The experience of being a parent can be one of the most beautiful experiences in one’s life. While this is true, many parents will also agree that it can be one of the most challenging experiences of one’s life. As a parent, one has to play many roles and fulfill many duties and responsibilities. One of the responsibilities that rests on the shoulders of the parents is that of guiding, teaching, and disciplining their children. Most people can agree that the majority of parents love their children very dearly and want what is best for them. However, parents do not always end up doing what is best for their children. This is an issue we often see regarding how parents discipline their children. While some parents try to use more positive disciplining methods, others often resort to more negative methods such as corporal punishment.
Corporal punishment, defined as “an act carried out with the intention of causing a child to experience physical pain, but not injury, for purposes of correction or control” is one of the most controversial issues regarding parenting today (Straus, M.A., & Paschall, M.J., 2009 p. 459). Despite the warnings by the American Association of Pediatrics against this practice, the United States still allows parents to spank their children. Although information about the effects of corporal punishment on children’s development has become much more accessible, there are still many parents who employ this method of disciplining their children. Recently, many research studies have been done to determine the effects of corporal punishment by the parent on the child’s development. This way of discipline has been repeatedly associated with a slew of negative effects on children through several research studies. Despite this, however, corporal punishment continues to be experienced by many children in the United States today (MacKenzie, Nicklas, Waldfogel, & Brooks-Gunn, 2013). According to MacKenzie, et al. (2013), 57% of mothers and 40% of fathers used spanking to discipline their 3 year old children and 52% of mothers and 33% of fathers used spanking to discipline their 5 year old children. According to Knox and Schacht (2016), children that are raised in a home where they are corporally punished are more likely to have distant relationships with their parents. Based on the current research, it is not recommended that parents use corporal punishment as a discipline method as it has been repeatedly associated with negative effects on behavioral and cognitive development in children including increased externalizing behavior such as aggression and anxiety, as well as decreased receptive vocabulary.
Below is a video about the negative effects of corporal punishment:
Although it has been shown that that immediate compliance with the parent’s request is often associated with corporal punishment, this is the only desirable outcome that is associated with it (Lansford, et al., 2014). While many parents may engage in this disciplining behavior to achieve immediate compliance, this is not recommended by professionals as there are many negative effects associated with it as previously noted. At every age, children go through a unique developmental stage that has its own needs and challenges. It is recommended that parents understand what the child is going through developmentally as well as how they should go about disciplining them from a child development perspective. This way, children can be provided with the guidance they need in a way that is developmentally appropriate for them. Although many parents may assume that corporal punishment is the only way to discipline children and get them to comply with what they want, there are in fact various other ways to discipline children that are more effective as well as supportive to the children’s development. One of these methods is called positive discipline. Positive discipline is a disciplinary approach that adopts a “cooperative relationship orientation” and encourages parents to teach children how to be responsible and respectful through positive means rather than through punishment (Holden, 2015). One example of this is allowing the child to experience the natural and logical consequences to their actions within reason. This allows the child to learn from the experience and understand why the action is not acceptable (Telep, 2009).
Below is a video as well as a helpful website about using positive discipline to discipline your children;
Holden, G. W. (2015). Parenting: A dynamic perspective (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Knox, D., & Schacht, C. (2016). Choices in Relationships: An Introduction to Marriage and the Family (12th Edition). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Lansford, J. E., Sharma, C., Malone, P. S., Woodlief, D., Dodge, K. A., Oburu, P., & ... Di Giunta, L. (2014). Corporal punishment, maternal warmth, and child adjustment: A longitudinal study in eight countries. Journal Of Clinical Child And Adolescent Psychology, 43(4), 670-685. doi:10.1080/15374416.2014.893518
MacKenzie, M. J., Nicklas, E., Waldfogel, J., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2013). Spanking and child development across the first decade of life. Pediatrics, 132(5), e1118-e1125. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-1227
Straus, M. A., & Paschall, M. J. (2009). Corporal punishment by mothers and development of children's cognitive ability: A longitudinal study of two nationally representative age cohorts. Journal Of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 18(5), 459-483. doi:10.1080/10926770903035168