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A New Order of Discipline

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This article is part of a series in celebration of a new, dynamic voice in Black America: the NUBIANO Exchange. Brace yourself for the NUBIANO experience.

by Zacch Estrada-Petersen

I used to think good parenting came naturally. I believed that instinctively, at the moment of conception, a mental software program was uploaded into each parent, teaching them exactly how to raise a child, error-free, from birth to adulthood – and then I grew up. I realized not only is there no such mental software, but also, in many cases, the only parenting skills practiced are those by which the new parents themselves were raised.

In the 1970’s, an extensive study conducted by the Center for the Improvement of Child Caring found that most of the low to middle-income Black parents studied used “harsh disciplinary practices that originated historically as survival adjustments to slavery.” However they may have originated, it’s not uncommon to see Black parents who are quick to employ the rod and then discuss the reasons once the situation de-escalates. Though slightly less common, many black parents find “I’ma beat your a–” holds the same meaning as “I will punish you.”

When my parents used spankings, it was evident I had done something above and beyond what would warrant a simple verbal reprimand. At the same time, having done six years of my schooling in predominantly Black schools where corporal punishment was permitted and readily employed, I found even the most minor offenses were punished by its use.

The issue to me is not its practice, but its over-practice. Dr. Alvin Poussaint, M.D., a Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry, argues that corporal punishment only teaches children that violence is the way to solve problems. Other studies note its consistent use only builds up anger that is released elsewhere – in our communities.

I’m not suggesting Black parenting skills be more in tune with those commonly practiced by White parents, because I’ve found that White parenting skills have a tendency to be comparatively lenient and ineffective. My hope is that more Black parents will explore more productive and effectual methods of discipline that will produce only the desired effects (positive behavior) and eliminate the negative effects that eventually spill over outside of the home and into the black community.


Davis, Gwendoly & Abdul-Kabir, Saburah. Stickin' To, Watchin' Over, and Gettin' With: An African American Parent's Guide to Discipline.

Comer, James & Poussaint, Alvin. Raising Black Children.

Effective Black Parenting Handbook. Center for the Improvement of Child Caring.

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About Clayton Perry