Corporal punishment for children is the act of disciplining through the use of physical force with an intention of causing pain, but not injury, in a bid to rehabilitate them for the wrongdoing they have committed. This punishment may include spanking and caning. Corporal punishment has been subjected to criticism and hot debates for a long time; it has been legalized or banned in different countries and institutions around the world. The sole purpose of examining the issue is the need to answer the question of whether corporal punishment helps bringing up or accelerates mischief and violence among children. In order to understand this issue, the paper will analyze corporal punishment in two broad settings, namely corporal punishment at schools and corporal punishment at home, with the underlying conclusion of whether it is really needed to discipline children.
The proponents of corporal punishment have argued that today, children are growing up in the world full of integrated social media and networks, and improved technology. The factors of the new era have led to introduction of new gadgets, such as mobile phones and tablet computers, which are more affordable and easy-to-operate devices. They make it easier for everyone, including children, to own such high-technology equipments and access information of different character on a worldwide scale, because of the increased Internet availability. Such factors have led to growth of a rebellious, angry, rude, and materialistic behavior among modern children, who have to be disciplined and rehabilitated. However, research has shown that corporal punishment has led to increased body harm, violence in relationships, mental health problems, increased childhood aggression; it has also affected performance at school and work. The cons for corporal punishment far outweigh the pros; hence, we believe and hold the opinion that corporal punishment is neither needed nor acceptable mean to discipline children. Instead, other means of parenting techniques should be used to discipline children.
Corporal Punishment at Schools
“Studying the true effects of corporal punishment requires drawing a boundary line between punishment and abuse. This is a difficult thing to do, especially when relying on parents self reports of their discipline tactics and interpretations of normative punishment” (Gershoff, 2002). This argument can be attributed to corporal punishment in school where there is no boundary between punishment and abuse. Corporal punishment in school has been outlawed in a number of countries, including Kenya. Corporal punishment was outlawed in Kenya in 2001, and among the factors supporting the ban was the increased physical abuse of the students.
According to the Human Rights Watch (1999), for most Kenyan children, violence used to be a regular part of the school experience. Teachers used canning, slapping and whipping to maintain classroom discipline and punish children for poor academic performance. These actions were brutal humiliations, and regular by-products of the punishment included bruises, cuts, and more severe injuries, like broken bones, knocked-out teeth, and internal bleedings. Moreover, children would be caned by numerous teachers, at the same time. The continued physical abuses led to response by human rights activists and, due to public pressure, some cases led to prosecution, and fines. Eventually, in 1996, the government through the ministry of education issued a statement banning the practice of corporal punishment. However, according to the Human Rights Watch (2008), the ban has not been enforced as the practice continued; “Corporal punishment in schools continues though physical abuse was outlawed in 2001 and a legal notice specifically prohibits corporal punishment in schools. In interviews carried out in 2007, pupils described to human rights watch how some teachers cane children, while others resort to different forms of physical punishment; some children have suffered lasting injuries” (Human Rights Watch, 2008).
Parental Use of Corporal Punishment
In recent years, parental use of corporal punishment at home has come under more scrutiny. This is attributed to the relationship between parent and child, as well as the effects of corporal punishment in a factual or objective manner, among other factors. Divergent viewpoints have arisen between parents, educators, and professional bodies regarding the implication the corporal punishment has on the parent-child relationship. The underlying question is whether it makes children more receptive or reformed. Between the 6th and 10th of August, 2011, England erupted into protests and riots by youths due to a police shooting of a Black person in suspicious circumstances. However, soon the protests escalated to rioting, vandalism, and arsons in most parts of London. “This is the most arcane of uprisings and the most modern. Its participants, marshaled by Twitter, are the protagonist in a sinister flipside to the Arab spring. The Tottenham Summer, featuring children as young as seven, is an assault, not on a regime of tyranny but on the established order of benign democracy” (Riddell, 2011). Among the causes of the riots was a moral decay in the society, whereby children were allowed to engage in mischief and criminal activities and were not punished for their wrongdoings. The survey, conducted by YouGov (2011) counted the following results, 42% of the respondents thought criminal behavior to be the main cause of the uprisings, whilst 26% considered gang culture, 8% chose the government cuts, 5% - high unemployment rates, 5% picked up racial tensions, and 3% of people thought poor policing to be the primary cause. As such, indiscipline among the youth and teenagers was named as the major determinant. “A third aspect of discussion of the August disturbances concern moral collapse. Signs of decline in the ability to tell right from wrong and to act appropriately” (Smith, 2011).
