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Jesse Harris

Dr. Jojo Munoz

November 6, 2006
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Spanking Children is Wrong

Spanking, and corporal punishment in general, is a controversial issue in many

countries. Many people question whether children should be spanked, whether it is an
effective method of discipline, and whether or at what point it constitutes child abuse. I
will address these and other questions by examining empirical studies and quoting expert
opinions. With sound reasoning and critical thinking I will refute arguments for the use
of corporal punishment and spanking in particular. I will demonstrate that not only is
spanking ineffective, it is also unethical and creates a fearful, angry environment. Also,
using spanking and other forms of violence do not teach children lessons of right and
wrong. Finally, I will point out alternatives to spanking which have proven to be more
effective methods of parenting and correction.
To understand why spanking is wrong, it is first important to understand what it is
and how, when, why and where it is used. Spanking is a form of corporal punishment
which is the intentional infliction of pain on the body for purposes of punishment or
controlling behavior. It includes slapping, spanking, hitting with objects, pinching,
shaking, and forcing to stand for long periods of time. Spanking is the most form of
physical correction and is the focus of this argument. However, the arguments against
spanking can me applied to corporal punishment and violence in general. Confusion
surrounding the practice stems partly from the difference in opinion concerning what
constitutes a spanking. The AAP refers to spanking as "striking a child with an open hand
on the buttocks or extremities with the intention of modifying behavior without causing
physical injury." In general, spanking consists of one or more sharp smacks, usually
with an open hand, usually applied on the buttocks. Sometimes spanking refers to
striking other parts of the body, most often arms and legs, but in the U.S. and Canada, all
posterior discipline is usually known as spanking. In Britain and many Commonwealth
countries smacking or whacking is used as the general term; with spanking usually
referring to bare hand discipline (as opposed to implement-specific forms such as belting,
whipping, paddling, caning, birching, and slippering). However, the U.S. generalization
of spanking which includes these terms is becoming more common. Other terms often
used interchangeably with spanking include; striking, whupping, thrashing, licking,
posterior chastisement, posterior alignment and stern discipline. Another term used is
dressing-down (though this often refers to the lecture that precedes the actual spanking
and probably refers to the undressing of the buttocks that often occurs during the lecture.)
Other terms used interchangeably with spanking refer to the painful effects caused by the
punishment such as; blistering, grilling, roasting, and humbling. It is striking how the
(mainly informal) terminology is usually determined by the punisher's point of view, with
terms such as lesson, medicine, ordeal, therapy, (woodshed) treatment, even helping,
sometimes adding adjectives such as firm, (jolly) good, healthy, sound, well-deserved,
and (long) overdue. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanking)
Besides spanking with ones hand, various implements are commonly used. These
include; a cane, a belt or strap, various types of whips, a martinet or tawse (commonly
used in France), a switch or other form of rod, electric spankers and paddling machines
(used for initiation in Masonic lodges), or a paddle which has been the favored
implement used in the U.S. Various household objects have also been commonly used
for spanking including wooden spoons and rulers, hairbrushes, slippers, and other types
of footwear. However, when footwear is used (not wielded by hand) the term booting is
usually used instead of spanking. One study shows that by their seventh birthday a
quarter of all boys and nearly as many girls have been hit with one of these or other
'suitable' objects. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanking)
Spanking is usually used domestically in a paternalistic mentality which intends
or claims to (re)educate spankees, often ‘for their own good’. In some countries,
spanking is also used judicially which essentially aims to enforce the social code 'for the
common good' (social cohesion, public safety and morality etc.), usually with a
traditional, often even formally imposed
Although spanking is generally considered corrective punishment, without
intention of permanent physical injury; such intentions do not always have their desired
result, nor is the amount of the emotional injury easily quantifiable. There are questions
over what level of pain is appropriate until it crosses the threshold into abuse. Up until
the mid-20th century it was perfectly acceptable in most communities for a spanking to
cause a child to cry in pain throughout and have trouble sitting down afterward, even
leaving stripes or bruises for days, sometimes even lasting scars. Today many people
(including courts in some countries) consider even mere redness of the skin abusive,
though others would call it effective discipline.
Spankings are most often administered to children, particularly by their educators.
Mostly these educators are parents of guardians, schools or orphanages. Historically, and
even currently to a lesser extent, spankings have been administered to people considered
moral and/or legal minors. These people include wives and women in general (typically
by their husbands), prostitutes (by their pimps), servants and slaves (by their masters),
