Whippings: “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child?”

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

It’s no surprise that the year started off with a bang; 2018 ended with a bang. I have been trying to make sense out of all the nonsense—three and four shootings a day, not to mention the mistaken identity auto shooting where a seven-year-old was killed in Houston. Old schoolers think millennials spare the rod and therein lies the problem; but is it?  I think I need some Biblical scholars to weigh in on this Proverbial expression which so often has been wrongly referenced and misinterpreted. However, there are references to “beating with the rod” in Proverbs. Does “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child” or “beating with the rod” refers to Corporal Punishment or simply correction?

Now, I said all of that to say this: Whatever the reference may have been, my takeaway is “correction”. As parents, we have a responsibility to correct our children when they are wrong. Correction comes in many forms.  I am all for correction. I, too, may have had correction wrong when I whipped my 10-year-old son; the only time I ever had to “whup” him was when he disobeyed me. I told that child “do not take the shortcut over the railroad tracks to his aunt’s house”. He was told what time to be back in the house. He overstayed his visit and thought he would take the “shortcut” if he was going to make it home on time. Well, as fate would have it, he encountered some school drop-outs on the tracks drinking and they poured alcohol down his throat. Now, y’all know that didn’t sit too well with me. I notified the police but by the time they responded the boys were gone. As a divorced mother, I did what I thought was appropriate at the time. I gave my son “something to remember” so he would not do that ever again. Who knows, maybe he did but I was not going to have him disrespect me or my house rules. I never thought too much of it since then because the boy never gave me anymore trouble. That was then. When you know better, you do better. As Black parents, we thought “whippings” worked. I have lived long enough to know “Love conquers all”; well, it conquers most thing. The verdict is still out on Ms. Bey Bey’s children.

I believe you are “never too old to learn”. I received an email from my friend, John, that provided insight into why we should not “whup” our children.  Perhaps, I will do a follow up article at some time because it really comes from “slavery mentality”. Plantation owners would have their disobedient slaves beaten into “submission”. In the television movie Roots, remember how Kunta Kinte was repeatedly whipped when he rejected his plantation name, Toby, given him by his master’s wife. The beatings transcended generations. In Black families, it became an acceptable form of discipline. I am never surprised at my peers’ stories of “whuppings” they received back in the day because our stories were the same. That’s correct, I did say “whuppings”! There is a difference between “whipping” and “whupping”. If you received a “whupping” with a “U”, y’all know what I am talking about. So, let’s not dress it up.  You “undressed” for a “whupping”.

No offense White folk, y’all believe in “time-out”. Now, I know why!! You weren’t on the receiving end. You may not have participated in any of the ancestral whippings, but you saw the damage. So, don’t act like you don’t know.  Black “baby boomers” believed “time-out” was a joke. Aretha Franklin may not have been referring to discipline, but Black parents believed in giving their children “something they can feel”. Whippings were the only form of discipline black parents knew; so, they administered the same form of corporal punishment they, and their ancestors, received thinking it was what their children needed. 

Children were told the whippings were done out of love and I am sure they were; but, to a child, being whipped is a very traumatic experience. If you don’t believe me, ask my niece Keshia. That child was very mischievous but deathly afraid of whippings. And, I ain’t trying to get my sister locked up at this juncture in life but you talk about whippings. Yep, she had a “Whipping Schedule” for her kids. Y’all done make up your beds, “NO”, whipping. Homework done, “NO’, whipping. Y’all weren’t playing in front of the house where I could see you, “NO”, whipping. It wasn’t no “wait ‘til your daddy comes home. My sister would whip daddy if he got in the way. Y’all know that’s how it went down in black homes.

On a more serious side, try loving your children more. Spend time with them. Get involved with school and after school activities. Encourage them more. Plan small trips with them.

I know y’all young parents don’t “whip” your children but are you correcting them? I have heard them tell you “shut up” in the least likely place—church.  Correction is ABSOLUTELY necessary. “Spare the Rod” does not mean spare “discipline”. I know y’all didn’t “Ask Me” but are you listening?

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