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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Corporal punishment is a disciplinary method in which the adult inflict pain upon a child in response to some unacceptable behavior.

Corporal or physical punishment is any kind of punishment inflicted on the body. Literally, corporal punishment means punishing someone using physical force in a way which is meant to hurt them or make him uncomfortable.  

This type of discipline’s purpose is to stop the offense, discourage its recurrence, and serve as a warning not to repeat the offense.  In one respect, it is behavior modification, and its intent is to change the behavior to make it more consistent with the adult’s expectations.

In the United states, thirty-two states have banned the use of corporal punishment in schools.  The other eighteen states are still using “paddling” but limitedly.  The states with the highest student percentage of corporal punishment are southern states with an average of 4.7% of the students having this type of punishment inflicted on them. 

Corporal punishment should not be used in school or at home.  The American Child Psychiatric Association strongly opposes the use of corporal punishment and wants it banned.  Research has shown that it can be harmful in several ways.

What impact does Corporal punishment have on the child? Well, hitting in any other way is considered inappropriate behavior. For instance, if a child were to get into a fight in school, what would the message be if he were to receive corporal punishment for the bad behavior?  Does it make sense to hit a child for hitting another child?  Paddling a student signals to the child that hitting is a way to settle conflict. It serves to say that physical force is acceptable behavior. 

Spanking children may encourage children to become more aggressive, antisocial, and abusive as an adult. Hitting someone to stop a behavior or as a punishment cannot be the best way to discipline. 

Is paddling or spanking a deterrent to misbehavior? No, children do not stop and think: “I had better not do this because I do not want to be spanked.”

As a long time teacher and one who used spanking in the beginning of my career, I would never again spank a student. There are so many consequences that can come from this type of punishment.

According to Dr. Violeta Bautista, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, who has done extensive research in corporal punishment,  there are several long-lasting and  residual effects from the use of spanking in schools.

  • It humiliates the student and lowers the self-esteem.
  • Spanking is an aggressive punishment.
  • A teacher can hurt a student if he/she does not know how to inflict the spanking.
  • If a teacher is trying to discourage violent or aggressive behavior, spanking is contraindicated. Spanking engenders feelings of resentment, anger, and confusion.
  • The student/teacher relationship may be impacted by this type of punishment. It instills fear rather than respect.

The amount of corporal punishment will have to increase each time it is used in order for it to keep up with the escalation of misbehavior. The American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP] stated: “The only way to maintain the initial effect of spanking is to systematically increase the intensity with which it is delivered.”

According to the AAP, the use of corporal punishment defeats the purpose of teaching students to be non-violent. In today’s society, one of the main goals in the educational system should be to discourage any kind of violence.  Corporal punishment should be banned.  

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