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Corporal punishment - or "spanking"

RogueScholar
Posts: 16
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2/16/2010 8:43:52 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
When I started working in the schools as a school psychologist in the 1990's, I knew that corporal punishment was prohibited in many the schools, but I didn't realize that people in society (parents) considered it to be abusive, violent, and beneath them. We had two children at that time, one was three and the other was an infant. Our first child was well behaved and so we only had the need to use spanking maybe a half dozen times. My wife and I never gave even an unconscious thought to the idea that spanking our child was violent or abusive. After all, we grew up in a society where they did it in the schools. In fact, it was a part of life and growing up. So what happened? Why was it now such an evil, unconscionable act?

We grew up in the 60's and 70's, and paddling was part of the school day. If you did something serious or bad enough, you knew you were going to get paddled. In my school you went to the principal's office and sat and waited. During this time you sat in guilt and regret, wishing you didn't do it, waiting for your punishment. You knew you did wrong and you were going to be punished.

My wife and I don't recall having any negative feelings toward our principal's. We didn't feel anger, hatred, fear, or any such feelings. In fact, we had respect for him as an authority figure. Sure kids may have horsed-around some in the classroom (nothing like today), but when the principal walked in the room you snapped to attention, so to speak.

After working in the schools awhile I encountered parents who would proudly boast that they would never spank their child. Of course, the reason I'm talking to this parent is because their child is misbehaving and the principal, teacher, and parents can't get him to behave. Even when I was younger and new to the field, it was a no-brainer to me. He needed a paddling. He needed to know that there was a real punishment to his naughty behavior. These adults seemed to think that after all their praising, cajoling, time-outs, problem-solving, and reinforcement of other more desirable behaviors failed, that I was going to be able to talk this child, or "counsel" him into, quitting being naughty. Go figure!

In working with parents like this, I noticed that they interchanged the words spanking and hitting; actually, they used the word "hit" most of the time. They explained to me that they did not want to teach their child violence. And if their child had hit another child, they didn't want to use violence to stop violence. They didn't want to teach their child that hitting was "ok." So of course, after discussing ways to manage their child's behavior, which they were unable to manage, it became apparent to me that the one thing they did not try was spanking. When asked, these parents usually reported that their parents spanked them. So they were spanked. I then asked them if they are violent. Invariably they informed me that they are not violent. I was at a loss. Was I the only one not seeing the break in logical thinking here?

Whenever I have the chance, I ask people my age and older than me about spanking or whippings when they were young. Their memory of it usually was that it was a normal part of growing up, and even pointed out that they respected their father because he might give them a whooping. And interestingly, these people aren't violent, and don't beat their children. I was in a conflict. What I was hearing in the popular media, from the "experts" in education, and parents was different than history, intuition, and common sense.

Naturally, with my education and training as a school psychologist, I wondered why corporal punishment was effective. First of all, I believe corporal punishment is only effective at the elementary school ages or younger, and should not be used beyond that age range. Younger children don't have the same cognitive abilities, thinking skills, or reasoning ability as older children. For example, hypothetical thinking, truly understanding the concept of the future, and planning are beyond the capacities of younger children. Therefore, such practices as grounding, the threat of taking privileges away, actually taking things away (toys, etc.), don't have the same meaning to younger children as older children. To a three year-old grounding doesn't have any meaning. Although it may seem like it, taking a favorite toy away probably isn't much of a punishment (or a short-lived one at best) because it's very easy for a young child to find something else enjoyable. Any parent knows that a young child can have fun playing with a rock. Parents know that you can buy an expensive toy for your child and she ends up playing with the box it came in. Whereas with older children (adolescents, teenagers), certain things have more meaning. Grounding a teenager can be a very meaningful punishment to them. This privilege may not be easily replaced.