accused sinners (by clergy given the right of penitence), indigenous populations that were
considered culturally immature (by colonialists during Apartheid
etc.)(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanking) In the United States, spanking as punishment
has shown a long-term decline. In the 1950's, ninety-nine percent of parents supported the
use of corporal punishment of children. In recent years that number has fallen. Surveys
generally report about fifty percent of parents advocate corporal punishment and 65 -
87% of Americans spank.(http://www.empathicparenting.org/spank.htm) Studies show
that a majority of parents who use corporal punishment feel badly about it and don't think
it works to improve behavior.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanking) Among
Southerners, 62 percent of parents spank, compared to 41 percent in the rest of the
country. (ABC News poll, 2003)
DCS, whose purpose is to receive and screen reports alleging child abuse or
neglect and to protect the safety of children, is responsible for establishing that line
between discipline and abuse. According to DCS, physical abuse is defined as "non-
accidental physical trauma or injury inflicted by a parent or caregiver, and should not be
confused with developmentally appropriate, discipline-related marks and bruises on the
buttocks or legs of children over 5 when there is not past history of abuse or recent
screened-out reports." Physical abuse is considered a possibility when a child is allegedly
struck on parts of the body in a way that could result in internal injuries. The term
"abuse," encompasses many actions, including using degrading language, striking
someone with unnecessary force and under unnecessary circumstances, and unwelcome
touches, to the extent that children's well-being is sacrificed
(www.cpswatch.com/reports/freighttrain.htm). The last type of abuse, sexual abuse, is
quite common among children, and according to the Children's Defense Fund, 12 percent
of children nationwide are or will be victims of sexual abuse at some point during their
childhood (www.childrensdefense.org/ss_child_abuse.html).
There is no democratic, developed society honoring human rights that
allows violence as an acceptable method for settling conflict, as a tool for shaping
behavior or as a means for releasing anger or frustration. Most people in most countries
agree that it is forbidden to hit women, employees, soldiers, prisoners but this is not the
case with children. Occasionally we hear that it is permissible to hit children.
Proponents say it is for their own good, for education, because they don’t understand
another language, because it just shows our concern and, in short, because children aren’t
like us. Children are still not human beings. Instead of really dealing with the confusion
that exists among many parents regarding the education of their children in modern times,
a conflict that requires a great and serious investment, there are those who propose that
we escape to much easier solutions such as spanking. This may be easy but it is not
moral, it is illegal, dangerous and totally inefficient in the long run. Just as it is not
possible to be “a little pregnant”, it is impossible to rationalize “a little violence” or “light
smacks” or “educational spanking”. There is no greater contradiction than spanking and
education. Education through violence is not education. It is just violence. There is not
doubt that it is the right and responsibility of parents to educate, to set boundaries and to
set down rules regarding their children but there is no connection between that and
spanking.(Aren’t Children Human Beings? by Dr. Y. Kadman)
Many schools, from preschool to highschool use spanking as a form of discipline.
For example the U.S. District Court in Texas condones corporal punishment. On August
21, 2003, in Groveton, Justin Michael Causby was beaten on the buttocks with a wooden
board by his school coach. Justin's mother said "You could see blood through his
underwear" and Justin's doctor's said the bruises were "consistent with traumatic injury."
Texas Department of Education spokesperson, Geoff Wool said: "Corporal punishment is
allowed. If it's done in a measured, nonviolent way, it's not considered abuse."
If caning or strapping in school had worked as the 'last resort' or 'final sanction'
which teachers argued that they needed, you'd expect that one or two beatings would
have been enough to 'teach a lesson' to any child. But until physical punishments were
banned by law in state schools in 1987, their own punishment books told the opposite
story. In every school that used the cane it was the same handful of pupils who were hit
with it, again and again, sometimes as often as 10 times over a school year. Even if those
were the 'naughtiest' pupils who 'needed the cane' most, being beaten with it certainly did
not make them into better pupils who 'needed' it less.
In 1948, birching as a judicial punishment was abolished in the United Kingdom
and in 1957, flogging was abolished in the Navy. In 1967, corporal punishment in prisons
and borstals was abolished. That was also the year that the Plowden report, "Children and
their Primary Schools", recommended the abolition of corporal punishment in both state
and independent schools. The report stated: "We believe that the kind of relationship
which ought to exist between teacher and child cannot be built up in an atmosphere in
which the infliction of physical pain is regarded as a normal sanction. It is my clear view
that corporal punishment is wrong in principle: it is barbaric and inhuman. It is also
wrong in practice, because there is no evidence whatever that it is an effective deterrent
