Heather Hastie and her flowcharts

September 8, 2015 • 2:30 pm

Over at Heather’s Homilies, reader Heather Hastie has her own take on “The value of prayer,” a piece inspired by Ben Goren’s recent post here on why Jesus doesn’t call 9-1-1.

Heather’s is a fine piece, and, as she is wont to do, it’s nicely illustrated with photos and charts. I’ll let you read her piece for yourself, but I wanted to swipe two nice flowcharts that she used as illustrations. I LOVE flowcharts like these, as they’re among the most amusing and effective forms of sarcasm:

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 1.35.48 PM

And another:

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 1.35.09 PM

Finally, I’ll add one I found on Facebook:


95 thoughts on “Heather Hastie and her flowcharts

  1. Cheers Jerry. I love the flowchart for hitting kids. It’s illegal in New Zealand, but if there was a referendum on it, I think people would vote for it to be returned. I feel sick every time I hear another parent refer to it as “loving” correction.

    1. Outside of fundie religion, I think the point isn’t to teach necessarily but to either compel good behavior until you can later reason with them, or in some cases its to attempt to make the child viscerally understand that other people feel things too (because little kids sometimes don’t realize that pinching someone else hurts that person in exactly the same way getting pinched hurts them. How do you make them understand that? Some of them have to experience being pinched before they will ever get it).

      Having said that, I’m explaining not defending. Maybe there is that one kid out of a million who is truly incorrigible, but the vast vast majority of kids can be taught good behavior and to grok empathy without ever resorting to any violence, and I see no reason to allow it.

      1. I see that, and I know you’re not defending, but re pinching e.g. Before they can understand, tell the kid not to, after they can, talk to them about, “how would you like it if someone did that to you>”

        A kid who is truly incorrigible likely has some form of developmental disorder and needs professional help imo.

        1. Sometimes talking doesn’t do it. I’m not saying little kids are selfish or stubborn or stupid, but they are not tiny adults. Their brains and cognition is waaaaay behind ours because everything is still developing.

          Remember, these are people who have yet to figure out that 8+2=10 and can’t phonetically sound out how to spell “cat.” Asking them to philosophically get the Golden Rule without experiencing what it is like to be on the other end is often just to hard. Even the ones who nod and go along with your lesson are probably not actually getting it, what they’re ‘getting’ is that mommy is using a big long sentence to tell me she doesn’t want me to do this.

          So should you pinch your kid if they’re pinching others? No not at all. Try the explaining angle and see if it works. If it doesn’t, use time outs or various other inducements. But don’t be surprised if your calm, clear and reasonable argument doesn’t get through, because it may simply be beyond their capacity to understand. And that’s okay and perfectly normal, because they’re little and they’ll get there eventually.

            1. Practically nobody – child or adult – will pinch themselves as hard as they would pinch others.

              I wish my memory was better because I can’t remember the citation, but AIUI there have been studies showing that one of the reasons tit for tat exchanges (of things like pinches) typically escalate is because we have a built-in bias to perceive the same force used on us as higher/stronger than that same force when we apply it to others. An “even” exchange is never perceived as even, its perceived as you ‘cheating’ and hitting me harder than I hit you. In order to even just keep it ‘even,’ the repciprocator has to dial back the force, and to de-escalate, they have to dial back the force far more significantly than they probably think is reasonable.

              Which is a long way around to saying that having them pinch themselves will probably have the opposite effect of the lesson you’re trying to impart. Instead of “ouch, that hurts, I should stop doing it,” it will probably impart “that isn’t so bad, what are they complaining about?” or maybe “why is mommy making me pinch myself this hard, when I didn’t pinch Bobby anywhere near that hard?”

          1. I’m not saying reason with young kids, just use something other than hitting. I don’t expect reasoning to work with an 18 month old. I’m fine with time out, or taking away toys or something.

            1. But will they understand, as with hitting, why you’re taking away their toys? And if not, they’ll carry on with the same behaviour.

