You Get Obedience, What Does Your Kid Get?

Every Smack is a Humiliation – A Manifesto

by Alice Miller

Many researchers have already proved that corporal punishment on children may indeed produce obedience in the short term but will have serious negative consequences on their character and behavior. Only if there was at least one single person who loved and understood the child, the disastrous development toward later crimes and illnesses could be prevented. During their whole childhood, dictators like Hitler, Stalin or Mao never came across such a helping witness. They learned very early to glorify cruelty and hypocrisy and to justify them while committing crimes on millions of people. Millions of others, because also exposed to physical maltreatment in childhood, helped them to do so without the slightest remorse.

Children should not be the scapegoats of adults’ painful experiences. The claim that mild punishments (slaps or smacks) have no detrimental effects is still widespread because we got this message very early from our parents who had taken it over from their own parents. This conviction helped the child to minimize his suffering and to endure it. Unfortunately, the main damage it causes is precisely our numbness as well as the lack of sensitivity for our children’s pain. The result of the broad dissemination of this damage is that each successive generation is subjected to the tragic effects of seemingly harmless “correction”. Many parents still think: What didn’t hurt me can’t hurt my child. They don’t realize that their conclusion is wrong because they never challenged their assumption.

When in Sweden legislation laws prohibiting corporal punishment were launched in 1978, 70% of the citizens asked for their opinion were against it. In 1997, the figure had dropped to 10%. These statistics show that the mentality of the Swedish population has radically changed in the course of a mere 20 years. A destructive tradition of millennia has been done away with thanks to this legislation.

It is imperative to launch legislation prohibiting corporal punishment all over the world. It does not set out to incriminate anyone but is designed to have a protective and informative function for parents. Sanctions could simply take the form of the obligation for parents to internalize information on the consequences of corporal punishment available today. Information on the “well-meant smack” should therefore be broadcasted to all, since unconscious education to violence takes its roots very early and inflicts disastrous imprints. The vital interests of society as a whole are at stake.


(German translation)
(French translation)

See also:
“Punishment Does Not Work”


Copyright © Alice Miller, 1998

The Effect Striking Our Children Has on Their Minds

Spanking Decreases Intelligence?

by Danelle Frisbie ©2009

The topic of spanking is not one I have thought much about – after all, most of my research surrounds birth and babies, and who (heaven forbid!) spanks a baby?! But new research suggests there are parents out there who are in the habit of spanking their 2-year-olds — and it may very well be impacting these little ones in detrimental neurological ways.
It makes sense – we know through ample research that the natural parenting techniques as old as humanity itself – such as babywearingand breastfeeding – dramatically increase neuro development and functioning, resulting in higher IQ, among other beneficial things. So it is not too shocking that the antithesis of peaceful parenting — forthright aggression on babies and children — may have just the opposite impact on their rapidly developing brains.

While completing graduate work in clinical psychology, I regularly administered personality inventories and IQ tests on ‘troubled’ children, and was then required to make recommendations per their treatment. Rarely was I afforded the opportunity to look into their home life — or examine more closely how these children were treated by family members or raised by their parent(s). I was required to ‘treat’ the problem, while never fully getting to the root of the cause.

The latest research from the National Institute of Mental Health and the University of New Hampshire claims a discovery has been made into one (small?) component of mental health and human intelligence. The results are intriguing. Murray Straus, who led the last two studies, says that spanking actually decreases IQ, and to a significant degree. Yes, you read that right: Spanking your child impacts intelligence (at least that which we can measure using intelligence tests and methodological quotients).

Straus led two recent studies – one conducted on a national level in the United States, and one on an international level. Parents of 1,500 young American children participating in an IQ research project were asked how often they spanked their children. Responses were compared with IQ results.

Results showed that children (age 2-4) who were not spanked at all had IQs that were, on average, 5 points higher, (and stayed higher for the next 4 years over the course of the study), than children who were spanked. Children to the age of 10 were included in the study and the same trend was found for older children as well. The impact of spanking on IQ, however, was most pronounced in the younger children. I suspect this may be in part because the brain is most rapidly developing (and most significantly impacted) until the age of about 5 years old when it is 98% complete.

