We have all often heard the phrase “Spare the rod spoil the child.” But do we realise the nuances of the corporal punishment that was meted to us during childhood? We don’t. And sadly, neither do our parents. Corporal punishment can involve hitting the child, in order to discipline them, with one’s hand or an object. It also involves verbally abusing the child and later guilting the child into accepting that ‘they deserved it’.
Corporal punishment is banned in many Western countries. However, Asian countries and societies, promote this form of instilling discipline. These punishments range from spanking the child to something severe as belting them or the infamous ‘chattukam pazhuppichu vekkal’. Children are taught that it is for their own good.
Gotha Hari Priya is a parent to a 3-year-old and a half-year-old infant. She is a part of various parenting networks and promotes raising children without inflicting pain on them. She says,
As explained above, young minds are impressionable and we see the perpetuation of violence within the parameters of the same family. Parents often complain that the older sibling hits the younger one. What they don’t say is, they hit their older child in an attempt to discipline them which the older sibling then vents out to the younger brother/sister. The young sibling then metes it out to toys or pets which calls for more punishment from the parents. The younger sibling is often left clueless and grows up resenting the family bond. He/she may even find it hard to be compassionate or sympathise since they only know abuse.
This was just one example of how corporal punishment can affect a young mind. Let’s dig a little deeper and try to look at some of the impacts that corporal punishment during childhood will have on a person’s adult life.
Traumatizing them for a lifetime
The child grows up being extremely sensitive to loud noises and the sight of a raised hand can scare the adult. They become meek, shy with low self-esteem and confidence. It begins to interfere with their usual relationships because the PTSD and trauma from childhood have been embedded in their very system.
Teach them that violence is the answer
Of late, we have seen a rise in cases of domestic violence. When you trace back to the childhood of many of the abusers, you notice that they were treated to similar traumatic experiences meted out by their parents or other adults. They grow up thinking that the only way to ‘have your way’ or to ‘correct’ someone is violence. If violence does the job, why should they be kind?
Perpetuate a cycle of abuse
Have your parents been called to school because you got into a fight with your classmate? Did you hit them brutally when all they did was shove you? Chances are that you have been disciplined in a similar manner at home. The cycle of abuse enables a person to carry out and ‘test’ what they have been exposed to with others. Recent studies show that the pent up anger within the child leads them to take drastic measures. Abused children also have a greater chance of projecting their emotions as psychopaths or sociopaths.
Risk losing the safe space with the child
The parents lose their comfort space with the child as the child begins to resent them and even lie or go behind the parent’s backs to save themselves from punishment. For example, a teenager sneaking out of the home to get to a party instead of asking the parent permission because they already anticipate an answer and fear grounding. Children begin bottling up their emotions and sometimes take drastic decisions which have a lifelong effect on them. They lose their trust in the caregiver.
Emotional distance with the child
When one loses the safe space with their child, the child becomes emotionally distant from you. They become people pleasers because of the toxic relationship they shared during their childhood. Such children tend to cut off their parents at an older age, ceasing contact with them and the resentment might eventually grow into hatred.
While most punishments don’t leave a physical scar on the child, they do leave a scar in their mind. The child grows up in fear, unable to trust the people who should’ve protected him/her from violence. They become confused, restless and lost.
This is the most common question asked by parents when they are told to avoid corporal punishments. One of the most effective ways is the reward system. Reinforcing good behaviour with a treat and negative ones with a minor punishment like reduced TV times serves the purpose. ‘Time out’ is another form of punishment that includes forcing the child to sit idle on a chair for a stipulated time during which the child thinks about the actions they did. This helps them understand their mistake. Another way, which requires a lot of patience on the side of the parent, is to explain to the child lovingly.
Showing them kindness will help them grow up as kind and compassionate individuals. Mild misbehaviour like pranks should be ignored as they are after all children. We cannot expect them to behave like adults. Shaming your child in front of family or invalidating their feelings due to their age is a common mistake that should be avoided.
Yelling or hitting a child to put a point across is the norm of the most family but time has come to rewrite the pattern. It’s time to unlearn toxic traits and parenting behaviour. Many adults still resent their parents for the way they were disciplined while some have made peace with the past teaching themselves that their parents were new to parenting and didn’t know any better. They did to us what was done to them. Modelling your behaviour so that your child can take after your behaviour helps reset this cycle.
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Listen to your child. Understand their wants and needs, and do not project yours on them. Don’t do to them what your parents did to you. One becomes a parent by having a child but one can become a good parent only when they share a bond with the child which the child will cherish for the rest of their life.