Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Physical Violence is Learned Behavior

The recent altercation involving Rihanna and Chris Brown has once again moved the issue of physical abuse to the forefront of public debate. However, the recent altercation—which was years in the making—began with parents who either consciously or subconsciously taught their children that physical violence is a viable expression of anger and frustration and/or an acceptable way to resolve conflicts. These messages are often taught when parents use physical punishment such as spanking to discipline their children.

More effective forms of discipline include things like communication, deprivation, and isolation.
Communication includes clearly defining a misbehavior, explaining why it is unacceptable, and letting the child know what will happen if the misbehavior occurs. Deprivation includes taking away something that is meaningful to the child when he or she misbehaves. Isolation includes separating the child from whatever is causing the misbehavior or separating the child from the people who are being affected by the misbehavior. All three approaches are effective and none involves physical punishment.

By removing spanking from the list of pragmatic disciplinary options, we remove the possibility of parents striking out at their children in anger and frustration or crossing the line and physically injuring their children. We also send a message that harming someone is not an acceptable way to express feelings or resolve conflict.

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