SPANKING A CHILD: POPE FRANCIS and CRITICS
Pope Francis rightly said that it is right to spank children if it is necessary to discipline. His rider was that it should be done without hurting their dignity. I have my bit to add here:-
It should be administered with love,
It should be for the child’s benefit,
It should not be as an outburst of a parent’s anger or frustration,
It should be to make the child remember a necessary lesson,
The child should be made aware of all these,
And it should be followed by a hug or similiar expressions of love so that no scar will be left in the child’s heart. A carrot should always follow the stick.
SIGN OF LOVE
As a child I had been spanked, had my ears tweaked and pulled, had been severely pinched, had even been caned. All the children who grew up those days fifty or more years back had this benefit. With the inevitable patch-up that followed, with the sweets and an occasional kiss – from parents who rarely relaxed their austere demeanour – that sealed the patch-up, it was a solemn expression of affection and parental responsibility. Generally it was a sign of caring. And the children, though they did not reveal it, actually felt respected and cherished.
The Pope, as expected, had many critics. Corporal punishment is bad, they say. To a certain extent, ie: in details, they have a point. But they are wrong in the principle. If I may put it bluntly, these critics are persons who, most probably, have not had the good fortune to grow up in families which had two decent, reasonable, caring and loving heterosexual parents who had the right ideas about disciplining children. I will be happy to be wrong.
CORRECTION, NOT TORTURE
Some of the critics used the word ‘hit’. It is not about hitting children or bashing them or lashing them with belts or canes or slapping them rudely on their faces, in anger more often than not: it is not that kind of physical torture that I am justifying. I am sure the Pope meant the same. We are talking of instructive correction, not brutalization. Usually it takes the form of a robust spanking on the butt or a slap on the upper forearms. Sensible Indian parents rely on tweaking or pinching the earlobe more than anything else. It is believed that this stimulates the brain and helps the child understand and remember better. Pinching the forearms is more painful and less hurtful to body and mind than spanking the bottom.
STATE HAS NO RIGHT
Methinks the right to discipline a child by spanking is an inalienable right of a parent. It is also a parent’s duty. So is it a child’s right to receive good instruction reinforced by physical chastisement if and when necessary. Many is a grown-up delinquent or failure in life whom I have heard complaining that his father was too lenient or did not care.
Does the State really have the moral right to intervene, to intrude into the august offices of a parent’s love, and take away this right and responsibility from a father or a mother? Certainly not. Fifty years ago there was much propaganda in the Western media about how the Russian State had cruelly usurped the powers of parents and turned children against them. Later on the supposedly progressive western nations have come to follow the same mean path, backed by psychology theories of questionable value. The irony is that this is generally regarded as progress. The result is that many children who were reared under this supposedly enlightened regime have grown up into mis-formed adults and poor parents. The instinct of these parents, if and when they wanted to administer correction, would be to commit assault and battery, if at all they cared enough and considered it their duty to bring up children of good character. Fortunate if there would be no shooting. I exaggerate here, but you have got the point, right? In such a situation the curtailment, even the removal of, parental rights in these floundering families has become a social need, especially since the parent in charge may very well be the child’s mother’s second husband’s third wife or someone like that, not the true father or mother.
TIME FOR CHANGE
It is time for responsible persons to have a rethink about much of what passed off for progress during the last fifty years. The Pope is one of the most eminently right persons to do this, and he sure has a point.
May His Holiness’s words start off a train of introspection and debate to put right the wrongs of the past. It will make the world a better place.
J. J. Mappilacherry