Spanking, smacking, whipping or any kind of physical punishments for children is normal for many in Asia.
This parenting method is, for some parents here, “necessary” to discipline their kids. If they’re not reacting physically, voice raising and yelling are still more effective to them than talking to their children when they misbehave.
Parents and adults believe that hard punishments will instill the guilt in children, which makes them feel bad for their unintentional mistakes.
And that was how I raised.
Stick and belt whipping, all the spanking and smacking, I have experienced them all. The least physical punishments I had were arm and thigh pinching and sometimes ear twisting.
Once I had my mouth stuffed with chili peppers for saying a vulgar word.
I was only five and didn’t know about its meaning in our language. I simply heard it from my cousins who said it many times and thought it was just a normal word. But to my parents, my obscenity was unforgivable and I had to be taught a lesson for that.
It worked because after that, I never repeated the same mistake.
At least, not in front of them.
Because of my childhood, I believed this was the right way to raise a child. But still, I despised it with all my heart. My resentment became stronger as I grew up, but at the same time, I accepted it as a proper way of dealing with children.
When I was twenty-one, I had to accept the responsibility of raising my nephew and my niece, who were only four and three that time. That was my first experience in taking care of children.
I was unmarried and a student, but I had to act as their single mother.
One day, I almost struck my nephew for breaking an expensive plate.
The first thing I saw was red.
I was about to shout and lay my hands on him for breaking one of my most valuable possessions in the house. The anger clouded my judgment and the only thing in my mind was that he needed to be punished for his mistake. It was the only way to teach him a lesson, and a reminder to not repeat it again in the future.
But then I saw the fear on his face as he was about to burst into tears.
That moment I realized, it was not his fault. It was not his intention to break it, nor did he know it was going to happen. He was just a fragile little four-year-old boy and incapable of holding a heavy, porcelain plate.
In a second, my anger dissipated and instead of scolding him, I calmed him down.
As I cleaned up the mess, I reasoned with him – a shattered plate would hurt him if he steps on it, which was why he has to be careful next time.
He never repeated the mistake after that. Ever.
I reflected on the moment not long after it happened and finally understood why parents were easily angered by misbehavior.
Parents forget that children are innocent and naïve to how things work.
Ever since the incident, I managed to restrain myself from reacting impulsively towards my children. Every time they make trouble, I ask myself – did I ever teach them whether it is right or wrong? Do they understand the seriousness of their mistakes? Are they purposely misbehaving?
If the answer to these questions is no, then there is no reason for me to punish them for their mundane faults.
Instead of punishing, I educate them.
Sometimes the pressure of my study gets the better of me and I slip, but lashing my anger out on them is unfair. After all, they are still children and all they want to do is play all the time and with anything they can get their hands on.
Harsh punishment is never an effective way of teaching children about manners or transgressions. Parents should work to educate them, no matter how many times it has to be repeated until they understand because sometimes children can take quite a while to grasp the basics.
I can not be certain about other children, but it always works with mine.