Why do we still spank children? The usual answer is to get them to do what we think is best for them — i.e., to obtain behavioral compliance. And, yet, the answer is much more complicated. Dealing with children can stir up very charged and old feelings. The arguments and screaming of a child can push the same buttons that one's own parents or siblings pushed long ago. Or perhaps one does to one's child what was done to oneself: "I was spanked as a child, and I turned out all right." — Yes, but perhaps you turned out all right in spite of the spanking, not because of it … and perhaps things would have been even better if the effective alternatives to spanking which do exist had been utilized.
Issues & Advice: August 2009
Physical punishment is associated with an increase in delinquency, antisocial behavior, and aggression in children, and a decrease in the quality of the parent-child relationship, mental health, and the child's capacity to internalize socially acceptable behaviors; adults who have been subject to physical punishment as children are more likely to abuse their own child or spouse and to manifest criminal behavior.
In the last few articles, the earliest feelings of your baby have been described — feelings that are actually built-in by the time your baby is born. There is some scientific controversy about how many primary feelings exist, but, as noted previously, the best model suggests nine feelings: interest, enjoyment, surprise, distress, anger, fear, shame, disgust (reaction to toxic tastes), and dissmell (reaction to toxic odors).
Now, how do these feelings work? Try putting aside everything you have ever learned about feelings before!
Your baby's six built-in negative feelings are terribly important: they represent your baby’s way of sending an SOS signal, saying “Help! I’m in trouble! Please help me!”
What do your baby's earliest feelings look like? That is, how does your baby express her feelings? There are two positive feelings: interest and enjoyment. There is one transitional or "re-setting" feeling, surprise: surprise seems to clear or rest the nervous system to prepare it for the next stimulus.
Let’s just take a brief look at your baby’s earliest feelings. You might ask “How do you know my baby even has feelings?” Great question! After all, the baby is not using words yet to tell you how he/she is feeling! I’ll explore this question later when discussing how feelings work, but for now the answer lies primarily in the facial expressions of your baby.
Current research shows that your baby is born with about 8 to 10 built-in feelings, as shown by the facial expressions. Although there are some interesting controversies in this area, the best information available now suggests humans are born with 9 feelings.