It’s really sad and shameful, what disciplinary corporal action can actually do to a child

Corporal punishment is actively discouraged all over, yet there are many who believe raising a hand on one’s child now and then, it is for their own good. And this belief is not just limited to parent-child relations, often canning or any other corporal punishments inflicted upon a child by school or tuition teachers, are also viewed as accepted form of disciplinary actions. Even today most of us will casually remark at someone’s misbehaviour with a “if only his mother had slapped him a few more times in his childhood”. Thus, the occasional canning or slapping of a child is still a suitable mode of punishing her/him and believed to serve in her/his own interest.

The only time we hear any objection against corporal punishments is when it borders on or translates to abuse. The cases which garner any kind of attention are those where the teacher has probably split a child’s head open or broken her/his spine. When the video of a home tutor mercilessly beating a toddler surfaced a month back, everyone was outraged, and that outrage was justified. But all other cases, which fall short of outraging us, are looked upon as a legitimate part and parcel of the traditional ‘Guru-Shisya’ relation passed down through generations in our society.

But what do we do when we find out that every form of harsh corporal punishments, even those which don’t leave lasting marks on our child’s skin, leaves indelible imprints on her/his psyche? That with every strike the recipient child’s mental capacities gets affected permanently?

A recent article published by CNN highlighted a number of studies which point to exactly that. The studies mentioned in the article reveal that such actions not only traumatize children, but have far reaching consequences on their brain development. The findings show that Harsh Corporal Punishments (HCP) literally reduce the grey matter in certain areas of their pre-frontal cortex and can be linked to a number of psychological problems including depression, addiction, aggression etc.

What is worse is that such treatments don’t teach children why they are being hit or what they should do in place of the action for which they are being punished, rather it makes them place the locus of their self-control on other peripheral agents (teachers, parents etc.). Thus, they do not become more responsible and learn self control; instead the responsibility of controlling them is placed on someone else. These children don’t reform their own behaviours, but display behaviours eliciting HCP, in environments where they won’t get caught. Therefore, the motive force behind doling out corporal punishments to children- to teach them self control – is the one objective that goes wholly unmet.

These findings become all the more alarming when we think of our specific society, where hitting or striking a child for misbehaviour is so well accepted that we see it casually displayed or referred to in all aspects of our environment,  including our daily soaps/serials, movies, conversations and so on. Most of us have been the recipients of such punishments at one or the other time of our childhood, some more so than the others, we grow up and refer to many of such incidents as funny tales of the past; but it is true that those tales which have become funny with time, have changed us in ways we can’t even fathom now.

The article raises another very pertinent point in this respect, as it mentions that for all among us who believe that we turned out fine with the occasional physical punishments, we do not really know what we would have been like had the situations been tackled in a different manner; that we didn’t turn out fine because of the corporal punishments but despite them. True most of us turned out alright, but what if instead of the beatings someone had taken the time to explain to us what we were doing wrong? Would it have made us more responsible and better decision-makers?

There are numerous legitimate studies available today which have analyzed the effects of corporal punishments on children, the findings of such studies can have lasting impact on the health of our following generations and our society as a whole. Every school whether public or private, needs to educate their teachers and parents in such information, and where such initiative lacks, guardians should themselves convince school authorities to take them up. Why? Because any event which has lasting impressions on a child’s mentality and actions, over the time accumulate to affect the society the child grows up to be a part of i.e. eventually it affects us all. Thus, it is in all our interests to do away with such punishments in the name of discipline, and try to be more patient and reasonable in all our dealings, especially when children are concerned.

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