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The Child is Father to the Man

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Many years ago a relative of mine commented that he did not care how cute or smart a child is. Instead, he asserted, that the type of adult they become is all that matters. He missed the point that famous poet, William Wordsworth, encapsulated in his poem: _________________________________________________

“MY heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.”

William Wordsworth. 1770–1850 ___________________________________________________

While this poem has many relevant and interesting interpretations, I will direct the readers’ attention to the idea that, the way children are treated by adults directly shapes the kinds of adults they later become.

A Recent Study:

Dr. Murray Straus, PhD, head of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, conducted a 32-nation study of corporal punishment by parents. He found that the data suggest that spanking children may decrease their I.Q. scores by as much as give points.

It is already known that children who witness domestic violence run a high risk of becoming abusive when adulthood is achieved.

With regard to spanking and other types of corporal punishment, the study revealed the fact that nations that regularly use corporal had children with significantly lower average I.Q.s as compared to nations that do not spank.

Here in the United States and other wealthier and better educated nations, it was found that the incidence of corporal punishment has declined and the average I.Q. scores have increased.

As an explanation, several psychologists suggest that corporal punishment is extremely stressful for children, particularly if it regularly occurs. In addition, with chronic use of corporal punishment comes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Those children grow up to become less curious, more insecure and poorer performers in school.

Many parents in both wealthy and poor nations, resort to spanking when they feel overwhelmed and frustrated by children who may be going through an episode of being defiant and uncooperative behaviors.

While this is not the only reason why children can become difficult, part of the explanation has to do with the plain fact that growth and healthy development requires that the child learns to become increasingly self sufficient and independent. Therefore, it is necessary that parents, even when they feel challenged and overwhelmed by their child, not resort to violence to attempt to exert control. There are many ways to set limits and teach cooperativeness and respect without falling back on the old methods used by our parents and grandparents.

This month, October 2009, is set aside for the recognition and treatment of mental illness throughout the United States. It is also a time for people to think about strategies to prevent mental illness and promote mental health. One important contribution to mental health in each family is for people to learn new methods of limit setting with children without the use of violence.

Remember the poem, “The child is father to the man.” What we do to our children, how we treat them and each other, within the family, deeply affects how they will behave, feel and function as adults. Spanking and violence does not promote mental health for anyone. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is a very old saying that needs to be relegated to the dust bins of history.

Want another old saying?

“The more we do what we did,
The more we will get what we got.”

We want healthy, bright and functioning adults. Get rid of the rod, spare the child. Use common sense.

Your comments and experiences are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.

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