The present paper is about the use of corporal punishment for the children. It discusses the three main areas related to corporal punishment such as is it really necessary to use corporal punishment? Or is it an effective mean of discipline for children? And the laws about corporal punishment, and other alternative techniques to corporal punishment. The paper also mentions some studies conducted on corporal punishment to see its consequences on children. Most of the studies suggested that corporal punishment has negative consequences for children, that's why some of the countries have banned corporal punishment in their countries because it was creating many aggressive and anti-social behaviors among children. It is concluded that corporal punishment is not an effective mean of learning rules and regulations for children but there must be some alternative techniques for the children to learn rules. The most important strategies involve unconditional positive regard, responsive nature of parents, promotion of words than action, and reinforcing the desired behaviors. Collectively, psychologists do not recommend the use to corporal punishment and believe that corporal punishment should not be used in homes and schools for children.
Keywords. Corporal punishment, legislation, and alternatives
Corporal punishment in schools or homes could be defined as any physical activity to maintain the discipline of the school, usually provided by parents, teachers, or school instructors as a punishment if students misbehave in some manner. There are different types of corporal punishment such as pinching (anywhere on the body), slapping (anywhere, but mostly on face or hands), and spanking (generally with any object or stick). The application of corporal punishment could be done privately in a room or in schools in front of the whole class. Some people believe that corporal punishment is a method of maintaining discipline, but other people say when this method is applied practically, it doesn't give effective results. Corporal punishment is banned in some countries, though it is still used in many countries (Gilles, 2018).
The first state of United States that banned corporal punishment was New Jersey in 1867. It took a whole century for another state to ban the corporal punishment. In this era, almost 31 states have banned corporal punishment in schools. Still, some of those states use corporal punishment in their schools. On the other hand, private schools tend to avoid the use of corporal punishment for the students because they more focus on the modern methods of learning which are more effective than corporal punishment. The states in which corporal punishment is not banned and still used (both for public and private schools), all types of punishments are not allowed. They have allowed specific types of punishment and the information about that punishment is written in a document i.e. which type of punishment is allowed, how much strokes should be given, and who is permitted to give the punishment, etc. Even for some schools, they must have to take permission from the parents before practicing the punishment for their children. That document is also helpful in keeping a record about consistent punishment, clear and balance rules for all the students, and to inform the parents about the consequences of violating any rule (Gilles, 2018).
Is Corporal Punishment an Effective Mean of Discipline?
Corporal punishment is a widely used technique in families and schools and it is still a controversial topic to discuss when it comes to the child's psychological development. A large meta-analysis study (of 88 types of researches) was conducted by Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff (2010) to explore the effects of corporal punishment on children. She noticed both positive and negative behaviors in children that were associated with corporal punishment. During her analysis of 62 years of data, she noticed the eleven types of behaviors including in childhood (immediate compliance, moral internalization, quality of relationship with parent, and physical abuse from that parent), three behaviors in both childhood and adulthood (low psychological well-being, aggression, and antisocial behavior), and just one in adulthood (abuse of children and spouse). She found a strong connection between corporal punishment and all these behaviors. From these behaviors, only one behavior that was associated with corporal punishment was positive such as child's immediate compliance, but other ten behaviors associated with corporal punishment were negative such as aggressive behavior and anti-social behavior.
So, she concluded that corporal punishment is only effective when we want a child to comply immediately, otherwise, it can turn into physical abuse and physical maltreatment. The findings of the meta-analysis showed that the aggressive nature of the child depends upon the severity of corporal punishment, the more severely a child was hit, the more aggressive he would become. In her study, Gershoff also described a wider amount of literature about parenting styles to explain why corporal punishment cause negative consequences for children. First of all, corporal punishment doesn't help children to differentiate between right and wrong direction. Secondly, it makes children afraid to misbehave when parents are present, but in the absence of parents, they are more likely to misbehave than other children. At the end, Gershoff concluded that parents use excessive amount of corporal punishment, but they do not tell the exact severity that is the reason, it mainly has negative effects on children and whatever the reason is, we as a psychologist cannot recommend the use of corporal punishment for the children because it is not effective (Gershoff, 2010).
What does Law say about Corporal Punishment?
