The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling for an immediate ban on corporal punishment worldwide in all settings including schools, homes and madrasahs.
In a strong statement issued this week the august medical association comprising 67,000 professional paediatricians, raised a loud voice in unison to alert the world to the dangers of corporal punishment to help prevent mental and physical damage to children. They say the evidence they’ve collected against corporal punishment is overwhelming and there is no doubt it causes lasting harm to the child. The evidence isn’t new, but confirms what is already known. Similar reveille bugle sounding evidence has been traversing the globe for decades in the hope people would wake-up, pay attention and end the despicable abuse of children.
The AAP now joins dozens of other professional organizations and two mainline religious denominations (the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church) with statements, policies or resolutions against parents or teachers hitting children. The AAP is asking all of its members to ‘lead the way’ and become vocal and proactive in delivering its controversial findings within the communities they serve and provide guidance to parents and teachers about how to use the most effective child-rearing practices. The paediatricians are encouraging parents to employ other forms of discipline, “such as positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviours, setting limits, redirecting, and setting future expectations,” the authors explained.
The American Academy of Pediatrics wants its members to act in the best interest of children by making widely known the ineffectiveness of corporal punishment as a discipline and the high level of damage it can, and already has, caused.
Corporal punishment not only doesn’t work, but it may cause irreparable damage to the child and society in a broader sense. It has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Apart from the abuse itself, it clearly conveys the wrong message ( that violence is good and effective in dealing with problems) that the child could learn and apply throughout life. The strongest indication that corporal punishment doesn’t work is the fact that children are often hit repeatedly for the same reason.
There are well over 1,200 research studies on the topic undertaken at the highest professional levels including some by religious organizations hoping to prove corporal punishment does have benefit. All overwhelmingly conclude, without exception, that corporal punishment is ineffective, has no redeeming merits whatsoever, causes great damage to a child and is in every way, wrong.
Aggression, antisocial behaviour, depression, anxiety, decreased cognitive performance, lower moral development, and lower self-esteem are all tied-in with corporal punishment. Children who are hit by their teachers or parents are likely to develop negative, unloving, disrespectful, resentful, perhaps even hateful attitudes towards them, which is not the intention of corporal punishment. It is very difficult for the child to forgive and forget, however, when he or she is slapped in the face, especially in front of peers.
If the research is so clear that corporal punishment is so wrong why do ‘teachers’ and parents keep using it? The research concluded that corporal punishment is a quick and superficially effective way to get a child to stop doing something… for the moment, at least. Consequently, they adapt the bad habit, almost instinctively, of hitting as their first option.
Sure, children when hit, stop their “misbehaviour” and cry, but do they hear and understand the message given? More often than not, ‘teachers’ and parents don’t give a second thought to what they’re doing. They don’t see the bigger picture from the child’s perspective. Nor do they consider the consequences of their actions or understand what is going on in the child’s mind. The pain, humiliation, disappointment and feeling of being let down by everyone can be all consuming and horrific.
In January 2011, Justices Md Imman Ali and Md Sheikh Hasan Arif outlawed corporal punishment in Bangladesh. In their summary, they said it is ‘cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom’.
Those who know that – and most ‘teachers’ do – still continue to apply the punishment invented in hell and one can’t help but wonder why. It goes diagonally against the principles of humanity.
In the end, there are no winners, countless losers, and many children with broken dreams and broken spirits. Through no fault of their own they become rebels, outcasts from society and enemies within. You reap what you sow. Civilized people don’t hit people and children are people too. Or has that fact been conveniently forgotten, much to our shame? What we allow to happen proportions the guilt and shame of the action itself upon us.
Sir Frank Peters is a human rights advocate, an award-winning writer, a Royal Goodwill Ambassador and a former newspaper publisher and editor.