Pros and Cons of Corporal Punishment
Throughout the years, there has been heated debate on whether corporate punishment should be allowed or done away with. On the one side of the coin, there are the opponents who share the view that corporal punishment has more severe implications and does more harm than good. Science Daily (2012) noted that spanking is influencing and is able to increase childhood aggression to a great extent. According to the study done by the University of Texas, the risk of problem behavior in childhood, particularly among boys, is greatly increased if children are spanked by their parents. The research further added that the acts of aggression included temper tantrums and disruptive behavior. The genetic factor matters more to children who were exposed to spanking as a disciplinary technique. Also, Science Daily (2011) noted that children at schools, where teachers used corporal punishment, performed significantly worse in tasks involving executive functioning than those studying at schools, relying on milder disciplinary measures. The research done by the University of Toronto found out that the executive functions included planning, abstract thinking, and leadership skills. These skills entail verbal intelligence and executive functioning ability. Punitive discipline may make children immediately compliant but may reduce the likelihood that they will internalize rules and standards; hence, they result in lower self control when the children get older. Science Daily (2008) presented the results of the research done by the University of New Hampshire family research laboratory. According to the research findings, children who are spanked or are victims of any corporal punishment are more likely to have behavioral problems as teens or adults. The scientists from the University have analyzed the results of corporal punishment and found out that it increased the probability of three main sexual problems to develop in teenage or adulthood. Firstly, such people develop high chances of coercing verbally and physically a dating partner to have sex when one does not want to, or threatening to end the relationship if the partner does not make sex. Secondly, it leads to engagement in risky sexual intercourse, such as premarital sex without a condom. Children, who had experienced corporal punishment in childhood, tended to engage in more risky sexual behavior than those who had no such experience. Thirdly, it led to probability of masochistic sexual intercourse, such as reaching the arousal by being spanked, or tied up when having sex. If being spanked by loving parents in the childhood, such individuals are likely to engage in rough sex, since they confuse love with violence. The fact increases the probability that violence will become a part of making love. Moreover, corporal punishment is a psychologically damaging action, which may lead to depression, rigidity, low self esteem, and heightened anxiety. Finally, opponents have claimed that corporal punishment teaches children the wrong lesson, since inflicting pain can convey to the children that violence is an appropriate way to settle issues leading to increased cases of bulling in schools and also physically assaulting their peers whenever agitated by their actions.
On the other side of the coin, the proponents of corporal punishment consider this technique to be more effective than any other type of punishment. They argue that corporal punishment should not be mistaken or confused with physical abuse, since punishment is justified if it is deserved. Moreover, corporal punishment is effective, quick to be carried out, costs nothing, and it aides in deterring mischief and bad behavior while, at the same time, discipline the child. One of the issues named to be the reason of the England riots of 2011 was the increase in moral collapse among children where they had not been disciplined for their actions or taught what was right from wrong, but rather considered the riots as an exciting and thrilling encounter to come out on streets, engage in conflicts with the police, destroy and vandalize property. “But what is so notable and distressing is that, after the first day when adults were clearly involved, this mayhem has been carried out in the main by teenagers and children, some as young as eight. (…). These youths feel absolutely entitled to go ‘on the rob’ and steal whatever they want. (…). What has been fuelling is not poverty, as been claimed, but moral collapse. What we have been experiencing is a complete breakdown of civilized behavior among children and young people” (Philips, 2011).
Proponents of corporal punishment argue that if the rebels’ parents were firm to them and disciplined them more using such techniques, the riots would not take place at all or would not continue for the five days. Advocators also point out that at up to a certain age, children are not able to distinguish right from wrong, choose the most logic and reasoning variants. Considering the fact, the only way to prevent and curb immoral and destructive behavior is through corporal punishment, such as spanking, so that the child can understand that his or her actions were wrong. Some parents, who believe in spanking, may argue that their children are more behaved than those who are not spanked. There is also the general rationale in the world whereby parents who were spanked while growing up by their own parents succeeded in life. Hence, these adults usually wonder why their children would not manage to do the same. In addition, some parents and teachers believe that if children do not work hard, this situation will lead to further deterioration of their studies; hence, there is a need for them to be beaten or threatened to be beaten. Moreover, other alternatives such as timeouts, withdrawal of privileges, and counseling do not always work. When being small, children cannot understand or appraise their actions; hence, they need to be educated through pain.
Finally, teachers are living in a world of fear due to the grave consequences of the in-class corporal punishment. If they punish their students for bad behavior even when the punishment is justified, they run risks to end up with multiple lawsuits and immediate dismissal. This tendency has made disciplining in schools a challenge, since in some countries, the most that educators can do is to give timeouts and other meager punishment to students. These measures might not always work; hence, children grow up becoming naughtier since they know their teachers cannot punish them. In the light of the facts, educators may complain that their power as educators has been taken away, since children are undisciplined and think they can get away with it and will more than likely repeat their wrongdoing in the future.
