During our childhood, many of us were physically punished at home or school by parents or teachers due to various reasons. Most experts view physical punishment as cruel and damaging to children. In many developed countries, physical punishment is prohibited. Let’s find out the long-term consequences of physically punishing children.
Why do parents choose to physically punish their children?
Usually, parents, and teachers tend to physically punish children due to their unsatisfactory performance in education, unruly behaviour, disrespect, mischievous attitude or other similar reasons. In many cases, the parents try different methods to discipline their child until all that is left is the use of physical punishment.
Besides, many guardians impose physical punishments on their children to make them submissive. Some teachers also practice corporal punishment in schools to punish the students. They believe that mere words cannot control the naughty kids.
In the past, a large majority of folks had this belief. In many countries and cultures, this practice continues.
Potential consequences of physical punishment
Children are fond of imitating the people they admire and love. They believe it’s acceptable for them to behave as they choose to do.
Family is the ideal learning camp to teach children to manage conflict. Research shows that children from spanking families tend to resort to aggressive tactics to resolve conflicts once they grow up.
Children learn that when they encounter a problem, they can solve it with a quick swipe. If you control a child’s behaviour through spanking, they will likely keep this behaviour in relationships with their peers, siblings, and, eventually, parents and spouses.
Damage self-image of children
Beyond physical injury, it’s an emotional pain with devastating consequences. Your child is likely to create a negative self-image as being a jerk and may be prone to having no self-respect. He or she might think that s/he is a ‘bad person’ or ‘failed person’ and such thinking may last for a long time.
Lack of self-respect will damage their self-confidence eventually. In future the child may suffer from lack of courage while taking decisions in family matters, study, or career.
Devaluation of parent or mentor
When a child continues to be undisciplined or mischievous, some parents and teachers think that physical punishment is the only solution. Thus, the parents and teachers fail to teach a child how to control behaviour.
A child naturally respects their parents, and teachers. Physical punishment devalues the relationship between parents and children. It creates a distance between you and your children. This can be particularly troubling in situations at home where parent-child relationships are already in a state of tension, like parents with no children and a blended family.
The parents are advised not to spank when angry. When the parent has calmed down, he or she can find an appropriate correction method.
Physically punishing children does not work
Smacking your children does not bring any advantages regarding development in any way! When a child is physically punished, they may cry for some hours or fear you for some days. Then, they may return to their old attitude and make the same mistake again. No benefit can be derived from applying physical punishments on a child, if they don’t realise their own mistakes.
Hitting promotes anger and shame
It is more common for children to resist corporal punishment than other methods of discipline. Children don't think as adults do. However, they have an inherent sense of fairness even though their standards aren't like those of adults.
This may hinder punishment from being as effective as you expected it to and thus it could raise anger in children. Sometimes, the fear of unfairness can escalate to feelings of shame. When the child becomes an adult, he or she can bear those hidden pain, shame and anger in the heart. This may encourage the child to be disrespectful to parents.
Children with weight problems
Dr. Dhananjay Gambhire, a consultant psychiatrist and sexologist, agrees that abuse could cause obesity in later life. Dr. Gambhire says: "Obesity due to eating too much and living a sedentary lifestyle are indicators of poor reactions, and both are utilised as escape strategies for situations that don't suit you… Both of them signify low self-confidence and depression, which causes low self-esteem. The weight gain is further aggravated, and the person becomes more withdrawn.”
Therefore, negative childhood experiences like corporal punishment may result in to long-term effects like despair, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
Hitting leads to abuse
The act of punishment tends to escalate day by day. Initially, the physical punishment may start from a slap. If the child doesn’t care, the parent or teacher may increase the level of punishment. What happens next?
If the child continues the same unruly behaviour, the punishment continues. With the course of time, the parents or teachers start punishing children heavily. In the end, punishment can lead to child abuse.
Alternative ways to discipline children
Are you wondering whether there is any alternative to physical punishment when disciplining children? Here are some alternatives:
Your child is dependent on your approval. The most efficient and simple method to change a child's behaviour is to tell them that you do not approve of the behaviour. Be clear about your reasons and provide reasons. If your child notices your displeasure or anger, they will try to acknowledge the mistakes.
Disapproval can be effective when clarified and clearly stated once. Don't make it a point to hold your disapproval as a grudge. Your displeasure must be passionate and with conviction but not with rage. Do not be timid or bossy.
Children sometimes require help in understanding the sequence of events and understanding the reasons for them. Therefore, if something goes wrong, the first and most effective response is to get together and discuss it. In most cases, the most effective method is to communicate with the child openly.
Make sure to draw out the possible natural consequences that could result due to the child’s negative behaviour that was causing the problem.
If you encounter mildly frustrating misbehaviour in your child, the best solution is to ignore the issue.
A. Make a conscious decision not to take it seriously.
B. Listen in silence as you actively ignore it.
Certainly, never overlook any risk or danger for your child. As parents, you must know what to avoid and when to avoid it.
Separation and Replacement
Do you see kids fighting over something? Separate children from objects when the object is linked to the child's behaviour. The separation and replacement can be performed with joy. If you have to remove children from objects, ensure that you substitute the activity with something productive.
When your children show agitation or disrespect, the first step you can take is to warn them. In many instances, it is the beginning and end of the misbehaviour! Warnings aren't the equivalent of threats. Warnings place the child on alert that their behaviour has to change immediately.
You can be successful with warnings if your child trusts that you are going to follow through. Thus, the parents can stay calm and observe the child’s attitude. This ensures the child's safety as well.
Usually, parents and teachers choose to punish the undisciplined children physically, because they aren't aware of alternatives and jump straight into the punishment mode.
The parents or teachers lose their respect when they fail to apply pre-planned and tested strategies for behaviour control and opt for corporal punishment like spanking.
No evidence shows that physical punishment is beneficial to children. So far, we have discussed the long-term negative consequences of corporal punishment on children. Furthermore, we have focused on the alternative ways of disciplining children. So, we should focus on gaining knowledge and using these possibilities.