Punitive Timeouts & Spanking: Equally Damaging

As you read this, if you are unaccustomed to my beliefs or written tone and rhythm, please go here first.  Then, as you read, keep Ken’s comments in mind.

I am in a state of aggravation, spurred by injustice, impossible scenarios, no sleep, trepidation over the damage I may be causing my child with all this transition (moving, traveling), and struggling through a significant crevasse between my husband and I.  Right now, I am not whole.  I am torn in two, with a thread of goo left dangling in between. Please forgive my attempt at coping by using sarcasm instead of sheer wit and completely pure communication.  I’m jaded and in protective mode right now… and as if life isn’t large enough as it is at the moment, I have found myself being expected to conform or defend some of my core beliefs to some very real and large, tangible people (outside my home’s walls, but not far from them).  One of the topics is the use of timeouts.

Somehow, me saying that timeouts are torture in my opinion isn’t enough to get the various people to which I refer above to leave me alone.

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What is the point of a time out?

From the adult’s perspective, if we’re honest, first and foremost, hopefully the answer to that question is to insist a child realize they have evoked your disapproval by their actions and behaviors.  Second, to be completely honest, it is to give the adult a moment’s peace, during which they do not have to contend with the child’s behaviors and actions that are causing frustration.

We accomplish our task by forcing our child to endure rejection, isolation, and dehumanizing “space to think”, which if they had managed to “think” in the first place, they would never have allowed themselves to be forced into the position they found themselves in – the experience of ostracism by a trusted, loved, care giver.

Below you will find links to subsequent posts as I complete them related to the subject, picked apart concept for concept, and sometimes sentence for sentence.  I hope you will summon your curiosity and continue the learning process, open your mind to your child’s world view, and soften your heart so that a greater knowledge and understanding might enter your parenting and the future health of your child (and you).

Too spiritual, mystical, out-there talk??

Ok, here’s the same thing without the flowers and fairies:  Timeouts cause the brain to sense physical pain because it is in fact, a deliberate action of forced isolation, rejection, and detachment, even at the most “dutiful and appropriate” level. What’s worse, that isolation, rejection, and detachment is being forced upon a child powerless to prevent it by the very entity that is supposed to represent a safe, secure, and protected place/person (be it a parent, teacher, etc).

The betrayal, on multiple levels, is astounding and horrifying.

It’s real.

Don’t believe me?

Try this: Cause those around you to purposely ignore your presence, the other adults you see as valuable for one reason or another, in your daily life. Now, make it so you cannot stop their lack of or refusal to acknowledge you (otherwise known as “removal of positive reinforcement”) until you conform to their will and wishes, or until you regain their approval in some way (if you are capable).  Tell me this is not damaging.  Tell me this doesn’t hurt you. Tell me that it doesn’t make you squirm, angry, resentful, vengeful, and ultimately needy.  I dare you to try.

Now, take that one step further and view the same scenario through the eyes of an under/undeveloped child, inexperienced in social and emotional behavior patterns, still forming a fundamental sense of self and confidence, not capable of fully understanding why, or what they have done to loose the approval of others that resulted in this forced rejection and isolation. (May bet is that if you use timeouts, or spanking for that matter, you do not fully disclose pertinent thoughts to your child, as that might just give them too much knowledge to use against you at some point, so there is a good chance that the child is not fully aware of all aspects of their infraction.)

My take?  Smacking a child may possibly cause less scarring than using timeouts/ostracism, and you all know what I think about using violence and spanking, smacking, hitting, whipping, or using any sort of like action – that being to strike, in any manner.   The reason is simple: Spanking causes humiliation, fear, and physical pain.  Ostracism causes all the same, in addition to a loss of perceived self value, loss of approval, pain of rejection, fear of isolation, and the prevention of remedy (while they sit there thinking about what they’ve done, they are effectively prevented from generating a resolution or remedy).  The amount of psychological scarring and damage is doubled.

Please understand that if I am made aware of your choice to hit your child, and you’re within arm’s reach of me, I will hit you in the exact manner and force you used on them.  And then… maybe I’ll ignore you after, just to make sure you get the full effect of the devaluing and dismissal.

