Spanking as a Changing Norm

Topics: Corporal punishment, Corporal punishment in the home, Spanking Pages: 8 (2765 words) Published: January 28, 2013
Chelsea Hall


Dr. Brian Monahan

30 November 2012

Ever-changing Viewpoints on Spanking

As a world population, evidence shows that children were not valued in general throughout history until the twentieth century. Children were known as parental property and were treated as such. Children did not have rights of any kind; they could be sold, beaten, used as slaves, etc. for their parents’’ purposes. Several overlapping perspectives for conceptualizing and dealing with deviant child behavior emerged, including the religious, the legal, the medical, the social, and the educational (Mash & Barkley).

In ancient Greek and Roman societies, child behavior disorders were believed to be ““a result of imbalance, and children with handicaps, disabilities or deformities were viewed as sources of economic burden and/or social embarrassment.”” With this being said, these children were usually ““scorned, abandoned or put to death.”” This mistreatment continued on into the Middle Ages. In colonial America, ““as many as two-thirds of all children died prior to the age of five years, and those who survived continued to be subjected to harsh treatment by adults (Mash & Barkley).”” In 1654, the Massachusetts’’ Stubborn Child Act was passed which ““permitted a father to petition a magistrate to put a 'stubborn' or 'rebellious' child to death;”” basically parents can kill their children if they wish/make a case to an official. If the child was unruly, seen as demented or unwanted, parents could dispose of him/her. In Massachusetts and elsewhere, deviant, unwanted, and mentally ill children were kept in cages and cellars into the mid-1800s (Mash & Barkley).

One prominent group of people known for their harsh ways with children were the Puritans. In 1692, children were expected to behave under the same strict codes as the adults. They were expected to attend church, do chores and ““repress individual differences.”” If children displayed emotions (excitement, fear, etc.), they were severely punished for their disobedience. Many children learned to read but few books were written for children; those that were often ““warned against bad behavior and described the punishment that children would suffer for sinful acts (““Puritan Children””).””

The Puritans believe that corporal punishment is a ““God-ordained means to correct children of every age,”” for children are ““wayward and the rod brings them back.”” It is noted that there is no leeway as to the age of the child; ““even a six month old needs corporeal correction.”” The Puritans wholeheartedly believe if you do not correct your child with ““chastening, with the rod, you are setting your heart on their destruction (McMahon).””

According to Dr. Matthew McMahon, a practicing Puritan, parents must understand the word ““beat.”” To them, it is the verb nakah, which ““literally reads 'to strike, smite, hit, beat, slay, kill.'”” In other words, parents must ““strike the child so that he never does what he did ever again.”” Parents need to think, ““I am going to strike the child in a way that he will never disobey me again.”” As Dr. McMahon puts it, ““this is not brutality; it means that their bottom is so red, that they have a hard time sitting back down when you are done. Or if the child is too young for that, then give them a good smack with a tense rubber band on their arm or thigh (McMahon).””

This way of thinking and corporal means were used for quite some time (and still is by practicing Puritans), until people started to wonder if maybe it wasn’’t the children who deserved this, but perhaps the parents did. John Locke, a noted English philosopher and physician, believed in individual rights and expressed that children should be raised with thought and care

instead of indifference and harsh treatment. He first introduced this idea and started the rise for the rights of children. ““Rather than seeing children as uncivilized tyrants, he saw them as...
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