The parenting process actually prepares an individual to use wisely the freedom to make choices. Great parents give age-appropriate spaces for children to make choices and learn from the outcomes of those choices. If every life experience is seen as an examination, the rod and reward are indicators of examination scores of the related choices and actions.
Rewards are the favourable outcomes of the right choices and actions. They include achievement of targets, conflict resolution, provision of a need, recognition, promotion, gifts, awards, fulfillment of desires, commendation, peace of mind, freedom and so on. All these function to reinforce right actions.
Wrong actions lead to unfavourable outcomes. The unfavourable outcomes are the rod of discipline. They include loss in all its ramifications, progress stagnation, demotion, worsening of a problem, fine, penalty, emotional and physical pain, imprisonment and so on. A real life example is the experiences of an unmarried teenage secondary school girl who discovers that she is pregnant without a responsible partner. The emotional and physical trauma of the realisation that her education will be truncated, her health will be endangered, her social life will be disrupted and she will deliver a child she is not mature enough to cater for is a rod already too big for her to bear alone. Such a child would need the support of those around her to cope with her calamity. Flogging her with whip or cane will be an act of ignorance. The discomforts of the rod make the related choices and actions unattractive in the future. Parents should note the following about the rod.
- The rod is a natural flow of events. Parents don’t have to initiate the rod experience. Parents who successfully communicate this to their children help them to stay away from evil even when they are not being watched by anyone.
- Overbearing and protective parents can shield children from the rod hence the admonition that parents should allow the rod of discipline. Yes, the right measure of it should be allowed.
- The rod does not mean, and need not necessarily include the cane, whip and other forms of corporal punishment. Corporal punishment introduces pollution in the parenting process. It can be described as a tool for the unskilled.
The parenting environment is a prototype of the whole life experiences of the child. The life principle that right actions are rewarded, while the rod is always there to correct wrong actions anywhere and anytime holds true for children, youth and adults. Children who have good understanding of this develop into conscientious adults.
-Uchenna N. Nduka