Friday, September 18, 2009

A Slap on the Wrist?

I removed my daughter from a childcare situation this week when the childcare provider told me that she slapped my daughter on the hand to deter her from getting into a cupboard after multiple attempts at redirection and distraction.

I expressed my desire that no corporal punishment be used on my daughter in the future. The caregiver was offended and said she saw nothing wrong with what she did, and said that she felt that a swat on the behind was also a harmless form of discipline. After some back and forth and discussion of feelings, it boiled down to this: Unless she could promise to respect my wishes, remove spanking from the repertoire, and use alternative forms of discipline, I would no longer allow her to care for my daughter.

Because the childcare provider is currently unwilling to learn new techniques or exercise the patience to apply the non-violent techniques she already knows, Pookaloo will be home with me full time for the forseeable future.

Why do I feel so strongly about this issue?

The American Academy of Pediatrics puts it like this:

Corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents be encouraged and assisted in the development of methods other than spanking for managing undesired behavior.

Dawn Ramsburg on puts it like this:

While spanking may relieve a parent's frustration and stop misbehavior briefly, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (1995), researchers suggest that spanking may be the least effective discipline method. To test this hypothesis, researchers surveyed parents, with the assumption that if spanking worked, children who were spanked would learn to behave better over time so that they would need punishing less frequently (Leach, 1996). However, the results showed that families who start spanking before their children are a year old are just as likely to spank their 4-year-old children as often as families who do not start spanking until later. Thus, children appear not to be learning the lessons parents are trying to teach by spanking.
Spanking may be ineffective because it does not teach an alternative behavior (American Academy of Pediatrics, 1995). In fact, children usually feel resentful, humiliated, and helpless after being spanked (Samalin & Whitney, 1995). The primary lesson they learn appears to be that they should try harder not to get caught.

Bulletin #4357 published by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Family Living Office summarizes some of the "deleterious side effects" of spanking:

  • The child develops a perception of him/ herself as someone who “deserves” discomfort and suffering.
  • Over time, spanking actually makes parenting more difficult because it reduces the ability of parents to influence children, especially in adolescence.
  • Obsession with order, control and obedience that can lead to either excessive submission or excessive rebelliousness against authority.
  • "Once a child is hit, the memory remains in the brain and body for life. Children who were spanked only once or twice can often remember the pain and shock for years afterward. For children struck frequently, the anticipation of intense pain becomes part of the punishment itself. The anxiety this creates cannot be easily overcome. Recent brain research indicates that high levels of stress or anxiety can actually change the “wiring” of the brain and interfere with learning, thinking and later relationships."
  • Limited ability to show compassion and empathy for oneself and others.
  • Apathy and passive forms of aggression reflecting buried anger, which can also lead to depression.
  • Chips away at the bond of affection and trust between parents and children.

So what is the alternative? Will I just be letting Pookaloo run wild and have whatever she wants, or will I rely on verbal attacks or empty threats?

No! There is a better way.

As brochure #4357 points out, "Many parents already know and use other, non-violent ways of teaching and controlling behavior. In most cases, parents only need the patience to keep on doing what they were doing to correct misbehavior — without the spanking!"

I'll have more to say on these alternative methods in the next blog post.

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