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Ok, here we go……

I have had parents tell me that using timeouts is an excellent option for them, it gets great results.  I cringe.. if you understand anything about me, you know that first and foremost, I believe it paramount that we raise our children with intelligence, the ability to reason and understand their world, respect for their world (this includes those who are in a position to care and provide for them), and a curiosity to explore, develop, and learn.  THE moment I hear a parent tell me that they’ve figured out a system to manipulate their child, for the sake of their own will and desire, regardless of why or what, I start to ache for their little one.  Then, I find out they hit them (ok, spank – really, show me what the physical action of a spanking is, now repeat the action with the same force using the same tool either against a piece of foam like the kind you use in the base of a fake plant, or a brick wall if you’re brave and dumb enough.  It’s the same action as hitting, and when the object makes contact, let’s see what happens).  OR I find out they faithfully don’t spank, “would never dream of it, that’s awful and abusive”, but oh yes, they definitely use timeouts, otherwise known as rejection, which includes the transmission of obvious disapproval, and then of course the torturous forced isolation aspect.  Yes, that’s a great solution.

That same parent, in their next breath, ridicules their child passively, dishonors their child’s autonomy and dignity by speaking about them as if they are less, and typically though standing right there, the parent behaves as if the child is not in the room. Then, as if to redeem themselves in the face of, well, my face, which is typically by then contorted and unable to hide the pain it feels due to the unavoidable sense of compassion and dismay I feel for the child, they begin to offer semi-relevant praise “about” their child, that they sort of direct through their child in hopes that I’ll buy it and encourage them that they’re really a great parent after all.  All the while, their child is standing there knowing full well that the praise is empty, that it has a hitch or some sort of catch and they’ll hear about it as soon as I’m not in the room, and that their parent will insist they acknowledge the efforts and praise offered, as if it is an obligation for the child to also validate the parent, as the parent insisted I do.

But I don’t. And to date, only one parent has stood their ground long enough to start asking me why I won’t buy into their ploy and help them feel good about themselves, so that their kid is forced to do the same thing… Only one parent has ever had the courage to question my refusal to help them make their child feel inferior, of course that’s not really what they want, they just want to be superior.

The parent that asked me why it was that it seemed as though I appeared to think they were full of shit, is the same parent that an hour later broke down in front of their child, crying, while sitting on the floor in front of the child, begging the child to forgive him for his arrogance, sense of entitlement, and gross oversight of the true value of his child.  The child responded with compassion and bewilderment, and didn’t say much.

The two left that night, together, connected in a way they’d never been, with a mutual respect present that was brand new.  The child admired the parent, though he was confused and didn’t seem very trusting or certain of the situation.  The parent discovered the immense worth and complexity of his child, and found that he too held a high level of admiration for the child, it had just been hiding under the surface for years – 9 years to be exact (the child was 10 years old).

I heard from this father about a month ago, his child is now 12.  This father is still struggling with allowing himself to truly acknowledge and respect his child’s autonomy and worth. He is driven to seek reasons and actions that justify him feeling and thinking this way, before he demonstrates this belief to his child.

We talked about this concern and the father indicated that he, himself, held a deep resentment toward his own parents and other care givers for never allowing him to feel as though he was a legitimate and useful contributor, simply because he was nothing more than a child.  He grew up assuming that all children were nothing more than something to be dealt with, tolerated until they’re grown, appreciated for what they do that pleases the adult (and in truth, mimics the adult’s preferences), but not too highly appreciated lest the child become arrogant… it goes on and on.

It’s a simple point of attributing a lessor worth and diminished degree of legitimacy to a person, simply because of their age.  We, as a human race, do this to each other based on ethnicity, language, religion, wealth, and gender. We’d be truly crazy hypocrites if we didn’t do the same thing because of age too. Come on, really.. we’re not that dumb, are we?

