Category Archives: Religious Family

How to Deal with Religious Bullying and Spiritual Abuse

My oldest daughter, L, is now in the 3rd grade. Recently she brought home a Chick tract, which a girl in her class brought to give everyone in the 3rd grade. The tract is a “comic” designed to appeal to kids and get their attention, turning the story into the story of how to be “saved by Jesus.” Never mind that the school is allowing the tracts to be passed out to the entire grade (and probably the entire school)! That’s a battle I want to fight. But I digress.

L says this girls bugs her regularly because she knows L doesn’t go to church. It turned into bullying in my view when L asked the girl to stop talking to her about it and the girl refused.

I decided to look up the website on the back of the tract for some background information. I won’t post it here, but let’s just say this girl’s dad is a few fries short of a Happy Meal. His website claims that the “power of Jesus” healed his mental illness and it can “do the same for anyone.” Yikes. Shit just got really real.

My husband and I told L to respond like this: “I’m not interested, so please stop talking to me about it.” And if the girl refuses, we’ll take further action. We were clear with L that she should not respond hatefully, nor should she tell the girl that she’s wrong or try to engage in any kind of argument with her. As we often tell her, you can’t argue with stupid. Probably not the nicest way to put it, but just look up a religious Facebook or YouTube comments argument and you’ll understand.

Anyway, it’s been about 2 months since the last time L came home saying that this girl was bothering her, so it sounds like the kid got the point.

The moral of the story? Respond firmly, but kindly. It’s not this little girl’s fault that her dad is pressuring her to bully. But, I hope L can help her understand it’s not ok to do so.

Two posts in one day…I must be coming down with something…*cough*…

Bee

They’re worried about my soul…

Apparently I embarrassed my dad on Facebook a few days ago because I stated publicly that I’m a “non-believer.” This led to a belligerent phone call during which I asked him to stop embarrassing me. But he said he was embarrassed of me, and told me I shouldn’t say I’m a non-believer on Facebook. He didn’t say, “where all my friends can see it,” but I know he was thinking that.

He told me he worries for my soul. I know he’s not proud of me and it really hurts. I don’t understand why he isn’t proud of me, though. I work hard, got my degree, and I’m raising two sweet, polite, and kind little girls. I have a great marriage and a happy life. What’s not to be proud of? I don’t believe in his imaginary dude in the sky…that’s all.

To that, I say, “so, what!?” If there is a god (and that’s a big if for me), I don’t believe it’s the god of the Bible. I believe the god will be proud of my life and my actions. I believe this god will not demand to be worshipped, condemn gay people, oppress women, and favor war. If there is a god, he probably won’t care whether or not people believe in him because he’s given us no evidence he exists!

 

A Rant About My Parents

Please bear with me because this will be long. I really need to get some things off my chest. Very few people in my family know that I write this blog, so I’m not really worried about any of them seeing this rant. On the other hand, maybe it would be good if they actually knew how I feel. I want to talk about my parents. This is, after all, a parenting blog.

My parents got divorced when I was in 3rd grade. My mom got custody of my brother and me. Between my 3rd grade and 8th grade years, we were subjected to a host of loser, drug-addict boyfriends, crappy babysitters, and a mom whose time was spent working, partying, or with boyfriends. We moved schools several times and I was never able to make any good friends. My dad or grandma would drive 7 hours to pick us up almost every other weekend. Sometimes my dad would have a six pack of Coors in the backseat floorboard in an Igloo cooler. I remember watching him reach around for another beer while we drove on the highway. He always did his best to see us, though, no matter what obstacles my mom put in his path. This one simple fact is pretty much the only positive feeling I have toward my dad, especially now. We’ll get to the rest in a moment.

