Although 31 states have currently banned the practice of corporal punishment, there are 19 states which permit it to be used in schools. It is defined as a physical punishment which involves hitting someone. Most schools will practice corporal punishment through the use of paddling or a hand in the form of spanking.
There are extreme instances of corporal punishment practiced in schools that use tasers, chemical sprays, and leather straps.
Even though 94% of parents with children under four years of age report that they have spent their child at least once with in the past year, and another 76% of men say that a child sometimes needs to be spanked, corporal punishment in schools remains a controversial subject.
Is it OK to hit a child as a form of discipline? What alternative forms of punishment for negative behaviors be more appropriate? These are the pros and cons of corporal punishment to review.
List of the Pros of Corporal Punishment
1. It can be useful when used in moderation.
Most of the concerns which are associated with the use of corporal punishment come from using it excessively. The occasional use of physical punishment because of serious behavioral issues can’t be appropriate for some children when other disciplinary actions have not yelled at results. Taking away toys, or assigning a timeout spot, are not always valid with rambunctious children.
Some kids prefer to push the limits of the adults around them to understand what structures are appropriate. These are the children who typically respond in severe circumstances to a physical consequence that is appropriate for the behaviors they have chosen.
2. It sets clear boundaries that motivate children to behave at home or in school.
Kids make better decisions about their actions and behaviors when they understand what the penalties for misbehaving happen to be. This process allows each child to exercise and enhanced level of self-control. Advantages like this occur when the child understands that there are specific boundaries which cannot be crossed in certain circumstances.
The effect of corporal punishment can prevent children from continuing on with her negative choices that may want to allow them to accept criminal behavior that is something which is societally acceptable.
3. It tends to be a choice that students prefer.
Students were given a choice between detention, suspension, or corporal punishment will often choose the latter. That is because it is a swift punishment which doesn’t cause older kids to miss classes, activities, or valuable time on the playground. Disadvantage allows the child education to remain on interrupted, reducing the need for make-up work because they are missing class instructions.
4. It follows very precise rules when implemented.
Although some school districts do not offer guidance to their teachers or administrators regarding the application of corporal punishment, most have rules which must be followed when this disciplinary action is implemented. Louisiana’s Central Parish requires that three swats what’s the panel that is about 20 inches long and 4 inches wide is the appropriate punishment.
5. It creates a shock factor for children.
Kids don’t always realize that they’re about to rush into a dangerous situation. The behaviors that they display at school or at home may not seem like a poor decision to them. Corporal punishment, in whatever form it is applied, creates a shocking circumstance for the child which helps them to remember that their choices could create harm in some way.
Although spanking may not change short-term behaviors, it does create a message which can ring out loud and clear to children who are exploring boundaries. The circumstances around the consequence create a lasting memory which sticks with them for months or years afterward.
6. It requires parents for professionals to follow up after the consequence is administered.
One of the reasons why corporal punishment, what usually takes the form of spanking, feels like an abusive situation it’s because the physical consequences are only given. Parents, teachers, and administrators must follow up with each child after a consequence to ensure that they understand the reasons why it was given. This outcome only occurs when the consequence is provided in an environment which is loving and calm.
Most of the disadvantages that come with the use of corporal punishment are directly associated with its use when a parent or teacher are frustrated in the heat of the moment. Spanking, or any other form of physical consequences, should never be handed out when the person doing it feels anger toward the child.
7. It can be a way to teach respect for some children.
The use of corporal punishment instills a level of respect in kids who struggle to interact with authority figures. It establishes a boundary between who is in charge, and what the rules happen to be. This process can then help to lay the groundwork for some children to understand the moments where they are asked to listen compared to the moments when they are allowed to explore personal choices with more freedom.
8. Every method of discipline is ineffective at some point.
When you are trying to discipline a two-year-old, there comes a time at that age when no disciplinary method really works well. Any technique that is repeated enough times, including spanking and corporal punishment, will eventually get through to the child.
Although there can be some long-term consequences for children when this method of discipline is not applied in a loving environment, the benefits of using yet often outweigh the potential outcomes which would occur if no form of discipline was used at all.
List of the Cons of Corporal Punishment
1. Corporal punishment inflicts long-term harm both physically and mentally on children.
Children who receive physical punishment for their problematic behaviors are more likely to respond with aggression and have problems with attention compared to students who receive other forms of consequences. Studies have shown that frequent use of corporal punishment increases the risks of substance abuse, depression, stress, and anxiety for children of all ages. Kids who experience this type of discipline are also more likely to relate to various forms of violence involving power, which means they are more likely than the general population to become abusive later in life or display bullying behaviors.
