Abuse with an Excuse – Doctrine in short form . . . Part #3

C. Childhood Misbehaviours are Irrelevant

1. When we are punishing our children to teach them not to cause any harm in our lives, not to break anything, not to hurt anyone, we are causing permanent harm in our attempts to avoid short term and material harm. The damages of abuse and corporal punishment are long lasting, while the damages of childhood misbehaviours are, for the most part, either material or temporary, sometimes both.

Temporary damages are bruises that result from infantile violence or carelessness, or simply missed or disrupted adult social occasions; material ones are broken dishes, damaged or stained clothing or furniture – of course material damages can be either permanent or temporary; a loved glass heirloom is forever, a coloured wall until the next painting. Things like painting the wall cost labour and money, which, if it happens to a modern person living in debt, may be a permanent harm to their finances. Young children can cause real harms, but again, as in the previous section, this would only justify the damages of punishment if those damages were small and temporary, and they are not. The damages of corporal punishment (and it is my position that there is no other kind) are long lasting and impact every aspect of life. This, again, is well documented.

2. Childhood explorations and mistakes, when they go bad, can cause some damage, things get broken, caregivers and other children get bruised and inconvenienced, but for the most part, these are individual, one-off incidents, that is, single incidents, with a single instance of damage per case. If we consider that each instance is a learning opportunity, each instance can teach a child a single lesson such as the fragility of pretty glass objects, or the fragility of human relationships (when one toddler hurts another, and the other expresses his feelings somehow), we can see that trading any one such lesson off against a lifetime of suffering the damage of having been punished is a bad bargain. The long term damages of punishment would only be justifiable by considering that the damages of the child’s misbehaviour is also long lasting. In reality, the occurrence of a misdeed or a mistake by a child will rarely be habit forming. These things, dish-breaking, punching other children, do not become chronic if they go un-punished. In reality, punishing increases defiance and misbehaviour in the long term.

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