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on September 23, 2005
Beth Fenimore

September 7, 2005Open Letter to Roy Lessin

Author of Spanking: Why, When, How

Dear Roy,

After 19 years I have found the courage to write you this letter declaring how your choice to teach and write about spanking has affected me. My purpose in writing you this open letter is to share with you and others that the spanking approach you recommend is harmful. My parents both know my view on this issue. I have talked to them, as well, about how their decision to implement your spanking recommendations affected me. I have a mission. My mission is to warn new parents who are innocently trying to raise happy, healthy children. Should just one parent spare their child the kind of pain that I endured at the hands of my parents implementing your spanking recommendations, my pain will have more meaning than it does now.

I want to begin by talking about your spanking approach so that we'll both be using the same language. In your book, you describe a process by which a parent performs a spanking on their child.

The first step is to use the right instrument; if a parent uses their hand, the child might become fearful of the parent's hand.

The second step is to spank promptly.

The third step is to find a private place in which the parent can conduct the spanking.

The fourth step is for the parent to explain to the child why they are going to be spanked.

The fifth step is to get the child into a good spanking position (when my parents and other adults-such as your wife, Char-spanked me, the ritual involved removing the child's clothing); you recommend bending the child over a bed, or bending a smaller child over the parent's lap.

The sixth step is to hit the child on the buttocks with a stick or other spanking implement.

The seventh step is to continue spanking until the child yields a broken cry, which indicates a broken will.

The eighth step is reconciliation. You recommend that parents comfort the child until sufficient time has passed, and then ask the child to stop crying. You recommend that parents spank a child who displays a "wrong attitude" by continuing to cry too long after a spanking.

The language in your book is much more "sugary" than what I've just written. But my description does not come close to what it feels like to receive a Roy Lessin spanking. So I'll describe what a Roy Lessin spanking is like.

My first spanking was when I was six months old. My mother spanked me for crying after she put me to bed. She had to spank me repeatedly to teach me to not cry when she put me down. I know about this incident because my mother used to tell all new mothers about how young I was when she started spanking me. My last spanking occurred when I was thirteen years old. The Roy Lessin spankings that I remember most vividly took place between the ages of three and seven, because I hardly went a few days without a spanking at that time. I'd like to share with you, and others, what it was like receiving a Roy Lessin spanking.

The moment I found out I was going to get a Roy Lessin spanking, I felt physically ill. Because the Roy Lessin spanking is a ritual, the ordeal could take a long time. (When I refer to a spanking ritual, I'm referring to the steps you outline in your book.) This was hard for me because I had a child's sense of time. The dread bubbled up and consumed me, and stayed with me until the spanking ritual was over. My parents usually sent me to a private room, such as my own room, and there I would wait until one of my parents came. (My dad spanked me the most, so in my illustration let's assume my father is conducting the Roy Lessin spanking.) My father would explain the reason for the spanking. This was an excruciating process because I had to listen while knowing what was coming. Since I might face back-to-back Roy Lessin spankings, I had to be careful not to be disrespectful in my listening to my father. I had already developed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and would feel my guts cramp up with anxiety during his speech. Then he would ask me to take off my pants and underwear. I would feel deeply embarrassed because my father was not supposed to see me naked. (My family had a high standard for modesty.) My humiliation and fear would grow immeasurably as I leaned over the bed, my father's knee, or whatever was around. My private parts were helplessly exposed as my dad laid his hand on my back. Trying to pull away and defend myself would only mean that the spanking would be longer, or I'd get a back-to-back spanking. The stick, paddle inscribed with scripture verses, or belt would swish violently through the air before slapping painfully on my buttocks or thighs. I would scream in pain and anguish. I cannot

remember a moment of thinking of resisting, rebelling, or trying to "win" anything, as you recommend parents should watch for as they hit their children. I just tried to survive the best way I knew how. The screaming, the hitting, and the pain would continue for unknown amounts of time. When the gruesome pain ended, I would begin to battle with my emotions and my body. I knew that crying too much could mean that my father would start a Roy Lessin spanking ritual all over again to correct my "wrong attitude."