Younger children are limited to "reasoning" on feelings, emotions, impulses and desires, whereas older children at least have more of a capacity to consider consequences, delay gratification, and think logically. They are much more concrete and tangible in their thinking. When a young child does something wrong that is serious, they need to know that mom is very upset or angry. Talking, time-outs, or taking something away isn't always effective. A spanking makes it very tangible, very real, and very understandable. It says, mom is very upset and whatever you did was bad! It also involves feelings and emotions. Taking a toy away or a time-out may not be that emotionally charged. This is not to say that taking a toy away or a time-out may not work on some occasions, or be useful at times. This depends on the child, and the offense. For example, if two siblings are arguing, and bothering you to tattle on the other one, and you tell them to go into separate rooms. This may work. However, they may gravitate toward one another and resume arguing, and pestering you. Any parent knows this could continue and drive you nuts. Well, you may be busy and have something important to do. So do you keep separating them, and perhaps "reasoning" with them, or do give them a good swat and let them know that this is going to stop now.

There is also the issue of practicality in your discipline. If you have clear rules, are consistent, and follow-thru with the predetermined consequences, then your day should go smoothly. However, not every day is the same, and sometimes your routine is broken. Situations occur that can't always be planned for. After all, we are dealing with children and all of their emotions. Some experts say if you're getting stressed to take a time-out and step back for a moment. Well, you don't always have the time for this. Or, the situation may be urgent and you can't take a time-out for yourself. You may need your child obey your direction immediately, or you will have to get their complete attention quickly. Young children often don't understand the urgency of a situation. Sometimes you may not have time to follow through with a predetermined consequence.

Behavior and respect for authority in the schools and homes has definitely taken a major turn down the wrong road. There does not appear to be any sign of turning back. In school and at home we keep trying all kinds of new ways to discipline, but the one thing that we are told to never, ever try is spanking. However, let's consider how things were before we made that turn to stop spanking. Kids in generations before this turn in our society would never have dreamed of doing the things that kids today do to simply pass the time.
alto2osu
Posts: 277
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2/16/2010 9:04:12 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
FYI: there are still states that have no prohibited corporal punishment in schools. In those states, it is a district-by-district policy.

Furthermore, just like intrinsic rewards tend to work on a more long-term basis if we are looking at behavior solvency, so will intrinsic punishments. If we are talking about general rules of behavior, that is, and not individual examples, which are a wash.
Sky_ace25
Posts: 190
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2/18/2010 4:11:15 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
While I'm no advocate for spanking; I believe in some ways our society has grown a little bit too lenient. A teacher is not allowed to yell at their class in a derogatory way, teachers aren't able to go up to a student and tell them, "Your doing horrible in school and your screwing up your life so get your rump in gear", because of course that would be "hurting the children". I think our school system is effectively creating a line of head-strong cocky children who believe they know what the world really is and that's why in many first jobs teenagers don't do well, because they aren't good with respecting authority figures.

The worst part is that we are also creating a society where the parents are completely ignorant of their child's success and they no longer care, because the school system constantly reinforcing the idea that no matter what you can get into a good college. I actually remember a funny story where I heard a 6th or 7th grade saying she was going to Harvard when I knew her well enough to know she didn't have a shot in hell. We need to actually start telling kids about the reality that is the competition they are going to be facing when they get older. Not wait till Junior year and then kids have to be in a panic and are at the point usually too late. I don't pity the people who mess up their lives, but I believe some fault lies in the easy school system. At some point we have to accept the truth; our schools are failing, because we provide no real incentive for kids at a young age to actually work hard.

The self-promoters are always the one who ultimately end up doing well.
Seriously, Pluto is no longer a planet?
Puck
Posts: 6,457
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2/18/2010 4:34:45 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
You are a school psych and ignore research?

Corporal punishment does not work in controlling behaviour. The research is quite clear on this - the benefits of physical punishment in terms of its association with immediate compliance are frankly poor. It is negatively associated with measures of self control and empathy. Corporal punishment has been linked to impaired relationships and a decrease in communication between a child and peers. Teachers who choose to employ physical punishment essentially help create a barrier where the punishment behaviour may help refrain a child from approaching the teacher - which obviously can have a detrimental effect on the child's work and learning. Physical punishment is *consistently* correlated with increased levels of aggressive behavior in children and teens. Basically its use propagates the negative behaviours it seeks to prohibit.

