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Davis: Spare the beatings, raise the child
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This 40-ish-something guy is mad. He's going to teach this person a lesson. He looks around for something to hit the person with. He takes off his belt and proceeds to deliver what he considers appropriate punishment. The object of his ire is too small to defend himself so he just sort of dances around to avoid the blows. He really isn't seriously hurt, but he's still furious and resentful.

He doesn't call the authorities to press charges for the assault. After all, he is only 8 years old.
Violence is not really an effective disciplinary tool for raising children. And if it isn't all that effective why is it still so widespread in our culture? It is a deeply-ingrained cultural norm in much of Western society, based largely on what we mistakenly believe are Biblical quotes, such as "Spare the rod, spoil the child." But the rod actually wasn't a weapon. It was simply a symbol of authority. Now that has validity. Parents are the responsible authority and when they can't or don't do their job, which is to protect, nurture and teach, the kids don't usually turn out too well. In other words, appropriate consequences for behavior are a necessary tool for teaching. Good consequences for acceptable behavior, unpleasant consequences for unacceptable or destructive behavior. And both sometimes don't require the parent to do anything.

Now, before you bristle and accuse me of wanting to spoil children, destroy the American family and God knows American kids are spoiled enough as it is, hear me out. Not that there aren't plenty of destroyed American families. But it isn't because we aren't whacking our children enough.

There are not only ample examples of that simply in empirical observation but in solid research - unbiased and replicated over and over - that shows that violence (yes, like it or not, that's what it is when you hit somebody intending to cause pain) is not only ineffective in the long term but actually has a number of destructive consequences.

To cite one such study, children for whom spanking is a regular discipline method are more likely to be drug abusers or suffer from depression. Yet, research suggests that as many as 70 to 90 percent of mothers have spanked their children.

One study involving more than 34,000 adults found that being spanked significantly increased the risk of developing mental health issues. Hitting as a disciplinary method is associated with depression or anxiety and alcohol and drug abuse. Evidence suggests that as much as 7 percent of adult mental illness may be linked to childhood corporal punishment, including slapping, shoving, grabbing and hitting. These methods increase the risk of major depression by 41 percent, alcohol and drug abuse by 59 percent and mania by 93 percent, said one study author Tracie Afifi, Ph.D., of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

So the question becomes, if there is an abundance of evidence that hitting or other violent applications as discipline methods is not only ineffective but can cause major behavior disorders, why would we want to do it?

Our children are the most solemn trust there is and nobody said it was easy. There are, quite obviously many, many individuals who have children without the competence to raise them. So those among us who want to be good parents and have the capacity to be surely would want to be open-minded enough to want to discard such unproductive methods.

Libby Davis worked for the Rockdale Citizen for 20 years as publisher before retiring in 1997. She is also an award winning columnist and editorial writer and occasional contributor to Georgia Trend magazine.