There are many ways that we perpetuate generational cycles of emotional dysfunction, some are blatant like outright traumatic abuse, name calling or being emotionally neglectful. Others are more subtle, but no less damaging.
“Its just a tap on the butt”, “I just slap his hand”, “I just shake her to get her attention”, are all things I have heard parents say who believe physical punishment is sometimes necessary. Some go further and believe in spanking, either with their hand or with a ruler or belt. When done in anger, it is hard to control the level of strength and intensity that goes into these interventions and many times it crosses the line from punishment to abuse.
The subject of whether physical punishment is helpful or harmful has been debated for a long time in the psychological literature and new studies have indicated that corporal punishment needs to end.
Recent research finds links between corporal punishment and detrimental outcomes for children across cultural, family and environmental contexts.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children are professional associations that have issued policy statements encouraging parents to avoid physical forms of punishment. They have also urged professionals who work with parents to advise them of other forms and means of discipline. Human rights organizations such as the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and others agree that spanking and physical punishment are forms of violence that infringe on children’s human rights.
Right now children are the only group of American citizens who can be legally subjected to physical punishment. It has been banned from schools in 31 states. It is banned in the military and in prisons. The idea of parents having a right to physically discipline children comes historically from the thought that children are “property” of the parents. As with everything, there are legal objections to the outright banning of physical punishment as it implies governmental control over the family.
Long term difficulties that can arise from physical punishment appear to be similar to those that develop from physical abuse. Anxiety, depression, anger problems, trust issues and attachment problems are just a few.
Most parents who engage in physical punishment were also physically disciplined and may not even give it much thought. It is not done out of a maliciousness or desire to harm the child. It is simply seen as a technique to correct or get the child’s attention. When educated differently and given choices and alternatives for more positive parenting, most parents opt for non physical means of discipline. Awareness is really a critical piece in ending these practices as most people love their children and want what is best for them.
This blog focuses on interrupting dysfunctional patterns, behaviors and thinking styles that interfere with happiness, resilience and emotional well-being. These patterns are often learned in dysfunctional families and backgrounds. A history of being physically abused is one of the most common difficulties I see in clients who describe a lifetime of depression, anxiety and anger problems. If spanking, shaking and slapping as forms of physical discipline are going to bring about the same problems and hinder a child’s emotional growth then there is no good reason to proceed with that practice.