by any adult immediately and with the direct approval by our parents.

My supposed “pastor”-‘s wife used to summon her children by whistling. She whistled through her teeth, and the sound was distinct, unmistakable, and loud. You could hear it from anywhere inside Wal-Mart, practically. Anytime she whistled, all of her children responded immediately— and in the sense of “immediately” that is the result of programming. Their response was so ingrained, so automatic, when they heard a whistle it was like watching Pavlov’s dogs. For all their talk about the evils of psychology, conservative religious disciplinarians sure jumped on board the behavioral modification and classical conditioning bandwagons.

Personally, I was taught to respond with a cheerful, respectful “yes ma’am,” to any demand, with the rationalization that it’s impossible for a child to say “yes ma’am” and try to fake respect if they’re not actually feeling it. I was required to drop anything I was doing the second I was summoned, because the summons was always more important than anything I was doing.

This continued into adulthood– I was still living with my parents, and had gotten home from an exhausting shift at work. All I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and watch the movie I’d rented when my mother called me into the office.

“Why?” I responded, believing it to be a reasonable response. I didn’t want to move. I was tired. I wanted to watch my movie and then go to bed.

“Just come here!”

“But why? I’m busy.”

“No, you’re not. Come here. I want to show you something.”

“What is it?”

“Just come here!” The frustration in her tone was escalating.

I realized at that point that if I was ever going to watch my movie I’d have to do whatever it was my mother wanted. When it turns out she wanted to show me a map because I’d gotten lost the day before, all I wanted to do was leave. Maps are completely useless to me– they make no sense, and unless I am actually driving on the road with one, all those little lines, squiggly and straight, mean absolutely nothing to me. My sense of direction is abysmal, and yes, it takes me a little while to figure out where I’m going and how to get there. But maps– they are worse than useless. But, they work really well for my mother. And, she was convinced, despite my protestations to the contrary, that if I just stared long and hard enough at the squiggly lines I wouldn’t get lost again.

She was the parent.

I was the child.

What I wanted to do didn’t matter. That I was tired didn’t matter. That I knew myself, my own capabilities and limits, didn’t matter. She knew how to help me, and she wanted to help me right now, no matter if I told her it was a waste of time or I was busy. I didn’t even get to define for myself if I was busy– that was determined by her. I don’t know what’s good for me, but because I’m her child, she does.

This is one of the biggest problems of the “Instant Obedience Doctrine.” No one grows out of it. Not parents, not children. And the children, fed since birth this dogma of absolute, unending, cheerful, complaint obedience to all authority, are implicitly indoctrinated against every outgrowing it.

This is why I believe that the Instant Obedience Doctrine (my term) is inherently abusive.

My parents didn’t abuse me with this doctrine. Our relationship is fine, although we’re having our problems adjusting to me being an independent, autonomous, free-thinking adult. It’s rough, but we’re doing it one day at a time.

The problem with the Instant Obedience Doctrine is that it grooms children to be abused. This is inescapable. Not every child brought up in this doctrine is being abused or will be abused, but it creates an entire system where abuse will be allowed to go unchecked, mainly because the child will have absolutely no concept of abuse. They will not have the ability to think of themselves as autonomous, as free agents, as having rights over their own bodies and what they get to do with them– because this idea is explicitly disavowed. Children do not have any ability to choose in this system– that ability is systematically taken away from them as part of “biblical child-rearing.” We have been taught since infancy that we are never, ever allowed to say “no” to an authority.

Oh, the people who teach this doctrine will pay lip-service to teaching their children about abuse. They’ll say that they’ve taught their children to tell them if someone touches them inappropriately, or if someone does something they don’t like. But the doctrine completely overrules this “stop gap” because the primary, foundational idea in this doctrine is that children are foolish, children are ignorant, and children must be corrected by authorities, usually through physical pain (corporal punishment).