The positive side the father reported, however, was that his child and he shared a mutual respect for each other, and instead of punishment for error, the father had learned to use logic, reason, natural consequence, and give his child room to error, room to disagree, room to explore and discover, room to question and seek guidance – instead of shoving it down the child’s throat, and room to return respect and admiration for the father that can so deeply love, if he allows himself to be that vulnerable.

The real catch is, this father changed not only the dynamics of his relationship with his then pre-teen child, but that decision affected his relationship with the child’s mother immensely and brought the two parents back together in a mutual love and respect that neither had ever experienced in their former relationship together. Now, each member of this family knows they are valued, appreciated for who they are and what they think, admired for their efforts and dedication, and respected because they are, not because of what they do or don’t. Love found a place to call home and it took root. And this kid, let me tell you, is one emotionally healthy, intelligent, and confident kid, with a boatload of personal integrity and ability to demonstrate compassion and dedication like none I’ve recently seen or known, of the same age.

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Now, to discuss specifically the harm and damage that is the actual result of using a timeout punishment system – quite possibly the most poignant and intelligent perspective I have ever come across regarding the use of timeouts:

What you probably didn’t realize is that the silent treatment is a form of ostracism. When someone is ostracized it affects the part of their brain called the anterior cingulate cortex. Do you know what the anterior cingulate cortex does?

The anterior cingulate cortex is the part of the brain that detects pain. When you give someone the silent treatment you are causing that person physical pain. Simply by ignoring someone else’s existence you can inflict pain on them. This is what the ever popular “time out” with a child is so effective. The child feels ostracized, therefore is feeling pain even though no physical pain was inflicted on them, and therefor they want to behave so they don’t have to feel that way again.

The silent treatment can be a very destructive behavior when it involves personal relationships. Let’s say with a husband and wife for instance. The silent treatment breeds bitterness on both ends and it borders on emotional abuse… I’m not making that up to be dramatic. That’s what “they” say.

S O U R C E

Then, we take a look at this from another angle –

Numb to the pain

It turns out that “hurt feelings” may be a more valid term than most of us think. Research by Williams suggests that ostracism triggers the same area of the brain that’s active when we feel physical pain. He and his colleagues used FMRI to examine what happened in the brain when people played several versions of “Cyberball”: Participants were either included in the game, excluded having been told their computer wasn’t hooked into the network, or intentionally excluded.

Each time participants felt excluded—even when it was unintentional—the brain’s dorsal anterior cingulate cortex lit up, according to findings published in Science (Vol. 302, No. 5643). This area is well-known for being part of the brain’s pain detection system, says Williams. Participants also reported feeling emotional pain.

Williams’s findings make sense from an evolutionary perspective, argue Leary and Geoff MacDonald, PhD, in a 2005Psychological Bulletin (Vol. 131, No. 2) article. They propose that social pain piggybacks on nerve pathways in the brain originally laid out for physical pain. The two now share many of the same pathways, resulting in similar responses to the two seemingly disparate phenomena, they say. It makes sense, says Leary, a Duke University professor of psychology, because social rejection and pain serve the same purpose—alerting an organism to a potentially life-threatening risk.

It may also support a counterintuitive theory proposed by Baumeister and his colleagues: that social rejection leads initially to emotional numbness. They have conducted studies in which they tell participants that based on a psychological evaluation they will end up alone later in life. They’ve found that the participants’ behaviors are affected by the news, but their moods aren’t. Baumeister compares this emotional numbing with the analgesic effect that can happen after an injury. We don’t feel pain until we’ve gotten to safety. This same pathway, he argues, may cause emotional numbness after rejection to allow the brain to begin to cope with the pain before it sets in. In fact, in a series of studies, Baumeister and colleagues find that after rejection, not only are people emotionally numb, but their threshold for physical pain increases.

Williams agrees that emotional numbness can happen. In qualitative interviews he conducted with victims of long-term ostracism, many people described their trouble engaging emotionally. However, he says, it’s not clear yet when or under what conditions people feel numbness versus pain.

