Why Do We Still Spank (Hit) Children?
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.
Overview of Physical Punishment
It turns out that physical punishment is a serious public health problem in the United States, and it profoundly affects the mental health of children and the society in which we live. Studies show that over 60% of families still use physical punishment to discipline children. Yet, the research shows that: physical punishment is associated with an increase in delinquency, antisocial behavior, and aggression in children; and physical punishment is associated with a decrease in the quality of the parent-child relationship, mental health, and the child's capacity to internalize socially acceptable behavior. 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.
Spanking is a euphemism for hitting. One is not permitted to hit one's spouse or a stranger; these actions are considered domestic violence and/or assault. Nor should one be permitted to hit a smaller and even more vulnerable child. Hitting a child elicits precisely the feelings one does not want to generate in a child: distress, anger, fear, shame, and disgust. Studies show that children who are hit will "identify with the aggressor," and they are more likely to become hitters themselves, i.e., bullies and future abusers of their children and spouses. They tend to learn to use violent behavior as a way to deal with disputes.
Read more here.
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Paul Holinger, M.D.
A founder of the Center for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, Dr. Holinger is a leading expert on child development and child behavior.
He is the author of the acclaimed book What Babies Say Before They Can Talk.
Quick Parenting Tip
Always stop for a moment and ask yourself: "What are the feelings behind my child's words or actions?"
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Dr. Holinger talks about what you can do when you see another parent hit a child in Small Steps.
Now give us your opinion:
If you saw an adult hitting a child in a public place, how likely would you be to intervene?
less likely ... ... more likely
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