By Kerby T. Alvy, Ph.D.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Children Are People Too
Part 2 Definitions of Physical Punishment
Part 3 Hitting Children is Very Common
Part 4 Approval of Hitting Is Declining
Part 5 Hitting Is Used for Different Reasons
Part 6 Are Physically Punished Children Better Behaved?
Part 7 Do State Laws Define Allowable vs. Prohibited Physical Punishment?
Part 8 Human Rights Considerations
Part 9 Countries Who Have Outlawed Hitting Children
Part 10 Conclusions, Resources and What To Do Instead
Part 1 Children Are People Too
With this article, I am starting a new series on why it is so important to stop hitting children, whether at home, school or any other place.
This series is based on a fundamental and simple value: people are not for hitting and children are people too.
This basic value about what is not acceptable in human relations is at the core of these articles. A corollary to this value is that there are many nonviolent and effective ways to gain the cooperation and respect of children, and that these can and should be taught to everyone who raises and works with children. The last article in this series summarizes these alternatives to ever hitting children.
This series is also based on the deliberations of international organizations who advocate for the abolition of all forms of physical punishment with children, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. These articles will also reflect and share the mountain of research evidence that points to both the social injustice and ultimate destructiveness of using physical punishment to discipline children.
In one of my latest books for parents, The NEW Confident Parenting, which I wrote with my colleague, Dr. Camilla S. Clarke, an entire chapter is devoted to the findings of hundreds of research studies that document how destructive and ineffective physical punishment ultimately is. This chapter appears at the end of the book after having demonstrated numerous effective and nonviolent ways of obtaining and maintaining the respect and cooperation of children.
The chapter on physical punishment makes the point that many people continue to believe in and make use of physical punishment because they believe it really works. That is because, in some instances and in the short run, it does work in stopping some children from engaging in behaviors that make us adults uncomfortable. But the vast majority of studies that follow children for years (longitudinal studies) find that the use of physical punishment, and especially physical punishment that happens frequently and harshly, results in numerous negative consequences, including lifelong mental, physical, sexual and interpersonal problems.
Very few people believe that hitting that produces bruises and broken bones is harmless — here the hurt is too obvious to overlook. But most people are simply unaware of the insidious, hidden damage that physical punishment, of any variety and degree, leaves in its wake.
Subsequent articles in this series will present the findings of these studies in greater detail, including studies that have been done after I and Dr. Clarke wrote The NEW Confident Parenting.
The issue of hitting children has unique histories in African American and Latino communities. Parents of these children are often the most likely to be reported for abusing their children.
So it is wise to consult the two parenting programs that CICC created specifically for these cultural groups: the Effective Black Parenting
and the Los Ninos Bien Educados programs.
Finally in this first series of articles on never hitting our
children, it is important to consider that when we hit children we are simply being unkind. Here are some thoughts about kindness:
Kindness is the act or the state of being kind, being marked by good and charitable behavior, pleasant disposition, and concern for others. It is known as a virtue, and recognized as a value in many cultures and religions.
“When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace. The true essence of humankind is kindness.” Tenzin Gyatso,
the 14th Dalai Lama (B. 1935)
“Research has shown that acts of kindness do not only benefit receivers of the kind act, but also the giver, as a result of the release of neurotransmitters responsible for feelings of contentment and relaxation when such acts are committed.” (Poquerusse, Jessie. “The Neuroscience of Sharing.” https:/www.universe.com/neuroscience. Retrieved 16 August 2012.)
“Acts of kindness do not always have to be random.”
“The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion, humor and style, generosity and kindness.”
Maya Angelou (1928 – 2015)
– Poet, Dancer, Producer, Playwright, Director, Author