The Norm Letter #4
June 2012

The Lisa Project

Every aspect of our lives is,
in a sense,
a vote for the kind of world
we want to live in.

- Frances Moore Lappe

Hi again -

The Lisa Project is an exhibit presented by the San Joaquin County Child Abuse Prevention Council. In our small city of Lodi, California, the First Baptist Church provided space and volunteers for the trailer-truck size exhibit plus ten docents/guides for the month of June. It came in the form of a trailer-truck size trailer, divided into several rooms, all of them "Lisa's". Lisa was the young daughter of abusive parents, and her story unfolds as we progress thru each of the rooms, as we listen thru headphones as she tells of her experiences.

When I heard Lisa's screams of terror at the very beginning of this remarkable exhibit, I cried. Why is an 83-year old man crying like a child? Because I heard myself screaming as I did some eight decades ago.

All of us adults experienced terror at the hands of our parents, because our parents followed Solomon's advice to beat children until their spirit was broken. The idea of "spare the rod, spoil the child" was the prevailing bibical lie in the generation that brought us Hitler. In my talks to parent groups I emphasize that we as humans have learned much about decent parenting over the past 4,000 years. In Soloman's day, if a baby was sick, imperfect, or a girl, the mother would take it to the river and hold it under as the siblings watched. Since then, caring, humane, non-violent methods of bringing up children, information readily available to any parent who's I. Q. is above room temperature. Why take the advice of a tyrant who had 300 wives, an additional 300 concubines, and 1,000 slaves? For the history of childrearing, see Lloyd deMause's

Awareness of the prevalence of child abuse was the reason I began working as a Children's Advocate over forty years ago. The (recorded) cries of Lisa I've heard repeatedly as I've stopped parents in the act of slapping spanking, and even pinching and kicking their children. For the parents who lie to themselves that hitting and humiliating children is "for their own good", I recommend Alice Miller's book, "For Your Own Good - Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence". (Click on "Plain Talk About Spanking".)

Lodi's First Baptist Church, and San Joaquin Child Abuse Prevention Council deserve congratulations and applause for bringing this unique interactive exhibit to our community. What is experienced there helps to encourage anyone to intervene whenever witnessing maltreatment of a child. Civil childrearing takes a community effort. Well over thirty nations, including all of the countries of Europe, have outlawed corporal punishment of children in schools, while here in the U.S. nineteen states still allow the beating of schoolchildren with heavy wooden paddles.

Prisoners on death row, inmates of jails, members of the military, are all protected from such treatment by law. But children can be assaulted with impunity if it's called "discipline". With proper training of parents, children can be raised successfully and happily without any punishment - so long as the parents model Golden Rule behavior. It's much easier than the prevailing "normal" physically punishing that makes a battleground of kitchens everywhere in U.S.A. It's the PARENTS that need discipline; that need to change, not the kids.

Visit my website ( ) and click on my book, "Parenting Without Punishing," and you'll see how much fun it can be. My two sons were normal, boisterous boys, into everything. Everybody - colleagues on college faculty, relatives, neighbors, strangers - predicted that, without punishing them they would surely lead lives of crime and end in prison. Now in their mid-forties, they have yet to do time. Both are successful in their chosen work, both have college degrees, and both are happy in their domestic lives. And both are committed to peaceful child-rearing.

The ten docents from the Baptist church are remarkably helpful and gentle as they guide visitors through the several rooms. But none were aware of the historic role of the Christian church in passing on child abuse from generation to generation, in the belief that children are born in sin. Read and Murray Straus' landmark research, "Beating the Devil Out of Them", "Beating the Devil Out of Them") and Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment", researched and written by Philip Greven, Professor of History at Rutgers University. Still today there is, to my knowledge, yet to be delivered from any pulpit in this nation a sermon on the lifetime damage done by spanking. It's as if Jesus taught, but no one listened. - NL

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