National being charged with “reckless or negligent

Published by admin on

National Football League star Adrien Peterson turned a lot of his devoted fans against him after news reports of him being charged with “reckless or negligent injury” to his two-year-old son emerged, in which defended himself by saying that he was merely “trying to ‘discipline’ the child”. However, while Peterson’s celebrity was the reason that this issue caught immense limelight, child abuse and maltreatment has been an age-old issue that continues to persist as one billion children aged between 2-17 experienced some form of physical, emotional or sexual violence globally. This essay shall try to explore into the depths of the formidable topic of child maltreatment, with a focus on disciplining and parenting.


Caregivers often have to deal with the predicament of educating their children about good values without impeding on their child rights. This can be especially tricky, as any parent or child caregiver will concur that children can prove to be notoriously difficult to deal with, at times. Children may seemingly misbehave or act out to seek attention if their needs are not being met, which can be a cause of distress, guilt and embarrassment for the caregiver. Thus, it can be challenging to teach young children about pertinent values if they are behaving in this way. If the pent-up frustration in response to the child’s misbehaviour is not skilfully dealt with, it can lead to the use of physical and emotional punishment by the caregiver. It is not uncommon to find anguished parents in public places, barely holding their anger back as the unaware child frolics. Sometimes they might even slap or spank the child to subdue them, as passers-by move on, unfazed. It is interesting to note that while one adult physically fighting with another draws a lot of attention in public spaces, no one interferes if it is a child being beaten up. Why is it acceptable to hit a child, but not an adult? What could be the reason for this blatant discrimination?


The answer, says American psychoanalyst Elisabeth Young-Bruel, lies in a phenomenon, which she has termed ‘childism’. Childism refers to the universal societal belief of a child’s subservience to adults, which has resulted in a largely unacknowledged prejudice against children. While there are several multidimensional factors that cause child abuse, it is this very belief which grants it legitimacy. The notion that children are vulnerable and need protection from their caregivers has corrupted into a patronising political idea that children are thereby inferior to grown-ups. While the intentions of the parents/ caregivers are to ensure that their children receive the best care and education so that they can lead fulfilling lives as conscientious and productive adults, it is important for them to realise that violent disciplinary measures can produce counter-intuitive, or even harmful results.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now


Renowned author Alice Miller; who has been an outspoken figure against child maltreatment; insightfully writes, “Child abuse is still sanctioned — indeed, held in high regard — in our society as long as it is defined as child-rearing. It is a tragic fact that parents beat their children in order to escape the emotions from how they were treated by their own parents”. The aforementioned Peterson case garnered severe negative publicity for the NFL, which has long been criticised for not providing its players; who often come from underprivileged backgrounds and have suffered poor parental interaction; with psychological mentorship programs to cope with the pressures of fame and life. This suggested remedy stems from the knowledge that a negative parental interaction in early childhood can have adverse impacts on inducing violent tendencies in one’s personality and parenting style.


