The Agony Of Shattered Lives; Parenting In the 21st Century

51-kidcryingMommy shrieked out in pain as if someone had stuck a dagger straight to her heart.

She couldn’t hold it in any longer. Her body heaved and shook. Her knees crumbled and she sunk to the floor… like the bird that just hit a glass window.

Sheer Agony.

She wrapped her wringing hands to her breast and wept as my heart bled right along with her.

This was difficult for me.  No parent ever loved her child more than this dedicated mother. She had gone through great sacrifices. Now her VERY young teenage daughter had defied her and a grown man had taken advantage.

My heart bled along with her because I knew the mistakes she had made. They could have been avoided.  My heart bled because she did NOT know that she had been making mistakes. My heart bled because her mistakes had actually CAUSED the very thing she had been trying to avoid the most. My heart bled because with all my training and knowledge, I had failed her. She was STILL making those mistakes. My heart bled because I was powerless to make her see that the parenting methods her own mother had used on her, had only served to break the bond she once had with her precious daughter.

And my heart bled because the pervert was using all the techniques I wanted HER to use with her own child. The sick &%$#@er was winning! This was not a bad parent. She was a phenomenal mother. She just didn’t know what she didn’t know.

Spare Spoil the Rod And spoil Spare the Child?

Has it ever been harder to know what makes a good parent?

I suppose that parents throughout the annals of time have wondered about the quality of their parenting skills. But even the most developed societies are witnessing change from old to new parenting styles. Like everywhere else, the Caribbean is grappling with the sheer speed of that change.

Experts keep telling us that all those old practices are not only outdated, but harmful. Sending the child for that tamarind branch so Mama can give her a good old-fashioned “cut-ass” is no longer politically correct to even discuss in some circles.

But outside of those circles, the widespread opinion is “spare the rod and spoil the child.”  And that goes along with footnotes mumbled under the breath: “And let our children become like those unruly American children we does see on TV? Hell no.”

The Challenge At Home

I knew the reason why Mommy just didn’t understand.  When an entire society believes in something, it’s hard to accept when even an expert tells you otherwise.   It’s not Mommy’s fault if her neighbors, her old teacher, her uncle, her pastor, and so many community leaders tell her what she’s doing is the correct way to spare the child.

She couldn’t accept it because I was a lone voice crying in the wilderness, and she was a loving parent who had to bring up her daughter in the 21st century without information and training for bringing up children in the 21st century.

How can we blame her when even the most respected, caring community leaders are STILL asking me to help with the youth by teaching parents to spoil the rod? THEY don’t know they’re shooting themselves in the foot either.

I need help in teaching the entire community that the “rod of correction” was used by shepherds of biblical days in the most tender ways. No self-respecting shepherd who knew his business ever beat sheep!

And I need you to help me in getting all parents to just ask the simple question.  “Ok, so what if the experts are correct?”

Have you ever noticed that modern parenting skills require a fairly good understanding of basic psychology? You can’t push parenting skills down a community’s throat overnight without educating people. You have to ease people gently through the change-process, not take away what they are using without giving them nothing to work with.   When you do, you end up creating a bigger problem than you solve.

Do you know what is the single biggest reason why we are seeing an explosion of discipline problems in our schools all over the western hemisphere?

The Challenge In Schools

Do we take away weapons from soldiers and then send them into battle?

What do you think we did to teachers when we took away corporal punishment in schools without taking it away in homes? How do we expect little Johnny to listen to his teacher when he is programmed to only behave himself when he gets a lashing, a twist of his ear, or harsh, disrespectful words in his ear?

There is just too big a gap between autocratic methods in homes, and “evidence-based” methods of modern schools.

And it is creating all kinds of mischief.  People just don’t know.  Parental involvement in the Caribbean NECESSARILY means parenting education as well.  The disturbing part of all this is that it is such an emotionally charged issue that it stops reasonable discussion. And discussion is what we need most to ease the transition.

So that’s why I’m blogging about this!

