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  • I'm a grandmother.

  • And as a grandmother,

  • I want to share with mothers and fathers

  • how important it is that we never hit our children,

  • including spanking.

  • My granddaughter just started kindergarten,

  • and she loves school--I mean, she loves everything about school,

  • except for this one thing: reminder sticks.

  • She tells me that if you don't do what the teacher tells you to do,

  • you have to give her a reminder stick.

  • But the trouble is you only have three, and if you give up

  • all three reminder sticks, you have to sit out recess,

  • and watch the other children play.

  • She's really worried that one day she's going to lose all three sticks.

  • She says, "Jack--he loses all three sticks every day, grandma."

  • I'm aware of how stressful this is, because she begins to play this game

  • with me, where she's the teacher taking away reminder sticks,

  • and I'm basically Jack.

  • I believe that children do well when they can,

  • and the trouble is, with some kids like Jack,

  • it's much harder to do well.

  • So you know, she takes me to school,

  • and points out all of her friends, she points to the boy over there

  • and she says, "That's Jack. He's annoying."

  • I'm like, "Is he now?"

  • I work with kids with behavior problems,

  • so I'm interested in Jack, and I watch as the teacher says,

  • "Now, boys and girls, get out your crayons,

  • we're going to make a portrait of your neighbor."

  • And all the children are coloring, and what's Jack doing?

  • Oh, he's humming and he's picking the paper off the crayons,

  • and breaking the crayons into pieces.

  • He takes this little nub of a black crayon and starts making this big fat scribble.

  • Now, the rule is you don't have to keep the portrait if you don't like it--

  • if it doesn't--if you don't like it.

  • And so, of course,

  • Jack's scribble portrait goes right into the trash can.

  • Then it's activity time, and you have to get an activity out of the cabinet.

  • So Jack's rifling through the cabinet but can't find

  • anything of interest, so he snatches the pieces

  • from the boy next to him, and sits on them.

  • And this goes on all day long.

  • I mean, you've got to love Jack.

  • I had a mother once tell me:

  • "You only love these kids because you know what to do with them,"

  • Isn't that the truth, but I didn't always know what to do with them.

  • My son was one of those wiggle worms/squeaky noise-makers,

  • that always had to sit right next to the teacher.

  • Those of us that work with young children who struggle know that often

  • they're from homes where the relationship to their parents is stressed.

  • And I wonder: what stresses Jack?

  • I read a study that asked little children what worries them most.

  • Do you know what the most common response was?

  • Being spanked.

  • Little children are worried about being hit by their parents.

  • And I'm worried, too, because spanking is a huge neurobiological stressor

  • that can have long-term negative consequences.

  • I learned about this

  • when I was studying the effects of trauma on brain development.

  • Now, there's this monumental study that studies early stress, called

  • the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study,

  • and what they're looking at, is that there's a dose-rate relationship

  • where the more early stress you have in childhood, family dysfunction,

  • the greater your risk for all sorts of health problems.

  • So you can have a score of 0 to 10,

  • and let's just say that your dad could be kind of mean

  • and sometimes physical when he was drinking,

  • and that your mother divorced him because of it.

  • So your ACE score would be probably a four or more.

  • If you have an ACE score of four or more,

  • you're two and a half times more likely to have cardiac disease,

  • you're four and a half times more likely to be chronically depressed,

  • you are five times more likely to struggle with alcoholism,

  • twelve times more likely to attempt suicide when you're a teenager,

  • and thirteen times more likely to be an IV drug user.

  • One in six middle-class Americans have an ACE score of four or more.

  • And if your ACE score is 6 or more, your life expectancy is 20 years less.

  • My ACE score is an 8.

  • The findings of this study are that adverse childhood experiences

  • are the leading cause of illness, death, and poor quality of life

  • in the United States.

  • So, what is at the root of this family dysfunction?

  • Well, it's family violence.

  • I worry: "Is Jack worried about being hit?"

  • After all, statistically speaking, either you or the person sitting next to you

  • on either side, has been physically abused by their parents as children.

  • And I don't mean spanking.

  • Domestic violence against children is over twice the rate of spousal abuse.

  • And in this country several children will die today

  • from physical abuse at the hands of their own parents.

  • And we know that physical child abuse, usually begins with physical punishment.

  • Now you might be wondering, "How does early violence lead

  • to all these long-term health problems?"

  • Well, it's because the impact of early adversity,

  • especially in the first five years of life,

  • is more like a brain injury, than a psychological one.

  • So Jack, he's not just making poor choices,

  • his brain can't regulate.

  • Self-regulation is a neurobiological capability

  • to manage arousal, both physical and emotional.

  • And children learn to self-regulate

  • by co-regulating with a calm and regulated parent.

  • So of course the most serious problem is when the parents themselves

  • are the source of the stress.

  • Now for Jack, he needs the close interaction of his teacher,

  • which, you know, kindergarten is like crowd control--twenty-five kids.

  • So instead, what he does to self-regulate

  • is he chews on erasers, he wiggles, he makes noises,

  • and he walks around the room.

