Erin (lizzypaul) wrote in dobson_survivor,

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A Look at “Dare to Discipline” -- Part One

Dare to Discipline is one of the more popular parental advice books, especially among conservative Christian families. It’s a book my parents referred to during my youth, without much success, I might add. The book put Dr. Dobson on the map and established him as a premier source for family information. Therefore, I thought it might be beneficial to look at the text and give a quick overview. It won’t be as in-depth as my look at the Joe Dallas article, as the book 276 pages long. :) Luckily, I didn’t have to buy a copy, I just borrowed one from my mother.

Dr. Dobson starts out by claiming that his ideas for discipline and raising children are found in the bible, and that it’s only recently that these biblical ideas have been challenged. Quote:

I’m even more convinced now that the principles of good parenting are eternal, having originated with the Creator of families. The inspired concepts in Scripture have been handed down generation after generation and are just as valid for the twenty-first century as they were for our ancestors. (Page 4)

There are two major problems with this idea. First, as we’ll see more and more, Dr. Dobson’s ideas are not biblical. The problem is that the bible really doesn’t say all that much about raising children. Basically, three things are reiterated: honor/obey your parents (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1-3), discipline your children (Proverbs 13:24, Proverbs 19:18, Proverbs 22:15), and the responsibility to love your children (Ephesians 6:4). It’s telling that Dare to Discipline contains very few scriptural references to back up Dobson’s claims that his child-raising techniques are God-ordained.

The second problem with Dobson’s claim is that his idea of Scriptural childcare has not been passed down from generation to generation. That statement is quite ethnocentric, first of all, as societies worldwide have raised children without benefit of the Christian bible. It also shows historical ignorance. Of course child rearing techniques have changed over the centuries. In the 1700’s, to give one example, it was common for children to be fostered out to other families, as it was believed that you couldn’t be strict enough with your own children. Discipline in times past was much different as well. I’m hoping that Dobson isn’t promoting whippings, canings, locking children in trunks, and other common parenting tactics.

Another large problem with Dare to Discipline is Dr. Dobson's sweeping generalizations of children. An example:

“Stupid old Mom and Dad! I have them wound around my little finger. Sure they love me, but I really think they’re afraid of me.” A child may not utter these words, but he feels them each time he outsmarts his elders and wins the confrontations and battles. (Page 19)

Okay. I was the strong-willed child. I had fights, arguments, and debates with my parents all the time. But that was because I had a deep sense of fairness and justice. If something was wrong, I said it. It was never about devaluing mom and dad, or thinking they were stupid, or wanting them to be afraid of me. It was about knowing something inside that deeply contradicted their wishes, and not being willing to sacrifice that for them.

Now part of growing older is learning to be less egotistical and willing to learn from those with more experience and knowledge. I had to grow out of the pride and selfishness that caused me to disobey and fight with my parents. But my point still stands. At least in my case, Dobson is fundamentally wrong about what causes children to act out.

I’m going to stop here. Next time, I want to discuss more of Dobson’s discipline techniques, especially his ideas of corporal punishment (or, in my opinion, child abuse).
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