When I was in 5th grade, my mom married a horrible man. This was her third marriage. She was married once before my dad, but has no kids from any other marriage. This horrible man treated my brother and I terribly, but my brother got the worst of it. I remember an incident when the man was angry with my brother and held him upside down, by one foot, over a stair case opening. It was terrifying. I remember screaming for him to let my brother down. Thank goodness he did. I think we were lucky. She tried to leave this man several times, each time pulling us out of school and packing our toys and clothes in garbage bags. She kept going back to him. I’m pretty sure he was abusing her, and I know my mom mentioned later on that he’d pulled a gun on her. He never laid a hand on me. I think he knew I’d tell my dad. Finally, about a month into my 8th grade year, my mom decided to leave him for good. She sent my brother and I to Tulsa to live with my dad. She said she needed to get her life together. It was about three years before we saw her again, and she only came to town because my brother developed epilepsy.

So in 8th grade, with my dad and his new wife, life became more stable. This was when the Christian indoctrination truly started. We’d gone to church a lot as kids, especially with my grandparents, but junior high was really the turing point for me. I felt abandoned by mom mom. We were very poor and living in a crappy house in a crappy neighborhood. My dad’s heart belonged to his race car, and he immersed himself in it. He spent every moment he wasn’t at work tinkering with his car. We were dragged to the races, so I tried to make the best of it. Many weekends we were out later than 1 a.m. Looking back, with all the noise, dirt, drinking, and fighting that went on, it wasn’t really a place for kids. I poured my heart and soul into church service, singing, and “witnessing” to others. I believe I did this to escape. I needed to feel loved and I needed to belong. Being so poor and having no friends, church offered a safe place with people who praised me for my talent and gave me friendship when I needed it most.

I began to resent the race car because my dad spent so much time and money on it. His wife felt the same, and things got rocky for them. I applied for Oral Robert’s University’s opera music program, and decided my “calling” was to make a living as a singer. But the idea of losing my (much older) boyfriend kept me from going, and my parents didn’t try to tell me otherwise. I ended up working shit jobs for a long time, until I was offered a professional job that required lots of travel around the year 2001.

Fast forward to about 2006. My dad was divorced. My mom, on her 5th marriage. I had a roommate who was only a few years older than me. My dad came to do a repair at our house and they met. They began to date. It wasn’t bad at first, but it turned into a nightmare.

I ended up with a surprise pregnancy and decided I wanted to raise the child. I met my husband shortly after and life became absolutely grand. My husband showed me the value of education. He showed me that I’m smart and capable of doing great things. This was when my life really changed, and through education and personal research I came to the conclusion that I’m an atheist. I love my husband and we have a wonderful relationship, but in all truth, he saved me. He teases that I would might never have risen up from the redneckery and drama I was in, and he’s probably right.

Fast forward to today. My dad, now in his early 50’s, recently had his mobile home repossessed. This was cosigned by my grandparents, so their credit is now crap. He’s been living with my grandparents, who are in their late 70’s/early 80’s, with his girlfriend (my former roommate) and her two teenage kids. The problems this situation has caused are far too complex to go into here, but I’ll just say that there are a lot of hard feelings. I refuse to speak to his girlfriend because of several incidents involving her children treating my dad poorly. The oldest one hit my dad in the face with a skillet. Yeah. I won’t let her kids near my family.

My dad never sees my children, unless it’s a family event, like a birthday party for my brother’s kids. I can’t text him because his girlfriend reads his texts. She treats me like I’m an ex-girlfriend of his. It’s very bizarre. I call, but he doesn’t answer and rarely calls back. He says he loves me, but I doubt it. Maybe he does, but it sure does hurt when he doesn’t call. When I graduated college, I barely got even a congratulations from him. He didn’t seem proud at all. I’ve tried and tried to connect with him, but to no avail. I know he’s unhappy with this woman, and I know this for reasons I can’t say. But he stays with her, and it makes no sense to me.

My mom lives 7 hours away, and she’s in the middle of her 5th divorce. She calls every now and then, and she answers when I call, so we do get to talk. But she treats my brother like my dad treats me. She hasn’t seen my kids in months. She keeps saying she’s going to move to Tulsa, but I’ll believe it when it happens.

I don’t understand why my parents are ok with missing out on their grandchildren’s lives. I don’t understand why my dad will spend time with my brother, but not with me. I don’t understand why they aren’t proud of me and the things I’ve accomplished, and why they refuse to acknowledge the great things I’ve done with my life.

