Spanking vs. Other Forms of Punishment
Punishments are usually warranted if they can contribute to deterrence of wrongdoing. If the benefits of punishment offset its costs, then the form of punishment is acceptable. Punishment through spanking has been greatly scrutinized for being ineffective in inculcating discipline in children. Numerous studies have concluded that spanking and other physical forms of punishment can increase aggression and antisocial behavior in children. In addition, they can cause physical injuries while some children can develop mental health problems once they get used to corporal punishment. Some alternative to spanking include time-out, withdrawing privileges, logical consequences, and reward systems. Spanking is not an appropriate way of instilling discipline to children as it poses grave risk to their lives.
Why Spanking is not the Right Way
Parents are entrusted with the responsibility of molding their children’s behavior through numerous disciplinary actions. Punishments can only be justified on two grounds: consequentialism and retributivism. According to Lenta (2012), consequentialists validate a punishment if it can bring good, or qualify as a means to an end. A punishment should bring more benefits than costs. Spanking fails in the consequentilism theory because it inflicts pain on the subject, and does not bring anything good. Spanking can never be justified on the retributivist basis, particularly when referring to children. Retributivists believe that it is quite irrational to claim that young children are morally responsible for a wrongful act since they lack the capacity to reason, as well as maintain self-control. Some of the reasons against spanking are explained below.
- It is Quite Easy To Jump From Spanking To Abusing
One of the reasons why spanking should be discouraged is because some parents find it hard to control their temper and end up hurting their children. Before they realize that they have crossed the boundary, parents shift from spanking to hitting, slapping, or even cutting. Hopkin (2007) has offered a word of advice to parent that they should avoid spanking children while they are angry. Spanking is likely to damage the relationship between parents and children, as children develop “I hate you” attitude towards their parents. Parents may find it difficult to gain trust from their children in the future, as children will always disapprove their actions.
- Spanking Interferes With the IQ Development in Children
A study by University of New Hampshire and Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation on IQs of children between 2 to 4 years and 5 to 9 years, and the same study was carried out four years later proved that spanking affects IQ development (“Spanking affects children’s IQ,” 2009). According to this study, the IQs of children who did not experience spanking were five points higher than the IQs of children who were spanked. In the older group, children who were not spanked recorded 2.8 points above those who were spanked. These results illustrated that even a mild level of spanking made a notable difference. Children are incapable of learning anything when they are vulnerable to fear.
- Spanking Enhances More Misbehavior
Spanking should be discouraged because it results in more misbehavior in children. Signs of misbehavior in children include screaming, bullying, meanness, fighting, breaking things and threatening other children (Sclafani, 2012). Spanking is normally applied to end an immediate misbehavior, where children are forbidden from continuing with an instant behavior. Spanking teaches children of how to lie so that they can avoid being punished. According to Smith (2012), physical punishment can only work for a moment because children will fear being hit, but cannot solve long-term problematic behavior that may enhance children’s aggressiveness. Children will always look for ways to avoid their parents, unless they are assured of no punishment.
- Spanking Encourages Victimization And Aggressive Behavior
With spirited children, spanking is not only perilous, but can also backfire and create more problems as children grow older, since those with behavior problems may face peer rejection and victimization (Sclafani, 2012). According to Sclafani, Taylor’s research showed that three-year-old children who were regularly spanked were 50% more likely to become aggressive two years later compared to their peers who were never spanked. Spanking assists in the progress of aggressive behavior. When children find that they cannot get even with their parents, they turn to other children in a violent manner. Children are better off without spanking than they are when they face corporal punishment.
- Spanking Is Against Human Rights
All over the world, physical discipline is being perceived as a violation of human rights, especially when referring to children. In 2006, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child released a directive terming physical punishment as a “legalized violence against children”, which should be abolished through legislative, administrative, and intellectual measures (Smith, 2012). The legislation has been utilized as a public education tool, and not as a method of punishing parents who have developed a habit of spanking their children. Fundamental human rights offer limits of how children should be punished, as they do not have cognitive abilities to assist them in reasoning or practicing autonomy.
