Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ted Tripp and the potential for child abuse

Even for those who do not oppose corporal punishment, there are three scary aspects to Ted Tripp’s advice which could lead to potentially abusive situations for children and babies. As these factors combine, they become increasingly dangerous to children.

Let’s look at these three problems with Tripp’s teaching:
1. Spanking is applied based on the parent’s perception of the child’s attitude or motivation.
Fear, sadness, shock or pain may cause the child to give the appearance of rebellion. Additionally, Tripp seems to invest in a sort of magical thinking that the parent can always know the child’s attitude or motivations.

2. Spanking is good for pre-verbal infants and toddlers.
Pre-verbal children are very vulnerable to abuse, because they are unable to express themselves and do not understand how to placate or submit to a parent. We must also include disabled children, such as those with autism, retardation or Asperger’s Syndrome.

3. Repetitive, painful spankings seemingly have no upper limit.
Tripp advises to spank and spank and spank again until a child is “sweet” (what “sweetness” is will depend on what the parent wants: a happy smile, cessation of crying, a willing hug, or some sort of sense that the parent gets that the child has submitted). An implacable parent may not accept any response as valid “sweetness”, especially if he or she wants to keep spanking.

One father reflects on the spanking process taught in Tripp’s book:

My wife and I were not against spanking - so we figured we could look into implementing his disciplining steps. Basically his steps are:
1.) Describe to the child what they did wrong, or how they disobeyed
2.) Remind them of Eph. 6:1
3.) Give them one spanking
4.) Hug them and tell them that you love them.
5.) If the child's heart does not seem right repeat steps 3 & 4 until it does.
6.) Pray with the child.

We were not crazy about step 5 - seemed more along the lines of "The spankings will continue until you behavior changes".

This father was right in being worried. Luckily, he was wise enough to discern a problem.

Let’s look at a possible scenario with a combination of these three problems. A baby wants to look at the cat in the windowsill while he is sitting on his father’s lap. He leans over to see the cat. The father perceives this as rebellion (the baby is refusing to sit in his lap). He takes off the baby’s diaper and slaps bare skin several times. The baby screams in pain. The father lifts the baby up, but the baby is frightened and in pain and does not stop crying when comforted. The father perceives a “heart attitude” of rebellion, and that the child is not “sweet”. He takes off the baby’s diaper again and slaps bare skin again several times. Once again, the child is not placated by comforting. The father spanks again. And again. And again. He spanks the child until he is finally exhausted and stops crying and falls asleep.

The father has followed Tripp’s expectations. Repeated spankings have made the child quiet and “sweet”. When the father changes the baby’s diaper later, he notices that the marks he left are still swollen on the baby’s bare skin and are painful.

The father’s treatment of this baby was abusive and the baby had no cognitive or emotional ability to understand what had triggered this painful punishment, or how to make it stop.

Ted Tripp will be teaching up to 1,000 young parents at Mars Hill Church in six days.


grateful4babies said...

I just read this book and am saddened at the clear lies presented here. There is some truth, but a lot of non-truth. Just thought this should be pointed out.

Samantha Kagy said...


You are off-base on this one, friend. I say this, not to mock you or to be sarcastic with you -- but Ted Tripp has the goods. SOME parents may use his book/message to mistreat their children... but those fools would be mistreating their children anyway, with or without a parenting lesson from Mr. Tripp.

Sheperding a Child's Heart gives biblical solutions for parents racking their brain trying to control behavior - which is just an outward sign of an inward problem. Should you take it hook, line, & sinker? No. Read it. Pray for the Lord of Heaven and Earth to give you wisdom as you raise His babies in your care.

Please, take another look.

Nicola said...


"Racking their brains" trying to control behavior?

You as the parent are responsible for managing your child without resorting to methods that could harm them emotionally or sexually down the road. Panic is not an excuse here.