I try to ignore this part of my life. My in-laws are amazing and wonderful people who love me and their grandchildren. They spend time with us, we love being around them, and they always support and encourage us when we need it. They are the parents I never had. Please don’t think my life is hard or bad, because it’s not. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.

I’m sure my parents love me. It would be silly to think they don’t, but it seems to me that they really didn’t want to be parents. I just needed to write all this out because it’s been weighing heavily on my mind lately. I’m amazed my brother and I have turned out so normal, coming from what we did. We were lucky. Other kids aren’t so lucky.

Atheists and Discipline – Do you spank?

I get a lot of traffic from searches related to spanking and discipline. Some of you are landing on my page looking for spanking videos. Ha! But many of you come here looking for advice on discipline for your freethinking child, and you also come here to find out how religious parents discipline their children. I’ve written about this subject a few times before. You can read about the sleepover incident here, and about the spanking incident here. I’d like to go into more detail about our family’s approach to discipline and why we do what we do.


First of all, as you may have read in previous posts, I was disciplined by spanking with a heavy belt or thin tree branch (a “switch” in Southern terms). I’m sure I deserved punishment for whatever I did, but the punishment I got often left huge welts on my butt and upper thighs. Many times the spanking was done bare-bottomed, and many times it happened several hours after my crime occurred. This meant I had to dread the spanking until my dad got home that evening. I don’t want to make it sound like I was abused, because I don’t feel that I was. I do think my parents could have used punishment as a way to teach and guide me, rather than a way to inflict pain. What was accomplished? I became scared of my dad and his belt. I became fearful. I became angry.

As a new mother, I started out spanking my oldest daughter as punishment. However, I read a great book that was given to me by my in-laws called John Rosemond’s New Parent Power!. Actually, my copy is very old and is just called Parent Power, but it’s an excellent book with great tips on getting your kids to go to bed without fussing, dealing with common issues, and, of course, discipline. Rosemond says in my copy of Parent Power that spanking should happen immediately when the incident occurs, and it should always be the parent’s hand to the child’s butt. One swift smack to get their attention. This worked well for me in the beginning, but I began to use spanking for every. Little. Thing. I realized that it was becoming a problem and that my daughter wasn’t learning anything. She became scared of my hand. I was a new mom going off what I learned from my parents. But my husband rarely got spanked, and encouraged me to find a more effective and less traumatizing mode of discipline.

When my second child was old enough to get into trouble, my husband and I took a different approach. We now reserve spanking for only the worst incidents, and only to get the child’s attention if we can’t do that any other way. We’ve found that we spank very little (and almost never) these days. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I spanked.

Some people will say that not spanking is the reason children grow up with mental problems, but I believe that’s a whole other parenting beast related to parents simply not being there and talking to their children the way they should. Trust me, I struggle with this daily since my dad rarely talks to me. It’s been this way for years. I can understand how that would mess a kid up. But, I digress.

Not spanking has given us a chance to teach our children how to be polite, sensitive, and thoughtful people. We take every opportunity to get them to mind their manners, be kind to others, and respect their elders. We use time outs. We ground them from the iPad and iPod, which, by the way, have been integral to our oldest daughter learning how to read. I’ll do another post on that very soon. We get compliments on how well-behaved and polite our girls are, and I know it’s because we use discipline as a way of guiding, rather than punishing.

I don’t know why spanking seems to be a religious parenting thing, but I intend for the belt lashings to stop with me. It’s just not the way I want to do things. As an atheist, I approach child-rearing with the intent to teach and guide, rather than dictate and rule. Does this make sense?

That being said, I do not think there is anything wrong with spanking if it is used appropriately. I do not think my parents used it appropriately. I think they spanked out of anger and also because they didn’t know how else to get us to do what they wanted.

Do you spank? How do you discipline your children? Are there any discipline-related topics you’d like me to explore?

