“Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child: The Debate On Corporal Punishment” Introduction
Many people have witnessed a misbehaved child in a public area and thought to themselves, “That child needs some discipline.” However, the type of discipline and the severity of its implementation is something that has been debated for many decades because it is tough to determine how/eif certain types of discipline are beneficial or harmful. The generally accepted definition of discipline is regarded as the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience. However, discipline can be enforced by a variety of methods and has no concrete implementation. Punishment as a means of correcting a child’s offense can be as mild as verbal reprimanding, or as serious as physical abuse. The later is a form of punishment that should be avoided at all costs because it is known and agreed by all to have a detrimental effect on the mental well-being of the recipient. In this consensus lies a crucial debate: Where is the line drawn between physical punishment and physical abuse? In recent decades there has been a push to abolish any form of physical punishment as discipline (referred to as corporal punishment throughout this paper). In an article from Insight on the News titled “Making a Case for Corporal Punishment,” columnist Walter E. Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University, argued as an advocate for physical disciplining of children and adolescents. “The undeniable fact is the "uncivilized" practice of whipping children produced more civilized young people. Youngsters did not direct foul language to, or use it in the presence of, teachers and other adults.” It is not uncommon to hear elders today speak of their childhoods and reminisce about an era where parents lacked no hesitation to physically reprimand a disobedient child, supporting Williams’ assertion. H. Stephen Glenn is a psychologist who represents the opposing viewpoint in an excerpt from a Deseret News article stating, "Corporal punishment is the least effective method of discipline. Punishment reinforces a failure identity. It reinforces rebellion, resistance, revenge and resentment. And, what people who spank children will learn is that it teaches more about you than it does about them; that the whole goal is to crush the child. It is not dignified, and it is not respectful” (Ki). According to Dr. Glenn, despite its effectiveness corporal punishment will always yield undesirable effects. In addition to these scholarly but opinionated assertions, many studies on the necessity of corporal punishment have been constructed that contain more factual information than the responses presented above. Why, with much research available, does this debate persist?
It is obvious that over the past decades, many child activists and psychologists have concerned themselves with corporal punishment and seek to encourage its termination by law. Everyone invested in this debate, both corporal punishment supporters and anti-corporal propagandists, is against harsh physical punishment as a method of discipline. When considering this joint consensus, it is intriguing that there has been no substantial effort to solidify a moderate position between these polarized standpoints. In a 1995 survey conducted by the Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, results showed that “over 30 percent of parents reported using corporal punishment during the first year of a child’s life, peaking at over 90 percent during a child’s forth and fifth year of life, and decreasing in use as children grow older and bigger” (CICC). Despite many countries making use of corporal punishment illegal and many states prohibiting its usage in schools, it is clearly still prevalent as a method of discipline in the home. Therefore, I will focus on a few of the arguments for and against corporal punishment, and why they are relevant. However, I will take less of...
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