I’ve seen more than a few questionable parenting practices in the name of “teaching a lesson,” and I thought I had seen probably every example of this particular unfortunate way of thinking. I was wrong. What happened in Tampa Florida, according to ABC News, has brought me to the revelation that I just can’t possibly ever think I’ve “seen it all.” A Florida mother is under police investigation after posting a video to Facebook of her one-year-old daughter being bitten by a rat snake.
The mother, whose identity has not been released, told ABC’s Tampa affiliate WFTS on Monday that she intentionally allowed the snake to bite her infant daughter because she thought it would teach her a lesson in how to deal with reptiles. I’m sorry. What? In what scenario would an infant need to know how to handle a reptile? Wouldn’t a better lesson be how to trust, or how to feel loved and safe and protected? When we intentionally allow our children to encounter harm of any type we do teach lessons, but the unfortunate reality is they probably aren’t the lessons we intended.
Science now tells us that physical punishment alters the brain, not only in a traumatizing way, but also in a lessening of the gray matter in the brain. Researchers have found that children who were regularly physically punished had less gray matter in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex, linking this deficit in gray matter to depression, addiction, aggression, and other mental health disorders. Is this really what we want for our kids?
If the intended lesson is to instill fear, pain, trust issues, and confusion then yes, snake bites and other forms of physical harm will work. But if the goal is to raise loving, healthy, happy human beings, then we need to stop teaching “lessons” devoid of compassion because no one deserves to be hurt in order to learn a lesson. No one.
Editor, Ask Lala
Laura Fogarty writes “Ask Lala” for the Stop Abuse Campaign. She is a mother, an advocate and the author of two children’s abuse prevention books: I’M THE BOSS OF ME! and WE ARE JUST ALIKE!