Spanking, Private Parts, and Religious Discipline

You’re probably getting tired of hearing about the situation with my daughter and her friend, but we’ve had yet another incident. My daughter has mentioned in the past that she and her friends play “house,” and that one of them is the mommy or the daddy or the kid. Through discussing this playtime with my daughter, I learned that her friend, whom you can read about here or here (or even here) has been routinely “paddling” my daughter. It happens when they’re playing outside, sometimes during P.E. in the gym, and sometimes in line while they’re waiting for things. It’s not a one or two time deal, according to my daughter. She says it happens almost daily. Kids have a crazy sense of time, but based on the different situations she’s described, I believe her that it’s happening regularly.

Now, to be clear, I detest that word – paddle. It reminds me of my childhood, when threats of a-paddlin’ were how I was kept under control made to behave. We rarely spank in my house. It’s just not how we dole out punishment. My husband and I reserve it for rare moments when immediate action must be taken to correct a terribly offensive behavior at that exact moment. And my girls are generally very polite and well-behaved, so those moments are few and far between. There are no threats of spanking. Agree or disagree, but that’s how we do things in my home. But, I digress.

So I hear about the “paddling” that’s going on and I instruct my daughter to tell her friend that it is inappropriate to a) hit someone and b) touch someone else’s private parts. We talk about personal space and privacy a lot because I want my girls to understand when touching is and is not appropriate. This is a big deal. I know that sexual abuse can really mess with a child. I’ve personally never experienced it, but I have friends who have, and I’ve seen how difficult it is to overcome. So, I tell my daughter to tell her friend these things, and I hope that this will stop it. At this point, I know they’re playing and I don’t want to make a huge deal out of it.

Fast forward to this morning, when my daughter tells me “paddling” happened again yesterday. I dug deeper. I asked if my daughter was doing any of the spanking. I asked if she had been touching anyone’s bottom. She said no and no, that it was her friend and it was happening when her friend pretended to get angry with her child. I wrote a note to her teacher, briefly explaining the situation, and she called me this morning. She told me that she didn’t know anything about it, which isn’t surprising. The problem is that my daughter didn’t understand that anything “bad” was going on. I hope now she understands that it’s inappropriate. I don’t want her thinking it’s ok to put her hands on another kid’s rear end. But now her teacher knows, and my daughter knows that it’s wrong.

I hope that addressing it with the teacher will solve the issue because I haven’t spoken to the girl’s mother in a while. I’m pretty sure she got the point after our last conversation. But if I have to contact her about this, I will. It’s one thing for their home life to affect their child. It’s entirely different when it starts affecting mine. I can only hope they are in a different class next year…and I will probably request it.

The thing that makes me the angriest/saddest about this whole situation is that this little girl is subjected to religious discipline. I remember what it was like. I was spanked with a heavy leather belt. I can still remember being bent over the bed while my dad lashed me. I remember the marks. I remember being spanked for the smallest things. I remember having to pick out my own “switch” for my grandma to smack me with. All it did was make me fearful and resentful. I hate that this little girl is growing up this way. I hate that her “loving, Christian family” uses violence as discipline. I believe this regular spanking of my child is an indication of what she is experiencing at home.

Ugh, drama.

 

Awkward Moments for Non-Believers

I’ve told you before about my daughter’s best friend and her very religious mother and the incident that happened at a sleepover. Well the girls ended up on the same soccer team this year and the mother and I had a chat at the end-of-season party. She asked me directly what faith my husband and I are, and I told her directly that we do not believe in gods. This surprised her, and she asked what led me to decide I no longer believe. She knows a bit of my history of growing up Southern Baptist, so this was shocking to her.

I explained my story of finding the truth. A few moments later, our girls ran up to us exclaiming that my daughter had gotten a bump on the head and her friend had prayed for her, resulting in my daughter’s head feeling better. I held my tongue, though we’ve explained to our daughter before that praying does not help anything. The mother then said, “[Daughter], why don’t you pray for [my daughter]’s Mom?”