either for the child who may have been misbehaving or for other children." The Elton
committee, which studied the matter in considerable detail in 1989, said: "there is little
evidence that Corporal Punishment was in general an effective deterrent either to the
pupils punished or to other pupils. I hope that the House is aware that although the vast
majority--80 per cent.--of independent schools have the legal right to use corporal
punishment, they have already decided voluntarily to abolish it. Many schools concluded
long before any form of legal ban was contemplated that corporal punishment impeded
good education. I have seen no evidence to show that corporal punishment enhances
teaching or learning, that it enhances a child's life chances or makes a child a better
citizen, or to show that a classroom cannot be controlled without the threat or the use of
violence. Relatively few schools still indulge in this outdated practice. Other
disciplinary measures are available that are more appropriate in a modern school setting
and which allow children the opportunity to learn how to deal with conflicts.” Evidence
shows that children in schools that indulge in corporal punishment are either frightened
by the experience, which is not conducive to good education, or resentful and rebellious,
which is not good for discipline. There are many effective alternatives to spanking such
as “the withdrawal of treats, detention, performing useful tasks and extra home work.
With older children, peer group councils have been especially useful with bullies and
other disruptive behaviour. It is a far better form of discipline than corporal
punishment.”(UK school corporal punishment ban argued in the House of Commons,
March 25, 1998 Excerpt from Hansard (House of Commons Daily Debates) In 2006 Dr.
Yitzhak Kadman wrote a response to the claim that schools should return to using
spanking and corporal punishment for discipline. His response clarifies what is wrong
with using corporal punishment in education: "Education through violence is not
education. It is just violence."(http://www.nospank.net/causby.htm)
Corporal punishment of children in school is illegal in many western countries; it
remains legal in roughly half of the U.S. states, although it is commonly practised only in
the South. In each of these states, it is up to each school district to determine whether
corporal punishment will be used, in what situations will it be applied, and the manner in
which it is given – typically by a paddle. There are cases where school officials have lost
their jobs for spanking students. In the United Kingdom, The smacking of children by
teachers was made illegal in state schools in 1986 and extended to all schools in 1998. In
January 2006, the UK’s four child commissioners called for a full ban on smacking, but
this has been rejected by Tony Blair's government (Tony Blair has admitted spanking his
own children). In seventeen countries (2005) it is illegal such as Norway, Sweden,
Denmark, Austria, Finland, Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Malta,
Cyprus, Croatia, Israel and Latvia. New Zealand is currently debating whether or not to
outlaw parental spanking, having outlawed corporal punishment within its educational
institutions in 1989. Similar initiatives in the U.S. have repeatedly failed. The countries
that have banned corporal punishment of children in general have low rates of
interpersonal violence compared to the United States. Parental rights groups have formed
since the 1990s to prevent spanking from being criminalized. Critics of these
organisations ask why these organisations refer to corporal punishment as a parental
'right' without mentioning an equivalent need for parental responsibilities.The Supreme
Court of Canada has, as of 2004, upheld a law which allows spankings by parents,
caregivers, and teachers, but has restricted the law to only apply to children ages two to
twelve. Activists fighting for children's rights want a clear ruling to the effect that
children should receive as much legal protection as adults. Six European countries have
already banned the physical punishment of children. Under Canadian law, parents (and
other caregivers) can hit children as much as they like, short of doing them serious injury,
but hitting anyone else is a criminal assault. Physical markings now identify an abused
child. Teresa Cunio, LSW, of TCB Chronicles, states, "if there [are] any markings left on
a child then it is considered physical abuse.
The Constitution of the United States of America, guarantees that all people who
live within the borders of the United States are entitled to protection against cruel and
unusual punishment, whether they are citizens or not. Additionally, assault is a crime in
every state in the union. Therefore, proponents of the disciplinary corporal punishment of
children are not just asking to engage in a necessary practice, but to gain a special
exemption from the Constitution and from ordinary criminal law. Surely, in order to be
granted this special exemption, it must be demonstrated that the practice of disciplinary
corporal punishment not only causes no harm, but that it is necessary and beneficial.
Some people opposing spanking have speculated on the links between eroticism
and the spanking of children. They regard the spanking of children as a form of
pedophiliac sexual abuse, and also claim that childhood spanking may lead to the
development of paraphiliac behavior in later life. Donnelly and Straus, for example,
theorized that childhood spanking could lead to the development of masochistic
tendencies. (Straus, M.A. 1994) Even without sexual motives on the part of the punisher,
some maintain that spanking can interfere with a child’s normal sexual and psychological
