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Is Corporal Punishment Necessary to Discipline Children

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ntroduction to PsychologyInstructor Stephanie Anderson September 8, 2014 Is Corporal Punishment Necessary to Discipline Children Is corporal punishment considered to be an effective form of discipline for children We have all been privy to occurrences of corporal punishment to discipline children a mother smacking her child to control a tantrum in the toy aisle at a retail store a dad grabbing a child and shaking them because they hit another child or a child being spanked for talking back. What exactly is corporal punishment A simple definition of corporal punishment would be the utilization of physical force to cause pain as a means of discipline without causing injury in order to correct or control the recipient (Jones, 2014). Many parents opinions are different on how to properly discipline a misbehaving child. It has been proven in studies that children who receive corporal punishment as a form of discipline face many challenges. It has also been debated that some form of corporal punishment is acceptable. So is corporal punishment necessary as a disciplinary tactic.

The mere words corporal punishment seems to cause so much emotion ranging from fear to anger from outrage to disgust. There are many different opinions about when punishment turns into abuse or if it is even acceptable in todays society. We all know that children need to be held responsible and that punishment is necessary when they break rules, but what type of punishment is the best. Depending on the punishment that is handed out, there could be certain effects in the development of that child. Another question that comes up frequently is whether or not age makes a difference when using corporal punishment (Ohene, 2006). There are so many more questions about corporal punishment that are asked and hard to answer depending on the opinion. That opinion can be based on the ideology of society and the changes over the years about how to discipline children. In todays society, the terms discipline and punishment are often used as one. At Emory University, Dr. Carter (2012), states that discipline is the systematic instruction given to the receiver with the intent to train that person. If used correctly, discipline should result in a positive method of direction or guidance.

Turner, Welch, Hamner (2012), in their acclaimed parenting book, give some of the best forms of discipline that fall under the corporal punishment genre. Inductive discipline is based on guiding a child to reflect on the effects of their actions or behavior. There is the natural consequence in which the discipline naturally occurs as a result of the childs behavior i.e., touching the hot stove when one is not suppose to. Logical consequence punishment is probably one of the most used forms of discipline, other than spanking. This is when the parent gives a child an ultimatum such as when a child is a bit rowdy in the movie theater. The parent may tell them to calm down or they will leave the movie. There are other forms of child discipline that include spanking. Spanking uses the theory of administering pain as a result of an action that is considered bad. There are many statistics on spanking such as mothers spank more than fathers, rural families spank more than urban families, a surprising Catholics spank less than Protestants, older woman spank more than younger women, etc. (Hoffman, 2011).

There are those that believe that statistics such as this are vital to understanding the serious threats developmental problems that a child may experience as a result of spankings. Spankings fall under the guise of corporal punishment which has caused a big debate not only in the U.S. but in the world. There are those that feel that physical punishment should not be used at all and there is the other side with the opinion that corporal punishment should be used as a disciplinary tool. The debate over corporal punishment has encroached the public and private school areas, home life, and has involved the differences from childrens rights, parents rights, religion, culture, and has ignited scientific cases for and against physical punishment based on child development (Cope, 2010). As a result of her research and documented in her writings, Cope states, The goal of discipline, whatever the method, is to set reasonable limits that protect children from harm and teach them what is safe, right, and acceptable. Parents use of discipline is thus considered important and necessary for the well-being of the child.

As previously stated, there are always two sides to every debate. There are researchers that state that the use of corporal punishment is more effective than alternative ways of discipline. They stand by their assessment that a parent who communicates and shows affection but is firm will see positive results in their discipline (Cope, 2010). The use of corporal punishment gets instant obedience or a good chance of compliance is forthcoming. In essence, corporal punishment supporters share that after other disciplinary actions have not worked, a good alternative is spanking. Researchers and supporters have determined that corporal punishment actually helps parents keep their children safe, keep them in control and asserts their authority. It is important to stop a childs actions that can hurt them or someone else. For instance, a tree year old child who runs in the road will learn quicker from a butt smack than receiving a prize for remaining on the sidewalk. There is also the belief that corporal punishment is better than discipline which utilizes isolation and that spanking is really only effective depending in the childs age (Niolon, 2010).