Ok, no. What am I supposed to say to that? “No, little girl, don’t pray for me.” This happened right in front of my child. I chose to keep quiet, and then later explained to my child that mommy and daddy don’t believe in praying to solve problems. It was awkward, embarrassing, and uncalled for.

This is what we’re up against. *sigh*

The Sleepover Incident – Please Weigh In

I’ve mentioned before that my daughter, who is 5, has a best friend whose parents are extremely religious (Christians). I allowed my daughter to have her first sleepover with her best friend last weekend. In the house were the two girls, and the friend’s older brother, who is autistic. I do not have an autistic child, but I realize they can sometimes be difficult to handle. I also realize that they are very sensitive and need special care when it comes to behavior.

When we were getting ready for bed the next evening, my daughter began using the word “paddle,” as in “spank.” She told her stuffed animals that they were bad and were being “paddled” and sent to their rooms. She began to spank them on the bottom and tossed them onto her bed. My husband was in the room and promptly stopped the behavior, asking her where she heard the word “paddle.” It’s not a word we use. In fact, we rarely spank at all and had recently decided that we were going to stop spanking completely. We never tell her she is “bad,” so this was not something she got from us.

She explained to my husband that she learned this while playing with her best friend. Then she told him a story about the brother. She said that the brother was bothering the girls in their room, and that the boy’s father came to get him. When he wouldn’t listen to his father, the father slapped the boy in the face…within the sight of my daughter and his. Now, I’m not an expert, but there are several things that bothered me (and my husband) about this story.

First, I can’t believe he slapped a child of no older than 8. Secondly, I can’t believe he thinks it’s ok to deal with an autistic child’s behavior this way. Thirdly, I can’t believe he allowed my child to witness it. It obviously made an impact on her because she felt compelled to tell us.

I’ve heard stories of Christian parents being abusive, but have never witnessed it. I was spanked with a belt as a child and vowed never to spank my children in that way. They never explained what I did wrong or how to correct it, and as I got older I realized the ineffectiveness of this mode of punishment. So, I ask you, readers, what would you do? Would you allow your child to see her friend again? Would you allow your child back at this house? Would you tell anyone? Is this abuse? Is this the proper treatment for an autistic child’s behavior (I highly doubt it!)? Does the “paddling” scenario bother you? Am I overreacting?

I would love to hear your thoughts. I’m so torn because my daughter loves her friend. But I don’t want her to be around violence toward children, especially those that cannot help their behavior. I also don’t want to get a family in trouble if they don’t deserve it, but my gut tells me that I should speak up. Please weigh in.

No Vacation Bible School for my Kids

My grandmother, the sweet woman, is a devout Christian and probably one of the most genuine people I know. She loves god with all her heart and truly lives the life a Christian should live. She believes some things are wrong (homosexuality and alcohol consumption, for example) but she treats all people equally. She never turns her back on someone because of their sexual orientation, choice of lifestyle, or even belief in god. She did not turn her back on me when I became pregnant before I was married. However, she has no idea that I’m an atheist. I cannot bring myself to tell her because I know it will break her heart. She’s the person in my life I can relate to the most, and she’s been their for me when my own parents were busy squabbling over whose weekend it was to take my brother and myself.

My grandmother asked if she could take my 4-year-old to VBS at the church where I grew up, and where she still attends nearly every available service. I thought one day wouldn’t hurt, but over the course of the last month, so many ridiculous things have happened in the name of Christianity that I can’t bear the thought of my child being exposed to religious dogma. She already attends a Christian school, and that’s all I can take. So, I didn’t send her and I feel terrible that my grandmother didn’t get to show her off to her friends, which was probably her main motivation for asking me to bring her anyway.

I made up excuses for why I didn’t bring her to VBS, and I feel terrible about it. I wish I could tell her the truth. But I know the though of me burning in hell will haunt her until the day she dies, and I just can’t do that to her. She’s chosen to live this life in blind faith, and so she will be blind to my fate. Which, in reality, is most likely just a cease of existence, but this is not how she would see it.

My heart hurts, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing in keeping it from her. At least, I hope I am.