Physical Discipline for Children

Back years ago, it was normal for children to get spankings or whooping from their parents as a form of discipline. Times have changed however. Many people today argue that it is not necessary to physically discipline children and that “time outs” or taking away toys or privileges work just as well or better. Many parents disagree with that.

Thing is that today’s parents discipline their children in many different ways. Some feel that physical discipline is just wrong and abusive many believe that if it is done the right way that it is not as damaging as many think.

Here are three “what if” situations.

A 3 year old boy gets a hold of a butter knife and attempts to stick it in the wall electrical socket. Mother catches him and stops him and slaps his hand. She feels that it’s better that he know how a slapped hand feels than the feeling of getting a shock and being thrown across the room. Mother explains the best she can to her son why she slapped his hand and just what the consequences would have been had he succeeded in placing the knife all the way into the socket. She runs to the store and purchased 8 packs of wall socket covers. Was the mother’s method of discipline in that instance inappropriate?

Father catches his 13 year old son smoking a marijuana cigarette (joint) behind the garage. He removes his leather belt and gives the boy about 5 or 6 good and hard slaps on his behind. Father has a no tolerance view on the use of drugs and sends a clear message to his son that if he smokes marijuana that he will get a beating. Father tells his son that he will NOT have a “pot head” in his house and he will be out on his behind with it kicked if he ever catches or hears of marijuana use again. Was the father’s method of discipline in that instance inappropriate?

A 14 year old girl who looks like she’s 19 sneaked out of the window and Mom noticed that she was gone. She waits for her daughter to get home and she comes stumbling in drunk at about 3am. Mom takes her daughter by the shirt and slams her up against the wall (hard enough to scare her but didn’t hurt her daughter) telling her that if she ever comes home like that again or sneaks out she will be sorry. Mother will not tolerate drinking in her home or going out and coming home way past curfew. Too many bad things can happen to a young and pretty girl when alcohol is involved. After the 14 years old sobers up, mother tells her daughter that she was worried sick about her and wondering what had happened and that she almost called the police and tells her daughter to please take into consideration how her actions affect other people who love them. Was the mother’s method of discipline in that instance in appropriate?

Some people feel that physical discipline is wrong and abusive but most agree that when it is done that there is a right and wrong way to do it. Thing is that when a child is physically disciplined with a belt, or a switch, the parent cannot properly judge or determine the level of force being applied to the child. Using a belt or a switch is no different from using a whip. Would you use a whip on your child? Furthermore the use of any tool (wooden spoon, stick, ruler, etc) is inappropriate as you cannot determine the level of force that the child will feel.

In the three fictions examples I used in this article. In the 3 year old boy scenario, in my opinion, the mother’s method of discipline was appropriate. She conveyed to her son that the result from playing with an electrical socket was pain. The pain that she administered to the boy was far less than the pain and damage that would have resulted had he got that butter knife all the way in the socket. Afterwards, mother explained the best she could to the boy that she was worried about his safety and told him just what could have happened. She then ran to the local hardware store and bought outlet covers for every open outlet in her home.

In the 13 year old son scenario, in my opinion, the father’s method of discipline was inappropriate. He used a belt to hit is son that in my eyes is not much different in using a whip. It is likely that the son had welts on him. Afterwards, the father threatened his son with more violence and threatened to render him homeless if he ever smoked pot again. The son fears his father and is more likely to rebel against his father and do it again.

In the 14 year old girl scenario. In my opinion, the mother’s method of discipline was appropriate. With a child that age unless you really hurt them, a physical method of discipline isn’t effective. Mother chose to use a display of force and power that did not hurt her daughter but woke her up so to speak. Afterwards, mother explained to her daughter why she disciplined her daughter and conveyed to her daughter that she was scared and that she cares and loves her daughter.

Some people feel that “time outs” and the removal of toys, games, activities or privileges is just as effective as physical discipline but fact is that every child is different. Some children are very easy to discipline and they comply very easily, others will challenge you more. But if you must physically discipline, never use a tool (belt, spoon, etc) and never leave bruises or welts. In my opinion, the use of anything other than the parent’s bare hand is abuse.

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