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bricemcmillan-400x300    sandramcmillan-400x300

Over the years, one of the most frequently read posts on this blog concerns the physical punishment of children. My position is clear and unambiguous: any physical discipline of children is a form of abuse.

You can read my original post here.

Of course, adults have a way of rationalizing all of their sick behaviors, including beating and humiliating their own children. Several have taken the time to write and defend spanking, hitting, physical abuse. The excuses all fall into certain categories:

“I was spanked and haven’t murdered anyone (yet), so it’s OK to beat my kids.”

“Children need discipline and it it takes a spanking to get their attention, so be it.”

“Spanking really doesn’t do any harm. My children were spanked and they are all good, productive members of society.”

“Spanking has nothing to do with me and my need to control things. I do it for the children.”

“There’s no permanent damage, physically or psychologically, so what’s the big deal?”

Well, for those of you who are fans of corporal punishment, here’s a story from North Carolina about a mother and father who no doubt thought they were doing the right thing. Their 13 year-old was not behaving the way they wanted so they tied him to a tree to spend the night. No doubt the father and stepmother expected a change in perspective in their errant child. Instead, they ended up with a corpse and murder and felony child abuse charges.

According to an Associated Press report:

A 13-year-old left tied to a tree as punishment for 18 hours in June had been badly beaten and likely died from dehydration and heat stroke, an autopsy report showed. The report, made public Monday, also says Tyler McMillan’s body was covered with insect bites and he had bruises caused by a rod-like instrument and flesh missing from his buttocks. Marks on his wrists and ankles show he may have been restrained with plastic ties. Authorities say Tyler McMillan’s parents found him unresponsive on June 12 after he had been tied to a tree overnight as punishment. His father, Brice McMillan, and stepmother, Sandra McMillan, have been charged with murder and felony child abuse.

The report says Tyler McMillan’s body temperature was 105.6 degrees when he arrived at the hospital. Brice McMillan told a deputy the teen was tied to a tree and forced to sleep outside on June 10 because he was being disobedient. Tyler McMillan was released the next morning, but again tied up that night for bad behavior. Both parents are scheduled to appear in an Edgecombe County courtroom on Jan. 13, 2009.

You can read the AP story here.

I know that most of the parents who abuse their children by spanking, hitting, and humiliating them will proclaim that their behavior has nothing in common with what happened to this teen. Let me ask: Do you think the parents in this case thought of themselves as abusers? Killers?

Of course not!

They thought they were doing the right thing and we acting in the best interests of the child. And so, most parents who hit their kids deny any long term consequences and always excuse what they do for the reasons I listed above.

But once you act violently towards your children, you have crossed the line from parent to abuser, from someone focused on helping your child become a self-sufficient, mentally and physically healthy adult, to a tyrant who thinks he has a right to impose his self-will over another, helpless being. Once you  believe you have that right — and that God-given duty — you can easily convince yourself that you have the right to hit harder, more often, more painfully, more destructively.

From there, the path from a “gentle spanking” to murder and felony child abuse charges is a lot shorter than you think.