Will you join me? Let’s continue the conversation. If you haven’t done so already, scroll up, top-right, and enter your email.

Time to stop the pain. Whad’yousay?



  1. I have to agree with you Rodney, I am a young proud single parent of two(2) wonderful teenagers, and in my neck of the woods we too were raised with "mama's (tamarind switch) likking stick" and some of us have raised and tried to raise our kids the same way, however that is not accepted in this millennium. I have seen children pick up the phone to call 911 and the parent remove the switch immediately, and that's sad, try that in my time and you know what the result would be. I'm happy I never have that problem with my children, it is hard for those parents who really don't know of any alternatives, as we Caribbean folks are used to that. The children of today are under a lot of peer pressure. I do understand the discourse process in order for transition it is a necessity. Good luck with this!

  2. Rodney C. Davis says:

    Thanks Lisa. We do need rational conversation on this issue. Some of my colleagues insist that using the rod is criminal, and should be punished. They find my point of view too soft on such parents. I believe that without educating such parents first, it is just as criminal to take away the only means they have to try and discipline their kids. Then we go from one extreme to the other, and end up with kids who have no respect for anything or anyone.

  3. GloryGirl says:

    I think the whole problem started, because most people mixup displine with abuse. It is two different styles. When you discipline you never use your hands, feet, or head as weapons. What some parents do wrong, is that, they don't set boundaries for their toddelers, and when they discipline they use the palm of the hand swat the child, and the same to smooth them, so some of the children become confused and do not know how to tell the difference between affection, discipline or abuse. I had a little wooden spacular that I hanged on the wall, and I explained to my son the consciences of being disobedient, and followed
    through with whatever I said I would do, As a single parent, I let him know who was in charged, I made some mistakes along the way, but he is 22 and is still respectful in my home. So as the book of Proverbs, says "do not spare rod and spoil the child. I am afraid this what has happened to this generation of young people, we allow a few people's ideas on discipline to over rule the Truth. I total agree with your post.

  4. Legal in Canada says:

    Hi Rod. I am so ever grateful that you started such a blog for Caribbean parents. Some may figure that Caribbean parents weren't interested in changing bad parenting habits but you dispelled that myth. I myself do not have any kids but have needed to parent some kids in my day. Although I do not believe in hitting kids at any point, i also don't believe in spoiling them either. I have co-parented many kids with partners and family members and the notion is that many are quick to curse at, demean or hit their children in hopes that attitudes or behavior of the child will change. But at the end of the day what I observe is either the kid is afraid of the parent or rebels. All though this might happen irregardless I stick to the philosophy that treat the kid the way that you would have like to be treated as a kid, knowing that setting guidelines and rules and structure is important. From the Caribbean, I currently live and work in Canada where I run a youth program in for immigrant kids and we come across many of the same issues that Caribbean kids are faced with and in white man country, Children Aid Society (CAS) will come fe yo ass if you as so much look at the children in the wrong way.Although some might agree with a more strict or capital punishment for kids, I have to disagree with especially the latter. Thoughts?

  5. Rodney C. Davis says:

    Thanks for your comments, "Legal.." Caribbean parents are of two varieties. The first crowd will tell you, "I got a cut-ass when I stepped out of line and I didn't turn out too badly, did I?" The next crowd basically believes that actually, compared to who and what we could have been, we probably did turn out badly. The worst parenting practices turn children into criminals and delinquents. The best practices make them outstanding citizens and leaders. There are a thousand shades of gray in between those two extremes…as it should be. Most parents are in that gray area. So my thoughts are that the actions of the CAS assume that all good parents are in the second crowd, which is not the reality. And too many of us from Caribbean homes believe that all parents should be in the first crowd, which is not the reality either. I have every intention of us having a healthy debate, with expert opinions and tips in between, through this blog. Hit the subscribe button so you can stay abreast. Invite your friends to do the same as well.


  1. […] you. I think some personalities take to this kind of thing more easily than others. Growing up in a Caribbean culture didn’t help […]

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