I was disheartened to read in today’s Ledger-Enquirer, that corporal punishment is still used in Georgia and Alabama schools. Somehow I was thinking by now it was illegal here. You can read Wednesday’s story about a Harris County boy who was suspended (after his parents opted against a spanking or paddling) for throwing grapes in the cafeteria and other misbehavior, along with today’s story, which spells out policies for various school districts around here (all of which allow limited use of corporal punishment) and includes a chorus of comments from readers expressing approval for paddling in schools.
While I’ll be the first to admit that I’m often lost as to how to best discipline our willful Will, Rob and I have made a very deliberate decision not to hit him. On occasion when Will gets in a resistant mode he will start flailing his arms, and hitting at our legs or arms. We remove him from the scene and then talk about hitting. One of the first things I point out is how it hurt me to be hit and how no matter how frustrated we get, mommy and daddy never hit. We use our words.
I’ll admit that we might be able to scare Will out of hitting in the short term if we wailed on him every time he started to hit. But in the long term we would be teaching him a lesson: It’s okay to use physical force when you don’t like someone’s behavior. It would be a lot more difficult to explain to Will a year from now why it’s not okay to hit little brother Owen when he messes up your railroad track or your block tower. I know Will’s going to work through some aggression as a toddler trapped in that primitive state where you aren’t able to do many things for yourself and yet desperately want to assert your independence. But I want to model nonviolent ways of coping with frustration so that as he matures we can build toward a peaceful house. It may require some creative approaches for venting frustration (I have a friend whose father insisted that his sons could only wrestle, not hit each other, when they were angry. So they wrestled through their younger years, then tired of it and just got along like great friends for the rest of their years in the same house.)
A hitting-free household may sound like a pipe-dream for a mom facing life with two testosterone-filled siblings. We’re not there yet, but I like the challenge and I’m hoping with some deliberate, loving discipline we can make it happen.
Check out this website to find out which states have banned corporal punishment (I counted 29 of them) and for statistics about how frequently it is used in states that permit it.
Here are a couple quotes from this American Academy of Pediatrics article entitled “Guidance for Effective Discipline”:
“Spanking models aggressive behavior as a solution to conflict and has been associated with increased aggression in preschool and school children.”
“Although spanking may result in a reaction of shock by the child and cessation of the undesired behavior, repeated spanking may cause agitated, aggressive behavior in the child that may lead to physical altercation between parent and child.”
“Spanking is not more effective as a long-term strategy than other approaches, and reliance on spanking as a discipline approach makes other discipline strategies less effective to use.”
And for some insight on alternatives to punishment, check out this book by Alfie Kohn: "Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason." (It's influenced my parenting, although we still resort to carrots and sticks some of the time.)
What do you think? Is it ever appropriate to spank or paddle a child – and should school administrators be allowed to use corporal punishment as one among many discipline tools?