[Side note: This is also likely the reason that natural, child-led weaning occurs around the same time – around the age of 5 – in the majority of the world and throughout human history, when breastfeeding-phobic social pressures do not cut it short. The developing brain is supplied with just the right concoction of building blocks via mother’s milk the entire time it is in rapid formation mode.]

Straus’ results are being published in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma. In addition, Straus and colleagues are presenting the findings of their second (international) study on spanking and intelligence at a San Diego based conference on abuse and trauma this week.

In the international study, Straus interviewed university students in an examination of corporal punishment and IQ. After conducting research across 32 countries around the world, results showed a lower national IQ in countries where corporal punishment is common.

In the U.S. study various factors (such as parental education level and economic status) were adjusted for. The negative correlation between spanking and IQ held true (the less spanking, the higher the IQ; the more spanking, the lower the IQ). In the international study, parent’s education level and economic status were more difficult to adjust for.

Straus is a long time supporter of peaceful parenting and using multiple proactive strategies for discipline that do not include aggression or violence against babies and children. He has researched extensively on subjects such as aggression, violence, rape, and abuse within families.

These latest findings echo what we have seen in other studies: Peaceful Parenting (or Attachment Parenting) leads to lower stress hormones (such as cortisol) in babies and children, greater trust (in parents/each other/the world), secure attachment, and more complex neurological development and brain activity, among other things.

In the end, it may just be true that babies and children were born to be loved and tenderly, gently cared for – not physically acted upon in any form.

If you would like a pdf copy of these latest studies, message me and I will be happy to pass them along to you.

Becoming Babywise

Not much more that I can say… I haven’t yet forced myself to get through the pages of the Babywise book, but what little I do know of it, I completely disagree with it having an ounce of intelligence.

For much better, baby-friendly alternatives to Babywise please see any of these excellent baby/toddler parenting resource books below.

Remember:  Babies cry to communicate that a NEED has not yet been met – they do NOT cry to manipulate. Their cries are their only form of communication if parents do not recognize and attend to their other non-verbal cues/signals signifying particular needs. Listen to your primal mothering/fathering instincts. Pick up your baby, love him, feed her, snuggle him, wear her, rock him, soothe her – it will all be over in the blink of an eye and you will be so thankful that you peacefully parented your little one while s/he still fit in your arms.

S O U R C E

Quiverfull… Quiverful… Grab a blanket, light a fire, and stop quivering

I can hear responses the already, “This has nothing to do with raising children.”

I believe it does.  I see an integral and deeply woven internal, far and eternally reaching link… and I have never read anyone articulate these thoughts so superbly.

The truth is, not all men are cut out for leadership in the home or church. And for those with controlling, punitive, and demanding tendencies, the practice of patriarchy in the home will only exacerbate their insatiable egos and lend an air of spiritual credence to their tyranny and abuse in the name of “protection” and spiritual covering.

S O U R C E

The truth is, not all men are cut out for leadership in the home or church. And for those with controlling, punitive, and demanding tendencies, the practice of patriarchy in the home will only exacerbate their insatiable egos and lend an air of spiritual credence to their tyranny and abuse in the name of “protection” and spiritual covering.

The truth is, the woman who aspires to be a Proverbs 31 wife is setting herself up for failure. Often I have agonized over the overwhelming burden expressed by wives and mothers who feel they are not meeting the standard ~ they try so hard, and yet ~ there’s not enough of one woman to go around. Even with the help of the older daughters, the workload is ceaseless and the demands on her time and energy are bound to leave her feeling inadequate. Must be her lack of faith. Perhaps what she needs is to read another Vision Forum book or attend an Above Rubies conference wherein she’ll discover the KEY to making it all work, getting it all done.

