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Spare the rod, teach the child

By eldickenson May 13, 2015 2799 Words

Spare the rod, teach the child
For as long as anyone can remember it has always been thought, and taught, that if you did not physically punish a child that they would grow up to be spoiled, rude and out of control. Most parents at the time believed in this model and some took it to extremes to what is abuse. Most did not or do not realize that it is causing harm and long term effects to the child. Many people thought and still do think, “I was spanked or otherwise physically punished and I turned out okay”, however that may not be the case. There is really no way to know for sure how one would have turned out differently if they had been taught or punished in a different way. The most that can be done is to look at the evidence and studies done to draw conclusions as to how children learn. The research, studies and the evidence is quite clear on this. Physical forms of punishment and abuse have long lasting negative effects both mentally and emotionally on children well into later life and cause more harm than good. Some would argue that it is ok to spank a child or yell at them because they are misbehaving or not doing something they are told. So if that were the case it would be ok to strike or scream at your wife/husband for doing something you do not like as well. Almost everyone knows, it is not okay for that to happen. That is considered domestic violence or assault and most people would never stand for that. To many though, that is a different situation, however if it is thought through, children are just smaller versions of the parents. They are human beings, small and young, but still human beings, and deserve to be treated in the same fashion and respect as their larger and older counterparts. You would not just walk up to someone on the street and hit them for doing or saying something you did not like. Just like any adult, children have the right to live in an environment where they are safe from being physically assaulted. There are better, more effective, humane and longer lasting ways to teach a child good from bad and right from wrong then hurting a child. Studies have shown that physical and verbal abuse have very negative consequences starting from the time the incident happens to later in life. To look at the short term a few of the immediate consequences are, instant fear response, the want to hide things from the parent and the beginning of distrust with the parent to just name a few. Long term affects are even more severe and according to Dr. Nestor Lopez-Duran, “Children who are spanked, when compared to their non-spanked peers, are, among many others: more likely to use aggression against their peers, less likely to internalize rules, more likely to engage in criminal activity during adolescence, more likely to engage in domestic abuse as adults, more likely to suffer from depression and on and on and on.” Not to mention the substance abuse issues that can arise. One cannot blame their parents for using corporal punishment for the simple fact that it is what they were taught by their parents and going back for generations this was the way child rearing was done. Eventually one of the most prominent minds of the times declared this and wrote that, this is the way children should be raised. In the 1920’s John B. Watson's well-respected book, Psychological Care of Infant and Child, was published and in it he wrote, “Mother love is a dangerous instrument. An instrument which may inflict a never healing wound, which may make infancy unhappy, adolescence a nightmare, an instrument which may wreck your adult son or daughter's vocational future and their chances for marital happiness." Parents were advised by Dr. Watson to "never hug or kiss the child. Parents were never to let the child sit on your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when you say goodnight”. This is the basis for what our parents/grandparents were taught in the ways to raise children. It was the best knowledge of the time, however if one was to look back at it, at the same time there were doctors, and yes even Santa Clause, were recommending cigarettes in advertisements for everything from easing sore throats to easing anxiety. We know now that is not the truth and is considered utterly ridiculous however, back then it was what the “studies” showed so it was the best knowledge of the time. The next thing that came along in parenting skills for teaching and discipline was in 1946 by pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock. His approach was more loving, permissive and nurturing. Dr. Spock advocated a kinder gentler way to raise children, almost the exact opposite of Dr. Watson’s ideas on what was good for children. In on the website can be found a snippet of Dr. Spock’s 1946 edition of, Common sense on baby and child care, Dr. Spock had a friendlier “un-authoritarian”, yet fatherly writing style. In his book he said “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do”. Dr. Spock encouraged parents to treat their children with respect and affection rather than “arm themselves with leather belts put to use at the first sign of disobedience.” Many people however got the idea that he said you should not spank your children when in fact he never said that. In fact Dr. Spock got a lot of the blame for the 60s counter culture because of his book and was accused of promoting such a permissive way of raising children that it destroyed many lives with those children growing up and turning to free-sex, drugs, rock music and so on. Basically that he was to blame for the hippies / counter-culture movement is how many viewed it. This leads us to another great Pediatrician and childhood development expert, Dr T. Berry Brazelton, author of the bestselling 1992 book, Touchpoints: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development. In his book Dr. Brazelton explains that “Physical punishment gives the wrong message. Remember what it means to a child to see you lose control and act physically aggressive. It means you believe in using physical aggression to solve problems.” Instead he suggests to,” Fit the discipline to the child’s stage of development. For an infant or toddler, try at first to divert him to another activity. If this doesn’t work — and it won’t very often — you may need to remove him bodily. For a child over two, discipline should always include an explanation (but not an excuse) for his reasons for “acting out”; try to figure out what triggered the child’s aggressive behavior and give him a chance to understand it himself.” In any case make sure you show them love, affection and respect