The Case Against Corporal Punishment
There are many arguments against spanking:
It is ineffective:
Spanking a child will stop the child from misbehaving for the moment. But studies have shown that the child's compliance will only last for a short time; corporal punishment actually increases the child's non-compliant behaviour in the future. "The best way to get children to behave acceptably nowadays is to listen to them, understand them, and impose limits on their conduct firmly but reasonably."
It can lead to abuse:
Because a spanking works for a while, the parent often repeats the spanking whenever the child misbehaves. Corporal punishment may then become a standard response to any misbehaviour. This can lead to increasingly frequent and harsher spanking which can lead exceed the "reasonable force" threshold and become abuse. According to the Institute for the Prevention of Child Abuse, "85% of all cases of physical abuse result from some form of over-discipline through the use of corporal punishment". Each year about 44 Canadian children are known to have been killed by family members; 35 of them by parents. The figures for the United States is probably about 10 times higher.
It can unintentionally cause serious physical damage:
- Boxing on the ear can burst an eardrum.
- Shaking can cause a concussion, whiplash, blindness, serious brain damage, or even death;
- Spanking can injure muscles, the sciatic nerve, pelvis, coccyx (tail bone), genitals or spine.
- Hitting a child's hands can injure bones, blood vessels, joints and ligaments; it can induce premature osteoarthritis.
- A child who is hit can accidentally fall and seriously injure themselves.
It trains a child to use violence:
Children who are often spanked learn that it is acceptable for the strong to use force against the weak. The concept that "Might makes right" is regularly reinforced. They have an increased likelihood of becoming more aggressive towards their siblings, their fellow students, and (later in life) against their spouses and their own children. Violence as a way of behaving is a learned response.
Slapping or any other type of force used on the buttocks is a sexual violation:
The buttocks are an erogenous zone of the human body. Their nerve system is connected to the body's sexual nerve centres. Slapping them can involuntarily trigger feelings of sexual pleasure which become mixed with the pain. This can lead to confusion in the child's mind which influences the way in which they express their sexuality as adults.
Spanking lowers a child's IQ:
A study at the University of New Hampshire, released in 1998-JUL, found that spanking children slows down their intellectual development. A study of 960 children showed that those who were rarely or never spanked had an average IQ of 102 (above average), whereas the frequently spanked children had an IQ of 98 (below average).
Spanking creates fear in the child:
"The message a toddler gets from a slap or spanking is that a parent or other loved and trusted adult is prepared to induce pain and even do physical harm to force unquestioning obedience. That's terrifying to a little kid...However well-intentioned, a slap registers as the shattering of the whole deal between parent and child. Young children are left awash in feelings of fear, shame, rage, hostility, self-destructiveness and betrayal that they can't yet resolve or manage."
Studies of mass murderers, "ordinary" murderers, rapists etc. generally show that they were victims as children of seriously abusive punishment during childhood. A preliminary study of inmates on death row of a US prison found that all had been so seriously abused as children that they had probably suffered brain injuries. If serious abuse causes such extreme anti-social behaviour, perhaps milder forms of punishment also contribute to violence in society.
Many feminists, who have been battling spousal abuse for decades, are proposing a complete ban on violence as one way of reducing battering within the family. A 1995 Canadian study funded by the Federal government found that corporal punishment of children is associated with increased:
- level of aggression by the child
- frequency of child delinquency
- frequency of violence and crime in later life
- chance of child abuse
The Case for Corporal Punishment
We have been unable to locate any credible research material that finds corporal punishment of children to be useful. The material that we have found indicates that it is ineffective and counter-productive. However, punishment is recommended in the Bible.
The phrase "spare the rod and spoil the child" is often incorrectly attributed to the Christian Bible. It was first written in a poem by Samuel Butler in 1664.
All of the Biblical quotations advocating corporal punishment of children are taken from the book of Proverbs in the King James Version of the Bible. They were written by King Solomon, and presumably reflect his parenting beliefs with respect to his son Rehoboam:
Prov 13:24: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (diligently)."
Prov 19:18: "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying."
Prov 22:15: "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."
Prov 23:13: "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die."
Prov 23:14: "Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (Shoel)."
Prov 29:15: "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame."
An additional verse from the New Testament is occasionally cited as justification for physical punishment of children by parents. But it is not clear whether the discipline, referred to at the end of the verse, refers to corporal punishment or to some other form of correction (e.g. removal of privileges):
Hebrews 12:6-7: "...the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?"
The Bible itself records the negative effect that Solomon's parenting style had on his son Rehoboam. He became a widely hated ruler after his father's death. He had to make a hasty retreat to avoid being assassinated by his own people:.
1 Kings 12:13-14: "And the king [Rehoboam] answered the people roughly, and forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given him, and spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions."(ASV)
1 Kings 12:18: "Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the men subject to taskwork; and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem." (ASV)
These same events are recorded in 2 Chronicles 10:6-19.
Some religious liberals interpret these passages as accurately reflecting Solomon's parenting style, and the devastating consequences of corporal punishment on children. But they reject the concept that the passages in Proverbs represent God's intent for parents.
Language alone doesn't work
People who think that you can discipline a child by simply talking to him/her are fooling themselves. What about children who are too young to speak fluently enough to understand?
Children don't have enough experience to understand what certain tones of voice mean (eg they don't always understand when you are upset/angry by just listening to your voice)
Lesson 1: Life is hard!
Life isn't fair and often painful/upsetting. If we don't teach our children this at an early age, they will find it difficult to adjust (adapt) later in life. In the modern world we spoil our children. If we protect our children from danger all the time they will grow up soft and will not be successful.
I was slapped as child and I'm fine.
Many people who were hit as a child go on to achieve a lot in their life. In fact, this treatment may have helped them to be successful. It can be a good way to teach discipline.
Look at the world today
In the modern world, Corporal punishment has been made illegal in many European countries including the UK. If you look at teenagers today they are becoming more and more daring and rebellious and violent. There is more violence on today's streets than ever before because corporal punishment isn't used. Children need to be clear about what is correct/incorrect behaviour from an early age.