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Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group Message Board › NEVER PUNISH CHILDREN


Bill Van F.
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 757
I posted this in the Health Forum of Community Discussions:

Never Punish Children.

Okay, almost everyone will immediately know how he or she stands on this issue, and will have negative opinions about me. I am hoping however that there will be a few of you who will consider the possibility that this thesis is indeed correct, and that we should move toward a new way of rearing children than that which comes naturally (without becoming trained in child rearing), as a part of our basic animal nature. We can do better than chimps, but we have to learn how, and that requires studying, learning, and practicing, and it is not easy.

By punishment I mean ANYTHING the parent does to make the child feel bad, because the child has behaved differently than what the parent wants. Formal punishment is like spanking, standing in the corner, taking something away, grounding, etc. Informal punishment is verbal and nonverbal communication that hurts--scolding, ridiculing, shaming, threatening, staring at, frowning, sneering, etc.

Sometimes the natural model of child rearing works okay, even well, but if a problem develops for any reason, the natural model tends to make it worse and to add even more problems. Even with highly conscientious parenting, it is probably a matter of luck as to whether things start going badly. And once they do, they tend to get worse and worse.

Punishment, when it is being carried out, produces in the child low self esteem, the belief that “I am a bad person.” It causes demoralization (sadness, crying, “Why bother trying?”). It produces fear (“anxiety”). And perhaps worst of all, it produces anger. With repeated punishment and the build-up of anger-containing memories, chronic anger may begin to manifest itself as cruelty (getting back, bullying, tormenting siblings, cruelty to animals), destructiveness (ruining things, ruining situations, fire setting, etc.), and rebellion (overt defiance, passive aggression, and sneakiness). Especially malignant developments include escalating battles between parent and child, punishment-seeking, and the persecutor-rescuer-victim family scenario.

The state of mind while being punished is very painful, and every time it happens, the brain is getting better and better at producing that state of mind. It becomes available to be reactivated throughout the lifetime, making it extremely difficult to tolerate feedback as to one’s mistakes because of the activation of self-punishment that one takes over from one's parents when psychologically leaving the nest. Life can become a very difficult process of trying to maintain one’s self esteem and feeling of security in the face of the ever-present threat of experiencing that self-punishment. And one can find relationships very difficult because of the tendency to become hostile, in intimate relationships and especially toward authority. (If I gave you two identical twin puppies and asked you to raise one to be affectionate and the other viscous, you would know exactly how to do it.)

And the ethics that is produced tends to be more a fear of getting caught than a sense of joy produced by the belief that one is doing the right thing. No wonder we need police, investigations, incarceration, etc.

But all of this is “normal.” We have never known anything different. The idea that we can do better is of course ridiculous, most readers here will agree. It will be unusual for someone actually to give this idea serious consideration, since it involves time, effort, and conscientious self-examination, as well as perhaps getting beyond the effects of one’s own child rearing.

And one of the serious obstacles to pursuing this idea will be misunderstanding. The natural tendency for people is to assume that I am saying that children should be allowed to “run wild.” This is because people consider that there is only one alternative to punishment, namely, to ignore, allow, or condone. But I would say that no inappropriate behavior of a child should be ignored. It is the responsibility of the parent to do that which will promote in the child pro-social behavior, as well as good self-esteem and freedom from depression, anxiety, and chronic anger. Therefore, parents should be highly trained in the skilled use of the higher levels of child rearing--reward, teaching, and modeling for identification. Using these skillfully, according to easily verbalized and well-understood principles, is drastically different from using them naturally, and the details vary as the child matures and the problems to be dealt with increase in complexity and subtlety.

This post is just a glimpse of an extremely complex issue. For those interested in really exploring the ideas further, there is the freely downloadable chapter in the free book at http://www.HomoRation...­. That chapter is, however, only an overview, but repeated study of it will increasingly have meaning for those wishing to think new thoughts about one of our most crucial issues, and it could possibly be of some help to those who are witnessing bad things developing within their own families.

