Over the weekend, I witnessed a physical assault on a young child. You might not be surprised to know that he was with his parents at the time. I was in a store with my wife and a couple who had previously allowed their young boy to run around unattended, suddenly sprung into action when he picked something up. The mother dragged him up by the arm and beat him with such force that it at first took his breath away before he let out a scream. They quickly moved away but the sight of that child’s little face haunted me afterwards and it made me wonder what lies in store for him as he grows up.
According to the research paper “The Psychology of Spanking”, 78 percent of fathers and 66 percent of mothers in the US, believe that a child “needs a good, hard spanking” and 15 percent of children have been spanked while still babies before the age of one (Yes, you read that correctly). Many parents who advocate spanking justify that it is for the child’s “own good” or they do it “because they love them”. Some said in the paper that they did not know how to parent or were overwhelmed with frustration or anger in a given moment. Some stated that they often blamed the child because their behaviour “made the parent spank them”. Obviously these are not positive messages to be sending a developing child who might pick up the idea that it is fine to hit someone you love or who steps out of line. Spanking can be defined as a form of bullying which will have an impact on a child’s brain. The child will be so terrified by the aggression and intimidation, terrorising and physical pain that they will stop the behaviour that instigated the assault but the behaviour will be driven underground and mixed with guilt and shame.
Children who are frequently subjected to spanking suffer from a number of issues directly related to it. A meta analysis of eighty-eight scientific studies over 62 years reported a 94 percent consensus that children who were spanked consistently were associated with the following behaviour and experiences: Decreased moral internalisation, increased aggression (destroying, attacking, yelling), increased anti-social behaviour, decreased quality of relationships, decreased mental health, increased risk of abusing own children, increased risk of domestic abuse.
Children who have been spanked are also more likely to suffer from stress-related illness. Spanked children are taught that immediate compliance is needed putting them under extreme pressure. Stress in these children can lead to adult issues such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and many more.
Spanking teaches children that violence is a solution and communication is not needed. There is absolutely NOTHING positive in terms of learning that comes from physically assaulting a child. It doesn’t teach them boundaries or anger management but it says to them that they are “bad” or “wrong” because of normal childhood behaviour.
Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash