I am distressed and ashamed that I once looked to Richard as a source of childrearing advice, because he had three and I only had one.  At the time, maybe 2006, I only knew him online and on the phone, and thought he was a godly man–despite his occasional cussing rages against the atheists online.

When I said I was having trouble getting my toddler to stop hitting and such, without resorting to spanking, which I felt was abusive, he wrote that spanking was not child abuse.  He described his own system of three spanks all at once, which his own father did to him.

I listened and followed his advice for a few years after that, but spanking made no change in my son’s behavior.  Taking away privileges and toys was far more effective.

Also, when Richard lived with us, before Tracy moved in, he counseled me to spank harder because my son wasn’t taking it seriously, just laughing at us.  So I tried, but just didn’t have the upper body strength to spank as hard as he said I should.

Here I was, so caught up in this man’s ability to persuade people into anything, that I abandoned my conviction to never spank, convinced my husband to spank as well, and even tried to spank hard enough to hurt, out of the belief that only hurting my child would get him to behave.

It’s horrible to remember this now, to wonder how I was so deluded by someone whose parenting I had never even seen.

The foolishness of it all!  Because of this, my husband and I both did things we now regret, things that never would’ve happened had I not been persuaded by this person I barely knew, to change my mind about spanking.  My husband wouldn’t spank at all for a period of time because of what he found himself doing.

And no matter which of us spanked, it did no good.  As a toddler, my son laughed at it; as he got older, he hated the spankings but still did the naughty behavior.  Because of a recent study that proclaimed no harmful effects from one short, quick spank that barely even causes pain, I don’t condemn that.

But my husband and I have both moved away from spanking, period.  There are far too many studies confirming that spanking is harmful.

All this could have been avoided if I had not been exasperated from trying to figure out how to control a wild toddler without spanking, and if I had not listened to the childrearing advice of a person I had never even met.

Now I know some of what happens in his own house.  Now I know that he’s been convicted (as of 10/3/11) of deliberately choking one of his children.  And I regret and repent of ever listening to his advice on anything.

This is, after all, the same person who told me after Christmas 2008 that he and his wife yelling at each other was somehow “helping” his marriage, that if my husband started yelling I shouldn’t get upset, that men need to “vent.”

The same one who started talking as if angry rages against children or wives was somehow okay, and astonished me, because wasn’t this the same guy reading the works of Orthodox mystics, who wrote about the sins of rage (Philokalia and The Ladder of Divine Ascent)?

Wasn’t this the same guy who told me in 2007 that he was trying to suppress his angry side, not argue back when his wife picked fights, not be that person who beat another kid to a bloody pulp in his teens?

Now he was endorsing angry outbursts?  (My mother told me, “I would suggest not e-mailing your friend, he does not sound like a good person to talk to for advice.”)

I had written to him an e-mail about something that had happened that frightened me.  I will not go into more detail about what happened or who was involved.  But he did not respond, so I called him.  In that phone call, he told me all sorts of things that shocked and disturbed me:

That he didn’t respond because he was holding his tongue–He did not think the person involved did anything wrong, even though it was verbal abuse!  That he and his wife will yell at each other and their marriage is better for it.

That men need to vent and I should allow my husband to scream at me so he doesn’t have a stroke.  (I replied, “But I don’t appreciate being spoken to in that manner.”)

That I should allow him to scream at my child.  That he has friends who were not screamed at, and now they do not respect women; that the ones who were screamed at, respect women.

From the situation I described to him, it was very clear that I referred to SCREAMING, something that frightened me and not just a child, an out-of-control person, NOT firm tones or even yelling.

This conversation–and the way he gets you to believe whatever he says–so disturbed me that I spent the evening searching the Net for what I knew must exist: Orthodox writings countering everything he said, and saying that we must fight the passions (ie, anger).  I wrote to him,

I guess we’re going to have to declare a moratorium on topics such as this one.

It’s really disappointing.  I thought you said you were trying to control this passion, and you know we’re supposed to control it, not give into it, not just for our own salvation but for the well-being of everyone else–and it frightens me that you would think that not only is it okay to yell/scream at a spouse, you think [a certain person] should do MORE of it.