These ideas have evolved in me over the decades of working as a child and adult psychiatrist with the families of disturbed children, and of working with individuals and couples whose relationships have been deteriorating through the buildup of anger in those relationships. There is no research that I am aware of that will help in coming to any conviction regarding the validity of these ideas. Such conviction will have to come only from whether the ideas seem to make sense upon careful and intensive consideration, coupled with one’s own personal observations. That’s the best I can do.
Bill Van F.
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 817
Some might be interested in the debate that has been going on in the "Health Community" of, in the thread entitled "Is Spanking a lovable or harmful form of disipline?" The pro-spankers and the anti-spankers attack each other viciously. I take a third position, that we should develop the skilled capability of using the higher levels of child rearing (reward, teaching, and modeling for identification), while avoiding punishment of any sort. I am therefore attacked by everyone. No one believes in not punishing children. And very, very few believe in friendly debate. discussion regarding spanking.
Bill Van F.
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 820
Here's another of my posts to the discussion of spanking:

I believe we can look over the history of our species (200,000+/- years), and especially its more recent history (2,000+/- years), and get a sense of where we may be going. Rather than “this is as good as it gets,” we can ask why we cannot become much, much better in our behavior than we have ever been so far.

I believe we have indeed been using our imagination, and increasingly realizing that we can do far better. One of our observations is that there is a great difference among humans as to their basic behavioral tendencies, from “saints” to serial killers. If we can produce “saints,” then why be satisfied with the production of less? Of course we don’t yet know how to improve, but in what areas of knowledge do we believe we have come to the end of possible further learning?

And considering the heart-breaking tragedy that our failures in optimal behavior cause us, how can we say that attempting to use our imagination, observation, and scientific study in the area of human behavior is unimportant?

I have had such an interest for almost seven decades, and have made the practical application of such understanding in order to help people, including children, my life’s work. As I come toward the end of my life, I have a wish to pass on what I believe I have learned, in order to give back to my species what I can in gratitude for all my species has done for me, by virtue of cooperation, generosity, integrity, and hard work.

I have come to the conclusion that our most problematic motivational state is anger, and that our most problematic behavior is that which is motivated by anger, that is, hostility, in all its many, many forms (grossly obvious to sophisticated and disguised).

We can see that other species have anger and engage in hostile behavior, so anger and hostile behavior are a part of our “basic animal nature” (whatever we share with other species), just as is hunger/eating and sexual arousal/sexual behavior and curiosity/exploration. We humans have the ability to learn to inhibit, modify, and creatively channel all of these motivational states and behaviors. We call it becoming civilized. But I maintain that, especially with regard to anger, we have a long way to go before we become optimal in our behavior. And in order for us to improve, we have to be willing to look at how we currently do things and question whether we can do even better.

With regard to anger, we humans, as a species, fully accept it, just as we fully accept some kinds of hostile behavior. In fact, we thrill to the display of skilled hostile behavior. We have not come to the point of seriously questioning whether we should train ourselves to avoid hostile behavior in order to have a far better way of life. In fact, people who advocate not being hostile are frequently ignored, attacked, and even at times killed (something especially meaningful during this season).

This thread is about “spanking.” We all have noted that there is much concern about what the limits of the definition are, and I think that we can agree that, for our almost seven billion members, a complete listing of every spanking act would produce a set of acts with no clear lines of demarcation between good and bad methods and/or probable outcomes.

But we can see the origins of the behavior. The hitting of our offspring is not limited to our own species. It is part of our basic animal nature. In other species, I think we could readily see it as hostile behavior, motivated by the anger of the parent, designed to bring about submission of the offspring. We see such behavior, or its equivalent, between adults of other species also. I believe it is relatively recent that we humans have begun to consider it a rational, thought out procedure designed to optimize the behavioral development of our offspring. In fact, we have historical evidence that punishment has extended from relatively mild (much milder than spanking) to the extreme of torture and murder, with no clear dividing line anywhere along that continuum.

There is no clear dividing line between punishment and revenge, except that “punishment” usually refers to causing a subordinate to suffer (and/or die). Parents punish children, society punishes citizens, and God reportedly punishes humans.

