Corporal punishment of children still valid

James Edmonds | Staff writer

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As someone who has never fathered a child, any issue related to childhood development or parenting has always just seemed sort of awkward or uncomfortable to me. However, this past week CNN came out with an article that begged for a response. The article discusses the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty that recognizes the human rights of people under the age of 18, and, in greater detail, the 1979 Swedish ban on corporal punishment.

There are two countries that haven’t ratified the UN Convention on the rights of the Child: Somalia, and the United States. While being in the company of Somalia, and only Somalia, on a human rights issue makes our stance seem questionable at best, I think we’re better off here than joining Sweden in completely banning corporal punishment of children.

I’ll start off by saying, I’m obviously not for beating children, or any form of abuse on a minor. I think punishment should never be doled out while a parent is anything but calm. I don’t believe that spanking/corporal punishment is even effective after the age of eight.

I recall once being asked by my father after some violation of house rule whether I would prefer to be spanked or grounded. I was nine at the time. I told him calmly that I’d rather be spanked. After he asked me why I explained to him that spanking is momentary and grounding would last longer. Naturally, I was grounded.

Robert Larzele, in the CNN article, says he doesn’t want parents to rule out a calm, “non-abusive spank” for kids ages 2 to 6. While I certainly don’t have the impressive track record of Larzele, a professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at Oklahoma State, I would extend that 6 to 8 because after being a camp counselor for one summer I have decided that children aren’t actually human beings until about the age of 8 or 9. Before that point they are unable to reason well enough for a talking-to to be effective.

Corporal punishment can have terrible effects, though. According to Dominique Simons’ and Sandy Wurtele’s “Relationships Between Parents’ Use of Corporal Punishment and Their Children’s Endorsement of Spanking and Hitting Other Children” (bet you can’t guess what that article is about!): When parents use corporal punishment, it teaches children about the morality of hitting; that it is morally acceptable to hit those you love when they do wrong. They also stated that children whose parents approved of and used corporal punishment were more likely to endorse hitting as a strategy for resolving interpersonal conflicts with peers and siblings.

It is clearly not desirable to teach children that hitting other children is a reasonable way of resolving social conflicts, or of discouraging behavior that one child doesn’t like in another (otherwise we’d probably follow Spartan child-rearing tactics). I do believe, though, that in instances where a child’s activity is putting him/herself in immediate danger, corporal punishment can effectively discourage future repetition of those dangerous activities.

Without corporal punishment, I probably would not have learned that the kitchen (stove, cutlery, etc.) is not the best place to practice handstands and cartwheels, or that the lighter in the battery drawer wasn’t a toy, at least, not without doing some damage to myself.

I encourage anyone interested, or outraged by this piece to respond. You can write a letter-to-the-editor on The Seahawk’s website, www.theseahawk.org, tweet at The Seahawk (@TheSeahawk), or Facebook us (http://www.facebook.com/#!/theseahawk). Whatever medium you prefer, we’d love to hear your thoughts! Also, this article is available online. I think the comment section below the article should be used for predictions as to whether a randomly selected child from Sweden, Somalia, or the US would win in a free-for-all. Best comment from a UNCW student will be eligible to receive an autographed copy of this article.