              1. They’ll understand the punishment is because they did something mommy and daddy didn’t want them to do (pinch). As opposed to pinching them, where they’ll get the point that it hurts but not get the point that pinching is wrong, because mommy and daddy just did it so it must be okay in some cases.

            2. Agreed. Though I would extend it up to about 4-5. At that age they can be reasoned with most of the time, on most things, as long as they’re calm/happy. When they’re upset they’re still young enough that reason isn’t going to get through.

    2. I’m anti-spanking, but I don’t think reason is usually a replacement. Children usually have a reason for engaging in barbaric behavior, so there most always needs to be some way to alter the net benefit for misbehaving.

      On another forum, someone posted this comment: “If I can’t give my child a good whupping, how can I teach him that violence isn’t the way to solve problems?”

      1. Sometimes, I think it would be amusing to play people’s comments back to them, but with someone they don’t like making them, and see if they still think the same, although someone who says:

        “If I can’t give my child a good whupping, how can I teach him that violence isn’t the way to solve problems?”

        is probably beyond help.

      2. One of my sons, despite having high empathy for others, would flick his finger at other people’s ears. He did this mostly for attention. I could only get him to stop by flicking his own ear, then he realized that it hurts and he stopped almost immediately.

    3. If I went through a day without a slap as a kid, I thought something was wrong. My parents have never given up their beliefs in striking children.

      1. I got smacked, but not constantly. I don’t remember what for, but I do remember I always thought it was unfair.

        There’s plenty of evidence from child health professionals these days that it’s counter-productive. You can find a lot of it on various NZ government websites because it’s been debated here so much.

        1. Yeah my parents used to laugh about “reasoning with your child”. Children were meant to be seen and not heard. This proved bad for me, who always wanted a rational explanation for things and didn’t easily obey for the sake of obedience. Hence the multitude of regular smacks.

          1. That’s really sad, especially for a kid who’s really smart.

            Both my parents were pulled out of school very young, and my mother was determined us kids would be educated. She couldn’t answer our questions herself, but always made sure we had access to plenty of books so we could find out for ourselves.

          2. Glad to see you escaped and survived. When I was in high school the worst I ever heard about was that some parents threw their kids out of the house at age 18. They were supposed to be all grown up and on their own. Now I wonder what it was like growing up in those homes.

            1. A good friend of mine was thrown out by her crazy mother. She ended up living with a guy who a used her and she dropped outbid high school to support herself. She was and is smart so it was a great tragedy to me that that happened to her and she missed out on an education.

      2. I got clobbered just once. It was a shock. I learned that even the most patient people have their breaking points. I was being a real pest.

      3. “My parents have never given up their beliefs in striking children.”

        I suspect to avoid it, you really have to have a plan. Smacking is what happens when you don’t, because it’s easy and doesn’t need a plan.

        I read a book on corporal punishment, and one of the reasons for banning it in Sweden was the fact that it was too easy for it to move into the child abuse category. After the ban, child abuse dropped to almost nothing.

        I read a neat book on using positive reinforcement called “Don’t shoot the dog”, written by a dolphin trainer. She claimed that you can train pretty much anything with a nervous system with the techniques she outlined, although you had to put some time into it.

        1. I trained dogs when I was a kid in the 70s and now in the 2000’s. I noticed training animals follows the same trend as punishing children. In the 70s it was all about negative reinforcement. Pull the dog hard on the neck and shout “come!”, all of the training was about telling the dog not to do something. No motivations like food or toys were used. Now, food and toys and praise are used and corrections are mild but annoying to the dog. I found dogs were much easier to train and much happier and eager to learn. My dog now is way more well behaved than any of my dogs from the 70s.

          1. ” found dogs were much easier to train and much happier and eager to learn. ”

            That’s what the author of the book said. She said that animals love training when positive reinforcement is used. It produces happy, confident animals.

