Corporal punishment is the most widespread form of violence against children and is surprisingly common in (loving) homes, in (loving) schools, in (loving) madrasahs and all other allegedly (loving) environments where children are found.
Loving? – Many of those who practise it are of the ignorant belief that it is for the child’s own good and an attempt to appease their own conscience by convincing themselves of this.
Unfortunately, this ignorance trickled down from one generation to the next without hindrance.
If everyone who said, “I was given corporal punishment and it did not do me any harm”, gave a small coin to a hungry child, there would not be a hungry child in the world today.
In response to those who howl corporal punishment did not do them any harm, as if it were a personal achievement, psychologist Dr Nadine A. Block of the Centre for Effective Discipline, Ohio, United States, tells them to imagine how better off they would be if they had never been given corporal punishment.
Now new scientific research validates and supports the hackneyed expression “this is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you”. The adage has more truth in it than ever before imagined.
A book recently published by the Oxford University Press entitled Spanked: How Hitting Our Children Is Harming Ourselves is opening new debates and spearheading a new awakening on the horrid effects of corporal punishment, not just to the victims, but the perpetrators as well. There are no winners; both suffer negative consequences of varying degrees.
In addition to reviewing the history of and research on the sordid practice, its author Dr Christina L. Erickson adds a unique twist to the equation; she takes a microscopic look at how it also harms the adults who engage in it.
When we hit other people, especially if we are feeling anger, a chemical reaction occurs within, our stress hormones increase, and ultimately it impairs our health.
Hitting someone we love has a much larger, much broader traumatic experience that leads to other mental complications while attempting to block out the wrong performed.
Once the child is hit, there is no recalling the action. It is like sticking a pin into an inflated balloon. The damage has been done. Expressing sorrow, regret or penitence however copiously does not negate or erase the act.
A child who is slapped in the face is not likely to forget the incident, although the initial sting has waned.
In her book, Erickson explores the cultural factors from historical magazine articles and parenting books to contemporary beliefs that support this type of action, erroneously described as ‘discipline’.
The corporal punishment connections to a variety of topics are clarified, including the feelings of parents, perceptions of children, potential child abuse, school corporal punishment, attachment and bonding.
The book invites an exploration of who we are as parents and as a society and what family leadership really means.
Erickson gives readers an open platform to discuss respectfully what we are really communicating when we beat children.
No beating, however small its size, is an expression of love, trust and compassion, but an act of aggression and cruelty that humiliates and degrades the child and makes them feel vulnerable, helpless and inconsequential.
In 2011, Bangladesh Supreme Court justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hassan defined corporal punishment as “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom”.
Corporal punishment is nothing more than a shameful outward expression of unadulterated ignorance that has mentally and physically damaged countless of children over the decades and the chances are that you (yes you, the reader) are one of them.
There is no shame in being a victim. The shame enters only if you are a perpetrator guilty of propagating the evil doing.
There are no benefits whatsoever gained from administering corporal punishment whether dispensed in the home, school or madrasah, but it carries countless harmful side effects.
Every time a parent, teacher or imam hits a child, they risk losing the child’s love, admiration and respect instantly.
The victim may feign respect and admiration and toe the line in accordance with the rules to avoid further hurt and abuse, but that is merely an outward expression for their self-protection.
Admiration, love and respect come from the child’s heart and only those who truly deserve the golden accolades are given them.
We are all products of our environment. What happens within our environment strongly influences how we behave, what we eventually become. Where love, respect and admiration are practiced, there will be love, respect and admiration.
If aggression is taught in our schools, homes and madrassahs, the chances are we, too, will become aggressive. We reap what we sow.
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, a royal goodwill ambassador and a human rights activist.