Yesterday a video went viral on Instagram and Twitter of a father beating his 12-year-old daughter with a belt or strap. He chases her around the room as she crawls away in fear. He throws her around, verbally berates her, and accuses her of having sex, yelling, “Do you want to be a whore?”
I’ve chosen not to embed the video, as it may be triggering to some of my readers, but you can watch it on the Facebook page of FOX 26 and The Isiah Factor.
While I’ve seen the viral video and I’ve seen how he swings that belt. What I haven’t seen anyone ask is:
- Why is a 12-year-old girl sexually active (if she really is)?
- Why isn’t he getting her medical care?
- Is he angry because he loves his daughter, or because he’s failed as a dad and blames her?
- Who’s filming this and why?
When kids become sexually active, or reenact sexual behavior with their toys or their friends, our first reaction should be, “Who taught them this? Where did they learn this?”
Often, child sexual abuse victims exhibit knowledge they should not have. This is a major red flag. Anytime you see a child exhibiting sexual behavior, or saying explicit things, that’s your cue to ask tough questions.
There are two primary reasons to film a violent encounter like this:
1) To document and report the incident to the police.
2) To re-watch it, or share it with others, for entertainment and/or exhibitionism.
Some abusers film or photograph abuse to create a type of porn. They enjoy watching and re-watching what they’ve done. They may enjoy posting it online so others can also enjoy their violence, or to show others how powerful or intimidating they are.
Think about how many times you’ve disciplined your child.
Now think about how many times you’ve filmed it.
This is a bizarre thing to do.
We should be very concerned for this girl.
Some have called what this dad has done, “spanking.” If that’s the case though, the word “spanking” can mean anything from slapping a toddler on the hand for trying to touch fire, to beating a kid black and blue. There is no biblical precedent for beating children with a belt or by any other means.
Proverbs 13:24 reads, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”
The author here is talking about a shepherd’s rod. While a shepherd may use his rod to startle a sheep from danger, or defend him from wolves, he never beats his sheep, let alone his lambs.
As parents, we must always discipline out of love, not rage. Our anger at our children should never drive us to violence. If it does, that’s when we cross the solid and bold line between discipline and abuse.
It’s normal to occasionally become angry at our kids. Kids know how to push our buttons. We get tired and strung out. We get surprised, afraid, exasperated, or stressed. But it’s not good or safe to vent our rage upon children, particularly not physically.
Take a breather. Leave the room. Send them to their room. Separate yourself until you’re calm enough to discipline in love with self-control.
Kids learn by example. Do we want our kids losing control, screaming, and having violent fits of rage? Of course not. So, we must not do these things either. We want them to be calm, self-controlled, compassionate, merciful, and just. So, we must model godliness, and repent when we sin.
As a parent, I’ve learned that my children often mirror my attitudes. Sometimes when my daughter gets sassy it’s because she saw such behavior at the playground or in a movie, but most of the time, she’s emulating her dad or mom.
I’ve found that when my kids act out, and I recognize my behavior in them, the most effective way to correct it is for me to say, “You know what? I was acting grumpy like that yesterday, wasn’t I? But it’s not right, and I’m sorry I acted like that. We need to treat others in a loving way; the way we want to be treated. Now, apologize to your sister.”
The Gospel pattern of sin → repentance → forgiveness, must be so clearly lived out in how we raise our children, that when they repent of their sins in prayer to God, they can rest in the knowledge that he loves them and forgives them.
To be clear, repentance sometimes entails making amends. Like when Jacob apologized to Esau, giving a gift or doing favors for the offended party may be relevant at an age-appropriate level. Consequences for sin, particularly repeated sins we know our child understands, may also be appropriate.
How we discipline a child should be customized to their personality. Figure out what gets through to them and work with that. Each of your children is likely very different. Sending Kid 1 to their room might get through to them, but not to Kid 2. Kid 2 may respond better to being deprived of TV or a favorite toy, while Kid 1 couldn’t care less about that sort of thing. Meanwhile, Kid 3 may melt under simple verbal reprimand.
However we discipline, as Christians, our goal should be to teach our kids:
- What sin is.
- How to repent of sin.
- How to rest in the glorious blessing of God’s forgiveness.