Corporal Punishment
by Susan Smith

     The following article is taken from the 1994 publication: Computers, Cellos, & Call-in Radio: Violence Prevention Tools for the 90's, by Susan Smith, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, Little Rock, Arkansas. The material is copyrighted but the owners encourage the use of it in whatever way will help decrease violence in our society. If you reproduce any of this, however, please credit the publication and the author.

Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment is a newfangled euphemism for hitting children. Formerly called spanking, it has been the punishment of choice for generations of well-meaning parents. People who readily admitted to spanking their children, however, would never admit to hitting them. Hitting other children, in fact, is one of the offenses for which parents spanked. Pretty strange.

Not privy to current wisdom, parents are faced with two choices: spanking or doing nothing. Until recently, no one except ballplayers had ever heard of "time out".

One of the many problems with spanking is that no one ever discusses the desired degree of force behind it. Some parents use it merely to startle their children; others use it to inflict real pain. There are still plenty of folks who talk about sparing the rod and spoiling the child. Familiar patterns die hard.

Old-timers may tell you that the problem with today's children is that their parents don't whip them enough. Well, here's the catch: if you hit your children, you're teaching them that hitting is a solution to solving problems. And if they're real smart, the next time they have a disagreement with a friend, they'll try to solve it the way you taught them - by slugging it out. This is such a simple concept it's embarrassing that it's taken so long to grasp. No matter how you couch the term "corporal punishment," the fact is that violence begets violence. It's really that simple.

According to the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse & Neglect, "...the use of corporal punishment in schools is intrinsically related to child maltreatment. It contributes to a climate of violence, it implies that society approves of the physical violation of children, it establishes an unhealthy norm. Its outright abolition throughout the nation must occur immediately." That statement was made in 1991. Three years later, there are still 23 states that allow corporal punishment in schools. An interesting sidebar is that neither military nor correctional institutes allow corporal punishment - only schools. It's pretty scary to think that prisoners are afforded basic civil rights that are denied school children.

More than 40 national organizations favor abolition of corporal punishment in schools. Here are just a few:

* American Academy of Pediatrics
* American Bar Association
* American Medical Association
* American Psychiatric Association
* American Psychological Association
* Child Welfare League of America
* National Association of State Boards of Education
* National Association of Social Workers
* National Education Association
* National PTA

The National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse suggests seven alternatives to corporal punishment.

1. Take a deep breath. And Another. Then remember: YOU are the adult...

2. Close your eyes and imagine you're hearing what your child is about to hear.

3. Press your lips together and count to 10. Or, better, yet, to 20.

4. Put your child in a time-out chair. (Remember the rule: one time-out minute for each year of age.)

5. Phone a friend.

6. If someone can watch the children, go outside and take a walk.

7. Write or call for parenting information.

     [Prevent Child Abuse America
      200 S, Michigan Avenue, 17th Floor
      Chicago, IL 60604-2404
      1-312-663-3520
      Fax: 312-939-8962
      E-mail: mailbox@preventchildabuse.org]

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
[523 South Louisiana Street, Suite 700
Little Rock, AR 72201]

For more information about the violence prevention project, please call Arkansas Advocates at 501-371-9678 in Little Rock.