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Ethics and Morality

Another Reason Why You Should Not Spank Your Child

Spanking Hinders Moral Development

In a previous post on this topic, I wrote about how spanking negatively affects a child's IQ. I this post I will explain why spanking negatively affects a child's moral development.

If you are attempting to discourage inappropriate behavior with your child, spanking is detrimental and ineffective. The reason for this is that you are conditioning your child to pair morality with violence. Morality paired with violence leads to an undeveloped sense of morality. For example, beating your son for hitting his younger brother is hypocrisy in action. If the intent is to get your son to understand that it is wrong and hurtful to assault a young relative, that message would be lost to him as you would be engaging in the same behavior you wish for your son to stop. More than likely your son would only stop beating his younger brother in your presence, which means that the only thing your child has learned from the spanking is that you don't like him hitting his younger brother, and you don't mind hitting him.

When a child is spanked for doing something wrong, there is no understanding by the child of the wrong doing. The child simply pairs the wrong doing with what his or her parent does not want him to do. There is no incentive to understand why the behavior is frowned upon, particular in regards to possible implications the behavior may have on others. Even with children who are considered well behaved by others, if these children are raised in household where spanking is the norm, they may have a poor development of empathy, in that their good behavior is primarily fueled by submission to authority, and that behind closed doors they act out.

Ideally you want children to engage in good behavior based on their compassion for others and their understanding of natural and logical consequences. As opposed to simply being good for the sake of not getting into trouble. When wrong doing is paired with violence, the primal brain becomes activated. The primal brain, composed primarily of the cerebellum and the brain stem, is responsible for automatic functioning like breathing, body temperature and the freeze, fight and flight response system. Activation of a child's freeze, fight and flight system leads the child to do most of his thinking about the event in his limbic and primal brain. When it comes to learning, the primal brain being the most automated and least sophisticated part of the brain, is best suited for automated learning. Examples would be learning to ride a bicycle and learning to execute a cartwheel.

Complex experiences that prompt the development of morality, are best suited for the neocortex. Children are most likely to gain understanding of complex situations when they are clam and relaxed. This is because a relaxed mindset provides more access to the neocortex region, especially the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain designed primarily for problem solving and abstract thinking. Your child does not learn the lesson you wish for him or her to learn when you spank him, this is because he is experiencing fear, stress and significant trauma; emotions which activate the primal brain. Complex events processed from the primal brain forces children to process the event from a closed and rigid perspective.

In another post, I will discuss an effective strategy for getting children and young adolescents to adopt and practice healthier behaviors, without resorting to spanking.

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