BENGALURU: If your objective is to teach a child a lesson, punishing them in an unpredictable manner is certainly not going to achieve that. You may force them to behave in a certain way but that is going to have a temporary effect. The act of disciplining a child is not the same as punishing them.
There’s a vast difference between the two. In the former you give them a skill, a lesson to be better in the future.In the latter, we merely unload our own frustrations and make them feel bad about an act already done so that they might remember the lesson. And humiliation is only the first stage after a child is hit. It is then followed by shame and confusion. Each one of us in the divine play of nature is designed to feel strong and empowered. People love it when they feel they are in charge and can make decisions. The sort of freedom you experience with empowerment of the self is indescribable.
But the moment a child is hit, an intense feeling of shame overcomes them. Whether or not they think they are at fault is beside the point. A child is not even thinking whether what they did was right or wrong. Shame involves feeling weak and so incapable that one can’t even protect themselves. As a species, we are designed to safeguard ourselves. You could be busy doing the most careful task but even a fly coming at a fast speed towards your eye makes you blink. Your subconscious mind knows that you have to blink to protect yourself. It’s innate.
However, when a child is hit, even if they can protect themselves, they don’t. They know that they can’t hit their parent back. This leads to utter confusion in their mind.
Can they trust their inner voice which says they can protect themselves but they can’t? Can they trust a parent who is supposed to guard them but is attacking instead?
Where can they go? Whom can they call? Whom should they listen to?
I meet so many children who have disorders like depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), paranoia, and most of them have either been subjected to or been witness to domestic violence. The helplessness a child feels when hit is very similar to what they experience when parents fight with each other and a child just has to sit and watch it all helplessly.
This doesn’t end there. When a child is hit repeatedly, he or she is going to turn rebellious. It’s only a matter of time. If they have the opportunity, they’ll speak up or move out and if they don’t, they’ll just stop listening to you. Most people who turn a completely deaf ear to their parents’ advice or all things parent-related are usually the ones who were either subjected to spanking or excessive verbal abuse as children. Or, they saw their parents arguing and fighting frequently. Or, they were repeatedly told they were not good enough. In so doing, there comes a moment when the child gives up and begins to believe that they might actually be no good. It is very hard to rescue such a child.
Excerpted from The Children Of Tomorrow by Om Swami, with permission from HarperCollins India