Everyone, who has to deal with children, knows that as a result of using rewards and a punishment, their children become disciplined and behave reasonably. Today, there are different views on the use of rewards and punishments in parenting among educators and the general public. Some believe that parents should punish their children as often as possible and less encourage. Others advise to use more encouragement and less punishment. Some think children should only be encouraged, and not be punished at all. And there are those who believe that a true education is a general education without any kind whatsoever rewards and punishments.

Is Corporal Punishment Needed to Discipline Children?

Canadian Pediatric Society states that, disciplining children is one of the most important yet difficult responsibilities of parenting, and there are no shortcuts. The physician must stress that teaching about limits and acceptable behaviour takes time and a great deal of energy. The hurried pace of today’s society can be an obstacle to effective discipline. The goal of effective discipline is to foster acceptable and appropriate behaviour in the child and to raise emotionally mature adults. A disciplined person is able to postpone pleasure, is considerate of the needs of others, is assertive without being aggressive or hostile, and can tolerate discomfort when necessary. (“Effective discipline for children” 2004)

The meaning of rewards and punishment in the system of education is very local. It is not among the educational tools that are needed every day and for every step. It is possible, for example, during the day. Sometimes a whole week could be worked with a class without using rewards and punishments. In the family, where right relationships between parents and children exist, it is possible not to use rewards and punishments much longer. This paper is going to discuss whether a corporal punishment is needed in order to discipline children or not.

There is no issue, which is more controversial for parents and professionals than the question of whether corporal punishment, such as slippers, should be a part of an educational process. All recognize that punishment plays an important role, but not all come to an agreement according to such methods. However, this issue has become so prevalent only in the twentieth century. Before that time, a physical punishment was used in all educational systems implicitly. Modern parents consider that birch is outdated and is being a too cruel method of education for children. Thus, a lot of questions arise referring to this issue. Is it humane to use a birch? Doesn’t it affect it the fragile child’s psyche negatively? What do modern scientists say about a physical punishment? Recently, child psychologists and educators, as it is clear from the online publications, have reviewed a traditional view concerning the inadmissibility of the physical punishment of children. Sometimes, though not in all cases, the physical punishment can be surprisingly effective. This is what said by researchers. However, it should be used with a caution and wisdom.

According to the CNN:

Sweden, in 1979, was the first to make it illegal to strike a child as a form of discipline. Since then, many other countries in Europe have also instituted bans, as have New Zealand and some countries in Africa and the Americas. (“Corporal punishment policies around the world” 2011). The corporal punishment has its advantages and disadvantages.

A cruel and neglect treatment of parents towards their children leads to such a phenomenon as children escape from home, increasing the child homelessness, child trafficking, and a commercial sexual exploitation of them. The corporal punishment is a part of child abuse. The use of such a method of education can lead to some conflicts in families, which, in turn, cause the effects described above.

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It has long been studied that a child plays in the future the pattern of behavior that he or she has known as being a child. Physical abuse then becomes a norm in the life. In addition, some children, who were punished by their parents, according to the observations of practicing psychologists, have low self-esteem, a lack of confidence in them, and an inactive lifestyle. There is another option – such children have the increased levels of aggression, especially towards a weaker person.

The corporal punishment can lead to children abuse in a family. The reasons for such a phenomenon are:

  • The personal qualities of parents (aggressiveness and authoritarianism);
  • A lack of a parental positive example of child education;
  • Alcoholism, drug abuse;
  • Physical or mental deficiencies of parents (mental retardation, mental illness, deafness, blindness, and etc.);
  • Inability to raise children;
  • Ignorance of rights and responsibilities;
  • Ignorance of rights and needs of children;
  • Inability to overcome family and life crises;
  • A lack of self-realization.

The causes of the parents’ child abuse may be the factors of family education, which lead to the disintegration of the “I” in a child. It is the lack of the parents’ understanding of personal identity of the child; the rejection of adults in a child’s individuality; and discrepancy of needs and expectations of parents and capabilities and some needs of children. It is also related to the illegality of education at different ages; inconsistency in relationships of adults and children; inconsistency of the content, aims and means of education among parents; and the desire of recognition in some areas (professional , economic, and social). Few more causes also include the impossibility to achieve it; the sudden major changes in different spheres of life (job loss, illness, death of his wife, and etc.); the inability to inhibit his or her behavior frequently; an example of their parents, a mental illness; and some gender stereotypes of the society, i.e. the representations of gender in the society. There are as well such causes as socio-cultural perceptions of gender that dictates a certain behavior, cultural norms, a fashion, and the psychological qualities: ability, activities of the profession. Thus, it is encouraged those behavior that matches a gender role. It is depressed those that does not meet a gender role.
In most situations, the person who uses the corporal punishment is not aware of bad consequences of such behavior, believing that his or her actions are caused with positive intentions, are legitimate and justified.

However, the effects of the use of the physical punishment on children can be negative and prolonged. A child, who has suffered abuse, receives a traumatic experience, accompanied by traumatic experiences, reproduced in the form of the inappropriate behavioral responses. All this leads to a disorganized behavior and its development. Trust to parents and the sense of security in the family are important for a child. These components are lost in the application of violence.

The use of alternative methods of parenting depends on the pedagogical culture of parents, teachers, a social and micro environment, culture, moral values, and so on. Thus, an antithesis of violence and child abuse is tolerance, which is essential for communication, a partnership, and joint activities. It is a basis for the culture of peace in a family, a community, and a society.

