According to the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect, more than four million children in the United States are abused or mistreated yearly. Sadly, many of these cases of abuse or mistreatment are a direct result of physical discipline at the hands of their parents. Parents should not use physical force as a form of discipline with their children. Instead of physical strength, there are other more effective forms of discipline that do not result in psychological and bodily harm. The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children defined corporal punishment to encompass any punishment in which physical force finds its use. It is also intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however, light it may look. Although this definition might seem to lessen the effects of corporal or physical punishment, in the name of correcting undesirable behavior, many parents might take their actions too far and inflict severe physical damage.
When such parents administer the punishment, they assume that it can be either biologically unlearned or learned. Also, punishment is not the opposite of a reward. When a behavior is mildly punished it may recover in future, so such parents considered punishing severely to make the infliction be remembered whenever such action wants to reoccur. Punishment is considered effective when it is administered immediately after an occurrence of unwanted behavior (Rodriguez, 2003). For it to be effective, it must be consistently applied after every adverse response. The parents who have the ideology of punishing their children whenever they do any wrong are advised that punishment that builds up gradually in intensity becomes ineffective. Thus the child ends up being injured, but no change in behavior occurs.In some severe cases, physical mistreatment can even result in the unintentional death of the child. Sadly “Parental punishment kills thousands of children every year, injures many more and leads to the direct cause of many children’s physical impairments”(Global Initiative, 2013). With so many injuries and deaths, the need to identify and implement forms of discipline other than physical is one of the most pressing issues of modern times. In such situations, parents are advised to resort to better ways of solving the dispute between him or her and the children. Therefore, training in parenting provides an upper hand in knowing how to deal with these issues whenever they occur. In some cases, application of therapy services to parents who are highly tempered can also help. Where the above does not seem to work, legal remedies can take its course focusing on policies and legal frameworks governing child protection.
Many parents have used physical discipline because it is a fast and simple way to control a child’s behavior. However, while physical punishment is quick and easy, it can lead to a child behaving aggressively, exhibiting delinquent anti-social behavior, and other emotional disorders. According to Secasa.com, “the effects of physical abuse on children can be traumatic and long-lasting”. A research conducted by Renee Baillargeon and her colleagues between the parents and their toddlers which revealed that toddlers do imitate what their parents do. Toddlers were found to be forming images and senses that could help them trace what those who occupied their immediate environment were doing. During that period, it was found out that parents who were acting out whenever they were interacting with their children the behavior was reciprocated at their school years. Those who had parents acting in a friendly manner also did the same when they started attending school. The children who were found showing high levels of negative emotions had in their earlier years interacted with harsh parents or caretakers. That kind of experience builds tantrums in toddlers and shapes their social way of life as they grow.
There are several initial effects that a child may display upon suffering physical abuse such as pain and suffering, anger and fear. As a result of constant fear and stress, many children may suffer from weakened mental development including difficulty concentrating in their studies, and ongoing learning disorders. There may also be long-term behavioral problems such as “truancy, inability to form friendships with peers and poor socials skills” (“Effects of Child Physical Abuse, 2012”). Other issues that may also arise include poor mental health, unhappiness in future and poor physical health.
The child abuse can translate to hard life in later years of childhood. He or she might experience medical diseases that have resulted from bruises, reduced binding when it comes to relationship matters, isolation and behavioral health effects such as smoking and other bad physical activities. With such effects as those that come first, moderately progressive, and long lasting over time, the need to develop more effective methods of discipline are evident. If immediate and adequate measures are not taken to save, such children majority of them run away from their homes and some end up in streets as street children. Another reason some parents turn to the physical discipline of children is the fact that they are not equipped to handle a disobedient child. As Brendan L. Smith notes “physical punishment can work momentarily to stop the problematic behavior because children are afraid of being hitit doesn’t work in the long term.” While many parents in modern times rush through their lives and try to find a quick-fix solution to an immediately pressing issue, child discipline should not be one of those scenarios.