development. Because the buttocks are so close to the genitals and so multiply linked to
sexual nerve centers, slapping them can trigger powerful and involuntary sensations of
sexual pleasure. This can happen even in very young children, and even in spite of great,
clearly upsetting pain. Dr. Teresa Whitehurst said "The literature is replete with accounts
of rape victims who never came forward to name their accuser or even to admit they'd
been violated because they were so ashamed at their bodies' involuntary response to
touch, thinking that this would suggest they enjoyed the assault. Nerve endings can and
do function without our conscious consent. The pendulum is beginning to turn against
spanking and paddling as science amasses more and more evidence regarding the sexual
role played by the buttocks, and the ways in which any touch--with a hand or with a
paddle--can create unwelcome but unavoidable arousal." (Dr. Teresa Whitehurst, member
of ChristCentered Christians for Nonviolent Parenting (CCNP); clinical psychologist;
author of How Would Jesus Raise a Child? (Baker Books, 2003), Project Zero, Harvard's
premier research institution.(http://www.nospank.net/aap5-a.htm) In the U.S. where
freedom is prominently valued, children should be afforded equal freedoms. One such
freedom is freedom from assault of any kind, including sexual assault. Children are
deprived that right.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanking)
Most experts say spanking is wrong. So why are so many parents still doing it?
Spanking advocates claim that spanking is an effective way to manage behavior. While
hitting a child may stop them from misbehaving, other ways of discipline such as verbal
correction, reasoning, and time-out work as well and do not have the potential for harm
that hitting does. Hitting children may actually increase misbehavior. One large study
showed that the more parents spanked children for antisocial behavior, the more the
antisocial behavior increased (Straus, Sugarman, & Giles-Sims, 1997). The more children
are hit, the more likely they are to hit others including peers and siblings and, as adults,
they are more likely to hit their spouses (Straus and Gelles, 1990; Wolfe, 1987).
Some advocates of spanking refer to Bible verses mentioning "the rod", and
assert that spanking is therefore an acceptable punishment from a Judeo-Christian moral
or religious point of view. Some attribute the quotation "spare the rod and spoil the child"
to the Bible; in fact, it comes from a poem by Samuel Butler entitled "Hudibras." The
Bible verse itself reads, "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is
careful to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24 (NIV)". Spanking advocates often interpret the
rod as being a physical device for beating, which most anti-spanking advocates disagree
with. It is likely that the rod refers to the shepherd's rod which was used to guide flocks
not beat sheep.(Greven, Philip) Many clergy today are speaking out against that
interpretation of scripture. The Reverend Dr. Thomas E. Sagendorf, retired Methodist
Minister, says the following “I can find no sanction in the teaching of Jesus or the witness
of the New Testament to encourage the practice of corporal punishment at home, school
or anywhere else. At its General Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2004, the the
second largest Protestant denomination in the United States (the United Methodist
Church) passed two resolutions against corporal punishment in homes, schools and child-
Some spanking advocates say they were spanked when they were young turned
out OK. Being spanked is an emotional event. Adults often remember with crystal clarity
times they were paddled or spanked as children. Many adults look back on corporal
punishment in childhood with great anger and sadness. Studies show that even a few
instances of being hit as children are associated with more depressive symptoms as adults
(Strauss, 1994, Strassberg, Dodge, Pettit & Bates, 1994). A landmark meta-analysis of 88
corporal punishment research studies of over six decades showed that corporal
punishment of children was associated with negative outcomes including increased
delinquent and antisocial behavior, increased risk of child abuse and spousal abuse,
increased risk of child aggression and adult aggression, decreased child mental health and
decreased adult mental health (Gershoff, 2002). While many people who were spanked
turned out OK, it is likely that not being spanked would have helped them turn out to be
Some spanking advocates claim that if children are not spanked they will grow up
rotten. Critics predicted that Swedish youth would grow up more unruly after parents
stopped spanking because of the l979 corporal punishment ban. Dr. Joan Durrant who
studied effects of the ban for l5 years reported that this did not happen. Her studies
indicate youth did not become more unruly, under socialized or self-destructive following
the ban. In fact, she said most measures demonstrated a substantial improvement in youth
well-being (Durrant, 2000). Professor Adrienne Haeuser who studied these educational
laws in Europe in 1981 and 1991 said “Children are receiving more discipline since the
law in Sweden passed. Parents think twice and tend to rely more on verbal conflict
resolution to manage their children”.
Spanking advocates often frame the issue as a matter of parental rights, stating
that parents have the right to raise their children in the way they consider most
appropriate. What about the rights of the child? The fact that a parent (or other
caregiver) is allowed to inflict physical and emotional pain on a child, whereas the same
act performed upon another adult would be tantamount to assault, also brings into
