A child is born with poor eyesight so they recognize their caregivers through the sense of smell. In a few weeks their eyesight develops and they associate that smell to a face. When they start to speak, they associate that face with a name. An essential element that is developing during that transition from a baby to a toddler is Trust. Before they learn how to eat and drink, before they learn how to speak or walk, before developing any milestone that is essential to their growth and survival, they are learning how to trust and who to trust. That’s the first instinct a child develops the moment they are born.
Parents, close your eyes and go back to the time when you were a child and were being hit by your parents. Re-live that moment and think about the pain, were you thinking about respecting your religion? Respecting your parents? Or were you simply reliving the episode and crying. Did you feel hurt because your trust was broken? Did you hate them and the reason you got hit for?
Domestic violence is a disturbing trend in our societies that doesn’t seem to subside. Back home, I realize that it is commonplace (but completely unacceptable) to hit a kid because they are not following their religious duties, not doing well in school, they misbehave or talk back to their elders. Parents firmly believe that this “beating” is teaching them a lesson of respect, but on the contrary, it’s taking them away from their religion, family, values and most importantly from themselves.
What happens to that trust when the people that they love most, beat them because that’s the norm of raising a child back home? Parents are supposed to protect their children from harm, not become harmful to them. Is that the only way children can be taught? Is that the way they will learn? Is that the way they will love their religion? Is that the way they will “Respect” their elders? Isn’t it contradictory to think that by hurting our kids physically and emotionally they are learning something positive?. Most parents just say, ” Oh, that’s just made up, look at our kids, we beat them, and they are fine.” They are not fine. We choose to give into our emotions and stop the situation from worsening in an instant by raising our hand. We choose quick fixes rather than putting in the work and the effort to solve things with our children. We choose not to educate ourselves and understand the implications of physical abuse on our child.
Parents need to understand what happens in a child’s body and brain when they are physically or verbally abused. When our body is stressed, it releases a hormone called cortisol. This, in turn, triggers a flight or fight response in our brains. It is a good thing because it helps us judge how to save ourselves when we face dangerous situations. When the danger passes our stress levels return to normal. This is called Acute stress and has no long-lasting effects. When we are constantly stressed, day in and day out, the cortisol levels are increased in our bodies, and if it remains in our system for a long time, it has severe detrimental effects. When a child is constantly beaten or even has the anxiety or fear that they will be beaten today for one thing or the other, they will develop chronic stress and that will lead to the following problems -:
1. Extreme mood swings- They will be moody, depressed and have social problems.
2. Weight problems- Bad health.
3. Your ability to develop cancers and other diseases- Very, Bad health.
4. Stress shrinks your brain structure, impairs many functions of the brain and kill its cells- Abnormal growth.
5. Impaired memory- Learning disabilities in a minor or major form.
6. Depression and other mental disorders.
7. Poor Sleep- No sleep, no growth and it will exacerbate everything else they are going through.
8. Low immunity – which means they will be constantly sick.
8. Short attention span etc. etc. etc. – Unfocused, learning problems in school or jobs.
When families move to the west, they can’t hit, but they have other methods such as emotional and verbal abuse. This creates the same response in your child, whether you hit them or not, chronic stress. The side effects develop gradually and get embedded not only in your personality but also your DNA. These issues get passed on to the next generation, and it goes on. Children who are exposed to violence in the family show the same kind of distress as a soldier fighting in a war and slowly that becomes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You might as well send off your child in a war.
Our kids in the west, have freedom of every kind. It is extremely easy for them to slip and when they do (and God forbid that any child does), only you will be the one to blame. Because here is the thing, when you hit your child the first time, you have broken their trust. When you hit them a second time, you have either instilled fear in them, or you have made them angry, and when you keep hitting them, that anger keeps growing, their disrespect keeps growing and the thing that you wanted them to learn, is long gone because now you have made them rebellious. Now they will do the exact opposite. Now they will learn how to lie and hide. Now they will lead double lives until they are completely free from you.
Imagine, what are you doing to this child. Does your child deserve to be mentally tortured because a parent, an adult couldn’t control their emotions in the moment? If God forbid they develop any of these things, how will they control it? How will they control their depression? How will they redevelop their brains? They will spend years dealing with their insecurities and their fear, failing to comprehend how did they end up this way? They might not know, but two things will happen. Either you will have raised a child to become a parent just like yourself or a parent who has vowed to never be like you and is deeply against your so-called child rearing beliefs. Physical wounds heal but children never truly recover from their emotional wounds.
Life is a collection of small moments just like the ocean is made out of single drops of water. Every moment you must teach, guide and express a lot of love for your child to become a secure person. Every parent’s sole wish should be that their child is happy and healthy. No more, no less. That is essential for their survival. When we have poor family dynamics, we as adults recover from it but a child does not. I sincerely wish that every child, no matter where they come from, never has to go through any abuse from anyone. Please look out for your kids and feel their pain. Never break the trust of a child.
(I know its easy to outline the problem and harder to provide the solutions, but believe me there are many ways other than hitting. More on that in the next blog)