Discipline can become a challenge for parents today and choosing the right method is something that parents should take very seriously. Physical punishment is one form of discipline that parents employ. In fact, most parents believe that physical punishment is an acceptable form of discipline (“The National Child Traumatic Stress Network” 1). On the other hand, there may be some people who oppose physical punishment but is this a good decision to make? In order for parents to make this decision, examining whether this is the best way to discipline a child and their welfare needs to be done. It is important to know when it is appropriate and to what extent physical punishment should be used. Some parents may not realize but the way a child is disciplined has a big impact on their behavior growing up. The way a child is disciplined will be a part of their childhood that they will always remember throughout their life. This paper will analyze whether physical punishment should be used in disciplining a child and if it is an effective form of discipline, children’s standpoint, effects on children, risks that are involved, long-term effect, and alternatives to physical punishment.
According to the study of physical punishment by Terry Anne Dobbs from the Children’s Issue Centre, it is defined as “the use of physical force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain but not injury for the purpose of correction or control of the child’s behavior” (138). Physical punishment is a form of discipline which discipline is defined as “training to act in accordance with rules” (O’Leary 11). Some examples of physical punishment that are commonly used are “spanking, hitting, slapping, grabbing, pushing and/or physically restraining a child for the purpose of correction” (Dobbs et al 138). Physical punishment should also be “a last resort and a loving tap” (Dobbs 146). One factor to consider is whether physical punishment is an effective form of discipline. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee, “an effective discipline system must contain three vital elements: 1) a learning environment characterized by positive, supportive parent-child relationships; 2) a strategy for systematic teaching and strengthening of desired behaviors; and 3) a strategy for decreasing or eliminating undesired or ineffective behaviors” (723). Dobbs mentions that “physical punishment is an effective discipline method that does … [not] harm [the child]” (146). Thus, for discipline to be effective the relationship between parent and child should become closer and stronger. It should also be an educational process without maltreatment to the child. On the other hand, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network points out that “spanking may work temporarily to stop children’s problem behaviors, but it may not change their behavior in the long run” (1). In some cases physical punishment might not be as effective as it seems. In other words, physical punishment is effective only for the time being, but it does not necessarily change a child’s behavior permanently. Physical punishment is said to be effective for short-term purposes. Therefore looking at the long-term effect is also necessary. To be considered an effective disciplining method, it has to have an entirely positive outcome for the children or they might be put at risk. Physical punishment may sometimes look like a straightforward and appropriate method of discipline but may become ineffective and potentially harmful to children and families (“The National Child Traumatic Stress Network” 2). A study by Murray Straus and Julie Steward both researchers of Family Research Laboratory in University of New Hampshire, mentioned that physical punishment does have “harmful side effects” (68). Such side effects reported by children are “…smacking interrupts their behavior, and has many other negative associated effects, such as not liking their parents any more, feeling angry, upset,...
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