This does unspeakable damage to everyone involved– the parents and the children. Because the children eventually grow up, and if they start asserting independence, like I am now, our relationships can be damaged, because the independence is sudden and unexpected. Expressing my own ideas, disagreeing with my parents can be very emotional, upsetting territory, because the point of the Instant Obedience Doctrine was to raise children who are ideological replicas of the parents. The fact that this doctrine essentially means that parents will never actually get to know who their own children are is completely lost in all the rhetoric.

And for many children brought up in this system, the biggest problem is that they have no access to any concept of being their own, independent person. That idea simply doesn’t exist. They exist to do the bidding of authorities. They are property. These narratives are internalized unconsciously by everyone involved in the process.

Again, not every child brought up in this system is physically or sexually abused by his or her parents, or even by other authority figures in their lives– but they are emotionally and psychologically abused by the fundamental notion that they do not belong to themselves, that they are incapable of making their own choices.

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  • Thanks for sharing this, i know it must be hard to say. I agree with your points, and have lots of stories I could share, too. Parents are taught they need to control their children so much, we the children, now grown, had no sense of rights to boundaries. I struggle with things like self care, decision making, and disagreeing with ppl without either completely caving or going overboard in disagreement.

    • Not that i might not struggle with those anyways, but totalitarian parenting and absolute submission didn’t prepare me to be my own adult.

  • You speak truth. This philosophy, even when not used for abuse, leads to serious problems in transitioning to an adult parent/child relationship.

    Like you, I was not abused. My parents genuinely tried to give us real choices during our childhoods. It wasn’t until the teen years that they really got into the authoritarian stuff. (Bill Gothard, in our case.)

    What you described experiencing as a young adult sounds very familiar. There is the assumption that obedience will continue forever. I believe that my late teens and early twenties, before I moved out, were characterized by this idea. Unlike you, I fought it hard, and never truly gave in. Unfortunately, resistance wasn’t enough. I finally drew the line when the obedience assumption was applied to my wife and kids, which caused a pretty big blowup with my parents. Things will probably never be the same.

    Thanks for writing this.

  • “The point of the Instant Obedience Doctrine was to raise children who are ideological replicas of the parents.”

    This is a terrific summary of its purpose.

    I remember equating goodness and maturity with the skill of coming up with what my authority figures (as with you you, not just my parents) would say about something. More from my personality than what my parents did, I would feel desperately “bad” and disloyal to think of something (with a moral component) before I’d been taught what to think on it.

    Got some good cognitive dissonance going when I was 19 and read “mind-altering books” for the first time.

    That is, I could feel (what I now recognize as my own brain and intuition communicating) an opening awareness to new ideas and convictions directly as a result of reading two books no one had ever talked to me about (White Fang and Jane Eyre. Great combination, right?).

    I fought the fear-based impulse of running to a “grown-up” and asking them to interpret the novels for me, because part of me suddenly awoke and realized that I was chronologically an adult, and if I was still needing a “mediator” now, I couldn’t know when was it going to stop.

    The interesting thing (in light of this conversation about control/value) was that I was more-concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find gatekeepers who would keep up with my rate of reading. I wasn’t concerned about personhood and freedom yet. This was all about the practicals.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      β€œThe point of the Instant Obedience Doctrine was to raise children who are ideological replicas of the parents.”

      AKA “Mini-MEs”.

  • Thank you so very much. This is going on my Gentle Grace Based Parenting board on Pinterest, Re-Tweeted and shared on Google Plus.

    I was raised in a very authoritarian and punitive household that didn’t know where they were getting their theology of parenting from. As an adult, I found it was from the Pearls, Tripp, Dobson, Gothard and several other very punitive backgrounds that are just so antithetical to Scripture. It’s taken several years to unpack and reprogram, but I’m sure my children will thank me for it later.

    I always said I did not want to treat them that way, and we’re working on it. I do not want for them what I had at all. I still have panic attacks and PTSD type responses to several social situations and it always boils down to my childhood and how I was disciplined.

  • Kreine

    I was raised like this, and the result is an extremely dysfunctional, co-dependant adult. I had difficulty disagreeing with any perceived authority, to the point where I allowed an unnecessary medical procedure on one child and didn’t stop a Physician’s Assistant from doing something that caused a permanent injury to another child, simply because I didn’t feel I could say no.