Seriously ~ what Mothers of Many need is RELIEF ~ not another “revelation” about what truly constitutes the godly wife and mother. Not another pep-talk from Nancy to inspire her to “present her body a living sacrifice.” No more visions and bible verses to load her with guilt when she somehow doesn’t manage to reproduce the Garden of Eden within her godly home.

In the patriarchal world which I will no longer take part of, the Commanding Officers (the men) are forever waging war against the world and the devil. Wives and children are useful as foot soldiers and arrows in this daily battle for the Kingdom of God. Should a mother die in childbirth, she is hailed as a faithful, dedicated woman ~ hers is a martyr’s death. But if she should struggle ~ if she fails to reverence her husband despite his imperfections and failures to love her as Christ loves the church ~ if she should dare complain that she’s tired and overwhelmed ~ if she has a healthy self-preservation factor ~ or should she be a thinking woman who just can’t manage to adorn herself with that highly prized “meek and quiet spirit” ~ then she is a rebellious Jezebel ~ a reproach on the testimony of Christ. Likewise, the children are valued only in as much as they conform to the lifestyle chosen for them by their parents.

And here is where the children and their well being enter the scene…

It seems crazy that thousands of years later, we should be trying to emulate the family structure and gender roles of an ancient society which viewed women and children as property. Truthfully, I’m kind of pissed that I so willingly co-operated in my own oppression for so many years ~ I allowed myself and my children to be used to fulfill an egotistical fantasy of a man who desired to be king of his castle.

Patriarchy is a pretty sweet deal ~ for the man who gets a Proverbs 31 wife and a quiverfull of children like olive branches around his table. In that family set-up, Daddy reigns supreme. I know, I know ~ the teaching is that it’s actually the Lord Jesus whom the wife and children serve when they submit to and obey the father. And when I think about it ~ that’s so twisted! How convenient for the man that all this is clearly spelled out in the Word of God.

I suppose I shall have to expound upon my point and direction here, but first I must finish her article and let it sit for a while.  I hear this woman as if she were inside my head, and I have never once given a moment’s thought to the belief system she struggled in.  Well, not until now, at least.  So, I can’t quite formulate a logical response, mine would be entirely emotionally driven at this moment… give me a few.

Hand Slapping, Exploration, Confidence: An Important Understanding

S O U R C E

SLAPPING HANDS
How tempting it is to slap those daring little hands! Many parents do it without thinking, but consider the consequences. Maria Montessori, one of the earliest opponents of slapping children’s hands, believed that children’s hands are tools for exploring, an extension of the child’s natural curiosity. Slapping them sends a powerful negative message. Sensitive parents we have interviewed all agree that the hands should be off-limits for physical punishment. Research supports this idea. Psychologists studied a group of sixteen fourteen-month-olds playing with their mothers. When one group of toddlers tried to grab a forbidden object, they received a slap on the hand; the other group of toddlers did not receive physical punishment. In follow-up studies of these children seven months later, the punished babies were found to be less skilled at exploring their environment. Better to separate the child from the object or supervise his exploration and leave little hands unhurt.

I love this.  It’s brief, allows one to contemplate (which I am now), and doesn’t condemn or judge.  Bravo!

I know the urge… She’s grabbing it again (insert object of interest) and it either scares you, annoys you, or is in direct violation of whatever you just told her not to touch.  What is your instinct? You know that if you slap her hand, it will sting and therefore she’ll pull her hand away and theoretically stop touching whatever you want her to stop touching.  Gotta love instant gratification.  But if it were my daughter, she’d just touch it the moment I turned my back anyway, so why bother.

Now, the NGJ method would interject here that if I had smacked her hand hard enough, she’d have learned her lesson and would remember well enough to not touch whatever it was again.  This brings two thoughts to mind:  First, violence begets violence. Second, let’s just say the item I don’t want her to touch is my coffee mug.  Ok, so I slap her hand hard enough and frequently enough that she learns she is better off not touching it (because she doesn’t like pain, nor does she like the hit to her self confidence).  So what happens in a few years when I ask her to do the dishes and the only item that never gets tended to by her is my own damn coffee cup.