Rejection’s link to aggression

Regardless, it’s clear from the research that ostracism and rejection have very real consequences. Williams’s student Lisa Zadro, PhD, now at the University of Sydney in Australia, interviewed 50 people who were either ostracized or perpetrators of ostracism. Those who’d been ostracized reported depression, eating disorders, promiscuity disorders and even attempted suicide. Almost all said that they would have preferred physical abuse to ostracism.

S O U R C E

In fact, long-term rejection can have disastrous consequences in the form of anger and aggression. Leary examined cases of school shootings and found that as many as 80 percent of shooters suffered from prolonged peer rejection. These are, of course, only correlations, but many lab studies support the idea that rejection can lead to aggression.

“There seems to be a failure of self-regulation in people who feel rejected,” says Baumeister. “And this allows a shift toward anti-social and aggressive behavior.”

But aggression is only one reaction people can have, says Williams. He and others find that people may also become more socially attentive in an attempt to win approval. Aggression, he argues, is more likely to occur when people have lost a sense of control. They use aggression to reassert themselves—a motivation that becomes more salient than any desire to be liked.

If you use timeouts, any chance you see the correlation here with either the aggressive response, or the opposing passive response? Do I need to draw to connect the dots or can you?

… on his first day, I witnessed the teacher giving a 4 yo boy a time-out for grabbing a toy from another child. They made him go and sit by himself on a chair away from the other kids and told him to “think about what he had done”. Then they eventually led him back to the group, and said, “next time you want a toy, you will use your…” and he said right on queu, “…words”. So obviously this is not the first time it has happened. I was just shocked. I was told in my tour they didn’t use time-outs. Apparently they do. They didn’t speak meanly, they were calm, but everyone was staring and I felt bad for him. I felt he was humiliated a little, ostracized, singled out.

S O U R C E Go read the rest of this.  The article is a bit choppy, but insightful.

Research suggests that ostracism is an effective form of controlling contranormative behaviors, punishing deviance, and increasing in-group cohesion (Alexander 1986; Barner-Barry, 1986; Basso, 1972; Boehm, 1986; Mahdi, 1986). For example ostracism is still one of the more common methods used to discipline young children, by parents and teachers alike. The issue of enforcing time outs, in schools and special education programs alike, has been discussed at length by social psychologists. The common denominator of most forms of time-out is the reduction of social attention. But this can be carried out in a number of ways, from physically relocating the child to a time-out room, to systematically ignoring the child who remains the same social environment (Brooks, Perry, & Hingerty, 1992; Heron, 1987). It has yet to be determined as to whether time-outs are a beneficial form of discipline.

S O U R C E


Note #2 – the ancient Greece part – I added a bit of something to the definition.

os·tra·cism
–noun

1.

exclusion, by general consent, from social acceptance,privileges,friendship, etc.

2.

(in ancient Greece, and in most contemporary homes and schools where children spend their time, across the United States and other countries) temporary banishment of a citizen,decided upon bypopular vote.

Adoption: Creating a Mini-Me!

My personal life struggles are great enough that I cannot write from the heart much of late. This is probably when I should write the most, at least about the topics I’m struggling with. However, those of you who write will understand when I say that, highly therapeutic or not, I just don’t have the energy.

So instead, I’ll work on debunking yet another article from NGJ.  Though, I must warn you, I may not debunk very effectively.

The quote below is of a comment/letter sent to the NGJ crew, and the response of Mrs. Pearl.  With a little editing by Mike, who we all know is the only reason her response has any value at all.

If you’re nodding your head in agreement right now, please email me privately so we can talk…

S O U R C E

Dear Pearls,
We adopted a child when he was just a baby. We now have several younger birth children. Our whole family enjoys camping and fishing except our oldest. He only likes sports. We have never had a TV or joined in games of this kind, but he will find a way to watch or play any chance he has, even to the point of lying. This causes an extreme breach between us. I have trouble forgiving him. What can we do to get him on the family team? How do we deal with a child who doesn’t want to be a part?

DEBI’S COMMON SENSE (WITH A LITTLE EDITING BY MIKE)
You want him to be a part of your team but you do not want to be part of his. You are assuming that talent and interest can be dictated—a grave mistake. YOU are the one making it an “adoption” problem. When you love someone, you want to see them fulfilled as a person—as the person they are, not the person you want them to be.

