“The New Dare to Discipline” by James Dobson

This book is very disturbing. In this book, Dobson calls children demeaning names such as: tyrant, dictator, little spitfire, terrors, brat, bratty, rebel, tornado, "little fat-fingers", "fat little legs" and "spindly legs."  Dobson claims to present a Christian approach to raising children in this book. But all these cruel names show that he completely ignores Jesus’ injunction to “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones” (Mt. 18:10).  Dobson is not ordained in any religion, he has no religious credentials, and he is not a pediatrician or any other type of medical doctor.

Dobson appears to be obsessed with “defiance,” using that word dozens of times in this book.

In Chapter 4 Dobson goes into more detail about corporal punishment, recommending using objects (not the hand) to hit and whip children, starting as young as 15-18 months old for “defiance.”

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Below are some quotes you might like to use, grouped by chapter.  Especially recommended are the quotes from chapters 2,3,4 & 11.  The first chapter can be read at Amazon.  Direct quotes are in bold type.  My comments are in red type. 



CHAPTER ONE – The Challenge

On p.4 the story is told of a 3 year old girl whose mother tries to force her to take a nap when she is not at all tired. This is a daily occurrence; the girl doesn’t want a nap and is never tired at the mother’s designated “naptime”. The absurdity of the mother expecting her to sleep anyway is never commented on by Dobson.  Instead, he describes the girl as “defiant,” a “tyrant,” a “dictator,” and her mother as “hopelessly beaten.” The child was crying from her crib. Dobson says she “was brazenly rejecting the authority of her mother.”

CHAPTER TWO – Common Sense and Your Child

p.11 Dobson decries the lack of discipline (spanking) from the “unstructured permissiveness we saw in the mid-twentieth century.” This is when 99% of parents spanked their children, according to surveys! Dobson is making absolutely no sense here.

p.13 Dobson says a child must obey or he has “utter contempt and disrespect for those closest to him” and “anarchy and chaos reign in his home” and his mother will be “nervous, frustrated” and “embarrassed,” enduring “hardships.”

p.18 Dobson calls Dr. Benjamin Spock's advice “off the wall.”

p.18 “My primary purpose…has been to record for posterity my understanding of the Judeo-Christian concept of parenting that has guided millions of mothers and fathers for centuries.” and “It is imperative that a child learns to respect his parents.” Dobson says a child must not “defy” parents, “laughing in their faces and stubbornly flaunting their authority,” and developing a “natural contempt” for parents.

p.19 Once when Dobson is out of town, his 2 year old son is asked by Dobson’s wife to pray before dinner. The toddler was “startled” but then said “I love you, Daddy. Amen.” Because the tiny child said “Daddy” instead of “Our Father” Dobson decides his tiny son’s mistake means the child has identified Dobson with God. He takes this idea even further, concluding that ALL children believe Daddy is God.  The toddler’s innocent mistake could have a better explanation: the boy’s wish that God was his Daddy, and not the guy who is out of town and who hits him! Or, because the boy heard his parents say “Father” when they started to pray, he changed “Father” to daddy because that’s what he calls a father.

p.20 Dobson says to hit a child for “willful, haughty disobedience” and when a child says “I will not!”  Dobson says to “respond to the challenge immediately.” Challenging authority and “disrespect” deserve corporal punishment.

p. 21 Dobson turns parenting into a contest of wills: “You have drawn a line in the dirt, and the child has deliberately flopped his bony little toe across it. Who is going to win? Who has the most courage? Who is in charge here? If you do not conclusively answer these questions for your strong-willed children, they will precipitate other battles designed to ask them again and again.” Dobson never considers that children might have good reasons for not wanting to go along with everything a parent wants them to do.

p.23 Dobson says “I learned very early that if I was going to launch a flippant attack on her (Dobson’s mother), I had better be standing at least twelve feet away. This distance was necessary to avoid an instantaneous response—usually aimed at my backside.” Dobson here admits his normal fear of being hit when he was a child – and his efforts to avoid the hitting. But it doesn’t stop him from the behavior that triggers the hitting.

p.23-24 Dobson’s mother once whipped him with a girdle that had “a multitude of straps and buckles.” “Believe it or not, it made me feel loved.” (!!)