Can Spanking Be Acceptable?
Some of the defenders of corporal punishment believe that this form of punishment is psychologically harmless, but only when carried out on children aged between 18 months and thirteen years. A survey carried out in the US claimed that physical punishment seemed to decrease with children’s age where 80% of preschool age children had experienced physical punishment (Hyland, Alkhalaf & Whalley, 2013). The same survey showed that 90% of American parents have utilized spanking as a form of punishment during their parenting history. Sclafani (2012) reported that a study by Child Trend Data Bank of 2008 portrayed that 77% of men and 65% of women aged between 18 and 65 years had concurred that sometimes, a child requires “a good hard spanking” (p. 92).
Spanking should only be applied when children defy authority, rather than childish irresponsibility. When utilizing spanking, parents should avoid being harsh and spontaneous, and should avoid situations that may cause physical harm to children. Robert Larzelere, an Oklahoma State University professor, proposed conditional spanking, where parents use two open-handed swats on the child’s buttocks when the child defies disciplinary action, such as time-out (Smith). If properly administered, spanking can stall undesirable behavior in preschoolers, but not in infants. Spanking should also be reduced as children heads to puberty, as other forms of punishment are put into practice.
Other Methods of Instilling Discipline to Children
Apart from spanking, parents can exercise other forms of punishment that are effective and harmless. Some of the methods of instilling discipline include time-out, withdrawing privileges, logical consequences, and reward systems. Time-out is an excellent way of calming a child and avoiding aggression or noncompliance. Withdrawing privileges involves denying the child the opportunity to enjoy doing what he/she likes for a given period. Logical consequences, as explained by Popkin (2007), involve making children understand that their undesirable behavior have consequences. Children should be made to understand the link between their misbehavior and the consequences they are likely to face. A reward system involves offering incentives to children to encourage good behavior and forget their bad behavior.
Many parents who spank their children usually do so for lack of better options. Parents should avoid reprimanding their children while they are angry. They should calm down first before approaching them, as calming down can assist them to think of appropriate methods of disciplining children, other than spanking (Popkin, 2007). Parents should take their time to communicate to their children on appropriate methods of resolving conflicts. This practice can enhance trust and closer relationship with their children.
Spanking is not a suitable way of instilling obedience to children as it causes serious risk to their physical, as well as mental health. This form of punishment should be scrapped completely from all forms of discipline as it illustrates negative actions among children while in some instances it results in child abuse. All children require their parents’ love and attention, but spanking draws them away from their parents. Parents should distinguish between discipline and punishment, where the former means teaching while the latter means inflicting pain. According to Sclafani (2012), verbal corrections, time outs, as well as logical consequences are some of the alternative disciplinary methods that parents can utilize, and that spanking should only be applied when other disciplinary actions have failed.
Hyland, M. E., Alkhalaf, A. M., & Whalley, B. (2013). Beating and insulting children as a risk for adult cancer, cardiac disease and asthma. Journal of behavioral medicine, 36(6), 632-640.
Lenta, P. (2012). Corporal Punishment of Children. Social Theory & Practice, 38(4), 689-716.
Popkin, M. (2007). Taming the spirited child: Strategies for parenting challenging children without breaking their spirits. New York: Fireside.
Sclafani, J. D. (2012). The educated parent 2: Child rearing in the 21st century. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger.
Smith, B. L. (2012). The case against spanking. American Psychological Association. Retrieved on 11 November 2014 from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/04/spanking.aspx
Study finds spanking affects children’s IQ. (2009). Work-Life Newsbrief & Trend Report, 5-6. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=9ed5fb11-1bce-42b4-8924-f31cdfb36dc4%40sessionmgr4001&vid=0&hid=4208