Raising The Future

Because The Children of Tomorrow are Everyone’s Responsibility!

Today I’m going to write about an issue I personally have some strong feelings around. I also know that others feel strongly about this subject, either sharing my beliefs on the topic, or quite the opposite. So, I’m going to preface this article by saying that I’m not here to judge anyone. I believe we’ve all made mistakes in our lives. On a personal, national, and global level we’ve all done our fair share of fucking up. And Compassionate Nation isn’t about judging and pointing fingers, its about discussing what we can do as a society to make for a more compassionate world. I also believe it is time to speak openly and honestly about issues which effect all of us, and today the issue I want to discuss is corporal punishment of children.

I’m aware this is a sensitive subject for many reasons. For some, it triggers their own childhood traumas, and for others it may put them on the defensive, feeling they have to justify their parenting decisions. I want to be very clear here, THIS IS NOT ABOUT BEING A BAD PARENT OR A GOOD PARENT. This is about changing a “societal norm” that is steeped in out-dated beliefs and is arguably causing serious harm to children, parents, the relationship between the two, and society as a whole.

First of all, I think there is a societal stigma around discussing this because people are afraid to offend parents and people feel it is a parents right to raise their child as they see fit. I disagree. When a child’s wellness is at stake, that is a societal issue. A child is not able to defend themselves, and so it is everyone’s job to do so. And we need only project ten or fifteen years into the future to understand that children become adults, and adults can very easily become society’s problem.

Furthermore, whereas it used to be a commonly held belief that NOT hitting your child would produce a spoiled or selfish or undisciplined individual, scientific psychological research done over a 50 year period has shown that the opposite is true.

HITTING YOUR KIDS, INCLUDING SPANKING,LEADS TO A WEALTH OF PSYCHOLOGICAL, EMOTIONAL, AND EVEN PHYSICAL BRAIN DAMAGE.

We are talking loss of IQ, increased criminal behavior, addictive behavior, increased chances of being abused as a child and as an adult, increased chances of abusing others as a child and an adult,  inability to cope with extreme emotions in a healthy way, anger and aggression issues, inability to self regulate, anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, and a slew of other negative consequences that breed problems well into adulthood.

Don’t believe me? Check out any number of these studies: 

Psychology Today- Research on Spanking: It’s Bad For All Kids

Psychology Today- How Spanking Harms the Brain

Psychology Today- The Spanking Debate is Over

American Psychological Association- The Case Against Spanking

Scientific American- What Science Says and Doesn’t Say about Spanking

Or just google it and you’ll find an overwhelming amount of scientific research on the subject.

And, if you want to hear a really great discussion on the subject from a mental health professional who openly admits that she spanked her kid and regrets it because of her own research on the subject, check out this TEDx Talk.

Violence- A Family Tradition with Robbyn Peters Bennett

Okay, so now that we’ve established that ALL corporal punishment is an issue, let’s focus on the possible solutions. I have a few suggestions here, but please feel free to help brainstorm some more solutions in the comments.

  1. First of all, let’s look at this from the most close-up perspective. That of the parent and child relationship. It’s more than possible, according to statistics, that if you’re a parent, you have already spanked or otherwise hit your child. My parents certainly practiced that form of discipline on me, and I’m related to or acquainted with a lot of parents who continue to do so with their children. The way I see it, if this is something practiced in your household and you are reading this article, you can respond in one of two ways: Either you go on the defensive, dig in your heels, and do everything you can to defend and justify why you’ve already hit your child and will continue to do so, OR you can consider apologizing to your child, explaining to them that you made a mistake, and decide never to do it again. I wish my parent’s would have done the latter. Unfortunately, when I attempted to discuss it with them as a child, (and later as a teenager), They went with the dig-their-heels-in approach and it took many years for us to have any sort of healthy relationship. Now, my parents will admit that they wish they had done things differently. They apologized, and even as an adult, hearing that apology made a big positive impact on my mental health. My parent’s aren’t bad people, and they certainly weren’t trying to be bad parents, they were just doing what they knew to do. They were doing what they’d been taught by their parents and what society deemed as nobody else’s business. But that parenting decision cost us a lot. It cost us years of bad relations, and guilt, and blame, and anger. It’s cost everyone thousands in therapy. And I was a very troubled youth. Please, consider the apology now. It will hurt less in the long run.

2. Make it illegal on a federal level.Period. Let’s join the other 53 countriesthat have made all forms of corporal punishment illegal. And no, I don’t think it’s a good idea to flood the foster care system with every child who has receive a smack on the hand, (I know there are some great foster parents out there. But there are also a lot of abuse cases coming out of foster homes), but I do think there should be mandatory parenting classes and family counseling. And maybe treat it like probation, like you will serve X amount of time or pay X amount in a fine if you don’t attend the classes/counseling and then your child may have to be taken into another home for a while. Kids should have a legal foot to stand on.

3. I think we should teach kids child psychologyand inform them of their basic human rightsin school. Just as I think it would be incredibly powerful to make learning a second language, basic finances, and political science mandatory starting in grade school, teaching children about their own development and psychological needs can only make for more aware individuals. I believe if kids are learning about what they need to flourish, they will be more likely to spot when their needs aren’t being met at home. It would help them grow up to understand that even if they were hit, it’s not the best thing they can do as a parent some day. It would let them know that the anger and anxiety they may be feeling is normal. Also, it would open up lines of communication between teachers and students, providing a safe space for children to share if something upsetting is going on at home.

4. More public awareness efforts.Commercials, news broadcasts, billboards, etc. Let’s make this a very socially aware issue. And, let’s agree that as a society, we do not condone corporal punishment. Societal pressure can have a pretty powerful psychological effect on people. How about we use that pressure for something good?

5. Provide free parenting, child psychology, and other such classesat hospitals, schools, clinics, and other public service facilities. Mandate that all doctors, midwives, obstetricians, gynecologists, pediatricians, planned parenthoods, and other such professionals or organizations discuss this with their patients. These classes should be as well known and accepted as learning lamaze or taking prenatal vitamins.

Please, if you have any other ideas for addressing what is in my opinion a public health crisis, please share in the comments below. And remember, the children of today are the future of tomorrow. It is up to us, as a society, to raise a compassionate future.

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