Discipline vs. Abuse: Know The Difference. : ThyBlackMan

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Discipline vs. Abuse: Know The Difference.

November 8, 2018 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Relationships, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Every single child has rights, even if he or she is your child – yes your child too. One such right is to be respected. Another such right is not to be abused. I am not saying spare the rod. Nor am I saying that discipline is unnecessary. But I am saying there is a difference between discipline and abuse. And you better learn the difference or you could end up in jail or worse.

You may be saying “my dad beat me and I turned out OK”. Or you may be saying “I got knocked down and I didn’t die”. But as a veteran marriage, family and relationship counselor, I am saying you may have been abused. How do you know you turned out OK? What credentials do you have to accurately make that assessment? Or are you damaged yet never knew it?

Abuse is not defined by whatever a parent wants to define it as. The law defines abuse, not you, not grand mama, mom, dad or grand dad. Abuse includes verbal abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse and physical abuse. Abuse can also exist even when there are no marks left on the victim.


Spanking your child is not wrong. But failing to know your limitations, especially by law, leads to child abuse. You cannot hit your child as hard as you want, as long as you want, with whatever you want, where ever you want. He or she could call the police and if an officer arrives who is against corporal punishment, you could go to jail right then and there. When I was a detective I saw it happen more times than I could count and I worked easily over 100 child abuse and domestic violence cases combined.

Physical discipline does not work with every child. And if you go beyond a certain point, the child can become angry instead of sad or afraid. Almost all of us have at least one major spanking that we remember. But if you go too far, you could end up dead – yes dead. My sons (who I spanked as young children) went to high school with two African American girls who went  to school one day, went home, killed their mother then went back to school. Don’t provoke your children to wrath or you may regret it and it will be just as much your fault as theirs.


Sometimes, as your child gets older, there are more effective methods of punishment than physical discipline. Your job as a parent is to find what works and what is allowable to produce a positive result – not fear, not anger, not resentment and not retaliation. You should not have to even attempt to hit a teenager and if you have instilled discipline since he or she was very young, the tone has likely been set.

Treat your child as a unique individual instead of simply using on him or her whatever was used on you. It might work. it might not. Or it might have dire consequences for all involved. If you received a “beating” from your parent or grandparent, they were WRONG! Oh yes they were. They did what they knew and likely what was done to them. But neither case made it right. Plus you are starting or continuing a cycle that needs to be done properly. Why? Because your child will likely repeat your approach with his or her own children.

Never spank in anger. When you do it can easily end up in abuse because you are likely to go too far. I suggest you cool off before you spank your child. You can then think more about what you are doing, how, how much and the consequences. Yes in this day and time your miscalculation can have consequences. And if you end up in trouble with DFACS or the law, don’t blame your child. blame yourself.

What about unruly children? Children are not born unruly. It is a learned or provoked behavior. And very often the apple does not fall far from the tree. How were you as a child? Are you getting back exactly what you put your parents through? Then it may not be mostly the child’s fault. Take a look in the mirror before you discipline your child. You could be reaping what you have sown as a child or even the example you have set as an adult. in either case, you are then part of the problem. So maybe when you spank your child, you should spank yourself. Patience is necessary and you need to TALK with your child to determine the root cause of the behavior. If you cannot discover the cause, ask the counselor at his or her school to get involved or seek qualified a counselor. Do not just rely on family member input.

I was not an unruly child but I did get spankings. And I deserved almost every one of them. The belt, the switch, the yard stick. Ouch! But I was not abused. And yes I spanked my sons (now adults) in their early years. But they respected me and never feared me. I was an example of respect instead of just demanding it. My sons grew up loved, respected, strong, respectful, confident and balanced. Fear as discipline is a primitive approach by those who do not know any better. I knew better. I tailored discipline based on who my sons were as individuals and I even improved on methods used by my parents. You can too.

