Beyond Punishment: Taking An Inside Look At Child Abuse

When I first saw this video yesterday it broke my heart. What I saw was not only in my eyes child abuse, but an angry man who probably not only beats his children like they were strangers on the street, but also probably abuses the women in his life. On top of that, what I saw was a culture where this type of physical abuse is not only excepted, but encouraged, hence the person video taping it and most likely the other people in the house who never intervened.

From my understandings, this father was “punishing” his thirteen-year-old daughter for being “rude”, “disrespectful” and talking to grown men. Obviously these are things that no parent would want from their child, but beating a child purposely with a belt on her face is not discipline. I can almost guarantee that this is not the first time that she has been beaten and yet her inappropriate, most likely defiant behavior hasn’t stopped.

Chances are that this parent has no real idea of how to be a parent or raise a child, if he did, there would have never been a need for him to discipline her physically because she would have been raised, taught, guided and disciplined more appropriately over the last thirteen years. If this father had any real ideal of how to raise a child in a loving way, he would have punished her in a way that wasn’t to hurt her necessarily, but to teach her right from wrong.

Most parents punish their children from a place of love. I didn’t see any love for this child during this beating. What I saw is a father who is psychologically disconnected in so many ways.

From a psychological point of view we have a young lady who is acting out for one reason or another and physical punishment isn’t going to stop that. She is acting out and only talking and trying to understand why she is acting out is going to stop that.

Secondly, we have a man in a wheelchair who probably already feels emasculated if not just outright angry at the world for whatever condition put him in a wheelchair and therefore is always a ticking time bomb. He may have been a mean and angry man before whatever put him in a wheelchair, but many people become more angry when they are injured, in pain or handicapped.

Read my article on physical punishment to understand some of the ways it can affect a child’s mental and emotional health. From my experience in working with children who have gotten punished like this, they rarely learn to stop the undesired behavior, but learn how to be more sneaky. The sad part is, a valuable lesson this girl may have learned from this is one many girls who grow up in abusive homes learn which is:

  1. If a man really loves me he will hit me to show it
  2. It’s okay if a man puts his hands on me, it’s all part of being in a relationship
  3. I need a man who knows how to “handle me” and put me back in my place when I step out of line

To most of us those three responses may seem trivial, but I’ve worked with enough abused girls and young girls who ended up in abusive relationships to learn that many of them came from abusive homes where either they themselves were abused or where they witnessed abuse in their homes. They grew up thinking that it was not only okay, but the norm. Some even felt like it was a vital part of being in love because that is what they grew up seeing and thinking love is: Mom and dad fight, but they love each other and I see that. OR, mom fights with her boyfriend and then they go make love afterwards.

One young lady in particular saw her dad not only beat her mom, but he also beat her. Every relationship she got into as a teen and young adult was an abusive one. She didn’t understand it, but she unconsciously would seek out abusive men. She had two kids, each from an abusive man and the last time I met with her in counseling, she was with yet another abusive man. She couldn’t break the cycle. Her young boy and young girl are going to grow up witnessing and maybe even experiencing abuse.

This father in the video, in an attempt to raise a virtuous young lady may be in fact creating a woman who will go through a lifetime of troubled and abusive relationships because of the abuse she receives from her father.

No doubt some people may look at this video and see nothing wrong with the way he is disciplining his daughter and believe that people should mind their own business, but I personally hope that child protective services sees this video and rescues this child while the law punishes this “man”.  I wrote this post not only because I am passionate about protecting children from abuse, but also in hopes of increasing the exposure of this video so that maybe someone will recognize the child and the father and contact child protective services in whatever city, state this took place in. It’s a new video so chances are something can be done relatively soon.

***Warning, the video may be hard for most people to watch.***

Setting Expectations And Rules For Your Teen


As I thought about this post, I watched as four young teens, approximately 13 years of age, two boys and two girls, stood on the corner flirting for a second night past 10pm on a school night.

I started thinking that sooner or later, one or both of those young girls is bound to end up pregnant, and then I started thinking, where are there parents and why are they allowing their young teens to be out so late on a school night unsupervised.

Then I started thinking that there are probably no set rules or expectations in these teens households.

They are probably being raised with inconsistent and even contradictory messages. Yet, when one of these young girls ends up pregnant, their parents will be shocked and angry that these young teens “disappointed them”.

Rules and Expectations

Rules and expectations are two different things that together help guide your teen as they navigate through the murky waters of adolescence.

Expectations help you define the standards of behavior you expect from your teen such as being responsible and making responsible decisions.

Rules on the other hand help to bring your expectations to reality such as requiring your teen to finish their chores before going out with friends. Rules and the consequences of those rules help your child with both understanding your expectations and learning self-control.

As always with teens, communication is key. I am always amazed at parents who come to me disappointed in their teens behavior when they never actually sat down with their teen and discussed their expectations in the first place.

The teenager may have had some idea about how their parents felt about certain issues, but without a clear understanding of what the parents expect, they leave a gray area and teenagers typically don’t do well with gray areas. They like to know exactly where you stand.

Sitting down and speaking with your teenager about your expectations also opens up the door to talk about risky behaviors.

Clearly defined expectations about limits for risk-taking behavior helps your teen be prepared for temptations and challenges that will face them when confronted with risky decisions towards things such as alcohol, drugs and sex.

When you lay down clear expectations, you are letting your teenager know that they are responsible for their behavior.

This discussion also allows for you to hear what and how your teen thinks about certain issues and also gives you the opportunity to help them think more realistically.

A lot of teens think “this can’t happen to me” or that they are immune to many of the perils we as adults know are out there.   Talking to your teen will give you the opportunity to educate them on the possible consequences of their decisions and behaviors.

No matter how clear you think you have made your expectations, your teen may still feel unclear about them. Rules help to enforce your expectations.

