Parenting Series: Corporal Punishment and Careful Language

Yiwen Caroline Chen Huang gives a lecture in Hangzhou
Yiwen Caroline Chen Huang gives a lecture in Hangzhou
By Elsie HuMarch 24th, 2017

There is a saying that goes like this: "A country has laws and a family has rules." 

Family rules are still necessary in today's age.  "Every country has laws, schools have regulations, and even classes have rules.  Why are there rules everywhere?  What would society be like without rules?"  This question was asked by Yiwen Caroline Chen Huang, a mother of four and Master's of education degree holder at Harvard Graduate School of Education, at a parenting class in Hanzhou. 

"Only with rules can we learn right from wrong."

Implement rules as actions

Setting rules requires skill and it can not be done casually.  Huang said there are three points to heed when setting family rules.

First, rules must be implemented as actions.  An experiment asked parents and children separately about family rules.  The parents thought there were only a few simple rules; but, the children thought otherwise.  The reason for this difference is because "Many times, parents forget about it when they set rules; but, the children feel there are too many and don't know which is most important." Write the rules down and post them somewhere the entire family can see.  There is no backing out, and the rules must also have clear consequences.

Furthermore, implement rules in life.  Correct children according to the rules, and decide on penalties accordingly. 

And finally, comfort, accept, and hug the children so that they know they are being punished not because parents do not love them, but because they made a mistake.

No casual corporal punishment

Second, there should be firm rules regarding the use of corporal punishment.   Parents should not casually use physical punishment on their children for breaking the rules; but, only in accordance with the set rules that require it.

Family rules should have designated punishments or consequences.

Punishment should be in a place that is safe and private.  Do not punish children in front of many people.  Instead, tell them quietly to wait in a quiet room.

It is not appropriate to discipline children over ten years old with corporal punishment.  "Parents should avoid corporal punishment if they can use reasons and logic to talk sense into the child."  Also, children nowadays develop early, and parents should respect their physical and mental maturity.  If parents continue to spank them, it can be traumatizing.

Third, only use corporal punishment on a designated area, such as the rear end.  "The skin from the lower bottom to the upper thigh is extremely tender, so it may bruise or tear with spanking."  Huang explained that "above the bottom is the tailbone, and on the sides are the kidneys," so proper spanking requires study.

Parents must remember not to be casual regarding corporal punishment.  Slapping the face should be forbidden.  "The face represents a person's self-esteem, so it not only hurts the child physically; but, also emotionally.  Further, slapping can cause collateral damage to the ear.  In some cases, slapping has caused deafness, so never slap a child's face with your hand."  Of course, belts should also not be used just because they are convenient.  "Anything that is easily accessed is not good for punishment.  Don't use belts, brushes, slippers, etc., and certainly do not scold while spanking."  Huang recommended having designated family rules about discipline, so that when members see the rules, they will know that it represents authority and that not just anyone can beat them.

Some schools have asked if teachers and grandparents can use corporal punishment on children.  Huang said "only parents should do it.  Do not put this responsibility on the grandparents since it takes strength to do it."

"If you use corporal punishment according to the rules, children will understand the reason after a few times. It will also give them evidence that you love them and are not punishing them out of anger, so they are more likely to cooperate.

Use the principle of "Know, Aware, Story, and Mistake" for incorrigible children

There is also the technique of "Know, Aware, Story, and Mistake" for children who refuse to correct their actions despite repeated punishment.

Know:  Parents must talk to the child so that the child understands what they did was wrong.

Aware:  Inform the child of the solution.  It may be a consequence in the family rules, and parents should work out consequences with the children patiently to improve the situation in the future.

Story:  The best method, this one is for children who enjoy picture books.  Parents can choose good stories to read in order to teach children.  Reading is the best way for teaching, instead of scolding when a child makes a mistake.  For example, if a child doesn't greet people, don't wait for it to happen and then accuse them of being impolite; because, the child will still do it again.  Instead, use a story to show how a child properly greets others, and teach them what is polite.  They can learn other similar correct actions through stories.

Mistake: Children who make mistakes need guidance, not scolding.

Some inappropriate words need to be removed from the dictionary of parenting

Some words need to be removed from the dictionaries of parents while parenting.

First: words from anger such as "You make me so angry," "I'll teach you a lesson," and "Don't you dare next time." Language like this is actually just venting anger.

Second: "I'm going to count to three" or "this is the last warning." Many parents like to use the former to warn their children. Huang raised the question, "If we want our children to do it at three; then, what were we thinking with one and two? Were we training them to react at three?"

Huang gave an example of a mother taking her child out.  The mother said "Collect your toys before we go."  Instead, she can ask if three minutes is enough time to finish their activities.  If not, come up with another plan.  Give them five minutes, or more, according to the age and mental level of the children.  Then, let them know why they are going out.  Make it someplace they will like so that they will be motivated to put their things away.

Third, don't threaten with phrases like "If you don't behave I will spank you," "If you don't stop, I'll take away. . . ," or "I'll not keep you company tonight if you don't listen."  Huang said that instead of threatening to not sleep with them, simply train them sleep on their own.

Fourth, don't hold grudges against your children.  Many parents have said things like "You don't listen? I'll keep hitting you."  Some people can only feel victory if the child admits defeat, cries, or apologizes, and they hold on a grudge to see who will last longer.  Even if parents don't recognize these feelings, many times in the process of parents scolding and punishing, it got more intense; because, parents don't realize they are competing with their children.

Speak honestly in love

"God blesses you with children so we can change," said Huang.  "We need to be honest in love."  Speaking honestly in love means telling our children that their mistakes come with different consequences. 

Parents should follow two things with the principle. First is to calm down and not be angry when carrying out punishment; but, respect the self-esteem of the child. The second is that words and actions of the parents should be gentle, and they should never hit while scolding.

Children should, in the meantime, learn to "admit mistakes quietly without a grudge or resistance."  If parents have to chase them when disciplining them and they hide under the table so we have to reach for them to punish them, the discipline is not successful. 

"Children should apologize quietly, and willingly accept the consequences without resistance."

"Like cooking, parenting requires much time boiling and stewing, not a quick zap in the microwave," Huang summarized at the end.

Translated by: Grace Hubl

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