Tomorrow, April 30, is the International Day to End Corporal Punishment of Children. It is part of the goal set by the United Nations to eliminate all forms of physical punishment and violence against children worldwide.

This is a good moment to think about the consequences of hitting children as they grow. Why does part of society believe that there is nothing wrong with corporal punishment, and what are the facts behind the myths? What is the right way to discipline?

How does corporal punishment affect children?

Experts agree that parenting methods such as ear-pulling, slapping and spanking not only do not help, but seriously harm children.

Children who were physically punished as little are more likely to become too aggressive or timid and insecure, to have lower intellectual abilities, and to suffer from mental health problems. In the long term, corporal punishment leads to serious behavioral and communication difficulties, which in turn threatens the child's success at school and success in life.

Corporal punishment damages the child-parent relationship. Children get distant from their parents and stop trusting them. Parents also feel bad that they have mistreated the child. This type of relationship traumatizes both parties.

Here are some of the myths debunked by the National Network for Children Bulgaria in their campaign "What do we do instead of hitting?"

MYTH 1: “CHILDREN ARE RESILIENT. THEY FORGET QUICKLY.”

Children certainly don't forget the abuse and how it made them feel – scared, ashamed, humiliated, offended, frustrated, powerless. The memory stays with them long after the physical pain has passed, and is present in their perceptions and decisions as adults. This applies to all forms of violence, without exception.

In Bulgaria, there's the notion that a little spanking doesn't do any harm. But in fact even this supposedly mild punishment brings with it increased aggression, destructive behavior and emotions, anxiety and depression. This was proven by one of the largest studies in the field, conducted on a total of 160,000 children in the United States over a period of 50 years. The evidence is indisputable – even though the pain from the spanking is quick to subside, the harm to the child's quality of life is permanent.

Adults who were abused as children become part of a vicious cycle. They find it difficult to lead a fulfilling and happy life and often turn to violence as the only way they know to manage their problems.

MYTH 2: “CHILDREN JUST NEED A LITTLE DISCIPLINE. IT WILL DO THEM NOT HARM.”

Children need boundaries set in a healthy way. When discipline involves hitting, children's development and adult life do suffer. Specialists agree on the link between violence and poor mental and physical health. 

Even if slapping or spanking change children's behavior, it doesn't mean they are truly aware of what is good or bad. They are simply afraid and prefer to obey blindly. Hence violence as a form of discipline is not effective - children don't learn to think critically, stand up for themselves or solve problems.

MYTH 3: "PARENTS HAVE THE RIGHT TO RAISE THEIR CHILDREN AS THEY SEE RIGHT."

Yes, but only provided they realize children are individuals with the same rights as other family members. Children are not the property of their parents. According to the Family Code "The parent has no right to use violence, as well as methods of upbringing that damage the dignity of the child".

How can I manage all parenting challenges without hitting?

It's common for parents to struggle in finding the right approach to discipline. Every parent has such difficulties! And every parent wants to do the best for their child.

For some people, being a good parent means being strict and controlling. For others, it means showing how much you love the child by letting them do whatever they want. In fact, children thrive most when they are treated with a combination of warmth, care, and discipline.

Clear rules and boundaries are critical for children. They need to know what is allowed and what not. This gives them:

Children also need a lot of repetition of the rules, in order to understand and remember them. Boundaries are something they constantly test. That's why it's important for parents to be patient and persistent and to assert the boundaries, even when the child is crying inconsolably for more TV time or a sweet snack.

In any case, boundaries should not be asserted by hitting, insults or humiliation. That's a sign of powerlessness rather than power; it proves that the parent is incapable of handling the situation otherwise.

Here is what to do instead:

Вижте инфографиката, за да разберете кой е най-добрият родителски стил.

TEACH CHILDREN HOW TO EXPRESS THEIR EMOTIONS VERBALLY AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE.

Teach children how to recognize and express their feelings - ​​anger, sadness, fear, shame, etc. Doing so will help them to reduce their inner tension and react in a more mature way. When children understand how they feel, they are better at controlling their emotions instead of letting their emotions control them.

Read more about how to develop children's emotional intelligence in several easy steps here.

USE POSITIVE INCENTIVES - PRAISE AND REWARDS.

This is a great way to improve the child's self-esteem. Positive incentives are more effective than punishment and prohibitions. The rewards don't have to be material. Praise which is sincere and specific and even an enthusiastic "Good job, high five!" can be very motivating for children.

BE A GOOD EXAMPLE FOR CHILDREN, THEY WANT TO BE LIKE YOU.

Children want to be more like their parents and try to imitate them. Your child will follow your example in everything - how you take care of yourself, communicate, eat, solve problems, etc. Personal example is even stronger than words.

Therefore, if you feel triggered by your child's disobedience, it's very important to remain in control of yourself and demonstrate how you correctly manage negative emotions. If you lose control and hit the child - or threaten to do so - the child will be left with toxic messages such as "It's okay to inflict pain on the weaker to get your own." or "It's normal to hit when you're angry."

Read more about how to set boundaries - which strategies help and what to avoid - in our past articles:


Sources:

https://www.ngobg.info/bg/news/128314-%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%BA%D0%B2%D0%BE-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%B8%D0%BC-%D0%B2%D0%BC%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BE-%D0%B4%D0%B0-%D1%83%D0%B4%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BC–%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%BF%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%BD%D0%BC%D0%B4-%D0%BF%D0%BE-%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BE%D0%B4.html

https://endviolence.nmd.bg/%D0%BC%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B5-%D0%B8-%D0%B8%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B8-%D0%B7%D0%B0-%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5%D1%81%D0%BD%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%BE-%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%B7%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B8

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7992110

Family Code (2009), Art. 125, para. 2, available at: http://www.lex.bg/bg/laws/ldoc/2135637484


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