Sunday, March 27, 2011

Revisiting First Time Obedience: Finding New Alternatives

I've spent a great deal of time on this blog developing ideas about the problems with First Time Obedience (FTO), but I'd like to quickly revisit the concept before moving on to some new alternatives for parents, in light of how the topic relates to the Pearl Method of Child Training through aggressive spanking. When Lydia Shatz died last year after abuse with the Pearl-recommended Teflon reinforced plumbing supply hose, it was noted by some who knew the family that the Shatz family also ascribed to a theological idea that it was possible for a Christian to completely attain a sinless life. Those who follow the idea of FTO often rely upon techniques like the Pearl or the Ezzo Methods to accomplish those ends, what some describe as an attempt at training human nature and the resultant proclivity to sin out of children in order to obtain perfection.

I will refer to one of FTO's most zealous advocates within Quiverfull/Patriarchy to roughly define the expectation and practice, quoting Voddie Baucham. In context, Baucham describes “Discipline and Training Phase" in his book as well as in audio sermons as directed toward these general and benign sounding objectives for children: 1) Do What They Are Told; 2) Do It When They Are Told; 3) Do It With a Respectful Attitude.  As he expounds on his concept (in a very pleasant tone that does not sound overtly authoritarian), he defines any "delayed obedience" in black and white terms as intolerable, an unqualified disobedience to parent and God, something he requires of a two year old.   In his book, Baucham uses an example of expectations that he has for a two year old on pages 109-10 of his book, Family Driven Faith:

What this means is the degree to which children properly respond to the authority of their parents is indicative of the degree to which they are filled with the Spirit. In other words, obedience is a spiritual issue...

You tell your two-year-old to do something in front of the pastor’s wife and she sticks out her tongue yells “no,” and takes off running in the other direction... Eventually you learn that everyone is willing to accept this behavior, or at least to make comments that suggest their acceptance.

The only problem with this scenario is that it clearly violates the principles laid out in God’s Word. It is not OK for our toddlers to be characterized by rank disobedience. Moreover, if we do not deal with this when they are toddlers, our children will grow up to be disobedient, disrespectful, obnoxious teens whom no one wants to be around. More importantly, they will have established a behavior pattern that mitigates against the Spirit-filled life. Remember, a young man or woman who is filled with the Spirit will be marked by obedience to his or her parents...

Others have reported to me that they have heard Dr. Baucham teach sermons wherein he also uses the example of the sin of shyness in a two year old.  In this sermon online, it is unclear how old the child must be when Baucham states that he will discipline a shy child himself if the parent does not,  should that child fail to greet him in a manner he finds appropriate.  Baucham reportedly defines this shyness a sin of selfishness on behalf of the child and the parent.  His charismatic speaking style and pleasant tone offsets the authoritarian nature of his teachings.

Voddie Baucham on Corporal Punishment and Shyness in a Young Child from Under Much Grace on Vimeo.

Concerning an unrelated matter, I pulled out Harriet Braiker's book a few days ago, and with the issue of corporal punishment of children on my mind as the subject of future posts on this blog, I noted this relevant issue which Braiker describes as at type of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Though the book concerns how a person can break free of manipulation in adult relationships, exploitative manipulation and abuse still looks the same, no matter the age of the manipulator's “mark.” Manipulation (getting a child to do what is in their best interest) is not always a negative measure, but exploitation and trauma should not be lauded as a healthy or a Christian method for accomplishing a positive end. I offer Braiker's words as another consideration and perspective on FTO before moving on to future posts concerning the larger topic.

Methods of Manipulative Control: Traumatic One-Trial Learning (in the chapter entitled The Mechanics of Manipulation)

The fifth way that manipulators control their targets is through traumatic one-trial learning. This method of controlling behavior is the proverbial “hand on a hot burner” event. In other words, you do not need a second experience to learn to keep your hands away from a hot burner if you have experienced a painful burn once.

A terrifying or traumatic experience can produce long-term and generalized effects. For example, a child who is attacked and bitten by a pit bull is very likely to develop a morbid fear of dogs that can last a lifetime. The generalization effect means that the child's fear attaches not only to pit bulls but to dogs that resemble pit bulls in any way or maybe even to all dogs in general. . .

A physically or emotionally abusive husband, for example, generally can establish fear and trepidation in his victim after the first traumatic episode. Thereafter, the victim is fearful and adopts a response style designed to try to avoid another occurrence of abuse. Unfortunately, almost every abuser continue to re expose his victim to repeat attacks that serve to deepen the impact of the initial traumatic experience. . .

The psychological term is one-trial learning because the impact on the victim is so strong as to effect behavioral control, often through the instigation of fear and intimidation, almost immediately. However, People who erupt emotionally or physically generally do not stop with one episode – their own self-control is not that good. In other words, if the meltdown happened once, it is safe to bet that it is only a matter of time before the other shoe drops with a blood-curdling thud.

Excerpt from pages 140 – 144

by Harriet Braiker
McGraw Hill, 2004

If this topic is of interest to you, I recommend that you read the quotes from Alice Miller that I've begun to list at Overcoming Botkin Syndrome (a website discussing unhealthy enmeshment with family resulting from the Quiverfull and Patriarchy lifestyle). I also recommend visiting the Tulip Girl and the Why Not Train a Child websites for more information concerning the Pearl and Ezzo child training methods.

For those of you who have not read these in the past, please note these previous discussions of First Time Obedience on this website:

  • A review of the submission required under multigenerational faithfulness as Vision Forum’s carryover from Bill Gothard’s submission teachings with various examples of this demand for unquestioned obedience without credulity. First post specifically examining “First Time Obedience” in young children.
  • A review of the principle of sacerdotalism and parental convenience (as a control issue in dysfunctional families) as rationales for requiring “First Time Obedience” and “leaps of faith” required under multigenerational faithfulness.
  • Review of the tendency to make every banal daily activity one of great eternal spiritual significance as a consequence of works-based salvation. Includes a discussion of viewing personality traits that do not fit the belief system’s paradigm as sinful as well as the building up of all gender related activities as sacramental for the impartation of inward sanctification.
  • Blog host’s personal experience with inherent personality traits treated by parents as sin, the idolatry of seeking parental approval, and the consequences of requiring unquestioned submission with the use of guilt and shame that predisposes one to easy brainwashing and compliance with thought reform. Includes a section from Biderman’s Chart of Coercion addressing the powerful effects of devaluing individuals in religious settings.
  • Discussion of the development of how perfectionism, works-based salvation and First Time Obedience squelch problem-solving skill and prevent the development of critical thinking under the guise of multigenerational faithfulness.
  • A specific review of the theological problems in Voddie Baucham’s defense of First Time Obedience as well as the refutation of the practice from Scripture. Echos concerns noted in this previous blog post concerning Baucham’s “Family Driven Faith” book.

Click here to read the entire series at the archive.

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