Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child?

The title of this column is taken from the book of Proverbs 13:24. The book of Proverbs has been credited to the authorship of King Solomon, but this is not unanimously accepted by all First (sometimes read as Old) Testament Scholars. On May 15th 2010, a Houston area school teacher was recorded on video beating a 13 year old student. The student received a black eye and other bumps and bruises during the beating. The teacher was promptly terminated. There was also another story right here in Asheville of a parent allegedly hitting another child who was fighting with his child. Notice the word “allegedly”.

How one chooses to discipline their kids is a personal matter, but can’t we as adults be more creative in how we do it. Violence against anyone but especially children is just so—unimaginative. When we as adults are 3, 4, and 5 times the height of a child and we can scream, rage, and beat them is nothing less than traumatic. No doubt the parents were disciplined by corporal punishment a well. Not to mention the children cannot talk back or complain or they will be beaten worse. Even Jewish prisoner of the Third Reich could go back to their barracks an complain. The famous children’s psychoanalyst Alice Miller once said that the most dangerous thing to the life of a child is the American Family.

Many parents use the above axiom to justify disciplining their children. Being a parent myself I know first hand the challenges parents face and indeed parenting may be the hardest job any of us will ever do. There are no instruction manuals with children. Yet is their any concrete data to support that beating a child actually helps them?

Back in 1865, a man by the name of Henry Bergh was appointed by President Lincoln as a diplomat to Russia. He came back to the US appalled at the Russian culture  for their condoning cockfights, bullfights, and the beating of horses. Are you listening Michael Vick? Bergh eventually channeled his anger and organized the first animal protection group in this country, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Even animals had rights!

America has a long and pervasive history of beating up on the vulnerable in our society, namely women and children. Solomon’s wisdom needs some revisiting.

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