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Corporal Punishment: Unsparing The Rod

Corporal punishment is a topic that can be discussed from a plethora of directions. It is a very controversial topic. You have corporal punishment in the criminal justice world, i.e. the death penalty. Then you have corporal punishment in regards to disciplining children. Corporal punishment can be defined as: physical punishment that’s intended to cause pain; it’s used as retribution or discipline for an offense or as a deterrent against such acts. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on corporal punishment as it pertains to the discipline of minors/children.

“Spare the rod, spoil the child” is phrase that I’ve heard many times in my life. It is actually a scripture in the bible (Proverbs 13:24). There is also Proverbs 23:13-14 that says, “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” Then there is Proverbs 29:15 that says, The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. Rather you call it spankings, beatings, or behind whoopings; I am a product of all of it. My experience with it is different than some and similar to a lot. Experience A: victim of child abuse at the hands of one of my biological parents and their significant other. This involved cuts, bleedings, scorching hot water, rose bushes, and scars at various forms of healing. Experience B: My grandmother whooping my tail with a switch when I deserved it. It wasn’t always the #1 or only option, but was used when she deemed appropriate. When it was no longer effective, other options were utilized. I am a proud product of diversified discipline tactics, even the physical ones.

So when you take my personal experience with corporal punishment and mix it with my 10+ years in social work, what is my opinion on corporal punishment? I believe in spankings or as I’ve heard it referred to many times in my life…ass whoopings.

I believe and support them as AN option but NOT the only option.

It should be pertinent to the offence and done in a way that will rehabilitate the behavior. Instilling fear isn’t effective alone. A lesson attached to the behavior must be taught or no sustained purpose will be acquired. Thus, the behavior isn’t corrected. Lastly, no marks or injuries should be caused by the whoopings.

A child should not have to wear clothing to hide the evidence of a spanking and should not need to acquire medical attention.

My opinion: once any or both of this has occurred - we have crossed the line from spanking to abuse, i.e. criminal behavior. When spanking children is done correctly, it is not just used as an effective disciplinary tool but it establishes respect. Many times parents confuse respect vs fear and the negative long lasting effects that the latter can have on their relationship with their child. I’d rather for my child to respect me not fear me.

Researchers at Calvin College, a Christian school in Michigan, surveyed 2,600 people and included interviews with 179 teenagers. They concluded that children spanked by their parents may perform better at school and grow up to be happier than those who don't receive such punishment. Teenagers who were spanked up to age six reported that they were more successful in school, more interested in attending university, more likely to work as volunteers and more positive about life, the researchers say.

Dr. Jared Pingleton is a clinical psychologist and minister and serves as the director for Focus on the Family’s Counseling department. He states,Properly understood and administered, spanking is most effective as a deterrent to undesirable behavior for younger preschoolers (but never for infants). That’s because reasoning and taking away privileges often simply don’t work with kids in that age range. As children age, spanking should become even less frequent as other types of consequences are utilized. Spanking should be phased out completely before adolescence.

Punishment is motivated by anger, focuses on the past, and results in either compliance (due to fear) or rebellion and feelings of shame, guilt and/or hostility. On the other hand, discipline is motivated by love for the child, focuses on the future, and results in obedience and feelings of security. This is because the term discipline derives from the root word “disciple” which means “to teach.” Parents have an ongoing opportunity and responsibility to teach their children how to love well and live life as effectively and healthfully as possible. What we want children to understand is that the sting of a spanking is connected to the greater and often long-term pain of harmful choices. Simply put, prevention is easier than cure.

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