Cracking The Whip: Why Your Discipline Doesn’t Work

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February 7, 2011 ‐ By Toya Sharee

“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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  • Wiser

    I have children and I have spanked. However I see that my younger children (whom I did not spank – when you know better you do better) are more responsible and get more out of me and my husband talking to them than using the belt. So if I had to do it again I would not spank. IT made my older children resentful and rebellious and has caused an emotional distance that has not be healed yet. Children should love their parents and work hard not to disappoint them but if something does come up they should not think that their parents will beat the crap out of them for small infractions. When you pick up a belt, an iron cord and other object the parent is hating themselves and not being effective as a parent. I had to learn the hard way. Change your game before its too late.

  • Nic

    I have to admit that I used to be one of those claiming that "whoopings" were the absolute best method, but in my adulthood, although I don't have children, I've come to understand things differently. I received spankings as a child and thought that type of punishment was effective, but thinking back now I can only remember the spanking and not what I was spanked for. The important thing is that the lesson is learned. I feel as though a parent can get their point across to their child without hitting them. That does just teach them that they should turn to violence when someone else isn't listening to them.

    Thanks for both the perspective and for presenting some practical solutions to dealing with bad behavior.