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Child Development

Spanking: Culturally Sanctioned Violence Against Children

Most parents have their child's best interest at heart. Of course there will always be those who have unresolved anger stemming from their own violent childhood and their lack of discipline as an adult. Studies show however that certain regions of the United States are more prone to violence against children than others.

The regions that have the highest verified incidence of child abuse are Alabama, Vermont, Ohio and Nevada followed closely by District of Columbia, Michigan and South Carolina. The regions which have the highest rate of child death due to abuse are North Carolina, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma followed closely by West Virginia, Kentucky and Florida.

Researchers have attempted to determine why one region has more abuse than the next. In particular, why is so much of "over-the-top" abuse occurring in the southern states regions? Many longitudinal studies have been conducted in an effort to discover the answer to this question. Without knowing the "why" is is impossible to create change in these cultures.

Although parents seem to be better educated these days about the long term consequences that accompany negative reinforcement, there still are those who hold onto their belief that hitting, spanking a child, is he best way to get their attention or to make a point. Their misguided belief is often connected to their own childhood and the fact that they were hit by their parents. Children live what they learn and if they learn that spanking is an acceptable form of violence and it is the best way to discipline they will continue to believe that as an adult.

People often say that they were spanked and they turned out OK when, in fact, they did not. The long-term ramifications of being hit instead of taught are so ingrained in our personality that we often cannot see the deleterious effects it has had on us. We may have learned how to avoid getting caught instead of learning how our actions affect others. And so we go throughout life doing as we please hoping not to get caught, with little regard for how our behavior hurts others.

A child who was hit or spanked was never taught how to parent without violence and so they continue the cycle of abuse with their own children. If your parents had disciplined you effectively without violence you would, in fact, find it perplexing that anyone could hold onto such a misinformed belief that spanking was the right way to teach a child.

The discipline that teaches the child how to reason and make correct choices in life involves patience, self-discipline and time. It requires the parent to actively participate in the learning process with the child and it requires that a parent be willing to set aside their selfish desires and attend to the problem at hand.

Spanking is quick, requires little or no thinking on the part of the parent and is ineffective in creating the harmonious atmosphere that the parent desires. Instead the child cries feels resentful and rebellious. The parent has given anger the stage and no longer feels calm or loving toward the child. Everyone loses.

Parents spank children because children are smaller than they are. Once the child becomes as big as the parent the spanking stops. How is it that we can sanction hitting someone who is smaller and less able to defend themselves but if a child at school does the same to our child we become incensed? Spanking is bullying. Children live what they learn and when they learn that it is OK to hit people who are smaller or more vulnerable than themselves bullies are born.

In a 2011 study of elementary school bullies, 98% were found to have been raised in homes where hitting was commonplace. The remaining 2% were found to be developing some form of impulse control difficulties associated with mental illness.

Over and over again studies of children at play have shown that those kids who are disciplined without spanking or any other form of violence play without violence. They talk to their dolls, teach them and speak lovingly to them. Children who are disciplined with violence such as spanking in turn get angry at their dolls, hit and spank them, yell at them and even throw them.

Parenting without violence produces children, and later adults, who do not have a propensity for violence themselves. They tend to grow into people who understand the difference between right and wrong - not because someone beat them into submission but because they were given the skills early on that enabled them to take on life's drama with courage and self-confidence.

In what kind of environment do you learn best? If your boss was unhappy with your work and he let you know how he felt by slapping you on the arm or butt would that help you feel good about working with him? Would you feel motivated to be the best employee you could be in order to please him? Or would you feel angry or resentful, even vengeful? Children have feelings too and they learn best in the same atmosphere we do. A calm, teaching, uplifting atmosphere provides the best learning environment for both children and for adults.

Even if you were taught that spanking was acceptable it is possible to relearn how to raise your child without violence. Take a parenting class, read books about positive parenting and start learning how to control our own anger. Parenting without violence doesn't mean that children are not taught how to behave, it means that they are taught right from wrong, that there are consequences to their actions and that they have they can get positive attention just for being who they are.
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