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NEVER spare the rod and spoil the child

Corporal punishment picture Sir Frank Peters :: Subjecting a child to corporal punishment in the home or school is no different to peeing against the wind – it all comes back on you.

It is a truism that beating a child generates only negative results, but don’t just take my word for it; refer to the mountain of independent research throughout the world that arrived at the same conclusion. The National Education Association in America, for example, says it’s “more than ineffective — it is harmful.” The American Bar Association says it “should be considered a form of child abuse”.

Not a single survey result concluded in favour of corporal punishment, not even those conducted by different religious organizations. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that expert organizations in education, law, medicine and human rights oppose corporal punishment.

So why does it still continue, you might ask? Mere ignorance and tradition.

Schools should not be hellholes of fear where the once-in-a-lifetime gift of youth, fun and joy is beaten out; and hatred, anger, despise of society and revenge is beaten-in.

No doubt, you are familiar with the proverb that says ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ which is associated with Christian indoctrination, especially. It’s generally interpreted in society today to mean, if children are not physically punished when they do wrong, their personal development will suffer. Right?

Wrong! – Totally wrong!

Many people are fond of quoting Holy Scriptures to justify the brutality of corporal punishment, particularly the verse in Proverbs 13:24 that says, ‘He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him’.

It’s natural that every loving parent wants what’s the best for their children and some refer to the ‘good books’ for guidance.

Good books

While ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ is a perfect example of demonstrating parental love to children, the problem lies in the flawed translation of the word ‘rod’ which has caused thousands, if not millions, of children to suffer ever since. In Hebrew the word “rod” is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, ‘thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.’

The shepherd’s rod/staff was/is used to ENCOURAGE, GUIDE, and DISCIPLINE the sheep towards taking a desired direction, NOT to beat, hurt or damage them.

The correct interpretation of the proverb, therefore, should read ‘spare good GUIDANCE and spoil the child’.

And this makes total sense. If you are in doubt, pause a moment… can you imagine great holy men like Muhammad or Jesus, who preached universal love, beating an innocent little child for some silly trifling mistake that adds up to nothing in the end? Isn’t it more likely they would point out the error of their ways with a loving smile and offer them guidance?

Beating a child in school (or in the home) is as ignorant and futile as someone shouting words to a foreigner who doesn’t speak their language. The belief being that if they shout, it will forcefully penetrate the earwax to the Google Translation Service in the person’s ear and he will understand!

Justice Md. Imman Ali and Justice Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif outlawed corporal punishment in Bangladesh schools and madrassas on January 13, 2011… almost four years ago but it still continues, much to the disgrace of some alleged teachers. The justices defined the act as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.

But there’s even more: corporal punishment increases aggression, causes irreparable mental health problems and antisocial, aggressive behaviour that hurts and scars them well into adulthood. Why should they give a hoot about the society that has shown no love, protection, and respect towards them?

Where is the evidence to support that beating a child with a stick, clenched fist, leather belt, bamboo cane or some other instrument; or how by kicking, punching, pinching, pulling their ears and hair or branding them with a red-hot spatula is good for the child? Not to mention damaging their hearing, broken limbs, broken fingers, and many other disfigurations?

You can put all the iron grills you like on the windows of your house and imprison yourself and your family in your homemade cage, but even these drastic measures are no match for a hurting revengeful soul.


Beaten children have memories like elephants and while they might not vocalize their feelings of injustice, hate, and disrespect to the perpetrator (or society for allowing their pain) at the time, the thoughts are omnipresent, lurking in their minds and shaping their personalities.

If by hitting an adult disciplined them I would expect (and encourage) Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to be smacking (perhaps even whipping) her ministers on a daily basis to get best results for Bangladesh.

But it’s obvious that corporal punishment would only yield a negative effect on adults who would cloak their feelings and seek ways to retaliate. So why would anyone think children are any different, that corporal punishment would be beneficial to them and in turn benefit society?

Get real! The moment you hit a child, you trigger the mechanism of a walking, talking, ticking time-bomb that’s scheduled to explode when least expected and no one is safe from the blast fall-out.

It’s time to draw a line under the errors of the past and work towards a future of homes without the need of iron grills on windows, where people participate in peaceful demonstrations and exercise their democratic rights without fear of being attacked by machete-wielding politically-misguided misfits who wreak havoc on society and damage the national economy; where students actually attend universities to learn, free of all forms of thuggery and stand-over tactics.

Begin by eradicating corporal punishment (and those who perpetrate it) from the school system. This alone will short-circuit many of the social problems that plague the nation.

If you don’t want the children to become bullies, miscreants and all that you despise, don’t teach it.

(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, human rights activist, and a respected foreign friend of Bangladesh)

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