Deciphering a Comment That Justifies Child Abuse and Dehumanization

Recently on the Self-Archeology Facebook page, I posted a flowchart explaining why physical punishment is not a good method for childrearing. You can find it HERE. To summarize, if the child is old enough to understand reason, use reason; if they are not, they won't understand why you're initiating violence against them. Conclusion: don't initiate violence against children. It seems simple, right?

And although most reactions to posts like this are positive, there are always people who get upset and start justifying child abuse. Of course, they don't see nor present it as child abuse, but it doesn't change the fact that it is. So let's look at it...

Comment [I hid it on the page because justifying abuse is despicable and not allowed, and I'll keep the author's name anonymous]: 
Idiotic. Abuse is intolerable but a short sharp shock stays in a child's memory and it will learn to stay safe and learn to be a member of acceptable society. An action with no negative consequences but rewarding at the time will be repeated. That's how nature works.
Child abuse apologia is not exceptionally uncommon, but what's interesting is how disturbingly dehumanizing and clinical one's language has to be here in order to try to make an argument like that. Let's analyze it sentence by sentence.
This looks like projection because this comment is pretty idiotic.
Abuse is intolerable but a short sharp shock stays in a child's memory and it will learn to stay safe and learn to be a member of acceptable society.
Why is it that whenever a person says, "Something something but," whatever comes after but is so often a direct contradiction to what came prior? "I'm not racist but [says something incredibly racist.]" "I don't hate women but [says something misogynistic.]"

Here: "Abuse is intolerable but here's how a child gets traumatized for their own benefit and why it's good."

It's always a red flag to me when people in the 21st century refer to a child as it, like it's a chair in the corner of your room. Devoid of humanity. We don't even refer to our pets as it anymore. A child is a human being, and it's really strange seeing people still refer to children as inanimate objects.

Moreover, what is this short sharp shock nonsense? As a writer, I can appreciate the effort in coming up with an alliteration, but it's very strange to describe instilling terror into a child's mind like you're using a cattle prod on your livestock. 

So the idea is that you inflict pain and fear, the memory of which lingers in the child's psyche, and that's how they will learn to stay safe and learn to behave in an acceptable manner in society. First, it's definitely not necessary to do that in order to teach a child to be safe and to be a decent human being. Second, why would you hurt and scare your child to teach them to stay safe? 

The lesson the child learns here is the exact opposite: the child will be afraid and distrustful of you and, if it continues, of people in general. That is one of the main mechanisms behind how people develop social anxiety or become antisocial (as in disregarding the boundaries of others), among numerous other problems. You can even see it in animals: if you beat a dog, they either become incredibly scared or overly-aggressive, or kind of chaotic. You can notice the same mechanism in human beings. 
An action with no negative consequences but rewarding at the time will be repeated. That's how nature works.
Sure, human beings try to avoid pain and seek reward. However, the whole mechanism of punishing or rewarding the child for certain behavior is archaic and it only messes with the child's psyche. I write about it more in the article titled How a Traumatic, Controlling Upbringing Makes You Unmotivated, Overwhelmed, and Empty.

There are other ways of teaching the child not to violate people's boundaries that don't violate the child's boundaries. After all, if you’re trying to teach the child that, for example, hitting a dog is bad by hitting the child, then by the very action of hitting them you're contradicting your message. Instead, you could sit down and talk to them about why hitting is wrong. Or ask them to gently pet the dog instead and see how the dog reacts. Or ask them how they feel when they are hit and if they like it.

But many caregivers don't want to do all of that because it requires a lot of time, effort, patience, knowledge, and other resources. Meanwhile, hitting and otherwise terrifying the child achieves an immediate and potentially long-lasting result of compliance. Unfortunately, this has severe consequences that can last a lifetime, and leads to much worse outcomes overall.

If a child is terrified of their caregivers, the people they need to survive in the world, and they can neither protect themselves from abuse nor leave the environment, they obviously must comply because they are small, helpless, and dependent. That's why you shouldn't terrify and otherwise abuse a child if they they're doing something you dislike or not doing something that you want them to do, or defend abuse as a good childrearing method. That's pretty... what's a word that would fit here... ah, idiotic.

Support my work by becoming a Patreon subscriber for $5/mo or more and get access to bonus articles. And check out my book Human Development and Trauma: How Childhood Shapes Us into Who We Are as Adults. Thanks!


  1. This is a hard-hitter, pun intended.
    My son, just turned 13, will not speak with his father. It has been over a year.
    Why, is because father kept threatening to spank. The relationship was already very estranged. The courts heard the child and do not impose visit or contact.
    Father is sad idiot.

  2. I find it useful to respond to such comments with something along the lines of, "if I catch you advocating spanking one more time I'm going to take you over my knee and give you a sore bottom." They'll often respond by saying that's an inappropriate thing to say. "Exactly."


Post a Comment


Character Assassination—and How to Handle It

Empathy And Laughing At Others’ Misery

8 Reasons Why People Deny Childhood Trauma and Its Results