The Science of Bad Parenting
By John M Disque
Edited by Judy Parton
Republishing is open and welcome with credits and link-backs.
Throughout the past few decades Americans have searched the universe for what is increasing the violence in their country. Everything from video games, to TV shows, movies, music, junk food and drugs have been pointed-to and blamed when all of them are mere symptoms of the problem. The real problem is no further than your nearest mirror.
The interest rate of this subject is gigantic but we're not setting out to reach people in denial or those who've already raised their children wrong. --- Our target market is the young people and those just now setting out to start their families. Almost all of them have one thing in common - to be the best parents they can be and we believe we can open their eyes on this issue. (In-fact WE KNOW we can).
On 10/30/2015 I published the above meme in a dozen or so Facebook Groups with the following caption: "Each time you hit a child you are teaching that child to use violence to gain control & get respect."
I've dabbled in this topic off and on throughout my career so I expected a negative response but the most amazing thing happened: People started sharing it, agreeing with it and adding to it.
While a small percentage disagreed and responded negatively, a larger percentage understood what I was saying and began sharing their stories. Many were seeing the big picture and inspired that someone was finally speaking for them.
Corporal punishment is defined as.. a form of physical punishment that involves the deliberate infliction of pain in order to punish a person convicted of a crime or as retribution for a perceived offence, including physical chastisement such as spanking, paddling, or caning of minors by parents, guardians, or school or other ...
A child learns, thinks and grows the same way a great scientist goes about their daily work - they experiment and push the limits of possibilities, yet so many children are punished for this that the very process of thinking is stunted for life.
People think they are thinking but they're not - they're memorizing and repeating what other people are telling them, whether a pastor, a boss, a parent, the daily news or a teacher.
There's two extremes that can take place with this child: either they continue life attempting to gain control and respect via the method of violence... --or-- they become submissive, fearful, non-creative, controlled, bureaucratic shells of human beings attempting to please those who are capable of violence. (BUT - even this person can and will use violence when all else fails. In-fact they have been some of the world's most notorious murderers).
There are a lot of reasons (excuses) parents and guardians use for resorting to corporal punishment: Most often - it's to gain control of the child. Secondly it's to gain respect as a parent. More often - it's done out of ignorance and laziness. People don't know how to sit down with their children and teach them why their behavior was wrong... This takes time, patience, thought and effort and it's easier and faster FOR THEM to just beat them into submission. Almost always - it's done-so for the needs and wants of the parent with no regard to what the child is thinking and concluding.
Once corporal punishment, or the threat of corporal punishment, begins the opportunity to learn "right from wrong" ceases to exist. It's not a lesson that's taking place - it's the attempted control of the child. What the child learns is: this is how to gain control over another human being.
Everyone wants control and respect... especially a powerless child who grows to be a powerless teen, who grows to be a powerless adult... Within the distorted neuron network of their brain... lurks the one remaining option - violence.
A quick swat on the butt never hurt anyone.
While the agenda of the parent is to gain submissive control of the child they're not taking the time or thought to understand what the child is thinking and concluding. It's about power and control - not helping the child.
The infliction of fear on a child who should feel secure among the people who would never harm them is the ultimate betrayal of trust and leaves the child lost and never knowing where to turn for 100% security.
A child doesn't know where the lines are!
A typical question from a parent or guardian who supports corporal punishment is: How do you teach a child where their limits are? How do you keep them from running into traffic? How do you enforce the fact that the parent knows best and gets the final say?
All of these questions magnify the parent's blatant ignorance. There is no more important job than the one you chose to undertake for the rest of your life. The human animal learns and evolves by pushing the boundaries of their limits and possibilities. This beautiful issue should be greatly rewarded and celebrated yet we're setting children up for failure and punishing them for the soul sake of an ego and control trip.
Yes, you're the boss of someone - congratulations. It does not mean you have a license to abuse. It does not mean you're the owner of that person. It does not mean you can do with them whatever boosts your ego.
In the case of danger to a child you simply don't put them in dangerous situations. As the child develops you explain to them why they were kept out of dangerous situations. You wouldn't hand a child a gun and then beat them when they shoot the dog... or maybe you would.. Nevertheless - this would be YOUR fault as a parent - not their fault as a child.
It's none of your damn business how I raise my child!
Yes - it is everyone's business. Your child is not going to be a child forever and we have to live in the same world with someone who's being taught to solve their problems and gain control of other people by inflicting pain on them.
If there's one major disappointment I have with those who understand this it's that they don't speak out often enough. There's not enough articles and books on this issue. There's not enough TV specials. There's not enough social interaction as people have bought into this false belief. It IS your business!
You can't prove a word you're saying!
20 countries around the globe have outlawed corporal punishment and their violence rate has plummeted.
There's a synopsis outlining scientific studies and detailed research included with this article. There's also a list of links taking you to these studies included at the bottom of this article. Science agrees with everything I'm saying.