The greatest problem with parents who resort to physical punishment instead of more effective forms of discipline is the long-term damage that may occur in the parent-child relationship. As reported by Straus and Stewart, there are alarmingly high rates of physical control by parents of children in all age groups, with “a 95 percent rate for toddlers”. In fact, the same study showed that in a sample of students at a community college, 95 percent of them had suffered corporal punishment (Straus et al. 1999). Even more shocking were Straus et al discovering, “This pervasive aspect of the socialization of American children is either not perceived or ignored”. With such a widespread rate of socialized corporal punishment, the need to develop alternative methods of discipline is long overdue. Here the parents need to be practicing these various ways of relating to the child without harming him or her. Whenever he or she is about to engage in any wrongdoing be realistic and help in preventing the behavior. Listen and communicate to explain why it is good to for him or her to do what you are passing across. Parents should focus on the behavior and not the child in order to avoid harming the child. Also set boundaries by developing rules and expectations in advance, be modeling desired behaviors and suppressing the undesired by other means that are not harmful. In overall situations develop and encourage the child’s cooperation and understanding and reward the desirable behaviors to make them reciprocated again and again.
In defense of corporal punishment, many mothers and fathers have created the argument of ‘parental freedom’, claiming that – short of criminal child abuse cases – it should primarily be a parent’s prerogative to decide when and how to discipline their children. In some aspects, these parents are correct because the U.S. Constitution protects a parent's choice in raising their children. As noted by Robert E. Larzelere, PhD (1998),the choices parents face are nothing new because, “Childrearing advice to American parents has always been amazingly diverse, with significant changes in generations and contradictory information at any one time”. In in US, the children rights are same as human rights with a little difference between them nobody has the right to infringe them. Thus, parents do not have absolute power over their children. They are allowed to administer reasonable discipline but when it goes overboard they are subject to criminal laws and can be charged despite the fact that the child is his or hers.
According to the old saying, spanking is necessary because if you don’t want to “spare the rod, spoil the child”. Usually, parents who got spanked as children are likely to punish their children. Unfortunately, these mostly outdated modes of thinking conflict directly with recent studies. Scientific evidence showing that spanking does not work, either in the short or long-term but is many cases the behavior remains uncorrected if spanking is the rule of the day he or she will get used to the tune. According to Giles-Sims, Straus, & Sugarman, there are certain family characteristics that might lead to more or less frequent abuse, such as socioeconomic status: “Research on the physical abuse of children finds higher rates among lower-income parents”. When it comes to permissible violence also known as ‘spanking’ the truth is that “most studies have found few or no income-related differences” (Giles-Sims, et al. 1995). This seemingly contradictory information provides a much closer look at societal beliefs with respect to the physical discipline of children because it proves that there may be no differences between parents at all. In such cases, the children grow while knowing what is going on by seeing everything from the parents and to a greater extent imitate them in order to fit in the prevailing conditions of the society.
However, although “press coveragelead[s] people to link urban and violence almost automatically, rural areas also have characteristics of family isolation and lower access to parental education” (Giles-Sims, et al. 1995). Religion is another dividing factor that may seem to widen the gap between parents who believe in corporal punishment and those who don’t. Giles-Sims found “Fundamentalist Protestants firmly believe in spanking their children” yet the overall results were “they did not differentiate between other religious groups and those with no religious preference” (Strauss & Julie, 1999). This information leads to the assumption that although religion may take place as a justification or excuse for corporal punishment, the overall rates of physical discipline in relation to chosen religious beliefs may not reflect that same information.
There are many reasons for parents to stop using physical force against their children. The physical and psychological damages that it can cause are potentially long-lasting and many times irreparable, following children into adolescence and even adulthood. While parents might try to justify their behavior, citing religious or cultural beliefs, the more prudent choice would be for parents to consider the possible adverse outcomes of their physical behavior carefully. With the right information and enforcement of standards, it is conceivable that parents have an excellent chance to avoid the need for – and use of – physical force as a form of punishment, which may thankfully lead to much less traumatized future generations of parents and children.
“Effects of Child Physical Abuse.” Secasa.com.au. (Sept.-Oct. 2012.)
Giles-Sims, J., Straus, M. A., & Sugarman, D. B. (1995). “Child, Maternal, and Family Characteristics Associated with Spanking.” Family Relations, 44(2), 170 - 176.
Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children (2013). Review of Research on the Effects of Corporal Punishment: Working Paper
Larzelere, Robert E., PhD. (1998). “Combining Love and Limits in Authoritative Parenting: A Conditional Sequence Model of Disciplinary Responses.”
Rodriguez, C. (2003). “Parental Discipline and Abuse Potential Effects on Child Depression, Anxiety, and Attributions.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 65(4), 809-817.
Smith, Brendan L. “The Case against Spanking.” APA.org. (Apr. 2012.)
Strauss, Murray A., and Julie H. Stewart. (1999). “Corporal Punishment by American Parents: National Data on Prevalence.” Chronicity, Severity, and Duration, in Relation to Child and Family Characteristics.