Why I support corporal punishment

Note: I originally wrote this in June 2004.

The Washington Post reports on a practice known as “hot saucing”, where a bit of hot sauce is applied to a child’s tongue as a disciplinary measure. (Credit for the link goes to this blog.)

I do not have a problem with corporal punishment. I support a parent’s right to apply discipline to their child as they see fit, within reasonable limits. However, I think this is over the line.

I don’t think corporal punishment, when applied correctly, is indicative of a parent losing his or her temper. If the child is made to understand that he is being given a specific punishment for a specific reason, and the parent does it out of love and a desire to correct the child, corporal punishment can be very effective.

Corporal punishment need not be the only method of discipline. Time outs can be very effective. I remember being sat on the couch, no talking, no television, etc. There were times when I would have preferred a swat on the behind than sitting still for 15-30 minutes, because at least it would be over quickly. Taking away privileges can be effective too.

But corporal punishment should be an option for parents. Indeed, the Bible supports corporal punishment in Proverbs 13:24 and Proverbs 23:12-14.

My view is parents should only paddle within a strict set of procedures, and shouldn’t use it as a first resort. But sometimes it may be needed. I would much rather a child be afraid of a swat on the behind than run out into a busy street. Childish curiosity is all well and good, but must be tempered. A child should not be so curious of a hot stove that they wind up with blisters on their hands.

Legal codes such as Canada’s allow parents to use reasonable physical force in disciplining their children. That same system of laws would not allow a parent to do things that would be defined as child abuse. Children DO have “security of the person” to protect them from being abused, by parents or anyone else. It’s just that there is more leeway for parents (or others entrusted with the care of the child, to some extent) to use corporal punishment on their own child than for someone else to use physical force on an adult.

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