NO SPARING THE ROD, HUH?
The popular proverb ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ seems to the first thing parents and guardians (caretakers in general) misunderstand about how to discipline children. Of course as much as it would be wrong to assume, I don’t imagine that a child whose entire body is sore from a beating crying in the middle of the night because it hurts so much to even twitch is what the person from whom this proverb originated had in mind when he urged us not to spare the rod. So, dear world, are we doing this right? Are we disciplining children in a way that’s fair to them even though their behavior is morally inappropriate? Is violence the most effective alternative to discipline a child?
In 2014, 1 billion children aged 2-17 years experienced physical, sexual, emotional violence around the word. It is a shame and a totally disheartening reality just how child violence is still a longstanding vice in our society. We’ve normalized parents pulling out canes, belts and whips as a way to assume authority over their children and presumably instill discipline. Even in schools, it is not uncommon for a student to receive even as many as 20 strokes of the cane from a teacher. I for one remember an incident dating back to almost ten years ago when a male teacher forcefully shoved me to the floor and whipped me so badly that I couldn’t sit quite right for an entire week from all the pain. Who in their right mind does that to an eleven year old? Maybe I needed to be disciplined but did I deserve to be too sore to sit? Any sane person would know that sure I didn’t!
When you ask adults why they beat children, the obvious answer is to instill respect and shape their morals but in fact this is the just a cover-up, an excuse, a reason that sounds acceptable because the real motive is a hard truth for them to face. Deep down inside, majority of parents are harboring trauma from childhood experiences of violence which they haven’t healed from. They can’t get the satisfaction of revenge or even the closure they seek from the people who inflicted pain on them as children so what do they do? They take it out on their own children and punish them for the wrongs of guardians who hurt them. The violence gives them the pleasure of a payback but what they can’t see is that they’re creating never ending cycle that’ll never cease if violence continues to be the go-to remedy for childhood traumas. Secondly, another factor that can fuel child violence is stress. Parents are always under a lot of pressure to provide for their children. This situation is common in households struggling financially. It makes children seem like a burden hence leading to a gradual buildup of resentment for the child on the parent’s side. This often results in parents being violent and indifferent towards these children kind of as a way to punish them for existing. In times of difficulty and frustration, it is easy to presume that life might have been smoother and easier if the kids didn’t exist at all in the first place. But is it fair to punish a child for existing just because you cannot meet the needs of their upbringing?
Then the most disappointing of all reasons to inflict violence on a child is the alcohol and substance use. About 13% of child violence cases involve alcohol. The intoxication, heightened emotions and clouded judgement under the influence of alcohol and drugs causes parents to look upon children as punching bags hence leading the violent acts that can even go as far as assaulting a child to death simply because this adult is not in their right state of mind. The sad part of it all is that when the sobriety kicks in, probably the next morning, the person is most likely not going to be able to remember what they did; so they don’t even take the blame for the harm caused. This even leaves chances of the violence happening again and again, but does any child deserve to be a victim of anyone’s intoxication? Does any child deserve to expect a slap or a beating when mummy/daddy comes back home from the bar?
As youths embarking on this eventful journey to make the world a better place, our role isn’t to sit down and condemn the generations that came before us and curse them for their wrongs because that’d indeed be a total waste of time. What we need to do is lift our voices and raise awareness on issues like child violence that are eating away at our generation from the inside. As of today, 37% of WHO Member states have reported implementation of measures to prevent child violence. This is a good place to start but it is still far from the best we can do. What we need is a world that is free of all child violence, a world where children don’t go to bed sore just because they got punished for breaking a mug, a world where parents are not fierce beasty beings whose love language is the whip, a world where canes and belts aren’t the first things that come to mind when children think of their parents. It is our turn to aim at being parents who won’t defy the true meaning of not sparing the rod.
(the word ‘parent’ in this concept is used as a general term for all adults who at any point in time are likely to be a person of authority in the life of a child; family members, care givers, teachers, etc.)