question the appropriateness of this form of physical punishment.
When young children "misbehave", they often do not understand what they did
"wrong", or, even more frequently, what they could have done instead to get their needs
met. Thus, when adults spank, they lose an opportunity to teach the child the correct
behavior. Even when parents talk to children and then spank, the act of spanking causes
feelings of mistrust, rebelliousness, and low self esteem to develop - none of which helps
teach the child appropriate behaviors. But, perhaps the most compelling argument for not
spanking is that spanking causes fear &/or stress for a child. According to brain
development research, a person's brain becomes unable to learn or less effective at
learning when under stress. Therefore, if your goal is to teach appropriate behavior, and
you spank, you actually set your child up for failure because the brain shifts into a fight
or flight mode and becomes less able to learn.
Physical punishment, when administered regularly, teaches violence and increases
antisocial behavior such as lying, stealing, cheating, bullying, assaulting a sibling or
peers, and lack of remorse for wrongdoing. Physical punishment increases the risk of
child abuse. Physical punishment serves as a model for aggressive behavior and for
inappropriate ways of dealing with conflict. Physical punishment erodes trust between a
parent and child. Physical punishment adversely affects cognitive development. Adults
who were hit frequently as children are likely to suffer from depression and other
negative social and mental health outcomes. It teaches children that physical violence is
an acceptable way to deal with other people. It is also possible that this may contribute to
physical abuse in cases of bullying at school and physical abuse on siblings in family
battles that occur between the children. Many cases of bullying at school have been
linked to physical abuse cases. Children hit for antisocial behaviors are more likely to
increase those misbehaviors. Hitting children teaches acceptance of violence. While most
of us who were spanked as children grow up to be healthy adults, spanking caused
anxiety, contributed to feelings of helplessness and humiliation, and often provoked anger
and a desire for revenge, feelings which have usually been repressed in adulthood but
may lead to depression, adult violence, and hitting our own children. Spanking teaches
children that violence is an appropriate way to treat one who offends. Spanking
perpetuates a "cycle of violence" which contributes to violent behavior in the child as an
adult. Children learn by example, and those subjected to the deliberate infliction of
physical pain "to teach them a lesson" will, the argument goes, learn that this is an
appropriate way to treat others who have wronged them. The clearest evidence that
physical punishments don't help to produce well-behaved, socialized people comes from
studies of murderers, rapists, muggers and other violent criminals who threaten the lives
and security of ordinary people. The life histories of notorious individuals - Adolf Hitler
amongst them - record excessive physical discipline in childhood. Studies of whole
prison populations all over the Western world show that criminals who use violence
against their victims almost invariably had violence used against them when they were
children. If our society is becoming increasingly violent it is certainly not because parents
'spare the rod'.
It is also argued that there is a significant risk in regards to the trust of a parent. If
children feel that they are being threatened by this form of chastisement, it is likely that
they may have difficulty believing that the parents are there to protect them because of
the claim "I would never hurt you" has been violated. This may impair their ability to
follow their parents or do what they advise and to listen to them.
Hitting children teaches them that it is acceptable to hit others who are smaller
and weaker. “I'm going to hit you because you hit your sister” is a hypocrisy not lost on
children. The child learns that they don not deserve respect, that good can be learned
through punishment (which is usually wrong, since punishment merely teaches the
children to want to punish on their own turn). The child is taught hat violence is a
manifestation of love (fostering perversion) and that denial of feeling is healthy.(Research
shows that children who have never been beaten are less interested in cruel films).
Child's play often imitates real life, especially featuring part of daily life, even the
most unpleasant. Thus it has been recorded by a captain in the Royal Navy that boys on
board often enacted the beatings they were subjected to in reality, both the 'day to day'
caning and the truly painful and humiliating public administration of a flogging taking
turns in the actual position on deck, sometimes including the lowering of the trousers.
No modern ethics committee is likely to approve research that involves violence
against children. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that physicians strongly
discourage disciplinary spanking and all other forms of physical punishment. Physical
redirection or restraint to support time-out or to prevent a child from harming himself or
others may be necessary, but should be done carefully and without violence. Physical
harm to a child inflicted by a parent out of control and in a rage is completely
inappropriate and dangerous.
Many humanitarian groups have argued for the prohibition of spanking and
other forms of corporal punishment. Since 1982, the Association for Childhood
Education International (ACEI) has sought to "promote the inherent rights, education,
and well-being of all children in home, school, and community." Consistent with its
