‘Spare the rod’ is about to get a makeover.
A study published by the American Association of Pediatrics has found that children who are slapped, grabbed, pushed or hit by a parent, or adult in their household, are more likely to suffer from mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse/ dependence and several other personality disorders than their peers who are not treated in this manner. The study showed a link between non-abusive physical punishment and several different types of mental disorders.”There is a significant link between the two,” says Afifi, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Manitoba, Canada. “Individuals who are physically punished have an increased likelihood of having mental health disorders.” Approximately 2% to 7% of mental disorders in the study were linked to physical punishment. That means the more you spank your child, the more likely it is that the child will develop some mental health disorder. Some teachers need to take note of this especially.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that parents should refrain from spanking entirely. Their recommendation is based on the fact that spanking is no more effective than other methods of managing undesired behaviour like grounding your child or prohibiting them from watching their favourite cartoons. They however acknowledge that this may be tough to enforce as more than 90% of families in America reported that they use spanking as a form of discipline. For Nigerian families, we can expect that figure to be much higher. Parents have been encouraged to use methods other than spanking to address undesired behaviour in their children.
Spanking is a stressful experience for both the parent and the child and science has proven that stressful events can have a great impact on brain development; especially in young children. “When early childhood experiences are nurturing and empathetic, a child’s nervous system will wire up one way; but if early childhood experiences are stressful, harsh and frightening, the same child’s brain wires up in a different way that can make learning and later relationships more challenging”, explains Dr. Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz. Certainly no parent will want that for their child; so when next you are about to spank your child, think about what you are trying to accomplish and whether it can be accomplished through other means. It’s not every act of indiscretion that requires the use of that koboko or that heavy slap. Finding non-violent ways to deal with inappropriate behaviour yields more positive results and it is the best option to preserve the mental health of your child.
So they say.