    I also let my own doctor basically pat my head and dismiss some serious medical and mental health concerns, because she was the “authority” and obviously knew best.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    …fed since birth this dogma of absolute, unending, cheerful, complaint obedience to all authority, are implicitly indoctrinated against every outgrowing it.

    Just like North Korea’s Population Units, Joyfully Dancing with Great Enthusiasm before Comrade Dear Leader (until their Termination when no longer useful). Absolute, Unending, CHEERFUL, Compliant Obedience.

    “Hell has no torment worse than Constant Forced Cheerfulness.”
    — G.K.Chesterton, “Three Tools of Death” (Father Brown Mystery)

  • Anonymous

    I’m being raised like this…
    I’m turning out to be an independent, free-thinking, and strong person, thanks to my parents expecting me to obey instantly.
    Sure, there are times when I’m tired, too, and don’t want to obey right away. (if at all) But overall I’m thankful and quite happy with the way my parents are rearing me, with the “Instant Obedience Doctrine”, as you so boldly call it.

    • I grew up happy, too. I grew up thinking all the same things. And then I moved away, and started reading and listening and learning things on my own. Thus may not be what happens for you- you are you, and your journey is entirely your own… But you might want to give it a few more years.

    • H. Fortune

      I would encourage you to seek out what you truly believe. HOWEVER, I’m married, have been for just over 3 years now. I teach a Sunday School class, run the books on a successful Mini storage business, have a garden, can my own food, hunt my own meat, have a growing knowledge of beekeeping, play the piano at my church, can drive a standard of any kind, hold my own in any conversation, manage the finances of our home, have house cleaning jobs, a vehicle of my own, know how to check the fluids in almost any kind of vehicle, can change a tire, a diaper, a bandage, or even the ballistics on a reloaded ammo round. I’m a great shot, with a WIDE variety of guns, I can sew just about anything, I can crochet, I’m an excellent cook, I love to surprise people with romantic getaways (candle light, wine glasses, Non alcoholic punches, music, etc.) and do so on a regular basis to my husband.

      What I’m getting at is I was raised with obedience right away, no excuse. I was happy. I got saved at the age of 20, realizing that I’d never asked to be FORGIVEN of MY sins. I joined the church I’d attended since a young age as my own person through baptism two weeks later. The same day my future husband joined. I did hands off courtship, was a virgin when I married, had my parents approval, and wouldn’t change it. Am I happy? VERY. But more importantly, I’m at peace. I don’t fret about what other people think, or what they disagree with me on. I don’t worry whether I’m doing what God wants. I don’t resent my past, or all the pain that I went through losing friends because they didn’t believe in the IFB “movement”. All that happened for a reason, it made me stronger, not bitter. I still love freely, I’m still generous, and I still love from the depths of my heart.

      My parents trained me up in the way I should go, as I grew older, I realized it was a blessed way, a wonderful way. Am I devoid of personality? Ask my In-laws who are Southern Baptist, don’t believe in the KJB, and don’t dress like me. They love me to death, and I love them. I’ve been to their church, I support them in their walk towards the Lord. Ask the people I work with at the Supervisor of Elections Office if I’m devoid of personality. I volunteer there every election, for weeks before hand. They know how I believe, and they know I can show them from the Bible what I believe, They know not to curse the Lord in front of me. They love me. When I miscarried in March, they wept with me, hugged me, and asked for updates on the treatments I have to have. Am I unable to hold my own? Ask the doctor that told me I needed a certain procedure. I said, “I’m not doing that. And if you attempt to do that, You’ll regret it.” My husband was hundreds of miles away, and couldn’t have stepped in. My mom was sitting right there, and said not a word. My sisters sat there, not saying a word. It was my decision, and I KNEW it was wrong for me. I didn’t consult my “authorities”, why? Because I’m one with my husband, I know him so well, I knew what his answer would be. He’s a Marine, He’d have done a LOT more than say NO!.