It is additionally consistently associated with negative scores on problem solving tasks and reasoning tasks, both which I'm sure you are aware of are of extreme importance in a school setting. Children model adult behaviour - including responses to things such as frustration and anger (the likely associations with the adult prior to the punishment) and it is positively associated with adult aggression.

'In my experience', 'in my opinion' arguments really don't cut it with this one.
Puck
Posts: 6,457
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2/18/2010 4:45:03 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
As for successfully controlling behaviour Mr School Psych, look to behaviourist researchers who have published quite a large amount of peer reviewed articles on child and classroom behaviour management. Frankly as a school psych, advocating spanking should have gotten you fired.

Then again it's America. :P
mattrodstrom
Posts: 12,028
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2/18/2010 8:05:40 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
I wouldn't advocate it in the schools, but I think it can be effective when done sparingly by parents.

My father never "hit" me, "spanking" didn't so much hurt as it was the ultimate expression of disapproval (I don't think making it actually hurt is a good idea)

I think it works up until the point where the kid is aware enough to know how much you disapprove of their behavior without it, I know at like twelve the idea of getting a "spanking" was laughable b/c I knew it wouldn't hurt, and that it was just an attempt to get across the message that my parents disapprove of what I was doing.

I think young kids can really have a hard time understanding when their parents are most serious and 'spanking' can clarify that.
"He who does not know how to put his will into things at least puts a meaning into them: that is, he believes there is a will in them already."

Metaphysics:
"The science.. which deals with the fundamental errors of mankind - but as if they were the fundamental truths."
trustalgoreandriveahybrid
Posts: 44
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2/18/2010 1:31:35 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
My father rarely hit me, he used more inventive measures when I misbehaved such as scratching my door softly until I warily approached it. I shouted hello hello. Suddenly out of the bathroom he lept into the hall and yelled (it was something like 1am). scared the crap out of me and I went straight to bed.
alto2osu
Posts: 277
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2/18/2010 3:13:31 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 2/18/2010 1:31:35 PM, trustalgoreandriveahybrid wrote:
My father rarely hit me, he used more inventive measures when I misbehaved such as scratching my door softly until I warily approached it. I shouted hello hello. Suddenly out of the bathroom he lept into the hall and yelled (it was something like 1am). scared the crap out of me and I went straight to bed.

Awkward...
I-am-a-panda
Posts: 15,380
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2/18/2010 3:15:19 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 2/18/2010 1:31:35 PM, trustalgoreandriveahybrid wrote:
My father rarely hit me, he used more inventive measures when I misbehaved such as scratching my door softly until I warily approached it. I shouted hello hello. Suddenly out of the bathroom he lept into the hall and yelled (it was something like 1am). scared the crap out of me and I went straight to bed with him.

Wow a pretty close knit family there.
Pizza. I have enormous respect for Pizza.
trustalgoreandriveahybrid
Posts: 44
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2/18/2010 3:16:31 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 2/18/2010 3:15:19 PM, I-am-a-panda wrote:
At 2/18/2010 1:31:35 PM, trustalgoreandriveahybrid wrote:
My father rarely hit me, he used more inventive measures when I misbehaved such as scratching my door softly until I warily approached it. I shouted hello hello. Suddenly out of the bathroom he lept into the hall and yelled (it was something like 1am). scared the crap out of me and I went straight to bed with him.