Hum… now what.  I mean, it’s not like I can say a word about it to her.  I have destroyed her confidence in handling my coffee cup, made it off limits across the board by physically punishing her for touching it, instead of working with her intellect so that she can learn the dangers, and now I want her to chip in and help wash the thing.    See my dilemma?

Expand that to an entire collection of items that we categorically define as off limits for babies and toddlers.  We instill confusion, a lack of confidence, hypocrisy, and an innate sense of “wrong” for things that are completely benign to any human of an age of comprehension.  This makes no sense.  If the child is too young to be educated on what or why not to touch the item, just remove the object from within their reach and possible interest until they are old enough to comprehend!

That said… In our case, as I stated above, my daughter will receive the instruction to not/stop touching something and then the moment I am not looking, she will graze the item with her fingertips in defiance, while quietly watching to see if I notice.  She’s pushing for control here. She’s testing her ability to control herself and her environment. She’s not trying to control me, but she is being defiant.  And you know what, I have noticed a pattern with this defiance.  IF I have instructed her not to touch something without educating her as to why (this includes the education going no further than it being my desire to have her leave something alone, no other logic involved), then the defiance is typically present  to one degree or another.  IF however, I have educated her as to why she should leave something alone and not touch/pick it up/etc., even if that education is simply that the item does not belong to us (but does specifically belong someone else, including me, excluding her) and therefore must only be explored by her eyes, she typically will not bother it.  And if she does, once reminded of why she shouldn’t, she usually dismisses her interest and self corrects.  Yes, she uses her own judgement and chooses to abstain from the temptation, of her own accord. Crazy, huh.

I think I can probably say that I have slapped her tiny little hands a total of a half dozen times in her entire life.  Each and every time it has been out of personal impatience, annoyance, and personal/internal frustration.  Once again, it’s me needing a physical release of a negative emotion caused by the interaction with my daughter and her independent and immature self. Yippee for me, I solved my concern with instant gratification for myself, no education for my daughter, and an example of violence and selfish response for her to ponder and remember.  Well then. I have also demonstrated my own laziness and impatience. I’m doing good.

______________________________________________________________

Alternately, I can take the responsibility upon myself while she’s too young to comprehend and simply remove items from her reach or where she is even aware of their existence (I do not believe in negatively tempting children). Then,  after she reaches an age that she is able to comprehend reliably, I can instruct and educate her on why and what to abstain from touching or playing with. I can remind her as necessary, and if defiance is the reason for the reminder(s) being necessary, I can employ other techniques to get my point across (like if she won’t leave something of mine alone, I will simply not leave something of hers alone that she wants me to – and/or not allow her to have it until she makes the connection, which usually takes about 2 minutes).  And in the event she simply chooses to ignore and not make the connection, it’s usually bed time or time to change venue/activity and assert gently that she must acknowledge the importance of what I am imparting to her.  These times almost always correlate with fatigue, or fatigue.  Again, my responsibility to remedy and have the wisdom and sensitivity to manage properly.

There is one caveat: In the event that your child is reaching and millimeters away from an object that will severely injure and/or scar them physically or psychologically, and you have no time to react in any other fashion, then and only then would I personally condone the use of a harsh slapping away motion (this is different than a hand slap).  This quick reflex may cause a bit of a sting if it ends up being enough of a snap, but chances are that if it’s necessary it’s because you only have a split second to respond and save your little one’s hand, mind, or other body part.  This is a protective move, not a punishing one.  This sort of response is not out of annoyance but fear and desire to preserve the well being of the child.  I hope I am clear.

In My Silence

Contemplative Indignation

I spoke with a friend tonight about time outs. Now my wheels are spinning.

I haven’t had a chance to write in a long time due to some personal changes, uprooting, and a general, massive directional modification in (my) life’s path.  That said, I am reminded this evening of the value not only to myself, but the potential value to others, for me to put thoughts to paper – forgive me, but is there a technological synonym, really?   Yeah, didn’t think so.

