Spare the Rod…Or Go to Jail?

So many jokes! “Families are canceling their trips to Scandinavia…because they sometimes smack their kids on their bottoms and don’t want to get arrested.”

So much indignation! “We Indians know to handle relationships at the highest level unlike Westerners who have no concept of family. How dare the Norwegians teach us how to raise our children?”


Why do we get so emotional about something that happened in another country, just because the couple involved is of Indian origin? Are the Norwegians that stupid that they would jail someone for nothing? Most reports talk of the couple hitting and scalding the child…obviously, this is completely unacceptable…in Norway or for that matter in India. And most importantly, irrespective of the issues involved, when in Rome, we must do as Romans do and follow the rules and laws to the best of our ability.

But that isn’t even the issue!

Does the indignation come from the fact that people want the freedom to hit their children, perhaps because they truly believe in the idiom “If you spareth the rod, you spoileth the child”?

My parents’ generation used to freely slap and smack its children. Our teachers in school used to hit and pinch. While we can now laugh about these incidents and keep saying that we’ve all turned out to be the better for these…we don’t really know, do we! Yes, there is a big line between an occasional smack and abuse, but it doesn’t take much for that line to be crossed or to become really, really thin! And we don’t really know of the scars are friends and colleagues still carry!

Somewhere down the line though, in one generation, things have changed so much. We no longer hit our children. No slaps, no punches, no smacks. It is not that we don’t feel like doing something physical to them at times…and God knows those occasions are not uncommon. But the milieu we live in has changed and neither of us can bring ourselves to raise our hands against our kids. And this is true of most of our friends and colleagues.

Perhaps this applies to the specific socio-economic stratum we inhabit. There are many who still believe in disciplining their kids by physical means and our schoolteacher friends talk of such incidents being not uncommon. All of them though are unequivocal that corporal punishment just does not help and in fact only works negatively, both in terms of its effectiveness and in terms of what it does to the child as well as in the end, the parent.

There are many ways of disciplining kids. Time-outs, denial of entertainment options, detailed explanatory conversations, etc. They all work in different permutations and combinations, depending on the situation. The problem is that they require a lot of effort and work on the part of the parents. Hitting is simpler, easier and quicker.

More worrisome, as we see these days, is the situation where the parents neither hit, nor do they bother talking to and disciplining their kids. Perhaps they are too busy with their own lives, or don’t have the inclination and hope and believe that the kids will grow up on their own…I don’t know. But that has to be the worst of all situations.

Some people believe that we are raising a bunch of namby-pamby kids! I doubt it. What we are raising are children who understand the reason we discipline them, even though they may not agree at the time and who perhaps will carry fewer hidden scars, both mental and physical.


  • Avinash Bharadwaj wrote:

    Well written Bhavin!
    Also note that child in question wet his pants at school – obviously the situation called for concrete steps to address the issue rather than indiscriminate punishment and threats of being ‘sent back to India’ as the reports say.

  • Let’s not forget the fact that many-a-times parents want their children to behave in a particular way to maintain the parents’ “image” in society.
    If the parents in question felt ashamed that their son was wetting himself in public and damaging their “reputation” in a foreign country it is possible that they threatened him or even worst scalded him with a hot spoon.
    Just being well-educated doesn’t guarantee that the parents would not have resorted to this.
    And scalding a child constitutes abuse,period.

  • jamna varadhachary wrote:

    wetting pants means an underlying problem which ought to have been addressed. A gentle smack on the bottom is OK I think, nothing more. But physical punishment has come down. It still exists in places where drinking is out of control. and not just in lower income families.

  • Ravi Ramakantan wrote:

    Physical Vs ‘Mental’ punishment.. which is worse?
    Physical Vs Mental illness – which is worse?
    Without talking sides – there is always the other side!

    Ravi Ramakantan.