2. Corporal punishment creates unsafe environments.
Whether physical punishments are used at home or in school, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that such consequences contribute to violent and disruptive behaviors in children. Kids to experience corporal punishment are more likely to hit other people as a method of circumstance to get their way. This behavior increases the risk of physical abuse within the classroom, at home, and even in public situations. The use of corporal punishment will signal to a child that this is the best way to settle and interpersonal conflict, which is why they turn to this behavior when they need something.
3. Corporal punishment harms the educational process for children.
Research into corporal punishment has shown that it has negative of fax, which is why it has been banned in military training and prisons in the United States. Even animals are protected from this type of punishment in all 50 states. When it occurs in a school, the students who are exposed to physical punishment as early as kindergarten are more likely to have lower vocabulary scores by the time they reach fourth grade. They also have lower fifth-grade math scores.
The schools in states were corporal punishment is permitted perform worse on the national academic assessment each year compared to the states that prohibit corporal punishment.
4. It is a practice which is banned by a majority of the developed world.
There are 54 countries which banned corporal punishment in every circumstance, including as a consequence option for parents at home. Other countries ban corporal punishment in most circumstances. There are only nine countries in the world which do not have any restrictions on the use of corporal punishment in any circumstance. Those nations are Guiana, Botswana, Malaysia, Nigeria, Palestine, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and Tanzania.
The response of the United States to the use of corporal punishment involves using it as a traditional means of disciplinary action instead of having a logical reason for it. As Daryl Scoggin, the superintendent of the school district and Tate County, Mississippi, told EdWeek.org, “it’s kind of like, I had it done to me, and so I knew what I needed to do. I guess it’s more that you learn by watching. We don’t practice on dummies or anything like that.”
5. There is the potential that someone could administer it incorrectly.
The most effective use of corporal punishment involves children who are in the preschool age range which have committed willful disobedience. It should never be used when a young child decides to commit a small act of defiance. Infants should never receive a physical consequence because they do not have the capability to understand the difference between a right or wrong decision. Older children with strong communication abilities might experience a better outcome if they were given a chance to speak about their behaviors in a safe environment.
If corporal punishment is administered incorrectly, the likely outcome is that the child will feel guilt or shame that is not associated with the behaviors that someone is trying to correct. The risks of resorting to this consequence in a moment of anger are what limit its overall effectiveness.
6. It creates an environment of fear for the child.
Although there are advantages in the creation of a shock factor when trying to teach a child a lesson, there is a difference between teaching through fear and teaching through love and concern. Far too often, kids see the administration of a physical consequence as a reason to fear the person who is giving it out. That expression of emotion doesn’t create a respectful relationship between the child and the other party involved. It creates compliance due to fear of another physical consequence instead.
This process creates a circumstance where the child may still not understand the difference between right and wrong. Their choices become based on deciding whether or not they want to receive the corporal punishment.
7. There is a fine line between discipline and abuse with corporal punishment.
There were 41 children placed into foster care by state officials in Georgia in 2001 because of allegations that the congregation of a church we’re beating these kids at the urging of their pastor. When interviewed about their behaviors, the members of the church said that they whipped the kids because it was a punishment for their incorrect choices. The parents involved refused an offer by the state to have their kids return and exchange for agreeing not to use corporal punishment in that way.
8. It communicates a set of values that one may not want their children to have.
The use of corporal punishment, even though it becomes a disciplinary tool, is a way to communicate specific values to a child. As Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, co-author of a book about hyperparenting, tells WebMD: “our children almost invariably pick up our values as we live them. So, if we demonstrate to our kids that hitting is an appropriate way to deal with this pleasure, we shouldn’t be surprised when they do the same thing.”
9. It has the same failure rate as other forms of discipline.
Dr. Murray A. Strauss, co-Director of the Family Research Laboratory, says that there is one reason why spanking and other forms of corporal punishment feel like an effective approach. He says that spanking offers the same immediate failure rate as other disciplinary measures that parents try. The reason why it seems like the right course of action to take for consequences is that it is there a method of last resort.
10. It creates a risk of injury to the child.
The size difference between an adult and a child creates the risk of injury to kids who receive corporal punishment. That is one of the many reasons why parents to use physical punishment in the past expressed regret for their decisions today. Those who do keep using it tend to have received it themselves when they were growing up. This process creates a cycle of behavior that makes more likely for some children to experience injuries because of their discipline that could be worse than the natural outcome of a poor decision.
These pros and cons of corporal punishment are not intended to serve as a moral guideline for those who preferred to use it or for those who avoid it. There are tangible consequences which can last for a lifetime when children are exposed to corporal punishment over a long time. This approach may also teach some children specific boundaries of safety, like remembering to look both ways before crossing the street, that can protect them from harm as they grow up. Each family, and each school district, must make decisions that reflect what will best serve the needs of their children.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.