What a new study and the Bible say about punishing children.
Prior to becoming the devout, busybody next-door neighbor on the animated hit "The Simpsons," Ned Flanders was an out-of-control brat whose beatnik parents didn't believe in discipline. To reform Ned, a child psychologist enrolled him in the University of Minnesota Spankalogical Protocol, which included eight months of continuous spanking. It cured his rambunctiousness and set him on the path to becoming the cartoon world's most famously pious Christian.
Indeed, conservative Christian parenting is often unfairly presented as little more than "spare the rod, spoil the child," advice distilled from the Bible's book of Proverbs. Spanking—punishment delivered with an open hand, not a rod—used to be socially acceptable and frequently utilized by parents, even in public. But at some point in the past century, child-rearing books began discouraging spanking and encouraging such new proverbs as "let's all take a 'timeout' so that our anger might melt away, leading to fruitful conversation, peace and harmony in the home."
Some parents have taken the advice to such an extreme that they're hesitant to impose any consequences at all on their children. These include the helicopter parents who monitor their children's every move and the lawnmower parents who mow down any obstacle in their children's path. They, in turn, have spawned a backlash movement of free-range parents who encourage their children to roam freely and slacker parents (see the books "Bad Mother" and "The Three-Martini Playdate") who brag about who's been the most neglectful. It's a parenting free-for-all.