Corporal Punishment

To beat or not to beat! That is the question.


Corporal punishment was recorded as early as the 10th Century BC in Book of Proverbs attributed to Solomon:

“He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him correcteth him betimes. Withhold not correction from a child: for if thou strike him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from hell.” 

Over the years, this method of disciplining miscreants has gradually fallen out of favour and has been systematically curtailed by generation after generation, but there has never been such a worldwide attempt to completely disbanded it until recent times.These days, using a switch or belt to correct children is a define no, no. In some places, it is considered a criminal offence and even where it isn’t, the consequences for such actions can be detrimental to one’s reputation. In fact judging by events highlighted in the media recently concerning a number of prominent athletes in the USA,  it can even affect a person’s employment prospects and way of life.In this post therefore, I will try to look at both sides of this burning issue in an effort to determine whether the discontinuation of this long established practice is really a step in the right direction.

The common arguments for and against this practice can be found on many websites but I have chosen the ones listed below from “” as this site doesn’t attempt to pass judgement on the subject, but simply states the reasons for and against the practice, and leaves it up to the reader to decide if corporal punishment is right or wrong.

Reasons Supporting Corporal Punishment

  1. Deterrent: Corporal punishment is usually an effective behavior deterrent.
  2. Compliance: Increases immediate short-term compliance.
  3. Cost: With little or no cost, corporal punishment is affordable to everyone.
  4. Quick: Corporal punishment is both quick and saves time, therefore allowing both parties to return to their tasks (such as a child returning to the classroom to resume learning).
  5. Right/Wrong: Corporal punishment definitely teaches both right and wrong.

Reasons Against Corporal Punishment

  1. Self Esteem: Corporal punishment can lower self esteem to both the punisher and punishee, and may have longer term psychological impact too.
  2. Unnecessary: There are other means of education that are effective too. A common alternative is to educate why the action was wrong to the point of invoking empathy or shame.
  3. Hostility: Those people receiving punishment are more like to be instilled with rage and hostility even into adulthood.
  4. Violence: Are you familiar with the old adage: “monkey see, monkey do”? Well, corporal punishment trains children to be violent to other children and educates them that it is an acceptable means of education. This will carry on into adulthood too.
  5. Child Abuse: For corporal punishment to typically continue working, more punishment, pain, or force maybe be necessary. As a result, child abuse typically starts as corporal punishment.

 My Experience & Observations.

I grew up in a large family during the fifties and sixties and got my fair share of licks both at home and at school for all sorts of things such as, not doing my home work assignments, being disobedient at home, for fighting, lying, cheating and all things naughty.   Was I abused? I don’t think so. But maybe I was and just didn’t know it.

So did it act as a deterrent for me?

Let me put it this way. When I was still a child, I remember having quite a bad temper. One day my dad had reached his limit with my constant display of bad behaviour and I got the “cut arse” of my life. That was the last time I remember throwing a temper tantrum, I was cured for life and today, it would really take something extraordinary for me to lose my cool.

Am I resentful for the occasional licks I received?

Absolutely not. I am convinced that had I not received the correction that I got while growing up, I would not have been the type of person I am today. I loved my dad very much and looked up to him as the best example of what a man should be; what fatherhood is all about.

Am I a more violent person because of it?

On the contrary, I am the most peace loving person you could find on this earth. That is not to say that I am a “Turn the other cheek” type of guy. I am more of a “stand your ground” type of individual. If you do not try to take advantage of me, I can be the sweetest thing you ever did see. But I don’t stand for nonsense or unfairness, I am no pacifist. Perhaps it’s my innate nature, and some traces of the anger and fight that was beaten out of me on that fateful day still remains, and will rear its ugly head if you rile me up enough.

Do I consider it to be a form of child abuse?

As I said before, I didn’t feel that I was abused, but  I agree with the opinion expressed below by Diana Baumrind, PhD (Univ. of CA at Berkeley), Robert E. Larzelere, PhD (Nebraska Medical Center), and Philip Cowan, PhD (Univ.of CA at Berkeley)

“Baumrind et al. suggest that those parents whose emotional make-up may cause them to cross the line between appropriate corporal punishment and physical abuse should be counselled not to use corporal punishment as a technique to discipline their children. But, that other parents could use mild to moderate corporal punishment effectively. “The fact that some parents punish excessively and unwisely is not an argument, however, for counselling all parents not to punish at all.”

To put it in perspective, drinking the occasional glass of wine may be beneficial to your overall health, but if you are going to consume a whole bottle every day, then you need counselling. We don’t need to outlaw wine drinking because some people can’t control themselves do we?

Did it teach me to know right from wrong?

You betcha. Because of the discipline I received when growing up I have a very deep sense of what is acceptable behaviour and what is not.

Has it affected my self esteem?

That one I cannot answer because I don’t know what my personality would have been like, if this trait of mine was not beaten out of me. It was like breaking a wild stallion. Sure I might have grown up with the sense that I was the most important person in the world and I must always get my way. Many successful people have that attitude today, which could be the result of ineffective deterrent methods used by their parents to stamp out such characteristics when they were young, But many criminals and murderers also seem to have such traits. Who is to tell? All I can attest to is that I have grown up to be a well rounded individual, very family oriented, reasonably successful and most of all a very happy and contented person.

So now comes the big question. Was it necessary? could my dad have achieved similar results without using the strap?

Hmmmm. Before resorting to Corporal punishment, he  always tried to use reason and the softer approach such as confining us to bed etc.  But in a large family. a quick and effective solution is often necessary if you are to maintain any semblance of order in the house, and without a doubt, corporal punishment achieves the desired result in little or no time. 🙂

Which brings us to the million dollar question; How effective are the more humane methods of disciplining children which are being espoused today? Do they really work?

It could be said that the jury is still out on this one, after all, the generation that was brought up on these new methods are just beginning to show their true colours. We need however, to seriously consider whether they are as disciplined if not more so than the youth of yesteryear. Are they kinder to their peers? Are they more respectful of their elders? Are they more helpful, and productive? Sometimes it seems that the current generation have lost all sense of morality. It’s as if anything goes. I have witnessed on numerous occasions, little children being obstinate and rude to their parents and the parents appear incapable of establishing any sort of control over these unruly brats. All attempts at reason and threats of “Time Out” appear to fall on deaf ears and I think to myself, This would have been sorted out so quickly in my day.

But such is the nature of change and sometimes we just have to accept it and hope that it will all work out in the long run. Times have changed; The environment in which children are brought up has changed; Humans as a species has continued to evolve and these changes have brought about a considerable shift in our temperament. We now accept things that a generation ago would simply not be tolerated. Correction and punishment which previously went hand in hand a few years ago have now parted ways. Even in the judicial system, judgements imposed for the most heinous crimes are now so much more lenient with all efforts being made to rehabilitate the perpetrator rather than punish him. Correction seems to be the way to go; punishment? soon to be outlawed.


Life is like a relay where all we can do is to run our leg and pass on the baton of our values, experiences and knowledge to the next generation. They will run their leg and in turn, pass on their values, knowledge and experiences to the next generation. In doing our part however, we should ensure that we are setting the right course, the right example for each coming generation, otherwise, we could be setting the foundation for a downward spiral for our species, towards total anarchy.


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