Are We Sparing the Rod Too Much?

“When I was 18, I thought my father was pretty dumb.  After a while when I got to be 21, I was amazed to find out how much he’d learned in 3 years.”

Frank E. Butler – sharpshooter, business manager

I thought to myself, this is how it begins.

The two are regulars on my morning commute; a young mother and her toddler playing out a scene enacted, I’m sure, across the country over and over again.  There’s the cajoling and pleading in order to get a child to behave which generally culminates in angry outbursts punctuated with foul language and threats of extreme, over-the-top violence.

Miles away but still in New Jersey, 18 year-old honor student Rachel Canning, estranged from her divorced parents, is nevertheless suing them for payment of her private high school education, payment of her (upcoming) college tuition and payment of weekly support in the amount of $650.  She is not living at home, having voluntarily moved out to avoid obeying the rules set down by her elders concerning things that teens generally balk at during those confusing years of puberty.

As I read how this is playing out, I tell myself that while there might be love apparent in the relationship, I wonder how much fear is present.

Now before you all get your brooms and declare “shenanigans!” let me clarify.

There’s fear and then, there’s fear.

I’m not talking about the fear that comes from the results of crippling child abuse.  I’m talking about that ubiquitous dread that ran up and down all of our spines when we, as kids growing up, would hear the following words uttered, “Just wait until your father gets home!”

This is the normal, healthy and necessary fear of parental upbringing-fear of consequences and fear of disappointment-that most kids go thru at some point in their early years.  And if they don’t, they should.

But what if the child growing up doesn’t fear the wrath of their parents nor fear disappointing them?  Does sparing the rod, spoil the youngster and is this latest example of teen empowerment further illustration of the need for, at least, a modicum of parental corporal punishment?

Make no mistake; teens, children, babies even, are sentient beings with a level of intelligence that I don’t think we even fully fathom yet.  And as such, they should receive the same prohibitions against bodily and mental harm that are afforded adults.

Besides which, there are numerous studies linking parental corporal punishment to depression, suicide, alcohol abuse, child abuse, wife beating and all sorts of violent behavior.

On the other hand, what’s left in the parental toolbox when all else fails besides spanking, reason?  How can you reason with an intelligent, crafty (let’s face it, some kids are crafty as all get out) young being who’s only concern is that they “want”?

Reason comes later, during adolescence, when hopefully the groundwork has been laid to forge the required temperament that allows reason, acquiescence and good decision making to function.

But before reasoning comes fear because it’s better that they fear you, as parents, early in their lives rather than you fearing them later when they’re older, stronger and totally uncontrollable.

I’d like to hear your views on this.  So tell me what you think.

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