My parents were never concerned about the marks they left on my body. We never talked about the painful marks on my body, or how clothing, baths, chairs, etc. hurt. The message was clear: there was no pain. Pulling up my pants was incredibly painful, and so was sitting on my father's lap. Because "there was no pain," I had to pretend my buttocks and thighs didn't hurt even though they did, while my father would wrap his arms around me and "comfort" me. I was not like the idealized children you describe in your book, not knowing the difference between the spanking implement and the parent. My father caused me that pain-not a stick! My father's arms scared me, and I feared my father like I've feared no other man. His touch repulsed me. I was the same with my mother. (To this day, I cannot physically tolerate either parent touching me. I feel physically ill at their touch.) My father would pray, and I could hardly go along but for fear of yet another Roy Lessin spanking. After we prayed, it was time for me to be happy. But my insides would be a mess. Tears would threaten to come back and cause me more pain and anguish. I had to pretend that I wasn't sad, and that I wasn't in pain. This would be my greatest lesson: to be happy no matter how I felt inside. It would take me a few back-to-back spankings, but I would learn. It would be a lesson I'd learn for life-being falsely happy regardless of how my body felt.

One aspect of receiving a Roy Lessin spanking is the sexual aspect. It's taken me years to even begin to allow myself to speak of this aspect. You see, as a child I had no idea what sex was. I just had this funny sensation that came and went during the Roy Lessin spanking ritual. To my great dismay, I learned that sexual stimulation can be cross-wired with the painful ritual of spankings. This cross-wiring was a real problem for me. Because I couldn't cope with the double message of love and pain, I avoided developing an intimate relationship with a man for a very long time. It took years for me to find a healthy sexuality outside the memories I have of the Roy Lessin spankings. I struggled with this double message as a child. I feel a deep sense of shame as I remember hitting and torturing my dolls and Barbies when no one was around. I needed some way to express the fear, pain, and sexual confusion I felt inside; yet my childish mind couldn't comprehend the significance of what I was doing.

My parents were your "A" students. They followed your eight steps occasionally reducing the entire Roy Lessin spanking ritual to a few swats-not very often, though. My butt and thighs would sting for a long time after a Roy Lessin spanking ritual, so I'd go into the bathroom and use my mother's mirror to look at my behind. I remember seeing red stripes crisscrossing my buttocks and my thighs. At times, I had old marks underneath the new marks. My parents conducted several Roy Lessin spanking rituals a day when I was a young child. I remember a teacher at school asking me one day why I didn't just sit still. I couldn't tell her that it was because the marks on my butt hurt so bad sitting in the little wooden chair.

Now that we've established what a Roy Lessin spanking is and what it felt like to receive one, let's move on to wrong attitudes. I'd like to begin by telling you a story of what it was like having an adult, in this case your wife, address my "wrong attitude."

One day my parents were moving. I was four, and woke up to a house that I no longer recognized. I asked my mother what was happening. Whatever answer she gave, I didn't understand. She sent my brothers and me to your house, where your wife Char was to baby-sit us. On the way out the door, I saw our small parakeet Chirpy sitting in his cage outside our house near some bushes. Now, Chirpy wasn't supposed to be outside. A dark feeling of dread came over me. I was frightened as I walked to the car, looking at Chirpy frantically chirping in his cage next to a stack of boxes. At some point, at your house, Char put all of us down for a nap. The confusion and fear filled me, and I wondered if I'd ever see my home again. When the room was quiet, my emotions burst out of me. I cried. Char came in and told me to stop, and I couldn't. So she performed one of your spanking rituals. I went back to my napping spot. I lay there for the remainder of my nap-unable to sleep, afraid to move, filled with emotions of dread and fear so large I thought I'd explode. But I had to make Char believe that I was cheerfully obeying her. I put on whatever face I could to convince her, and pretended to be asleep. I had to pretend I felt different than I did inside.