I am too tired to write much tonight, save the few comments I have already responded to, but I will give you a bit of info on the topics I’ll tackle in the coming days/weeks as the muse inspires and allows. And you all know my muse is a toddler, right!!

Topics to be explored (your feedback, input, data, etc., is always encouraged):

  • Ostracism (Time Outs), Rejection, Humiliation of Children in the Name of Discipline and Punishment
  • Curbing Insolence, or Perhaps Appreciating It
  • Your Child’s Worldview
  • Engaging – Not Just Monitoring Your Child (Anyone see the Incredibles??)
  • Bedtime (No, Not Mine, the Kid’s… Ok, Mine Too)
  • Peaceful Coexistence vs.  Harmony

So, until I can think straight and don’t see little blurs darting in/out of my peripheral vision…

Good night.

Resources: Understanding Ostracism, Timeouts

http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/805746/positive-discipline-why-timeouts-dont-work

http://www.psychwiki.com/wiki/Ostracism

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/04/social.aspx

http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=9781572306899

http://www.mothering.com/discussions/archive/index.php/t-922731.html

http://books.google.com/books?id=M0flM4dgpDUC&pg=PA12&lpg=PA12&dq=timeouts+ostracism&source=bl&ots=NNNExUmWFw&sig=CqcXM8QwYW_Em3HQSdQbxsmn_-8&hl=en&ei=Se-OTL6JLYSdlgfovZm0Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBsQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

List goes on… I’ll add more as we go.

Beyond Spanking, Beyond Training: A Look At Our Littlest Minds

Something that has hit me like a wrecking ball in all this research I’ve conducted in the last few weeks is an awareness of how what I do, EVERYTHING I DO, as far as my child is involved, literally molds and shapes her very existence. Mentally, physically, psychologically, emotionally.. every single aspect of her being is vulnerable to outside experiences, and will be throughout her entire life, but never more so than these early years when her brain is actually physically still developing the foundation it will function from until her final breath.

For example, previously, when my husband would depart for the office and my daughter would be upset and ask for him to come back, I would tell her she was ok, Mama was with her, and that Papa would return shortly.

One day, while saying these very words, I actually focused on her face, and her body’s response to what I was saying.  She was angry.  With me!  She knew Papa would eventually return, but she was NOT ok!  She was upset.  She was sad, and she was experiencing the anxiety and discomfort of having her Papa leave her presence.  She did not need me to point out the obvious, nor did she need me to invalidate her feelings by trying to reverse or counter them.  She needed my empathy and comforting.

Now, when my little one expresses a feeling or emotional response to something, I will ask her for more details and talk to her about it as if I were also a two year old that is not capable of understanding what an adult does.  I will hold her, tell her I miss her Papa (or whatever) too, and ask her what I can do to help how she feels.  Notice here, I do not ask her how I can help her feel better, because it’s likely she doesn’t need to feel better, but needs to feel the impact of the emotion that she is experiencing, and work through it as her mind dictates.

This goes back to experiencing life through the eyes of the child. Now, I have even more reason to do so, not only to prevent my little one from feeling dis-valued or simply “humored”, but now I am aware of what chemicals are released upon stress (especially in forming brains) and how these chemicals affect the mind and its development.  This is a HUGE responsibility, if you ask me.  We’re not only talking about this person’s childhood, nor just her future as a functioning adult, but we’re talking about her in her entirety.  ALL that she is.. I have the responsibility to guarantee that nothing I do to or with, or around her, is going to cause her mind to be affected negatively or to force it to function in a diminished capacity.

Do you feel the impact and weight of that?  I’m still on the floor… it’s been about 10 days.

When I shout because I loose my temper, my daughter’s brain responds and floods certain areas with certain chemicals, and after time, if this keeps happening, these areas of the brain will not develop as they should. (If you want the science behind this, ask me.)

When my husband and I argue – same principle, only even worse, because her logic places her in-between as a peacemaker.