I concur. The submitter-parent is unaware of the damage they, themselves, are causing.  Such is the situation with so many parents, and adoptive parents.

The ironic thing here is how well this article and response from the Pearl clan illustrates their hypocrisy.
Here, this is stated, “You cannot, and should not, replace a person’s dreams with your own goals and desires.” And yet, in so many of their other articles, they are insisting on doing just this, but with enough of a twist that instead of ultimate control and power, it looks like love and nurture.

No, one should not attempt to replace or even interfere with the hopes and dreams of another, except where they might serve to encourage or assist that person in achieving them.

You cannot, and should not, replace a person’s dreams with your own goals and desires. If you like hunting or sports or mechanics, that is your heart, and it is fine for you, but if your son likes something different, you are the one who needs to sacrifice to aid him in the fulfillment of his dreams.

If you have read Created To Be His Help Meet, you know about the 3 kinds of men. Like God is three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, man was created in God’s IMAGE. Some men are Command men, some Steady, and some Visionary. Well, boys are little men. If you happen to have a Visionary, then you can be sure he will not be interested in sports or fishing. When you go fishing, he will be interested in building a dam to change the watercourse. If you take him to a sports game, he will be more interested in coming up with a new way to play the game. Boys need to grow up to be the men they were born to be. Help them be the best at WHO THEY ARE.

In this paragraph, in my opinion, the useful information starts and ends with the last three sentences, but mostly just the last two – children (not boys specifically) must be allowed to explore their world and become what they choose. To do anything else to force the person to become what you wish for them. This method does not improve their life.

I detect that you think there is some vanity or evil in your son’s interest. You are too religious even for God. Concentrate on building character in whatever pursuit your son chooses. It is wise to make available many options that are constructive and character building, but don’t think that in the end you can dictate interests. Buy yourself a baseball glove or soccer ball and take him to play. Stand by and cheer like it was the most exciting thing in the world. It is the only way you are going to win.

Ah, here we have what I suspect is Mr. Pearl’s voice…  “It’s the only way you are going to win.”

What is there, exactly, to win.  It’s not about winning, it’s about the positive development of a human, from birth to death.

It is indeed unwise to attempt to push your own agenda and interests on anyone, especially a child in your care.

Ok, This Just Isn’t Right

Go -> SEE THIS (click)

Note #7 (and #8)

The title and description alone grab my attention and wake up the sexual side in my head.

I’m fascinated in a morbid sort of way about the details of just exactly how to “set up the scene” for a planned spanking.  Now, you tell me how this could possibly be something beneficial to a child.  Again, as stated before, I have never used spanking as an adult for sexual enjoyment, have never spanked my child, won’t ever spank my child, was spanked once with my pants down as a three year old, and have a healthy sex life (for the most part – I have a two year old folks, what can I say).

So, what is it, do you suppose, that is triggered in my head when I see the simplest of words arranged in the following ways?

Spanking positions
This chapter discusses the most common spanking positions.
Spanking techniques
This chapter gives additional “how to” recommendations.

Now, take a look at these letters: The first is a father, a widower who has two daughters, aged 16 and 12.  This is horrendous and my heart breaks for these girls.  Girls, if you ever happen to stumble upon this post, you are most welcome to contact me for support; I will network you with a plethora of people who will stand beside and behind you and give you a way to end the madness he’s forcing.

I am a 38 year-old widower with two daughters: 16 and 12. My younger daughter recently landed on your site and showed it to me. Thank you for providing such a well thought-out presentation. I find that I agree with most of what you say. But I have a couple of exceptions.

First, I don’t agree with your “same sex” spanking concepts. Yes, I recognize the danger: a father spanking his daughter might cause some sexual response. But a frank discussion about the difference between having feelings and acting on those feelings should deal with that issue. And these days, there’s so much homosexuality on the TV and elsewhere that I’m not sure “same sex” spankings wouldn’t face the same danger anyway.