There are two points I'd like to make about bad attitudes. The first is that, as you can see above, adults do not have "powers" that allow them to read the minds of children. My parents made this mistake over and over again. They weren't much better at reading my mind or how I felt than your wife was that day I stayed at your house. You see, parents make mistakes. There's no getting around this. But when a parent uses a force as violent as a Roy Lessin spanking, mistakes are truly damaging, especially when the spanking ritual involves breaking the child's will-or breaking any part of a child's psyche!

The second point about "wrong attitudes" is that you tell parents that their children will be happy with your mode of discipline, or even prefer being spanked. I want to say that I didn't experience that joy. I built myself a cheerful, obedient shell. I lived in that shell, only peeking my head out when I felt safe, for 30 years. It took me another seven years to actually try taking the cheerful, obedient shell off-only to run back into it when something felt like the "old fears of my childhood." I have not been happy living in this shell, constantly pretending to be happy when I felt miserable inside. When I think of a happy child, I think of a child who feels free to express their ideas, thoughts, and emotions. I think that a parent's job is to teach a child how to express their emotions, not hit them with a stick until the child displays the emotion of the parent's choosing.

You write about parents disciplining children for disobedience. It seems pretty simple. The parents set up some rules and the children follow them. When disobedience is based on a child doing or behaving just as the parent asks, following those rules becomes much harder. As your teachings played out in my growing-up years, I found that I violated more rules than I could keep track of. Not only that, one of the rules was to follow through without my mom or dad asking a second time. So perfection became the rule, and perfection was something I failed at miserably. Even in the cheerful, obedient shell, I was not completely safe. The life lesson I took away was that there is no such thing as second chances. I took this lesson to school, and found that I was afraid to try. Not that my parents didn't encourage me-it was just that if the encouragement didn't work, which it often didn't, they'd spank me for getting letters backwards, words wrong on spelling tests, and so forth. Basically, they spanked me for not trying hard enough. I haven't even mentioned the hundreds of other issues they spanked me for. I learned how to live helplessly. Not only did I face my own internal disappointment at not getting something correct, I faced a Roy Lessin spanking at home when I wore out my encouragement. I grew up thinking that I was mentally handicapped. Later, as a grown adult, I found out that I'm dyslexic-something a Roy Lessin spanking would never cure.

For most of my life, I worried that I'd remembered all this wrong. About eleven years ago I called Char and asked her to listen to while I recalled a Roy Lessin spanking for her. I described to her in as much detail as I could remember the beatings I endured again and again. Char told me that my memories were exactly what you and she had taught my parents. I had not remembered wrong!

I read your book a few weeks ago. I was again surprised to realize I knew and remembered your teachings very well. After the years of growing up around your family and hearing you preach at Outreach, your book brought back your painful teachings and the painful memories I've been trying so hard to live with. I kept wanting to grab my cheerful, obedient shell because to this day I feel scared when I think of all the Roy Lessin spankings and teachings.

For almost every day of my life, I fear people. If people like my parents, and friends of my family such as you and Char, would hurt me this badly, what horrible things would others do to me? I was supposed to be safe with my family and friends growing up! I especially fear men in authority roles. I occasionally look even at people I know, and who I know to be safe, with terror just because they've spoken in a tone that reminds me of those early times. I fear making mistakes. I choose not to have children of my own because a child's screams scramble my insides.

Remember all those sermons at Outreach that you, Don Leetch, Dean Kerns, and a few others delivered? I still hear children screaming as their parents spanked them outside the church sanctuary during Sunday morning service during those sermons. I remember the screams of my siblings. I remember on a Friday night, someone was preaching and a dad took a baby outside for a spanking, and a neighbor called the police. We stopped the church service, and you went out with your bible to explain to the officer why it was fine for the parent to spank their baby. All of us inside prayed that the officer would understand and not take the baby away.

As a grown woman I still fear Roy Lessin spankings. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night begging my husband to "not let them get me."

