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Shaking a baby is always wrong

Diagram of a newborn infant's skull, so fragile, easily damaged by shaking
Gray's Anatomy/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)
  • November is National Shaken Baby Awareness Month; how fitting in a month when we commemorate the dead, as on All Souls Day, November 2, and Veterans Day, November 11. While abused babies and children may not have combat experience, they often end up as casualties of a one-sided war waged by adults against anyone helpless in their care. Many will claim they were raised roughly, with corporal punishment the norm in the old days; but under no circumstances does discipline take the form, legitimately, of shaking a young child or infant so that the brain is injured, the neck snaps, the retinas become detached, and frequently death also results. Alternatives exist to the urge some parents and other adults experience to abusive treatment of children. Aside from the ultimate removal of the child from the immediate situation, there are therapists skilled in training people to re-direct anger, use different methods of discipline, and above all, control their temper outbursts. Other adults such as sitters, relatives or neighbors can often step in momentarily while a frustrated parent calms down. (NOTE: before allowing anyone near your children, make absolutely sure they are not going to be abusive themselves, especially sexually.) As well, there are groups of adults who have experienced these dilemmas and changed their own behavior, who can be contacted for help. Organizations like Parents Anonymous offer assistance similar to the Twelve-Step substance abuse self-help programs, for one-on-one plus group support. Having advice from someone who has been-there-done-that and therefore understands your rage is valuable when a screaming toddler becomes more than you can deal with. Why, others may ask, would anyone shake a young child in the first place, knowing the risk of death or at least serious injury? First of all, not everyone is aware of the dangers or even the existence of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Many adults also consider children, no matter what their age or stage of development, to be much more resilient--more or less unbreakable. There are, sadly, also many adults who think of kids in general as a burden, and therefore as targets for their anger and hostility. When such people can't deal with life in general, a shrieking infant, who is constantly dependent on them for everything, and won't fulfil their expectations, give in to their demands, and above all, refuses to stop crying, is a trigger for ecxplosively violent behavior beyond all reason. It could easily be surmised that abusive adults become insane for a brief time when their faulty so-called logic tells them the baby is deliberately annoying them and deserves their violent response. Someone never manages to explain all that to the victim, though, and frankly, it wouldn't make any difference to a young child who can't even comprehend that they are doing something the tormentor considers wrong. All the victim understands is that the adult's behavior is scary and it hurts. Please, adults reading this, if your infant or toddler is crying a lot, stop and reason it out. Babies cry to communicate; it may be due to hunger, teething, sickness, pain, fear, colic--how else are they going to let anyone know something is affecting them? Send you a text message? Check with more experienced parents for tips on interpreting babies' cries. It may take longer but whiplash-effects causing brain injuries last a lifetime--provided the child even lives through the abuse. Learn how to not only deal with your own feelings but to help children thrive in a healthy, natural environment where they are valued and nurtured. There are numerous resources, especially for those who are willing to make the effort to raise a holistically-healthy family, in the Detroit area as well as online community advice. Check out the following:


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