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spare The Rod And Spoil The Child”. What Are The Best Ways To Punish A Child?

Albert Opare (17/08)2017)

For many young parents, as their children grow up, they quickly have to come to grips with the fact that the once adorable baby who couldn't talk and walk and thus couldn't do any wrong can now talk walk and cause a lot of mayhem around the house. Advice from parents to their children not to do or to do something will sometimes go unheeded. This situation can be very frustrating especially in cases when the parents know that their children's lives may be in danger.

For parents who are Christians too, there is the conflict of following the tenets of the Bible and following one's own beliefs as to what the best ways are to punish a child. The Bible in Proverbs 13 verse 24 admonishes parents that, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” This verse has been interpreted to mean using the cane to discipline one's child when they go wrong. The conflict here most is that, whilst using the cane may be an effective way to discipline a child, it also comes with some life threatening effects.

Banda (2006) in her article, “Negative Effects of Corporal Punishment on Children” argues that, “Ruptured eardrums, brain damage and other bodily injuries and death in some instances are some of the bad and tragic effects of corporal punishment”. The use of the cane is considered corporal punishment as well as using the hand to spank children. There have been instances and a number of reported cases all over the world where adults out have anger have injured children with the view to disciplining them. There is therefore a thin line between what may be considered child abuse or assault and discipline for most. In the past (three decades ago), the situation was quite straight forward. One could choose the means through which a child was punished and there were no consequences. However, in some countries now, like the United Kingdom, canes and other forms of corporal punishment have been banned in schools.

In one of the world's most powerful countries the United Kingdom, Clark (2012) reports in her article on the dailymail.co.uk titled “Ban on the cane 'left schools unable to impose discipline and led to deterioration in children's behaviour'”, that, “The scrapping of the cane has led to a deterioration in children's behaviour at school, according to teachers...While rejecting a return to the cane, members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers condemned existing sanctions such as detention and suspension”. This means that even in advanced countries, with all the progress that has been made, there still remains uncertainty about the best ways to punish a child.

For those who do not believe in corporal punishment, some of them have suggested certain subtle means of disciplining children. Sifferlin (2015) for example in the article “Crash Course: 8 Ways to Discipline Your Kids” argues that, the best way to punish is to withhold some of the privileges the children enjoy. Also, we can try using some logical consequences like “removing the toy being chucked at the wall and locking it up for the rest of the day”. Also, scolding children and using non-negotiable arguments will help in punishing children. Others like Barker (2015) also suggest rewarding good behavior of our children and being clear about rules in the house as the best ways to discipline a child. According to her, “If your rules are vague, or discussed only when one has been broken, your child will have a hard time following them”.

Cosby and Poussaint (2006) who seem to favor disciplining children over punishing them stress that, we should separate discipline from punishment in their article “Some Good Ways to Discipline Children”. According to them, “Discipline and punishment really are different things. Discipline may include punishment but aims for a much higher goal. Discipline includes other ways to shape a child's behavior for the long term, not just for the short term”. Thus if children are made to understand why they are being punished or disciplined and understand the consequences as to why they must not do what they did wrong again, as well as why they are being disciplined, then the children will become better people and are more prone to change their ways for better.

The fact is that no matter what one believes, punishing children is a thorny issue and the best way to do it is not easily known. Whilst using the cane or the “rod” as the bible points out, may lead to serious injuries to the children if care is not taken, it is probably the most effective way of disciplining children. However, the world cannot live that to the discretion of some parents/adults who may be short tempered to hide under the guise of punishing or disciplining a child to abuse the rights of children and assault them. The other means of punishing children like detention, grounding, scolding, and even taking away privileges are also less effective overall.

The answer to the question may lie in parents understanding the needs of their children and giving them more attention. If parents pay more attention to their children, there may actually never be the need to punish them. No matter their sex or their age, children require and need attention. Sometimes the rebellious attitude of children may be as a result of the lack of attention children are receiving from their parents or other adults and if parents paid a little more attention, they can meet the needs of their children.

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