SAY NO TO “SPARE THE ROD, SPOIL THE CHILD”

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The purpose of our blogs is to relate our experiences with cases we regularly see in the child protection system, juvenile courts and criminal courts. We attempt to provide guidance and information to assist you and your family into leading good, productive lives and to staying away from the juvenile and criminal courts.

If you do use a “rod”, i.e. a belt, brush, paddle, switch, or extension cord, to discipline your child, you will eventually end up having child protection workers taking your child and their siblings and the police investigating you for child abuse. How will they know? Every mandated child abuse reporter in the country such as nurses, doctors, daycare workers, teachers, counselors, YMCA workers are required to report any evidence of suspected child abuse. A mark on your child such as a bruise which indicates your child was spanked will cause that referral. I can guarantee that you will have a child protection worker within days interviewing your child/children at their school or at your home as to every phase of discipline used at home and every phase of your life at home. It is likely your child/children will be removed from their home by the child protection worker and put into a receiving home. An immediate referral will also be made to the police and they will investigate to determine if criminal charges should be filed against you.

Perhaps you attended a parenting seminar and a well-known  parenting expert told you to apply a “rod” of choice to discipline your young child–a belt, paddle, or switch–“severely” such that the event is never forgotten by the child. You may also have heard, “don’t use your hand to spank your child; that is what you love your child with.” You are further told to continue your spanking until the child is crying softly, indicating true repentance. If you have attended such a parenting seminar you know exactly what I am talking about. Doesn’t the Bible say, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”? According to John Rosemond, author of a must-read book To Spank or Not to Spank, that phrase is not actually in the Bible. Reference to the phrase “use the rod” is found in Proverbs 13:24 (He who spares his rod, hates his son,/But he who loves him disciplines him diligently”) and Proverbs 23:13 (Do not hold back discipline from the child,/Although you beat him with the rod, he will not die”). John Rosemond explains in his book how these phrases should not be taken literally but are metaphors to be interpreted as a symbol of parental authority.

The law permits parents to use physical discipline but not “excessive punishment.” What is considered “excessive.” Social workers, child abuse doctors, and juvenile court judges will tell you leaving bruises or marks is excessive. They will say “you need to learn not to use physical discipline.” Just because you and I were disciplined this way and we believe it worked effectively, doesn’t count in the year 2013 or beyond. Most seven or eight-year olds and older know that they can report you for child abuse.

What is a parent to do when they have tried timeouts and other non-physical means of disciplining their young children and it is not working? What about the seven or eight year old who keeps getting referrals from school for misbehavior and will not change his or her ways? I recommend the following 3 things:

1. Read John K. Rosemond’s book To Spank or Not to Spank. It can be purchased on Amazon or found in most public libraries.

2. The safest thing to do and probably the best for your family is to find a therapist who specializes in Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT). These therapists don’t recommend spanking. We have received very good feedback from parents who have used this type therapist. I realize in many communities you will not have therapists who specialize in PCIT therapy. Then get a therapist on board for your child. Seek their guidance in your discipline techniques. You can then tell the child protection workers and police officers that you are following their advice. Make sure it is not one of the “spare the rod, spoil the child” type therapists. Despite my being physically disciplined when I was young, my children never received any demonstrative physical discipline other than a poke from my wife when they got out of line. They are professional, well-adjusted adults and great citizens.

3. Read the advice posted on our website by Jeffrey Selzer, M.D., a pediatric specialist in San Diego, CA, on “Punishment for Wrong Behaviors.” Go to our website JuvenileLawCenter.com and find it under Resources. I am not aware of any publication by child protection agencies or prosecution agencies outlining what is and what is not permissible physical punishment. Dr Selzer emphasizes not using a “rod”; use your hand and do not give any more than 2 swats to his/her bottom and not on the bare skin.

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