            I first came across the book when the author was interviewed to critique “The Dog Whisperer”, who apparently relies on the dominance theory of dog training.

        2. RE your 2nd paragraph, I can see that so clearly. I once thought that spanking could be an ethical means of punishment if properly administered. I once spanked my child. It was such a horrible experience, what I glimpsed through the door that I had just cracked open, it made me so upset I nearly vomited. It was scary.

          That is how I came to really understand, beyond merely considering various arguments, that spanking is bullshit. There are other, non violent, ways to get your child’s attention.

          1. I suspect most parents feel guilty about it, which is why they’re defensive when you bring the subject up.

            I read somewhere that if you’re going to use negative reinforcement, it should be calibrated to avoid producing anger.

            Reminds me a bit of how copy protection has changed on software since the 80s. Used to be software would shut down if it wasn’t purchased, pissing people off, but this gradually changed to “nagware”, which would still function, but just slightly annoy you until you eventually decided you’d be happier if you got legal.

    4. I agree. The rare situation where I might consider a quick spanking or swat acceptable is when dealing with an immediate life-threatening situation — like a small child running into the street without looking. The goal is to make a major impression. Of course, that requires that the strategy be rare indeed.

      1. Yeah. I don’t think (or I would hope) that no-one disagrees with grabbing a child forcefully who’s about to do something like run out into a road in order to save them from something much worse.

        After that, smacking them out of your own fear of what might have happened is likely useless and counter-productive imo.

    5. I like your flowcharts, and I am against striking children (or any living organism), but I don’t think your logic is correct in this case.

      Even if a child (or pet) does not understand reason, there is still operant conditioning. Punishment of rats can certainly stop or diminish the punished behavior, and I don’t think they understand why.

      The point is not that punishment is illogical, but that there are better ways of changing the child’s behavior (for example, positive reinforcement of alternative behavior by the child).

      1. I’m not sure which bit of what I said you’re referring to. I agree that physical punishment can work with things like conditioning rats.

        However, doing it to children doesn’t work long-term, and there’s lots of evidence for that.

        I’m not sure I said that punishment was illogical.

        I think PHYSICAL punishment is wrong. Other consequences for bad behaviour are OK like time out, taking away privileges etc.

        That third flow chart that Jerry produced above is not from my website – it’s one he found elsewhere.

        1. One interesting thing about the psychology of this discussion is that you aren’t allowed to express an anti-spanking view unless you have children.

          Which is silly, because there are millions of parents who don’t spank, and the fact that they exist means that it’s a defensible point of view.

          1. It’s why I always make a point of talking about it – because I haven’t got kids! I’m a bit of a one for doing things I’m not supposed to. My nieces and nephews stay with me fair bit though. It’s not the same as being a parent, but I am responsible for them when they’re living with me.

          2. “You don’t have children” is often the response given to me. My experience as a child who was disciplined harshly seems not to count. It’s really just another way of doing an argument from authority. I’m also not a cat but I know cats shouldn’t be allowed to eat their owners either.

              1. Sweet thought, but I think it’s more about the katsuobushi than the cleanliness…

                …but it just so happens that right about now is time for his dessert, so I’ll just ask him….


      2. This is an interesting argument, but operant conditioning works b/c it is applied immediately with the behavior so the subject associates that the behavior brings the electric shock or whatever.
        But in punishment of children there will almost always be many seconds to minutes or more after the behavior, so it is not likely to condition the child to associate the behavior with getting swatted.

  2. To say that God is all-forgiving is unbiblical:

    32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

    1. What the heck is the difference? Jesus can take it, but the Ghost can’t? The Ghost needs to spend some time with the mortal element and see if it thickens his ethereal skin.

  3. Those charts are great. I love simple, visual representations like that. They make things clear in the blink of an eye. Hard to believe that so many of the faithful have never thought about the prayer one…

    1. The charts ARE great.

      But I suspect the faithful have thought about the prayer one. There are some possible answers, but none of them survive a lot of scrutiny. I just think that believers don’t provide a lot of scrutiny.

