These are anecdotes about child training from the Assembly Board. The first one is told in the form of fiction.
I want to tell a fictional story to show how Assembly child training worked.
This fictional family is still in the group, but they are starting to have some confusion of conscience. The Assembly spin machine has started to go to work because those outside the Assembly are seeing Assembly child training as abusive. Some mothers are beginning to get squeamish about it. Betty takes the bull by the horns and has a Couples' Meeting to deal with this crisis.
"Now, don't you mothers be asking for God's help in training your kids," Betty strongly exhorted those assembled in the couples meeting, "because God has already given you all the help you will ever need! All you have to do is just harden youself against your natural mother's heart by not giving into the child when they are not obeying you! Remember, it is the blue of the wound that cleanses the heart of a disobedient child!"
Looking around that room filled with couples and seeing the faces of these mothers would have told you all you need to know about the effect this message had on them: All hope was removed from most of the rank and file, and their heads were cast down in despair. Some of the Worker wives, on the other hand, were "standing with" Betty and giving their loud "amen's". This is interesting because most of these "ameners" didn't even try to comply with the whole "mat training" thing and often excused themselves from the meetings due to their many "illnesses."
Faith Smith, our fictional mother, was thinking of just such a "Worker" mother scenario that perfectly describes the above hypocrisy. A mother who had a "difficult" son was taking a weekend off with her husband without the child and a Worker Mom had volunteered to watch this boy. This Worker saw an opportunity to show this mom that her son could be reformed via the Assembly methods.
The Worker started by making everything the kid did wrong an "act of rebellion" and spanking the kid until she gained perfect compliance. The kid strongly resisted her efforts, and as a result he just kept getting hit longer and harder! Faith happened to drop by and observed some of this. She was horrified at the terrible bruising on the child's behind!
The thing that makes this whole story so hypocritical is that this Worker mom never ever did this kind of "training" on her own daughter! This girl of her's was little Miss Perfect. The mom had long ago given up on the mat training thing because she almost never came to a meeting. She rarely ever spanked her daughter because they were rarely ever in a situation where heavy demands for child submission were necessary.
Faith pointed out to this Worker mom that she was being too intense in her "training", but was rebuffed by the Worker for having too much "mother heart", as if that is a bad thing to have. "After all," the Worker Mom said, "our natural affections must go the way of the cross and be put to death so that we can be conformed to the image of Christ."
Faith knew better than to try and argue this point with this Assembly leader, as it would only lead to her being reported in the Worker's meeting and being put on the list of those who are not truly submitted to "God's work and ministry." However, she continued to hold these things in her heart and it slowly but surely was leading to a breaking point.
If this Worker mom had treated her own child this way at least it would have demonstrated a sincerity and consistency of belief and behavior. This might have been more convincing in keeping Faith from giving into her doubts, but the hypocrisy was too evident to be ignored, although it appears this Worker mom was totally unaware of how contradictory her life was. (Indeed, this is based on a true story and this former Worker mom is still a staunch defender of the group. I wonder what their daughter is like today?)
While the mom's "stewardship" was the kids, the Dad's was to be busy in "the ministry." The fathers' role was to exercise "power over their wives"to make sure child training was enforced. This later led to "Wife Training." I had left by the time this came into being. A kind of pecking order was established where authoritarian rule was used to bring all the families into loyal devotion to the greater cause of "God's will as expressed in the Assembly."
This had everything to do with public appearances and very little to do with private reality. (Does this sound a bit like Jesus' rebuke of the pharisees when he mentioned "praying in your closet versus in public"?)
The children were being trained (especially the hypocritical leaders' kids) in a system that was grossly dishonest and abusive of those lower on the ladder in the group! It would be great to hear from some of these children and let them tell their stories. But, it probably is not likely that we shall ever hear from them. They have probably been made in the hardened image of their parents.
Maybe there are some children raised in the lower echelons of Assembly life who are still feeling the pain from those early "training sessions," and who, though they may not remember these early "mat training" moments, struggle against the concept of a God who rewards hypocrites and is constantly angry with us for our failings?
We had a couple of times in Huntington Beach that we all jokingly called, "The Sweat and Swat." It was sort of a group mat time where we got together and had our little ones on their mats. Barb Zach, Betty's assistant, would teach us and point out how we were making too many excuses, giving into the mother heart thing, etc. We called it the "Sweat and Swat" because it was summer and we closed all the windows so the neighbors couldn't hear the spankings and the crying.
I remember Betty, Margaret, and Ginger using this phrase in instructing Assembly mothers about child training. The way "mother-heart" was taught was to not allow affection for one's child to get in the way of "dealing" with "rebellion."
Mat training, as an example. Set up the baby in a situation with the opportunity to exhibit rebellion against the command to sit quietly in a small space for a couple of hours. When the child made noise or tried to move off the mat it would be considered "mother heart" to not swat the child until you force their compliance.
Mothers were told that there were "no excuses" and to make any would exhibit "mother heart." All non-compliance was rebellion, and it was always the mother's fault! Some mothers would get very angry with their children for making them look bad in the meetings, and also the dads would be angry with the mom for not keeping the kids in line! It was not fun being a mom in the Assembly, unless you had a naturally compliant and quiet child. You were always left holding the bag if your toddler was difficult.