Screaming may be appropriate if your child is about to fall off a roof, out of a window or run into traffic, but not at other times.  There are things which you can just chalk up to differences of opinion, and normally I do that with you, but I just can’t with this one.  It just isn’t right.

BTW, I thought I’d better make clear that I’m not going to pull a Todd on you or anything like that.  I value my friendships, especially since it’s so hard for me to make and keep them.

But I do agree that feelings should be put out on the table (in a healthy, productive way), not kept inside, so I feel you should know where I stand on this issue.

But his reply was strangely dismissive of my concerns, and full of denial of the destructive nature of screaming at anyone (edited below only for certain parts which would reveal who was involved in the above incident).

I thought about summarizing and not posting this e-mail, especially since it makes the section quite long, but figured it was best to let him speak for himself, since I quoted my own e-mails.

Watch gaslighting in action–and an abusive parent justifying what he does.  My comments are in purple brackets:

There is a difference between constructive yelling and destructive yelling. I am controlling my passions for destructive outbursts versus trying to ring in a certain fear my girls need to understand.

The more they pay attention and stop the out of control behavior, the less they get chastised.  [justifying verbal abuse by blaming it on the kids, justifying using fear to control kids]

Why should it frighten you that I believe in discipline, even if it comes with a harsh tone when necessary? [Obviously you didn’t read what I wrote, because “frightening” referred to screaming/yelling at one’s spouse.] 

Its not like I am running around the house at the top of my voice at every second constantly riding their every action.

There is a time and place for when it is called upon for us to raise our tone to put our children into quick action so they can listen, be more attentive and not in control of the situation. We should never have to tell our children twice to do something we ask of them once and sometimes they learn that lesson with a harsh tone.

[Um—no!  This sounds like the destructive “discipline” I’ve found described on extremely conservative religious sites which promote child abuse to control children, which promote instilling fear to get a child to jump to your commands the first time, and teaching “lessons” with a “harsh tone.”  For a critique of such parenting, see here.]

And there was a ton of sarcasm about yelling at a spouse.  [Wait, what?  Where did he find sarcasm?  Does he even know what that word means?] 

In fact I do not remember that was even brought up.  [Um, what?  Gaslighting me again?]  

Tracy does put me into my place sometimes but not in a harsh tone. [Liar!  I’ve WITNESSED her screaming and yelling at you many times!  Here is my account of her rage episode against you.  My husband is a witness of it.  Right after I witnessed her yelling and screaming against you, you said she was being “nice” to you.  And you yourself complained of this many times, including March 2009!  I have it in writing!] 

I also have to call her when she is going too far with her opinions on some issues, asking if she really feels they are right or justified. I think that the little of the conversation which remotely was discussed about that was more playful with my wife commenting on her as a burden on my broken back, but you may not have heard that on your end of the phone. It was more amusing than anything.

[NO!  That is NOT how the conversation went!  You are gaslighting me!  You told me you yell at each other!]

As for suggesting Jeff to yell more, that is not what I said. I suggested letting him be able to loosen up before he explodes. This translates into allowing him to speak his mind more and maybe tighten up his reins on your son when your son needs it, mostly so you do not have to deal with…waiting til the last second of counting with him so he will get up and do what you requested him to do more than once.

[He’s 4 years old and still learning what happens when you get done counting.  Don’t diss the counting method: It works!  You just need to have patience, and don’t use fear to control the child.]

….Jeff seems to get frustrated at times and if he holds it in he is going to explode someday, but these are only my observations. When I have witnessed these similar situations it starts with high blood pressure and eventually turns into a heart attack.

[No, you said I should let him scream at my son, yell at me…. He already would vent his frustrations, and didn’t just “hold it in,” so I don’t know where Richard got that from.  I probably should’ve started recording our conversations so Richard couldn’t do this to me!  My ex Shawn pulled the same crap with me, telling me something then saying he never said it.]

Quelling the passions… Yes I have been quelling my anger issues. I am nowhere near as angry as I have been and I am still undergoing that burden.

Telling my kids to cut it out or they will get in trouble when they are supposed to be cleaning up and not playing is not anger, its making them pay attention to the words I am saying and to adhere to them.

