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4 January, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Corporal punishment: time for change

Health experts in the field of childcare have been saying for years that corporal punishment is not only non-beneficial to a child, but it’s detrimental to the child
Sir Frank Peters
Corporal punishment: time for change

It’s difficult for some school ‘teachers’ and parents to imagine or appreciate children have rights. Too often when the topic of human rights is raised, it’s interpreted to refer exclusively to adults; and children only become entitled to these rights when they become adults.

The United Nations (UN) – the global organization that consists of 193 countries ­– determined via the “UN Convention on the Rights of the Child” treaty that corporal punishment (read: spanking, hitting, beating, chiding, shouting, screaming or otherwise) is a violation of human rights… a child’s human rights. Make no mistake children have rights.

Some people see no harm whatsoever in corporal punishment and that is understandable to a certain extent. These people find solace and take comfort living in a state of ignorance, denial and not facing facts.

They’ve spent so many years consuming headache, indigestion, and pick-me-up pills and reaching for the bottle to squash the torment of the suppressed memories, they’ve forgotten the source of their problems and can no longer make the connection.

They rattle as they walk

Among them are those who actually boast, ‘I was given corporal punishment and it never did me any harm’ as they unwittingly swallow a selection of multi-coloured pills to try to ease their hurt and feel good. These people are easy to spot, they rattle as they walk.

“You might have turned out even better if you had not been hit,” is the stock response by Dr. Nadine Block – author of two internationally-acclaimed books on corporal punishment – to the silly remark.

Psychiatrists… Psychologists… and other mental health experts in the field of childcare have been saying for years that corporal punishment is not only non-beneficial to a child, but it’s detrimental to the child.

What was known for many years has now been given the heavyweight backing of cold, hard, totally impartial science.

Science has come to the forefront of the corporal punishment debate to scream in a loud voice, hoping to be heard, that corporal punishment isn’t in the long-term interest of children.

In the reputable Journal of Family Psychology, researchers set out to address the question, if the psychological impacts of corporal punishment are comparable with those of physical abuse.

To make this determination, scientists evaluated over 100 studies representing over 160,000 children. Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, states:

“We found that corporal punishment was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”

Anti-social behaviour

In other words, not only was corporal punishment totally non-affective in making children obedient, but the punishment contributed to “increased anti-social behaviour, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties”.

Alan Kazdin, Ph.D., and Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University, said: “You cannot punish out the behaviours that you do not want,” therefore, “There is no need for corporal punishment based on the research.”

To make it crystal clear, Kazdin underlines the conclusion of his findings in plain-talk language:

“We are saying that corporal punishment is a horrible thing that does not work.”

Kazdin says the reason corporal punishment doesn’t work long-term is because children do not possess a developed punishment/reward mechanism (the byproduct of a maturing brain). Hence, the child is unable to alter behaviours following physical punishment.

Researchers interviewed parents and children age 3 to 7 from over 100 families. Analysis of the research concluded that children who are physically punished are more likely to embrace physical violence as a means of resolving conflicts with peers. That violence becomes the only language they know – and use.

Parents and teachers may be unwittingly creating the exact opposite to what they setout to achieve. Through giving corporal punishment, they are increasingly doing more damage than good.

Dr. Gershoff said a child doesn’t receive corporal punishment and then run out and rob a store or become a mugger. There are indirect slow changes as to how the child thinks (and feels) about things, about his teachers, about his parents, about society and they can manifest in many different ways, usually in the negative and it might take years to show.

If every child is a gift ‘on-loan’ from God, what right on earth does anyone have to abuse it or damage it physically or emotionally? Corporal punishment can give a child emotional and anger problems that can lead to a life of crime, aggression, bad social behaviour, wife bashing, and stints, if not a lifetime, in jail. A damaged child becomes a broken adult and a broken adult owes nothing to society that seemingly cared little about him/her.

Studies also show corporal punishment may cause cancer to a child. Is that a risk any parent can afford to take and still claim to love the child.

It's time to realise whatever investments we make in the children, we are all beneficiaries through living in a better society.

It’s time for parents and teachers to stop pushing the ignorance of their fore parents and old ways on the children and subjecting them to corporal punishment abuse.

It’s time for parents, teachers and guardians to accept the facts that corporal punishment doesn’t work and has no benefits and not wait for the next research paper to warn them of the grave dangers. It’s time for children to be given the open space for their petals to spread and show they can become good citizens of the nation, as Allah intended, if they are allowed and encouraged to blossom in a corporal punishment-free, nurturing, caring, respecting, loving, world.

Schools should not be hell-hole fear factories where the once-in-a-lifetime – never again to be repeated ­– God-given gift of youth, fun and joy is beaten out; and hatred, anger, despise of society and revenge is beaten-in. When corporal punishment was outlawed in Bangladesh in 2011, Justices Md. Imman Ali and Md Sheikh Hasan Arif of the High Court Divisional bench defined corporal punishment as 'cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child's fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom'.

It’s time for change and that time is now.

The writer is a human rights advocate, a former newspaper publisher, editor, and a long-time foreign friend of Bangladesh. <sirfrankpeters@googlemail.com>

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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