There is a phrase in the Holy Book that says “Spare the rod, spoil the child!” That phrase is commonly used by parents to justify smacking their children; a child suddenly misbehaves or disobeys an instruction, in order to teach the child a lesson or ensure the child doesn’t repeat the behaviour, the parent hits the child either with their palm, a close-by object or go all out to get a cane.
The idea of this article is not to completely eradicate spanking as it were, we cannot totally take spanking away from discipline (depending on the age of the child), but we can minimize it as much as possible or make it our last option when it comes to correcting children. Spanking is not the only measure for discipline. It may be good in some cases but may not be an effective or positive approach to discipline children at every little mistake they make.
While this approach might seem effective temporarily, decades of research show that spanking is unsafe and can lead to antisocial behaviour, physical injury and mental health problems for children. To prevent the long-term repercussions and negative effects of lashing out physically, parents are encouraged to explore other methods of discipline besides spanking. A leading researcher on physical punishment at the University of Texas at Austin, Elizabeth Gershoff, PhD wrote
Physical punishment doesn’t work to get kids to comply, so parents think they have to keep escalating it. That is why it is so dangerous.
The familyeducation.com however wrote “if, occasionally, you lose it and spank your child, you aren’t going to damage him or your relationship forever. It’s not an effective or positive approach to discipline, though. It’s a more serious problem if you commonly spank your child, or if it’s one of your dominant disciplinary methods.”
On a serious note, you might need to have a rethink on spanking your child.
Many African parents commonly excuse beating a predominantly part of the African culture, however there are a number of articles written to prove that spanking was not originally African, one of such articles reads:
Spanking is a colonial import
“The beating of children was brought to this continent through missionaries and missionary schools, said Sonia Vohito of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, and the custom became entrenched across the continent. Pre-colonial means of discipline should be remembered and applied, she said. “We need to get back to traditional practices of how children were raised”, teaching values through storytelling and illustration.”
As a parent, you might believe that since you were spanked while growing up and you turned out to be well-behaved, then that means spanking your kids will yield the same result. According to developmental Psychologists from the Department of Family Science at the University of Missouri, children who were spanked as young as 15 months were less likely to show positive behaviours at 5th grade and even till their teenage years. So, irrespective of how difficult and exhausting dealing with child tantrums or bad behaviours can be, spanking or hitting is only a short-term solution with long-term effects.
Here are a few reasons why spanking is a bad idea, especially for children aged 1-5 years:
1. Spanking gives the example that violence solves problems:
Spanking shows children that violence is an appropriate way to solve life’s problems (frustration or anger). “If I don’t like what you do, then I’m going to hit you.” And so they feel beating other children is normal, creating a tendency for them to get violent on others too.
2. Spanking damages self-esteem:
When children are hit by the very people who are supposed to protect them, it causes a child to question, “What’s wrong with me?” Why don’t anybody like me? Am I a bad child? They make statement like “Mummy, you don’t love me. If you love me you won’t spank me every time.” This damages their self esteem, and not in a small way. Self-esteem is a critically important and fragile thing. If you want your child to succeed in life, the level of his or her self-esteem will be a major determining factor. Spanking your child might make him or her feel unloved or targeted. As time goes, the child may lose confidence to open up to you about certain things.
3. Spanking can be abusive:
Spanking a child can lead to minor or major injuries and is often perceived as an aggressive way to correct a child especially when you spank a child in a moment of anger. At the point of beating, the punishment might seem appropriate (maybe the child just spilled liquid on your new laptop or smashed your windscreen), however, in retrospect, you might discover that you had inflicted physical injury on a child in a brief moment on uncontrolled anger. It’s not because you got angry, it’s because spanking was your first option when you were angry.
4. Spanking encourages children to lie in an attempt to avoid being beaten:
Sometimes children makes a genuine mistakes. Because they know that a good spanking is guaranteed once they are discovered, they are motivated to tell a lie in an attempt to escape the beating. This sets a very bad precedence and is likely to become a habit they may struggle with the rest of their lives.
5. Spanking doesn’t always encourage behavioural change:
A study by a family research psychologist at the University of New Hampshire showed that spanking may get children to stop misbehaving in the short run, but it makes them more likely to act out in the long run. When you spank a child for doing something bad, the child might not necessarily quit from that behaviour; instead, he or she could learn to avoid showing that behaviour in front of you, but still do it when no one is watching. Rather than achieving behavioural change, you might end up helping them master the art of not being caught instead.