I attended a lecture on children’s Psychosocial and emotional Development and left feeling the regular confusion, irritation and disappoint I feel when I engage in complex conversations with western Europeans and north Americans.
The lecture touched on child abuse and how it affects children. In sweden, corporal punishmet is illegal, so is sexual abuse, which means these cases are more often reported, exposed and prosecuted. The lecturer spoke about the different ways children are abused – neglect, coddling, verbal abuse, over-indulgence etc She even spoke briefly about the difference between punishment and consequences in child rearing. When we got to the part where we can ask questions, one of the students asked how to behave if she, a swede would move abroad, to “for example south America” where child rearing values are “skewed”. She really used the Swedish word “skevt”. She then went on and on about how south American parents physically abuse their children and how a Swedish parent was supposed to handle that if she moved to south America with her child/children.
Well to begin with, don't start abusing your child/children physically, I thought. Just continue being the perfect Swedish parent!
As if a Swedish parent has to move abroad to find children who are spanked and physically maltreated. When I speak about child abuse in Sweden, often the conversation will be diverted to focus on immigrant families. Oh but in Sweden spanking children is forbidden but all these immigrants come here and continue to beat their children because it is allowed in their countries and societies. The other line of defense or avoidance is focusing on mentally ill parents: oh but mostly it is parents who have problems with drugs or alcohol who beat their children because they have no impulse control. Deflecting; implying that native Swedes never beat their children. Both points are valid, but what in the society is producing addicts and mental illnesses other mental illnesses? It can’t be good parenting practices, can it?
This type of hypocrisy bothers me because it is the gentrification of certain types of child abuse. The pretense that Swedish or western European parents don’t beat their children because they are better parents, better people than other parents in other regions of the world. Therefore, one has to go abroad, not to Germany, not to Denmark, but to South America – to be close to physically abused children, to be aware that children are experiencing physical abuse.
This is also the part that makes me speak on racial superiority in child abuse – it’s as if some forms of child abuse are more elite, more acceptable because they are perpetrated in Western Europe and North America. while other types of child abuse, for example corporal punishment are worse, bottom of the barrel, less elite, inferior – because they happen in the southern countries where the non-white people live.
I think Sweden being the first country to ban physical punishment of children in 1979 made Swedes feel like they are the best at loving children. But as the say goes, you never know how good a parent you are until your child is an adult in a balanced interacting with the rest of the world. And since since 1979, by December 2021, 63 more countries have fully prohibited corporal punishment.
Everyone who knows me knows that I am totally against corporal punishment in any country, because I think like in gender based violence. physical violence is a usually the last phase of very abusive relationships. Meaning that by the time a parent hits their child, they have abused them emotionally since birth. I am not blind to all the other ways children are abused in the privacy of the homes. Like most criminals and psychopaths, abusive people are brilliant at discovering new ways to avoid getting caught by the law- so when physical maltreatment becomes illegal, abusive parents find invisible ways to abuse their children. Ways children cannot communicate easily, outsiders cannot see and report, authorities can’t prove.
So when people hypocritically communicate their superiority at parenting, I am not impressed. The lecturer had actually pointed out that emotional abuse, neglect etc had more devastating effects on children than any other kind of abuse. Especially because neglectful parenting is often emotionally detached parenting which means that the child is not getting replenished emotionally after each abuse wave. So the child lives on emotional depletion after emotional depletion. On the other hand, another parent may beat a child (corporal punishment) and then replenish the child emotionally with hugs, laughter, love and affirmations.
I feel strongly that if beating children wasn’t illegal and socially taboo, therefore shameful, many Swedish parents would chastise their children without hesitation. In current circumstances, Swedish parents will do everything to avoid beating their children, but they will shout, scream, manipulate, stone-wall, neglect, shame etc to “punish” children, to teach them consequences for actions. Just as parents do globally. My criticism is not on how we teach our children boundaries, survival, respect for other people’s spaces and things, consequences for actions -my criticism is on the high-horse many westerners sit on in regards to child rearing and relationships in general.
Child sexual abuse is a plague everywhere, child trafficking is a never-ending pandemic where children are kidnapped & stolen from all parts of the world and end up in the west. Secondly, the number of Swedish children experiencing psychological distress is on the rise. Excessive alcohol or drug consumption, suicide attempts and other acts of self-harm are frequent, and drug addiction among teenagers is barely addressed. Addiction among adults is also one of the highest causes of child neglect and abandonment in these countries, and an adult’s addiction points back at the adult’s childhood trauma and pain. Thirdly, in my book, the way a people treat immigrant and marginalized children is really they way they would treat all children, even theirs, if no one was watching. Fourthly, all the school shootings in the USA are inform us of the amount of love and care children are receiving in north America.
The gentrification of child abuse is gaslighting, it is traumatizing, it is racist, it is reeks of racial superiority and it is not passing unnoticed. If the west world child-rearing was so fantastically superior, depression and mental illnesses would not be as high as they are, and Benzodiazepines and Antidepressants prescriptions would be reducing, not increasing. So, who are we trying to fool, if not ourselves?
Read more about Corporal Punishment on Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children
Learn something about children’s development on Erikson’s 8 Stages of Psychosocial Development