p.25-6 Dobson says “Parents should be gentle with their child’s ego, never belittling or embarrassing him or her in front of friends.” Contrast these words of Dobson’s with all the belittling names he calls children, like “tyrant, brat, terror, little fat-fingers.” Dobson also says “A father who is sarcastic and biting in his criticism of children cannot expect to receive genuine respect in return.” Yet in the very next paragraph, Dobson says: “A toddler is the most hard-nosed opponent of law & order” is “selfish” “demanding” “rebellious” “destructive” “a tiger” “a butterball” an “anarchist” and has “fat little legs.”

p.27 Dobson continues with other cruel words to describe children, such as they “want to play with everything within reach, particularly fragile and expensive ornaments” and “They prefer using their pants rather than the potty.”

p.28 Dobson describes a mother shaking her 3 year old for spitting. The child spat again. This was “embarrassing” to the mother; she was “too weak or tired or busy to win.” Shaking can cause brain damage and death, but Dobson doesn’t comment on this.

On p.28 Dobson says “If discipline begins on the second day of life, you’re one day too late.

p.29 Dobson says parents must not “yield authority to their infants.” “A child’s resistant behavior always contains a message to his parents, which they must decode before responding. That message is often phrased in the form of a question: ‘Are you in charge or am I?’ A distinct reply is appropriate to discourage future attempts to overthrow constituted government in the home.”

CHAPTER THREE – More Common Sense About Children

p.34 Dobson sends wife Shirley on a “seek and destroy mission” when their 2 children are noisy in a church balcony.

p.34 Dobson claims “Nothing brings a parent and child closer together than for the mother or father to win decisively after being defiantly challenged.”

p.35 Dobson says “spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause genuine tears.” Afterwards when the child crumples “to the breast of his parent, he should be welcomed with open, warm, loving arms.” “Tell him how much you love him.”

p.35 Dobson calls his own daughter a “fifteen-month-old-ankle-biter."

p.36 Dobson’s wife whipped their 15 month old daughter for going onto the patio in the rain. Dobson says to show “parental warmth after such discipline” and to have a “Loving conclusion to the disciplinary encounter.” This is what leads to S & M behavior.

p.36 Dobson recommends painful squeezing of the trapezius muscle on the neck to obtain “instant obedience.” Dobson does this to a teenager on p. 41, as well as hitting him.

p.42 Dobson says “I think most children are rather analytical about defying adult authority” and “A youngster will push one parent to the limit of tolerance.” Dobson calls talking things over with a child “yakkity-yak discussions.”

p.48 Dobson decides that 4 abandoned baby birds died from being fed too much (they could have gotten a disease, been fed the wrong food, been disoriented because of the loss of their parents etc.). Then Dobson applies this unscientific conclusion to children, saying parents shouldn’t give them too many toys!  This is another example of Dobson’s “ideas” becoming “truth.”

p.51 Dobson says “When you are defiantly challenged, win decisively.”

CHAPTER FOUR – Questions and Answers

p.57 Dobson says “sick and deformed” children can be hit too.

p.59 Children should not set their own boundaries “in defiance of parents.”

p.60 “Many children desperately need” corporal punishment. And “spanking is the shortest and most effective route to an attitude adjustment.”

p.61 Dobson claims spanking does not “create aggression in a boy or girl, it helps them control their impulses and live in harmony because it is in harmony with nature itself.” Dobson says God created pain “as a valuable vehicle for instruction.” and on p.62 Dobson claims spanking does not make “the child more violent.” These statements contradict scads of research which shows spanking increases aggression.

62. Some children go through a “testy period” when they are “just asking for it.” Dobson says to vary punishments to “stay one step ahead of the child.”

On p.64 Dobson claims that if corporal punishment is prohibited by law, “child abuse will increase.” This is not truecountries that ban corporal punishment have seen a decrease in child abuse, as well as youth crime, youth involvement in drugs, and youth suicide.

On p.64 Dobson recommends using "switches" and "paddles" to hit children.

On p.65 Dobson recommends starting whipping at age 15-18 months, and “there is no magical time at the end of childhood when spanking becomes ineffective.”

p.66 Dobson recommends hitting a toddler when he “defies his parents’ spoken commands!” He says to hit toddlers when having a tantrum, and when a toddler “hits his friends.” Toddlers should be “taught to obey.” Toddlers can be given a “firm rap on the fingers.”

68. If child disobeys in public, remove him “to a place where there is privacy” to hit them, in order to avoid “critical onlookers” who might intervene.