My wife died 4 years ago. Even before that, whenever the girls needed a spanking I was the one who spanked them. The Bible holds fathers responsible for spanking their children (See Ephesians 6:4 for example). Abdicating that responsibility is not an option. As long as the father is in the home, it’s his job to do whatever spanking is needed.

Second, I see a problem with your definitions of cooperative and uncooperative children. My girls kind of fit your definition of cooperative children: they know that I love them and they agree that they need to be spanked when they misbehave. And they don’t generally “resist” being spanked for a very good reason: I use the “bare hand on bare bottom” method, but I have a little switch that I reserve for really serious misbehavior.

Once, when my older daughter was 15, she started trying to hit me while I was taking her up to the master bedroom for a spanking. I simply asked her, “Do I need to get The Switch?” Her reaction was a frantic “Nooooooo!” and there was no more problem with resistance.

AHHHHHRGHGHGHGHGHGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That 15 year old girl is nothing short of a young woman and what this father is doing is terribly, terribly wrong.  God, there goes my stomach (and God’s too) again.  AND IN THE NAME OF GOD!!!

WRONG

WRONG

WRONG

Twisted, stupid, DAMAGING, wrong!

If either of these two girls decided to tell their school counselor (given that it is a public school that doesn’t also have its head up its ass) that their father spanks them, especially bare, the spankings would cease.  The father would come under investigation and the girls would be given ongoing support and counseling.  I would throw the father into a pit with a bunch of gay men and let them spank him until he couldn’t manage himself anymore.

How pathetic.


S O U R C E
If I were growing up today, Mother could post on parenting web forums about how “effective” spankings are as discipline for her daughters. She could brush aside concerns about emotional harm saying “an hour after I spank her, Carol is happily playing or doing her chores.” She could talk about my good grades in school. She could talk about how polite I am and respectful to my elders, and how she gets compliments from other adults about what a good girl I am in public. And if anyone tried to warn her that she might give her child a fetish, she could laugh and say, “Carol would never turn out like that. She hates to be spanked!” And nothing she said would be a lie.

Now I am retired, unmarried, childless, on medication for depression. At a tender age I used my budding sexuality to cope with something I didn’t know how else to cope with. And it has left its mark on me forever. I’ve been paying the price all my life and I will never stop paying. I am unmarried because the circuits in my brain that should have been used for romance were vandalized by spankings instead. I am childless because I never married. So there is a direct link between my spankings, how I coped with them, and my being sexually abnormal, and hence never marrying and having any children of my own.

Not all of the harm is sexual in nature. An “it made me what I am today” pattern emerges whenever someone unexpectedly confronts me in an angry way about something I did. I have a bad habit of saying the first rationalization that pops into my mind, sometimes even lying. It just blurts itself out of me. And I don’t know how to change. It goes back so far. It is a habit I learned as a preschooler that sometimes saved me from a bottom warming. It usually didn’t, but something that works only occasionally is better than nothing at all.

Another lifelong bad effect of my spankings is that when someone orders me to do something in a stern authoritarian voice, I usually just cave in and do it even if I don’t feel right about what I am doing. It just happens, seemingly by itself. And it all goes back to my earliest years. Growing up in my “traditional values” family, children did as they were told and didn’t talk back. If you did, Mommy would turn you across her knee, pull down your panties and “teach you a lesson” right then and there. I sure learned my lessons! The trouble is, how do you unlearn that lesson as a grownup out in the world who has to stand up for herself? I just hate myself now whenever I realize that once again I let myself be someone’s doormat.

Here are some interesting reads – they are written for the purpose of satisfying the erotic desires of adults, and are on the topic of spanking.  Now, call me crazy, but the letters found on the Chastise With Love site, the descriptions for technique and position, and the fictional accounts found below seem to have an eerie similarity.

http://www.smilingwithteeth.com/janitorium/storiesJS/mommyithurts.html

http://www.textfiles.com/sex/EROTICA/B/boy.txt

Were you spanked as a child? How did you feel about it then and how about now?

See what it does to you.