No Fear: A Police Officer’s Perspective
A review of the book by Police Detective Robert Surgenor
By Mark Benedict
Opposition to biblical teachings on child discipline has gradually pushed its way inside the Christian community. Parents who wish to honor God by following the Bible are finding that some of their fellow Christians have fallen under the influence of the secular proponents of “never-spank” discipline. For this reason in this chapter, we will take a close look at some of the reasons well intentioned Christians give for not wanting to spank their children. Some parents avoid spanking and choose other methods for what is superficially a principled position. They may have read somewhere that studies have shown that “spanking teaches kids to solve their problems through violence.” Naturally, these parents want their kids to learn to resolve problems without resorting to violence. Of course, they are sadly unaware that the “scientific studies” cited to show that spanking children teaches them to be violent are neither scientific or prove the point. It makes a nice soundbite, and you find it all over the web, but it is just not true. The influence of a small but vocal group of anti-spanking opponents with an outsized megaphone have used discredited studies with distorted findings to perpetuate a big lie.
Any Christian desiring a carefully researched book that addresses national crime statistics to prove that children who were not spanked are far more likely to grow up to be violent offenders might want to read the excellent book, “No Fear: A Police Officers Perspective.” Written by retired police detective, Robert R. Surgenor, he manages to debunk many of the common myths regarding the use of corporal punishment. I quote a few excerpts from his book below.
“It took the help of five other police officer to assist me in getting the handcuffs on the fifteen-year-old boy who had just broken his mother’s nose, knocked his father to the floor, and thrown a table through the front window. As I compiled the information for the report, the mother indicated that they had lost control of the boy at an early age. Time-outs and groundings just never worked. When I asked the mother if they had ever tried spanking the boy when he defied their authority, she replied angrily ‘We don’t believe in spanking. Violence begets violence!’ I wondered if she realized how foolish she sounded.”
When Detective Robert R. Surgenor wrote those words in the introduction of his book, No Fear, A Police Officer’s Perspective, he had no idea so many people agreed with his theory that children never spanked by their parents often grow up to become defiant teens. Since the release of the book in January 2000, response by the public has been overwhelmingly positive. Detective Surgenor appeared on numerous television shows including local news programs, MS-NBC, and the Dr. Laura television show. Surgenor realized that most people believed that spanking is a viable form of child discipline, but they were just afraid to say so publically because politically correct opponents have succeeded in demonized spanking as a method of discipline. On one television poll, the results showed that 99 percent of the viewing audience agreed with the detective. Only one percent disagreed!
No Fear is loaded with useful statistics and information. Surgenor documents how violent juvenile crime has exploded in the United States. He substantiates his claim with figures taken directly from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. In the chapter titled Kids and Crime, he writes,
“The UCR released on September 28, 1997, shows that murder and non-negligent manslaughter has been reduced by 3.7 percent over the past ten years. The rate of murders committed by children seventeen years of age and younger has increased during the same period by 50.5 percent. Between 1985 and 1995, murders committed by children increased by 150 percent. This type of statistic should activate all kinds of alarms. There seems to be the same trend in other crime categories also. During the same ten-year period, robberies committed by adults has been reduced by 3.2 percent, while robberies committed by children has increased by 57.4 percent. Arson, the crime of intentionally setting fire to the property of others, has been reduced amongst adults by 17.1 percent, while it has increased amongst children by 35.9 percent. Carrying or possessing weapons amongst adults dropped 9/10 of one percent, while increasing 69.5 percent amongst children.”
Surgenor acknowledges that these facts alone do not prove that the reduction in spanking has resulted in the stunning increase in juvenile crime, but he does point to some glaring crime statistics that argues for his case. He writes,
“One of the most disturbing figures from the Uniform Crime Report is the section on offenses against family, including domestic violence offenses committed by the youngsters in the family. Thirty years ago, arrests of children for assaulting their parents was almost unheard of. During the past fifteen years, there has been a steady increase in children abusing their parents. In 1983, the UCR showed a total of 1,120 arrests of juveniles for domestic violence. By 1995, it had risen to 2,177 cases. In 1991, there were a total of 2,523 children arrested for domestic violence. In 1994, it was 3,743 cases, and in 1996, it had increased to 4,400. Another tremendous jump occurred in 1997 – up to 5,018 cases. In the short period of fifteen years, there has been a 348 percent increase in children committing domestic violence offenses.”
Surgenor points out one interesting statistics gathered from his own research in the Ohio town of Berea, where he patrolled until his retirement. There, Surgenor personally investigated every case where a child physically attacked a mother or father. Included in the information he gathered was the type of discipline every one of those violent kids received during their upbringing. Astonishingly, he found was that only 1.9 percent of all children who physically attack their parents had ever received any type of corporal punishment for misbehavior. Their parents spanked less than two percent of these violent kids! Surgenor contends that when children receive no spankings when they are children, they are much more likely to grow up without any respect of authority. Yes, undisciplined children tend to have no fear of their parents, no fear of their teachers, and no fear of the police or the judge. Naturally, these children grow up to also have no fear of God!
No Fear: A Police Officer’s Perspective approaches child rearing from a Biblical standpoint and a number of snarky reviews of his book on Amazon criticize the validity of his findings simply because he is a Christian and believes in the Bible, yet they cannot dispute his statistical research based on national crime statistics. Surgenor, as a police insider is also aware of the underlying pressures many communities feel to underreport crime, so if anything, the actual increase of Juvenal crime exceeds published statistics.