So its said loud. This is not something I need to quell; its called raising my children to respect and obey my wishes. If I never said anything or tried to be calm and peaceful with all three of my girls, two out of my three would be walking all over me daily and I would be living in a worse disaster area than I do already.

[I NEVER objected to a parent using firm tones to get a child to listen.  I objected to SCREAMING at a child.  He said repeatedly that SCREAMING at a child is not only okay but necessary.  A firm tone is proper discipline.  SCREAMING is ABUSE!  He told me over the phone that the situation that frightened me, which was a  screaming fit, was perfectly fine!]

And please take no offense to any of this. It should not disappoint you nor should I be disappointed. We grew up in different houses and we witnessed certain things work and certain things which probably put us in fear on how we see how to raise a child, or three, soon four… pray for me! :O

Also, his claims in this e-mail of temperance need to be taken with a grain of salt because he was later convicted of choking one of his children in September 2010.

People who are in control of themselves, who never abuse, do not suddenly snap one day and choke a 9-year-old child.

I didn’t see it so much, but Jeff witnessed him yelling and screaming at the kids while gaming with him, and Jeff–who also has trouble controlling his temper at times–found it excessive.  Jeff says that yelling like this does not work to get kids to listen to you.

Also, as I describe later, on June 10, 2010, he posted on Facebook for suggestions on how to get the kids to clean without “beating them into bloody submission” which only gets them flinching when he raises a hand and gets them working far less than they already were.

At the time, I thought he was just joking with hyperbole.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Jeff said when I mentioned this post to him, “So: he’s finally learning…?  Yelling at them just makes things worse, and should only be a last resort.”

Also, as I described earlier, Richard had admitted to putting the kids in the closet once (and planning to do it again), and said his dad abused him, he deserved it, and it made him a better person.

To quote my e-mails to my mother, the “male friend” being Richard, and note that by “screaming” I mean screeching and raging, not “raising your voice”:

A male friend of mine says…that men need to vent, that if Jeff doesn’t scream at [my son] on occasion then [my son] will grow up into someone who doesn’t respect his mother and gets put in jail, etc.

But of course, this friend of mine is a guy who’s had a fierce temper of his own, and his wife seems very capable of standing up to anything and has a fierce temper herself, so maybe he doesn’t realize what it’s like for more sensitive females to deal with this.  I don’t think this kind of behavior is right…

I said on the phone today that I seem to have misunderstood what my guy friend told me.  Well, I partially misunderstood.

I could’ve sworn he was telling me that it’s okay for wives and husbands to yell at each other as a means of “getting things out,” that he and his wife do things that way and are much happier for it.

I could’ve sworn he was saying that I should let Jeff yell at me more often to “vent” or he’ll have a stroke.

But he insists that’s not what he said, that he didn’t say Jeff should yell at me more often, that he was just talking about disciplining children.

I’m not sure what to make of this, because what he claims to have said, and what I remember him saying, are entirely different things.

I distinctly remember him saying that he and his wife would yell at each other, that it got things out in the open, and their marriage was better for it.  If that’s not what he said, then why was I so appalled as he said it?

When he said I should let Jeff yell, we were NOT talking about children at the time, but marriage, so that’s why I said, “I don’t appreciate being spoken to in that manner” (i.e., my husband yelling at me).  If we were talking about children, I would not have said that!

He also greatly downplayed what he said about Jeff needing to yell, whoever it was at.

Here is where he and I part ways, however.  He has a very authoritarian view of disciplining children, and seems to think we’re too light on [my son].

I want to minimize the yelling; he thinks we should do more of it.  He’s always telling me things like, “[Your son] rules the roost.”

But no, we’re teaching [our son] that WE rule the roost, not him, and when he disobeys, there are consequences.  When a spank is threatened, he holds his butt because he knows what’s coming.

But I don’t agree with my friend that good discipline means we have to yell all the time and force things.

I agreed with him that screaming may be appropriate if safety is at stake: a child is on a roof, about to fall through a window, running into traffic, reaching for an outlet.

But I don’t agree that it’s right to scream at a child for being disobedient.  I sure don’t remember being screamed at as a child.  Yelled at on occasion, yes, but not screamed at.

