Friday, September 13, 2013

I still will not teach violence

I was at Hokey Pokey a few weeks ago with Rachel, with some mummies and their little ones around Rachel's age. I was sitting on the floor and one of the little girls came up to me and hit me in the face with the plastic toy that she was holding.

It didn't hurt but it was a deliberate and intentional act, so I was a little concerned about the reasons behind it. At her age, children aren't naturally mean or hurtful. She was trying to socialise and engage with me and she thought that hitting me was how to do it. I wanted to see if I could help her understand that it wasn't, and to show her that she could express herself in a different way. So I rubbed my head, looked pained and asked her, "Why did you do that?" I didn't expect an answer - it was simply to kickstart an interaction that I hoped would lead to something meaningful and, in fact, her daughter was looking at me, already engaged by what I was saying.

The mother, who had her back turned before, then came over and asked what happened. I told her that her daughter hit me. I was not trying to complain; I wanted to explain why I was interacting with her daughter and what I was doing, and of course, to hand over the situation to her mother, expecting that the mother would talk to her daughter, explain things and show her how people should interact.

The mother was very apologetic and embarrassed. She immediately grabbed her daughter's hands and smacked them a couple of times. She didn't say anything to her daughter. Instead, she talked to me, apologising, telling me that her daughter "does this all the time".

And so I understood why the little girl hit me in the face.

To complete the story - as the mother was smacking the girl's hands and talking to me, the little girl was still looking at me. She never wavered from me. To her, we were supposed to be interacting, socialising. Her hitting me in the face was just part of that. To reinforce my view, the little girl was completely unfazed and unaffected by her mother smacking her hands. To her, I was more "unusual" and interesting, than getting her hands smacked. Obviously, she sees hitting and smacking often enough in her day-to-day life to accept it as no big deal. Children learn what they live, don't they?

That concerned me in another way as well - it just gets worse from there, doesn't it? When the child becomes immune to light smacking and hitting, the parent becomes more frustrated and angry and hits harder. It's not effective until the rulers and the canes come out, until the red welts appear on the child. Until the child cries out to acknowledge the pain. Then, and only then, is it a big deal.

But what did the little girl learn here? Assuming that she even understood that she was getting smacked because she smacked me (unlikely because we were already past that and her mother didn't connect the dots for her), what seemed to me to be happening was that she was learning to refrain from socialising with people. Hitting was socialising so don't hit means don't socialise. To add to that, her mother led her away immediately after smacking her.

I've written about spanking before. Please click here to read my post. I am completely against and totally abhor any form of hitting, smacking, spanking, or beating. Not matter what you call it, it's an bullying act of violence and battery against a helpless child. I do not believe that spanking or smacking your child yields the right lesson, and whatever lesson you intend to teach can be taught in countless other, better ways. Conversely, the lessons that spanking imparts are far more damaging. In the case of the girl at Hokey Pokey, she had obviously learned that bonking someone in the face is how people interact.

I have been wanting to re-post my post again on the blog for sometime now, but I guess I didn't want to simply present it as it is, without adding some (more) value. Yesterday, I read this post from Teacher Tom which presented the opportunity. Teacher Tom has written a couple of posts on his blog about this topic and he recently made a video for Kids in the House on this topic, which you can also see in his post. Do read the full post and check the links there. Here, I wanted to extract just this paragraph from the post:

"Spanking damages the brain. It literally reduces grey matter and therefore intelligence, learning, sensory perception, speech, muscular control, emotions and memory. Research consistently links corporal punishment with aggression in children, poor academic performance, depression, and anti-social tendencies."

Please read this post from Psychology Today (also linked in Teacher Tom's post) and bear in mind that this is not an isolated finding. There is overwhelming data that supports the conclusions set out in that post. Overwhelming data. Hundreds of scientific studies and surveys show the negative outcomes that are associated with physical punishment. "The research is clear and well understood: corporal punishment has overwhelmingly negative effects on children's development, and there is now almost total unanimity amongst scholars and child development experts that the effects of corporal punishment are undesirable at least and extremely harmful (sometimes fatal) at worst." (I'm quoting Alec at Child's Play Music, from a comment he made on Teacher Tom's Facebook post).

So, I'm writing about this today in the hope that a parent, especially in Singapore, may be persuaded not to spank a child for the simple reason that it literally makes him/her less intelligent and it negatively affects his/her memory. Even if the parent does not believe, despite the overwhelming evidence in support, that hurting a child has long-term negative effects and no educational value, perhaps this little fact will save the poor child from another episode.

Spanking is banned in about 30 countries in the world. Let me say that again - it is actually banned in about 30 countries. Shocks me that people can make all that flurry over BPA being in their children's plastics but still spank their children with rulers. Perspective, people. Get some perspective.

So, back to the mother and the child at Hokey Pokey. Did I say anything to the mother? No. A long time ago, she had told me that, when she has a view on something, she will not change her mind no matter all contrary opinions and the scientific facts you show her. She wasn't talking about spanking - she was talking about her approach to everything. A nice way to look at it would be to say that she has a mind of her own. But minds can be educated or not educated, and what she was (unintentionally) saying was that, if you wanted to educate her, she would have nothing of it, she preferred to remain uneducated, she didn't want to know better. So she wasn't about to take my advice on anything, least of all smacking her child.

There are many, many people who refuse to stop hitting their own children and find all sorts of reasons to keep doing it. As Teacher Tom wrote in his post, "It's shocking to me that there are so many who are so wed to their "right" to hit children that they are immune to the facts about the harm they do, not only to their own children, but to society at large." It's just crazy.

And to all those people who say, "I was spanked as a child, I turned out fine", I say this quote from Maya Angelou - "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."

So, a bit of seriousness heading into the weekend. I do hope that it provides some food for thought and hopefully, build more awareness of why we should stop hurting our children.


Anonymous said...

A very good sharing and food for thought.
Personally I prefer to explain and talk to my child first and not have caning as an option. However it's easy to smack when we lose our cool or in this instance the mother was probably embarrassed about it hence putting her child's personal growth as priority

Pinkie Pirate said...

Anonymous - I hope there is a typo in your comment but in case there isn't - smacking your child because you are embarrassed means you are making your own hurt ego a priority and not your child's personal growth. For these parents, hitting is a way to vent their anger, embarrassment, frustration, and all negative feelings. They should be using a punching bag, not a child.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pinkie Pirate
There isn't a typo. What I meant to say is for a lot of people/parents, its easy for them to smack their children and you are spot on by saying that they are putting themselves above the child's personal growth.

I do know of people who still believe in caning and they are proud that their child can be disciplined and will be obedient when the is being used.
I feel uncomfortable when i hear them voice out this way but i know that they are similar to the mother in your post that they will opt for any option other than caning,

Anonymous said...

My girl is around the same age as ur babydoll. I brought her to hokey pokey last week but this time round she is more attracted to the children there rather the the toys. She will want to interact with them (every single of them) and play with them but most kids doesn't like such sudden interaction and so do some parents. I love the way she wants to interact with others but I feel bad (this has been bothering me) that I have to carry her away to stop disturbing others. In the end we ended the play session earlier then I plan to :(

Pinkie Pirate said...

Yes, it can be tough sometimes, but just persevere. The best way they learn to socialise is through experience.

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