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Somewhere between “Spare the rod and spoil the child” and “My displeasure is enough punishment” is a middle-ground stance for raising children, and that stance is rewarding good behavior with long-term rewards (not immediate “sweets” but with promises kept “The circus next week”) When a parent pulls a child’s arm or slaps him slightly on the back of his hand TO DEMONSTRATE AVOIDANCE OF DANGER (fire or traffic, etc.), no-one would think that that was unnecessary punishment. The line is crossed when physical punishment is a parent’s angry reaction to the parent’s own frustration, not a thought-out response. A middle ground is simply the rejection of emotion and the use of mature reason. To cause a child to fear physical pain as a parental reaction is to teach them that emotional damage to the harmony of the household means nothing. Nature herself (gravity, rain, scraped knees, etc.) teaches the cause-effect relationship between certain behaviors and pain—the parent’s job is to teach the cause-effect relationship between good behavior and household harmony. “Happiness is obeying the first time.” Finally, there has to be drawn a difference between “wrong” behavior and simply “undesirable” (by the parents) behavior. This comes as the child’s moral sense develops later in childhood.
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