Nowadays, many countries have started to take up legal bans on the use of corporal punishment increasingly. It is an interesting fact that countries that have a representative type of government have legally banned corporal punishment. Several governments have taken the step to ban the corporal punishment in the schools as well. Countries with the non-representative government have different perspectives regarding the use of corporal punishment for children. Different laws that banned corporal punishment have different perspectives regarding the use of language and range of punishments. Most of the studies conducted to compare the attitudes and behaviors of people prior and after banning the corporal punishment suggested that general support of people declines after the enactment of the law about banning corporal punishment in states. Similarly, behaviors related to declining in corporal punishment were universal after the enactment of corporal punishment laws (Zolotor & Puzia, 2010).
Studies also suggested that when there is a lot of data is available then attitude and behaviors or people regarding corporal punishment support start to decline even before the ban of corporal punishment and it continues to decline even after the ban of corporal punishment. So, studies concluded that legislation of corporal punishment is not an objective part, but it is an important aspect of people's cultural values. In any country with a representative government, the ban is not applied in a vacuum but there is enough evidence present about that issue then ban is considered by the lawmakers. The same thing happens with the corporal punishment, whenever a country wants to ban on this, they have a history of declined supportive behaviors of corporal punishment. And when a ban is enforced in any country, its practice is reinforced to maintain a healthy environment in any country. A ban on corporal punishment cannot be enforced without any solid evidence against its use. At the end, the study also suggested that when there is a decline in the use of corporal punishment, the rate of severe physical abuse for the children also declines (Zolotor & Puzia, 2010).
What should be Effective Alternatives to Corporal Punishment?
There are a lot of programs and alternatives to corporal punishment which provide a greater understanding to the parents about the psychological development of their children. These programs also help parents to learn effective parenting strategies that can lead to less violent behaviors in children and teens, they eliminate the helplessness and irritation in parents that is a cause of corporal punishment usually. There are many benefits of learning new alternatives to maintain discipline and the most important technique is reinforcing the desired behavior rather than punishing the undesired behavior. Because most of the children respond very poorly to the corporal punishment, they need more effective alternative techniques for discipline. Some of the techniques are described here (Carter, 2018).
First, there is a need to create an encouraging environment for children. For that purpose, parents need to change their approach that focuses on undesired behavior to the approach that focuses on desired behavior and when the child shows desired behavior, parents should encourage them and give any reward to him so that he will more likely to repeat same behavior in future. The second technique is about giving clear and simple instruction while maintaining a proper eye contact with the child, so the use of words must be appropriate and simple for the children because they do not like to hear long and complex instructions which are not understandable for them. When parents can sense when the child is going to misbehave in certain situations, then they must have some box of toys or any other activity for the entertainment and engagement of the child. Most importantly, the parents must be responsive to their children and must provide unconditional positive regard to their children because it will build a strong connection of trust between their relationships. There are some behaviors that must not be ignored, so parents must find some effective punishment for the children to use occasionally not daily, that will help them learn to differentiate between right and wrong behaviors. One of the most effective ways to improve a child's development is the promotion of words instead of actions because if a child would learn to verbalize his feelings, he will delay his actions. So, this process would be helpful for a child to learn self-regulation, decision making, and self-awareness (Carter, 2018).
It is concluded that all children misbehave in some manner and when they do all the parents face some challenges to teach their children the appropriate discipline. It is a very irritating situation for the parents when their children act out of their significant behavior and which is not socially acceptable. I agree that children need to learn certain rules and regulation to fit in society and they expect their parents to do this. But there are many ways than corporal punishment to teach the children basic rules of the society such as positive reinforcement, taking out the incentives and physical punishment.
I am not in favor of using physical punishment for the children in their childhood because physical punishment may have a short-term influence on the children but mostly has long-term negative consequences such as poor self-esteem, fear, aggression, depression, anxiety, and personality problems. In extreme situations, physical punishment can cause more abusive and severe behavior towards children. Abuse can cause arrest, injury, loss of custody, jail-time, and in even the death of a child.
I always wonder why parents use physical punishment when there are many influential and beneficial ways to deal with the children when they don't behave in a socially acceptable way. The most significant ways to initiate is positive, healthy, and supportive behavior with the children. You can provide them with clear instructions about the desired behaviors so that they would have an idea about it and when they perform the desired behavior, make sure you provide them with an incentive. In other words, reinforcement (positive & negative) is the most important way to learn acceptable behaviors to your children.
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