Before this argument is advanced, it is important to decipher what child maltreatment really means and what an infringement of child rights constitutes. While it is considerably debated concept, child maltreatment is agreed upon as an ‘umbrella term’ which encompasses a wide range of child abuse and child neglect, which roughly translates to an action or lack of action, usually by the parent or caregiver which results in actual or perceived physical, emotional, psychological harm to a child. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines physical abuse as, “Intentional use of physical force against the child that results in – or has a high likelihood of resulting in – harm for the child’s health, survival, development or dignity. This includes hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, strangling, scalding, burning, poisoning and suffocating. Much physical violence against children in the home is inflicted with the object of punishing.” Several countries have their own interpretations of this definition, such as in India, child labour and child marriage are very prominent with it being home to 40% of the world’s total number of child marriages, with 19% percent of the world’s children residing here. This has prodded India to devise special legislation and schemes to tackle the matter, including Article 24 of the Constitution of India which prohibits employment of children in factories or any kind of workplaces of hazardous employment, and Section 317 of the Indian Penal Code which states that if a mother or father expose or leave a child with the intention of abandonment such that it results in the child’s death, the parents shall be charged with culpable homicide or murder.In a related
issue in a different part of the world, the newly-elected second female Prime
Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, is facing a rising amount of
pressure to ban ‘smacking’ of children, as Welsh politicians are beginning to
adopt measures to criminalise corporal punishment of children. This news report
comes against the backdrop of an underlying anxiety amongst parents- that of
losing “their rights over their children” after a recent case gained publicity
in the British media, where parents described as ‘loving and caring’ lost their
child to after being accused of the charges of smacking their children. Up
until now, the U.K government had been functioning under Victorian laws that
allowed parents to discipline their children using ‘reasonable punishment’,
thus the proposed revisions shall be refreshing and reflective of current ideas
of rights and justice of the Western society. The existence of such a discourse
in 2017 in one of the world’s most developed countries shows that the issue of
child maltreatment is not an isolated phenomenon, meant only for less-developed
countries. Such ambiguous
laws and the dilemmas sustaining them are major challenges when it comes to
issues of child abuse. One striking issue is that of widely-spread
misinformation about the perceived similarity between discipline and
punishment, which leads to a discourse in the favour of the use of physical
force to reform a child’s bad behaviour. Punishment can be defined as ‘a
penalty imposed on a person breaking a rule or showing improper conduct’, and
it is identified by its negative means of administering education. There are
two types of punishment in this sense of the word; one is through the use of
negative verbal reprimands and disapproval (negative discipline), and the other
type involves severe physical or emotional pain (corporal punishment).  Verbal
punishments may include obtuse forbidding statements, explosive angry
statements, harsh criticism, threats and belittling statements; some examples
of these include- “You are stupid, you will never learn”, “If you don’t eat, I
will send to live with that madman”, and more. On the other hand, physical
punishment is forms of violence against children, which violate their rights as
human beings with respect, dignity, and equal protection from the law. Corporal
punishment occurs when a parent or caregiver intentionally cause pain or
discomfort to the child to stop the misbehaviour, to penalise the child and to
prevent it from recurring. Some examples of corporal punishment are: hitting
the child, forcing them to sustain physically contorting positions for
excessive periods of time, pinching or hair pulling, forcing the child to eat
foul substances. While corporal punishment intends to harm the child, emotional
punishment is meant to humiliate and cause psychological pain to her/him.
Ridiculing the child in public, name calling, denying food or clothing to a
child and making them repeat self-derogatory statements as a way to shame them,
are some examples of this type of punishment. To make my
argument more convincing, I shall now discuss the effectiveness and
consequences of corporal punishment. While successful in attaining temporary
compliance from her/him, these forms of caregiver-child interaction can have an
expansive range of deleterious effects on the child. Besides the immediate
physical injury, punishment as a means of discipline can induce chronic
physical and psychological impacts on the child even to the extent of
shortening her/his lifespan. Maltreated children are prone to indulging in
high-risk behaviours, criminal activity, experiencing psychiatric disorders,
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronically poor health and some studies
on maltreated children shows that they are more inclined to become maltreating
parents themselves- as in the infamous Adrien Peterson. “It happened to me, and
it did me no harm”, was one of the statements that Peterson gave in his
defence. However, social scientists have proven that this is a popular myth
which does not account for the treating behaviour in a parent as a negative
outcome in itself, which is a perpetuating cycle.  Another myth is
that children don’t respond well to other forms of reformatory methods than
corporal punishment, or that they “ask for it”. This is a very dangerous
supposition as it forfeits all responsibility to teach from the
caregiver/parent, and puts the entire burden and blame on the child to learn.
If corporal punishment is being used for a considerably long duration, the
child may sadly become conditioned to harsh forms of punishment to realise that