Here in this e-mail, you see an example of Richard criticizing us for not being harsh enough with our child.  You see the all-or-nothing attitude, that if you’re not screaming at your kids, then you’re letting them run wild.

There’s a huge middle ground in there, where many parents are able to raise kind, respectful children–without screaming, slapping or even spanking.  Every year, my son’s teachers tell us how well-behaved he is, how nice to the other children, even befriending ones who others push aside.

Also, even as long ago as the 50s, people were moving past the idea that kids should fear you and do things the first time you ask–OR ELSE:

In 2013, I saw an episode of Donna Reed in which the dad told Jeff Stone he should do what he’s told the first time he’s told.  And Jeff said, The kids I know who do that, are afraid of their parents; do you really want that?

In another episode, the dad tells Jeff that when he was a kid, his dad would have taken a razor strap to him; he obviously does not want to raise Jeff that way.

In Dobie Gillis, we soon learn that the dad was raised with more anger and violence, but Dobie’s mother refused to allow Dobie to be raised like that.

So if, as long ago as the 50s, people looked on razor straps, violence and screaming as barbaric, why should we of the 21st century even consider such things “good parenting”?  Especially now that studies show such parenting does more harm than good?

Richard criticized Jeff for not wanting to make our son fear him!  Back in January 2008, he said with concern (as if Jeff were making a terrible mistake–ie, tsk tsk), maybe he was afraid of his dad and didn’t want our son to feel the same.  What, do you really think fear is any way to raise a child?

And despite Richard’s claims that his kids did what he wanted the first time he said so, how can that be when they kept misbehaving and he kept yelling?  If that were true, then after a short time, they should have learned to obey without being screamed at. 

And why did he post on Facebook in 2010 asking for ways to get the kids to clean when asked, if putting fear into children works so well?

Why is it so much easier to get my own son to clean, without making him fear us?  Why do his teachers–year after year after year–tell us how well-behaved and nice he is?

If screaming and putting fear into children is so effective, then why did you choke your daughter for not listening to you, Richard?

Fear is no way to raise a child–unless you don’t mind that your child will not love or respect you, but only fear and hate you.  You want that child to behave because she loves you and wants to please you and do what’s right, not because she fears you, because the moment you’re gone, she’ll do it again.

It’s the same principle for religion: If you want truly righteous believers, they need to obey out of love for God, not because they fear Hell.  As soon as the threat is gone, the “believers,” or children, will rebel.  Just look at all the kids who sneak out of the house to party, or who go off to college and start engaging in all sorts of self-destructive behavior.

My parents weren’t perfect, and did yell, did use a paddle when I was little (because it was the 70s and this was still considered okay).  But they did not scream, did not belittle, did not slap, got furious with my brother for hitting my head one day. 

And I did not rebel as a teenager, not for fear of punishment, but because it was wrong.  The “worst” I did was to carry a Walkman in my backpack, to use when walking to/from school.  (You weren’t supposed to have a Walkman at school.)

In college, the “worst” I did was sexual behavior with a couple of guys I loved–no drinking, no weed, no promiscuity.  Not for fear of punishment, but because I wanted to do the right thing and please God.

An old school friend has borderline personality disorder, but she is not narcissistic, and does not use it as an excuse to bully children.  On the contrary, she is trained in child care, and a fierce advocate against any form of intimidation or abuse of children.  She knows how to get a child to listen to you and obey because the child wants to.  She has already helped raise a few children to adulthood–and from what I hear, they have turned out well.

I remember being a kid: Kids start to tune you out if you lose control and scream at them all the time.  They don’t respect screamers and hitters: They respect people who are firm but stay in control, who show them love rather than violence in discipline, and they want to listen to them.

Richard could really benefit from a few episodes of Supernanny.  Also, here is a much more gracious view of getting kids to obey you the first time.  Another perspective:

Wanting to avoid punishment, we learned to swallow our emotions and just obey, plastering on a smile or at the very least making sure to avoid frowning. But that didn’t mean we didn’t still feel or rage inside.

Even though my parents believed they had broken each of our wills, I think what they had really done is made us so frightened of the consequences of disobeying that we negotiated our circumstances as best we could using what coping mechanisms we had available.

A child raised on the Pearl’s method may be instantly obedient and appear outwardly cheerful, but that tells nothing about what is actually going on inside the child.