      Can I think on my own? Ask my guy friends, I will give my opinion in a conversation in a heartbeat, why? because we’re FRIENDS. I’m a female, yes. THAT gives me a SPECIAL place in GOD’S plan. I’m a WIFE, with a WONDERFUL husband. He consults me on many a major decision. We just decided we wanted to go ahead with a health insurance change. Did he TELL me what we were going to do? NO, he asked my advice, I showed him my reason, and we agreed on the out come. Shocking? I don’t think so, this is how GOD’s plan SHOULD work. When he wants something do I say, get it yourself? No, I get it for him. Actually, he rarely EVER asks me to get ANYTHING for him. If I see he might be ready for something, more tea, I get it for him. He wouldn’t ask me to get it, he’d get it himself. Don’t believe me? Come eat dinner with us.

      My point is, know what you believe, seek God’s face, and stick with the stuff. I am a free thinker, and suffer NO adverse problems from being raised with absolute obedience. It’s like a puppy, would you raise your puppy to do whatever, whenever? No, you potty train, teach obedience, and expect certain behavior. Why do you teach this? Because you love that cute little guy. It’d break your heart to see the puppy crushed under a semi for not obeying, immediately when you said” NO, COME!!” Parents see things you don’t, and raise you to help you to realize roads are not safe places to play. Direct, immediate obedience sets you up to listen when God tells you to do something for Him. I’m and IFB, a female, and happily peaceful with what I KNOW is the PERFECT will of GOD! If there is no direct obedience to those in GOD’S line of authority, you’ll not see the importance of obeying Him. Disagree? That’s fine, but I’m supporting Anonymous. Serve God, and you will NEVER regret it!!

      • I’m not going to quibble over most of this– except to ask you why people who support this unendingly compare children to animals? I’m very often confused about this, especially since to compare a precious child to an animal is demeaning. All this style of parenting does is use the psychological areas behavior modification and classical conditioning.

        Children are not dogs. Children are nothing like dogs.

      • H. Fortune

        I knew the dog thing would get you. Actually, a child is nothing like a dog. I have a mama dog right now who has six beautiful pups. Believe, they are smart, soft, warm, and so cute. You are right. They are nothing like a dog. But what other example would you like me to give? My mother always called her children with a whistle, and you compare that to animals. I think the reason that people use animals is simple. Almost everyone has owned an animal of SOME kind before. We feel a special connection with them. Didn’t you have a puppy growing up? Even if you didn’t, you thought they were cute and liked to watch them right? God made people to have dominion over animals. God uses animals HIMSELF and compares them to people. He calls the Children of Israel, sheep without a shepherd. He calls Himself the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah. He said he was like a sheep led to the slaughter. David basically compares himself to a sheep saying, The Lord is my Shepherd. People need a point of reference. Animals are well loved by so many people. We name them, bury them when they die, cry when they’re hurt, care for them. Why? because there’s a special connection there that God gave us. When David sinned with Bathsheba God sent Nathan with a story of what? A man who loved his ewe lamb SO much, he let her eat at his table, sleep in his bed, and he was broken when she was taken. God uses animals to convey a point. That’s my point.

        • If children are nothing like animals, then why did you make the comparison?

          Also, I think you are probably incapable of using any other example or comparison because you have been trained to think that children are exactly like animals. You even use many of the justifications for that here:

          Animals are property. Children are a parent’s property– a “heritage” or “inheritance.”
          Parents are to “have dominion” over their children, just like animals.
          We only have “special connections” with animals and children. We don’t treat them like people– just animals we Really Really Care About.

          This is not healthy language. This is not a healthy way of thinking about children.

          And yes, the Bible uses a lot of metaphors for how God views his children so that we can understand.

          However, parents are not God. Parents are people; children are people. Both are equally children of God.

      • Respectfully, I think this post displays a *lot* about the anti-female culture that you’ve been raised in and find normal. There are a lot of examples here where you seem to think that you’re showing yourself to be enlightened and radical (not asking your mother or sisters before refusing an abortion, speaking your mind in front of men, volunteering at the local election board), when in reality the fact that you feel those things are even pertinent to the conversation is pretty illustrative. Heck, the fact that you refer to them as your “guy friends” shows a pretty anti-feminine world view that’s been built into you; as if it’s normal to speak your mind in front of your girl friends, but in front of their husbands (I’m just assuming that none of them are unmarried), you’re the cheeky one because you don’t bite your tongue when you disagree with one of them.

