i’ve changed my mind

In one of today’s national Sunday Newspapers, in typical sensationalist-style, it is reported that: ‘parents who spank their children could soon be slapped with criminal charges.’

This is a sensationalist article, designed to get readers hot under the color, for it is published in a country in which spanking your children still seems to be at the heart of child rearing.

And – if you read the article it becomes clear that, even though a specific organization is lobbying for this to happen, chances are slim that it would.

In South Africa it seems spanking your children is the norm when it comes to disciplining your children.

When my son was born, it was how I did things.

After all, it is how I was raised.

One spanking at a time.

The Bible says, ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’, does it not?

And so I would give my three year old son a hiding, whenever he would not obey my command, beating him into obedience & submission.

What an idiot I was.

This is the one thing I have apologised to my son & daughter, my two eldest children, the most.

I will apologise to them again.

It is unforgivable.

My daughter taught me that beatings solve nothing.

She was four years old when she was old enough to express herself well enough, to teach me.

‘What?!’ she shouted through the tears after a hiding. ‘Do you think this solves anything? Do you think beating me shows me you love me!? Do you think it helps me understand? It doesn’t even shut me up. It just fills me with fear. It makes me afraid of you. It makes me want to hide!’

I was speechless.

Her words articulating thoughts more mature than I could expect from most adults.

Insightful.

That she would even take the time to explain to me.

I took her into my arms, and she allowed me to do so.

I don’t know if I would have.

I held her.

And she held me.

And I apologised.

For I could see.

For the first time.

That violence does not solve anything.

It was the last time I had given any of my children a hiding.

It is interesting – we beat our children into submission & then we discipline them about fighting amongst each other, hitting or biting or scratching.

We spank them, teaching them that violence is a solution and then we’re surprised that we live in a violent society.

Husbands beating their wives.

Governments beating their citizens.

Murders.

Rape.

Road Rage.

Perhaps our society, our world, will not change, unless we have a change of heart?

Is raising children really about getting them to submit to authority?

‘There is no discipline other than self-discipline. All else is coercion.’ says Tim Hewitt-Coleman.

I agree.

And beating my children, so that they will submit to my authority is of no value in teaching them self-discipline.

Talking to them is.

Engaging them.

Loving them.

Helping them discover who they are & allowing them to ‘be’, without hesitation.

Helping them experience life, in all its fullness, with consequences & hardship & success.

But that takes time.

And effort.

It asks of me to do more than provide a place to live & food to eat & clothes to wear.

It asks of me to be in a meaningful relationship.

To listen.

To learn.

To become myself.

To be human.

Which is difficult.

For I was beaten.

Into submission.

Perhaps the cycle will only be broken when I am loved enough, like I was by my daughter, who took the time to explain & engage & set me free.

My Christian friends do not agree with me on this.

They quote that rod-scripture.

They tell me they were beaten and look at them? They are fine?

My Krishna friend gets it.

Violence breeds violence.

So I suppose the question which remains is, will I be ‘beaten’ into submission, rather keeping quiet about what I’ve learnt from my four year old, than being shunned by Evangelical Christians?

9 thoughts on “i’ve changed my mind

  1. So true! Brings me to my biggest question – how do we know we are doing the right thing raising our children?! Who can .exactly tell you the right and the wrong? So-called educational-, psychological- and even the worst – experienced family member hoards trying to “teach” one the “only” way!! Our children are human beings, not robots! Well said – an enjoyable point to ponder!!!

  2. Thanks for a thought-provoking article!

    Like most things I’ve come across – concerning the human condition – there will never be absolute answers while I am still partially skin and bone…

    And I suspect that may also apply to my role in raising our two youngsters?

    Having said that, and sharing the experience of having been beaten for years on-end – in my case resulting in incredible pent-up anger within me (which I am thankfully dealing with through God’s grace), I very much doubt that the golden mean that I’m searching for in our kids’ journey will or should include any hurtful physical intervention.

    Besides, with a little bit of creativity, there are SO many ways to intervene at all levels to guide my children, including constructive, non-painful physical intervention.

    And that intervention is called: My Embrace… : )

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  4. Violence breeds violence – whether in word, deed or action …
    But the western world has its wicked ways … the question is .. do we follow patterns or do we swim against the tide and work with our intuition. Knowing that we will be judged – one way or the other.

  5. Bravo for saying what needs to be said. Spanking is the easy way out. Sitting down, explaining, communicating takes time – something many parents are loath to give.

    Usually the same people who quote the bible so liberally also believe that “God helps those who help themselves”, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” and in this case “Spare the rod spoil the child” are actual verses in the bible.The New Living Translation of Proverbs 13:24 says “If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don’t love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them.” ..Nothing about a rod! And just by the way a reminder… we don’t stone adulterous women in public or punish those breaking the sabbath with death anymore!

  6. Love is the greast power of all, Perhaps we should start loving more and beating less Don’t you think, for we only breed angry an bitter people by Beating

  7. Well said, interesting point of view. After living in England for 2 years and seeing how out of control their youth is, I have to disagree though. Corporal punishment is severely frowned upon there (if not illegal?) and I think this is the soul reason their youth is totally out of control. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that corporal punishment is IDEAL, but I don’t think it’s as bad as people make it out to be. As with anything in life, it’s important do do it right and let a child understand that the spanking is punishment for their ACTION, and that you still love them as a PERSON.
    My main reason for endorsing capital punishment is this: punishment and reward is the basis for any behaviour modification. In the absence of spanking, parents then either resort to other forms of punishment, like ignoring the child or sending them to a “naughty corner”, or do not punish the child at all. Both these courses of action can lead to disastrous results, either sending the child the message that they are not loved AS A PERSON, or that they can do whatever they want and the parents can/will do nothing about it. This was really driven home for me when I saw a program about parents with out of control kids who then get a professional nanny to help them “get their kids under control”. I was shocked at how these parents felt powerless and often punished their kids through emotional blackmail and torture as it was the only way they could conceive in the absence of spanking. I often saw the same in the restaurant I worked at at the time, with parents coming in with completely out of control kids, telling me to just ignore them when they are being naughty (ironically, the children are often just being naughty to try and get SOME sort of attention from their parents in my opinion). It made me really grateful that my parents spanked me when I was little, as I would not have wanted to grow up in a household of psychological warfare instead. So as I said, I don’t believe that corporal punishment is ideal, but it is easily understood by both the child and the parents, and harder to get wrong than the alternatives.

    • Hey, Johan, I love your engagement on this issue & that you have an opinion, so many people go through life without opinion.

      I think, what you describe, happens specifically when corporal punishment is outlawed, but not replaced by (what I would call) parenting.

      I think you can see that I started out by beating my kids, like most other parents.

      It is, in retrospect, very easy, you get submission & compliance, but the loss associated with it was (is?) too great.

      The absence of corporal punishment is often seen as the absence of ‘discipline’.

      ‘Discipline’ is much more about ‘disciple-ling’, leading, guiding, which takes effort, time, relationship, intimacy.

      That is hard & asks so much more, but the result (I think) is much more complete.

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