The problem with the world is too many people are not beating their children and they're allowed to run amuck with no discipline and no consequences for their actions.
True & False...
Neglect is a horrible, horrible form of abuse that does just as much damage as corporal punishment and there are many people who see their own children as a burden on their lives. Most of these people are trying to get through the first 18 years doing as little as possible, letting society and the schools handle the job of parenting and being done with the issue the moment the child is a legal adult. It's a sad, sad reality where the child is being raised by their peers which teach them the same misguided lessons an abusive parent would teach them. Most of those peers also come from neglect and abuse - they find each other and raise themselves. In a violent world they conclude the same thing.... violence becomes their method of survival.
There's no getting around the fact that lower income people (there's many exceptions to this rule) are relatively more ignorant than the other income-classes. (Not stupidity or the inability to learn - just blatant ignorance due to having limited access to different cultures, experiences and information). There's less education, less insight, less technology, less available information and often less time to parent correctly. A larger percentage in this category believes that "doing the best you can as a parent" means using corporal punishment on their children. The parental violence rate is higher in the ghettos than it is anywhere else. Naturally - the violence rate in the ghettos is higher than it is anywhere else as their children learn, whether through bad parenting or misguided peers, to solve their problems, survive and get ahead by resorting to violence.
Most Americans support corporal punishment on children.
In 2014 Minnesota Vikings running back - Adrian Peterson was reported to have used a tree branch to hit his 4-year-old son. This story ignited the debate on corporal punishment and Huffington Post polled 1,000 adults to get an idea of where we stand on this issue. 81% of those polled believe that using a hand to hit a child is an effective form of punishment.
I don't believe this number (81%) is an accurate representation of the American people. Those attracted to the article already had strong feelings on the issue and those in support of corporal punishment had much more incentive to defend and support their position. On top of that - football is an inherently violent sport and the poll attracted the sport's own people.
I'm a fan of Huffington Post but I think they could've done a much better job of finding a broader representation of the American people.
The Science of Bad Parenting
As published by Huffington Post
Here's a breakdown of what science has to say:
Physical punishment makes kids more aggressive.
Researchers from Tulane University found that children who are spanked frequently at age 3 are more likely to show aggressive behavior by the time they're 5 than kids who are not.
Physical punishment doesn't actually work (even if it appears to).
Yes, spanking may stop problematic behavior, says Sandra Graham-Bermann, Ph.D., a psychology professor and principal investigator for the Child Violence and Trauma Laboratory at the University of Michigan, but that's because the child is afraid. In the long term, physical punishment will only make kids' behavior worse.
Reporting on several studies on the topic for CNN, Sarah Kovac wrote, "The sad irony is that the more you physically punish your kids for their lack of self-control, the less they have. They learn how to be controlled by external forces (parents, teachers, bosses), but when the boss isn't looking, then what?"
Physical punishment encourages kids to continue the cycle of abuse.
A 2011 study published in Child Abuse and Neglect confirmed that physical punishment is cyclical -- children who are hit are more likely to use the action to solve problems with their peers and siblings.
Later on, they're at a higher risk for delinquency and criminal behavior, according to a 2013 article, "Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children," also by Gershoff.
The negative effects of physical punishment are colossal, well into adulthood.
A 2012 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that "harsh physical punishment was associated with increased odds of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse/dependence, and several personality disorders."
A review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that same year analyzed 20 years of data and came to similar conclusions regarding those risks -- and also found that spanking yields no positive outcome.
Spanking actually alters kids' brains.
A 2009 study concluded that children who were frequently spanked (defined as at least once a month for more than three years) "had less gray matter in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex that have been linked to depression, addiction and other mental health disorders."
According to CNN, another study -- also looking at how corporal punishment affects the brain -- found that children who receive it have a decrease in cognitive ability, compared with other kids.
The bottom line:
Stacy Drury, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Tulane University, told the New Republic, "The goal of discipline, which actually comes from the Latin root meaning 'to teach,' is to change behavior. And physical discipline across many, many, many studies is ineffective at changing behavior and it’s ineffective for many reasons ... corporal punishment actually teaches children is that aggression is an acceptable method of problem solving."
The horrendous effects of corporal punishment cannot be overstated.
There's a better way. It might not be faster and it might call for more patience, thought and energy but the long-term results will make you proud.
If you're out to be the best parent you can possibly be and raise the best human being you can possibly raise... I promise you - you've come to the right page.
On Topic External Links
Brendan L. Smith
American Psychological Association
Darcia Narvaez Ph.D
The Huffington Post
John M Disque is an American journalist, photographer and author who's been traveling the world and working for many media and information companies for the past 31 years.
Author of Stoned Love, Behind Dark Eyes and Confessions of a Road-Dog
Media Specialist on Politics and Social Issues (Homelessness, Poverty, Art, Youth, Animal Rights, Human Rights, Veterans, Schools, Social Studies, Amber Alerts and Crime)