Chakra Discussions

A voice for the children

by Bhakta Jerry
Berkeley, California

Posted February 22, 2005

["Krishna's kids" - The Children of FFL's Sandipani Muni School ( Vrindavan).]

"Children are entitled to care, security, and a good upbringing. Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subject to corporal punishment or any other humiliating treatment." Sweden's law banning all corporal punishment, the Parenthood and Guardianship Code (1979), from www.endcorporalpunishment.org

All glories to Krishna's children. . . . The article "What constitutes Child Abuse" by 'name withheld' is one of the most irresponsible and uncompassionate arguments I have read. I am wondering why Chakra would publish an article condoning violence towards children. I am shaking as I write this. The author's basic argument is: Corporal punishment will lead to well-behaved, shining Vaisnava children and the lack of such punishment is basically the root of children going astray these days. He even asks, "Is this pressure to no longer use corporal punishment the result of the demoniac influence of Kali Yuga?" Pressure!?

This suggests that we actually are committing a sin by not engaging in corporal punishment. He then says that Srila Prabhupada encouraged the use of corporal punishment, but irresponsibly leaves out any reference or detail. Even if he had included any, it might just have been another case where Srila Prabhupada's quotes were used out of context.

I am a certified first-grade teacher, and I just could never have the gall to get myself to hit a child, even if it were legal. I don't believe that I have the right to have such power over a child. A child is not my possession to treat in such a way. Most of those adults who do engage in corporal punishment have serious anger management problems. They hit out of impatience and uncontrolled anger (a gate to hell), not out of trying to impove the child's behavior.

There is a very thin line, perhaps invisible, between 'corporal punishment' and abuse, and this line is crossed very easily by someone who cannot control anger. I actually make no distinction, and believe any form of physical punishment towards a child is abuse.

Consider this: a child is not behaving in class. She just cannot focus nor do her work. She is constantly talking back, and seems to not show respect to adults. She often gets into arguments with her peers. The author's 'solution': corporal punishment -- smack her into shape!

The reality: this eight year old's father was put in jail the night before for beating her mother, and both parents are alcoholics. She lives in a house with five other children, three of whom are from different fathers. Her older teenage brother is in a gang, and he often is in trouble with the police. I cannot see, in any possible way, how corporal punsihment will straighten out this little girl. It will only add to her trauma and fear. She is acting out in class as a cry for help, since it is the only way she knows how to get attention.

Now, consider this: a seven year old boy is living in a religious school. His parents have divorced, because the mother did not pray enough, according to the father. The boy has bad dreams at night that his father is never coming back, and therefore he cannot sleep well, especially with all the children around him he does not know, some of whom tease him for crying at night. Out of exhaustion, he did not memorize the prayer for the morning class. He is taken to the basement and beaten.

From the above examples, one can see that there are serious reasons why chidren act out and misbehave in school. To create yet another environment where a child is in fear of adults and does not feel safe will only add to the trauma of the child. It is also basic psychology that if a child's basic nurturing needs are not met, he or she will have little motivation to do well academically or spiritually.

Krishna, please protect our children from mentalities such as the author's. How insensitve, irresponsible, and totally ignorant, especially since so many of ISKCON'S children have gone through horrible abuse. In my opinion, the author's article is a hate crime towards children, as the quote surely exhibits: "The bottom line is that the children, instead of growing up to be obnoxious, duplicitous liars [by lack of corporal punishment, according to the author] should be trained to be . . . the actual "Vaisnava Children [by corporal punishment, according to the author] that present day society so desperately needs."

Dear author, please do not even try to resort to using the example of Mother Yasoda punishing Krishna. As devotees, we should all know by now that we cannot compare our actions to the pastimes of Lord Krishna.

Every so often an opinion of such hate comes about that it leaves me stunned and shaking. How can we stand for it? It is these attitudes that can bring religious societies like ISKCON and the Catholic church to ruin and shame (see, for example, The Magdalene Sisters Asylum in Ireland). Prabhupada, please guide them.