Many pro corporal punishment researchers believe that research data related to corporal punishment is imperfect due to the fact that the studies do not distinguish between the different types physical discipline i.e. an open handed butt smack or a closed fist hit to the body. As a result, it is difficult to make an exact conclusion on the effects of corporal punishment and then place it in the category of abuse. According to Cope (2010), researchers allow statistics about abuse to be included in their findings and some studies use the word beat or whip making the study more related to abuse. There are also other studies that have proven that corporal punishment is more effective on younger children, for example spanking the butt of a four year old as opposed to doing the same to a thirteen year old. This research shows that as a child gets older, corporal punishment should be reduced to the point where other discipline tactics should be used such as restriction from going out with friends or taking away privileges like the television, game systems or their cell phone, etc (Carter, 2012).

In todays world, taking a cell phone or game system away from an older child (12 16) is like taking their world from them. We have seen some of the pros of corporal punishment, but what about the cons. The biggest complaint of those against corporal punishment is violent aggression. According to Niolan (2010), corporal punishment is related to an increased aggression in children and that treating aggression with aggression increases the risk of aggressive behavior by 50. Physically punishing a child for aggressive actions is like treating a drunk with alcohol which would only result in a detrimental effect and just escalate things even more. The use of corporal punishment also causes children to develop antisocial behavior which can cause lower self-esteem, alcohol and substance abuse, and depression. As a result of these harmful effects, advocates against corporal punishment recommend that other forms of discipline be considered when dealing with a child that is behaving badly (Smith, 2012). Utilization of corporal punishment can also affect the quality of a child-parent relationship. Studies of parents that do administer spankings have shown that most of the spankings that are handed out happen after 500 p.m. (Hoffman, 2011).

This would seem to coincide with the times that parents get home from work and that this is also considered to be quality family time. If physical discipline is the first action of a parent after getting home from work, the rest of the evening would lost as the child is not going to be 100 accepting of any type of family gathering causing further antisocial possibilities. With all the different opinions and beliefs of those that are anti-physical punishments none are more looked at than aggression and abuse. Many researchers believe that corporal punishment leads to children eventually becoming adult abusers. Niolon (2010) and Cope (2010) have both made claims that a child that is on the receiving end of corporal punishment will think that aggression is ordinary practice in relationships of any type. What is interesting is that studies have shown that roughly two thirds of abusive parent to child occurrences began as a physical disciplinary action (Smith, 2012). However, it must be noted that a child who receives a couple of spankings will more than likely not cause them to become bullies, thieves or repeat criminals.

Another concern is that corporal punishment may be a means for parents to release or vent out their feelings rather than explaining or teaching proper behavior or correcting a wrong that the child has committed. In return, this may lead to parents showing angry and aggressive actions toward the child which in turn makes the child think that it is acceptable to hit someone when you are angry (Turner, 2012). Once again, this can easily turn into more of abuse than discipline which raises questions about laws concerning corporal punishment. Many European countries have banned corporal punishment in the schools and in the home. In contrast, the United States does not have a federal law against corporal punishment. It is up to the individual states to create legislation in reference to corporal punishment. At this time, only 31 states have banned corporal punishment in the schools while all 50 states still allow it to be used in the home in a reasonable manner. What is reasonable corporal punishment It is up to the state legislators and the courts to decide what is reasonable and appropriate (Turner, 2012).

Interesting enough, one study has shown that the schools that utilize corporal punishment have an elevated aggression rate among students while children who receive corporal punishment at home tend to behave badly more at school. On the other hand, students receiving non physical forms of punishment, such as time out or restriction, behaved much better (Cope, 2010). Being a parent is difficult and filled with many life altering decisions which can be either good or bad. Regardless, there is a right way and a wrong way to do something and that includes how children are disciplined. Do we need to have the courts determine the discipline for a child that misbehaves Does corporal punishment really belong in the schools Are we destroying the development of a child when corporal punishment is used These are questions that are debated constantly. The bottom line is that a child should never be hit or physically disciplined out of anger or when angry.

