Growing up in a desi household, I’ve experienced the wrath of my strict Indian parents whenever I misbehaved. Many children have experienced something similar to this atleast at one point in their lives. Infact, approximately 300 million children aged 2 to 4 world wide (3 out of 4) experience violent discipline by their caregivers on regular basis.Most of these children will later suffer from mental problems such as anxiety,depression and subsistence abuse, only to list a few. While some might argue that corporal punishment works to stop a child’s unacceptable behavior and get them to listen,it only works momentarily,and in reality it harms the child both physically and mentally,as well as the parent(s) and their delicate relationship in the long run.
It is important to know what exactly corporal punishment is and what is included to consider it as corporal punishment. It is defined as physical punishment intended to cause physical pain on a child for the purpose of controlling the child’s behavior. It includes methods such as spanking,slapping,punching,pulling,hitting with an object and etc. Historically this was used in adults, more specifically prisoners and enslaved people,showing that these methods are not safe and meant for these young children and that they’re punished merely like a prisoner at such a young age. Unfortunately yet not surprisingly, the use of corporal punishment on children is not that uncommon around the world,especially in the U.S. To be more approximate,around 81% of parents say that spanking their children is sometimes appropriate, 35% of children experienced some form of corporal punishment at least once per year, 26% of men 18-59 reported having been spanked or slapped by a parent as a child and 61% of women report hitting ,beating, spanking or slapping their children. But what is sad is that this was nothing compared to other types of corporal punishment techniques that other cultures used around the world. Until the late 20th century teachers were allowed to physically punish their students and in Scottish schools they would use a leather strap with two or three tails to hit a child’s hand. The same method was used in some English schools were they were hit across their backside or hands. What these children experienced goes beyond just physical harm, as these “minor” punishments left unimaginable scars in their little minds for the rest of their lives and we later realized this with the help of years of research, leading to the prohibition of physical punishment in all settings in 191 out of the 196 countries in the world. Even though, we took a major step on this issue, there is still more work to be done as there are still some nations and many parents approving of corporal punishment and some who still use corporal punishment on their children.
As Nelson Mandela, a political leader, philanthropist and a past president of South Africa, once said, “Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.” Our children are our nation’s treasure and the way we treat them in the present determines their own future as well as every nation’s future. Children are very fragile, innocent and naive, they learn what they were taught or what they experienced, and they grow from that, later expressing these things through their actions. And Corporal punishment used on a child is a perfect example of that. Corporal punishment can legitimize violence for children, especially in their interpersonal relationships as children tend to embody the social relationships they experience. The social learning theory by Bandura, the view that people learn by experiencing others, also suggests that physical punishment permits children to learn aggressive behavior through modelling.
So ironically, if parents try to change their child’s behavior through physical harm, then those children are more likely to do the same to others when they want to influence their actions. And we definitely don’t want a future filled with people who use violence of any kind to control people and their actions, considering the fact that most parents around the world and in the U.S still uses corporal punishment as a means of disciplining their children. And this is only one of the long term effects of corporal punishment. Research has also shown that corporal punishment can lead to depression,personality disorders,anxiety and drug and alcohol abuse. From a government survey of 35,000 non institutionalized adults in the U.S, gathered between 2004 and 2005,almost 1,300 of the respondents, all over the age of 20 considered to have experienced some kind of physical punishment throughout their childhood. Nearly 20 of the people who remembered being physically punished has been depressed and 43 percent had abused alcohol at some point in their life. To give an even more detailed look into the life of a child that have experienced corporal punishment, here is the story of Kathy Darbyshire,42,of Columbus ,Ohio.
Kathy was hit nearly everyday of her childhood by her parents, especially her father who would slap her with the back of his hand when he was angry.She had constant nightmares and became so anxious that she could barely sleep.Her first suicide attempt came at age 7,when she stabbed herself with a butcher knife. She made several more attempts in the future years. Life as an adult wasn’t easy either, she married an emotionally abusive man and been in and out of mental health treatement for 20 years, diagnosed with depression. As a child this is something you never want to experience but unfortunately most children who experienced corporal punishment have experienced or is still experiencing depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses and in some extreme cases this can lead to suicide. In the end we put our future at risk as we physically punish our children for the sake of disciplining them, leading to a nation filled with depressed, anxious and scarred adults.So if we don’t protect our children and our future,then who will?
Some parents argue that corporal punishment is an effective way to get their kids to listen, and it is true that corporal punishment can work except the fact that it only stops the undesired action and makes the child compliant at that moment. Not only does it work momentarily but in the long run, pain and fear can prevent kids from learning the lessons that the parents are trying to teach them, which is indeed counteractive. Others might also argue that corporal punishment such as spanking, hitting, are mild and ordinary and it is very different from physical abuse. But research shows that milder forms of corporal punishment are risk factors for more severe forms of physical abuse.
As mentioned before, corporal punishment models aggressive behavior which teaches children to solve problems with violence and it is not any more effective than a time out. Research has additionally shown that spanking quickly loses effectiveness over time. When children are spanked, they don’t learn how to make better choices and eventually, spanking stops being a deterrent. Not only is corporal punishment ineffective, it also damages the relationship between children and their caregivers. Trust, stability and security are key components to helping a child develop the skills they need to manage his own behavior.
Corporal punishment erodes the relationships and makes behavior management more difficult. Interestingly enough, a 2009 study published in Journal of Aggression Maltreatment & Trauma found out that spanking lowers a child’s IQ. They have found that stress and fear associated with being hit takes a toll on a child’s brain development. The more a child was spanked, the slower the child’s mental development. Although corporal punishment can work, the negatives outweighs the positive, which is it works momentarily and does more harm and act counteractive to the purpose.