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Spare the child? Then throw away the rod!

IMG_1342By Martha Adair, New Oakland Therapist, Director

Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” The  bible defines “rod” as a thin stick or GetAttachment

switch that can be used to give a small amount of physical pain with no lasting physical injury.

The Bible also warns that parents should never abuse the power and authority they have over their young children because it “provokes the children to righteous anger.”

Perhaps if the bible had “spared” us the word “rod” and gave a more nuanced explanation of discipline we might be having a very different conversation in America today.

Instead, we’ve come face to face with the fact that physical abuse masquerading as discipline has been a scourge of children throughout history, and brought into harsh light recently with the case of Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson.

Peterson, by all accounts, is a pretty decent guy, aside from beating the daylights out of his small children with a switch. A Texas grand jury indicted him on child abuse charges after a doctor saw his son’s badly bruised and cut body. He and his mom call it “love,” quoting right from the good book.

Evidence as brought forth by the Global Initiative to End All Corporate Punishment of Children, flies in the face of  the conventional concept of not sparing the rod. Their research has revealed the following in regards children subjected to corporal punishment:

  • Increased aggression in children is a reflective response to experiencing pain
  • The subsequent increase in antisocial behavior makes them less likely to learn the lessons adults want them to learn
  • Increased bullying, lying, cheating, truancy and crime
  • Reduced empathy and moral regulation rather than developing the desire to behave on their own accord
  • Decrease in mental health including anxiety, depression and hopelessness
  • Impaired cognitive development like lower IQ scores and smaller vocabularies

And in reference to the other recently publicized NFL abuse cases, corporal punishment makes children more likely to commit domestic violence as adults.

New Oakland deals with many cases of mental trauma and dysfunction brought on by physical abuse. We advise setting well-defined boundaries to discourage your children from testing you, and that you follow through with positive and negative consequences that you outline. And give clear instructions with eye contact or a hand on the shoulder and ask the child to repeat back to ensure understanding.

Here’s how New Oakland recommends the healthier disciplining of young children:

  • Teach self discipline with choices and problem solving skills: “Do you want to clean up your toys before or after lunch?”
  • Praise good behavior to ensure them that they are on the right track. And if he misbehaves, teach him that there are better ways to get what he wants
  • Natural consequences are good. If it’s safe, let the child try something to realize it doesn’t work
  • Use rewards, not consequences, as in: “As soon as you clean up your toys you can go out and play.” Not, “If you don’t … you won’t”
  • Set up a rewards system with stickers or tokens

Far more effective than physical punishment are time outs and the withholding of things they value.

At some point, the cycle must be broken. Children who are hit become hitters themselves. They model their parents behavior. If parents want to produce confident, creative, thoughtful, problem solving young adults, then parents must discipline themselves and take the discipline they hand out much more seriously. Beatings induce fear, withdrawal, mistrust or aggressive acting out.

It’s high time we “Switch from the switch” and become more humane and more effective at the same time.