I saw this meme on facebook (of course it is only one of many similar memes), and I felt the need to comment. Does violence really teach respect? Do people honestly buy into that?
Of course violence doesn’t teach respect! Let me spell out for you what a child will (not may, but will) learn from parental violence.
1) Fear. When a child is spanked, s/he learns to fear the source of those spankings. Many families put the bulk of violent punishment responsibilities onto one parent (usually the father), and the children learn to fear their father. When their mother says, “Wait until your father gets home and I tell him what you’ve done…” the feeling that flows through the children is pure, unadulterated fear. This fear leads straight into the second thing children learn from this kind of violence.
2) Distrust. Children learn very quickly not to trust their parents. All it takes is one mistake…one time of miscalculating the evidence and physically punishing the child for something s/he did not do. At that point any bond of trust is broken…never to be truly repaired. Once trust is lost, it cannot be fully restored. With a child, that is a precious thing to lose. This leads us into the next thing a child will learn.
3) To lie. Once the bond of trust is broken, love, loyalty, integrity and many other values that parents think they’ve taught their children start to take a back seat. If the child does not trust the parent, why should s/he believe what is being “taught”? Why should the child be honest and loyal to the parent if the parent cannot be trusted to do the same for the child? Children may know that it’s “wrong” to lie, but if they might get in trouble if they did nothing wrong anyway, they may as well lie when they did do something wrong. It seems like they’re playing the numbers either way.
4) To hit. Children learn that it’s ok to hit. Parents talk about how wrong violence is; they say that children should never hit, then turn around and hit their children on a regular basis. It’s hypocritical as well as confusing for a young, developing mind.
5) Bigger is better…and more powerful. In other words, they learn bullying. If your mother or adult sister were sticking their fingers into your cake batter while you were trying to bake a cake, you would not smack their hands away. Why? Because it’s rude to treat another adult in that fashion. So why isn’t it rude to treat a child in that fashion? Is the child less of a person? No, the child is simply small, weak and unable to defend him/herself. The fact that parents feed, clothe, provide shelter and completely care for children gives many of them the illusion that they own their children. Children are not slaves. They are independent human beings capable of rational thought. Forcing violence, affection or anything else on them is an abuse of authority.
How can you discipline without spanking? You don’t. There are natural consequences for everything we do. If it is something we shouldn’t do, there will be consequences.
For things a parent wants to happen (such as a peaceful trip to the grocery store, or a clean bedroom) offer something in return. The parent could offer the child who is best behaved at the grocery store the pick of which game to play for the family game night that night, or choice of what to have for dinner. (I’ve seen these tactics work beautifully, especially in larger families.)
The best thing parents can do for their children is keep the lines of communication open. Make sure they understand the pros and cons of their decisions and that they can always come to their parents if they need to. Most of all, play with them. Children act up and misbehave because they are trying to acquire attention. If parents are already giving them attention, there will be no need for the children to act up. Children need love and time, not toys and treats. Parents need to remember that spending time with their children is not spoiling them. Trying to make up for time lost with money, gifts and food is.