Local child therapist explains when discipline turn to child abuse

Local child therapist explains when discipline turn to child abuse

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A man who shot and killed his daughter and six grandchildren in Florida sparked concern and controversy about abusive parents.  News Leader 9's Sara Lim spoke with a local child therapist who said tragic stories like this trigger parents to start thinking about the difference between discipline and child abuse.

"I don't think most parents that come into my office know the difference," Dr. Kevin Weis with Columbus Psychological Associates said. "I think they are at the end of the ropes and they feel overwhelmed."

Dr. Weis said parents ask him for guidance when it comes to disciplining their kids.

"My defense for any struggling parent is that they feel like they are out of options," Dr. Weis explained. "There is no manual when it comes to raising your children right and even experienced parents will still need professional guidance and support from time to time."

A good number of Dr. Weis' patients are children who have been physically, mentally and emotionally abused by their parents.

"I would say certainly less than 50 percent of patients have been abused," Dr. Weis said. "I think most parents that hit their kids do it out of frustration and because they often believe nothing else has worked for them."

National studies say the United States has one of the worst records for child abuse. About four to seven children die every day due to child abuse and neglect, according to childhelp.org.

Dr. Weis said many parents spank or hit their kids to discipline them, but he believes this can humiliate and anger the kids.

"I think most parents who hit their kids were also spanked as a child," Dr. Weis explained. "There are other ways to discipline children. It's not easy, but it works well."

He recommends parents to speak clearly. Communication is important, so parents need to speak in short, clear sentences for kids to understand. Consequences also need to make sense to the kids and it needs to be fair. This helps children understand what they did wrong without feeling ashamed.

"It wouldn't make sense for you to not pay mortgage and the mortgage company takes away your car," Dr. Weis explained. He also there is warning signs parents, kids and others need to look out for.

"I know there is lot of different warning signs and there isn't just one profile," Dr. Weis said. "But if your child has an excessive fear response to certain things like cringing when you raise your hand, you need to start evaluating your parenting skills. I also think when a parent has excessive anger signs toward others, it would be an early warning sign for potential abusers."

While Dr. Weis recommends parents and children see family counselors and therapist for individualized sessions, he said local parenting classes can provide guidance as well.

You can  contact Dr. Kevin Weis by calling his office at 706-653-6841

Pastoral Institute has parenting classes with Right from the Start and Helping Children Cope with Divorce seminar are some programs that offer family classes and lessons for all parents.

Visit the website at http://www.pilink.org/ for more information on these classes.

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