Parents of different cultures in our society are searching for the perfect solution to raise happy, healthy, children. The controversial issue of using corporal punishment is constantly being disputed by many different societies.
In 1980 a highly credentialed group of sociologists published, Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family. With eight years of gathering interviews and research they found that eighty- three percent of 2,143 parents interviewed which were all from different cultural backgrounds, admitted using some form of violence on their children at some time in the childs life. Violence is an act carried out with the intention to cause physical pain or injury (Strause, Gelles, and Steinmeitz).
Corporal punishment is still widely used on children. Unfortunately it can have severe consequences. Professor Philip Greven, of the State University of New Jersey writes, The pain and suffering experiences by children who have been physically punished resonate through time, first during the seeming endless days and nights of childhood and adolescence, and later through the lives as we lead as adults. In the book, Athapaskan Adaptions, James Vanstone states; that Athapaskan children are rarely punished by corporal punishment, but disciplinary action would be taken if a child failed to adjust or was slow to take over socially approved habits.
Many parents continue to use physical punishment to discipline their children for various reasons. The most common reason is the belief that if parents truly love their children and care about there well-being, then they must impose their authority, values and cultural beliefs on the child. This belief is based on the fear of spoiling a child. This suggests that children whose wants are met will become selfish and inconsiderate adults. In the book Dancing with a Ghost, Ross believed that the native people of Canada did not interfere with their children out of love and that interference was a wrong thing to do.
Another reason parents use physical punishment comes from the background of religion and culture. Dr. James Dobson is perhaps the most popular author of child rearing books and literature with a biblical background. He believes and clearly states that, Corporal punishment in the hands of a loving parent is an act of love. His beliefs are based on the Bible, Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with a rod, he shall not die (Proverbs 23:13). Perhaps physical punishment is too deeply rooted in cultures and throughout the society of today.
Although we are a nation obsessed with the idea that children need discipline, some parents admit to having mixed feeling about punishing their children (Gordon). According to several child psychologists there are many effective methods to parent young children without spanking or yelling. These methods, when used consistently, can allow the child to explore his world and grow into adulthood self-disciplined and with self-respect. The process to help a child achieve these skills requires time, patience and the ability to understand a childs developmental growth. Encouraging acceptable behavior, giving responsibilities and providing the opportunity for independent decision- making can teach a child self-discipline and self-worth.
Changing unacceptable behaviors to acceptable behavior usually involves the skill of problem solving. There is almost always a need a child is trying to meet that leads to unacceptable behavior. With babies and toddlers, a parent needs to recognize the need and help the child achieve it with an acceptable form of behavior. With adolescents there is the ever-changing environment, increasing responsibilities, and peer pressures that parents need to be aware of. Parents need to make time to discuss and listen to their children with an open form of communication. In Reviving Ophelia many adolescent girls struggled with many different problems that were often the result of todays environment.
Infants cry to achieve a need or want. A baby will cry if he is hungry, wet, or tired. He could also cry simply for attention. It is important for parents to respond to an infants cry and help the child achieve his need, because he is not capable of meeting his own needs. As children grow older they also use unacceptable behaviors to achieve their wants. When the unacceptable behavior occurs the parent need to find out what the child wants and help him to achieve it with acceptable behavior. Instead of using negative punishment, such as physical, this encourages appropriate and acceptable solution to the childs problem.
A childs environment can also be changed, for instance a child insists on hitting, kicking, and punching a friend because that is what the power rangers do, than the environments needs to be changed. There are several alternatives that could prevent this type of behavior such as: providing the child with other activities like books, crayons, puzzles and other simple activities which may enrich the childs environment, or discuss the consequences of such actions, which would consist of not allowing the child to view such programs. This would encourage the child to use appropriate and acceptable behavior in away that is not harsh, or threatening to the child (Gordon).
Another effective method for helping children learn self-discipline is the use of I messages. The use of I messages allows yourself, to explain how you feel, or how you are being affected. Instead of using you messages that put blame, judgment, evaluation and criticism, I messages keep the feelings a responsibility of the speaker. Children will more likely want to modify this behavior out of consideration of others (Gordon).
If a child has self-worth than he is more likely to behave in an acceptable manner. When a child feels important and is confident, he has self-worth. This can be achieved simply by providing them opportunities to explore different responsibilities. A child needs to feel that he is an important part of his family, this can be done by giving the child responsibility around the house such a chores. Perhaps todays children have entirely too much free time on their hands. Encouraging children to participate in family chores provides children with self-esteem and self worth.
Finally as a childs self-worth and self-esteem grow. They become more independent and learn how to make decisions. Good decision making skills are learned through practice. Allowing a child to make decisions that are not life-threatening (as the lady who allowed her son to hang himself did in Dancing With A ghost.), demoralizing, or unhealthy will prepare them for difficult decisions in their adult life and provide some control over themselves as children.
Adults from every walk of life, Native American, African American or Euro Western American make decisions everyday. Some decisions are difficult and some are simple. Having the authority to make decisions is an act of independence that most adults take for granite. When children are provided the opportunity to make decisions at an early age, the learning process has begun.
For the young preschooler who is beginning to express his likes and dislikes, this would be an opportunity to start offering choices. The choices you offer would be a simple one; whether he wanted the blue cup or the green cup. At this delicate age a choice between two things is complex enough. Older children are capable of making more complex decisions. School-age children could help the teacher decide what culture they would like to learn about this month. These choices are important to children who are trying to gain independence and a sense of who they are. Providing children choices allows them some control that will help them to gain self-confidence and self-esteem.
Children are our future, no matter what our ethnic background may be, and we need to nurture them and provide them with the skills to become independent. Although the use of physical punishment remains popular in most cultures, a growing number of parents are looking for alternatives. They are also becoming more educated in child development. The more parents begin to understand why children use inappropriate behavior, the better chance physical punishment, will be an inappropriate way to discipline children.