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DUBAI: At least 80 per cent parents in the UAE use corporal punishment to discipline their child, claims Dubai-based psychologist and youth and parent coach Sunaina Athena (right).

According to her, the practise is prevalent across all nationalities.

“What these parents don’t realise is that kids who are exposed to physical discipline grow up to become more aggressive than their peers who are not punished,” said Sunaina.

More harm than good

Studies have shown that spanking children cause more harm than good and can even have long-term consequences, including increased aggression and mental health issues.

 What the law says: Federal Law No 3 of 2016 states that every child in the UAE, whether a resident or tourist, has the right to live and be safe, be educated, and be protected from neglect and all forms of abuse, whether physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or psychological.


A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology analysed 50 years of data involving over 160,000 children in the US and found that spanking was linked to increased defiance, anti-social behaviour, aggression, mental health issues and cognitive difficulties as they grow up.

Children who are at the receiving end of corporal punishments may also develop more distant parent-child relationships later on.

Sunaina said she has come across instances when parents have beaten their kids mercilessly and locked them away. “Sometime back I met a girl had developed a phobia of bathrooms after being locked in it for hours. Then there was this teen who ran away from his house and didn’t’ return for four days after being beaten by a belt,” she said.

Wrong message

Such punishments give children the message that they are inferior. Often, as they mature, these kids act in accordance with what they have been made to believe about themselves.

Sunaina said it’s important for parents to know where to draw the line when it comes to disciplining their kids.

“Beating kids is a malevolent act that is harmful to children and, ultimately, to the community and society in which it takes place,” she said.

Balanced perspective

Dr Radhika Naidu (right), specialist paediatrician at JTS Clinic in Dubai, said corporal punishment is more common in nuclear families. “Having grandparents or other family members allows for a balanced perspective and often helps in keeping things under control,” she said.

Wadeema Law

Federal Law No. 3 of 2016 concerning child rights, also known as Wadeema’s Law, stresses that all children must be provided with appropriate living standards, access to health services, education, equal opportunities in essential services and facilities without any kind of discrimination. The law protects children against all forms of negligence, exploitation, physical and psychological abuses. In fact anyone who is aware of a case of child abuse and does not report it is also liable for prosecution.

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