        I’m not criticizing your way of life. You say that you’re happy, and I sincerely hope you are. But it might behoove you to know that your response reveals a lot about you that you might not otherwise understand.

        • Thank you– you articulated this better than I could. It’s still so difficult for me to identify things like this.

      • lori

        I agree with Eric on this one. Your reply reveals a lot of anti-female culture. I was married in this culture to a man for 21 years who was an ultra-conservative fundamentalist preacher’s kid. I raised my kids in this culture. I took them to church “religiously” and home schooled them and did all of the things you said you do. My kids were happy and they were not abused. They were taught to speak their minds, but respectfully, and to understand their “place” as children and I was the mother, and that their father was over me because God had ordained that order from the beginning of Creation. Yet I was outspoken, independent, intelligent, strong-willed and opinionated. I held my own in conversations too.

        Then after 21 years of marriage and 25 years in ultra conservatism, I found that to my husband it was all a front for leading a life of sexual predation, manipulation, and extortion. But purity discourages inquiry. If a person espouse purity in every way that a certain culture measures it (saying the right words, behaving the right way, keeping the right rules, speaking out for the right causes, etc), people will trust him, follow him, and they won’t question him. My ex-husband knew this because he had been raised in it. He had been spiritually abused himself as a child and he figured out early that all he really had to do is do all of the OUTWARD displays of righteousness to manipulate everyone into believing that he had an INWARD faith and walk with the Lord. Then, no one would question him, and if they ever did, then he knew exactly the right words to convince them of his sincerity.

        Fortune, you sound so much like I did when I was your age. I could have said exactly what you said back then. And I’m certainly not insinuating that your husband will do what my ex-husband did…or that most ultra-conservative fundamentalist men would. What I’m saying is the teachings of a culture that expect immediate, unquestioning obedience from children and unequivocal submission of women to men is DANGEROUS and is a prime environment for
        abuse. Abusers USE and SEEK these kinds of environments because they know that PURITY DISCOURAGES INQUIRY. This is not unique to ultra-conservative fundamentalists, it exists in all rigid societies that have external measures of purity and conformity. But a culture that claims that it is GOD’S WILL to do a certain thing or act a certain way is the best weapon of all, because now the person isn’t fighting against another person but against God, and who can fight with God?

  • Anonymous

    NO WAY. I’m happy, God’s using me, I have beliefs of my own, and I’m staying right here in the IFB Church I’ve always been in.

    • Anonymous

      By choice. Not because they’re forcing me to.

      • aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand you’re reading this blog and replying anonymously. Makes perfect sense.

        • Anonymous

          Tony – I’m Anonymous because Samantha probably wouldn’t like knowing who I am, all things considered.
          forgedimagination – ‘comparing’ kids to dogs/animals… people do that because most people know the joy a dog, cat, or any other pet can bring. If the pet can be taught obedience, like dogs can, owners generally do teach them, because the loving owner knows the danger of roads, vehicles and other things, when the dog might not. So if the dog is taught immediate obedience, it can be saved from great fright, injury or death. If you love your children as much as or more than you do your pet, you should want to help them avoid such things, as well.

          • I’m respecting your anonymity, because I believe that privacy is paramount– whether or not you want to reveal who you are to everyone else here, that is your decision. I would treat any “anonymous” person the same way, unless they turned out to be a troll. But, I’m pretty sure I know who you are.

            The problem with this “children are pretty much the same as animals” goes really deep. Parents do not own their children– children belong to themselves, children are their own people. That’s what “autonomous” means. Animals are not autonomous. Animals are not capable of being reasoned with, or being instructed in how to make decisions based on ethics or sound judgment.

