If you saw the recent story about a Louisiana mother who "whipped" her children for burglarizing her neighbor's home, then you know that the story has captured national attention with many people commenting on whether the mother should have used corporal punishment and whether she should have been arrested for doing so. You can read the story as told by MSN here and by the Daily News here. Some of the people who came forward in support of the physical discipline that was used included two state officials, State Treasurer John Kennedy, and Attorney General Jeff Landry.
Encouraging parents to get involved when their children display concerning behavior is certainly a fine message, but advocating that parents use physical discipline as an intervention is uninformed and counterproductive. Mr. Kennedy went as far as to write a letter stating that, "In biblical times, sparing the rod led to a spoiled child...in modern times, sparing the rod leads to an imprisoned child." This way of thinking completely ignores years of research that clearly indicates that the opposite is true: physical discipline is actually linked with future criminal activity and mental health issues, doesn't solve the problems that are contributing to challenging behavior, and is an obsolete form of discipline.
Let's make sure that Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Landry get the information they need to understand the adverse effects of corporal punishment and respond to such situations in a more enlightened manner in the future. Use the below form to send an email to Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Landry so that they and their respective staff members can learn better, more humane, and effective ways of handling behaviorally challenging youth. It'll take less than a minute of your time, but the impact could last a lot longer!
Get educated about the negative effects of physical discipline
Dear Attorney General Landry and State Treasurer Kennedy:
I am writing to express my concerns about the troubling news story regarding the young boys who were whipped with an electrical cord by their mother after she learned that they'd broken into a neighbor's home. While I am sorry that the mother was arrested for her actions -- after all, an arrest isn't going to help her learn more effective discipline strategies -- I was even more sorry that you both supported her use of physical discipline. You could have directed her -- and, by example, many others -- to a more effective, humane alternative. As civic leaders, you have a responsibility to express views that are educated, and informed by the substantial accumulated research documenting the grave, long-term negative effects that physical discipline has on children, including future criminal activity and mental health issues.
Corporal punishment is almost always as an act of desperation in reaction to highly predictable behaviors and problems. It doesn't solve the problems that are contributing to challenging behavior. Forty-two countries have banned corporal punishment in schools and 31 have banned it in homes. There is a movement in the United States to ban it as well, which is supported by many highly-respected national organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. This movement is driven by the recognition that corporal punishment is unnecessary, especially if parents and other caregivers are familiar with alternative interventions that are non-punitive, non-adversarial, proactive, collaborative, skill-building, and relationship-enhancing. One such intervention is Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS), which has been proven effective in many settings, including families, schools, inpatient psychiatry units, and residential and juvenile detention facilities. In the State of Maine's juvenile detention system, for example, CPS reduced recidivism from 65% to 20% and reduced the number of incarcerated youth from over 250 (in 2006) to only 87 (in 2016).
I urge you and your staff to familiarize yourselves with the vast array of free resources on the website of the non-profit, Lives in the Balance (www.livesinthebalance.org). There you'll find streaming video and audio programming that will better position you and your staff to be able to assist desperate parents who are at a loss as to what to do with their behaviorally challenging kids. I sincerely hope you will take the time review these resources. Thank you for your attention to this very important matter.