It's Never Okay To Hit A Child - Period.

In the October 2009 issue of O Magazine we recently came across a disturbing response in the O Advice section titled, “Now What Do I Do?”

The question below regarding whether or not so spank a child was so badly handled by the magazine’s “experts,” we felt we absolutely had to respond.

Q: My 3-year-old son has acquired the habit of running away from me,
sometimes right into traffic. The other day, he did it, and I was so angry
and scared that I spanked him pretty hard. I got a lot of dirty looks, but
he hasn't done it since. Is spanking always a bad idea?

A#1 by Anita L. Allen, professor of law and philosophy, the University of Pennsylvania Law School:
Never hit a child in anger! Children can experience what you intend
to be "discipline" as violence. Parents who strike children in anger may
injure them or set a bad example. You say spanking works -- but research
does not back you up. I am categorically opposed to corporal punishment.

A#2 by Jack Marshall, president, ProEthics:
I agree: A spanking should never be motivated by anger. Administering a spanking out of emotion, rather than as a calculated effort to teach, is misguided parental conduct that can turn into a dangerous habit. But I don't believe spanking is inherently wrong, if it is controlled, explained, just, symbolic, and rare, rather than routine and excruciating. Spanking, if used, must be seen by the child as a reluctant act of a loving parent who has a clear message to convey -- not the impulsive act of a vengeful adult.


By Children’s Advocate, Roger Hyde

Violence is never a useful communication tool unless you wish to kill or disable. Every use of violence puts a whole list of distracting emotions and ideas ahead of the lesson desired. A child learns slowly and tends to be distracted and confused when Fear, Pain, Disillusionment with the good intentions of the parent, crying/snot/cringing and various reflexive urges to flee the danger are interposed in the learning process. Parent as enemy, terrorist, dictator creates a long hike back after each punishment if they hope to have fences mended and a happy tuck-in at bedtime.

The option is there--and universally used by Sojourn and other agencies-- never to be the users of revenge. When a child does something dangerous and irresponsible: be loud, dramatic, emphatic: "It's DANGEROUS! I'm Scared! Never, ever do that again! You could get hurt and have to go to the hospital!
Or you could die and we'd never play again!! All of your plans and dreams could stop. Please: never do that again!!!"

An adult with any communications skills equal to or better than the child's can devise a way to get the message across dramatically and make a BETTER, STRONGER impression--and a teaching one--that is NOT eclipsed by fear of the parent, pain, disillusionment with the parent, and the ultimate distraction of having a whole new crisis push the original issue off the screen.

The simple question is: does the adult want control or education? Even trying to have both is more trouble than it's worth--ever.

If you're still not convinced, check out this article, "Study Links Spanking to Aggression" by DAVID CRARY

©The Associated Press NEW YORK

Study Links Spanking to Aggression

After analyzing six decades of expert research on corporal punishment, a psychologist says parents who spank their children risk causing long-term harm that outweighs the short-term benefit of instant obedience. The psychologist, Elizabeth Gershoff, found links between spanking and 10 negative behaviors or experiences, including aggression, anti-social behavior and mental health problems. The one positive result of spanking that she identified was quick compliance with parental demands. ``Americans need to re-evaluate why we believe it is reasonable to hit young, vulnerable children, when it is against the law to hit other adults, prisoners, and even animals,'' Gershoff writes in the new edition of the American Psychological Association's bimonthly journal.

Her analysis, one of the most comprehensive ever on the topic of spanking in America, was accompanied in the Psychological Bulletin by a critique from three other psychologists. They defend mild to moderate spanking as a viable disciplinary option, especially for children 2 to 6, but advise parents with abusive tendencies to avoid spanking altogether.

Gershoff, a researcher at Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty, spent five years on her project, analyzing 88 studies of corporal punishment conducted since 1938. The studies tracked both the short- and long-term effects of spanking on children. Gershoff stopped short of endorsing a legal ban on parental corporal punishment, saying the United States was unlikely to emulate a group of European countries in taking that step. However, she urged parents who spank to reconsider their options.

``When they're in a situation where they're considering spanking, think of something else to do - leave the room, count to 10, and come back again,'' Gershoff said in an interview Tuesday. ``The risk is just too great.''

Several major national organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have taken an official stand against corporal punishment by parents. The psychological association has not taken a stance, though it is on record opposing corporal punishment at schools and other institutions.

Robert Larzelere, a psychology professor at the Nebraska Medical Center, was one of the three experts critiquing Gershoff's findings. He noted that while she found links between spanking and negative behaviors, she did not assert categorically that spanking caused those behaviors. Larzelere, in an interview, said he remains convinced that mild, non-abusive spanking can be an effective reinforcement of nonphysical disciplinary methods, particularly in dealing with defiant 2- to 6-year-olds. He shared concerns about spanking that is too severe or too frequent.

Gershoff cautioned that her findings do not imply that all children who are spanked turn out to be aggressive or delinquent. But she contended that corporal punishment, on its own, does not teach children right from wrong and may not deter them from misbehaving when their parents are absent. ``Until researchers, clinicians, and parents can definitively demonstrate the presence of positive effects of corporal punishment, including effectiveness in halting future misbehavior, not just the absence of negative effects, we as psychologists can not responsibly recommend its use,'' Gershoff wrote.

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