Cracking The Whip: Why Your Discipline Doesn’t Work

February 7, 2011  |  

“Spare the rod, spoil the child,” is the proverb that most parents turn to when justifying a form of discipline that is most likely heavily influenced by memories of their own upbringing.  You were “whooped” when you were a child and you turned out alright, right?  But in fact this quote isn’t completely correct.  The truth is any success you’ve experienced as an adult has less to do with a rod to the rear than you think.

The old adage is actually an adaptation from King Solomon’s Book of Proverbs and states: “He that spareth his rod, hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (Proverbs 13:24)” When translated exactly, this means that if you choose not to use corporal punishment then you must hate your children, but if you love them then you should hit them, at least sometimes.  The truth is that if there is anything that discipline is NOT about, it’s hate.

Effective discipline begins with a true understanding of the difference between punishment and discipline.  Punishment is a negative consequence for inappropriate behavior.  It’s often a first resort because it’s a quick and easy response to penalize improper conduct.  It’s much easier and quicker to yell or slap a child that is playing in the street or acting out instead of sitting down and explaining why that behavior was wrong.  Punishment paints the parent as a harsh dictator rather than as a respected authority. It’s important to assess why you’re disciplining your child.  Is the occasional cuss out really teaching your child why the behavior is wrong, or is it simply cathartic for you?  If your child isn’t the only one who ends up throwing a tantrum, the only thing you’re teaching is that concern is best expressed as anger.  Children who are punished learn that the ones that love you the most are also the ones to hurt you and that violence is the first alternative when things don’t go as they should.

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