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Why Are We Becoming a Nation of Verbal Abusers?

Patsy Rae Dawson

Dr. Phil recently exposed that many parents, especially mothers, are becoming verbal abusers by screaming at their children because they can't control them. One clip showed a 7-year-old boy sitting at the kitchen table. Inches from his face, his mother screamed horrible names at him. She told him she wished he'd never been born.

Copyright © 2006 by Patsy Rae Dawson LLC. All rights reserved. See Permission to Reproduce at end.

The little boy watched his mother's face, and when she finished her tirade, he covered his head with his arms and laid it down on the table. He sobbed for a little bit until he gained control. Then he came up screaming back at his mother the same vile words she'd screamed at him.

While Dr. Phil's program saddened me, I was not surprised that mothers are resorting to screaming to control their children. For you see, in 1946 Dr. Benjamin Spock published his first copy of his famous Baby and Child Care. For 60 years, this book has reigned as the leading authority and has greatly shaped our values regarding children.

Spock was born in 1903, two years after Queen Victoria died. He saw firsthand the emotionally cold and crippled adults that came from the excessive prudery foisted on the public through the political correctness of the European court.

Reacting to that influence, Spock set out to change things. The Victorians promoted bottle-feeding; Spock brought back breastfeeding. The Victorians preached too much holding spoiled a baby and recommended letting babies cry; Spock said that handling and playing with an infant was good for it and the parents. The Victorians advocated feeding by the clock, no matter how hard the baby cried; Spock taught feeding on demand.

Spock also witnessed the harsh discipline of the Victorian era and the rule of the razor strop. Instead of balancing and softening physical discipline with love, he went to the opposite extreme and replaced discipline with distraction to change the child's mind.

He taught parents to say, "No, no," and physically remove their children from temptation. Or say, "No, no, would you like Mama to read you a story?" While this changed the children's minds about wanting to play with something breakable, they never learned boundaries and respect.

The damage to society from this new extreme increased when our government took up Spock's ideology and forced schools to police it. Teachers are mandated to report all suspicions of physical discipline no matter how minor. Grade schoolers attend special classes that teach them to turn in their parents if they spank them. With physical discipline forbidden in the schools, many teachers push to label children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) so they can be controlled through medication.

Parents don't dare discipline their children in public for fear of some do-gooder turning them in and their children being taken away from them. As a result, children are often seen in public screaming and hitting their parents.

We're caught between two extremes. Many of our parents and grandparents remember the emotional coldness of the Victorians and the rule of the razor strop-discipline without love. Now Dr. Spock, along with the government and the schools, dictates love without discipline. Both extremes wreak havoc on our children and future generations.

With loving discipline outlawed, many parents now try to cower their children into obeying them by screaming. And as the little boy on Dr. Phil showed, children are learning that screaming is what normal families do, and another generation of vicious verbal abusers is brought forth.

Screaming is far more damaging to the self-image and emotional health of children than the razor strop ever was.

The challenge for all of us as parents and grandparents is to reject the extremes of the Victorians and Dr. Spock. We need to find the balance between love and discipline that we've lost and that our government tries to deny us, but it has always been present in the Bible:

In Isaiah 66:12-13, after describing a loving mother as nursing her child, carrying him on her hip, and playing with him on her knee (the opposite of the Victorians), God said, "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you."

Yet God balances the love Dr. Spock advocated with discipline. Hebrews 12:6 says, "For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines."  In Revelation 3:19, Christ said, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline."

God's discipline is not the harsh beatings of the Victorians, nor is it the irresponsible distraction of Dr. Spock. God deals with us just like he wants parents to raise their children. God's plan is discipline softened with love, and love supported with discipline. Can we rise to the challenge by rejecting the extremes of our society to find balance in God's way for the emotional health of our children? Can we avoid becoming a nation of verbal abusers? Read more information on abuse at

Click here for Spouse Abuse Among Christians FAQ to learn more about overcoming abuse. You can take a survey to determine the danger level of your situation or to see if you are abusing your family. You can e-mail a letter to your elders and preacher to ask for help. Check out the other resources on abuse. Would you like to see more of Patsy Rae Dawson's publications? Visit the Bookshelf and Free Online Materials. Return to top

Permission to Reproduce Why Are We Becoming a Nation of Verbal Abusers?

Why Are We Becoming a Nation of Verbal Abusers? by Patsy Rae Dawson. Copyright © 2006 Patsy Rae Dawson LLC. All rights reserved.

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