  • V.Subramanian wrote:

    The long-standing, time tested premise that education has a direct corelation with social and cultural demeanour, has been challenged by this Norwegian case.An abberration as it might well be, it is still a second case of child abuse emanating from that country. One can possibly get away with this barbaric act of scalding one’s own child, in this country, where even a Police officer could be shot for trying to prevent eve teasing, or one could get arrested for an innocuous comment on social media,in the other extreme.Norway is no Banana Republic where Justice dispensation is class dependent.The demographic profile of the country has prompted it to accord highest importance to children and the manner of upbringing.But In a country where most child births are a result of a unwritten social mandate,or where marriage itself is a reason for childbirth, upbringing generally suffers and the parental mindset is different.
    The External affairs ministry has for once, acquitted itself admirably by refusing to interfere despite emotional intimidation by electonic media. Let this serve as a social awakening call for all intolerant,errant parents,even if they do not plan to visit a Scandinavian country.

  • We should always remember this that if we do not like the laws of the Country we work in or want to migrate to, we should never take the trouble to go there.
    If it is true that the parents were physically hurting their son, even burning him for just wetting his pants, then the parents need to be punished for it. The child needs medical attention for his problem and not a beating, nor threats.
    On one of my trips from Australia via Singapore an Indian family (parents with a four to five year girl)sitting behind me kept pinching and slapping their child, every time the poor kid spoke in the Mother tongue. They kept drilling it into her saying “we told you to speak in English when you are out of the Country” I could hear the child crying why are you pinching, slapping me? I wanted to tell the parents to cool it, but thought otherwise, as they could easily tell me to mind my own business.

  • Well written article.I am impressed.The Norwegians are very right, in what they did to the Indian parents.

    I have lived in Norway and lived with the families.They are a wonderful race.Some of my best friends are Norwegians.

    Shyam Bajaj

  • Armaity Surendra Patel wrote:

    Every generation has its own rules and regulaions and so does every country!!
    Yes, we were brought up differently. We were spanked and canned sometimes. Dad always cuationed everyone never to spank with hands, but to use either a ruler or a cane. Reason, that quite a few incidents of children losing their eyesight, hearing ability,etc.were surfaced due to use of hand.
    But mere scolding also taken as imprisonment is a bit too severe!
    In USA too children of Indian parents do not tolerate their parents shouting at them!! Their school teachers daily enqire whether the parents had beaten or scolded them. If so, they are advised by the teachers to call the Police! 911 !!!
    I have witnessed parents and grandparents aplogising to their children and grandchildren for shouting at them!!!!

  • We forget the conditions under which the so called parents and the children grow up in India.There is so much frustration in most of these parents and that comes out as slaps,spanking whatever.Besides many of the working parents don’t even think before having children.For many it is just a gateway to social acceptance.In most cases the kids have become the grandparents’ burden in India and abroad.Having kids is not a personal/private issue any more.If the parents are not able to handle the pressure of raising children it is going to manifest itself like these incidents abroad and in India.

  • Rashmi Gala wrote:

    A question comes in mind – if the punishment remains, what will be the future relationship between the parents and the child? Hope parents do not get more prejudiced towards the child. And more than that how to stop the child feeling guilty of sending the parents to jail. Community Service could be better than the coventional jail punishment in such case.

  • Sujata Morab wrote:

    Very well written about an issue that was waiting to be addressed since long time. I have a thumb rule in this case. When i feel like hitting my daughter, i remember the times when i was hit by my parents and how i felt. That really stops me. Then i try alternate ways to discipline her and it works. Children are sensitive. They understand their parents’ helplessness if they show it.

  • Ajay Bhonsle wrote:

    I think Bhavin had brought up this subject on an earlier occasion too, but V.Subramian makes it amply clear that while Norway is no banana republic, India almost makes the grade! We do have a plethora of laws, but lack in the will power to implement them and I am tempted to blame the legal system for not delivering swift justice.

  • Jayesh desai wrote:

    We are in essence an uncivil society, equality is just a word not to be understood and followed. Might is right in our country, so women children dalits poor get beaten, a mob can do anything, break hospital,lynch a petty thief. The man who has access to all the knowledge and money still will not use it to understand problem of his own child. It was pathetic to hear the Psychiatrist/counsellar trying to defend the indefensible. I was angry and disturbed but you have put the same view without being harsh and cynic, how do you do this? congratulation!

  • Prakash Nanavati wrote:

    I agree with Norman totally. One should not go to abroad without proper knowledge of rules and disciplines. The country does not invite you – it is us Indians who apply for visa for visit! If one does not wish to observe rules – simply don’t go!

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