The best way to curb youth violence -- the only truly effective way -- is not to create it in the first place. Every other remedy is stop-gap. The notion that bad behavior is inherent in every child, and must be promptly and vigorously stamped out by means of punishment, is a wrong-headed theory that causes the very problems it is supposed to correct. Its most enthusiastic advocates never seem to tire of announcing the imminent collapse of society due to parents' having forgotten how to raise obedient children. The woodshed, Ma's switch and Dad's belt are among their most vivid, cherished images. They convey the impression that they never saw a child they didn't want to smack. And it's no mystery why so many young people move straight from abusive homes and abusive schools onto the streets, armed, angry and looking for payback.
A realistic solution to the problem of youth violence
I fully understand that the above-described reform will be met with resistance. So were laws requiring use of seat belts, the imposition of speed limits, and the prohibition against drunk driving. But the benefits will become apparent before long. Because corporal punishment of children is the gateway to virtually all child abuse, padlocking that gate will result in significant benefits to society, the most important of which will be improved physical and mental health of the general public and a dramatic reduction in violent crime. Since 1979, twenty-four countries have acted to protect children as I've described, and more are due to follow. No country has ever adopted the reform and then rescinded it.
A friend and colleague just emailed the following note:
Today two colleagues and I held a joint therapy session with four siblings. My client, the youngest, is six years old. He drew what he called a "bad guy." I asked him how he got bad. He answered, "his mom." "How did she make him bad?" I asked. "By whupin' him," he instantly responded, and with apparent delight for having figured it out.
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