RealTalk: Discipline vs. Child Abuse

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the recent happenings in the news regarding Pastor Creflo Dollar who was arrested for choking, punching and beating his daughter. We were all shocked and surprised because we never thought we would find him in such a situation. At least i was shocked. I didn’t know he had anger issues.

As much as I’m not in support of physically abusing our children or abusing them in any other way, I am a huge advocate for punishment.

However, this raises some concerns because with the laws constantly changing we find ourselves questioning what an acceptable form of discipline is. I have often pondered on what is an acceptable form of discipline – RealTalk: discipline vs. child abuse. If you were raised in a non-Western culture, discipline has a different meaning to you.

This topic affects anyone who is charged with raising a child whether you’re in a KolorBlind (Interracial) relationship or not. What I have learned as a parent is that any form of beating is abuse. If you are into the habit of spankings and beatings you should stop. It’s intimidating and it teaches your child to fear you. Our children should never fear us; they should respect us.

Notice the deliberate emphasize on the words ‘spanking’ and ‘beating’. Yes, they are slight distinctions between the two. Spanking is a light touch on the buttocks or a slight tap on the hands while beating is a more forceful physical contact. Neither form of punishment are necessary. There are a million and one ways to punish your child/children.

I tweeted when I heard the incident and some people may not have understood my point of view. Raising children is one tough job and we aren’t trained formally to handle the different situations we are faced with. Granted  a million plus people have written parenting books to help guide us but each child is unique in their own way. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to parenting even amongst siblings. Depending on what culture or era you grew up in, you received several spankings/beatings from your parents and/or grandparents. I know I did and I never would have thought it as abuse because I was told that was the norm. I did not enjoy them and it made be afraid to be a child at times.

What I mean is, as a child you should be free to make mistakes so you can learn from them and also be taught why you shouldn’t do certain things. But when you are afraid to do anything simply because you’re not sure if the result is a beating, then it’s a different story. I’m glad that times have changed and that laws all around the world are changing to eradicate beatings/spankings as forms of punishment.

As much as I was raised on punishment, I would have never accepted a beating as a 17 year old in the body of a woman or as a teenager in general. It’s one thing to gently spank your 3 year old on the butt and it’s another when you punch, kick, chock or strangle your child. Let me be honest with you, even the gentle spankings are not necessary and could also be construed as ‘child abuse’.

Think about it, a 3 year old’s skin is still very tender and fragile and even if you hold their hand too tight, you’re bound to leave a mark. When my son was 3 years old he knew when he had done something wrong. Because he could see my face change. I would then immediately say: “go to your room”. At the time going to his room was the ultimate punishment. He hated being told to go to his room.

But what made the difference was talking to him afterwards about what he did and I how felt about it. He was also very quick to apologize and I could tell he made an effort not to do it again. Now that he’s much older when he acts up or gets too ‘fresh’ I try to come up with different things to punish him with. He’s gotten so much better at writing essays and reading books and literature older than his age. The little things you can do to punish your child. Each ‘wrong-doing’ attracts a different punishment – the joys of being a parent (sarcasm).

Now when they grow into teenagers, the story changes. You can no longer just yell “go to your room”. Most of them have a desktop, laptop, cellphone, video game, etc. So going to their room is more like going to Disneyland for them. Taking some of the gadgets away doesn’t make sense as they need a lot of these for school work. So where do you begin with punishing a teenager?

Do you tell them not to go out with the friends? They can sneak out in the middle of the night to go partying with friends if they were that determined. They could also steal your car if you forbade them from driving. You can’t possibly keep them home from school as a form of punishment. They probably already cut class without your knowledge.

So what can you do you ask? I’m not an expert neither do I claim to know it all, but for me as a teenager a two-way communication always worked and solved the issues we were having. I spoke my mind and point of view and either of my parents would speak their mind and point of view (coupled with a few threats). Look at it this way, you can’t get locked up for speaking with your child. That is still not and will probably never be considered abuse. Communication is key and the earlier you start with your child the easier it gets with time.

If you grew up on beatings and never appreciated them, why repeat the vicious cycle with your children? My philosophy for raising my son is to not repeat the mistakes my parents made with me or my siblings and improve on the areas where I feel they fell short. This way if I pass that philosophy down, each of my future generations can perfect themselves in life. I think we should all adopt that philosophy. It will ensure we have a healthy relationship with our children and family alike.

Here are my 5 tips on dealing with your pre-teen or teenager (works with most children of all ages too):

  1. Leave the room you’re both in or leave the house – taking a walk can calm you down when you’re both heated
  2. Don’t address issues when you’re both upset – wait until things are cooled down then sit down to address the issues
  3. Keep an open door policy so your child knows to come to you first regarding any issue
  4. Take time out to discuss current events and other things of interest with your child – hear their point of view
  5. Listen, listen and listen some more to your child. A wise man listens more than he speaks…

Wishing us all luck as we raise the next generation.

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