My observation is that we humans readily and enthusiastically endorse punishment and revenge. It is my belief that this is our worst human value, in terms of the suffering and tragedy produced. In peer relationships, the phenomenon is cycles of ever-increasing revenge. In hierarchical relationships, there is a great tendency toward cycles of ever-increasing punishment and rebellion (overt and/or covert), sometimes with successful hostile overthrow of the superior (parent, leader).

I believe that, although we have never yet done so, it is possible for us to change our cultural values globally such that although we recognize punishment and revenge to be a part of our basic animal nature, we can have a better life without them and we can do a much, much better job of reversing this cultural value, especially through our child rearing methods.

But we will have to learn how to do it. We will have to learn how to civilize our children without the use of punishment. Such will not be easy.

Doing so has been a special interest of mine, and I am convinced by observation that such is possible, and highly desirable. I believe that because punishment is ubiquitous and therefore normal, seeing the unfortunate results of it is difficult, because those results are currently normal parts of our lives. We believe that this is as good as it gets.

Although changing global culture must be a very long-range goal, I believe marked reduction in anger and hostile behavior is attainable by each of us that is motivated enough to do the learning, with great benefit to ourselves and those close to us. And global culture will not change without individuals doing their part. Our cultures are a reflection of who we are in addition to being one determinant of who we become.
Bill Van F.
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 821
And here is another post to the same thread:

I have found the following concept highly useful for me personally and for some others.

People can be to some extent rated according to where they fall along a particular continuum, for which the label of one end would be “judgmental” and the label of the other end would be “understanding.”

To clarify the meanings of these labels, we can use an example. We will assume that the exact same situation occurs to two individuals, one at each end of the continuum.

The situation is that the individual is driving along when all of a sudden the car just ahead of him swerves in front of him, causing him to have to jam on the brakes.

Individual A reacts with fear, of course, but also with rage, cursing at the other driver, blasting the horn loud and long, briefly contemplating running into the back of him just to show him (revenge), thinking about phoning in a complaint to get him punished, and giving him the finger as he pulls around him to get ahead of him.

Individual B reacts of course with fear, but has immediate concern also for the other driver, wondering if he is okay, and wondering why in the world it happened. Could he have been trying to dodge an animal in the road ahead? Is he sick? Is it dangerous to remain close to him? Better watch and see if anything else is going to happen. Hope he’s okay. He probably made a mistake, and probably feels bad about having done so. Individual B does not blow his horn. He experiences no anger.

It is probably no surprise that I believe that I am better off, and so is the world, to the extent that I can be as close to the “understanding” end of the continuum as possible.

In the same way, I do not believe in punishing children for their mistakes. An understanding approach is one that attempts to understand why the child engaged in the non-optimal behavior, and to work on helping the child develop the skills that will reduce the likelihood of that behavior in the future.

Those skills may involve recognition of problematic motivational states (that tend to promote non-optimal behavior) and to be able to rapidly call to mind an ethical rule of conduct that will inhibit such behavior (“no hitting,” “no taking of someone’s things without permission,” “no crossing the street without looking both ways,” etc.).

Children can be mean (chronically hostile), the meanness being due to chronic anger toward someone or even toward “authority” or peers or “the world.”

An understanding parent would not respond to mean behavior with punishment (increasing the chronic anger), but would take quite seriously the fact of the chronic anger. That chronic anger will quite likely cause that child a lifetime of suffering, and probably an early death (e.g., cardiovascular), and put many others at risk of suffering by virtue of his or her behavior. And for some, the chronic anger may be directed primarily at the self (self-hatred), ruining the quality of life for that person and placing him or her at greater risk for suicide.

So the parent would try hard to understand why the child has become so angry, and to let the child know that the parent wants to make things right for the child.

If it turns out that the anger of the child is due to the child having inappropriate expectations regarding the behavior of others, then helping the child to understand the concept of “fairness” may be extremely important. (Fairness is a human invention; it is not a part of our basic animal nature.)

It may be that the child has an underdeveloped capacity for generosity (involved in sharing), whereupon the understanding parent will try to provide the child with experiences that demonstrate it along with rewarding any signs of developing generosity in the child. (By reward I mean informal reward, such as acknowledgement, gratitude, praise, affection, etc., not formal reward such as cookies, toys, tokens, etc.)