the parent is attempting to reform a bad behaviour, thus making them seem like
they’re “asking” to be spanked. Cultural
differences also define child abuse, as seen in a New Zealand news report
claims that a woman was slammed for wanting to get her infant’s ears pierced,
at the horror of other parents who stated that the decision was rightful of the
child when she was of a reasonable age. Piercing a baby girl’s ears for
cosmetic reasons in a heavily patriarchal country like India would however not
be seen as a violation of child rights, only because the general cultural
mandate is not opposed to it. Several Asian cultures see the invoking of
non-violent disciplining techniques as a corroding interference of Western
influence on their cultures. This prevents them from recognising the inherent
value of developing positive parent-child relationships, which are based on
mutual respect. This brings us to
the subject of alternative methods of imparting discipline, as children will
need some guidance from their loved ones to seek fulfilment and to become
responsible and morally conscious citizens of the global society. The ideal
means to achieve that is through ‘Positive Discipline’, which is in stark
contrast with the negative forms of discussed above, such as corporal
punishment. Discipline essentially refers to the practice of teaching a person
to respect rules or assigned codes of behaviour, both in the short and long
terms, so they can adjust well in the society. The objective of discipline is
for children to internalise the process of thinking and behaving that enables
them to live in harmony with themselves and with other people. It is an
empowering mechanism and not a punitive one. By adopting positive disciplinary
techniques, a caregiver/parent enable his/her child to develop self-respect,
healthy self-esteem, self-understanding, listening skills, empathy and teach
them to look at their mistakes as opportunities: all of which are essential
life-skills. There are several
strategies that caregivers can adopt to administer positive discipline. One
such technique is for parents/ caregivers to describe the appropriate behaviour
to their children, with clear reasons for their expectations. For example, if a
child has developed the vice of lying, parents could start by explaining the
reasons for why lying is a bad habit, and the magnitude of consequences it
could have for the child. They could describe the behaviours that constitute as
lying and give examples from their experiences of how they landed in trouble
when they had lied, which adds legitimacy to their argument, and also
instigates empathy in the child. This may also result in the deepening of the
parent-child relationship, where the child begins to trust her/ his parents for
any future guidance. Sequentially, the parent may request acknowledgement of
the child’s understanding of the desired behavior (“so, what did we learn about
lying today?”) , and thereafter it is important to reward the child for
positive reinforcement of the expected moral behavioral outcome (an example of
verbal positive reinforcement could be of praising the child by saying, “well
done! You are so smart!”). However, it is important to enact any discipline
strategy while being cognizant of the child’s dignity, motivation, life views
and additionally having justiciable expectations. A radical
approach while imparting moral education to children is of letting them learn
through the consequences of their actions. Children also learn from their own
experiences, just like adults. This is the best way for children to learn
responsibility, while their parents act as mediators and guides in their
development. Two major types of consequences exist within this approach:
natural and logical. Natural consequences allow children to learn from the
natural order, in real-time. For example, a natural consequence of wasting a
home-cooked meal is feeling hungry. However, it is important for the parent to
empathise with the child when they are being difficult, in order to determine
the legitimacy of the child’s concerns. Another key idea to consider is that
natural consequences cannot be adopted as a teaching tool for every situation
if the safety or health of the child is at risk especially.   The role of the
parents become more dynamic with the employment of ‘logical consequences’. With
this tool, the parent/caregiver can arrange a consequence, if it follows in
order with the child’s actions. For example, not disposing of worn clothes in
the laundry bag will result in the child’s favourite item of clothing not being
readily available for spontaneous use. Such consequences need to be artfully
arranged for them to become learning experiences. By letting the consequences
become the teachers, parents can develop a more amicable relationship with
their children as well, something that punishment failed to achieve. If
parents/caregivers are able to safeguard their approach to imparting value
education in this way and are able to adopt a calm and logical method while
doing so, administering discipline would not involve any punishments leading to
child rights violations.  I wish to
conclude by acknowledging the immeasurable love that all parents have for their
children, with a sense of deep gratitude. I wouldn’t be here, penning this
essay about child rights and morality on a fancy computer if not for the two
amazing people whom I am lucky to call my parents, and who have empowered me to
do so. There is no doubt that parents want the best of everything for their
children, however, even parents are immune to the fallibility of being human
which often leads us to commit mistakes that cannot be undone. One of these
mistakes is letting a bout of uncontrollable anger or a bad mood lend a scar on
a child’s body or mind that will irredeemably alter her/his life. Thus, we owe
it to the love that we have for children to ensure that nothing injures them;
especially not our good intentions of helping them become better human beings.
Morality cannot be instilled by force, but only by example. Alternatively, as
German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it, “the test of a morality of a
society is what it does for its children”.


Categories: Articles


I'm Iren!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out