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Is there still a place in today’s society for corporal punishment?

I recently heard a Dr. Murray Straus in a radio interview on NPR say that he compares the research on spanking to studies on cigarettes... – “people use it because it seems right at the time, but that’s because they can’t see the long-term dangers.” After listening to the interview I was surprised to hear about the long term affects. When I grew up my parents spanked me when the need arose and I was subject to corporal punishment in both grammar school and high school. Although I don’t look back on the times I was on the receiving end with fondness, I don’t really see any long lasting effects from it either. And I must admit, just the threat was usually enough to lengthen my attention span. So I guess what I am asking here is… Under what conditions do you think corporal punishment is appropriate? Do you see a difference between its uses at home vs. at school? What about in a public place like a shopping mall? And if you think it is completely inappropriate, please let me know what your alternatives are for disciplining you child. When you answer could you please identify if you were subject to corporal punishment when you were growing up. I think it would be an interesting thing to know to provide context for the answer.

Seeking Opinion Child Development 3 years ago

2 experts and 2 parents have answered

expert answer
Magda de Lange expert
Magda de Lange Global Learning Professional ZA
Education expert

This question should not even arise in this day and age - the answer is no. There are laws protecting animals against abuse, adults against assault yet in many countries a child is still worse off than either examples stated.

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Fact 3 years ago
Matt Thrower writer
Matt Thrower Parent. Gamer. Coder. Writer. Bath, Bath and North East Somerset, UK

Interesting question.

I was subjected to occasional corporate punishment as a child. I'm not sure that one can really make an unbiased judgement as to whether something in one's past has had a long term effect, but I suspect that it has not.

However, I would not use corporal punishment (as the term is widely understood) on my own two daughters. There are many reasons. One is that I'm not willing to take the risk. It seems that it ⋆might⋆ have long term negative effects, possibly dependent on the personality of the child. At best it leaves you in an awkwardly hypocritical position when you have to explain to a child why violence is wrong.

The other is that it seems cruel and unnecessary in almost all circumstances. I'm surprised you need to ask for alternatives - there are many, depending on the age of the child. Confiscation of toys, pocket money or privileges are the ones that work best for us. And longer terms positive re-enforcement (i.e. rewarding good behavior rather than punishing bad) is a better, more effective option.

But the bottom line in legal terms is that it's very hard to draw line between "acceptable" and "unacceptable" forms of physical punishment. A lot of parents might deem a light tap, or snatch and grab to be okay whether they would do it themselves or not. However, where does a light tap become a smack? Where does a smack become an open-handed blow?

Because there aren't definitive answers to these questions, the law, and society, simply has to err on the side of caution and say no, it's not acceptable.

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Opinion 3 years ago

No, there is no place for it. Under no circumstances is corporal punishment appropriate. Physical violence against a child is wrong. Plain wrong. And for those parents that know no better, there needs to be help and advice. It is abhorrent to consider that a child today should be in fear of being physically hurt by one of the people they should most be able to trust and feel safe with. And for it to return to schools is an absolute no-no. How can we expect our children to grow up looking for peaceful resolutions to conflict, if people in a position of power demonstrated that violence was their solution. How can we expect them to grow up as gentle, thoughtful parents to their own kids, if people who love them, who are much bigger than them, beat them and hurt them instead of use their words? I was subjected to corporal punishment as were most of my friends, nothing extreme, but I would never do that to my own children.

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Experience 3 years ago
expert answer
HerMelness Speaks expert
HerMelness Speaks Parent blogger/student mentor GB
Parenting expert expert

I was subjected to corporal punishment at home and at school. It does not work. I do something hit me. The slate is wiped clean in a child's mind with no long-term lessons learnt.

My worse punishment was a quiet talking to by my mother...asking me to think about the effect my actions had had on another person or particular situation. Those are the lessons I remember. The numerous times I was hit, I can't really recall why or what the misdemeanours were.

People often cite showing the child who is in control. Hitting anyone advertises immediately lack of control. When adults are 'out of control' with their behaviour we wouldn't dream of hitting them. Why is it then acceptable to hit a child?

Perhaps if we did away with euphemisms like 'spanking' and admitted to 'assault' on a child, the violence in the adult would be better recognised for what it really is in the real world.

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Experience 3 years ago

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