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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Spanking children: A conversation long overdue


Francis Emelogu/The Cougar

Spanking is a form of discipline that has been around forever. While it is legal and considered as an acceptable form of punishment in some communities, the negative consequences of spanking greatly outweigh temporary results from this style of discipline.

According to the Journal of Family Psychology, the average 4-year-old is hit 936 times a year. When research continuously supports the statement that spanking your kids doesn’t succeed as a disciplinary action, society should no longer view spanking as an immediate reaction.

A 2012 article by Time Magazine reported that “harsh punishments can wind up backfiring because they can foster lying in children who are desperate to avoid being spanked.”

The article also said that 80 studies about the effectiveness of physical punishment found that none of the effects were positive associations.

There is a thin line between disciplining a child by spanking and child abuse. Universal acceptance of spanking follows three rules: no spanking with a foreign object, such as a belt or buckles; one should not hit a bare bottom, only through the clothes; there is no need than for more than one spank, anything more is excessive. In general, crossing the line between spanking and child abuse includes bruising or marks left behind.

“I believe a swat on the hand or to the butt to indicate to a child that they’re misbehaving is needed,” said media production senior Megan Stowe. “I don’t believe getting a belt or anything. That’s excessive force. You’re already stronger than them, you shouldn’t need a belt or fist to prove that.”

According to CNN, the recent indictment following NFL player Adrian Peterson on child abuse charges led to debating whether hitting, spanking or other forms of corporal punishment are justified or effective when it comes to disciplining children. However, the differences in cultural, regional and generational attitudes keep spanking acceptable in modern society.

“I don’t believe spanking is ever really necessary. I would prefer to use my hand instead of a belt so I could control the impact of a spanking,” said mechanical engineering senior DeMarlon Carter.

People are more likely to discipline their children the same way they were raised. If one was spanked as a child, that individual is more likely to spank their children as a from of discipline. This form of punishment that was learned from culture is believed to be acceptable, but when research comes back saying violence is the worst way to change behavior patterns in children, now is the time to change our own behaviors in discipline.

Spanking typically comes from anger. It is an immediate response to dissatisfaction with a child’s misbehavior and no one stops to calm down before unleashing that anger on a child.

“I believe there is a thin line between discipline and abuse,” said political science senior Clement Agho-Otoghile. “Abuse is defined by physical harm and trauma caused by violent actions.”

If the issue was not perceived as one that was derived from culture and instead looked at as a cycle of abuse, the conversation changes.

According to reader responses in the New York Times, the debate is split.

“There’s a big difference between an old-fashioned beating and mild spanking,” one reader said. “A lot of my friends got the tar beaten out of them and had the bruises to prove it. That’s abuse.”

Another reader wrote signifying possible change.

“I was turned in by my best friend to social services,” the reader said. She said she “didn’t know how to discipline in any other way than (she) had been treated,” citing the incident as a reason to never hit her child under any circumstances.

A punishment that results in injury, such as a bruise, welt, swelling or anything that requires medical attention is considered abusive.

WJLA reported that 39 countries prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, including at home. Countries such as Sweden, Germany, South Sudan and Turkmenistan all prohibit corporal punishment. In a report from UNICEF, research found that people with less education and wealth are more likely to be supportive of corporal punishment.

Anyone is more than willing to intervene when a woman is struck in public by her husband, yet, when a child is struck by a parent in public, people turn a blind eye. Society has entered an era where spanking, or any form of physical discipline is no longer needed with other non-violent techniques available at parents’ disposals.

All parents want better for their children. Today’s parents are turning away from the practice of spanking and corporal punishment regardless of culture, religion or background. The number of parents that still do practice corporal punishment continues to decline.

For now, many seem to welcome the opportunity to have this discussion on corporal punishment, citing the conversation long overdue. The important rule of factor for parents who do practice spanking is to do so in a clear-minded state rather than as an angry response to misbehavior.

Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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