…This is actually one thing I’ve seen Christian bloggers who oppose the Pearls’ child training teachings point to as a warning sign. Michael is talking primarily about breaking children and turning them into mindless obedient robots, not about teaching children to love Jesus and love their neighbors. –Libby Anne, Definitional Discussions and Pavlov’s Dog

Here’s a good description of why screaming does not work:

Tone– This is probably one the most important and most overlooked skill. Keeping the right tone with your child is paramount to disciplining successfully. Too light of a tone just tells your kids that you are a pushover. That what you say is not what you mean, or that your authority is weak at best.

Too strong of a tone is either disciplining by fear, which will not work in the long run, or it’s yelling to relieve your own tension, which does not help to scale back the tension. Especially as your children hit the teenage years.

Want a rebellious teenager? Using fear, and only fear, as your primary discipline technique will grant that request very quickly. Yelling in reaction to your own anger or frustration will only result in a daily screaming match.

Your tone should be authoritative. It should tell them that you are the parent, and they will do as you say. It should not be light and airy, or filled with pleas to behave.

Nor should it be screaming. Both of these tones says that you have no control in the situation. A controlled and serious voice resonates with children more than yelling or pleas. –Kerry Chafin, Why Your Discipline May Not be Working

There are several ways we can “make” children behave. One is by using force. Another is by using fear. Still another is by punishment. Unfortunately, these three methods imply that the caregiver is superior and should overpower the child.

Rather than leading to a child with inner control, they make the child angry, resentful, fearful and dependent upon force.

There is another way to discipline children. Though it may not appear to get the immediate results we might like, it is safer, more natural and humanistic.

It is based on the assumption that children are by nature good, fair, and honest and ultimately capable of responding to that which is good, fair and honest within us.

This method is to treat the child with respect. It is treating the child as if he is as important a human being as you are. It is treating him with the same respect with which you wish for him to treat others, you, and himself. –Katharine C. Kersey, How to Discipline Your Child

Fear and discipline only confuse the young child therefore; first look for the real world consequences.  When adults want to teach a child something, explain to them the reasoning in words that they can comprehend.

I have discussed a few ways adults can teach children how to learn and follow rules and do not want ignore the hundreds of other techniques.   However the purpose of this article is to discuss fear and discipline.

Scaring and hitting a child are two different behaviors, but they are both abusive and unnatural.  Remember frightened children will become the frightened adults who have great difficulty trusting others because they are in fear and waiting for the attack.

Do not use fear and discipline as a tool to get them to do what you want them to do because at this point you are being the bully, and severely damaging the ones we love.

This is the relationship between fear and discipline. Children will learn the lessons required to move into adulthood as long as we are there to offer our guidance. –Dr. Cheryl MacDonald, Does health psychology relate to fear and discipline?

Emotional abuse is a form of assault that is deliberate and manipulative and used as a method of control. The abuser uses intimidation, fear, guilt, and/or threats to frighten and belittle the victim.

…Parents or caregivers who emotionally abuse their children also use similar controlling tactics to gain power over the child.

Children who experience emotional abuse may feel that they are responsible for the behavior of their parents and that if only they were more polite, better students, or better children, then their parents would be more loving.

Abuse is often defined as any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, intimidation, guilt, coercion, or manipulation. —Emotional-abuse

The goal of effective discipline is to foster acceptable and appropriate behaviour in the child and to raise emotionally mature adults. A disciplined person is able to postpone pleasure, is considerate of the needs of others, is assertive without being aggressive or hostile, and can tolerate discomfort when necessary.

The foundation of effective discipline is respect. The child should be able to respect the parent’s authority and also the rights of others. Inconsistency in applying discipline will not help a child respect his or her parents.

Harsh discipline such as humiliation (verbal abuse, shouting, name-calling) will also make it hard for the child to respect and trust the parent. –Canadian Pediatric Society, Effective discipline for children

Also see:
Can slapping a toddler in the head be anything but unacceptable!?

Here, smacking on the head is called assault:
Husband slapped my daughter

Well I was there and I saw what you did, 
I saw it with my own two eyes 
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been 
It’s all been a pack of lies 
–Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight”

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

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