overall mission, another major goal of the Association is to "facilitate desirable
conditions, programs, and practices for children from infancy through early adolescence."
Since 1995, the American Humane Association has had a formal policy against corporal
punishment in the home, and in schools and custodial settings such as foster care, group
homes, or other child caring facilities. We oppose corporal punishment of children and
advocate its replacement with alternative, non-violent discipline methods. As an
organization that voices the concerns of public child protective services, we also support
government policies that prohibit corporal punishment in foster care and other out-of-
home care settings. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently released its
strong and much publicized stand against spanking. According to the AAP, spanking "is
harmful emotionally to both parent and child, teaches children that violence is an
acceptable way to discipline or express anger, interferes with the development of trust
and security and causes emotional pain and resentment." The Academy suggests that,
while stopping behavior temporarily, spanking does not teach alternative behavior.
Seventy percent of parents who take the "spare the rod, spoil the child" approach
to discipline were themselves spanked as children, and not one admitted that expert
opinions affect the way they discipline their children. Only 20 percent said they found it
difficult to be honest with friends or other parents about their spanking habits, and 70
percent of parents who have spanked told themselves before having children that they
would not spank unless absolutely
When a bigger child hits a smaller one, we call him a bully. When a parent hits a
child to make him or her obey, is it really any different? Some people might say it is
different because that parent's motive is good. She spanks her child 'for good reason';
maybe even 'she does it for the child's sake'. But our society doesn't accept that 'good
motives' can make hitting people right.
If spanking and other physical punishments worked, you'd expect children who
are slapped or spanked 'when they need it' to learn to behave better and better so that they
needed punishing less and less often. But that's not the case. Families who start spanking
babies before they are a year old (and 63% of mothers surveyed in 1985 said they did
this) are just as likely to spank them very frequently when they are four year olds as
families which don't start spanking until later. In fact almost all four year olds are
spanked (97% of a big random sample of British children), so spanking babies and
toddlers clearly does not produce better-behaved pre-school children.
The Children's Defense Fund states, "The physical or emotional scars from such
experiences can sometimes last a lifetime if not treated. They can prevent children from
learning in school. They can make young people more vulnerable to violence and alcohol
and drug abuse" (www.childrensdefense.org/ss_child_abuse.html).
For several years, the American Academy of Pediatrics co-sponsored a
conference on corporal punishment with the National Committee for Prevention of Child
Abuse. At these conferences, studies have been reported showing that corporal
punishment of students is not only ineffective in changing undesirable behaviors, but has
undesirable results. Schools in which corporal punishment is used have a higher
incidence of aggression and vandalism. Students punished by or even exposed to corporal
punishment of others show symptoms of a post-traumatic stress disorder. The use of
physical violence to control behavior gives a message to children that this is the correct
and preferred method. The child remembers this message when he or she grows up and
becomes a parent. The problem is that children do learn how we feel. They learn that we
are angry and frustrated. They know that we are strong and powerful. That they did
something wrong does no impress them much. What does impress them is how scary and
confusing it is when a big strong person they love and respect threatens to or does hit
them. Often the hitting and yelling get out of control. They learn that it is all right to be
out of control when you need to control other people's behavior. Children need to be
taught to control impulsive behavior. Do we teach them by giving in to our impulse to hit
when we are frustrated because they will not behave? Corporal punishment is prohibited
in prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, and the military. It is prohibited in the schools in 19
states and in most developed countries. It is prohibited entirely in Sweden.(It's time to
change 'the American way of discipline' Arthur Cherry, M.D., FAAP, NEWS, September
Opponents of spanking state that there are numerous methods of non-violent child
discipline which they think are at least as effective as spanking, and without the negative
side-effects that they attribute to spanking. Instead of slapping hands that are in danger,
grabbing them is quicker and attracts just as much attention. Superior size and strength
should be used to defuse situations rather than to hurt. According to researchers, for
effective discipline consistency is key. It is important to make discipline issues black and
white, i.e., if something is wrong today, it should be wrong tomorrow. If parents make
discipline situational, children may not be able to comprehend each individual situation.
The AAP recommends providing positive reinforcement for good behavior. They stress
the importance of setting firm, consistent limits, and reprimanding a child immediately
for misbehaving.
Since spanking is wrong, the question arises; what can be done to prevent it?