My father and I have talked several times about Roy Lessin spankings. He has asked for forgiveness, and is horrified by what he has done. These conversations have been incredibly painful for both of us, and I'm now 37 years old! I believe that he thought he was doing the right thing. You were a leader in the church he believed in, and you were his friend. Our families socialized together. This was not some teaching he picked up somewhere, and then went off to make the best of it.

I hope that by this point you begin to see how your simple, sweet words about raising children are actually harmful. Perhaps you're wondering if I want to have a dialogue with you, and talk about what you really meant by your early book. Perhaps you've adopted a policy of grace, and now recommend that parents spank less and not on bare skin? The truth is, I don't want to know. If I needed justification or reasoning for your teachings, I could use your book as a reference. What I'd like you to do is reconsider your position after carefully looking at how your teachings affected me. Would a loving parent really want to raise a child to fear people, to wear a cheerful and obedient shell, or to live with PTSD and other ailments? I hope the answer you come to is No. I hope that you realize that hitting a child for any reason is not loving. Then, I hope, you join the cause to end corporal punishment in the homes of children. I came into this world a happy, healthy baby. For no other reason than the Roy Lessin spankings, I now fight for my physical and mental health. Please help others and me so this doesn't happen

to any more children. Help end corporal punishment. Help end child abuse. If Jesus said, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea" (Mark 9:42), I can't image that God would condone such behavior in people who claim to be loving parents.

Sincerely,

Bethany A. Fenimore
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on November 8, 2005
Yes, the truth is hard sometimes. I was the child who was raised by Roy Lessin's method. Not only did my parents follow Roy's book, Roy and his family were a part of our lives--Roy was a leader in our church. In fact, I was spanked by Char, Roy's wife.

My life has been full of pain and anguish due to Roy's methods. Your daughter is happy because children will be whatever you ask them to be after hitting them. I would have thought someone strange for telling me my parents were cruel too when I was six, twelve, or even 15 years of age. My parents were my world when I was a kid. The horrible affects of Roy's spankings will probably not show up until it is too late. You will have already made your parental choice and the damage will be done. I was a happy child or so everyone thought. Inside I was torn up and didn't really understand why until years later. I was the kid that everyone pointed to as proof that Roy's methods worked. As a child I did what I was told with a smile on my face. No one says that I'm proof now.

Your daughter will be grown and will have endured your Roy Lessin spankings. She may, as others have, marry someone who at best will dominate her at worst hit her to keep her under control. She may choose to stay because she has become use to violence. After all being hit won't be new to her.

From my own personal experience both with Roy's book and Roy himself, you are following a method that has hurt not only me but a handful of other children who grew up with me. The children at Outreach back in the day when Roy and his teachings were in full swing. If you don't believe me, ask Roy what happened to all those Outreach children 18-20 years ago. The ones whose parents hit them using Roy's specific method that they called spanking. The same ritual that called for prayer and whose justification came from scripture.

Yes, truth is hard. Please get more information on spanking before you do permanent damage to your children. Google Roy and other websites to get more information. There are individuals out there trying to get the information to people like yourself so that you can make the best decision for your children. Believe me, it's out there. The truth is that even with your loving intentions, you can still do damage to your children by hitting them-even if you include prayer and scriptures.
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on July 30, 2007
How can someone write a book completely devoted to hitting a child's private area?

What kind of book writes things like (p.80) "A spanking must be long enough and hard enough to bring a child to a place of repentance."
Shouldnt it be your words, reasoning and confidence that show children to listen to you , following their conscience? Saying that hitting someone viciously enough so that the hitting itself brings "confessions" is like torturing a prison victim to confession.

Yeah and spanking builds up your self-image? Can you see a little girl saying "Mommy spanks me every day, and I am so I proud of it!" "Nothing gets me down because I submit to vicious hitting of my private areas at home!"
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on October 21, 2005
I am a very conservative Christian- we homeschool, don't have rock music in our home, limit TV use, about as conservative as you can get- and we don't spank.

