MSN posted an article today referencing France’s new law banning violence against children, including corporal punishment (or “spanking”). While Conservatives would argue this is yet another sign of the downfall of society, I’m encouraged that we’re now discussing on a broader scale the efficacy of hitting children. I previously wrote a piece titled “Spare the Rod” in which I discussed my personal experience with corporal punishment and the fact that it never really deterred me, but I want to point out a few items from the article with which I heartily agree:
Corporal punishment affects a child’s self-esteem
Being hit for behaving a certain way – especially when the child doesn’t know that (or why) the behavior is “bad” – makes a child feel insecure and worthless. Hitting is not an expression of love and protection, it’s an expression of anger and/or domination. A child may not be able to evaluate your moral judgments on his/her behavior but they certainly can evaluate the way being hit makes them feel, and those feelings aren’t always fleeting and forgotten.
Corporal punishment can encourage aggressive behaviors
When you hit a child you’re teaching them that hitting is OK. You’re not only teaching them that it’s OK, though, you’re also teaching them that it’s an effective and acceptable way to resolve conflict. This results in an endless cycle when the punishment for hitting someone is being hit so that the child has no idea why they were wrong to hit someone and why you were correct to hit them. Citing Bible verses (as pointed out in part 1) doesn’t do anything to clarify this for the child.
Corporal punishment can encourage defiance of parents
When you hit a child you don’t force them to rationally evaluate their situation and come to reasonable conclusions about how they should behave. Instead, you instill resentment and distrust – especially if your application of corporal punishment appears to the child to be arbitrary or unpredictable. The child may then (a) find better ways of getting around your rules or getting out of punishment, and (b) act out more openly to assert their independence. What, then, have you accomplished by hitting your child?
On the topic of resentment, I can say that I still find large parts of my upbringing to be nonsensical and a little bit painful. I don’t hate my parents but I do wish that I had been raised in a home that placed more value in reason than faith. I truly think my parents’ religion is what caused them to parent the way they did.
How do you feel about corporal punishment? Were you spanked as a child? If so, do you think it made you a better person?