The Truth Behind Spanking: Is It Discipline Or Punishment

Spanking – is it something you do?

“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverb 13:24 (ESV)

Most of us over 40 years old grew up in an era where ‘spoiling the child’ was never an option. That was the case in my neck of the woods, Gibraltar in the parish of St. Ann, Jamaica where I grew up. As long as you were an adult in our small community, you had the right to discipline any child who may have done ‘wrong’. This was the expectation of all persons in authority, particularly teachers.

It was commonplace to hear a parent/guardian telling the teacher to spank a child, “Just save the eyes.”  Corporal punishment was the norm in the educational system. Spanking was an integral part of the discipline in all schools.  In fact, the canes used for this purpose were sold in the book stores.

In addition to distributing the chalk/crayons and books, each teacher received a cane with their standard supplies.  I vividly recall there was a particular male teacher who would utilize at least two to three canes in any given school year.

Spanking Today

Today, that teacher would be charged with child abuse or some other offence.

Spanking and in the more extreme cases, the beating of children extends to the home. Sometimes, parents spank their children out of desperation. When the kids frequently misbehave, parents may feel they are at the end of their ropes and are not sure what else to do. Often you will hear the cry, “Nothing else seems to work.” Parents also resort to spanking when exasperation sets in. It becomes the first line of defence, with the parent reacting out of anger or fear. This serves neither the child nor the parent.

As a parent, I seldom disciplined my child by spanking him. I tried other methods and they were effective. However, on the rare occasion when I was forced to spank my son, I never do so out of anger.  It is a running joke in my household that when I made a ‘promise to spank/smack, more often than not, it never happened or I forget why I contemplated it in the first place!

spankingChildren Are More Aggressive Due To Spanking

Researchers have found that children who are spanked show higher rates of aggression and delinquency in childhood than those who were not. As adults, they are more prone to depression, feelings of alienation, use of violence toward a spouse and lower economic and professional achievement.  Surely, none of this is what we want for our children.

“If we are ever to turn toward a kindlier society and a safe worlda revulsion against the physical punishment of children would be a good place to start.” Dr.Benjamin Spock

Caning or spanking in schools is outlawed in most jurisdictions, as I know it. What led to this I am not sure but it was a necessary move.  I believe that school is a place to learn not to be hit. Spanking children will not cause better behaviour and greater respect for teachers.  In my view, the opposite is true. Caning in schools only causes fear and discourages full participation, possibly encouraging absenteeism.

My aim is not to promote indiscipline in schools or even in homes. It is important, however,  to make a distinction between punishment and discipline.  The goal of discipline ought to be teaching children skills geared towards proper socialization. Spanking does not provide the child with any such social skills and is merely punitive.

The next time you are faced with a challenging, even difficult, child, pause to consider what intervention best serves your purpose. Are you disciplining or punishing? What is the payoff of your choice? Would your child have gained any better social skills from your intervention?

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