I read with interest your article on disciplining children. (“Hitting is for cowards” – Chronicles 10-15) The debate – “spare the rod and spoil the child” – is an old one and a tough one.
I recall with clarity when my father took me to cheder as a little boy and in front of the whole class informed the rebbe that he can hit me whenever he felt the need to. As young as I was, I was mortified and embarrassed, and I fully believe that the seed of my rebellion was planted at that precise moment.
It took many years for me to reconcile myself to my father’s ways – to understand that he emulated his own father’s ways and that was the only method of discipline he grew up with and was familiar with. My father was in general a mild-mannered man, but he was woefully short on words; verbal communication was not his thing.
Today, as a father myself, I do understand the difficulties in rearing rambunctious children, especially boys, but I steer clear of the strap and the slap. If verbal reasoning doesn’t do it, I resort to penalties – as in no dessert tonight or no friend for sleepovers or early bedtime, etc. You get the gist, I’m sure.
I say ‘spare the rod’
I disagree with your response to Hitting is for Cowards on both counts.
In the first episode, the stewardess did exactly the right thing. A mother who slaps a crying baby to stop him from crying is totally out of control. Had the stewardess just diffused the situation by offering to hold the baby for a short while, the mother would have continued to slap her crying baby when there would be no stewardess around to offer relief.
We’ve heard enough stories about babies killed by parents/caretakers when they would not stop crying. It was crucial to let the mother know in very clear terms that if she abused her baby she stood the very real risk of losing the child for good. I say kudos to that courageous stewardess.
As far as the gym teacher who removed an unruly student by the ear, physical engagement with a student is unacceptable unless someone is in danger of being physically hurt. Every professional knows that. A teacher may not allow his emotions to take control of his actions, no matter what the provocation.
It is also a stretch of the imagination to assume that this young man’s parents are to blame for not disciplining him when he was young. As a teacher, I would venture to guess that his parents were too harsh and draconian in their treatment of him. But neither of us can really know. Maybe he has wonderful parents and something happened on that particular day to set the kid off.
Hitting has no place in civilized society
My heart breaks when I see one of many children in the same household going “off” for no apparent reason. Wonderful parents, ample love, great children – except for the one who decides that he/she wants to be “different.”
I mention this to point out that, right or wrong, hitting children by way of disciplining them does not necessarily trigger rebellion. Still, there is not much to be gained by using physical coercion on the recalcitrant child. If anything, this could serve to drive the child completely away.
The bottom line is we must pray for siyata d’shmaya (heavenly guidance) in all our undertakings, and especially when it comes to the daunting task of raising our children.
Just my humble opinion
I am writing regarding your column on hitting children to make them behave. First of all, the “consequences” that Debbie referred to (08-27-2010, Interview series) may not have been of the physical kind. Psychological or emotional abuse can be equally devastating and painful.
Then there is the sad truth – that countless of us are children of the Holocaust (our parents having lived through a hell that we can never fathom). With their onerous task of rebuilding their lives from scratch, not to mention the emotional turmoil in coming to terms with their tremendous loss, they understandably had less patience and endurance than is required for the task of raising children.
Another thing to keep in mind: there are trouble-prone children who come from the best of homes, and there are fantastic children who emerge from less than ideal environments. At the same time, children’s individual natures need to be taken into account when dealing with obedience issues.
We can all agree, though, that corporal punishment has no place in any of our homes.
A survivor’s survivor
Along with the curse of pain in childbirth, we were decreed to have tzar gidul bonim – pain in the process of raising our children. An old saying comes to mind: No pain, no gain. The trials we go through teach us and strengthen us.
Most parents “grow” along with their children. One might say we learn on the job (and we are never too old to learn). The mom of multiple offspring is much more proficient at handling her younger children than she was her eldest. Experience offers us skills and matures us.
As for the wayward child, no one can sit in judgment as to why good parents are made to suffer such hardship. Another prevailing dilemma: At what point (if ever) should parents give up and cut ties to a child who has become totally estranged and is causing them endless tzar?
Someone once asked Rav Avigdor Miller for advice in coping with the hassles of raising a difficult brood. He replied, “Children are like apartment houses. When one tenant is screaming at the landlord to fix a leaky faucet, and another to repair a burnt wire in a fuse box, the landlord has only one thing in mind – the rent that he will collect at the end of the month. Children are the same – they are your olam haba; you will reap the reward for raising them in olam haba. Focus on this, and their noise will sound like beautiful music.”
Thank you all for your input.
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