Surgenor found non-spanking advocates routinely discredited the Bible by resorting to poorly conducted studies with biased methodologies and distorted statistics. So-called child rearing “experts” as Murray Straus and Irwin Hyman routinely tried to convince their readers that the Bible does not really mean what it says. They were among the first to begin convincing undiscerning Christians that the “rod” in the Biblical texts actually means “loving guidance”, rather than physical discipline of the child. We will address this in more detail later, but in the chapter titled The Bible, Surgenor wrote,
“The non-spanking advocate will attempt to refer to the rod meaning a stick or a staff, such as used by shepherds. God says in Proverbs 29:15, ‘The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.’ Now then, let’s be fair. If the rod means loving guidance as the non-spanking advocate suggests, where does the word reproof fit in? I’m afraid that the reproof is verbal and the rod is physical. God would not have mentioned both words in the same verse if they meant the same thing.”
Surgenor believes that when parents are aware of their authority and discipline their child within the legal boundaries set by law, the child’s perception of the parent’s authority is changed, and the result is greater compliance in the home. He wisely wrote, “A parent must know the limit of his or her power to avoid exceeding it, and the extent of the power to exercise it fully.” Parents armed with Bible knowledge will know how to properly deal with disrespectful children.
However, Christian parents swayed by opponents of Biblical sanctioned spanking often fall into believing there are better alternatives and despise the methods God has sanctioned. Many parents have an unwarranted confidence in the host of scientists and psychologists who proclaim they know what is best for parents. The teachings of secular psychologists and a plethora of popular books present rational sounding arguments against spanking, but these will not withstand careful examination by an honest person. However, the major reason many Christians are abandoning biblical discipline has nothing to do with science or studies on parenting. Many Christians are afraid to live counter-culturally because they will personally experience the disapproval and scorn of men for the sake of following Bible truth. This is exactly why the apostle John wrote the early Christians at a time when Christians were being widely persecuted, and warned them not to love the world.
I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:14-15
As you read this section, I encourage you to heed John’s advice. Do not love the world, or crave the approval of the wise men of this age. I remind you that as Christians, when we consider what techniques to use in disciplining our children, we must be true to the teachings of Scripture. The ultimate purpose of parenting is to raise responsible, God fearing, respectful human beings who will honor God and follow His will for their lives. We can never achieve this unless we remain committed to follow our Creator’s instructions. To pattern our lives after the Bible will lead to experiencing disapproval from others and will cause conflict with what is popular and accepted in our culture. Unless we would have Christ be ashamed of us, we must not be ashamed to be associated with Him, and believe in His Word.
Living in a secular and rebellious world, our children desperately need to learn to humble themselves under our parental authority. Otherwise, they are almost certain to grow up with an exaggerated sense of their own self-importance. When parents do not enforce their authority, it serves their children’s future poorly. Children who lack respect for parental authority often resist the generous offer of God’s salvation. Proverbs 22:15 states, “folly is bound in the heart of a child; the Rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Parents need to remember their children are sinners at heart. Our children need the work of redemption to deliver them from their natural bent toward a lifetime of sin and rebellion.
In parenting our little ones, the ultimate prize we seek is our children’s eternal salvation. The writer of Proverbs tells parents:
“Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge. Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” Proverbs 23:12-14
Sadly, many parents cannot bring themselves to spank their children, even when Scripture clearly promises that our correction can secure our child’s eternal deliverance from the terrors of hell. Parents who desire to be on friendly terms with the world often despise the teaching of Scripture, yet willingly accept the unproven theories of worldly psychologists. For a Christian, failing to discipline children in accordance with the Bible’s teachings is an act of denial to our faith. When we refuse to trust in what God has plainly revealed in Scripture we are simply choosing to love this world and its wisdom above the wisdom of God.
About the Author of No Fear: A Police Officer’s Perspective
Robert R. Surgenor grew up in a Christian home with parents who believed in the “rod and reproof.” With a preaching father and a Sunday school teaching mother, Robert lived his life under the sound of God’s word. Choosing law enforcement as his profession, he joined a local police department in 1982. During his years on the department, he has pursued several areas of interest, including police radar and the use of videotape in police work.
In 1987, Surgenor became one of the first police officers to mount a video camera in his police cruiser, and in 1988, captured the very first high speed stolen car chase ever videotaped in the world from beginning to end along with the capture of the suspects. He has appeared on many nationally televised shows with his video tapes such as Worlds Wildest Police Chases, Wildest Police Videos, Extra, and Real TV. In 1995, Surgenor was assigned to the detective bureau and was placed in charge of the juvenile crime unit.
Surgenor has studied juvenile crime extensively, attending and conducting seminars on juvenile crime, gangs, parental authority, and discipline. He has appeared on MS-NBC to debate Dr. Murray Straus on the subject of child discipline. He has also debated Dr. Heidi Feldman of the American Academy of Pediatrics on national television when the academy released their position against spanking. In September of 2000, Surgenor went to Hollywood as a guest on the Dr. Laura television show, promoting his belief that spanking is a necessary part of child rearing. He continues to lecture regularly to groups such as the PTA, Rotary Clubs, the Kiwanis, and other civic organizations.
Surgenor lives in Ohio with his wife Nancy and two of their five children. His oldest son, Robert, is twenty seven and a deputy sheriff in charge of the county’s computer crime unit. Dawn, who is twenty five, works with children. Bryan is twenty two and works for the security office at the Cleveland Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame. Mike is nineteen and attending college. Matthew, the youngest, is a sophomore in high school.