Sunday, 31 March 2013

Smacking children is failure


As I’m watching the recent tension on the Korean Peninsula, there seems to be a connection between the dynamics of the major players and domestic capital punishment. What I mean here is smacking children, whether they belong to you or to someone else. New Zealand now outlaws the parental practice and I support this law. I’d like to quickly explain why.

Punishment is a failure of diplomacy. The role of the parent is to be on the same side of the child, not against them.

To flesh this concept out a bit, one could ask: "what is an effective way to punish your spouse?" Or, "what is an effective way to punish a co-worker?"

The question implicitly implies that punishment is a necessary strategy in changing a person’s behaviour. It also implies that the asking party presumes it is their right to change that person’s behaviour without regard for the other person; a slippery slope.

Punishment is a one of many possible strategies, as long as one doesn't care why people change their behaviour. If one is ok with their child altering their behaviour because they fear their own parents, then punishment is admissible. But wouldn't it be nice to have a relationship based on trust rather than on fear? A relationship where the child trusts the parent and doesn't have to hide the important or scary parts of their life in order to protect themselves from the very person who could actually give them crucially important support?

Would you trust a policeman with your secrets, knowing that anything you say may be used against you?

People who grew up with punishment create and maintain punishment-based institutions. These include, but are not limited to, families, schools (grades, detentions etc.), laws and law enforcement (monetary, corporal punishment, jail), to countries (army, war).

Children are wired to be successful and wired to cooperate. A little bit of post-natal education on child development (such as: what are age-appropriate abilities and tendencies?) goes a long way in helping parents see child certain behaviour as normal and not "bad" and can teach them how to support their children instead of "correcting" them.

Watching and policing is far more tiring and painful than co-operating, co-creating, and holding space in a connected way.

Many parents despair because they only see two possibilities: dominant parenting and permissive parenting. In reality these are only two dots on a vast map of possibilities.

According to some research there appears to be a clear correlation between parenting practices and the willingness of a society to participate in war and cruelty on a massive scale. While parenting skills, or lack of, should not be extrapolated too far, it is important to realise the capital punishment can teach children to lie about their actions (for fear of punishment) or associate punishment with violence.

How does this apply to the present situation on the Korean Peninsula? The North Korean regime has remained bottled in their self-imposed isolation without return to war for over 60 years because the United States and South Korea refuse to use capital punishment. Carl von Clausewitz called war a “continuation of politics by other means”, referring in a way to war as a response to the failure of diplomacy. Human psychology suggests there are myriad methods to manipulate one another, especially children. Reverting to primitive “pain = command” methods is a backwards step.


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