Physical punishment in homes, schools, foster care, institutional and child care should be
banned. Programs Teacher Education, Social Work, Criminal Justice, Counseling,
Nursing, medical education and all human services programs should integrate knowledge
about the negative effects of physical punishment and the benefits of positive alternatives
into the curricula. on the negative effects of physical punishment and the benefits of
positive alternatives should be available and accessible to all parents and part of required
training for teachers, staff and students in public schools. State laws should be reformed
to make it a misdemeanor to strike a child. The Senate should ratify the U.N. Convention
on the Rights of the Child. The Surgeon General should establish a national blue ribbon
task force on physical punishment of children and begin an educational campaign to end
its use in all settings including homes. All federally funded parent education programs
should provide training on the negative effects of physical punishment and the benefits of
positive alternatives. Child abuse prevention grants should require that state programs
focus activities on eliminating parental physical punishment of children and supporting
positive alternatives.(EPOCH-USA Advisory Board, June 2005.)
We need more discipline of children such as explaining and reasoning,
establishing rules and consequences, praising good behavior in children and being good
models for or children. Such methods develop a child's conscience and self-control.
Children who experience teaching discipline are less likely to misbehave and more likely
to become self-disciplined adults.
Children learn much more through co-operation and rewards than through
coercion and punishments. Unfortunately parents don't always use their own attention to
encourage 'good' behaviour and discourage 'naughtiness'. In fact parents quite often get it
all the wrong way around. While children aren't doing anything bothersome parents leave
them alone on a sort of 'let sleeping dogs lie'principle. They don't volunteer
companionship. They don't even join in with any enthusiasm when the children try to
share a game or a joke. Eventually those children begin to feel lonely and neglected so
they make a bid for attention by interrupting, reciting rude words or fighting. They're
right, of course; that's when the parents do pay attention. Perhaps they don't realize that
children would always rather have cross attention than be ignored. Who gets not just
attention but candy in the supermarket: the child who is whining or the one who is
helping? It's usually the tiresome child who is bribed to co-operate but if there are sweets
on offer at all, they should really go to the one who is co-operating already. Some parents
deliberately ration attention and treats for 'fear of spoiling'. It's impossible to 'spoil' a
child with too much talk, play and laughter, too many hugs or even too many presents,
provided you give them because you want to. The child who may be at risk of turning
into a selfish, 'spoiled' person with no consideration for others isn't necessarily the one
who is given a great deal but the one who gets whatever s/he does get by bullying parents
to give in against their better judgment.
Teaching children how to behave doesn't really mean ensuring that they obey you
and behave as you want while you are watching them; it means helping them grow into
people who will one day do as they should and behave as they ought when there's nobody
watching them and no chance that they will be found out if they do wrong. That means
that you aren't just disciplining them from outside, but trying to help them build the kind
of self-discipline we call 'conscience'. To build that, children need to understand each tiny
everyday instruction or scolding so that they can fit it into the bigger pattern of how
people should 'behave' which is forming inside them.
We should adopt the well-known and respected principle of the Hippocratic Oath:
First, do no harm. This principle guides individual physicians in their evaluation of the
procedures available to them, but it also guides regulatory agencies, like the Food and
Drug Administration, as they decide whether to approve new forms of medical treatment.
In the medical world, the principle of doing no harm requires that physicians only use
techniques that have a reasonable chance of helping patients. If a pharmaceutical
company wants to sell a new pill that it claims cures the common cold, it needs to seek
legal approval by the FDA. The FDA will reject the proposed drug either because the
drug causes harm or because the drug does not have the benefits that its manufacturer
claims it has. It is considered highly unethical to administer a medical treatment that is
known not to produce the health benefits its manufacturers claim it will produce. To do so
would be fraud, because it would demand that the public pay money for a product that
does not work.
Accumulated research supports the ineffectiveness and harm of spanking and
other forms of corporal punishment. Based on that research, experts argue that spanking
is unethical and creates a fearful and angry environment which perpetuates a cycle of
violence. Furthermore, spanking is not conducive for education and discipline or for
healthy relationships since violence is taught and trust is violated. Spanking a child is
always wrong because spanking is not necessary to guide a child to responsible, polite
self-discipline - the goal of every parent. Based on the evidence, spanking should be
forbidden and the numerous more effective and beneficial alternatives should be
implemented. Effective discipline exists but it does not involve hitting and humiliating
Children Model Themselves on Parents

