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

36568 Folder Collection
林雅歌 published on February 23, 2016    Yvonne translated    Sally Hsu reviewed
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