Is caning a child considered disciplining or outright abuse?

Is caning a child considered disciplining or outright abuse?

Is caning the best way to discipline a child? Clearly the experts don't think so. Read on to find out.

If you grew up in Singapore, it’s highly likely that you are familiar with the most famous scare tactics used by the older generation. These include the policeman, the karangguni man and other variations of bogeymen, who are all waiting to catch you. Then there’s of course the infamous rotan, (cane) that has been the public enemy of many because unlike the elusive bogeymen, caning actually took place. Caning a child is extremely commonplace in our culture.

And precisely because it is so common, many parents in this day and age have no qualms about caning a child.  The caning culture has stood the test of time and younger parents still feel that it is an effective form of discipline and serves as a strong deterrent to disrespecting, misbehaving and the likes.

Recently, a couple hitting their child in Jurong West with a cane and a tree branch became a cause célèbre. The video went viral and netizens have been going up in arms. The mother claimed that her daughter had lied to her about her homework and this caused her to ‘explode’. She could not come to terms with the fact that she had raised a liar, she said. 

As you would expect, this has once again sparked the age-old debate of whether or not caning a childis an acceptable method of disciplining. 

Experts ubiquitously agree that corporal punishment is not the way to go as it can have a lasting psychological impact on the child. To begin with, parents need to understand that caning a childto discipline them essentially means that you are using fear to get them to act according to how you desire. I can’t put it more bluntly than that. 

Dr Jennifer Kiing, senior consultant in the child development unit of the National University Hospital (NUH), said:

Caning is used to instil fear in a child, thereby prompting obedience. But constant fear of the cane can tip a child into anxiety and depression. 

caning a child

Long term effects of caning include anxiety and depression.

She cited the example of one of her patients, who was caned frequently and had developed an anxiety disorder by the age of six. He had troubles socialising and making friends. He had grown to withdraw from those around him. Not surprising considering that he had been caned from the tender age of two!  

Now let’s put this into perspective. The chances of your child developing anxiety or depression increase along with the frequency of caning. Every time you cane your child, you subject him to stress and anxiety.

That means that when your child does something, even if it was purely an innocent act, the minute he senses a hint of displeasure in your voice, or the slightest change of expression on your face, he is likely to start getting anxious and start anticipating the cane. Because that’s what caning a childdoes to him.

But that’s not all. In addition to the anxiety, how is your child supposed to feel confident and safe about exploring and testing his boundaries? Children don’t have an innate ability to discern between right and wrong, or what’s acceptable to their parents. They often discover things about themselves and the world around them by ‘trying their luck’.

But if this is always met with a violent end, how would they ever feel confident about trying? In that sense, isn’t caning a childimplicitly suffocating him? He would fear the consequences of just about anything more than he would be eager to discover the outcome.

caning a child

Don’t let your child’s fear of failing prevent him from pushing himself to do many great things.

The fear of failure, or of letting you down is going to stop your child from taking responsible risks and entering unchartered territory. Your child is going to grow up never wanting to stray out of the safe zone!

Speaking of the fear, I don’t even need to remind you that caning your child exposes your child to violence and uncontrolled emotions. As they grow, they might come to an understanding that they are victims of abuse, even if you mean well by caning them.

This of course can cause damage to their future relationships with other people. They may become violent themselves, or have serious trust issues. 

Apart from these more drastic consequences, there are other considerations. Has it ever occured to you to ask yourself what message you send when caning your child? Have you started out calm and composed when disciplining then ended up yelling, name-calling and eventually caning as your anger escalated? 

Do you realise that this means you aren’t in control of your own emotions? When it comes to parenting, it’s so important to remember that you have to be the adult. When children don’t have it their way, it’s normal and acceptable for them to work themselves into a frenzy. We must correct that in the right way.

But when you scream and shout and hit a child, you’re essentially doing the very thing you are telling them not to do. And don’t forget that if reaching for the cane is something that you do when your level of anger rises, it becomes a nasty habit and someday, when you reach for a cane and don’t find one, you might hit your child with pretty much anything that comes to your hand.

Don’t let it get to that point. You might act on impulse and end up regretting it for life.

Some might say that we grew up getting caned and we turned out fine. Do remember that what worked then does not necessarily work now. Times have changed and children of today are more exposed and informed. They know that caning a childisn’t acceptable and will not hesitate to form assumptions.

Back then, we didn’t have access to so much opinions, research and information. We were less questioning and more accepting. We never held it against our parents.Times have changed. Caning a child back then  was a completely different story.

It’s the same way that back in the day, teachers used to get away with smacking or even hitting their students. Why do you think it doesn’t work now? It’s the same for parents!

At the end of the day, they are your children and the ultimate decision of what disciplining approach works best, lies with you. But do remember that there are many other positive parenting approaches that are tried and tested to be far more effective than caning.

Caning a child might be a short-term solution, but in the long run it’s horribly damaging to a child. If you must do it for whatever reason, make sure that you only do so when you are calm, composed and fully in control of your emotions. Don’t let it be something that you do on impulse, or when triggered by anger for that would easily go down the slippery slope of abuse!

Reference: The Straits Times 

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Written by

Nasreen Majid

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