The main features of the tolerant person are: a commitment to others, patience, charity, and the sense of humor, compassion, trust, altruism, self-mastery, kindness, a non-judgmental attitude, and humanity. They also involve such as an ability to listen to the interlocutor, curiosity, and capacity for empathy. Rather, each adult will find the drawbacks, or say that he is not always tolerant.

The basis of tolerance is to take a human as he or she is. When one asks parents what they want to see their child, they say: intelligent, honest, healthy, and successful. However, if a child is sick or less intelligent, then this does not mean that his or her parents will not love him or her. The child must be happy in the family. The family should be a cradle of democracy rather than a cradle of violence.

Regarding to the education in the family on a democratic basis, this means building a relationship with:

  • An establishment of a subject – object relationship in the interaction of parents and children, i.e. a dialogue;
  • A rejection of direct coercion;
  • Taking into account the individual characteristics of the child, the needs, interests and characteristics of the child;
  • An acceptance of each other as they are: recognition of the right to difference and dissimilarity;
  • A focus on self-actualization and self-realization, the development of each family member and the family, as a whole;
  • Respect for the individual family members, recognition of the priority of their rights, appeal to the responsibility and duty;

Punishing a child under the hot hand, parents demonstrate a worse possession with themselves than the child is required. Doing this is for not correcting the child, but in order to defuse tension. It is necessary to remember that parents cannot give the children more than they have. Corporal punishment requires less intelligence and abilities than any educational activities. The child’s behavior will be unpredictable. The child will not understand and comprehend morality. Slap can only affirm, but not change the behavior of the kid. The aim of a disciplinary technique is the desire to change the child, not just his or her behavior.

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The punishment has forced the child to fear of losing parental love. He or she feels outcast and starts to get a jealous brother or sister. Frequent punishments encourage child to be infantile.

The punished child may have hostile feelings towards parents. As a result, a personal conflict occurs. The physical punishment is a measure not only of the weakness, confusion, but the lack of culture and teaching as well.

It is necessary to talk with the child so that there will not any doubt that parents follow the care and concern for him or her, and not dismiss the desire to offend.

According to “Position Statement on Physical/Corporal Punishment”:

One of the most useful ways to achieve healthy child development is to promote using words instead of actions. Increasing the child’s capacity to put words to feelings and actions results in increased tension regulation (awareness of feelings and ability to tolerate them without having to act), self-awareness, and thoughtful decision-making.” (American Psychoanalytic Association n. d.)

Parents should not forget to share with their children their achievements and failures. Then, they will open their secrets and wait for advice and support.

If possible, it is advisable to replace the corporal punishment with:

  1. Patience (this is the highest virtue which can be in parents);
  2. Explanation (parents should explain the child why his or her behavior is wrong);
  3. Distraction (parents should try to offer their child something more attractive than what he or she wants);
  4. Encouragement (it is more effective than the punishment).

Corporal punishment has its positive sides as well. Parents should use the punishment as a method of education with a caution and wisdom. According to Phil for Humanity: “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)” (Phil, n. d.). The Bible adds that parents should educate children with great love. According to the Bible, love is a main cause of physical punishment. “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24). One might wonder: how love can be combined with violence? It turns out that there is an explanation for it. Children, especially little ones, do not have yet formed moral beliefs. Therefore, an instruction and reproaches will not help them. And the only tangible evidence in the form of slap on a soft seat can be remembered in the memory for a long time, together with the moral implications.

Oddly enough, the same principle of the conditioned reflex, as among Pavlov’s dogs is based on the punishment. A child, standing before the temptation of losses, must remember how the same had ended before. And, if the memories are pretty nasty, the child will most likely change his or her mind to do harm. Now, let’s go back to the caution of modern psychologists and educators about the wise use of physical effects on the child. Indeed, such methods are very powerful. That is why, their misuse can harm more than help.

Here are the rules of scientists for loving parents who have decided to punish their child with birch or strap:

  • Parents should handle the birch or strap without anger, but only with love for the child: to change him or her.
  • It is necessary to punish the child physically immediately after the transgression (and even better during the transgression). Parents should not delay the procedure and, moreover, they should not punish the child for some transgressions together.
  • It necessary to explain to the child for what his or her punishment is.
  • After the punishment, parents should hug the child and tell how they love him or her and why they had to punish.
  • Parents cannot remember and have to reprove the child for repaid transgression.
  • It is also necessary to think before the application of the physical punishment. Maybe, verbal notations, and even stern look will be sufficient for some children. Parents should not abuse with the physical punishment.

Many teachers of the past and modern scientists, who were engaged in the problem of rewards and punishments in the education of children, consider that the use of rewards and punishments shows the imperfection of the parents’ art of education. It is better if the educator or parents believe that rewards and punishments will be useless. This research paper has discussed in details the causes of this view. It is clear that the time decides this dispute in a long run. One thing is certain. Today, education is impossible without these tools. The problem lies in the fact that the use of punishment has to be at least elementary literacy in a pedagogical sense.

Mastering the art of using punishments’ demands from teachers and parents is the hard work. The punishment is a very difficult thing. It requires tact and a huge caregiver care.
Thus, the punishment is still needed, but in certain cases. Such ones have been mentioned above and should be applied with love, caution, and wisdom.

One can assume that, to some extent, the improvement of the educational process, the growth of a pedagogical training of teachers, their skills at school, fewer cases of the use of rewards and punishments will be which are pointless, sometimes contradictory elementary standards of ethics and law. On the contrary, more and more people will use rewards and punishments as a pedagogical correction, exactly subtly designed and implemented by the teachers’ influence and a public opinion group. However, this does not happen by itself.

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