As an educator, I am tasked with managing my classroom and getting children to follow directions without putting my hands on them. Although corporal punishment was once a widely used form of discipline in schools, most schools steer away from the practice even if it is still legal in the state where the school resides. I am known for having good classroom management and I rarely write referrals. This school year the only referrals I have written were for one fight and for students who skipped my class. All other behaviors are handled within the four walls of room 305. I have worked in the urban school setting for 11 of the 12 years I have been an educator and if I am able to manage students who other educators find difficult, then surely I can discipline and manage the children I am responsible for as a parent.
As a parent, I incorporate strategies I use in the classroom at my home. Although my sons are identical twins, they are unique individuals. I have to use different tactics and strategies for each of my sons. If I cannot use corporal punishment in the educational setting and I can get children to obey and understand why they need to change their behavior, why should I have to use corporal punishment at home?
Corporal Punishment and the Christian Home
My husband and I attend a Sunday school class for married couples. On Sunday, May 5, 2018, we were discussing conflict in parenting styles between husbands and wives. I decided to share my views. I shared how my husband and I are on the same parenting page, but the conflict we have is external because some of our family members and friends hold up spanking a child as the almighty discipline tool. I said I’m not against spanking, but it is only one tool in the parenting tool kit. I’m not going to lie; I popped my sons on the legs when they were toddlers; they had the habit of partaking in dangerous activities such as trying to pull down heavy objects on themselves, but these occurrences of physical discipline were rare. My husband and I believe corporal punishment should be a last resort because other forms of discipline are effective. In the black community, we spank children too much. We beat children instead of having conversations with them to help them understand what they did wrong and how to make a different choice in the future. I closed with saying it can be difficult dealing with family members and friends who have different views. Why spank when we can get the same results without it?
I didn’t have to wait long for someone to prove my point about external conflict. First, I was told the bible says, “Spare the rod; spoil the child.” Before, I share more on how my views were countered, I want my readers to know these words, “Spare the rod; spoil the child” are NOT in the bible along with other phrases Christians like to quote. I always laugh when devout Christians use this statement because if they were so knowledgeable of the word they would know it isn’t in there. They would know this phrase came from the poem “Hudibras” by Samuel Butler. Butler was a poet and satirist who made fun of religious people. Isn’t it ironic how some devout Christians religiously quote someone who made fun of religious people?
After our Sunday school classmate finished offering up a false verse, our classmate then quoted words that were actually in the bible:
“He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” Proverbs 13:24 NKJV
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” Proverbs 22: 15 NKJV
Of course, these scriptures were supposed to convince me my viewpoint was wrong and that spanking should be the number one tool in my parenting tool kit. My husband, who agreed with my comments was visibly shaking his head in disagreement while our classmate was countering my previous statements.
Another person chimed in to express how timeout and giving choices is something typically found in the white community…even though I didn’t mention either of these practices. Unfortunately, some black people love to use this tactic. When they don’t have real evidence to counter your actions or views, they attempt to cut you down and accuse you of being white. I have been accused of being white and had my black card taken so many times because I don’t fit into this fictional black box. All I can do is shake my head and pity the person because the person’s judgment about me says more about that person than it would ever say about who I really am and why I boldly live the way I live.
Then another classmate shared that many times parents, especially black parents, bring out the wrath in their children by using corporal punishment. I did not have the opportunity to further explain my views because time was short and our Sunday school teacher was trying to wrap up class in a neat bow.
After class, my husband and I further discussed this issue, the bible verses used to put us in our places, and bible verses that weren’t mentioned that needed to be part of the discussion.
Where is Critical Thinking in the Church?
I am an English teacher and one job I am tasked with helping students analyze and critically discuss a text. I have found that inside the church walls is where the least amount of critical thinking happens and the worse analysis of text takes place. Before I can dive deeper, I need you to understand what a prover is. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a proverb is, “a popular epigram or maxim.” Don’t you hate it when a definition forces you to look up more words? The M-W dictionary defines an epigram as, “a concise poem dealing pointedly and often satirically with a single thought or event and often ending with an ingenious turn of thought” and a maxim as, “a general truth, fundamental principle, or rule of conduct.” In short, a proverb is a guide and does not have to be taken literally.
Now, that you understand what a proverb is, let’s look at Proverbs 13:24 NKJV, “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” If you take this literally, it means you have hatred in your heart for your child because you did not physically discipline him. The idea this scripture is trying to get across is being a good parent means you will address misbehavior immediately; loving parents would want their children to understand right from wrong.
Let’s also look at the Proverb 22:15, “Foolisness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” This scripture did not say, “ONLY the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” I believe many Christians add to the text of the bible for their own purposes. They don’t even understand what a prover is and why it doesn’t make sense to take it literally, as the site Grace thru Faith points out when addressing corporal punishment.
My husband said to me after church, “The bible, as a whole, is a tool and you can’t just only use one piece as guidance.” We then discussed the following scriptures:
“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6: 4 NKJV
“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Colossians 3: 21 NKJV
Spanking, hitting, and verbally abusing children to discipline them is seen as justifiable by some in the Christian community even though it provokes children to anger, discourages them, and makes them believe they can’t do anything right. A lot of black Christians I know from my parents’ generation are quick to justify spanking children and are adamant it worked. If it worked so well, then why are there so many people in my generation with fractured relationships with their parents and why are so many of my peers struggling today? The book of Proverbs also says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Where is the training? Beating a child is not training the child; it’s not teaching the child how to act appropriately. Yelling and beating is a fear tactic to gain obedience and submission. The behavior may stop because they fear the belt, but it might cause the child to rebel. The child doesn’t learn why it is important to avoid the action or behavior. Many times when children need to come to their parents, they won’t because their parents are seen as a figure of fear because they overuse corporal punishment.
You Can Enforce without being Physically Forceful
My husband and I have made it clear to our children that they own nothing and everything they possess is due to our hard work. If they don’t want to follow our rules, they don’t need any extra outside of the bare necessities. People wrongly believe that without spanking a parent is willy-nilly and has a hippy parenting style. We set forth rules and we enforce them. For example, if you don’t like what we served for dinner, then you don’t eat. I’m not going to drop a belt on the table or smack you across your face to get your obedience. Missing one meal will not leave my child malnourished, but the hunger pains in his stomach will convince him to eat whatever I serve tomorrow…which will be the plate of food I saved that he refused to eat. At the end of the day, I enforced my expectations without using physical force.
Corporal punishment is easy and that’s why so many Christians hide behind the practice. Using other strategies is hard work and requires more from you as a parent than lashings from a belt requires.
Parenting is Hard
Children do not come with parenting handbooks to tell you how to best parent them. It is trial and error. Children change as they grow so you may have to switch up your strategies. Just because you use corporal punishment doesn’t mean you are a stronger parent than parents who don’t spank. It takes more strength and endurance to get to know your children on a personal level, to teach them and help them become morally upright adults than it does to hit and yell. Unless you have put in the work to try other strategies like teachers have to do every day, then don’t use real or fake scripture to smite down other people and their parenting practices.