April 14, 2010

Punishment or Neglect: Neither is Correct



Neither is correct

About Carolyn: I wrote, received, and administered a Pennsylvania Children’s Trust Fund grant, which was designed to heal adults of their childhood abuse, enabling them to break the chain of abuse with their children. Within the grant I taught community members how to be first-responders to domestic violence/child abuse, ran a family support program and counseled adults to aid them in the healing process.

     The media reports of a Palm Bay, Florida eight year old girl not only having her mouth washed out with a bar of Irish Spring soap, but being forced to eat it too, brought to the forefront some not-so-fond childhood memories .

     I recall my step-father washing my mouth out with soap. I also remember watching him do the same thing to one of my younger siblings—his biological children. I was eleven or more years older than the preschoolers I was observing.

     The Florida man was the father of a younger child in the household, and, according to his mother, Adriyanna Herdener, he is the head of the household. She deferred the punishment to him.

     This was an example of simple punishment becoming what police called a crime, causing both adults lost custody of their children.

     Herdener stood by for ten minutes, watching her asthmatic, crying daughter eat half the bar of soap. At that point, the child threw up, and then begged to rinse her mouth out. The so-called “head of the household,” 41-year old Wilfredo Rivera, laughed at her, and Herdener made her clean up her vomit, according to Palm Bay police spokes woman Yvonne Martinez.

     Although I would consider these actions child cruelty in the 1970s, there is one distinct difference in the use of “washing a child’s mouth out with soap” today. Now, many soaps contain anti-bacterial ingredients that experts say is great for killing germs, but is poisonous if ingested.

     The media didn’t state what the child had done to deserve such a stringent “punishment.” Whatever it was, the parents lost a teaching moment.

     Neither punishment/abuse nor leniency/neglect is the appropriate approach to correcting child behavior. Discipline is the proper route. Discipline teaches a child how to behave properly. It also takes much more time and creativity. Punishment is a shortcut.

     Parents—and anyone having contact with children—take the opportunity this month, April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, to increase your knowledge of child abuse issues. Learn ways to discipline, rather than punish, children. Punishment creates citizens who respond, basically, to outside controls. Discipline teaches children self-control. The end goal should be to develop the child’s ability to discipline himself or herself.

     Below are links to informative articles:



Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath



CHILDREN LEFT HOME ALONE (or in cars alone)

BRAMBLES (Brief RAMBLES) 1-9 August 15, 2008


Characteristics of and lures used by child molesters

Characteristics of and lures used by child molesters

     These are online links to get you started:


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