Who is to blame?

I am quite sure that when parents hold that newborn in their arms, neither wishes for that child to become a murderer, a prostitute or a drug addict. There are lofty dreams and visions for this new life, full of promise and hope for the years to come.

How did that cute three year old boy running through the house in his underwear become a gun-wielding teenager? How did that effervescent little girl lose the light in her eyes after becoming a mother whilst at secondary school? Where have we gone wrong?

There was an article in the media recently which spoke about research that proved that those who went to church lived longer. Not surprisingly that was in the Bible eons ago when the Lord advised that ‘We should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together’; or the Psalmist David when he expressed that he was ‘Glad when they said to [him] let us go into the house of the Lord’.

There was much debate decades ago about liberalism and freedom of sexual rights and now we have come full circle to advising children on the benefits of waiting until adulthood to have their sexual debut; or advising persons to find one sexual partner and stay with that individual. In the same Bible we find several verses cautioning against fornication, promiscuity and adultery in order to avoid the life-wrecking consequences.

As such I am not surprised that there is suitable advice on child rearing and discipline to be found in the pages of this Book that has survived several millennia. Not to sound ‘preachy’ but for the remainder of my discourse I choose to focus on Proverbs 13:24 which states, ‘Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them’.

Were I to do a survey on the next thought that crossed the minds of readers after my mention of the rod perhaps more than 60 per cent would have thought about lashes. There is no scientific evidence to that statement just my personal opinion. The general consensus is usually that if a child is not lashed he or she will become spoilt.

I got lashes growing up as did my sister and several of my contemporaries. We are still alive today and to date none of us have graced the inside of Her Majesty’s Prison in St Philip. I hasten to add, however,  that there are several residents of that correctional facility who have received lashes, which shows us that lashing is not the only form of discipline that should be employed in raising children.

Raising a child is one of the most challenging yet rewarding tasks that I have faced as a mother. I feel an awesome responsibility for the way these two blessings that have been loaned to me, turn out as adults.  Unfortunately neither of my children arrived from my womb accompanied by an instruction manual and my husband and I found ourselves trying to figure out how to deal with these small humans. What we have learned is that discipline is important and we are responsible to ensure that they are disciplined.

Discipline in my opinion is a method that by causing some form of distress, shows a child the difference between what is right and what is wrong; what is appropriate and inappropriate; what is expected and what is not expected. The end point is to instil in that child a frame of reference to guide him or her safely through life.

Distress.  Not only pain after receiving lashes but perhaps deprivation of some sort. When I was younger yes I felt the sting of lashes for lying to my mother once, but that paled in comparison to not being able to go to music lessons. For some children the mere mention of a lash or a stern look is enough to set that child back on the straight and narrow path. I recall a friend of mine during her adolescent bloom deciding to defy her mother by slamming the bedroom door. She continued her day as usual and went off to school. When she returned home she found the hinges removed and the door neatly propped next to her room. Rest assured she never slammed another door!

There is an ongoing debate as to where we should apportion blame for the deviant behaviour we are seeing in our children. Is it the fault of the parents entirely? Should they be held responsible? Are societal influences to blame? This is a difficult question to answer and I am relieved that I am not directly involved in the ongoing panel discussions.

Parents are responsible for their children and the home is the first societal influence to which our children become exposed. By the time a child is 2-3 years old once there is normal development he or she should be able to comprehend a two-step command.  Therefore small children are not too young to be told or shown the correct way to go. We cannot wait until children are in secondary school to try to teach them good manners, or try to correct their behaviour because we would have missed the boat by then.  However, it must be stated that so many children grow up in homes where good values and morals are patterned, yet they transgress the laws and suffer the consequences.

There are so many aspects of discipline which our children need to be taught and I cannot list all of them.  They need to learn respect for God, others, self and property; they need to learn the value of hard work and education; they need to understand the value of honest achievement and accomplishment and not float through life feeling entitled.

Discipline is multi-factorial. There is no one quick fix to this problem of indiscipline but it is crystal clear that a change is needed.  Perhaps the answer is in the pages of the Bible!

Source: (Renee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:reneestboyce@gmail)

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