Abusive Churches & Gender Inequality, Academia & Gender Equality, Equality, Youth of Color

Voices of Our Children: Is Beating the Best Form of Discipline, Correction & Teaching of Our Children?

Reasons Not to Beat Your Children

Jesus said that violence breeds violence. All parents complain about the increased violence in today’s society but very few parents connect that violence to the patterns of interaction in society. If as children, we learn that the physically bigger and stronger person can get the smaller and less strong person to do what they want by hitting them, this carries on into adult life. Consider the issue of men who hit their wives. Not all of these men were raised in households where they saw their fathers beat on their mothers but they certainly saw older people or bigger people or adults beat on children to get them to do things their way. This consequence of violence is so strong that compelling the weaker has graduated to the use of deadly weapons like guns. All in an effort to get the lesser strong or ill-equipped person to submit to the bigger, stronger and better equipped person. Violence is all about subordination and relationships with our children should never be about subordination. Why?

Children are their own people who are uniquely created in God’s Image. We must never seek to re-create them in our own image but only in the Image of God. Molding people in God’s Image means pointing them back to who God is through teaching and examples of who God is. By hitting and beating our children and calling it godly training, we are teaching those children that violence is what God is. In time, these children will learn to practice and defend violence as a way of godliness.

Why Parents Really Spank Their Children

I grew up between three parents who had different approaches to disciplining, teaching and training of children. My mom was perceived as the dragon and my dad was perceived as the saint. Most of us thought my mom was a ‘wicked’ parent and my dad was a ‘good’ parent because whereas mom would yell and hit as she could, dad almost never raised his voice and very rarely spanked any child.

I held this opposite views of my parents until I became a parent (and a single parent) in my mid-thirties. In the fourth year of my child’s life, I found myself becoming more like my mom than like my dad (I had been like the latter up to this point). It was then I realized why we thought mom was the dragon and dad was the saint: mom was the one dealing with and managing a household of kids 24/7, while dad dealt with mature people at work. When at home, dad rarely involved himself in anything going on in the household. He had the place of head of household and everything revolved around him. He came from work and disappeared into his room, where he would take a nap and read and listen to the radio and whatever else he wanted to do. He would stay in his room until it was time for dinner. Then he would come out to eat and sometimes sit out reading for a bit longer, then go to bed. Dad was never in a place where he had to keep the kids under control while cooking, cleaning or responding to some other household needs. Until I was 38 years old, I was like my dad: the distant parent of my many nieces and nephews who got on their mothers’ nerves. I was the favorite aunty who was loved by all my nieces and nephews. But four years after I had my own child, that gentle image I had maintained all my life started to crack and it cracked for several reasons.

One reason was the physical, mental and psychological stress of being on childcare duty 24/7. Many mothers are yellers and hitters because they are stressed and they are stressed because the full responsibility of home and children care falls on them and they have no rest and personal healing and recreation time.

Another reason was the fear of failing as a parent which society told me would happen because I was raising a child alone. This fear was so deep and so irrational that even my young child could see it. One day, at 7 years old, she said to me, “Mommy, you act as though if I don’t do my math homework, I will become a terrorist.” Since becoming a teenager, she has always tried to calm my violent moods down with “Mom, you raised me right. I can’t turn out different. And everyone already says I am raised right.” Her statements come from her having perceived that she does not deserve whatever form of harsh judgment, criticism or punishment that I am about to or have imposed upon her. Fear of being judged for our parenting makes us hard on our children. We see this especially in the North American society where black families are stricter on their children than white families are. Black families know that black children don’t catch a break and will be judged for every little thing that does is not perfect in their lives. So much so that black children are killed by police for what white children get a slap on the wrist for. When, as black parents, you have to raise your child(ren) in a society that judges and penalizes them more harshly than other children, you automatically use force to create a wall between your children and society. You use force to tell your children that safety is found within the walls of this force, no argument. No argument because the experience outside the walls of the force is irrational. You don’t understand it and there’s no way to make your child understand it. You just want them to accept, honor and stay within the fortress you have forcefully created to protect them from a world that hates them.

Another reason is that we grew up in homes where violence was commonly used as a form of discipline and correction of children. So when faced by any form of challenge, rather than creatively find a loving solution, we default to the ready-made one we saw in our homes. This is the strongest reason many have for defaulting to beating their children.

Why do ‘Christians’ have a hard time accepting that hitting and beating their children could be wrong? Why is the excuse always that “I was raised like that and I turned out alright?” Why not “Maybe we learned ‘wrong.’ Let’s see if there’s a better way?”

Stress made me beat my child but I never elicited any ‘better’ cooperation from her than if I had done it without beating. The fact that parents get their children to obey them after a beat-out/down doesn’t mean the beating made the child good. It means we showed the child that they need to do what we demand since they don’t have the physical strength to beat us in return. Our beating doesn’t change hearts, minds and attitudes to righteousness. Only love can do that. That’s why scriptures tell us it is God’s love that makes us turn to God. No one has ever turned to God because s/he got a beatdown from God!!!

We have to do better than our parents did. They used what was at their disposal in terms of learning, lack of support groups, etc.. We have more resources than our parents did. Let’s do better. Beating is not love.

There Are Better and Non-Violent Methods of Disciplining and Teaching Our Children

  1. Setting Boundaries for both parents and children. Parents need boundaries in what they can say or do to their children. This is clearly listed in the scripture that admonishes parents “not to provoke their children” (Eph.6:4).
  2. Removing Privileges
  3. Rewarding Desired Behavior
  4. Counseling for both parents and children. Parents need to tap into professional help to unlock assets like child psychology which equips them with more resources than their own upbringing and immediate community had to offer.
  5. Conversation Therapy: Learning to discuss situations in order to better understand your child’s behavior. This opens doors for empathy and teaching from parents and paves the way for cooperation from children.
  6. Support Groups for Parents. This helps parents encounter and embrace less-judgmental perspectives of their parenting. Parents need people who own the challenges of parenting but who also want to do better with their children. They need people who will not judge them and their children but who are willing to accept them as new beings who have the power to create a life that is different from the one offered by either their parents or the society they live in.
  7. Partnership Parenting. Both parents must and should be involved in care of their children. Divvy up and alternate parenting chores. This prevents one parent from earning the ‘bad guy’ badge and the other one ‘the good guy’ badge. Parents should neither be good or bad but involved caregivers for their children.
  8. Incorporate child care early on. You don’t need to work outside the home to need childcare. Between alternating breaks with the your co-parent, both parents need to take breaks together to continue feeding their own relationship. Absence of nurturing the couple relationship will create deserts of neglect, touch, kindness, empathy, support, romance, etc., all of which are necessary to keep the happy juices flowing towards one another and the kids.

Not every child raised in a ‘Christian’ home grows up to embrace ‘Christianity’ after they were raised with the literal ‘rod’ of discipline and correction of being hit in the name of ‘godliness.’ Many have instead, walked away from the church and the vengeful and violent god of their parents.

Our children turn out ‘alright’ not because we beat them but because they are created in God’s Image. As a result, there is goodness already embedded in them. It is important for us as parents to first see our children from the perspective of the goodness already in them rather than the evil in them.

-Oghene’tega Swann


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