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Spanking during childhood can cause troubled relationships later on in life: study

Children who said they were spanked were 1.4 times more likely to suffer from depression, 1.98 times more likely to have an antisocial disorder and 2.31 times more likely to have a schizotypal personality disorder.

Spanking children is not good for them. Caning is even worse. However, so many Singaporean mums and dads swear by these techniques to induce 'discipline' in children. And the whole reason for this is because they were caned when they were children. Well, if you resort to caning or spanking children whenever they misbehave, here is something for you to ponder on.

Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch recently published a study in one of the most respected journals in medicine, Pediatrics. The study concludes that spanking in the childhood leads to violence during dating or marriage later on in life. And, the findings are consistent across ethnicities.

Science concurs that spanking children is not the answer

The researchers interviewed 758 19 and 20-year-old men and women. They were asked a set of questions to know who were spanked as children. Then they were asked if they had committed any dating violence. It was found that those who were spanked as children were more likely to have committed dating violence. And the spanking was not always as severe as child abuse.

Another study, published by the American Association of Pediatrics tracked 35,000 individuals below 20 from 2004 and 2005. It was seen that

'...children who said they were spanked were 1.4 times more likely to suffer from depression, 1.98 times more likely to have an antisocial disorder and 2.31 times more likely to have a schizotypal personality disorder.'

All these points towards one thing - however much you trust your cane to discipline your child, chances are that they are going to affect your child in a negative way. And that is why the American Association of Pediatrics treats spanking as a strict no-no.

Spanking children in Singapore

Spanking and caning are not overtly denounced by any official bodies in Singapore. It is practised at home and at times in places of education. The idea is to set an example for ideal behaviour. However, many children have grown up to be abusive adults. This aggression is not apparent in public, however, we can draw a correlation with the domestic violence suffered by Singaporeans.

In 2016, 2811 Personal Protection Orders were filed in the Singapore courts. It happens when the violence gets so unbearable that you have to seek legal involvement. 76% of these were filed by women. And according to a report by Aware.org.sg, only 1 in 4 women actually report a domestic violence. So the figure might be much bigger than this.

How to discipline your child without spanking

The end result that every parent wants is a well-behaved child. So, as they say, there are more than one ways to skin a cat. Spanking induces fear, so your child probably ends up behaving because he is afraid of the pain, not because he sees a reason in behaving. Throughout the world, societies have started shifting from spanking to reasoning with children and spanking is illegal in 32 countries now.

Here are three ways in which parents can discipline children without spanking.

  1. Reasoning. This is helpful for children over 4 years of age. By that time, the idea of consequence develops, and that is why they respond to spanking. And so, use this to your advantage and make them understand that they are too old to throw a tantrum and that acting out is not the only way to express their emotions. It is better if they express their anguish in words. In this way, you understand it better and can make amends.
  2. Timeout. This is useful for children over 3 years. Sometimes, when the child is tired or hungry, he would express himself in a strong way. Even if they are hungry, they will not eat in an agitated state. So give them a timeout. Make them face a wall and just stay there for 5 minutes. This is not a punishment. It is rather a time for them to cool down, so don't associate shame with it.
  3. Wait it out. This works for children older than 1.5 years. Sometimes it makes sense to just let them throw a tantrum. All you have to do is wait it out. They see the futility of the action as they do not get any reaction. See it this way: tantrums are not a reflection of your parenting skills, and he has a right to be heard!

Mums, for the love of God, do not spank your children. This kills their creativity, turning them into docile obeyers. Growing up, this is not going to help them with their lives and careers, is it?

Also, read Is caning a child considered disciplining or outright abuse?

Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore