Human, experience, has ineluctably, demonstrated, that there are no reliable formulaic prescriptions, in any degree useful, in matters concerning human behavior, as contrasted, by analogy, to the dynamics of chemical formulas, with empirically, predictable outcomes. For this reason, we have consistently impugned and detested  aphorisms, for their arrogant, ignorant and reductionist presumption of saintly rectitude, as hallowed solutions, to man’s presenting problems.

It is difficult to rate these inane, substitutes for reason, in order of merit, since it is difficult to discern merit in any of them. However, at a time in our current events, in which the phenomenon of “candidacy,” is presently operative, we would select a particular homily, as a frontrunner, for the very worst, and which, in our view, has little real, “bottom of the barrel,” competition. It also has, in its atavistic stupidity, provided us with the subject of this note. It pains us to be obliged to repeat the same, but we do so for referential identification purposes only: “Spare the rod, and spoil the child.”

We suspect that the home-spun laureate, who authored this shameful inanity, may be from the same school of classic literature as is, the simpleton, who is responsible for another well known, hoary, travesty, “Children should be seen and not heard.” The latter aphorism, suggests that well brought up children, should be silent, inactive, potted plants, rather than, enthusiastic and welcome participants, in normal family interaction. The parent who abuses mandatorily silent children, certainly is not, in any way, in the running, for a Fred Rogers gold medal, for parenting.

Someone might, generously and defensively reply, that these are traditional (“old”) homilies; to which we would, emphatically state, that in contemporaneous speech they would, accurately, translate to, “Child abuse and cruelty, are the accepted, and recommended modes of rearing children.” We would confidently declare, that there exists, no possible moral rationale for striking a child, [nor keeping him mute].  We are parents, and, candidly admit to experiencing, at times, the feelings of stress and frustration, inherent in child rearing, but, have never reacted to our frustration by physically, acting it out on the child. No one, we believe, beats his child, as purportedly, claimed, “out of love” or because, “he loves him.” Moreover, the child will not, likely, perceive it in that way. The child is physically abused, by the parent, as a result of the inhumane, venting of his own impatience and lack of understanding of kinder and vastly more effective, alternatives. An errant child, may forget the intended lesson, but he will not soon forget the painful treatment. Under such a regime, he, predictably may, later in his life, replicate such learned, cruel behavior.

There are far more effective, appropriate and loving policies, founded upon a taught sense of the child’s respect, for himself, and his own self-image. It should be emphasized, that, if a child is to behave properly, for the purpose of avoiding punishment, what will his behavior demonstrate, when he knows the disciplinary adult is absent. Lessons in rewards and punishments, place the subject of behavior in the wrong context, and are foolish, and self-defeating lessons; promoting the values of stealth and caution, instead of rectitude. We would offer the following, hypothetical illustration:

Supposing that [hypothetically], on some unusual impulse, I stole your cell phone. The next day, fraught with remorse and anxiety. I return it to you, confess and profusely and sincerely apologize for my wrongful act. You, being generous in nature, forgive me, and state: “I forgive you, let’s forget all about it and pretend it didn’t happen.” He may actually, forget about it, but I certainly cannot. I am still, internally plagued by the question: “What kind of person can I be, to have stolen his phone, in the first place?”

Morality is an internal phenomenon, closely aligned with one’s self- image (self-identity). By analogy to a long term savings account, a charitable or empathic act, is like making a deposit (reinforces) a perceived moral and just, internal feeling of identity, while a selfish or wrongful act makes an expensive, at times, a lasting withdrawal, from that account. For properly socialized individuals, self-appraisal is a vital ingredient in their life’s assessment, and a consistent positive self-image, is crucially important.

The truly enlightened and responsible parent, will endeavor to instill in the child, an internalized, and candid, sense and awareness of “himself” and his valuably essential, self- worth. This, admittedly, takes considerable time, and much disciplined and instructive patience, on the part of the parent. The child must learn, ultimately, through much patient and loving instruction, to be his own moral and empathetic supervisor, and when he does so, will, predictibly, grow to be an empathic and honest adult; and, at some, future day, an enlightened parent.

It must be said that, in such a proper program of enlightened teaching of virtue, perhaps, the most effective element, as an instructive model, is the exemplary behavior of the parent, himself.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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