Probable Resolution of the Problem
Any issue, which relates to the welfare of children, has always drone sharp reactions through advocating for or against policy, criticism, debate, constant review and analysis. Corporal punishment is among the issues that have generated endless debate worldwide. Whether to legalize or ban the practice remains in the jurisdiction of the sovereign countries, societies, families, and parents. However, the detrimental factors against corporal punishment far outweigh the need for it. Opponents against corporal punishment need to inform and advise to all stakeholders involved in the bringing up of children, including parents, teachers, governmental bodies’, on the dangers of corporal punishment and the long term effect on the child. Furthermore, additional research should be done by the parents since they are in a better position to know what troubles their children. They know better how to adjust and relate to different types of punishment other than the corporal one, and which punishment will have a lasting positive effect on their wellbeing. They can then pass on their findings to their respective teachers, who are in a position to use the data to nurture them in school. This is because there is some significant difference between home and school settings. Parents are more likely to have their children interest close to heart, love and care for them. Parents are also more likely to know their children better than teachers know their pupils. After all, teachers have relatively little contact with their pupils, and it is even more difficult in large classes. Otherwise, restrictions should be put in place to safeguard and prevent unjust corporal punishment, which may lead to physical abuse. This may include restrictions on the offences, for which children may be physically punished, restrictions on object used to inflict the punishment and places on the body, to which punishment should be administered. This aim can be achieved through approving of corporal punishment techniques; when the punishment is administered, and prior notification of parents for all physical punishment is done, neutral and just teachers will be working at schools
Considering the results of the recent researches and evidence that corporal punishment does more harm than good, it is important that parents, teachers, governmental and professional bodies understand the different options available in teaching, disciplining, and reforming children’s behavior. These options may include counseling where children have an opportunity to talk freely with an adult and learn on what is morally acceptable and the dangers of bad behavior. Parents and teachers should also reward appropriate behavior through following up child’s actions, praising them, and showing gestures which indicate approval, such as smiling or patting on the back. Infrequent and targeted verbal reprimands, which are effective in stopping or reducing unwanted behavior, should be used. The reprimands should refer to the unwanted behavior and not the child’s character or abilities. Parents and teachers should use timeouts, where the child is left alone in a quiet place to reflect upon his behavior, and deprive children of privileges, which are available to him or her, such as television or video games.
Corporal punishment, as a mean of disciplining, is still used in many areas due to its adverse effects on the child. It also weakens the bond between the child and the parent; thus, alienation from parents may make teenagers less likely to avoid sex and less likely to follow safe sex practices among other vices. Moreover, corporal punishment increases probability that violence will become a part of their day-to-day life. However, the sad reality is that despite bans on corporal punishment in many countries, it still remains common worldwide, especially in low and middle income countries. The world at large needs to take note of the conclusive findings, research, analysis, and publications that have been done and put together all over the world. They show that corporal punishment issue does not have a long term solution but rather a short term one. Among the reasons why children undergo various teaching curricula is the need to prepare them for their future, as well as mould their character. This is a long term investment for the children. Corporal punishment, on the other hand, offers short term solutions but is catastrophic in the long term. Hence, there is a good probability that the education will not help in the child’s growth but rather the violence they have been accustomed to. Hence, the research paper has proven that corporal punishment is neither needed nor acceptable to discipline children.
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Discipline is critical in molding a person’s character, no doubt about it. But the methods used to inculcate discipline are plenty, and parents and those in authority are often debating over whether or not to use corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure. Is corporal punishment or inflicting pain to correct mistakes a valid form of discipline or is it inhumane? Let us find out.
List of Pros of Corporal Punishment
1. Parents/Authorities Have Control.
Those who use corporal punishment or even spanking gives them control over those under disciplinary action. A child knows that every wrongdoing gets physical consequence, and that allows them to respect authority.
2. Deter Mistakes from Recurring.
When done right, negative reinforcement teaches the child not to repeat bad behaviors in order to avoid punishment.
3. Correct a Wrongdoing.
The child immediately stops misbehaving, accepts the punishment, and does a short-term compliance.
4. Affordable Method of Discipline.
Parents and those in authority do not need to spend so much to administer punishment. All they need to do is to deprive the child of his or her privileges.
5. Saves Time.
Administering corporal punishment does not take long. Both parent and child can resume their chores right after the disciplinary act.
List of Cons of Corporal Punishment
1. Affects a Person’s Esteem.
Corporal punishment may negatively affect both the parent and the child, leaving them with heavy hearts and troubled minds.
2. Unlawful in Some Areas.
Some countries or regions prohibit and even penalize those who administer corporal punishment. A parent could go to jail for spanking their child.
3. Might be Unnecessary.
Not all bad behavior needs to have physical consequences. It might be enough to have a heart-to-heart conversation with the child for them to understand what they did wrong.
4. Replicates Violence.
A child who went through so much painful punishment may have a tendency to become violent to their peers and other people. They might even fight back authority.
5. Prone to Abuse.
At the height of anger and frustration, a parent may cross the hairline difference between loving discipline and hateful discipline. The result is an abused child, and not a disciplined one.
Parents and people in authority have the responsibility to instill discipline on those under their care. However, corporal punishment is just one of the many ways to discipline a child. A parent must weigh their options very carefully, and always have an open and heartfelt conversation (in addition to, or in lieu of, corporal punishment) with the child in order to encourage understanding, respect and learning.
No parent in their sane mind would ever want to hurt their child, and if possible, they would want to avoid punishing their children and prefer to reward good behavior instead. But for parents who believe that corporal punishment is the way to go, then they should also take note of the cons of corporal punishment and be keen never to abuse their authority. Always remember that damage done to the psyche of a child often lasts a lifetime, and hardly ever reversible.