Corporal punishment is a subject that has a lot of emotional opinions for me. The Collins English Dictionary describes corporal punishment as punishment of a physical nature, such as caning, flogging, or beating. The description of caning, flogging or beating should be enough to indicate that it is not needed for children. Corporal punishment has a tone that is too close to child abuse to be comfortable with any form of it. I suppose the clarity should be to try to define the line between discipline and abuse. Corporal punishment in my mind is abuse, not discipline.
Discipline should not leave marks, bruises or cause lasting physical or emotional pain. It should be something that gets the child’s attention and offers correction, but too many parents or adults simply just don’t know where the line is and when they have so clearly crossed it. I realize that psychological marks or bruises maybe difficult to read but I believe that there can be some tell-tale signals that indicate how effective it was in a child’s upbringing or how ineffective it was in the same measure.
Corporal punishment in families is a controversial practice in the United States and worldwide. (Zolotor, A. J. , & Puzia, M. E. (2010). 229-247) Zolotor indicates that advocates of corporal punishment deem it to be a necessary practice for well-behaved children. He further states that it harms children psychologically and interferes with development. Ask any parent, “do you spank your children? ” and, many will quickly admit that they do. However their definition of spanking and the reality of corporal punishment are often too close to each other to separate discipline from abuse.
I grew up in a family that discipline meant instant harsh responses to someone’s disfavor of your actions. In my family, discipline could be dealt out by anyone your senior including aunts, uncles, grandparents, older siblings, older cousins, or just about anybody who would have a reaction to a child being a child and investigating their limitations and curiosities. When I think about whether or not corporal punishment is effective or not, I have to admit that I have a severely tainted view and opinion. It is not easy to see clearly how punishing a child for discipline sake and having hem scream, “I am scared” when they are about to be disciplined can possibly mean the same thing. As I sit here preparing to provide opinions or belief systems in my life that do not support corporal punishment, I think of the moments in my childhood that I remember most. I remember a sad day in my mother’s life when she, for some reason, asked me what I remember most about my childhood and I said, “The beatings, mom, I remember the beatings most”. I saw the pain in her eyes and it provided no consolation for me or peace for me.
I realized in that moment, I probably hurt my mother emotionally more than she ever hurt me physically. I wasn’t trying to be dramatic or even trying to punish her for the life I led as a child. It was just the truth as it stood that day. I am almost fifty years old and I must admit that I still flinch when I am walking through a door and happen to have a woman walk in at the same time or behind me. My father used to smack the boys in the back of the head if we did not remember our manners and hold the door for women.
He would scream some unusable obscenity and tell us to be a man of respect and manners and just about knock us to the ground in the process. The argument might be that it was effective because I will almost break my arm to hold a door open for a woman entering a room or a building regardless of the situation. I just think that chivalry is not dead and just do what is expected of a man who provides appropriate respect to women. Twenty-four countries have passed legislative bans on corporal punishment since the passage of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Coleman, D. , Dodge, K. A. , & Campbell, S. (2010). This would seem to be sufficient information to indicate that there is strong evidence to prove that it is not a practice that can be tolerated or supported. If the leadership of twenty-four countries have agreed that this is not a proper way to take care of discipline issues with children, someone must have decided that there was enough evidence that proved children need to be protected from the ignorance of their parents.
This statement holds a lot of credence for me because this had to be a subject that drew national and international attention at some time in the recent past. Someone brought up the subject of corporal punishment to the leadership of twenty four countries who all agreed that it was an ineffective form of discipline. I remember when I was a child in school at a small school in Arkansas, the principal, Mrs. Hewey, would have a conversation with my brother and me at least twice a week.
The conversation was usually followed by the use of a two and a half foot long board that was about five inches wide and had holes drilled in it. Depending on our offense that day we would see anywhere from one to three good solid swats from that board and I swear that she would lean back all the way into the hallway to get a running start at the swing before it viciously collided with your backside. I don’t think this was really that effective but it usually took less than two days for my brother and me to be right back in her office for another try at that board.
