I was 8 years old and living with my grandparents when I first saw my aunt beat her son when he refused to finish his meal.That was the first time I had seen an adult administer ‘corporal punishment at home’ on a child.

But this is something  parents and teachers have been doing in various countries throughout centuries.

Corporal Punishment At Home

Children were repeatedly punished by parents, teachers and bosses at work  back in the 18th century. However, this tide has after the recent shift in public opinion on spanking.

By definition, spanking is the act of hitting someone’s behind with an open hand. The This act has been questioned. Why do we prefer to hit our children? Does spanking  help? And if it does, will other form of punishments also help?

The proponents say that if used effectively, spanking is a good disciplinary tool. Children understand that a particular action is not acceptable if they are reprimanded for it.

According to a recent study, children who are spanked up to the ages of 6 become better performers in school and are more active in charitable works than those who have never been physically disciplined in their childhood.

Re-instigating the debate on spanking, a candidate for US presidential election in 2016, Ted Cruz, spoke rather positively about physically reprimanding his children.

He said, “You know I’ll tell you, in my house, if my daughter Catherine, the five-year-old, says something she knows to be false, she gets a spanking.”

Is Spanking Helpful In Disciplining Your Child?

Cruz’s statement caused a lot of social media fury but also gained support for his action. Marjorie Gunnoe, a professor of psychology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan also backed spanking and suggested that the opponents of corporal punishments do not have enough data. She states that spanking is a powerful yet dangerous tool that can provide desired results effectively.

Furthermore, spanking a child helps nurture respect between a parent and child and ensures that the child understands what is expected of them and adheres to rules.  In comparison to other forms of punishment, proponents claim that spanking is a milder yet appropriate act to get your point across.

A cohort study published in BMJ Journal on effects of spanking and child’s intelligence, revealed that there is no connection between spanking and high IQ levels in children. And behavioral improvements were hard to gauge. . So according to the researchers, “at best spanking could be neutral; at worst, they could be devastating.    

Aanother research conducted by Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, published in JAMA  a mother-child pair was randomly selected from different families and their relationship was explored. Using Behavior Problems Index (BPI) and other statistical methods, a relationship between neighborhood influences, child behavior and spanking was revealed.

It suggests that in a high-risk neighborhood and corporal punishment actually help the child in avoiding bad behavior. The author states, “These studies suggested that corporal punishment may not be harmful to children in certain types of neighborhoods.”. It should, however, be understood that this conclusion is solely dependent upon the high-risk environments of the neighborhood.

Hard and frequent spanking can be an extension of emotional abuse.

  • Contrary to popular belief, spanking does not improve verbal or intellectual skills.
  • Spanking desensitizes the child and it becomes difficult to discipline them.
  • A child’s self-esteem suffers and they exhibit rebellious and stubborn behavior.
  • The child can bundle up rage inside of them which can negatively influence their relationship with their siblings and friends.
  • Remember parents are a child’s role model. Youmay lose this prerogative in future.

Negative Consequences Of Spanking On The Development Of A Child

Pros aside, there are many studies that negate the act completely. One of the many points raised against corporal punishments is that it is detrimental to a child’s growth and development. Lina Acosta Sandaal, an expert in child and adolescent development says,

“The statistics and multiple negative outcomes of children that are disciplined with corporal punishment are well known to those who work with children. Children’s Trends, a research group, found that corporal punishment increases negative outcomes in adolescence like low academic achievement, alcohol and drug use, and antisocial behavior. They also found that the older the age of the child, the greater the negative outcomes.”

These researches, however, have not changed the attitude of parents towards spanking. It was reported that in US alone, 70% of Americans approve of “a good hard spanking” and 94% of parents of children aged 3-4 also spank their children.

There is a huge disconnect between theory and practice.

Sandra Graham-Burman, an investigator at the Child Violence and Trauma Laboratory, says,

“It’s a very controversial area even though the research is extremely telling and very clear and consistent about the negative effects on children. People get frustrated and hit their kids. Maybe they don’t see there are other options.”

Furthermore, Dr. Catherine Taylor, Tulane University, and colleagues concluded in a 2010 review”: ‘Even minor forms of corporal punishment, such as spanking, increase risk of  aggressive behavior in children.”

Corporal Punishment At Home — Why Is spanking Still An Acceptable Form Of Punishment?

Parents are at times slaves to their own exhaustion andimpatience. They might know that hitting a child is not good but they don’t any better. It is also possible that they were hit as children and consider it ‘normal’.

However, parents should realize that they can avoid the mistakes their parents made and bring about a change in parenting. Spanking has a direct link to mental health problems. When a child is spanked, they learn the act of violence. They may assume that beating others is the only way to get what you want.

A study at Cornell University regarding corporal punishment at home stated that spanking is directly proportional to child abuse. If you reduce the amount of spanking, you can reduce risk of child abuse. If hitting a child is acceptable to a parent, verbal abuse and greater physical harm can easily follow.

A report suggests that during infancy, child abuse occurs in the form of maltreatment or neglect from parents or guardians. However, as the child grows and becomes an adolescent, such violence can turn sexual in nature as well. Statistics show that one in four children experiences physical violence, one in every five girls and one in thirteen boys are sexually violated.

Laws Against Corporal Punishment At Home

Corporal punishment is considered a violation of a child’s human rights. The Committee on rights of the Child stated in 2006 that corporal punishment isa legalized form of violence against children. Over the years, many countries have adopted laws against corporal punishments that include Argentina, Sudan, Sweden, and Israel to name a few. Yet there are many other countries such as UK, USA, and Australia that have yet to condemn and stop corporal punishment in houses.

In the US, the social acceptance of corporal punishment is quite high.  A study states that in a year, an approximate one billion children across the world experience abuse, whether physical, sexual or psychological. So should governments intervene and protect children from corporal punishments at home? Should laws be set in place??

INSPIRE is a seven-tiered strategy that has been developed by 10 different agencies that work towards reducing violence against children. The aim of this strategy is to eliminiate child abuse completely. INSPIRE aims to get the governments of different countries to coalesce and agree upon reforms, implement them and allow routine monitoring and interventions to see whether the statistics of abuse lessen over time. It demands that all state parties understand the inefficacy of violence against children.

World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a detailed study on the consequences of violence against children. The study includes physical injuries such as internal damage, head injuries, broken bones and burns. A child can undergo depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and if the abuse is long lasting or has had a greater impact, they can also become suicidal. In its 7 tiered reforms, INSPIRE discusses legislations that should be placed to protect children in their homes.

Assuming that spanking can be abolished completely is  naïve and overly-optimistic. However, awareness among parents needs to be increased to prevent negative effects of corporal punishment. Support has to be provided to agencies such as INSPIRE and parents should be guided to adopt a better alternative to physically harming their child.

Timeout is a good alternative to spanking. Negative punishment, or taking away something that the child likes, is also an effective method.  These techniques force the children to think about what they do and how they behave.
Sitting down with your child and talking to them can help as well. Guiding them with compassion and through logic can also assist the child in making the right decision the next time.

Parents who have unresolved anger issues of their own should look inside themselves first. They should recognize if the urge to spank is coming from their own impatience or exhaustion or the child’s behavior. By stepping back from the situation and analyzing it carefully, the parent will be able to make a decision that will be beneficial for the child in the long run.