Advice of violence-prevention professionals compared to advice of James Dobson
Compiled by Eric Perlin
A critical look at the evangelical right's leading proponent of violent authoritarianism in the family, Dr. James Dobson, through quotes from his best-selling publications. In the following material, Dobson's admonitions (shown here in green when viewed with Netscape) are juxtaposed for easy comparison to the advice of experts in the fields of domestic violence and child-sexual-abuse prevention.
Psychologists Ronald Slaby and Wendy Roedell: "(O)ne of the most reliable predictors of children's level of aggression is the heavy use by parents of harsh, punitive discipline and physical punishment... Parental punitiveness has been found to be positively correlated with children's aggression in over 25 studies...(P)arental punishment is one important aspect of a general pattern of intercorrelated parental behaviors that influence the child's aggression." 1
James Dobson: "Contrary to what it might seem, (a child) is more likely to be a violent person if his parent fails to (spank him), because he learns too late about the painful consequences of acting selfishly, rebelliously, and aggressively."2Protect Your Child by Laura Hutton: "Every child should be taught that he has personal rights that should be respected by all adults...'I have the right to say no if someone touches or wants to touch the private parts of my body.' " 3
James Dobson: "A spanking is to be reserved for use in response to willful defiance, whenever it occurs. Period!" 4Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk County: "The pain a woman feels cannot be measured by how many bruises she has on her body... Most women report that even if the physical abuse is not severe, the emotional trauma from being abused by someone they love has long-lasting effects." 5
James Dobson: "When a youngster tries this kind of stiff-necked rebellion, you had better take it out of him, and pain is a marvelous purifier." 6 "...It is not necessary to beat the child into submission; a little bit of pain goes a long way for a young child. However, the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely." 7Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk County: "Many men make statements such as, 'My partner makes me hit her.' Blaming the victim is an easy way of denying responsibility for your own behavior.... No matter what your partner does, you don't have the right to hurt her." 8
James Dobson: "Some strong-willed children absolutely demand to be spanked, and their wishes should be granted."9Protect Your Child: " I have a right to scream for help even if I am told by a molester to be quiet and obey....l don't have to obey someone who hurts me or wants to hurt me." 10
James Dobson: "Two or three stinging strokes on the legs or buttocks with a switch are usually sufficient to emphasize the point, 'You must obey me.' " 11Suffolk County Women's Services: "You cannot end the violence by trying to be 'better' or by trying harder to please your abuser." 12
James Dobson: "You can explain (to your child) why he has been punished and how he can avoid the difficulty next time." 13The Safe Child Book by Sherryl Kerns Kraizer: "We need to look at the ways in which we teach our children to be blindly obedient to adults and authority figures. Most children do not know they can say no to a police officer, a teacher, a principal, a counselor, a minister, a baby-sitter, or a parent when an inappropriate request is made." 14
James Dobson: "By learning to yield to the loving authority...of his parents, a child learns to submit to other forms of authority which will confront him later in his life -- his teachers, school principal, police, neighbors and employers." 15Suffolk County Women's Services: "You have a right to a life free from abuse." 16
James Dobson: "Most (children) need to be spanked now and then." 17The Safe Child Book: "Young children tell me that some of the ways they don't like to be touched are: kisses on the mouth, getting their shirts tucked in by grown-ups, being picked up, having their hair stroked, having to kiss Grandma and Grandpa or Mom and Dad's friends... They can be unwanted touch, just as sexual abuse is unwanted touch... It is important to respect children's preferences. By learning to say no to one type of touching, children learn to say no to the other." 18
James Dobson: "Minor pain can...provide excellent motivation for the child... There is a muscle, lying snugly against the base of the neck... When firmly squeezed, it sends little messengers to the brain saying, 'This hurts; avoid recurrence at all costs'." 19Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk County: "Men who abuse do so in order to maintain power and control over their partners." 20
