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Rev Johnson: Distinct difference between discipline and abuse

Sunday, April 27 2014

There is a distinct difference between corporal punishment and abuse says Reverend Kevin Johnson, a pastor from the Petit Valley Church of the Nazarene.

In a release responding to a video on Facebook of a 12-year-old girl being beaten with a belt by her mother for posting inappropriate pictures of herself on the same site Johnson said while he supports the right of parents to discipline their children, they should take care that their discipline doesn’t become abuse. The woman, Helen Bartlett, a mother of four claimed she beat her daughter to ensure she never posted inappropriate pictures of herself on Facebook again

Bartlett’s actions have sparked a public debate around the topic with some citizens agreeing with her actions and others protesting against it.

In support of Bartlett’s actions, some citizens have been stating that the Bible said “spare the rod, spoil the child.”

Johnson says while many people believe they are quoting the Christian Bible when they use the phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child,” this phrase was not to be found in the Bible.

“The phrase ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ is often incorrectly attributed to the Christian Bible. When in fact it does not appear in there, it was first written in a poem (Hudibras) by Samuel Butler in 1664.”

The actual Bible quote comes from Proverbs 13.24 - “those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline.”

“There is a difference between corporal punishment and abuse . . . We support the use of corporal punishment within the home, but we strongly object to any from of abuse.

“Trinidad and Tobago is receptive of corporal punishment, and many of our citizens have not been traumatised by their parents use of it, but that does not negate the fact that it has negative effects as well,” Johnson said.

He said there is a two-factor difference between discipline and abuse. One difference is the intensity which refers to the extent to which injuries have resulted from the use of violence; and the intention for which the act was carried out.

Johnson said another “alarming” issue was Bartlett’s decision to film and post the video on Facebook. He said while there are no academic theories on the damage of publicly shaming children on social media, he said public humiliation is scarring especially since the video would not go away.

“It may stop the children from perpetuating bad behaviour, but the shame plagues them long after they’ve learned their lesson and the family has moved on from the incident,” he said.

Johnson encouraged all citizens to praise their children in public and chastise them privately.

“God raises or praises His children in public and privately chastises them . . . Thus we should remember that a parent’s duty is to discipline a child out of love, but not because we are afraid of the shame they may bring on us,” he said.

Johnson said the 12-year-old girl is in need of clinical counselling by a trained professional as well as being placed in a support group that will focus on her self-esteem building.

He also said the family unit should have counselling in order to move forward from the incident.

Johnson further called on the Government to take a more proactive stance to prevent future cases of child abuse.

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