When a Spanking Becomes Abuse

Does discipline in the black community go too far?

Greg Horn (ibtimes.co.uk)

Grace also cited other factors that may lead to abuse, such as the economic downturn and mental-health issues: “There is a fair amount of frustration due to economic pressures, social pressures, substance-abuse issues, so people become deregulated emotionally, and as a result they lash out.”

Terrie Williams, a leading mental-health advocate and author of the book Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, agreed that the role of mental health in child abuse cannot be underestimated.

“Lack of proper diagnosis and treatment for mental-health conditions in the black community is definitely a leading factor behind the statistics for child abuse,” she told The Root. She added that child abuse “is to be expected when no one is getting the help they need. The childhood wounds replay themselves every minute of the day.”

Williams explained that seeking out therapy and other mental-health services is crucial to sustaining the overall health of the black community. She has spoken publicly about the reluctance of many members of the community to do so, thus perpetuating a dangerous cycle.

But another solution that Grace discussed with The Root is the importance of parenting classes. Such classes have been championed by political leaders in the United Kingdom but are not considered the norm here in the United States. They are unlikely ever to become the norm, since states’ rights proponents tend to bristle at any suggestion of the government giving parents child-rearing advice, even if it is simply the first lady offering nutrition tips. But Grace said of parenting classes, “[It’s] such an important role, but we get very little preparation for it.”

Grace lamented the fact that rarely are parents educated on alternative disciplinary solutions. They are simply told what not to do, as opposed to what they can and should do, such as using praise and rewards to reinforce positive behaviors, ultimately deterring negative ones.

Parents seeking additional information on effective disciplinary techniques should contact Harlem Hospital’s Child and Adolescent Treatment Service at 212-939-1000.

Keli Goff is The Root’s political correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

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