It was and still is a commonly held belief that if you "spare the rod" you'll spoil the child. In many parts of the world, corporal punishment is still utilised as a mainstay method of discipline. Yet, why do we persist in continuing such an archaic and barbaric practice? Because much of parenting tends to be adopted through a "hand-me-down" approach - that's how my parents raised me.
However, if more parents knew about the true dangers of this practice, I'm sure fewer parents would continue to persist with this method of discipline.
Why is corporal punishment so damaging to a child?
Corporal punishment causes stress in a child that is no different to the stress a child experiences when being bullied or when that child is suffering from child abuse. Brain scans show structural and biochemical changes that affect social behaviour.
Cell death in the anterior cingulate gyrus affects a child's ability to moderate fear and to empathise. Changes in the brain's pathways affect a child's ability to manage stress and being more prone to being impulsive, aggressive and/or anxious. Long term changes to the adrenaline systems in the brain affect the ability to think clearly. Impairment in the brain stem has been linked to ADHD, depression and impaired attention. It also leads to more aggression and irritability.
Other changes to the brain have also been observed:
Let's test the I-turned-out-okay argument by examining a few real-life examples from my own childhood. See if they apply to you.
There were ashtrays in every room of our house. My parents smoked, as did most adult visitors to our home. The aroma of cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke was always present. Nobody minded. In fact, not one day passed in my early life when I was not exposed to tobacco smoke. I was even exposed in the womb because my mother smoked when she was pregnant with me. And I turned out okay.
The first family car I remember was a 1937 Chevrolet sedan. It had no seat belts. When we traveled, I was merely plunked down on the back seat with the expectation that gravity would keep me there. It did. And I turned out okay.
All the places in which I lived as a child were painted with lead-based paint. And I turned out okay.
I used a bicycle throughout my childhood and teen years, but never wore any kind of protective headgear. And I turned out okay.
Was my family wise or just lucky? Today, we don't do those things anymore. We don't take such risks, and we don't expose our children to such risks - not if we know the facts.
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Shen-Li is a stay-at-home-mum dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in parenting. She has a formal educational background and former work experience in healthcare. If you enjoyed this article, visit her blog Babylicious and follow her as she learns how to raise a happy, confident and successful person.
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