Did you know that one in eight children in the USA is liable to be mistreated, abused or neglected at some point in their childhood? That is about 12% of kids. Results were from studies of 5.6 million children who were tracked between 2004 and 2011. Asian children are at the lowest risk (3%) while black children are in the highest risk group (20%).
The worst thing of all is that physical abuse in children or emotional abuse may put them at risk of becoming violent adults and mentally ill as well. The American Academy of Paediatrics has been preaching this since 1998 because all the research studies prove this beyond any shadow of a doubt!
So, the spanking of children may result in obedience in the short term, but in the long term, we may be helping to rear tyrants, criminals, and dictators. The psychiatrist Allison Miller has a very interesting article here based on her research which shows that all the violent dictators she studied were victims of some sort of abuse or maltreatment when they were kids. The study included some very nasty examples such as Stalin and Hitler.
As if that was not enough, women who were mistreated and abused as kids are much more likely to enter into an abusive relationship when they become adults. It is truly a horrifying situation of an endless vicious spiral.
What do we mean by child abuse?
The phrase ‘child abuse’ is much broader than we tend to think. It is also the tip of the iceberg as inevitably, many cases are never reported. In fact, one child psychiatrist (Janet Currie at Princeton) has said:
“Child maltreatment is a huge and underappreciated public health problem,”
Child psychologists now include the following physical and emotional abuse under the umbrella term:-
- Physically beating, spanking or attacking a child
- Insulting and name calling – these are far more damaging and are almost indelible
- Threatening a child
- Frightening a child (stories of eternal damnation or other scary scenarios)
- Screaming and yelling at children
- Child neglect – children not cared for, fed or washed.
What are the risks for the child?
Babies in the first year of life are more at risk of being injured and even death when physically attacked. Children need to learn how to show respect and be kind but they cannot learn that if their role models are hitting and lashing out at them physically and verbally.
If children are insulted and treated with scorn, the psychological effects are long-lasting and damaging. Just think, a child who is maltreated may well have a personality disorder, might have low self-esteem and is also going to have trust issues as an adult. Thanks, Dad!
Instilling violent behavior as a normal pattern will probably leave its traces when as an adult, the former abused child will use aggression and violence as a way of resolving issues. As I mentioned, girls may expect that abuse is ‘normal’ and will treat an abusive relationship as nothing out of the ordinary.
Mistrust because of fear of violence may mean that children learn to lie and hide the truth from their parents. The chances of an open, loving and trusting relationship will fade.
Tips on how to discipline your child without yelling
There must be an easier way to discipline your child with yelling or resorting to other extreme measures which might be regarded as child abuse as I have described above.
- Set the rules – If there is some leeway about the rules or each parent has a different approach in applying them, then you are in for a rough ride. Making the rules crystal clear and set the boundaries saves time, energy and frustration on everyone’s part later on. Having a noticeboard where these are displayed graphically or visually also helps
- Don’t always react immediately – Nobody says that discipline has to be instant, like coffee! You may need to think over the problem and tell the kid that you will decide later. It is true though that it should not be left for too long as giving consequences long after the event is not so effective.
- Take a neutral stance in arguments – You can tell the child that you know something is unfair or difficult. Agreeing with him/her rather than getting into a fight is a great way to neutralize what could become an explosive situation.
- Reward and pay attention to the small stuff – Seems trivial but rewarding and praising kids for tidying up and other little chores can satisfy their craving for attention.’ Good boy’ and ‘Good girl’ are not sufficient as it focuses too much attention on the child rather than on the behavior that is being rewarded. Much better to say ‘You were really great to tidy up that stuff’ Some experts are convinced that temper tantrums are ways of getting attention.
- No is not enough – Once toddlers start crawling and getting into everything, you keep on saying ‘No’ which is not enough. Create a distraction by offering a safer toy or by making a funny sound to distract them.
- Keeping calm – When your kid gets cheeky, you can react angrily which will only escalate the situation. Much better to take a time out for yourself on this one and tell the child that the conversation is on pause. Trying to find out later what was the cause can be effective as the child may be tired or angry. They may also have picked up cheeky expressions from schoolmates and not realize that it is rude or unacceptable. Just make it clear what the rules are and which phrases are out. Also, tell your child that shouting and insulting are definitely out too.
I sincerely hope you learned something from this post so that you can raise your child without having to yell so that they can grow up in a healthy way.