Prevent child abuse

Vickie Jones, N.C. Cooperative Extension
Apr. 21, 2014 @ 09:44 AM

April is the month many agencies place great emphasis on the prevention of child abuse. One of the practices that can lead to child abuse, intentionally or unintentionally, is spanking.

For many parents, hitting is the only way they know to punish children for misbehaving. Any mention of eliminating spanking leaves parents with a basic fear that children will be out of control. However, using practices such as time-out, natural and logical consequences, loss of privilege and parental disappointment are far more effective than hitting. Using positive discipline practices leaves a child feeling a parent’s love while providing a positive opportunity for parents to teach children what they can do.

Spanking is a violent form of punishment that teaches the child to use violence to solve problems. It is a word used to describe hitting a child on the buttocks. Slapping is a word used to describe hitting a child on the face. Spanking, slapping, whipping and beating are all the same acts, differing only in severity. Both actions are acts of violence that teach children to practice the same behaviors on dolls, pets, friends, siblings and future children.

A question that often arises in discussions about spanking is, “When does spanking become child abuse?” For physical child abuse to occur, certain behaviors have to be performed. One behavior essential to all reported cases of physical child abuse is intentional physical injury of a child caused by an adult responsible for the child’s welfare. The most common way adults intentionally cause physical injury to children is by hitting them. Buttocks, faces and hands (in that order) are the places on a child’s body most often injured by guardians.

If intentional physical injury of a child caused by an adult is the essential behavior in physical child abuse cases, and if hitting the child is the most common way such injury occurs, then spanking as a parenting behavior is an abusive act. It is our ability to justify, rationalize, pretend and deny that gives the practice of spanking and other inappropriate behaviors a sense of value.

While spanking a child does exist on a range from mild (love taps) to severe (beatings), and from infrequent to frequent, it is a fact that if spanking and slapping children were eliminated from the parenting practices of adults, physical abuse to children would be just about eliminated. Such an ideal can only come about when adults adopt a new attitude toward eliminating spanking and slapping and learn far more effective and nurturing ways of rearing children. It is only when that occurs that we will learn the full meaning of the term “the prevention of physical abuse to children.”

If you need help learning positive ways to reduce child misbehaviors, consider joining an Incredible Years parenting class. F-G-V Smart Start, United Way and local donors provide funding for Incredible Years Parenting classes through Vance County Cooperative Extension. Call (252) 438-8188 to have your name placed on a waiting list for an upcoming series.

Source: Stephen J. Bavolek, Ph.D., “Red White & Bruises”