Young children are so focused on parents that even if they spend a lot of time in
daycare, or don't see much of one parent, they still do most of their social learning from
parents. Your child - let's say a son - will take in every detail of what you are like as a
person. He won't only take notice of what you say and do to him but of how you are with
everybody else. And he won't only do what you say, he'll do what you do. So don't expect
to operate a double-standard, just because you're a grownup and he's only a child.

Violation of Human Rights

Spanking violates the fundemental trust between parent and child, it is wrong to spank.
Spanking teaches that someone who loves you can hurt you, spanking is wrong.
Spanking is counterproductive and dangerous.
Spanking teaches children violence.
Spanking destroys the infallible certainty of being loved that a child needs.
Spanking causes anxiety; the expectancy of the next break.
Spanking convey a lie: they pretend to be educational, but parents actually use them to
vent their anger; when they strike, it’s because, as children, they were struck themselves.
Spanking provoke anger and a desire for revenge, which remain repressed only to be
expressed much later.
Spanking program the child to accept illogical arguments (I’m hurting you for your own
good) that stay stored up in their body.
Spanking destroys sensitivity and compassion for others and for oneself, and hence limit
the capacity to gain insight.
Spanking doesn't usually change behavior
Spanking violates the fundamental trust between parent and child

What is learned

"pick on someone your own size"

The removal of the clothing by the spanker may be seen as humiliating as the
child is made to experience being undressed by someone other than oneself. It also
procures a feeling of helplessness in that the child is no longer in control of the situation.
Most educators in modern-day Western societies consider avoidable humiliation
inappropriate. Others consider the humiliation of exposing one's bare buttocks a
legitimate or even essential part of the punishment, as the desired psychological effect is
to deter, more than inflicting pain as such.


There is even some evidence from the British study that they may be less able to
learn because physical punishments reduce children's IQ. Spanking may lead, it is
argued, to psychological damage and even possible PTS syndrome-related effects due to
prolonged fear, feelings of mistrust and being un-loved, alike with bullying at school or
other forms of abuse. It is also attested by neurological studies on neuronal stengthening
and pain in brain development that children have a lower pain threshold than adults.

Cycle of Violence

Children who are spanked most are more likely to be aggressive and hit others.

Works Cited:

Durrant, Joan E. (2000). “Trends in Youth Crime and Well-Being Since the Abolition of
Corporal Punishment in Sweden”, Youth and Society. Youth and Society, Volume 31,

Gershoff, Elizabeth (2002) “Corporal Punishment by Parents and Associated Child

Behaviors and Experiences: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review”, Psychological
Bulletin 2002. Vol. 128, No. 4 539-579. American Psychological Association.

Greven, Philip. (1992). Spare the Rod: The religious roots of punishment and the
psychological impact of physical abuse. Vintage Books.
Miller, Alice. (1990) For your own good: Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and roots of
violence. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.

Straus, M.A., Sugarman, D.B., & Giles-Sims (1997). “Corporal punishment by parents
and subsequent antisocial behavior in children”. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent
Medicine, 155, 761-767.

Straus, M.A., & Gelles, R.J. (Eds.). (1990) “Physical violence in American families: Risk
factors and adaptions to violence in 8,145 families”. New Brunswick, NJ: Transactions.

Straus, M.A. (1994). Beating the devil out of them: Corporal punishment in American
families. San Francisco, CA: New Lexington Press.

Strassberg, Z., Dodge, K.A., Pettit, G.S., & Bates, J.E. (1994). “Spanking in families and
subsequent aggressive behavior toward peers by kindergarten students”. Development
and Psychopathology, 6, 445-461.

Wolfe, D.A. (1987). Child abuse: Implications for child development and
psychopathology . Newbury Park, CA: Sage

Author: Nadine Block, Director of the Center for Effective Discipline and co-chair of
EPOCH-USA July 2005.

http://www.szasz.com/undergraduate/trout.html Child Abuse or Discipline: The Thin Line

Karen Trout Aerican University Washington, DC November 29, 2000

(Dr. Teresa Whitehurst, member of ChristCentered Christians for Nonviolent Parenting

(CCNP); clinical psychologist; author of How Would Jesus Raise a Child? (Baker Books,
2003), Project Zero, Harvard's premier research institution.

It's time to change 'the American way of discipline' Arthur Cherry, M.D., FAAP, NEWS,
September 1990

Aren’t Children Human Beings? by Dr. Y. Kadman

(EPOCH-USA Advisory Board, June 2005.)