The simple reason: Do I hit my children, or do I teach my children? Hitting is not teaching. And there is nothing to distinguish spanking from hitting but the name (and in England, they're more honest and call it 'smacking') The Scriptures command us to discipline, not to spank. The "rod" is a symbol for authority.

And to Beth, since I can't PM her- if she looks here again- thank you SO much for writing that review. God bless you!

I would recommend "Biblical Parenting" by Crystal Lutton, "The Discipline Book" by Dr. Sears, or "Parenting with Grace" by Gregory Popack for parents looking for discipline ideas based on faith and scientific evidence as to what is best for our children.
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on October 31, 2005
Wow, and if the first one wasn't bad enough! My IQ hurts just looking at the cover...

Well, I said on this yahoo's other book; Spanking: Why, When, How, despite the fact that I am a christian, I never understood or agreed with the book burning mindset- untill I discovered there were writers like Roy Lessin. This is the other Mein Kampf of the parenting section in any library. Reading that excerpt from Spanking: Why, When, How was enough to make me want to scrape my eyes out with a fork. Maybe I'm young and naieve, but can someone explain to me why you get in trouble if you batter a 20 year old, yet it's OK to brutally hit a 2 year old repeatedly, despite the fact that a 2 year old can't defend themself against an adult? Hmm. Thing to ponder about, this is.

To anyone out there who agrees with these books, or let alone, purchases these waste of trees, this one star is for you.

As for Beth, for her absolute courage to share her letter and let it be known to the world that this form of "discipline" is cruelty, to her I give 5 stars, a life-supply of cookies and many shiney objects :D It's time someone stood up for those who's cries go unheard!
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on October 21, 2005
Do you notice in those pictures the redness and the bruising of their bottoms. Disgusting!! I am a Christian and God has put it in my heart to never lay a hand on my child. Instead He lead me to research and implement Gentle Discipline and Grace Based Parenting. Not spanking does not equal no discipline. It means better discipline.
Robin
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on May 30, 1999
What Lessin refers to as "spanking" throughout this book would more accurately be characterized as "whipping" or "flogging." He advocates a flexible switch and whaling away until the child's "cry of anger" turns into a "cry of repentence."
But this "cry of repentence" has nothing to do with actual repentence. It is the cry of anguish of a creature broken by torture. Any child thus treated would emit a "cry of repentence" after enough lashes had fallen, even if the child actually wasn't guilty of anything. This is not about "repentence," it is about torture.
One of Lessin's many dubious assertions is that children "spanked" with a flexible rod will not fear their parents, only the rod itself. In short: "parents don't spank children - *rods* spank children!." (Presumably Mr. Lessin is not a member of the NRA). Such brazen denial permeates this book, manifesting also in the cloyingly cute pencil illustrations which clash so markedly with the book's actual content and message.
Lessin's book constitutes a how-to manual for those who wish to practice what author Susan Forward calls "Toxic Parenting." Throughout the book, the author urges parents to use "spankings" to force children to exhibit outward emotions pleasing to the parent. On page 51, he recommends spanking a child who goes to bed immediately when told, simply for having a pout on their face. He also recommends that a child who cleans their room when told, but with a "long face" should be "spanked" as well. On page 52, he writes " Even a small child can be told, 'Please change your attitude. Be happy,' and be trained to do so.'" This forcible suppression of the child's real emotions, while training them to exhibit fake emotions more to the parent's liking, is profoundly harmful to the child's emotional development. It is not "for the child's own good." Rather it serves the interests of the parent only.
One issue which Lessin never touches on at all is the sexual aspect of spanking. Several of the other reviews of this book by amazon readers are clearly penned by spanking fetishists who see this type of book as pornography catering to their tastes. The fact that so many buyers of this book also purchased "Spanking The Maid" is further evidence that many of Lessin's fans are actually spanking paraphiliacs who view Mr. Lessin as a source of masturbation material. ("Spanking the Maid" is a soft-core S/M novel with artistic pretensions).
One way a child may cope with parental cruelty is by eroticizing it. Such children possibly include the author's own son. On p. 76, Lessin relates an anecdote in which his wife had given their son a quick spanking. "When she finished he turned to her and said, 'Mommy, could you spank me again? only this time let me pull down my jeans. It didn't hurt enough.'" Lessin claims this proves merely that "children need effective discipline," but this is not the only possible explanation.
Those who are turned on by talk about whipping children on the buttocks with rods will probably enjoy this book. Those who are serious about raising healthy, happy, automonous children would do better to read "Parent Effectiveness Training" by Thomas Gordon and "How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
As a parenting manual this book is worse than useless, and belongs in the dustbin.
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on October 20, 2005
The Bible does not mandate spanking. There is no verse to support this claim that the Bible mandates spanking. The Bible does not forbid spanking, either, but G-d extends His grace upon us and Jesus paid the price for our sins when He died on the cross. If Jesus' finished work of salvation is sufficient to cover my sins (as an adult) how much more is His work on the cross sufficient to cover the sins of innocent little children.

