The Book!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Have You Stopped Beating Your Kids?

St. John Bosco


Yesterday I introduced a bit of my wife's wisdom on economics. Today, I offer a bit on childrearing.

In our family, my wife handles the discipline. She's pretty stern about it. And our children, I note, are exceptionally well-behaved. Our neighbour X, on the other hand, is considerably sterner, and her child is a holy terror.

I point this out to my wife to support my own view that a lot depends on the child's own personality. She, however, has a simple and plausible explanation for why X's efforts are counter-productive.

The problem is that X disciplines her daughter publicly, and complains about her to others. This, my wife holds, is the essence of abuse, and never works. It breaks the bond of trust between parent and child. Whether discipline needs to be heavy or light may depend on the child, but one principle never alters. You never humiliate them.

And she never does.

If you do, they are bound to rebel; their human dignity allows them no other moral choice.

Now that she's pointed it out, I'm sure she is right. This is exactly what Don Bosco says about good teaching: when discipline is necessary, you always do it in private. And the New Testament says the same thing: if you have a quarrel with your neighbour, first you try to work it out one on one.

Unfortunately, instead of this vital moral principle, our society's supposed experts now concentrate on “violence” as the issue in abuse. Has nothing to do with it. Except that avoiding violence in all circumstances is probably itself a form of abuse. As in, “spare the rod and spoil the child...”

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