I was trying to think of a catchy title but I’m so frustrated at the moment, you just get it straight, no chaser. This post is directed to all parents and caregivers but especially to Black parents. As a community, Black Americans have enough to deal with. Our children need to know how valuable they are, not be beaten into our outdated frameworks.
I’ve been gentle parenting for a little over 8 years. I’ve seen an increase in materials encouraging people to avoid spanking and yelling and it makes my heart happy. What makes me sad and angry is when I see spanking being encouraged by others.
We come into this world defenseless. We cannot feed ourselves. We cannot leave the room. We cannot pull up a blanket if we’re cold or take off a layer if we’re hot. We do not speak the language. And even if we did, we don’t know what things are called. Our only means of communication is crying and our only hope for survival is the care of the adults in our lives.
Unfortunately, adults often misunderstand children. Adults have expectations for kids that are unrealistic. Adults have their own unresolved issues that come up. Adults don’t know very much about how children work. When children don’t do what adults expect them to do, a common solution is to “beat them!”
My cousin posted this. I love my cousin. She just had a sweet little girl. Everyone commenting on the post advocated beating this child. I was the only dissenting voice. My other cousin, who also just had a baby, replied that this was not normal kid behavior and some kids need physical consequences. I was so upset that I came to write this blog post.
This is the first, but will not be my last post on discipline. I’ve been having these discussions for years. When I first started telling people that I would not hit my child, you would’ve thought I said I was raising a mass murderer. We have it so ingrained that children need to be hit or yelled at to learn, that we cannot fathom anything different.
I want to address three reasons you should stop hitting your children.
- It may not be biblical. Spare the rod and spoil the child is not in the Bible. It’s from an old poem. However, the Bible does say “Don’t withhold discipline from a youth; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. Strike him with a rod, and you will rescue his life from Sheol.” Proverbs 23:13-14. A couple of thoughts here. First, Proverbs is the only book that talks about beating people unless you count stoning in Deuteronomy. Second, Proverbs is full of figurative language. For example, it says Wisdom is a woman, calling out to people. Third, one of the meanings of shebet, the word translated as rod, also means authority. If you look at the parenting in the Old Testament (I’m looking at you David and Eli), a common issue was that parents did not provide accountability for their children. They let them do what they want. Third, Christian parents, we are charged to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. That same verse also tells us not to aggravate them. (Ephesians 6:4). Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:18-23 and 32:46 show us in part how we should discipline our children: by loving and following God and teaching them His ways.
- Discipline does not mean punish. Discipline and disciple both come from the Latin, discipulus, which means pupil. Fun fact, you are always disciplining your children. Little humans are sponges. They are soaking up everything you say and do and responding accordingly. As a parent, you are how they learn about the world. Hitting does not teach them that certain things are wrong. It teaches them that you will hurt them. It teaches them that they are weaker than you. It shows them how to treat others. I know, I know. You were spanked and you never hit anyone else. You turned out just fine. Or did you? Do you have trouble expressing your emotions to other people? Difficulty controlling your temper? Anxiety and depression? Maybe you don’t. But a lot of people who were spanked do.
- Hitting should not be okay for the weakest of us. Children know the least about how the world works. They have very little control over their lives. Consider that at the age most kids get a spanking, they cannot tell time, or tie their shoes. Yet they’re supposed to understand that we are hitting them for their own good. To teach them the right way to do things. Children are the least able to effectively communicate what’s going on with them or describe how they’re feeling. Yet we just know they’re being manipulative, or dramatic, or even worse, embarrassing us. We advocate for victims of domestic violence. We rally against bullying. But we don’t consider the importance of protecting the youngest among us from the physical and emotional consequences of spanking.
The bottom line for me, is that I’ve never heard a good reason for hitting children. Calling it spanking doesn’t change the fact that it’s hitting. I have heard and seen many reasons for people not to spank. If you are interested in learning more about gentle discipline or would like help brainstorming better discipline solutions, comment below or contact me. Let’s do better for our children as our parents did better for us. Or because our parents didn’t do better for us.
*Two notes. My 8-year old chose the text color for the image. And he said, “If people read it, maybe they won’t hit their children anymore.” I hope not son, I hope not.