I have seen enormous rage in a child victimized by his younger siblings, who are favored by the parent because of their age, such that that child has no property rights or ability to defend himself against taunting. Such a child needs understanding, and appropriate protection from his siblings, while being helped to understand the value in understanding his siblings’ lesser capabilities due to not being as far along in their development as he is, including the value of his serving as a model for them, hence the importance of his achievements in self-control.

It is we humans that have such a marked capacity for empathy because of our wonderful tool, language. And that tool, combined with our rules of logic and rules of evidence, allow us to do things which no other species can do.

And one of those things is the development of the capacity for understanding of one another. Our natural proclivity toward punishment and revenge must, through continuous practice, be inhibited in order to accomplish such understanding.

But even if we start out with much chronic anger due to early life experience, we can, I believe, accomplish much in this direction. And the more we do so, the more able we will be to help our children do the same. We need a world filled with understanding, not punishment and revenge. And we need ways of rearing our children that foster such understanding, including the modeling of it by us.
A former member
Post #: 753

When does something become simple fact?
When does spanking children not get directly related to adults having various issues?

Why Does Everyone Pretend There's A 'Spanking Debate'?

A former member
Post #: 777

Jesus Camp (2006) - Full Movie

Jesus Camp is a 2006 American documentary film directed by Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing about a charismatic Christian summer camp, where children spend their summers learning and practicing their prophetic gifts and being taught that they can "take back America for Christ."[1] According to the distributor, it "doesn't come with any prepackaged point of view" and tries to be "an honest and impartial depiction of one faction of the evangelical Christian community".[2]

Jesus Camp debuted at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, and was sold by A&E Indie Films to Magnolia Pictures. Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 79th Academy Awards,[3] the film was met with controversy that led to the closure of the camp.[4]

A former member
Post #: 778

The Man Who Counts the Killings
George Gerbner, who thirty years ago founded the Cultural Indicators project, which is best known for its estimate that the average American child will have watched 8,000 murders on television by the age of twelve, is so alarmed about the baneful effects of TV that he describes them in terms of "fascism"

by Scott Stossel

A 1956 study compared the behavior of twelve four-year-olds who watched a Woody Woodpecker cartoon containing many violent episodes with that of twelve other four-year-olds who watched "The Little Red Hen," a nonviolent cartoon.

The Woody watchers were much more likely than the Hen watchers to hit other children, break toys, and be generally destructive during playtime.

In 1981 Brandon Centerwall, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington, hypothesized that the sharp increase in the murder rate in North America beginning in 1955 was the product of television viewing.

Television sets had been common household appliances for about eight years by that point -- enough time, he theorized, to have inculcated violent tendencies in a generation of viewers.

He tested his hypothesis by studying the effects of television in South Africa, where the Afrikaaner-dominated regime had banned it until 1975.

He found that twelve years after television was introduced there, murder rates skyrocketed.

In 1960 Leonard Eron, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, studied third-graders in Columbia County in semi-rural New York.

He observed that the more violent television these eight-year-olds watched at home, the more aggressive they were in school.

Eron returned to Columbia County in 1971, when the children from his sample were nineteen.

He found that the boys who had watched a lot of violent television when they were eight were more likely to get in trouble with the law when older.

Eron returned to Columbia County a third time in 1982, when his subjects were thirty.

He discovered that those who had watched the most television violence at age eight inflicted more violent punishments on their children, were convicted of more serious crimes, and were reported more aggressive by their spouses than those who had watched less violent television.

In 1993, at a conference of the National Council for Families & Television, Eron estimated that 10 percent of the violence in the United States can be attributed to television.

A former member
Post #: 779

Social learning theory is a perspective that states that people learn within a social context.

It is facilitated through concepts such as modeling and observational learning


According to Social Learning theory, models are an important source for learning new behaviors and for achieving behavioral change in institutionalized settings. [2] Social learning theory is derived from the work of Albert Bandura which proposed that observational learning can occur in relation to three models: [3]

  • Live model – in which an actual person is demonstrating the desired behaviour
  • Verbal instruction – in which an individual describes the desired behaviour in detail, and instructs the participant in how to engage in the behavior
  • Symbolic – in which modeling occurs by means of the media, including movies, television, Internet, literature, and radio. This type of modeling involves a real or fictional character demonstrating the behaviour.