James Dobson: "A child wants to be controlled." 21 "... The need to be controlled and governed is almost universal in childhood... It is through loving control that parents express personal worth to a child." 22The Safe Child Book: "Private parts include the genital area, the buttocks, and the breasts. It is sometimes easier for parents to say something like 'The parts of your body that your bathing suit and underwear cover up are special parts of your body. You can touch yourself there, but other people shouldn't. except if you're sick or at the doctor. Those same parts of the body are special for other people and it's not okay for someone older than you to touch you...' " 23
James Dobson: "If a parent responds appropriately, on the backside, he has taught the child a valuable lesson..." 24Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk County: If your partner has to change her behavior in order to keep herself free from your physical or verbal assaults... then she is being
James Dobson: "Corporal punishment in the hands of a loving parent is a teaching tool by which harmful behavior is inhibited." 26Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Tips to Parents: "Children who may be too frightened to talk about sexual molestation may exhibit a variety of physical and behavioral signals. ...Symptoms (include):..excessive crying..." 27
James Dobson: "Real crying usually lasts two minutes or less, but may continue for five. After that point, the child is merely complaining... I would require him to stop the protest crying, usually by offering him a little more of whatever caused the original tears." 28Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk County: "Batterers over-personalize their partner's behavior, perceiving any disagreements as attacks against him." 29
James Dobson: "When a child has lowered his head and clenched his fist, he is daring the parent to take him on." 30Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Tips to Parents: "Other behavioral signals (that indicate a child may have been sexually molested include)...aggressive or disruptive behavior..." 31
James Dobson: "An appropriate spanking from a loving parent in a moment of defiance provides (a) service. It tells (the child)...he must steer clear of certain social traps... selfishness, dishonesty, unprovoked aggression, etc." 32Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk County: "When trying to resolve a conflict, look for 'WIN-WIN' solutions, where both of you feel that the resolution is acceptable. Don't make your partner into your opponent. Remember that the goal is to solve a problem, not have the 'upper hand'." 33
James Dobson: "When you are defiantly challenged, win decisively." 34NotesSee Eric Perlin vs. Stephen B.
1. Slaby and Roedell, "The Development and Regulation of Aggression in Young Children," in Judith Worell, ed., Psychological Development in the Elementary Years (New York: Academic Press, 1982), pp. 98, 106, 107.
2. Dobson, James, Dare to Discipline, Tyndale House and Bantam Books, p. 41.
3. Huchton, Laura M., Protect Your Child, Prentice-Hall, Inc., p. 71.
4. Dobson, James, The Strong-Willed Child, Tyndale House and Bantam Books, p. 37.
5. Domestic Partner Education Program, Victims' Information Education Bureau of Suffolk, p. 10.
6. Dare to Discipline, p. 16.
7. Dare to Discipline, p. 23.
8. Domestic Partner Education Program, , p. 7.
9. The Strong-Willed Child, , p. 73.
10. Protect Your Child, p. 71.
11. The Strong-Willed Child, pp. 53-4.
12. Confronting Family Violence, Suffolk County Women's Services, p. 3.
13. Dare to Discipline, p. 23.
14. Krazier, Sherryl Kerns, The Safe Child Book, Dell Publishing Company, lnc., p. 98.
15. The Strong-Willed Child, p. 235.
16. Confronting Family Violence p. 3.
17. The Strong-Willed Child, p. 63.
18. The Safe Child Book, p. 47.
19. Dare to Discipline, p. 26.
20. Domestic Partner Education Program, p. 4.
21. Dare to Discipline, p. 16.
22. Dare to Discipline, p. 39.
23. The Safe Child Book, p. 48.
24. Dare to Discipline, p. 40.
25. Domestic Partner Education Program, p. 5
26. The Strong-Willed Child, p.35.
27. Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Tips to Parents, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Human Development Services, Administration for Children, Youth and Families, National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.
28. Dare to Discipline, p.38.
29. Domestic Partner Education Program, p. 9.
30. Dare to Discipline, p. 40.
31. Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Tips to Parents
32. The Strong-Willed Child, p. 36.
33. Domestic Partner Education Program, p. 17.
34. Dare to Discipline, p. 36.