Having been a child and having raised two sons, I must agree with the recent findings of Tufts Medical Center, which is taking an even stronger stand against spanking or hitting a child as a means of discipline, than they did 20 years ago. They conclude that parents should never hit their child and never use verbal insults that would humiliate or shame the child.
As kids, I and my siblings were occasionally spanked, and even as a child I didn’t think it was all that persuasive. What I remember the most was that I always hurt, to the core, to think I might disappoint my Dad. That was by far the more effective discipline in my life. I realize it was because of the relationship we had. And therein lays the secret of raising kids; and the report hints as much: “Kids like attention, they crave that…”
And there’s no one’s attention they want more than their parents’. Watch the next time you see a family dining out or shopping or at an event, and watch the kids as they deal with parents who are giving all their attention to their cell phone.
Ignoring one’s children is sad enough, but there is an even greater tragedy that parents perpetrate upon their children – asking them to make sense of contradictions. Nothing parents and other adults do is more damaging to a child’s psychic. A beating would be less harmful.
As a parent, I quickly discovered that my childhood observations were accurate. Early attempts at spanking seemed to make issues worse, as I was indignantly reminded by our kids, “You said we shouldn’t hit!”
How do you answer that? How do you not perpetrate a major contradiction to your children in spanking them, while trying to teach them that the use of force against others is wrong? To insist that contradictions are possible is by far the greater harm. A swat on the rear end does not hurt a kid as much as trying to force them to make sense of a world that doesn’t make sense.
The Tufts Medical Center article said nothing about that, but if it is concerned about sound childrearing and the molding of adults who are able to function in the world, they should delve into how we approach the minds of youngsters, more so than any other factors. After all, the primary means of survival for human beings is our ability to reason. To do anything that cripples that ability, especially for the young, trusting and innocent, is an unspeakable cruelty. But it happens all the time, with almost no recognition that it is a problem.
But, swat a kid on the butt and a parent could land in jail for abuse. No correction is directed, however, to the parent, who belittles their child, or who persistently lies to them and imposes expectations that they accept lies as reasonable, or who encourages them to subjugate reason to emotion, and who teach a child that they should accept all this as an effective means to deal with the world.
A kid pointing out a contradiction is often reprimanded, but they should be commended for using their little brain as it should be used, even when the point they make might be embarrassing to the adult. I have watched the faces of little ones trying to make sense of nonsensical things, to please someone they trust. Their little faces usually reflect what appears to be fear and confusion, as they struggle to subjugate their little minds, to the irrational demands of someone they look up to.
All contradictions incorporate a lie – often a lie someone is telling themselves, which they attempt to sustain by insisting a child accept the resulting contradiction. If you don’t want your children to lie, then don’t ever, ever lie to them, certainly not when they are watching – and remember they are ALWAYS watching. Granted, there are times that a lie might not be inappropriate; but, in that moment, acknowledge to a child that it is a contradiction and why you view it as an acceptable exception, but make sure your reasoning is sound!
Given the degree to which some people, who happen to be parents, are irrational, just imagine the torment their children endure. Just imagine, over time, how much inner turmoil and uncertainty, with which some children must live, daily. When that is compounded by teachers, media and society in general (as we all know it is), with no one to help them sort it all out, just imagine the mental destruction that occurs. Just imagine a child’s internal pain as they try come to terms with what may seem, to them, as their own failings. To them it seems that they are unable to make sense of things about which so many others seem to understand.
Just encountering some, one person, who will explain to them that not everyone in the world makes sense – who encourages them to trust to their own cognitive abilities – just that one person can make all the difference to a youngster who is thinking that they are the one at fault. But for many youngsters that one person never comes. By the time they reach the even more confusing teen years, when they are overwhelmed even more so by the irrational emotions generated by run-a-muck hormones. . . by that time, they have little chance of emerging as rational, capable adults.
Their self- confidence is eroded and they feel incapable of any achievement, leaving them frustrated and angry – angry at a world that they do not understand. Just imagine, now, how those feelings might manifest themselves as the child tries to deal with the world – destructiveness, violence, bullying, drugs and even suicide are all possible escape mechanisms which they may choose in preference to an insane world.