An important factor of Bandura’s social learning theory is the emphasis on reciprocal determinism.

This notion states that an individual’s behaviour is influenced by the environment and characteristics of the person.

In other words, a person’s behaviour, environment, and personal qualities all reciprocally influence each other.

Bandura proposed that the modeling process involves several steps:[3]

  • Attention – in order for an individual to learn something, they must pay attention to the features of the modeled behaviour.
  • Retention – humans need to be able to remember details of the behaviour in order to learn and later reproduce the behaviour.
  • Reproduction – in reproducing a behavior, an individual must organize his or her responses in accordance with the model behavior. This ability can improve with practice.
  • Motivation – there must be an incentive or motivation driving the individual’s reproduction of the behaviour. Even if all of the above factors are present, the person will not engage in the behaviour without motivation.

A former member
Post #: 780

Reciprocal determinism is the theory set forth by psychologist Albert Bandura that a person's behavior both influences and is influenced by personal factors and the social environment.

Bandura accepts the possibility of an individual's behavior being conditioned through the use of consequences.

At the same time he asserts that a person's behavior (and personal factors, such as cognitive skills or attitudes) can impact the environment.[1]

These skill sets result in an under- or over-compensated ego that, for all creative purposes are too strong or too weak to focus on pure outcome.

As an example, Bandura's reciprocal determinism could occur when a child is acting out in school.

The child doesn't like going to school; therefore, he/she acts out in class.

This results in teachers and administrators of the school disliking having the child around.

When confronted by the situation, the child admits he/she hates school and other peers don't like him/her.

This results in the child acting inappropriately, forcing the administrators who dislike having him/her around to create a more restrictive environment for children of this stature.

Each behavioral and environmental factor coincides with the child and so forth resulting in a continuous battle on all three levels.

A former member
Post #: 781

The Bobo doll experiment was the name of two experiments conducted by Albert Bandura in 1961 and 1963 studying patterns of behavior associated with aggression.

Bandura hoped that the experiments would prove that aggression can be explained, at least in part, by social learning theory. The theory of social learning would state that behavior such as aggression is learned through observing and imitating others.

Method (1961)

For the experiment, each child was exposed to the scenario individually, so as not to be influenced or distracted by classmates.
The first part of the experiment involved bringing a child and the adult model into a playroom.
In the playroom, the child was seated in one corner filled with highly appealing activities such as stickers and stamps.[1]
The adult model was seated in another corner containing a toy set, a mallet, and an inflatable Bobo doll.
Before leaving the room, the experimenter explained to the child that the toys in the adult corner were only for the adult to play with.

During the aggressive model scenario, the adult would begin by playing with the toys for approximately one minute.
After this time the adult begins to show aggression towards the Bobo doll.
Examples of this include hitting the Bobo doll and using the toy mallet to hit the Bobo doll in the face.
After a period of about 10 minutes, the experimenter came back into the room, dismissed the adult model, and took the child into another playroom.
The non-aggressive adult model simply played with the small toys for the entire 10 minute-period.
In this situation, the Bobo doll was completely ignored by the model then the child was taken out of the room.

The next stage placed the child and experimenter into another room filled with interesting toys: a truck, dolls, and spinning top.
There, the child was invited to play with the toys.
After about 2 minutes the experimenter decides that the child is no longer allowed to play with the toys.
This was done to build up frustration.
The experimenter says that the child may play with the toys in the experimental room including both aggressive and non-aggressive toys.
In the experimental room the child was allowed to play for the duration of 20 minutes while the experimenter evaluated the child’s play.[1]

The first measure recorded was based on physical aggression.
This included punching or kicking the Bobo doll, sitting on the Bobo doll, hitting it with a mallet, and tossing it around the room.
Verbal aggression was the second measure recorded.
The judges counted each time the children imitated the aggressive adult model and recorded their results.
The third measure was the amount of times the mallet was used to display other forms of aggression than hitting the doll.
The final measure includes modes of aggression shown by the child that were not direct imitation of the role-model’s behavior.

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