The only real problem was that every day we had this interaction, we were sure to get some more when we got home from one parent or the other and possibly both if the offense in school was strong enough. Children whose parents approved of and used corporal punishment were more likely to endorse hitting as a strategy for resolving interpersonal conflicts with peers and siblings. (Simons, D. A. , & Wurtele, S. K. (2010) Reading this statement alone provides insight on the problems with relationships today.
Whether it is factual or just opinion, it would seem that this is reason for other relationship issues that deal with conflict and conflict resolution. It would seem that we could easily expect to hear someone say, “if he hits you, hit him back” and this would be the fantastic wisdom they provide their children as they also are swift to find reason to administer swift punishment for simply being a child. I was once in a grocery store and overheard an overzealous father telling his son, “If he hits you again, you hit him back and if you have to do it when he is not watching, but you hit him and hit him again and again.
He will certainly leave you alone if you do. ” I immediately thought how awful this child’s youth and teenage years were going to be if he followed his father’s misguided advice. I must admit that in hearing just thirty seconds of a conversation, I felt sadness for the boy and disappointment and pity for the father. I thought that someday he is going to be one of those fathers who receives a phone call that says his son is in the hospital or worse because he followed his advice. He will never associate the situation with the advice he gave his son in his most impressionable years.
He will just think evil of the people who harmed his son. HE will then respond in the only way he knows how, he will strike back too. Proving again that the discipline he received and the discipline he provided lacked wisdom and only invited sadness and loss in it. According to an article written by Hicks-Pass in 2009 entitled, “Corporal Punishment in America Today: Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child? ” Hicks-Pass described findings that supported an intergenerational cycle of violence; parents who experienced frequent corporal punishment during childhood perceived its use as acceptable and frequently spanked their children.
Basically, this means that whatever environment you are raised in will more than likely become a part of your belief system up to and including your approval of the use of corporal punishment. I have often that the exact opposite about some things as I look back on my youth and early parenthood, I found myself saying, “As a father, I refuse to repeat this behavior with my children” and worked very hard to recognize the responses in me that would have or could have led to the use of corporal punishment.
I am a long way from perfect but there are a lot of ways that I have separated myself from the intergenerational beliefs systems that could have overpowered my desire to be different and in some cases better. Some of the ways that I believe a parent can discipline a child that are far removed from corporal punishment are: a) Communicating with them on their level and at a tone of instruction. Yelling is not allowed. This takes patience recognizing that a child doesn’t understand at the same pace or academic level as an adult.
So it is one that requires parents to sit down and talk things out with the child explaining the right and wrong behavior and the expected behavior from the parent’s standpoint and then enforcing the change through limitations. b) Time outs that separate them from the situation completely and give them time to calm down and for the parent to do so as well. My children have a five-minute egg timer that we use when they need some time to stop and regroup.
We have a place in their room where they have a chair and the egg timer. Once seated there, they cannot move until the ding of the egg-timer goes “bing”. Then they have to bring the egg timer and the explanation of the situation. Then as a parent, I explain to them the difference between what is expected and what they were doing and then ask for their confirmation of understanding. With five year olds, this takes patience because their attention span is so much shorter. ) Take aways – When my twins begin to argue about something it is usually because one of them has something the other wants and they both begin to fight for it. It is funny that they do not want it until it is firmly in the grasp of the other twin and then they begin to fight for position or possession. Here I just simply take away whatever it is they are arguing about until they can calm down and realize that it is not appropriate or fair to be jealous of someone else especially when they were doing something that you had no interest in until they began it.
This is usually over the use of the I-Pad, Computer, or some form of their homework or books in their room. Through it all, the idea is simple. If twenty-four countries have made corporal punishment illegal, then it would only make sense that we have to begin to educate those families caught up in the circle of violence that it more often than not follows. We have to also educate them with alternatives and coach them through it as they learn alternatives methods of providing discipline and guidance.
I can’t remember how many times, my father was providing his discipline and was saying something like, “I told you not to do this and you are going to get it even if I have to beat it into you! ” The fact is I don’t think I ever really got it and therefore have spent most of my adult life separating myself from it. If we start with ourselves and help educate others, we can make a difference but it will take generations to do so. It will not come quickly enough and many children with suffer the wrath of parents who have become their parents.