What is corporal punishment? Simply put, it is a form of punishment (obviously), that has been largely phased out of western societies, and it is one that has not proven to be especially effective in its desired goal, namely, acting as a deterrent for crime.
It has been used in various guises to try and ‘correct’ behaviour in children (spanking comes to mind), though it is not demonstrably more effective at disciplining children than other forms of punishment, and actually creates more problems than it resolves.
To quote from this Very Well Family post:
It Makes Behavior Worse
While corporal punishment may lead to immediate compliance, researchers have found that the changes in behavior may only be short-term. Studies consistently show that over the long term, corporal punishment is ineffective and may even cause behavior problems to worsen over time.4
For instance, spanking children increases aggressive behavior. A multitude of research studies has found that kids who are spanked are more likely to hit other people.5
The reason behind this is simple. Corporal punishment models aggressive behavior, which teaches children to solve problems with violence. It also can lead to bullying, dating violence, and other problem behaviors that rely on having power over someone else.
It Is Ineffective
Spanking is not any more effective than time-out. Research shows that spanking quickly loses effectiveness over time.6 When children are spanked, they don’t learn how to make better choices. And eventually, spanking stops being a deterrent.
It Hurts Relationships
Spanking and other physical punishments damage the relationship between kids and their parents or caregivers.5
You’ll notice the quoted post contains further citations on the subject. In short, a lot of people, who are far smarter than me, have researched this. When it comes to disciplining children, corporal punishment doesn’t work. It creates problems. Why then, is it still argued for as a reasonable and effective tool for changing behaviour?
Is it because of the argument that the Bible recommends it? To quote from Zach:
Emphasis mine. Now, I am not an especially big believer in telling other parents how to raise their children. I know I would not be particularly pleased if someone tried telling me how to raise my daughter. That said, there are facts (such as the fact that corporal punishment is not as good a means of discipline as many believe), and I don’t believe society is worse off now than during the era of caning children.
We often create a romanticised view of the past. Each generation sees the previous one as the heyday of society. Yet when we stop and think, were the 60s better than the 90s? Are the 90s better than now? Are the kids of today worse than they were thirty or sixty years ago? Is society in general better or worse?
Let’s look at it another way. If you have to hit someone in order to ‘correct’ them, have you not already failed? Two of the best managers I’ve ever had have the argument that if you have to shout, you have already lost control of the situation. I see shades of that here.
Continuing to quote:
I do have a child. When I held her for the first time, it never occurred to me to believe she was evil or wicked. That’s a very peculiar notion to have of a new-born baby. I saw in my baby only beauty, and all I wanted to do was hold her. Babies are not ‘evil’. They cannot comprehend the concept! A baby – especially a new-born – is interested only in feeding and sleeping. As they grow, whatever they learn of ‘good and evil’ comes from their parents and loved ones. It is literally years before they can properly grasp these ideas. Trying to beat evil out of a toddler who is still processing how to walk and talk is absurd. I hope this is not the notion Zach is trying to suggest.
There is more, but is based upon a strict interpretation of the Bible, whereas I prefer to deal in study and research. Of course my wife and I discipline our daughter from time to time. We do not hit her, and she has not, at any point, shown any signs of becoming a bully, delinquent, or criminal. I dare say this can be said of millions of kids.
As I said before, I am not keen on interfering with how other parents raise their children. However, on issues which directly impact a child’s well-being, I feel compelled to speak out (see my faith-healing debate from a few years ago)