I am deeply concerned about the recent surge in violence towards children in the name of “Christian” values, religion, parental rights and school “discipline”. Pain infliction on children seems to have a hold on the cultural beliefs of Americans like an ugly memory that won’t fade. Pain infliction on children in this article refers to “spanking” and other forms of “corporal punishment”, including smacking, paddling, grabbing, yanking, squeezing, shaking, not allowing children to eliminate bodily waste, or to hydrate or to eat when they have the need. Pain infliction also includes, but is not limited to, forcing exercise or fixed body positions as punishment.
Let’s call these acts what they truly are: Assaultive, hurtful, distressing, traumatizing and violence against children. These acts are cruel and considered acts of assault or even torture when inflicted upon adults. Despite that 31 countries have abolished the use of pain infliction to control or punish children, Americans continue to believe that controlling a child through pain infliction is acceptable.
The fact that people are still believing that committing violence against a child is an acceptable way to raise them is tragic to me. Over 60 years of research has consistently shown that deliberate pain infliction on children in the name of parental or school punishment and control has long term traumatizing effects on children. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, suicidal or homicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, mental illness, shame, lowered IQ, aggression and future violence are all effects of trauma and are all linked to “corporal punishment” and other forms of pain infliction.
Trauma alters a child’s neural development, causing psychological symptoms such as anxiety, fear, panic, avoidance, depression, anger, rage outbursts and other trigger-responses. Trauma scars and stunts psychological development, stifling emotions and causing layers of complicated defenses. These defenses become character traits in people that negatively affect their relationships and can unleash when anyone triggers an unconscious reminder of the past trauma. Most adults have no conscious awareness that when they become angry or enraged in the present, it is often due to a past traumatic memory becoming triggered.
Additionally, inflicting pain on children as a means to punish and control has been consistently linked to children developing complicated and confusing sexual feelings and associations. Mixing pain with pleasure, control with care and fear with love can cause sexual fetishes to develop in children, especially when pain infliction involves hitting the buttocks or controlling or denying bodily functions such as elimination and even eating.
Parenting and educating with violence guarantees harm to the parent-child attachment relationship and puts your child at risk to become rageful, angry and rebellious or depressed, passive and subservient. Being the victim of a violent childhood puts children at risk for being victims or perpetrators of emotional, physical or even sexual violence.
Most parents who hit and hurt their children lack a basic understanding of child development and of their children’s needs. When children of any age have a need, it is a parent’s job to meet that need. If children’s needs are not met, they will naturally display alarm signals, often in the form of protesting, withdrawing, apathy, emotional instability, aggression or other acting-out behavior. If we meet our children’s needs, we can heal the damage done by punitive or aggressive parenting and reduce acting-out. The goal of parenting should never be obedience and conformity to a parent’s needs and wishes- The goal of parenting is to raise happy, holistically healthy, emotionally stable and compassionate people- You cannot do this with violence, punishment and force.
A secure and deeply connected parent-child attachment relationship is the best way to prevent trauma and behavioral and emotional problems in children. My book, Instead of Medicating and Punishing: Healing the Causes of Our Children’s Acting-Out Behavior by Parenting and Educating the Way Nature Intended, can help parents who wish to parent in a compassionate, natural manner begin the journey of listening to nature’s intent and healing their relationships with their children. For parents who would like deeper support, my parenting coaching and consultation sessions will compassionately guide parents in learning and applying natural parenting skills and healing the parent-child attachment relationship, regardless of the age of your child. It is wonderful that no matter what your child’s age, healing can begin!