G-d encourages us to be patient, kind, and loving toward one another. There is no exemption for treating children, they deserve a special measure of grace, patience, and gentleness.

The Bible *does* mandate parents discipline children and there are methods of discipline that do not include spanking.

I am the mother of eight children ranging in age from 26 to 6 years of age. I do not spank my children. My oldest is a History major with a GPA of 3.9, My second born is a second year medical student. My third is a Marine who just got home from Iraq. You cannot say a Marine has no sense of discipline. You cannot say a second year medical student has no discipline in her character. You cannot maintain a 3.9 GPA without discipline. My fourthborn is an honor student as well as on the football, wrestling, and rugby team. You cannot do those things without discipline. My fifthborn may well be Valedictorian because she maintains a high GPA (nearly perfect A average) She is going to test for her black belt in Shotokan karate. She won a gold and silver medal in East Coast. You cannot achieve these things without a strong sense of discipline. My children are good g-dly children with a strong sense of discipline and achievement they did not need to be physically beaten to be disciplined or parented in a g-dly fashion.

Children deserve better than to be mindlessly beaten into submission.

Debra Baker
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on July 31, 2007
Why do so many people defend spanking on grounds that it has been around so long? Original Sin is still around; the Oldest Profession is still around; nobody calls these "time-honored."

I know for afact that at least one statement made here is a lie: the statement that children who are spanked have higher self esteem. I know this to be lie, because of firsthand experience. No, I was not abused. I recieved "normal," socially-acceptable spankings. After each one, I felt like I might just as well go throw myself in the trash; like I had just been stripped of human dignity. Regaining my self-esteem has been an agonizing battle that has occupied most of my adult life (I am now 34, and still not there).

People act like spanking is so Biblical...so how come those supposedly-Biblical people never mention such verses as "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, for fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18)? Any why do supposed Christians want to live under Old Covenant instructions (Proverbs), when the New Testament, and the Gospels, so clearly lay out a different way?

My tags are simply those that amazon.com automatically suggested. Very instructive.

"What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispred in your ear, proclaim from the roofs." (Matthew 10:27) I will shout it from the rooftops: I WAS SPANKED, AND I DIDN'T TURN OUT OKAY!
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on July 30, 2007
This book recommends beating children from babies to teens in the most "sensitive" area (the "child's bottom") and points out that diapers and/or pants should be removed first for best results. The author states that the abuse must be of sufficient length to break the victim down and not just anger them. There are several Marines in my familiy who confirmed that this is a standard torture protocol. The subtitle of this book should be "Or, how to raise a sexually dysfunctional axe murderer."

Until our society can understand that babies, children, teens and adults all have the SAME feelings and suffer the SAME humiliation at this type of torture, we will continue to have the highest murder rate of any developed country.

PS: Amazon automatically provides suggsted key words (tag suggestions) for books related to the title; it is not surprising to me that the first is "spanking" and the second is "erotica."
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