            Children can be taught how to do these things. A person is innately capable of reason, of emotion, of discernment. An animal is not. When you start introducing the concept that children need to be instructed the same way an animal is, you’re de-valuing that child. You’re training them not to reason, you’re teaching them they’re incapable of being reasoned with. Because they’re like an animal. A relationship between a parent and a child that isn’t based on trust, but is instead based on threats and fear of punishment and reprisal, is not healthy. A child that is completely denied any opportunity of being asked is being told he or she is no better than an animal. Which is wrong.

          • Anonymous

            My relationship with my parents has a lot of trust. They have never, ever threatened me. At all. Not even a smidgen. And they ask me whenever it’s big.
            I’m perfectly capable of reasoning; I in fact love to debate. πŸ™‚ (as you might be able to tell… :D)

    • And, like I said, only you can walk your own road. But keeping an open mind is never a bad idea. πŸ™‚

  • lori

    I married a man who was raised this way and he convinced me to raise our children this way, too. I read all of the books mentioned above and actually own and recommended Tripp’s and Dobson’s books. But I was not raised that way myself and had serious difficulty maintaining or enforcing the “cheerful, complete obedience” that was expected of me by my husband and others in our church and homeschooling groups. I was constantly criticized for not being a strong enough parent, for letting my children “get away” with too much, for not enforcing the “rules” or being as “submissive” to my husband as I should be. I was constantly criticized for having an “independent” mind and for “questioning” authority. Even after my husband decided to end our marriage, my mother-in-law said, “Well, she has always been independent and strong-willed” as if I deserved my husband cheating on me repeatedly throughout our 21 year marriage. But then again, my ex-husband was raised in a spiritually abusive home and his only escape was secretly acting out by being a sexual predator. (BTW, why is this so often the case in this kind of community??)

    Anyway, when my husband left our family I was essentially ignored and rejected by the very people who claimed to love us. Both our church AND our homeschool community abandoned us completely. Just at the moment I was going through the very worst thing that I had ever gone through in my life, the people who claim to believe in grace and forgiveness threw my out of their fellowship.

    I don’t blame God, I love God and want to worship and honor Him with my life, but I don’t know where to go.

    • Oh, Lori, I am so sorry that you’ve gone through this. It happens so often, and it’s so wrong.

      A Cry for Justice, a blog I link to, has a lot of resources for women who are going through similar things. I know that “I’ll pray for you” can sound so superficial and meaningless, but I will be.

      Grace and peace.

  • Gail

    Lori- Heart wrenching story, tonight I am praying for you.

  • Both my brothers were molested as young children by a man we treated as an uncle. I think you’re right — we are groomed to be abused. My first boyfriend was emotionally abusive and I was afraid it was going to get physical before he dumped me. But I thought that was what I deserved. My parents had emotionally and verbally abused me my entire life so I thought I just had to live with it. My dad always whistled for us, which irked my mom, but whenever she wanted us, we had to respond instantly or face the consequences, which meant getting yelled at for being disobedient and then getting spanked with whatever was nearby. I’ve been yelled at, spanked, humiliated, threatened and ignored for most of my life and I’m just now taking steps to protect myself. While I didn’t experience the horrors my brothers have, I know that if faced with what they went through, I would have let it happen because I would have thought I deserved it because I was a bad kid and that adults got to treat children however they wanted. I shudder to think what my life would be like if I had not escaped when I did.

  • lori

    Thank you. I appreciate the prayers These events happened 6 years ago although I just realized by rereading my post that I made them sound more recent I’m very happy now in my life but I’m sad that I don’t have a church. I miss being a part of a church and feeling like I have a ministry, but I have no idea where to go. I feel like I have a lot to share and give and I could help others going through divorce and loss and uncertainty and even loss of faith, but I am also still healing.