68. Spank children if their bedwetting is an “act of defiance.”

70. If a child cries more than a few minutes after being spanked, hit them more.

71. If spanking a child doesn’t produce “obedience,” parent needs to “outlast him and win, even if it takes a few rounds.” Parents must always punish “acts of defiance.” 

72. Spanking should not be “too gentle.”

74. Dobson recommends a child should respond to a hitting playmate by hitting back.

CHAPTER FIVE – The Miracle Tools, Part 1

91. Punish when “child has challenged the authority of the parent.”

97. Food is a toddler’s “ideal power game.” 98. If a child refuses the food served, Dobson says to keep serving the same meal over and over until the child finally eats it, “even if twelve hours or more goes by.”

CHAPTER SIX – The Miracle Tools, Part 2

108. Dobson says “With most children, tantrums are a form of challenging behavior that can be eliminated by one or more appropriate spankings.”

115. Don’t pick up crying infants right away, to minimize “reinforcement of their tears.”

117. If child loses lunch money, “let her skip a meal.”

122. Justice should “sting the child who has challenged authority.”

CHAPTER SEVEN – Discipline in Learning

126. “If improvement is to be made in anything…it will be accomplished through blood, sweat, and a few tears. There’s no way around it.”

128. Dobson decries the 60’s when “violence was an acceptable vehicle for bringing change” but this is exactly what Dobson himself recommends doing to “defiant” children.

137. Dobson talks of “defiant” students.

140. Dobson decries the “perpetual humiliation of student defiance.” Dobson calls a student a “toughie” who challenges the teacher “with a small act of defiance.”

148. Dobson says corporal punishment is “useful for elementary students.”

149. Dobson’s wife used a skull & crossbones symbol to frighten children into behaving, or else they would be put on the “poison list.”

156-158. Blames the supposed crumbling of “moral values” and “anarchy that is now rumbling through the midsection of democracy” on working mothers and “permissiveness.”

CHAPTER EIGHT – The Barriers to Learning, Part 1

168. Dobson says a 6 year old has “spindly legs.”

CHAPTER NINE – The Barriers to Learning, Part 2

187. Underachievers are called “messies.”

188. Dobson says “adolescents will confound the communication between school and home as much as possible.”

198. Dobson speaks of “deliberate defiance.”

CHAPTER TEN – Discipline in Morality (this chapter is about sex)

222. Dobson talks of the old days, when there was a “fierce independence that bonded us together against the outside world.” (??)

225. Dobson recommends his own children’s magazines and on p. 229 touts his Focus on the Family jewelry. Throughout the book, he frequently quotes from his other books.  A lot of self-promotion.

CHAPTER ELEVEN – A Moment for Mom

243. Dobson claims children are in a “power struggle with their parents.”

243-244. Dobson relates this story of a mother using this book: “The mother of a very strong-willed three-year-old shared a story with me that made me smile. This youngster named Laura had managed to wind the entire family around her little finger. She was out of control and seemed to be enjoying it. Both the mother and father were exasperated in trying to deal with their little spitfire—until, that is, Mom happened to be in a bookstore and stumbled across Dare to Discipline. She bought a copy and soon learned, at least according to the opinion of its author, that it is appropriate under certain circumstances to spank a child. Thus, the next time Laura played her defiant games, she got a shocking surprise on her little fanny.
   Laura was a very bright child and she was able to figure out where mama got that idea. Believe it or not, the mother came in the next morning a found her copy of Dare to Discipline floating in the toilet.
   That may be the most graphic editorial comment anyone has made about my writings. I’m told Dr. Benjamin Spock is loved by millions of kids who are being raised according to his philosophy.
I have an entire generation that would like to catch me in a blind alley.”

p.249-250 Dobson quotes the “rod” verses in Proverbs. (There is not a single quote from Jesus in the entire book, and not a single verse from the Gospels).

p.250 Dobson states: “From Genesis to Revelation, there is consistent foundation on which to build an effective philosophy of parent-child relationships. It is my belief that we have departed from the standard which was clearly outlined in both the Old and New Testaments, and that deviation is costing us a heavy toll in the form of social turmoil. Self-control, human kindness, respect, and peacefulness can again be manifest in America if we will dare to discipline in our homes and schools.”   But where is the "human kindness" and "respect" for children?  Not in this book!

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