|I am sure that the look on her face means defiance!|
We need to re-examine the whole idea of defiance. The punitive experts demand spanking for it. Parents say they know it when they see it. According to several dictionaries, defiance is open resistance, bold disobedience or a reckless challenge. In application, though, it does not have to be nearly as flagrant as that. Somehow it becomes daring to feel or think anything in disagreement to the parent. It doesn't even have to be deliberately disrespectful in any way. Just different. In essence, kids get spanked for not feeling or thinking the same as their parents.
It doesn't even have to be conscious. Any body language that indicates stress, tension, or heaven forbid, dissent, also becomes defiance. For many parents it is the look in their child's eye. My mom would become infuriated when my left eye would begin to squint a little. She considered it defiance. I was so confused and frightened by this, because it was something I was not even aware of until I looked in a mirror once. Even then, I couldn't always control it. If I am very tense, my facial muscles on that side contract so that my left eye looks smaller. It still happens as an adult, but now I can't be punished for it.
Michael Pearl gives numerous nauseating examples of hitting children so that they will be cheerful. In chapter 13 of To Train Up a Child, he explains:
"Bad attitude is pure bad. For as a child "thinketh in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23: 7)." "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23)." If a child shows the least displeasure in response to a command or duty, it should be addressed as disobedience. If a child sticks out his lip, you should focus your training on his bad attitude. The wrong slant of the shoulders reveals a bad frame of mind. Consider this a sign to instruct, train or discipline. A cheerful, compliant spirit is the norm. Anything else is a sign of trouble." [Note: in Pearlspeak, instruction, training and discipline all mean spanking with some type of stick].The wrong slant of the shoulders deserves a spanking. For other authors, it not not pasting on a convincing smile. (Because if they don't obey all the way, right away and with a smile, it isn't true obedience!) How many four year olds, let alone toddlers, (and Pearl recommends hitting seven month old babies with a switch for fussing) have the physical awareness to even realize that their shoulder position or involuntary facial expressions are wrong, let alone the control to prevent it? Nearly every child I know who has been spanked has similar stories of being hit for "defiance" that they were unaware of even expressing.
Here is the issue. Spanking or otherwise punishing a child for something as subjective and nebulous as defiant posture or expressions means that you are spanking them for a feeling, not an action. This goes far beyond the issue of ordinary obedience and respect for parents to punishing a child for thoughts and emotions.
The child is left with two options: lie convincingly or never question anything internally, not even to understand it better. After all, delayed obedience isn't really obedience according to these guys (whose Bibles all mysteriously omit Jesus' parable of the two brothers in Mt 21). Over years of practice, both options are exceedingly dangerous. You wind up with a compulsive people pleaser who will lie convincingly without qualm or someone who believes everything and never thinks for himself.
Courtesy is important, sure. Children need to learn to express disagreement respectfully. However, that is a complex social skill with delicate nuance. Most adults still struggle to do this successfully. It is going to take considerable practice, teaching and perhaps scripting for a small child to be able to perform courteous disagreement, and punishing them for not getting it perfect is tantamount to punishing a toddler for not acing an algebra exam.
Yet even respect is not enough for many parents who have bought into the defiance boogeyman. It becomes a dangerous pride issue. For them, regardless of how respectfully dissent is presented, the mere existence of beliefs or feelings contrary to the parent are labeled defiance. Consider--is your child allowed to express disagreement without retaliation? What would be necessary for it to be acceptable? Are they allowed to feel angry? Frustrated? Upset in any way? Can they show it? Or must they pretend to be calm and cheerful?
Becoming another person's thought police or emotional prison guard is only about control. God does not give us the authority to control another individuals thoughts or feelings. A child is not required to obey you if you are asking them to sin. And this kind of parenting is definitely asking them to sin. Parents who do this are seeking to be an idol. They are claiming the place of God in their child's life. They are grasping at privileges that God does not even take for Himself!
Over and over in the Bible, God's people poured out their hearts to Him even when it was messy. They were honest with themselves and with God. They even talked back and argued, and there were times when God counted that as righteousness. He doesn't demand that we lie and pretend to follow Him. In fact, hypocrisy seems to bother Him far more than questions or even emotional outbursts.
I would plead with all parents who punish their children for defiance to instead examine their own hearts. Is your pride motivating you? Fear? Desire for control? How is your attitude compatible with the Fruit of the Spirit? With James 3:17? With Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21, I Corinthians 13? Rather than searching for splinters in the eyes of our children, we need to deal with the logs in our own eyes. Then we can see more clearly to teach, and may discover that much of what we thought was defiance was simply our own greedy pride.
There is an interesting thread on how to deal with defiance here. I agree with many of the posters who state that in practice, it doesn't really make a difference whether my children are inwardly defiant or not, because the response will always be to teach. I don't have to claim to know what is in my child's heart and punish it (doesn't the Bible say that we don't always even know our own hearts, let alone someone else's?). Instead, I have to model and teach the attitudes that I want to see.
Finally, we know that children learn best by example ("Be imitators of me like beloved children"). If we are rude, disrespectful and arrogant in our attitudes toward our children, how can we have any right to expect their attitudes toward us to be any different? "Do to others as you would have them do to you" does not have an exemption if the "others" are children.
We are not called to police the thoughts and emotions of our children, to force their feelings underground, or to exact vengeance if they do not cater to our pride. Instead, we called to teach them in love, gentleness and humility so that they will be able to find healthy and acceptable ways to express their God given individuality.