I cannot fathom intentionally subjecting my child to any form of trauma.

Let’s define trauma –  Take a look at the dictionary’s definition, and read this article

–noun,plural
Pathology.
a.  a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident.
b.  the condition produced by this; traumatism.
Psychiatry.
a.an experience that produces psychological injury or pain.
b. the psychological injury so caused.
c. An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption.

______________________________________

Below is an excerpt from an article that discusses, in relatively simple English, what happens when children are experienced to situations they perceive as threatening.

Many of the articles and stories presented on the NGJ website (examples to follow, but just glance at the topics on the right and you’ll find plenty) are very descriptive and explain how their method causes the child to experience fear, survival responses, and dread.  They also discuss what to do when your child attempts to evade you coming after him to spank him – track him down and do it harder – they will learn to not try to escape.  If logic were being used instead of terror and power tactics, though the child might not like the natural consequences to their actions, they’re not going to have the same responses as they might to the knowledge that they’re about to be struck, and humiliated, and that they have no choice but to submit because if they don’t, they know their “punishment” will just become that much worse.

The Neurobiological Responses to Threat

When a child is threatened, various neurophysiological and neuroendocrine responses are initiated. If they persist, there will be ‘use-dependent’ alterations in the key neural systems involved in the stress response. These include the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. In animal models, chronic activation of the HPA system in response to stress has negative consequences. Chronic activation may “wear out” parts of the body including the hippocampus, a key area involved in memory, cognition and arousal. This may be occurring in traumatized children as well. Dr. Martin Teicher and colleagues have demonstrated hippocampal/limbic abnormalities in a sample of abused children.

Another set of neural systems that become sensitized by repetitive stressful experiences are the catecholamine systems including the dopaminergic and noradrenergic systems. These key neurochemical systems become altered following traumatic stress. The result is a cascade of associated changes in attention, impulse control, sleep, fine motor control and other functions mediated by the catecholamines. As these catecholamines and their target regions (e.g., amygdaloid nuclei) also mediate a variety of other emotional, cognitive and motor functions, sensitization of these systems by repetitive re-experiencing of the trauma leads to dysregulation in many functions. A traumatized child may, therefore, exhibit motor hyperactivity, anxiety, behavioral impulsivity, sleep problems, tachycardia and hypertension. In preliminary studies by our group, we have seen altered cardiovascular regulation (e.g., increased resting heartrate) suggesting altered autonomic regulation at the level of the brainstem. In other studies, clonidine, an alpha2 adrenergic receptor partial agonist has been demonstrated to be an effective pharmacotherapeutic agent, presumably by altering the sensitivity of the noradrenergic systems. Studies by Dr. Michael DeBellis and colleagues have demonstrated other catecholamine and neuroendocrine alterations in a sample of sexually abused girls. These indirect studies all support the hypotheses of a use-dependent alteration in the brainstem catecholamine systems following childhood trauma.

Implications of Trauma-related Alterations in Brain Development

All experiences change the brain – yet not all experiences have equal ‘impact’ on the brain. Because the brain is organizing at such an explosive rate in the first years of life, experiences during this period have more potential to influence the brain – in positive and negative ways. Traumatic experiences and therapeutic experiences impact the same brain and are limited by the same principles of neurophysiology. Traumatic events impact the multiple areas of the brain that respond to the threat. Use-dependent changes in these areas create altered neural systems that influence future functioning. In order to heal (i.e., alter or modify trauma), therapeutic interventions must activate those portions of the brain that have been altered by the trauma. Understanding the persistence of fear-related emotional, behavioral, cognitive and physiological patterns can lead to focused therapeutic experiences that modify those parts of the brain impacted by trauma.

Our evolving understanding of neurodevelopment suggests directions for assessment, intervention and policy. Primary among these is a clear rationale for early identification and aggressive, pro-active interventions that will improve our ability to help traumatized and neglected children. The earlier we intervene, the more likely we will be to preserve and express a child’s potential.