Spare The Rod And Spoil The Child – Alternatives To Physical Discipline


Growing up, caning prevailed in our households. No wrong went unpunished. Whenever you knew that you had gone against your parent’s rules, you would hide in the darkest corner you could find and ready yourself for the beating of a lifetime. You would eventually conform to your fate and emerge from hiding and your parents would land on you with the nearest object that resembled a cane. We grew up with sore behinds riddled with cane strokes to remind us that ‘free will’ was a term only used in fairy tales.

Times have however changed. Use of ‘the cane’ has quickly been associated with child abuse and brutality. Parents and teachers have been advised to use their words and other forms of discipline to keep their children in line.

Understandably, these changes have been implemented for the benefit and wellbeing of the children. Growing up under the rule of an iron fist meant that communication was one-sided. The main way of disciplining children was by use of physical force. There was little talking involved except the angry comments coming from an enraged parent as he/she lay waste to your body with a cane. Your parents knew what was best and that was that.

Now with the dictatorship style of parenting rendered obsolete, the relationship between parents and their children is now founded on respect and understanding rather than fear. Parents can have a reasonable conversation with their children allowing them to voice their opinions instead of resulting to a beating. This has allowed for the growth of healthier parent-child relationships.

However, the current development in parent-child relationships is no excuse to entirely scrap out all forms of disciplining children. Cuddling our children will do little for the people they will become tomorrow. Apollo K. Owur, director of the School of Improvement Program in Kisumu challenged parents and teachers to find alternatives to corporal punishment. The Human Rights Watch in Kenya went further to provide some of these alternatives which include:

  1. Performing of light chores

According to educational experts, disciplining our children by making them partake in a few chores here and there is a calculated move. It not only affirms to our children that what they did was wrong, it also creates a strong work ethic. For example, if a child is made to clean the house as a punishment, they are less likely to dirty the house in future in case the burden of cleaning it falls on them.

  1. Taking away meaningful gadgets or items

The science behind punishment is one that has been proven time and time again. According to Dr. Molenburghs, this concept is deeply rooted in our brains neural responses. Whenever your child goes against the rules, taking something that means a lot to them reaffirms their wrongdoing, for example, their phone or tv privileges. If they repeat the offence, take the gadget from them again. Over time, their brains register the offence and its repercussions. This causes the child to abstain from any activities that would lead to loss of their items.

  1. Guidance and Counselling

Some children merely go against set rules as a way of acting out. They may be dealing with other emotional or psychological issues. Under these circumstances, beating or canning a child would do little in fixing the underlying issue. According to Namibian Ministry of Education text, talking and listening to a child can frequently lead to a change in behaviour for the better.

Mother giving child a warning. Image via
  1. Use of positive reinforcement

Parents can use rewards to affirm good behaviour in their children. This reinforcement technique reduces the frequency and extent of child misbehaviour. Positive reinforcement can be in the form of praise or physical rewards.

These are suitable replacements to using a cane to instil discipline in our children. Parents can still discipline their children without necessarily damaging their relationships. One of the options also assists the parents to get their children involved in house chores.

At the end of the day, every parenting style is different in its own right. We, however, need to take a closer look at how we are going about our parental duties. There are some influences around your child that as a parent you may not be able to control; your child is a product of more than just your parental guidance. It is, however, your job as a parent to create a proper foundation for the growth of a productive member of society. That is a responsibility every parent should take very seriously.

Speaking of parenting how can you help your kids make good financial decisions. Check out this post 7 ways we can teach children the importance of financial management

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