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 them 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.,...
References: Boutwell, B. B., Franklin, C. A., Barnes, J. C., & Beaver, K. M. (2011). Physical punishment and childhood aggression: the role of gender and gene-environment interplay. Aggressive Behavior, 37(6), 559-568. doi:10.1002/ab.20409
Coleman, D., Dodge, K. A., & Campbell, S. (2010). WHERE AND HOW TO DRAW THE LINE BETWEEN REASONABLE CORPORAL PUNISHMENT AND ABUSE. Law & Contemporary Problems, 73(2), 107-165
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003
Hicks-Pass, S. (2009). Corporal Punishment in America Today: Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child? A Systematic Review of the Literature. Best Practice In Mental Health, 5(2), 71-88.
Simons, D. A., & Wurtele, S. K. (2010). Relationships between parents’ use of corporal punishment and their children 's endorsement of spanking and hitting other children. Child Abuse & Neglect, 34(9), 639-646. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2010.01.012
Zolotor, A. J., & Puzia, M. E. (2010). Bans against corporal punishment: a systematic review of the laws, changes in attitudes and behaviours. Child Abuse Review, 19(4), 229-247.
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