Many parents are unsure about how to set rules and what rules are needed. Here is a good starting point.

Besides rules regarding substance use and other risky behaviors, you also want rules regarding:

  • curfew
  • unsupervised time
  • homework
  • chores
  • driving
  • cell phones
  • internet use
  • use of other media such as movies, television and video games

Naturally, most teens are going to try to push back against rules, but teens do want and expect limitations and boundaries.

Be respectful, listen to your teen and explain your reasons for having the rules you do. Some parents feel like they don’t have to explain any rules they set to their children, but children tend to follow rules better when they at least understand, even if they don’t agree with them.

Other tips include:

  • Focus on setting rules for safety based more on guidance than power, control or punishment.
  • Don’t be overly intrusive or restrictive, but still be firm.
  • Give your teen an opportunity to negotiate some of the rules, but remember that you have the final say
  • Be very specific when it comes to substance use. Such as letting your teen know that they are not allowed to use alcohol, tobacco, prescription medication or any other illicit drug at all.
  • You should set very fixed rules regarding health and safety, and then negotiate with your teen about other rules.
  • Be flexible with those other rules (outside of health and safety) and willing to renegotiate as your teen shows maturity and responsibility.

Along with clear rules and expectations, there should also be clear consequences for breaking the rules.

Consequences help teens slow down and think before they make a risky decision and also provides them with the perfect excuse to tell their friends if peer pressure is an issue.

Tips for setting consequences:

  • Consequences should be something the parent can follow through with consistently in order to be effective. Many parents are very inconsistent with following through with consequences which teens pick up on and it makes it more likely that they will disobey your rules. 
  • Consequences should be logical, and more about teaching than about punishing or retaliation.
  • Remember that consequences can be positive. Praise your teen when they are doing something right, when they are following the rules and they are more likely to continue.
  • Award your teen with special privileges or  some other type of award for following the rules.

Without rules and expectations, many teens are lost and parents feel as if they have out of control or disrespectful kids when in reality, the child never learned the rules, expectations or the consequences of breaking those rules and expectations.

The Basics of Behavior Modification Techniques

Behavior modification techniques have at times been controversial.

Many people believe that they don’t work in the long run, but I know when done correctly, they can be an effective tool to curve undesired behavior and increase desired ones.

A Very Brief History

Behavior modification is largely derived from tenets of a psychological approach known as operant conditioning created by B.F. Skinner, which proposes that behavior can be shaped by reinforcement or lack of reinforcement.

Behavior modification techniques have been used successfully with adults and children to help with conditions such as attention-deficit/hyper-activity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), pervasive developmental disorders, phobias, and many others.

Reinforcing Positive Behavior 

Reinforcing consequences are anything a person receives as a result of their behavior, that increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring again.

For example, if a child gets a laugh from a parent when they swear, they are more likely to do it again. Or if they get praise for bringing home good grades, they are more likely to continue trying to bring home good grades.

Reinforcers, as the name suggest, reinforce behavior. Some good behaviors, some bad behaviors.

We use reinforcers all the time, often without realizing it. As the saying goes, we teach people how to treat us, because we often reinforce their behavior towards us, good or bad.

When people, especially children hear the word consequence, they usually assume that it is something negative, but consequences can also be positive.

Positive reinforcers are consequences a person wants to receive. They are used in behavior modification to increase desired behavior, usually through a reward system.

Behavioral contracts can be used to outline details of the reward system. As an example, a reward could be one hour of video games per day if all homework assignments for that day are complete, or all chores are done.

Sometimes negative behavior is also unintentionally rewarded. As an example, if a child yells enough and the parents gets annoyed and gives in to the child’s demands, that child is being reinforced to yell whenever he/she doesn’t get their way.

In these cases, the unwanted behavior needs to be stopped through what is called “extinction”.


Extinction is basically stopping an undesired behavior by removing it’s rewards. Examples of rewards for undesired behavior include getting what they want after:

  • pleading
  • crying
  • throwing a tantrum
  • yelling
  • withdrawing

Time-out is one of many effective techniques used to extinguish undesired behaviors by removing the person from any rewards.

As I stated before, the saying “we teach people how to treat us” comes back to this, even as adults.

In a relationship, if our partner is being insensitive to our needs, yet we cling to them more and shower them with attention, then we are rewarding their behavior.

Negative Consequences for Behavior

Penalties, punishment and negative reinforcement are all forms of negative consequences.

Penalties are when someone loses something as a result of a behavior, such as the removal of a favorite toy or a privilege.

A punishment is when someone receives a consequence for a behavior that they don’t want, such as a spanking.

Negative reinforcers include the withdrawal of a privilege or addition of extra chores/assignments.

Differences Between Negative Reinforcement and Positive Reinforcement

Punishment, penalty and negative reinforcement usually result in minimal effort on part of the person to achieve the desired behavior.

Positive reinforcement is the only method that will encourage people to give voluntary, extra, enthusiastic effort to achieve the desired behavior.

The key to behavior modification is to use negative consequences as necessary, but to focus more on positive reinforcements.

The Five B’s of Effective Parenting

Lastly, the five B’s are very important when it comes to using behavior modification techniques with effective parenting:

  1. Be positive– try using positive consequences more than negative
  2. Be specific– be specific what behaviors are being punished or rewarded
  3. Be certain– your child should know without a doubt what to expect from you        based on their behavior.
  4. Be consistent– if you don’t apply rules consistently, your child can never be certain of what to expect
  5. Be immediate– act immediately when your child deserves a positive or negative reinforcer.

When used correctly, behavior modification techniques are positive tools and great ways for kids to learn in a rather safe environment about consequences.

They learn that in life, often there are no right or wrong decisions, but they have to be able to deal with the consequences (positive or negative) of their decisions.