      1. Granted, I’m sure there are some who have given the prayer one a lot of thought. Probably given them a few sleepless nights as well. I doubt many ever followed that train of thought to its logical conclusion. Cognitive dissonance comes into play at that point.

        Scrutiny may be a better way of putting it though.

  4. I LOVE the last flowchart. I love all three, but the last one is near and dear to my heart. My wife and I have never struck our boys and they’ve grown up to be fine young men. Now, that doesn’t mean we didn’t discipline them, far from it, but it was never physical.

  5. The first one reminds me of Heine’s quip, “God will forgive me, that’s his job.” (Which I always thought was Bertrand Russell, but which the internet tells me is wrong.)

  6. The people who reject that first flow chart tend to think of “not believing in God” as a willful act of rebellion or hatred. It’s not that nonbelievers come to a different conclusion: the truth is already written in their hearts. Or, perhaps, God’s existence is so obvious that one might as well deny the existence of the sun, or the earth, or ones own self.

    So telling yourself or others that you don’t believe in God is a sham. You DO believe, deep down. That allows the theist to bring in the idea that you’re away from God because that’s what you want. God ‘forgives’ the wicked perverse for deliberately and knowingly choosing Hell over His Love and eternal happiness.

    The worst part of apologetics like this isn’t what they say about God; it’s what they say about people.

  7. Here’s one that I noticed when I was still a regular at Sunday School:

    “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16

    “There is no one righteous, not even one” – Romans 3:19-20

    Well, that about wraps it up for prayer, eh?

    1. Isn’t this like one of those set theoretic paradoxes like who shaves the barber? On the other hand maybe you need to read more metaphorically. 😎

      1. AU is going on on my website again – he thinks the flow charts are too “binary” but he wouldn’t expect an new atheist to understand.

        1. Ha! Too binary? Well I suppose there is a different logic where he comes from. Someplace less new and less atheistic. Maybe something can be in God’s plan and not in God’s plan at the same time. Maybe God just can’t make up his mind. Sort of like nervous quantums.

        2. What is the deal with AU, anyway? I.e., background, beliefs, whatever you know about him/her. His inputs on this particular post of yours are worse than ususal, IMO.

          1. There’s been worse. You should see him when I say anything bad about Islam, or suggest there’s more to the cause of problems in the Middle East than colonialism. His defence of Islam is much stronger than that of any other religion, but I don’t know for sure whether or not he’s Muslim. He says he’s a scientist and has a degree in science and logic.

            1. Interesting, thanks. Guess I’d been assuming he was Muslim just from his input on some of your other posts! You are a master (mistress? doesn’t have quite the same ring…) of diplomacy in your dealings with him.

              1. Thanks! My dream job when I was a kid was to be a diplomat, then I heard that the number one thing you needed was integrity. I didn’t know what the word meant at the time, but I didn’t like the sound of it – for some reason I got the impression it was a synonym of hypocrite, and didn’t want anything to do with it. If I could live my life over again, that’s what I would’ve done.

              2. I would be a horrible diplomat. I don’t like standing on ceremony & I like to be friends with whomever I choose. If Canada got in a fight with a country where I had friends, I wouldn’t be able to talk to them – but I’d do it anyway & end up getting kicked out or arrested for treason.

              3. I hadn’t thought of that – it’d piss me off if I couldn’t be friends with someone because of their country too, and it wouldn’t stop me.

              4. Not to mention that you can’t talk about anything that goes on at work. However, former diplomats and spies usually end up writing good books.

                A friend of a friend is in the Canadian Foreign Service & she got booted out of Moscow last year in the “I’m expelling your diplomats because you expelled ours”. Her husband is also a diplomat and he remained in Moscow with their daughter while she got the boot back to Ottawa. So disruptive!