Sometimes difficult children are unruly because of the sociological influences around them – their friends, bad examples and even music, certain negative cultures and video games. All of the above have been proven to impact and modify behavior in a negative way. Know what and who is influencing your children – and that includes the examples you set. The “do as I say, not as I do” way of thinking is hypocritical so parents don’t be a hypocrite. Right is right and wrong is wrong. If you blur those lines by using double standards, you will confuse and frustrate your children. And most of the things we tell our children not to do are not good for us to do as adults either, like it or not. Adulthood should always mean wisdom, not an ego-based right to ignorance.


When should you stop spanking your children? If you are going to use physical discipline, do so in your child’s early years up to about age 5 or so. These years are when you set the tone. If you fail to do so  during these formative years, you may have problems with your child later. Not because he or she automatically wants to be unruly. But in many cases children simply test the boundaries, rules and structure they live in as they grow older, develop identity and opinions of right and wrong, fairness and unfairness. That is generally normal and should not automatically be perceived by you as your child deliberately choosing to annoy you.

Disrespect your children or abuse them and it will all come back to you in one way or another. You can count on that. After reading this article, whether you agree with me or not, you can never say you have not been told. I am not sharing simply my opinion. I am sharing proven facts, like them or not. Am I correct about every child? No. Am I correct about most children and parents, especially in the African American community? Yes, I am.

Explain your actions to your child. I am not saying you answer to your children, I am saying it is your responsibility to help them understand consequences, repercussions and why things happen the way they do. Children are not your slaves and you should be willing to explain why you are spanking them or what they did wrong as well as the desired behavior you expect of them. After the spanking, you should reaffirm to your child that you love him or her. Never assume the child already knows that. Reaffirming that you love your child after the spanking reassures him or her that you have disciplined him or her for their benefit, not just for yours.


Up to this point I have given you facts supported by training, experience and hard data. But now I want to share just a touch of my opinion. I know we are told to be fruitful and multiply, but on a practical and mature level I honestly believe parenting is not for everyone. It is much more than just giving a child food and clothing and making him or her go to school. I have explained that to young parents until I could not say it anymore.

Too many African Americans have no idea what real positive and productive parenting is all about. Too many never experienced it so they do not reproduce it. Roles of moms and dads are severely confused with men acting like women, women thinking they are men and children lost in the LGBTQ chaos. We do not have nearly enough positive parenting examples in the African American community and the increase in single-parent households is only making things worse. Moms are frustrated and dads are absent, all the while both are blaming each other yet both are often at fault.


Now the good news. The cycle of bad parenting in the African American community can be severely decreased. The child abuse numbers are staggering. Ask any social worker. But those numbers can drop dramatically. The process starts with honest articles like this and qualified people willing to call out the problems. Then it takes parents willing to step out of denial and into the mirror.

Know why you do what you do. Explore better ways than teaching your children to use violence as a solution. Start in your child’s early years with discipline, find what works, keep it legal and be consistent. Do nothing in anger because anger often causes poor judgment. Share this article with every parent you know – including your own. Teach your children respect by example – not fear by abuse. Treat your children the way you would like to be treated, not simply the way you were treated. Help your children understand the meaning, purpose and benefits of discipline.

Be careful blurring the lines between parent and friend with your children. Of course you should be their friend but there also needs to be boundaries and clear cut limitations on the nature and level of those friendships. A friendship is  a partnership but you should never send the message that the friendship with your child is an equal partnership. I have often seen parents take the role of best friend to their children. But then when the children get out of line because the friendship lacks barriers set by the parent, all of a sudden the parent wants to snap the children back in “their place”. Parents realize if you did not set the parameters so your children crossed them, that is YOUR FAULT, not theirs.

Your job as a parent is to raise mature, caring, responsible, respectful, productive, respectable  and well-balanced children who will become adults and repeat the cycle with their own children. If you fail in this endeavor, your children may be damaged, fail as a parents and continue destructive cycles that erode the strength and structure of the family. You cannot afford to raise children who end up in court, in jail, helpless, homeless, uneducated, divorced, angry, hopeless or in the morgue.  You cannot afford to raise unmarried baby machines, dogs nor immature pseudo-men.  And the African American community needs as many strong families as we can get. Be part of the solution. You can do it!

Staff Writer; Trevo Craw

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