Some Things Hugs Can’t Fix
A Duke University study indicates that corporal punishment fosters anxiety and aggression in children, and that hugs afterward don’t remove these effects. In fact, the article states that “A loving mom can’t overcome the anxiety and aggression caused by corporal punishment, and her otherwise warm demeanor may make it worse.”
Such results would not surprise a person who believes in Choice Theory, which is based on non-coercive principles. Punishment is one of the deadly habits that harms relationships, influence, and performance. In other words, punishment strategies have a way of nurturing the exact behavior you are trying to eliminate.
Excerpts from the article include –
If you believe that you can shake your children or slap them across the face and then smooth things over gradually by smothering them with love, you are mistaken. Being very warm with a child whom you hit in this manner rarely makes things better. It can make a child more, not less, anxious.
Generally, childhood anxiety gets worse when parents are very loving alongside using corporal punishment. The researchers aren’t sure why, but it simply might be too confusing and unnerving for a child to be hit hard and loved warmly all in the same home. More severe punishment leads to more severe aggression and anxiety.
It is far more effective and less risky to us non-physical discipline. Discipline means “to teach,” not “punishment.”
43 countries have outlawed corporal punishment
Punishing shares the same mindset that fosters all of the other deadly habits. It is basically our desire to intimidate and to threaten put into action. These coercive behaviors all come from the same worldview. My personal belief is that intimidation has a similar effect on children when it comes to anxiety and aggression. As we attempt to change the behavior of our children by yelling, threatening, lashing out and punishing, they internalize this model and use these same behaviors when they want to change how a sibling or friend is behaving. The ineffective cycle is perpetuated.
Helping a toddler, or a child, or an adolescent become the best version of themselves involves patient instruction and when needed, compassionate confrontation. We need to explicitly describe and explain the needed behavior and hold the line on expecting it. Children need to be corrected when they are being unkind or bossy or too rough, but not just by yelling at them or threatening them. We assume that children, even toddlers, know what to do and how to do it, however I don’t think this is the case. Seeing my own grandchildren occasionally go into an emotional melt down over some perceived injustice (e.g. – bath issues, nap issues, food issues, have to be strapped into car seat issues, etc.), and then seeing my daughter patiently ask them to use their words to talk about their frustration, rather than acting out emotionally, is an example of this kind of instruction. Kids need to be taught the most basic skills and behaviors, and re-taught when they forget.
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Nice of you to share one of those rare moments of patience! Really love this post! Such good information and an important reminder about how much we affect our children. I feel inspired to do better.
During a recent Bible study on Proverbs, quite a few adults thought that physical punishment with a hug would have a positive outcome. They were quite certain that discipline means punishment not teaching. The evidence they provided to support their claims were that it worked for their parents. And they turned out great as adults.
I would want to include Ephesians 6:4 in the discussion – “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
It can be awkward with the advocates of physical punishment sitting right there while you bring up the possibility that maybe their lives are not as rosy as they proclaim. In general, without pointing a finger at any specific person, the rates of anxiety and fear and dysfunction are at pandemic levels. Society is falling apart before our eyes as people seek ever more ways to numb their pain and distract their boredom. As you can tell I am not very enthusiastic about the “we turned out great as adults” line of reasoning.
I think we can patiently and compassionately talk about the Deadly Habits (criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing , and rewarding to manipulate) and the fact that when we use them it is guaranteed to harm our relationship with the child or student (or anybody else we use them on). A harmed relationship consistently leads to poor behavior or performance. The Deadly Habits also lead to poor mental health and low levels of satisfaction and happiness.
There is a “story” circulating on Facebook that illustrates the point of this study:
Pick up a fragile plate. Now throw it on the floor. Now tell the plate your sorry (give it a hug). Is the plate still broken?
Thanks for your blog.
So simple and understandable, yet so profound.
Another wonderful thought on patience with our students and how it really pays off..when one is real and genuine with our students they will be more trusting and behavior will be very positive between student and teacher. I saw this today with one of my sixth graders on Good Friday!
How do I position all that has just been shared including the responses with Prov 13:24 24- “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” KJV
Remember to keep Ephesians 6:4 in the discussion – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
Rods don’t have to be used to hit, they can be used to nudge and gently guide.
Children need correcting and coaching, but correcting doesn’t have to rely on punitive punishment.
Great reminder, and well-put!