CHILD TRAINING: The futility of corporal punishment in child development.
Corporal punishment is as humiliating for him who gives it as for him who receives it; it is ineffective besides. Neither shame nor physical pain have any other effect than a hardening one.
~ Ellen Kay
What is Corporal punishment?
The practice of inflicting physical pain as a means of administering disciplinary actions for crimes or wrong doings. That is my own definition. But whatever definition you find, it would not stray from the key words of this definition. In practical terms, flogging, slapping, spanking, beating a person or a child are all forms of corporal punishment.
I am from Nigeria, and in Nigeria, we hold our customs and traditions like a drowning man would hold unto a life line. There are a very large number of tribes, each with their customs and there is one tradition or custom that they all share.
If you spare to beat a child, you would ruin the child
It is a widely held belief not just in Africa, but almost in every part of the world. But Let's find out, does corporal punishment really have any effect on the outcome that a child takes? Ellen Key says that it has no other effect than hardening a child in his own ways. Was Ellen correct?
My own experience with corporal punishment.
Being born and raised in Nigeria means that I would be an active victim of the errors of the culture. I can remember that my Mum always told me that I was a stubborn kid. I didn't follow instructions and that always attracted beating. I came back home one day and found a nightmare on the wall of the dinning room. It was a 2 pronged whip, also known as Koboko. It was the same whip that cattle herders used to ensure that the cattle moved in the direction they wanted them to. Any cattle that derailed from the path was flogged.
I remember thinking about it. If a cattle derails, the whip would bring it back in line. If a child derails, a whip would bring him back in line. In fact I had elderly people around me that would quote the holy bible to me...
foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him
So for a long time I believed that I was born with foolishness that only some whip or rod could drive out. I felt possessed. More importantly, I felt less human. I felt like that cattle that continuously endures the whip on it's back for going out of what the shepherd thinks is the way. I was flogged for not conforming to what the constituted authority said was the way of life. But deep down, I knew that it only made me more of a hypocrite. I would do what I wanted to do when I was alone, but when my parents were around I would behave like a sheep.
I remember the day my Dad gave me a slap I will never forget. He had a rule that no one should sleep in church. But on that particular day, it was like the sermon was exceptionally boring, I struggled to keep my eyes open. As a young boy who was very active, I wanted to stretch my legs, but the church is a place of order an sanctity and children cannot go around playing, so we had to sit down or be forced to sit quiet. I was sitting in a very comfortable white chair and soon I started perceiving the smell of white rice, I was hearing a voice in my head, it sounded quite distant.
Then I heard a loud bang. A few seconds passed, then I felt the pain from my cheek right to the back of my head. A large hand had slapped me. I recognized the hand from how it felt on my face. That would not be the first time I would receive a slap from that hand. I was first disoriented. Then after a while I realized I was in church and about 50 pairs of eyes were looking at me. I felt like sinking into the ground.
Then it started. It was first like a siren, then it became high pitched. My ear began to ring. This was the worse slap I had received in a very long time.
Does It Work?
I was flogged, I was slapped, I was beaten, but if there is one thing that is consistent, it is this.
I always ended up doing what I wanted to do.
Flogging taught me how to live a double life very quickly. I would be good and obedient when I know that my parents would find out or if they were present. If I knew that they were absent or they could never find out, I would do what I wanted to do. So it became a lot more dangerous for me the older I grew.
I am not a bad boy, but that is not because I was flogged or beaten. It is because I chose not to be. I didn't just enjoy the things other people my age enjoyed. The vices and everything didn't just appeal to me. If it did, there was nothing my parents could do to stop me from doing them.
Well, my experience has made me understand one thing.
the person I am today is the person I chose to be. Not the person that was molded by corporal punishment.
I am not saying that my family and background did not have a say in who I am now. I am saying that I could as well have decided to go completely crosswise with what I had learnt as a child.
But, that is my experience, what does the research say?
Effects of corporal punishment.
Instead of being a way to endure a child stays on track, corporal punishment has been shown to be linked to many psychologic problems in childhood. Research findings from over 1200 different studies have shown that corporal punishment is linked to problems like aggressive behavior, antisocial disorder, depression, anxiety, low self esteem and even diminished cognitive powers. Adults who experienced corporal punishments are a lot more prone to vices like substance use.
In this article, the normativeness hypothesis was shown to be in stark contrast with results from a cross cultural analysis of about about half of the countries in Africa. The normativeness hypothesis states that in a community where physical punishment is seen as the norm or an acceptable method of discipline, then the effect of harsh physical punishment on child development should be reduced.
The analysis instead suggested that harsh forms of maternal discipline had direct consequences on the child's behavior and early literary skills.
MacMillan HL, et al. in their study titled Slapping and spanking in childhood and its association with lifetime prevalence of psychiatric disorders in a general population sample were able to link slapping and spanking in childhood to the development of psychiatric disorders in adulthood in a large canadian population sample.
I could cite research after research, paper after paper, journal after journal like the one by Tomoda A, Suzuki H, Rabi K, et al that shows that neuroimaging has confirmed that exposure to physical abuse can reduce the volume of the brain's grey matter in areas associated with performance in the WAIS-III scale(Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, third edition), a tool designed to measure cognition and intelligence in adults and children.
But one thing is clear, there is no benefit to spanking a child. Not for the one who spanks, not for the child.
Why then does spanking work?
Spanking doesn't work. It gives the parent the impression that he is able to control his child and make the child conform to his whims. It is actually an illusion. Spanking would produce immediate results. The child would immediately want to avoid the pain so he or she would conform. But in the long run, when you are not there as the parent, or when you can no longer spank, that is when you would realize that your child chooses who he wants to be, or what he wants to do and no amount of spanking can change it.
What do I do as a parent.
Take the patience to talk to your children. They are human beings and not animals. They would understand you, maybe not at once, but eventually. Just like you would explain to an adult why you want him/her to do something, take that time to explain to your 5yr old.
Don't be the kind of parent that says
Do as I say and not as I do
It's the height of hypocrisy. Children would watch you. They would follow your footsteps. You must do the things you want them to do and avoid the things you want them to avoid.
Ok. That's all for now.
I hope you got some value.
If you liked this post pls upvote and rehive.