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Jan Hunt’s '10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Kids'

“All people have the right to protection of their physical integrity, and children are people too." Dr. Peter Newell (coordinator of an organization called “End Punishment of Children”)

If you saw an adult excitedly striking another adult in public, there is a chance you might spontaneously speak out or seek out a nearby police officer to aid the victim or at the very least be troubled by the unjust/uncivilized spectacle. But, if you saw an adult excitedly striking a child in public, would you bother to interfere or would you easily assume the child must “belong” to that parent and thus the adult has the right to physically assault the child? Would you walk away untroubled or maybe a tad troubled by the spectacle, but not deeply? Chances are the latter response, especially if you grew up in North America.

Jan Hunt is the Director of the “Natural Child Project” and a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. She lives in British Columbia and “envisions a world in which all children are treated with dignity, respect, understanding, and compassion.” Hunt has compiled a list entitled “10 Reasons Not To Hit Your Kids.”

Hunt points out that 37 countries around the world “prohibit” a parent, teacher or anyone to spank a child. In 113 countries corporal punishment is forbidden in schools. However, in North America physical discipline of children is often condoned as a “necessity” or even, Hunt mourns, encouraged.

Hunt advises parents: “Gentle instruction, supported by a strong foundation of love and respect, is the only truly effective way to bring about commendable behavior based on strong inner values, instead of superficially ‘good’ behavior based only on fear.”

Here is a summation of Hunt’s list of “Ten Reasons Not to Hit Your Kids”:

1. Hitting children teaches them to become hitters themselves. (Research reveals correlation between childhood corporal punishment and subsequent aggressive or violent behavior during teenage and adult years of children who experienced it.)

2. Often children who frustrate parents with “bad behavior” are reacting according to their age and experience to some degree of neglect of their important and/or basic needs. (Often parents are seriously distracted from offering children sufficient attention, patience and empathy.)

3. Punishment distracts and prevents a child from learning how to resolve conflicts in humane and effective ways. (Fear and/or anger disrupts learning -- the child is distracted from learning more effective methods of solving problems for future similar situations).

4. Punishment damages the parent/child bond since it is human nature not to feel loving toward someone who hurts us. Healthy cooperation is engendered from mutual feelings of love and respect and will be permanently lasting. (Punishment produces “superficially good behavior based on fear” which lasts “until the child is old enough to resist.”)

5. Often parents never learned there are positive ways to relate to and influence children and when punishment doesn’t accomplish the parent’s desired goal, the frequency and/or degree of punishment often dangerously escalate.

6. When a child is too intimidated to express anger and frustration around a physically punishing parent, those feelings become “stored inside.” Accumulated anger from teens and young adults can shock parents when their children begin to feel strong enough to express long buried rage.

7. Since the buttocks are an erogenous zone, spanking them can create an association in a child’s mind between pain and sexual pleasure. Also, such humiliation contributes to low self-esteem. These factors can sabotage future healthy intimate social bonding.

8. Spankings, even those assumed moderate, can be physically dangerous. Blows to the lower end of a spinal column can create enough shock waves to cause undiagnosed serious medical complications. (Lower back pain and nerve damage in adulthood may stem from early childhood punishments.)

9. Physical punishment messages “might makes right” thinking -- that “it is permissible to hurt someone else, provided they are smaller and less powerful than you are.” The child’s future capacity for empathy as an adult can be seriously reduced because of this messaging.

10. Children learn from what the parent models. Physical punishment messages that hitting is an appropriate way to express feelings and to solve problems instead of messaging that creative and humane ways should be sought. (Unskilled parenting thus gets carried forward into the next generation.)

[cross-posted on open salon]

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