              5. I spent most of my working life in hospitals, so I couldn’t talk about anything at work anyway, so I know I can live with that one. It was hard sometimes though, when you know what really happened, and you hear people talking in the news and you know they’re lying and there’s nothing you can do about it. That would happen a lot more in the diplomatic service.

              6. I worked at BlackBerry & given the competitive nature of the industry, I knew things that I couldn’t share. It sucked. I like sharing.

              7. I like sharing too, but I’m not very good at gossiping (which is not the same of course). People are always telling me gossipy type stuff that when they tell me, I remember someone else has already told me before. Probably because of my work, I never got into the habit. Sharing with the right person is always good though.

              8. With your notion of diplomat, the world would surely be a lot better off. Diplomats would form a sub-population of humanity which enjoyed freedom of association and could form alliances without regard for the foolish politicians. I firmly predict international tensions would disappear within a decade. 😎

  8. Isn’t there a time-honored saying that one flowchart is worth a thousand words? … Well, there ought to be.

    Nice job, Ms. Hastie (and anonymous Facebooker)!

  9. I grew up with plenty of corporal punishment meted out upon myself and my brothers. Nothing at all serious, and I do not see any damage done. I chalk it up to how my parents were raised, and they just thought that was the way things were.
    That said, I have never used it on my kids. I don’t think even once. And they all seem to be turning out fine.

    1. Yeah my parents came from a long line of ass whoopers and abusers. I broke the chain by not reproducing. Take that evolution!

  10. I was occasionally smacked as a child at home, and I don’t feel as though it did me any harm. Then again, I actually have no way of knowing!

    I was treated much more badly at school, and not a faith school at that. In primary there was seldom a week went by that I didn’t receive a caning, frequently more than once. For me it became a sort of badge of honour, and there were times I deliberately transgressed in order to ensure my caning. However, there were other children at the time who were badly affected by the experience. One in particular would be picked on; for example, on one occasion he was so frightened when asked a simple arithmetic question that he easily knew the answer to, the fear made him stammer and he was caned for that. I still remember fifty years on how he would wet his pants, whilst other pupils were forced to hold his hand steady for the caning. The teacher concerned, on reflection, was a sadistic brute, and I strongly suspect also a paedophile.

    I now wince when I see children being smacked.

    1. I was smacked quite a bit. If there was any harm, it is unmeasurably small compared to the harm that came from taking me to a fundamentalist church.

    2. I was spanked by teachers but I think the greater harm they did was psychological. I remember a teacher I had in grade 6 made my friend and I stay after class because he thought we were laughing at him. We weren’t, we were just giggly. He screamed in our faces “Do you like to be laughed at?!” I didn’t even put it together right away that he thought we had been laughing at him. Of course, he wouldn’t believe we weren’t laughing at him so I just did what I always and still do, I went completely blank in the face & just weathered it out. I knew that someone that is unstable is survivable if you just don’t provoke them further. My friend, who was and is a sensitive soul, started to cry immediately. She couldn’t do anything except cry and cry.

      I had a lot of bad experiences like this and they all added up to a girl that had pretty much no self esteem, a wicked eating disorder and an attraction to sociopaths.

      I’m much better now – I’m sort of like the non drug version of Walter White: I am the one who knocks! I am the danger….well not really, but it’s a good Breaking Bad line.

      1. What a shame. Glad you’re doing better. I only had one really miserable teacher. She embarrassed me in front of the class and it really scarred me for the rest of my life. My knees shake whenever I’m in front of a group.

  11. These are perfect Heather! Thanks for sharing. I also came to the conclusion that prayer was useless since an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient thingamabob would already know any prayer I’d ever utter, and know whether or NOT to answer, so again…redundant.

    1. I don’t think they actually get out of any of their pickles. Either they’re talking to believers, so proper reasoning isn’t required, or the reason you don’t get it, is that you haven’t invited Jesus into your heart or something – you just need to pray more.

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