Why you should never hit your child on the head

children head

A renowned audiologist and lecturer at the University of Education Winneba (UEW) is pleading with parents, teachers, imams, and guardians NEVER to hit children on the head.

He warns that hitting a child on the head can cause irreparable damage to their brain, ears, and hearing.

Corporal punishment in any form to children is linked to a wide range of negative outcomes including physical and mental ill health, impaired cognitive and socio-emotional development, poor educational outcomes, increased aggression, and perpetration of violence.

Audiologist Cyril Mawuli Honu-Mensah, who is an expert in the evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and management of hearing loss, said many disorders could result from being hit on the head.

“A slap can perforate the ear drum, or destroy the arrangements of the three tiny bones found in the middle ear — the malleus, incus, and stapes — hence affecting hearing,” he said.

“Slaps can cause tinnitus and disturbances of the vestibular system hence making the victim lose balance and fall over. A child, or anyone for that matter, should never be hit on the head,” he added.

The audiologist urged parents and guardians and everyone who comes in contact with children to exercise restraint when disciplining.

On the other side of the world in France, pediatrician Catherine Gueguen has also raised a big red flag that screams ‘NO’ against corporal punishment.

Children’s mental health

“We should all be concerned about the mental health of children, whether they are our children or not, but even more so if we are their parents,” she said.

“We need an educational revolution to change the way we treat children. Recent neuro-scientific advances indicate that punishing, yelling, and threatening not only do not work but actually end up affecting the brain of minors, causing permanent changes that, in the long run, generate problems such as depression or anxiety. Thus, it is critical that many need to modify their relationship with kids,” she added.

Catherine Gueguen has been a pediatrician for 28 years at the Franco Britannique – Levallois Perret Hospital in Paris. As part of her discourse, Gueguen includes global data from UNICEF: four out of five children are subjected to a verbal or physically violent education. A staggering 80% receive some kind of corporal punishment.

She also shares the results of a recent survey (from October 2022), carried out in France, in which 79% of 1,314 heads of families admitted using psychological violence when educating their children.

“As a pediatrician, I have heard many parents tell me that when they lose their temper, they punish, threaten or hit their children, which is wrong.”

Gueguen said the award-winning book Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, by Portuguese neurologist Antonio Damasio was her great awakening. “We used to consider our emotions unimportant,” wrote Damasio, “but emotions are essential. They are what make us human.”

The Science

In the past, opening a skull with a scalpel could only carry out this type of research. However, in the last two decades, neuro-scientific studies have advanced and the information available has increased significantly and verified in different parts of the world including the United States, Canada, northern Europe, Australia, and China.

Negative education once played a major role in most education systems. That is to say, minors were once victims of some type of betrayal of the trust they had placed in their caregivers… teachers, imams, and even parents.

We are talking here about verbal attacks that seek to humiliate, denigrate or cause fear to the child, or emotional abuse that causes feelings of shame or guilt, as opposed to other forms of physical abuse such as beating, pinching, pulling their hair, or any other type of abhorrent cruelty.

While the corporal punishment abuse insanity continues among the most ignorant of ignorant ‘teachers’ and imams, a sizable proportion was eradicated from the Bangladesh education system in 2011 when unsung heroes Justices Md. Imman Ali and Md. Sheikh Hasan Arif of the Bangladesh High Court, declared corporal punishment to be “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a clear violation of a child’s fundamental right to life, liberty and freedom”.

Twelve years on, however, it still hasn’t been passed into law, but echoes of “our children are our greatest resource and future” still rebound from one village corrugated tin rooftop to the next.

David Bueno i Torrens, a biologist specializing in genetics and neuroscience at the University of Barcelona said neuro-scientific studies indicate that when minors who are frequently verbally abused reach adolescence, they are less creative and curious, they are less capable of acquiring new knowledge and more prone to experience sadness and depression.

“The same areas of the brain are activated, but the relationship between the different areas change.

“With negative education (corporal punishment), the brain amygdala becomes more reactive to negative emotions, and the area that manages emotions, the prefrontal, becomes less capable of managing anxiety and stress. Those minors who become victims are more apathetic, have a harder time finding motivation, and in their search for stimuli, they may fall into drug use,” he said.

What happens when we punish a child?

Psychologist, doctor in education, and author Rafa Guerrero says, the lower areas of the brain, the ones that have to do with survival, activate in the child. Large doses of adrenaline and cortisol are released, prompting action and preventing rational thinking. In other words, punishment blindly invites revenge.

“Since the part of the brain basement (instincts and emotions) is hyper-activated, it is difficult to connect with the brain attic (critical thinking, reasoning, executive functions, etcetera). We cannot be aware or think about what happened, and we only obey our most instinctive and emotional part,” he said.

No matter how you view corporal punishment, scientifically, morally, or spiritually from inside the body, from outside the body, from God peering downwards; corporal punishment is wrong. Simply, speak to your conscience and ask how could it be right.

Civilized people do not hit people. Children are people too.

By Sir Frank Peters

(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor; an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, and human rights activist.)

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