Saturday, October 08, 2011

Why Corporal Punishment Is Wrong

Corporal punishment, the technical word for physically striking someone (usually a parent striking their child) as a form of discipline, simply makes no sense. Many people like to dispute this by saying something such as “I had a spanking when I was a child and I turned out ok so it could not have been that bad.” Well, sure, maybe you turned out all right in the end, but that does not mean that punishment was the reason. After all, people overcome all sorts of adversity during childhood such as poverty, serious, medical illnesses, and being bullied, but that does not mean that those were good experiences. While we all need to learn to deal with the many adversities that life throws at us, there is no need to create an additional needless adversity for children that is within our control to stop.

The context of this blog entry is that today, a man in Orlando Florida, was arrested for humiliating a child (that he was not even the parent or legal guardian of) on a video he posted online by shaving off the child’s hair, threatening him with a belt, beating him with a belt, and then making him do push-ups and sprints as a form of boot camp. This was all done because the child got in trouble in school and the man was concerned that the child would go to prison one day. Valid concerns. Invalid approach…which is why he was later arrested. While this man’s behavior may have been considered acceptable 20 years ago, today it is considered a form of child abuse.

It is important to always keep in mind that children are physically and emotionally fragile and that early childhood experiences shape the child’s personality and teaches them how to interact with the others and what to expect in relationships. The main way this is learned is through the parent-child interaction. When a parent strikes a child several things occur:

  1. It causes fear in the child towards the parent. “Good,” you may say. “I want the child to fear me so he/she will listen.” But children do not need to suffer physical trauma to induce fear and respect for you. If you have established proper boundaries with the child and he/she knows that you are the boss, simply raising your voice slightly or looking at them wide eyed with a serious look could be enough to send the message that you are not happy and that the child needs to listen and take you seriously.
  1. It causes anger in the child…towards you. No one likes to be hit and because of that, the child will not like the source of the hitting.
  1. It will damage the attachment that the child has with you because of points one and two. Some withdrawal from the parent is likely. Think about your own life. Would it be easy for you to have a good relationship with someone who was hitting you and causing discomfort, pain, and/or injuries?
  1. It teaches the child that it is appropriate to respond to anger with physical violence. Think about it. You are upset at the child. You then model to the child that the way you are going to handle that is by hitting him/her. So, when the child goes to school and another child upsets them, he/she may respond by striking the other child in response.
While the above focuses on physical abuse, this is often coupled with emotional abuse (e.g., calling the child degrading names). This just adds insult to injury and ruins the child’s self-esteem, while also contributing to additional feelings of anger, sadness, and anxiety. Tomorrow, I will describe my top ten tips for effectively teaching children good behavior and discipline without hitting them.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I think there is also research that shows that children who are physically punished are more aggressive, more likely to be bullies and to be rejected by their classmates. Sure, there are exceptions to every rule but that doesn't mean the rule is correct. The link between physical punishment and children's aggression has been shown in hundreds of research studies. Even if it were equally effective (and many times it is less effective), why use a method with such "side effects"?

    Plus, how can you have any moral standing for hitting your child if they have been aggressive towards someone else? What is the message? Might makes right? Or, if you are big, you can hit, but not if you are small?

    Thanks for the post.


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