Do children Really Learn About Right and Wrong Through Fear, Humiliation, and Punitive Punishments?

“The subjects were handcuffed for the safety of them and others as they had attempted to escape before police’s arrival.” Singapore Police Force – Dangerous Criminals In Singapore

These are children, the youngest being 9 years-old, according to the article,

What kind of danger could they possibly have posed to others and themselves, that warranted the children being restrained with handcuffs?

Were these officers so frightened that these young children were going to outrun them and hence, “Evade the law” and whatever punitive punishment that was in store for them?

I agree with the author that the experience of being put in cuffs is going to traumatise these children for the rest of their lives. It does not take a child development specialist to make that observation.

That is the problem with people in the civil service and in the government. They no longer have the capacity to combine emotional skills like, empathy and higher cognitive skills like, logical, analytical, and plain common sense to perform their duties.

And children at that age are just beginning to develop a sense of morality but the pre-frontal cortex that regulates behaviours and impulse, is far from being fully developed.

Those who believe that, “Tough love” will help children to fully understand the concept of right from wrong, without suffering from any detrimental effects to the continuing holistic development, are far removed from the truth and reality.

Those who say that we should just allow our police officers to “Do their jobs” without any forms of criticism or critical observations, are they implying that we should let people of authority do whatever they deem fit, even if their actions may be questionable?

Demanding that our children conform to rules under any circumstances, without application of critical analysis to the information or instruction, can be a major barrier to the development of self-regulation, and hence, our society today. We have to realise that conformity, without any analysis or scrutiny to what we are conforming to, has led us to where we are now, policies that are not in our best interests are being implemented, without any regard to what and how we feel about the policies.

“If a practice can’t be justified on its own terms, then the task for children and adults alike, isn’t to get used to it, but to question, to challenge, and if necessary, to resist.”

Alfie Kohn,(Feel Bad Education), a provocative author and a leading speaker on human behaviour, education, and parenting.

This could have been used as a positive, enriching, life-long and deep-reaching learning experience for these children. The experience could have:

  • Provided the children with a deeper understanding about why the “act” of taking something that does not belong to them, is not just, in any context.
  • Help them internalised that they are good people and the “act” was separate from who they are.
  • Taught them that police are people they do not have to run away from because they are there to protect them, in their best interests, and under any circumstances, even when a mistake has been made,
  • Helped them developed an even stronger, inner sense of empathy and kindness and hence, more inclined to display these traits to the people around them.
  • Greatly and positively contributed to their on-going development of the structures and neurological pathways in their brain, their self-concept, emotional and psychological well-being.

Instead, these children:

  • Were traumatised by being publicly humiliated and restrained by hand-cuffs. They would have watch enough television by then, I am sure, to have made the connections between handcuffs, jail, and all the other terrifying things that come with police and handcuffs. However, they would not have realised the difference in the application of the law for an adult and a child because at that point, they were being treated the same way adult criminals are treated on television shows.
  • Harshly reminded that they are not to remove items from stores without paying but would they have acquired the deeper understanding of why and that removing items that do not belong to them applies to all contexts, from friends, family members, strangers, and in future, girlfriends, life partners, colleagues, companies that they work in, and so forth?
    Internalised that they are bad people and the “act” made them bad people, negating all the other good behaviours that they have displayed all their lives prior to this act.
  • May have learned that the mistake that they made was not the act of stealing but being caught .
  • Learned that adults and especially police-officers are people to be feared and who would dispense terrifying and punitive punishments when a mistake is made (being caught and restrained with handcuffs was surely only the first stage of all that was to come).
  • Internalised that the bigger a person is and the more authority a person has over them, he or she has the power to incapacitate, demean, and humiliate and that they too could do the same to those who are smaller than them – these are some of the major contributing influences to the making of bullies. Children always learn best by how they are treated.
  • Greatly and negatively contributed to their on-going development of the structures and neurological pathways in their brain, their self-concept, emotional and psychological well-being.
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