  • These aren't bad behaviors. These behaviors regulate his brain.

  • If you have self-regulation problems, it's like having a dimmer switch

  • that's turned way up high. And it gets stuck,

  • and it's really hard to turn it back down.

  • So how do we help Jack?

  • The hardest thing to do is to stay calm and regulated ourselves.

  • To breathe, to remember to exhale,

  • and when Jack is too difficult, to walk away.

  • But if you can hang in there, then you mirror him,

  • like, "How awful that your artwork is in the trash can," and enjoy him,

  • because mutual enjoyment is regulating to the brain,

  • and is very nourishing to brain development.

  • So self-regulation is the foundation to further development.

  • If you have problems early on, like if Jack has trouble early on,

  • it can affect the ongoing development of his brain, so the impact

  • of early stress--sometimes you can't see it until Jack is a teenager.

  • In neuroscience, they call it the time-bomb effect.

  • An example of this is a study of over 8,000 adolescents, and they found

  • that the number of the times they're hit as children correlates directly

  • to the frequency that they will binge drink in adolescence.

  • It just goes up and up and up. It's like, Whoa!

  • You know, Jack--he went from being annoying, to reaching adolescence

  • and becoming a bully.

  • He starts binge drinking because he can't feel good.

  • He beats up his girlfriend because he can't handle being angry.

  • He attempts suicide because he can't find enough comfort in relationships.

  • It's like, what happened?

  • Well, whatever it was, it probably started before kindergarten.

  • So what's one thing we can do to help Jack?

  • We can reject all forms of domestic violence,

  • including spanking.

  • I mean, what is at the root of physical violence against children?

  • Spanking is at the root.

  • It is the belief that we think it's OK to hit them.

  • Spanking is physical violence against children.

  • Now, many of you --most of you--I maybe would say,

  • have been spanked as children, and you turned out pretty well,

  • or reasonably well, like myself.

  • And yet there's this avalanche of research, with over 93% agreement

  • that says that spanking cranks up the dial; it's related

  • to aggression, emotional problems, and physical problems.

  • So why is this?

  • Well, it's because spanking can dysregulate

  • the regulatory equipment. It can damage it.

  • So you might be thinking,

  • "Well, I spanked my child. Does that mean I damaged him?"

  • Well, I've had to ask myself that very question.

  • When my stepson was small, he was jumping off the walls,

  • mostly because he was really distressed about his parents' divorce.

  • I was 18 years old, I didn't have a clue what to do with him

  • and so, like many parents, I spanked him.

  • It didn't work, you know, thankfully I found this counselor who helped me

  • get into my son's world and feel what it was like to be him.

  • And once I was inside of his world, I never hit him again.

  • Did spanking damage him? You know, my son is a very accomplished person.

  • He's an incredible physical athlete.

  • He's one of our nation's heroes: he's served several tours in Afghanistan.

  • He's a professional firefighter. He's a loving husband and a loving father.

  • He's one of my favorite people.

  • And he has trouble with self-regulation.

  • He can get scattered, he can over-respond to threat.

  • Like, what about the time his high school teacher got in his face

  • and he was poking him in the chest, and he nearly broke his hand?

  • Even now my son has to physically exercise regularly.

  • Kind of like the adult equivalent of being a wiggle worm,

  • and needing to move.

  • And if he doesn't he gets scattered.

  • I just wish he didn't have to work so hard.

  • But the problem is: spanking is a family tradition.

  • My grandmother's mom would say: "I'm going to give you some peach tea."

  • And that meant my grandmother had to go out to a peach tree and cut off a stick

  • and take it to her mom to beat her with it.

  • You know, my father's generation, they don't believe in

  • hitting kids with sticks-- they spank them with a belt or a spoon.

  • And my generation? We're still holding on to this idea

  • that you can just smack them on the bottom with an open hand.

  • It's just watered down peach tea.

  • You know, it causes me a sickening sadness when I think about

  • that I spanked my son when he was small.

  • And I understand mothers will feel defensive,

  • because after all, "Society says it's OK." and, "I'm doing the best I can."

  • I know, I know.

  • But I think we owe it to our children to reject spanking.

  • We must stop giving stressed out parents permission to strike their children.

  • You know 50% of toddlers are hit more than three times a week.

  • Can you just imagine how you'd feel

  • if your spouse were smacking you a couple times a week?

  • Spanking is sanctioned violence against children.

  • If we were to end spanking we would change the brains of an entire generation.

  • How do we help Jack?

  • Oh, we've got to slow down.

  • We've got to get down on the floor with Jack, and touch him

  • and be present, and let go of what we need Jack to do

  • and engage in what he's actually doing.

  • Treasure his scribble portraits and mirror his frustration

  • and pick the paper off the crayons with him.

  • And let him feel just how much we really love being with him.

  • And if you see another child being hit,

  • Stand up and say, "Stop!"

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

I'm a grandmother.

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B1 US spanking violence physical score brain teacher

【TEDx】Violence - a family tradition: Robbyn Peters Bennett at TEDxBellingham

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    林雅歌 posted on 2016/02/22
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