and in return they will develop the same for you and others as they grow. In recent years new research has come out showing the ineffectiveness of corporal punishment and the damaging effects it has on children. In a study by Prof. Victoria Talwar of McGill University, Prof. Stephanie M. Carlson of the University of Minnesota, and Prof. Kang Lee of the University of Toronto of 63 children showed that the findings, published by the journal Social Development and shown on the Website Science Daily, “suggest that a harshly punitive environment may have long-term detrimental effects on children's verbal intelligence and their executive-functioning ability. As a result, children exposed to a harshly punitive environment may be at risk for behavioral problems related to deficits in executive-functioning, the study indicates”. "This study demonstrates that corporal punishment does not teach children how to behave or improve their learning," Prof. Talwar said. Corporal punishment also leads to aggressive behavior in children and continuing into adulthood. Children who experience corporal punishment are more likely to use aggression to resolve conflict according to Dr. Craig Hart of Brigham Young University in his paper, Children’s expectations of the outcomes of social strategies: Relations with sociometric status and maternal disciplinary styles. Physical punishment can also have other lasting negative effects. Spanking and other forms of physical punishment can have a negative impact in regards to sexual and adult relationship problems later in life. In the handout, “Spanking may lead to aggression and sexual problems later in life says a new study. So why do so many parents still believe in it?” by Claudia Kalb it gives one example of university students who were surveyed that of those who ranked highest on the corporal punishment scale 25% insisted on sex without a condom, compared to 12.5% who scored lowest on the scale. Another stat showed that 75% of college students surveyed who said they had been spanked a lot as a child said they were sexually aroused by masochistic sex, compared to only 40% of those who were never spanked. She goes on to admit that “The new study has its weaknesses, but so does just about every other paper in the field. For starters, you can’t study spanking in the randomized double-blind way you can medication. It would be ethically inappropriate to divide a bunch of kids into two groups, spank some, spare others and compare how they fare 10 or 20 years down the road.” With the surveys that have been done and with other ways of collecting information the evidence is compelling though that corporal punishment is not the best method of teaching our youngest and most vulnerable people. The use of physical punishment can lead to instances of greater abuse and should be avoided in all cases. In the April 2012 Monitor on Psychology, Elizabeth Gershoff, a leading researcher on physical punishment at the University of Texas at Austin states “Physical punishment doesn’t work to get kids to comply, so parents think they have to keep escalating it. That is why it is so dangerous.” It may work momentarily to stop unwanted behaviors however when the behavior re-occurs many parents think they just need to punish children a little harsher and that can lead to instances of severe child abuse. It only takes an instant for a physical punishment to become extreme and lead to permanent damage or possibly death. It is reported about in the news often, where a child is hurt or killed because someone got angry and hit, shook, threw and even very recently stomped on a baby or a small child. This happens for even the simplest of misbehaviors or just because a child will not stop crying. People come up with a million and one excuses for when they lose control. Everything from being tired, stressed, a bad day at work, and the list goes on and on. In reality there is no excuse for hurting a child. Parents and caregivers should and must always keep in mind, they are the adult in any given situation and they are vastly stronger and larger than the little person they are in charge of. One must remember that the person they are dealing with is just that, a little person. Someone albeit smaller than them, but a person just the same and a child is deserving of love, respect and a safe environment in which to grow and develop into an adult. It only takes one time, one instance to change a life forever. In fact everything that is done, good or bad to a child effects a child’s life from that moment on, either positively or negatively. One must think about how the action about to be taken or the words said will affect the future of this tiny human. Parents or caregivers should never lash out in an instant. Instead take a couple of seconds and place yourself in their shoes, then decide if this would be something that would teach you or simply hurt you. Research has shown in many studies that physical punishment will stop the unwanted behavior for the short term, however teaching and instructing in a caring, loving way, will change the behaviors in a more positive, long term and meaningful way. A loving learning environment gives children a chance at a much better future and helps children to grow into more intelligent, caring and well-adjusted adults. This may foster a more peaceful world and in turn may just continue to grow exponentially through the future generations and corporal punishment could end up going the way of the dinosaurs, forever extinct. As can be seen in the college textbook, Experiencing the Lifespan by developmental psychologist Janet Belsky, the world is changing its view on this subject. In the textbook Belsky writes, “Although attitudes about child corporal punishment are more ambivalent, you might be interested to know that in recent years – from Spain to Sweden or Croatia to Costa Rica – a remarkable 24 nations have passed laws totally banning spanking. Organizations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, to the United Nations, to the Methodist Church have also passed resolutions calling corporal punishment “inhumane”.” (211) It is time for everyone to catch up with those 24 countries and get the same idea. The idea that people should not be harmful or hurtful to the most vulnerable and instead, teach those wonderful little humans in ways that encourage and grow their potential. They are after all the ones who have the most to learn and in the future they will change the world, it should be a positive change, a change everyone can be proud of. A quote from Dr. Hiam Ginott. Sums it up beautifully, “Children are like wet cement, whatever falls on them makes an impression.” It is up to us if that is love or anger.