  • Hi, what are some of the parenting books the people in your community read? Wondering if I have read any of them already and go back and rethink things….thanks

  • I just read some of the other comments and found the authors Tripp, Dobson, Pearl, Gothard. Okay- I have read Tripp’s main book, have skimmed some of Pearl, and have heard about Gothard and Dobson. The Pearls teachings are certainly rubbish as far as I can tell from just skimming. I don’t know about Gothard and Dobson. But I recently read Tripp’s book before reading blog posts like this, and I really think his parenting philosophy is not as destructive as Pearl and Gothard, but in conjunction with theirs, put into practice in countless families it has been. Tripp’s philosophy is so graced based and focused on loving the child to become a responsible adult who can make their own choices. Maybe I need to re-read the book. But anyway I would encourage you to read it for yourself before you lump it with Pearl and Gothard. When I read Pearl I couldn’t stop mocking it because her writing and theology was SO BAD. When I read Tripp I honestly respected his writing and theology. I also know parents who use Tripp’s teachings and have healthy, growing, maturing teenagers who are learning how to make their own choices and beliefs.

    I’m so sorry to read all the sad reports/stories in the blog and comment thread. May God bless you as you walk the road of healing.

    • Maybe Tripp’s theology isn’t so great…though his main premise is

    • Tripp is in a different category, I agree. He was condemned as far too liberal in the circles I grew up in. The problem with his book, I believe, is that he identifies autonomous action from the child as “rebellion,” and the end result and his stated goal is instant compliance with any demand. Maybe he says it in a nicer way, but, in a way, that almost makes it worse, because his goals aren’t different from the Pearls, and when people read him they don’t reject the same idea as ridiculous.

      Gothard founded ATI. He is also an alleged sexual predator. If you want to know more about him, you should go to recoveringgrace.org.

  • I was reminded last weekend of the same “parents are parents no matter the age” last weekend when my dad was highly disrespectful to my sister at 22 and demanded she do whatever he said.

    It breaks my heart and heals it to know I was not alone in my childhood expiriences.

  • My dad used to whistle for us. He only whistled if we were so far away that we were unlikely to be able to hear him if he yelled. (He also hated yelling.) It wasn’t an instant obedience thing with us, I think, since we weren’t expected to drop everything and come running, it was more like a dinner bell thing. For instance, if we were outside in the neighborhood somewhere and it was dinnertime, he”d go out in the yard and whistle. We only got in trouble in we didn’t show up before half an hour was up, because then we had made everybody wait too long to sit down and eat.

    I never really thought of it in animal terms until after my husband pointed it out. I think if we had been expected to respond like animals, coming on the run in response to the whistle OR ELSE, I would feel differently about it. In the circumstances that my family used it, I think I prefer whistling instead of yelling, although I can understand why it would be triggering for other people now.

    • In that kind of context, I don’t think I’d mind, either. It’s the goals and intentions that matter more than the method. Whistling just to let you know dinner is ready? Probably effective. Whistling and demanding that your children instantly and automatically respond to your every whim? Not so much.

      • I think that’s a key to why fundamentalism can be so damaging – the intent is different than the societal norm. The unquestioning obedience of children, no matter the age, training children like puppies – for certain kinds of things, at very young ages, children do need to be taught obedience in ways that are not too different than puppies, because they don’t have the cognitive development levels yet. (By very young, I’m saying less than two years old.) But the authoritarian parenting model does not recognize that children gradually develop the ability to reason over time, so children are treated like trained animals in relationship to their parents and other authority figures all their lives.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “Instant Obedience Doctrine” brings to mind about the only phrase of German I know:

    “Ich habe nur meine Befehle ausgefert.”
    (“I was only following Orders.”)

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  • Colinde

    UHG. The map story (!!!)
    That was my LIFE even right up until maybe 1-2 years ago. Still happens occasionally, and it definitely triggers me.

    My ‘fighting back’ against that took a strange evolution all the way from yelling and tears on both sides to cool-indifferent and infrequent ‘map incidents’. Now she usually gets confronted immediately on that type issue by me (took years to get over that feeling in the bottom of my stomach). Her response varies wildly (from angry insults to tears and sobbing fits) – but it’s interesting to chart and watch the evolution. Psychology: finally something that helps me see: it’s not me, it was never ME. It’s HER. It’s her issue. But it’s good to hear I’m not the only child who endured this insanity.

    *sigh* Pray for those of us that still live at home…