Abuse with an Excuse – Doctrine in short form . . . Part #1
1. Abuse in its several forms damages people. The forms are these: physical, mental (cognitive), emotional and psychological. The damages have the same forms. This is well documented.
2. Corporal punishment also damages people, and the damages take the same forms: physical, mental, cognitive, emotional and psychological. This is well documented. The corporal punishment of children is being outlawed in much of the world, driven by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.
3. Non-corporal punishment cannot actually exist, it’s a logical fallacy – an oxymoron, in fact. The argument goes like this:
– punishments are unpleasantnesses, they are by definition, something the punished person would not want, and so they are necessarily imposed, forced upon the punished person, against his will. Anything forced, anything imposed, involves either direct physical means, or at least the threat of physical means.
– punishments are employed when reason and talk – non-physical methods – fail, or are presumed to fail. This is often true, that these non-physical means fail, babies and young toddlers can’t be reasoned with, and even for older children who can be, punishments are usually only considered when any child is being unreasonable in the first place. When non-physical methods have been attempted and then ruled out, then logically what remains is physical, either directly or in potential.
Therefore punishment is impossible except that it’s physical. The only possible exception to this logical proof is in the case of punishments that are purely mental, emotional, or psychological, and these sorts of punishments are also universally considered to be unacceptable and abusive.
When children submit to their non-corporal punishments, this is not a disproof. It is only that the child is making a choice, the child is either remembering his baby or toddlerhood punishments, the physical ones, or more likely the child knows that if he resists, that the punishments will escalate and become corporal punishments, or most likely both, some combination of the two.
4. Conclusion: there are no non-corporal punishments. All punishments require force and physicality. Therefore all punishment is corporal punishment, therefore all punishment cause the damages associated with corporal punishment.
Abuse with an Excuse – Doctrine in short form . . . Part #2
B. The Cognitive Damage
1. Punishments/penalties are all artificial consequences, contrived ones. It is not really a simple ‘cause and effect’ phenomenon when some active agent chooses the effect for a cause. In this way, our contrived consequences are substituted for the real world, natural consequences a child may experience when he explores or misbehaves, and therefore any real world learning experience is circumvented. This is the function that is in play when we note, through many good studies that corporal punishment hampers cognitive development.
When standardized punishments are substituted for the nearly infinite number of random real world consequences of childhood exploration as well as misdeeds, the vast and varied learning that may have happened is severely lessened, and the only learning that does happen is artificial and contrived. This is definitive of serious arrested cognitive development. It follows that the resulting impairment of thought will vary, of course with many factors, but certainly with the degree to which a child is controlled. A child who has more real world learning experience will be better able to process information regarding the real world than one whose learning years held few real world mistakes and learning opportunities.
2. Of course, parents need to protect their children from extreme danger. Life and limb certainly take priority over individual missed opportunities for real world learning. These safety hazards are not the most common situations parents and children face, however, and this is not a valid argument for the use of punishment generally.
Some may say that children need to be punished to learn to obey in every situation, so that their obedience will be guaranteed when there does arise a hazard, a real threat to life and limb, that a child needs to be conditioned to obey so that he may be ordered away from a street or a river and will comply immediately. This, I would say is a valid argument only if this sort of conditioning didn’t have a serious down-side. I believe that the damages that result from punishing, and certainly from the all-encompassing environment of punishment that this argument implies, brings a terrible cost also, up to and including a considerable cost of life and limb, in the form of violence, crime and suicide, along with the many social costs that are not as visible, that result from the cognitive hobbling that is produced by these methods.
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 are 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.