Parents need to not be afraid of the word abuse rather they should understand it. There is a big difference in spanking a childs bottom with your hand as compared to using a large wooden utensil, a paddle or a fist. The latter would fall into the category of abuse in any legal forum. Many of us in the day, well maybe even a bit earlier, have received that butt smacking from our parents via the belt or paddle. In reading and researching this particular topic, I realized that many of the sources dealing with corporal punishment always mention paddles, rulers, straps and other items being used. What is missing is the practice of the open hand smack on the buttocks. Could it be that a better definition on acceptable corporal punishment and what is considered abuse be necessary Maybe there needs to be more research on children who never get disciplined or children that never receive a form of corporal punishment. There are studies that show that spankings can be an effective disciplinary tool when it is used at the proper time, with explanation and with firmness. In other words, the spanking of a child for an inappropriate action should be immediate and not much later. This way they would associate the bad action with the spanking and therefore the child will avoid repeating the act.

There should be communication with the child explaining the spanking and why their action was inappropriate. Being firm is important but should not mean that the spanking is going to be more painful than it should be. Firm means being confident that the child will learn from the spanking and that the punishment will be carried out. All this should be done when absolutely necessary and in moderation so as not to cause detriment to the childs development. My boys are older now but I do remember how I disciplined them when necessary. They are about three years apart so there was always some fighting among them. My wife at the time was not an easy person to reason with and she had no patience with the boys so I was the one that initiated a good deal of the discipline. Now, I had no problem with swatting a butt to get their attention so they understood that the inappropriate act was not to be repeated. Certain bad behavior required a spanking and certain actions required an alternative punishment.

Alternative punishment included no dessert after dinner, time out, television restriction and taking away their game system which at that time was Sega. I also discovered, as I am sure my dad did, was that once they reached a certain age, which I found to be about 10 years old, corporal punishment was no longer effective so I had to move to the withholding of privileges type of discipline. Over the years, society has changed its relationship with corporal punishment. Although people will always have differing views on corporal punishment and its effectiveness or the use of alternative discipline methods for children, studies have proven that the use of physical punishment has more of a negative effect as the person doing the punishing may be doling out the penalty as a way of relieving their own anger or frustrations rather than helping the child learn from their misbehaving.

Then again, alternative methods to corporal punishment require that the parent or punisher be firm and follow through with the support. Corporal punishment may not be effective in some cases, but when carried out properly there may be positive change. If it is decided to use corporal punishment as a discipline method for a child you must be willing to accept the end result for your actions according to any laws. Keep in mind that if corporal punishment is administered correctly, spankings and not beatings, it may have a more positive outcome in that the child will understand why they are being punished, and will not feel that they are being abused or just used as an aggression tool.


Carter, S. (2012). Alternatives to Physical Punishment. Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics Department of Pediatrics. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http//www.pediatrics.emory.edu/divisions/neonatology/dpc/alternat.html.
Cope, K. (2010). The age of discipline the relevance of age to the reasonableness of corporal punishment. Law And Contemporary Problems, 73(2), 167-188. Hoffman, J. (2011). The way we spank. Todays Parent, 28, 202. Retrieved from http//search.proquest.com/docview/920213463accountid32521 Jones, C. (2014). Corporal punishment in the home Parenting tool or parenting fail. Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from http//www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/corporal-punishment-in-the-home-parenting-tool-or-parenting-fail/. Niolon, R. (2010, December 15). Corporal punishment in children what does it accomplish. PsychPage. Retrieved September 4, 2014, from http//www.psychpage.com/family/ Ohene, S., Borowsky, I., McNeely, C., Ireland, M. (2006). Parents Use of Physical Punishment Increases Violent Behavior among Youth. American Psychological Association. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from http//www.apa.org/pi/prevent-violence/resources/violent-behavior.aspx. Smith, B. L. (2012). The case against spanking. American Psychological Association. Retrieved August 20, 2014, from http//www.apa.org/monitor/2012/04/spanking.aspx. Turner, P. H., Welch, K., Hamner, T. J. (2012). Parenting in contemporary society (5th ed.). Boston Pearson Education. Corporal Punishment PAGE 10 Running Head Is corporal punishment needed to discipline children PAGE 1

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