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Spare the child - Advocate says Bible verse is no excuse for abuse

Published:Saturday | January 30, 2016 | 12:00 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston

He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes - Proverbs 13:24

he debate surrounding corporal punishment in Jamaica has been fierce. For some it is a 'necessary evil' that will keep children in line - be it in the classroom or at home.

For others, it is demeaning and adults can find better ways to discipline children without having to resort to physical punishment.

Family and Religion reached out to Betty-Ann Blaine, founder of Hear The Children Cry, who is emphatic in her response against corporal punishment.

"Any kind of punishment inflicted on a child physically can get problematic which is why I do not support corporal punishment," she said.

For Blaine, punishment can range from a slap to a beating with the big question "who should have the responsibility and the role to inflict that kind of physical punishment on a child?"

According to her, teachers, principals or anyone else in the school system should not have that charge. Even on the home front, she said great care should be considered regarding the degree of physical punishment.

Responding to the biblical reference on 'sparing the rod and spoiling the child', Blaine attributes this to people who enjoy "misquoting or manipulating" God's word to suit their own purposes.

"The Bible is very clear, you know. It doesn't talk about murdering a child and in Jamaica, we know about what we call 'murderation'. It doesn't talk about physically abusing the child and we have to put that quote in the Bible within the broader context of what the Bible said about children, how Jesus felt about children in the sense of suffer the little children to come unto me, how He talks that we should not abuse a child," she said.

Pay attention to upbringing

According to Blaine, if attention is paid to how children are born and raised, then there won't be any need to be consulting the Bible in terms of physical abuse.

"If children come into the world understanding that they are gifts from God, treat them with dignity and communicate with them effectively, then you don't have to administer the rod," said Blaine.

Problematic children are sometimes referred to as 'rotten' or 'bad'. For Blaine, those words are not welcome in her vocabulary as "children live what they learn".

"We bring them into this world which is very violent, we expose them to violence which is everywhere, television, the media everywhere and then we talk of rotten children. We can't use those words unless adults are good role models for children," she stressed.

Another reason Blaine is against corporal punishment is because of the negative effect it can have on their self-esteem.

"If you beat a child and it is not warranted - they didn't deserve that kind of beating. That same child may even go to school and receive further abuse, they can suffer from poor self-esteem and may think they are not worthy, they are not wanted, think parents and other people have something against them," she said, adding that's why it is so important not to inflict corporal punishment.

Blaine is all about practising what she preaches as she said she raised her two daughters without ever physically punishing any of them.

"I do not think that we as adults, advocates, teachers, guidance counsellors in the society should be promoting corporal punishment in school or home. We don't need to inflict any more violence on our children. We need to do the opposite."

The solution for Blaine is to spend more time visiting schools, talking to parent-teacher association, have advertisements on television and radio offering good parenting tips, "and not continue to perpetuate this inter-generation cycle of violence against children."