by Maitri Pamo
Many is the time I have considered the chancletazo approach to dealing with child discipline issues. Child rearing is demanding in every aspect. It is easy and tempting to resort to physical discipline, especially when as a child, one was taught that physical violence in the form of corporal punishment was not only acceptable but desirable: the spare the rod, spoil the child ethic of child rearing. As with every spectrum, there are degrees of abuse. The slap on the rear for an infraction is quite different from the beatings suffered by children whose parents were likely abused as well and who may think it is normal to vent their anger while providing the child with “lessons.” These lessons have a wide range of consequences. The child, left confused, scared and feeling powerless, may feel a broken bond of trust with the care giver. Self image may suffer, affecting the child’s performance in academic and social situations. The future parenting skills of the child, being formed early in development, may insure a legacy of abuse for her own children. The image of the “buena familia latina” where obedience is emphasized and sometimes enforced with varying degrees of brutality has some cracks.
While the factors that contribute to child physical abuse are multifactorial, poverty is an often present component. Many articles have appeared in this magazine detailing the economic hardships faced by many Latinos in the U.S. A perfect storm of financial stress, an often strict authoritarian approach to child rearing, a possible and unfortunate legacy of physical abuse can bear down on Latino children who will suffer the consequences long into adulthood. So before the belt, the wooden spoon, the hand rise up to “express” a point to a vulnerable child, consider that this child will most likely be faced with a myriad of health issues, both physical and mental, for the rest of her possibly shortened life.
Adults who have suffered stresses as children, including physical abuse, can expect to have their lives shortened by 7 to 15 years. Heart disease: hardening of the arteries, increased blood pressure, myocardial infarctions, systemic inflammation, a hastening of cell aging and death has been documented disproportionately in individuals who are survivors of child abuse. And what of the quality of this shortened life? Depression in adulthood can be the lasting footprint of childhood physical abuse.
The constant stress of the physical violence can alter the brain chemistry and provide a wealth of treasures for a therapist. For those who cannot provide themselves with therapy or who harbor a suspicion and mistrust of seeking mental health help, the problem will be a burden for not only themselves but for those around them. Having been abused as a child, adults often will have an increased hostility level and a larger, and close to the surface, well of anger from which to draw during daily interactions. This can become a societal problem. Cuida tus hijos, mi gente, con manos suaves.
Staff writer, Maitri Pamo.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of
the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.