Work Cited:
Belsky, Janet. “Experiencing the Lifespan.” New York, NY: Worth, 2013. Print. Brazelton, T. Berry. “Touchpoints: Your Child’s Emotional and Behavioral Development.” Reading, MA. Addison-Wesley, 1992. Print. Hart, Craig H. Gary W. Ladd and Brant R. Burleson. Child Development. Volume 61, Issue 1 (Pg 127-137). “Children’s Expectations of the Outcomes of Social Strategies: Relations with Sociometric Status and Maternal Disciplinary Styles”. Feb. 1990. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. Kalb, Claudia. “Spanking May Lead to Aggression and Sexual Problems Later in Life, Says a New Study. So why do so Many Parents Still Believe in it?” 28 Feb. 2010. Handout. Smith, Brendon L., Elizabeth Gershoff, PhD and Dr. Nestor Lopez-Duran. “The Case against Spanking.” American Psychological Association, Apr. 2012. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. Spock, Benjamin. “Common Sense on Baby and Child Care.” New York. Duell, Sloan and Pearce. 1946. Print University of Toronto. “Corporal punishment may have long-term negative effects on children’s intelligence.” Science Daily. Web. 26 July 2011. Watson, John B., and Rosalie Alberta (Rayner) Watson. “Psychological Care of Infant and Child.” New York. W.W. Norton, 1928. Print.

Personal Reflections:
I was severely mentally, physically and sexually abused as a child, so I know first-hand how damaging this can be and that it does last for a lifetime. I still live with the consequences of what happened to me from the time I was 5. I have often wondered what I would have become or what difference my life would have been if this did not happen to me. Then I think to myself I would not have this wonderful child I have now if anything in my life would have been different. All I can do now is try to help others. This kind of abuse should never happen to any child and if I can do anything to stop it from happening to at least one it would be worth the effort. Even just spanking a child has lasting effects and should be ended, now. The United States should be leading the way not playing catch-up with the 24 other countries that were referenced in this essay. I learned a lot from doing this research and writing this essay. It is going to help me be a better father and mentor for my son. This has already changed the way I interact with him. I am also actively trying to help others with these issues and am using my knowledge to make a difference. I hope to be able to help others in the future and with each passing class I am working towards that goal. I know I still have a lot to learn but find the field of psychology very fascinating and am hungry to learn more. I look forward to next quarter in the integrated studies class to see where that class will take me.

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