Awareness Parenting

“Spare the Rod, Empower the Child”


Stepping into the world of teaching, I found myself confronted with the challenge of disciplining students, particularly in a senior secondary school setting. I was teaching Psychology to the students of senior secondary school. My profession required a skill which I majorly lacked that is “Firmness”. Who cared about my qualification? All I was expected to do was to acquire this skill in order to sustain my job.

Read more: The Psychology of Discipline

In an environment where discipline was paramount, I embarked on a journey to uncover the efficacy of traditional disciplinary methods, including the age-old method ,”Spare the rod and spoil the child.” To my surprise, people still hold the belief that punishing the child, imposing stricter rules on them, being loud and stern are effective ways to discipline children, especially adolescents. This belief often stems from the fact that their parents used similar methods to discipline their children.

There is an undercurrent of acceptance that children need to be disciplined and told how to behave. I believe this positions the authority figure and the child in an unequal relationship. The relationship between parent-child or teacher- child sets the foundation for social and emotional development of the child. However in such unequal relationship, one is always the authority figure and the other one has to passively comply the authority, leaving no space to express his needs and ideas which stifles the relationship. To allow the relationship to breathe and survive longer, there is need to treat your child or student as equal entity and render them full respect as you expect from them. Vocabulary used in this context must be such that it expresses equality in the relationship.

Respect and love are two important ingredients in the recipe of parenting. An uneven quantity of either will spoil the broth. When children are treated with respect, they can also guide you in understanding what is right and wrong, as they inherit a sense of moral right and wrong, and can make decisions for themselves.

Read More: 11 Effective Methods to Teach Children Good Habits

It is essential to create boundaries in a relationship that delineate what is acceptable and what is not. Boundaries are effective when they are established and agreed upon collaboratively by both parents and children. When children understand the reasoning behind them or know their opinions have been considered, they are more motivated to cooperate. However, boundaries must be sensible and consider the best interest of children rather than reflecting your insecurities, fears, or unfulfilled desires. Therefore, boundaries set for children should enhance the relationship of respect rather than constrict it.

Related: Building Bridges: Nurturing Open Communication with Your Teenager

Elders need to understand that hurting the child physically or emotionally can injure the self-respect of the child. Physical violence in the form punishment or hitting-beating practices or emotional violence in the form of neglect can directly or indirectly affect the child’s emotional development, hamper the free expression and regulation of emotions, undermine confidence, or cause anger problems. It also impacts their ability to make and maintain healthy relationships later in life.

Children need to be disciplined positively in a way that empowers them to solve problems. As punishing the child for a mistake is like making him suffer for having a problem. Positive disciplining facilitates having open conversation with children, respecting them and avoid punishing them.
I remember my professor emphasizing a saying that is dear to my heart: “Create connection before correction”. This means that parents or authority figures should firstly establish closeness and trust with their child, ensuring that the message of love is received, rather than fostering distance and hostility. Prioritizing a connection with the child will create a bond that leads to the child not only accepting your decisions but also understanding the intent behind them.

I agree that children need limits and boundaries but they should not be militarily enforced. The more you force the rules or boundaries on a child, chances are less that the child would obey them. This is because the child is unaware of the reasoning or intent behind the boundary, which prevents them from internalizing the information and acting as expected. Without a valid reason, every rule, no matter how well-intentioned, becomes a command that restricts independence and turns the other into a slave to your orders, leading to an unequal relationship. Therefore, the boundaries should not restrict the need for autonomy.

Read More: The Art of Creating Healthy Boundaries with Parents

Giving children autonomy and an equal say in decision making at home or in their personal lives lays the foundation for a healthy and equal relationship between an authority figure and a child. It instills a sense of responsibility in the child thereby enhancing his self-esteem.

References +
  • Gershoff, E. T. (2013). Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children. Child Development Perspectives, 7(3), 133–137.
  • Kohn, A. (2005). Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. Atria Books.
  • Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497–529.
  • Dr. Shekhar Seshadri, Dr. Shantha Sinha. (n.d.). Parenting Pathshala (SAMVAD-NIMHANS Child Protection) [YouTube live stream]. Retrieved from
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