#6: CORPORAL PUNISHMENT
‘Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child’ is one of the most insidious axioms ever uttered and one that too many parents accept as a universal truth.
Let me be clear; punishment does NOT work. It never has and never will. If punishment worked, we would have no need of prisons because we would have all learned to be good citizens at the hand and belt of our parents.
When we inflict corporal punishment on a child one of two things result:
THE BOLD CHILD... will feign remorse and find better ways to hide their crimes. This child will see corporal punishment as frustrated anger from an impotent parent, disconnected from their own transgressions, and will learn to better hide doing what she wants to do despite the wishes of that parent. Once successful at this tactic, this child will savour the reward of putting one over on her parent, eroding the parent’s authority and their relationship with each instance.
THE TIMID CHILD
... will develop a paralyzing fear of further punishment and will be unwilling - or unable - to take even healthy risks. These are the children we see on the edges of playgrounds hesitantly observing the wild play of other children, remaining terrified of joining in for fear of ‘doing something wrong’ and being punished once again. Timid children who have been traumatized by corporal punishment will develop a subservient alignment with adults, and spend their lives seeking approval of others while harbouring the deep-set belief that they are incompetent or ‘bad’.
Corporal Punishment is the refuge of parents whose frustration has moved into the realm of anger, and who desperately need more tools to parent effectively. The generational practice of corporal punishment that has been passed down through the ages, thankfully, is diminishing, but far too many people still rely on it; a 2014 USA study indicated that 76% of men and 65% of women believe that children sometimes need “a good hard spanking”.
I once had an acquaintance who justified using corporal punishment on his children by declaring that; “My dad spanked me and I turned out alright.” I asked him how he knew that? Then pointed out that he chain-smoked, was divorced, had strained relationships with his grown children, and had lost every job he’d ever had due to his own anger issues. He fell into introspective silence as he considered this.
Elizabeth Gershoff, PhD of the University of Texas at Austin and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, PhD of the University of Michigan conducted a metastudy on corporal punishment that drew data from over 1,500 papers, covering 50 years of research, and studying over 160,000 children. The outcome of Gershoff’s and Grogan-Kaylor’s research indicated that children who were spanked had poorer relationships with their parents, lower levels of moral internalization (meaning that they did not learn how to judge right or wrong, but how to avoid getting hit), acted out with aggression with their peers, and had higher rates of adolescent criminal behaviour.
Parents who use corporal punishment also have a higher likelihood of escalating their own behaviour into the realm of child abuse. Corporal punishment itself is on the leading edge of the child abuse spectrum.
What does work with children (and adults) are natural consequences; naturally occurring results of a poor choice. Touch a hot stove and you burn your hand. No one imposed it, no one did it to you, it was the result of your own choice.
The second approach that works nearly as well especially with children old enough to develop theory of mind is applying logical consequences. If a child is difficult to awaken in the morning for school, the logic would be that they are not getting enough sleep, therefore they need an earlier bedtime. To spank a child for resisting to arise on time in the morning will be viewed by the child as simple cruelty and will illicit feelings of resentment toward, or fear of the parent.
We often instruct children to ‘use your words’. Parents should follow their own advice.Aaron D. McClelland, MPCC-S - www.interiorcounselling.com