Wow a pretty close knit family there.

hahaha its always made me laugh years later, and personally I think it was much more effective than being spanked.
RogueScholar
Posts: 16
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2/18/2010 10:17:31 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Frankly speaking Puck, the other methods that I'm sure you would advocate has harmed many students over the years because their out of control peers (bullies) have physically harmed them and intimidated them. But it is an awful crime and "sin" if a principal were to spank one of these poor, misfortunate bullies. Let me ask you a question,when was the last time you were bullied at work? I'm sure never. But we let this happen to well-behaved kids everyday, who all they want to do is be in school and follow the rules. But I forgot, the "experts" like you have all the answers. Fill me in on your solutions, because I'm going to take them and make a lots of money writing a book and doing workshops across the country.
RogueScholar
Posts: 16
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2/18/2010 10:23:59 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 2/18/2010 4:34:45 AM, Puck wrote:
You are a school psych and ignore research?

Corporal punishment does not work in controlling behaviour. The research is quite clear on this - the benefits of physical punishment in terms of its association with immediate compliance are frankly poor. It is negatively associated with measures of self control and empathy. Corporal punishment has been linked to impaired relationships and a decrease in communication between a child and peers. Teachers who choose to employ physical punishment essentially help create a barrier where the punishment behaviour may help refrain a child from approaching the teacher - which obviously can have a detrimental effect on the child's work and learning. Physical punishment is *consistently* correlated with increased levels of aggressive behavior in children and teens. Basically its use propagates the negative behaviours it seeks to prohibit.

It is additionally consistently associated with negative scores on problem solving tasks and reasoning tasks, both which I'm sure you are aware of are of extreme importance in a school setting. Children model adult behaviour - including responses to things such as frustration and anger (the likely associations with the adult prior to the punishment) and it is positively associated with adult aggression.

'In my experience', 'in my opinion' arguments really don't cut it with this one.

If arguments don't cut it, then what are you doing? Hello! Because I can find "research" to contradict you. Read my "Research in Education" article. I can guarantee you that your grandmother and grandfather would have never spoke to a teacher the way kids do today. And why do you think that is Ms. Expert? I feel sorry for the victims that people like you are creating.
alto2osu
Posts: 277
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2/18/2010 10:27:13 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Wow...but apparently, spanking is the end-all-be-all answer to bullying in the US. Period. That's basically the claim you are making, despite the fact that extrinsic physical punishment, esp. once kids get older than like 10, is about as worthless as a solar-powered flashlight.

The alternatives are numerous. PBS (positive behavior systems) is what a large number of schools in the US have recently adopted (within the last 5 years or so). It has become so popular that ESDs are hiring their own PBS coordinators to oversee its implementation in entire regions. Furthermore, its popularity stems directly from its success.

Though, as I've learned on another thread, using an anecdote will most likely result in RogueScholar missing the point and just attacking my anecdote, PBS has directly and drastically improved student behavior and general community culture in our district (and in our entire ESD). Data on referrals, disciplinary actions, and other rewards systems (since PBS is based directly on positive reinforcement through intrinsic motivators) is incredibly conclusive: kids respond phenomenally.

Sorry, though-- this idea is pretty much taken, so no book deals or workshopping for you.
belle
Posts: 4,113
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2/18/2010 10:31:54 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 2/18/2010 10:23:59 PM, RogueScholar wrote:

If arguments don't cut it, then what are you doing? Hello! Because I can find "research" to contradict you. Read my "Research in Education" article. I can guarantee you that your grandmother and grandfather would have never spoke to a teacher the way kids do today. And why do you think that is Ms. Expert? I feel sorry for the victims that people like you are creating.

hint: arguments are fine as long as they're based on data not speculation.

and puck's gender is listed on his profile page, you should examine that before posting :P
evidently i only come to ddo to avoid doing homework...
Puck
Posts: 6,457
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2/18/2010 10:34:27 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 2/18/2010 10:23:59 PM, RogueScholar wrote:
If arguments don't cut it, then what are you doing? Hello! Because I can find "research" to contradict you. Read my "Research in Education" article. I can guarantee you that your grandmother and grandfather would have never spoke to a teacher the way kids do today. And why do you think that is Ms. Expert? I feel sorry for the victims that people like you are creating.

You presume far too much. :)