2Black Discipline: Belts, Backhands & Extension Cords!

June 12, 2012

By Edward Chisolm

Violence- Physical force employed so as to violate, damage or abuse.

Corporal Punishment- Use of physical force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain but not injury, for the purpose of correction or control of a child’s behavior.

“Boy, I will beat the black off of you.”  “If I can’t raise you, the white man will.”  “Child, I will knock you into next week if you talk back to me again.”  “Heifer, I will knock the taste out of your mouth.”  Any Black person reading this article that’s over 40 years of age probably has heard at least one of the above sayings from our “elders.”  With the recent revelation of Pastor Creflo Dollar being arrested for beating and choking his 15-year old daughter, it brings up (once again) the issue of corporal punishment.  Or, as we say in Ebonics, a “whuppin.”

According to a study done by Elizabeth Gershoff of the University of Texas at Austin, the majority of parents across all ethnic groups spank at some point.  In a study Gershoff co-authored that examined 20,000 kindergartners and their parents, she found that 89% of Black parents, 79% of White parents, 80% of Hispanic parents, and 73% of Asian parents say they have spanked their children.  First of all, I don’t approve or advocate any child being abused.  As the story goes, she was trying to go to a party and Daddy Dollar said no, bad grades!  That should have been the end of the conversation at 1:00 a.m. in the morning.  Apparently, this wasn’t good enough for the 15-year old.  She storms out of the room (upset and crying reportedly) and goes into the kitchen where Daddy Dollar follows her to find out what was her problem.  This is where the confrontation/altercation occurred.  Another version of the story is that she had friends over and was embarrassed so she goes upstairs and calls the “Po Po” on Daddy Dollar for doing what he had all the right to do—discipline his unruly child.

All of us can say “Amen” because we all have been in similar situations with our children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, cousins, etc.  But as always, it begs the question—should we discipline (beat) our children?  Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist (who is Black), and has studied mental health issues and parenting in African American communities, is a leading voice against corporal punishment.  Poussaint says it is not a good way of disciplining and can actually produce damage.  “It sends the message that violence is an OK way to solve problems,” Poussaint stated.  Poussaint dismisses the biblical imperative so often used as a justification for corporal punishment as a “tired excuse.”  We also have been told by professionals and researchers that our forms of discipline are a negative carryover from the brutality of slavery.  Beating then would be “damaging” to the psyche of our children.  Thus, we should implore such behavioral modifications as taking privileges away and using time out!  As Christians, Scripture teaches “training up a child in the way they should go.”  The Bible also teaches that if we “spare the rod we spoil the child.”  And this is exactly what I think is going on with our children today—they are being spoiled.

The court system and law enforcement are no help.  Pastor Dollar had no business being arrested.  Arrested!  Are you kidding me?  In other words, parental rights (at least ones attached to discipline) have been taken away or diluted.  The Word directly says “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24).  That’s exactly what our parents and grandparents meant when they said “if I can’t raise you the white man will.”  In other words, you are not going to disrespect me and not get disciplined for it.  Love demands that.  God said it and our parents said it.  But it’s not like that today.  Yes, according to “today’s standards” most of us that got an “old school” whuppin received some form of abuse.  Yes, those extension cords and backhands in the mouth hurt.  They were supposed to, just as they were supposed to deter you from future misbehaving.

We have all but abandoned those forms of the “rod” because psychologists and the mental health establishment have convinced us that we hurt our children more than we help them when we beat them.  Numerous studies have pointed to the negative consequences for all children who are spanked.  These include higher risks of anxiety and depression, higher rates of aggression toward others, and a more distant relationship with parents.  What we are seeing, at least here in Chatham County, is in 1994 there were 2,798 juvenile offenses (charges) of youth (ages 16 and under).  In 2010 that number has increased to 3,609, a 29% increase.  Among Black males, specifically in 1994, there were 1,539 offenses (charges) reported by Juvenile Court.  By 2007, that number had increased to 2,520, an increase of 64%.  Clearly, our children are misbehaving at higher rates and in larger numbers and the offenses are being committed by younger Black children.

So, what are Black parents to do?  We are to find “alternative” ways to discipline our children so we don’t damage them further.  So, we need to put down the belts, backhands, and Bibles and “talk” to our children.  We should become “friends” with them so they won’t be so distant.  And we surely should not use the outdated and “tired” excuses called the “rod” to correct our children.  So, I guess to intellectuals like Dr. Poussaint, God is just a violent God.  I don’t agree that every form of physical force is violent and meant to violate and abuse.  There is a difference between punishment and discipline.  Discipline without love could turn into punishment, and some Black parents need to learn the difference between the two.  Far too many Black kids are being abused by a parent who didn’t need to be a parent in the first place, but that’s a different article.

From what I can tell, Daddy Dollar knows the difference between the two.  And Poussaint and others are simply wrong.  What is a “tired excuse” is the use of “scholarship” to dismiss what the Word of God clearly teaches.  God is love.  Everything He does is out of love; to include disciplining his children.  Violating, damaging, and abusing are not acts of love.  I don’t believe our fore parents were guilty of it (OK…some of it), and I don’t believe Daddy Dollar is guilty of it either.  There are no easy answers, but we have to deal with it because the jail beds are being filled and more are being built.  We simply have to get a handle on our children and discipline needs to be a part of that.  As a parent you need to pray to God for discernment and guidance as you talk to your children.  But keeping a belt in arms reach might not be a horrible idea!

Peace, Love & Blessings

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