Corporal Punishment: A Violation of Children's Rights

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Is regulating children’s behaviour via corporal punishment ethical? This topic has been going on for decades and remains a widely argued and debated issue. Corporal punishment not only bears the danger of escalation, it impacts the child psychologically, infringes their right and causes irreversible damages to their intellectual development. Children being the society’s smallest and defenceless members deserve more, not less protection from physical attacks, and they should be treated equally with honour and high regard.

Corporal punishment infringes and denies the child’s right from honourable disciplinary techniques. Corporal punishment disregards the entitlement to equal protection by allowing children to be physically attacked in the name of discipline. Every child has the obligation to safety against maltreatment, exploitations and violence. (UNICEF, 2011). These three factors can have negative effects on the transformation of the child to adulthood. Due to that, even a lenient corporal punishment reflects discrimination and a significant breach of children’s rights.

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Corporal punishment will eventually lead to other or more severe forms of abuse as its effectiveness decreases with each time it is being utilised. Forms of corporal punishment would include hitting, kicking, spanking, pinching, forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions and using of different objects such as belts and sticks to inflict pain. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP, 1998) debated that spanking would only supress the undesired behaviour for a while and that its effectiveness will diminish when it is used thereafter. The intensity with which corporal punishment was implemented must be methodically and frequently escalated in order to preserve the initial effect that it had on the child, and this can quickly escalate into abuse. Parents and teachers become stupefy when children fail to obey and this provokes them to increase the severity of the punishment. This proves that corporal punishment is an ineffective disciplining strategy for children.

Corporal punishment has deleterious impacts on the child’s intellectual growth. The child’s exposure to physical punishment has been linked to modifications in the structure of the brain and the child’s performance at school. According to a study conducted by Rajalakshmi (2018), unlike children from a school where corporal punishment was prohibited, children from another school where corporal punishment was permitted were discovered to have lower percentages of receptive vocabulary, decreased levels of intellectual functioning and deprived self-motivation. As a result, children were more prone to flounder with emotional handling, memory and learning abilities. According to another study conducted by Neuroimage (2010), it proposed that physical abuse is connected with structural brain modifications, fractional anisotropy of the corpus collosum and a decreased quantity of grey matter. As an aftermath of corporal punishment, grey matter which is crucial for proper brain development and functioning was found to be reduced. And that study concluded of by stating that when children are subjected to harsh corporal punishments, it can lead to deleterious effects to their brain development. (Neuroimage, 2010). Corporal punishment leads to severe outcomes such as defects in brain development and can greatly influence the efficiency of the child’s performance at school. As such, it is crucial to ban forms of corporal punishment both in schools and homes and to change the traditional mindset of teacher’s and the parents.

Corporal punishment can lead to psychological damages that are irreparable. When a child undergoes corporal punishment, anxiety is instilled instead of getting the intended message across. It transmits the message of aggression and this will have a significant effect on their psychological health when children become adults. This will make children feel unloved, undeserving and also unworthy. When this occurs for prolonged period of time, children may grow up assuming that physical aggression is tolerated in social circumstances. According to Vygotsky (1978), corporal punishments can validate children’s violence in interpersonal relationships because they have the tendency to internalise the social relationships. This teaches children that violence is the answer for their problems. Bandura (1969) believed that through modelling, physical punishment enabled children to learn aggressive behaviour. Children may continue this thinking into adulthood, leading them to hit their children to inflict pain and to influence another person’s behaviour. What adults are trying to prevent through physically punishing, they are reinforcing it unintentionally.

Admittedly some people feel that educators are using corporal punishment to discipline the children as it is an effective traditional implement that can be imposed instantly. In contrast to other forms of punishment, such as suspension from school whereby they skip lessons and their learning is at stake, they can still proceed with their education. Teachers can also avoid wasting valuable time monitoring misbehaved students. “Spare the rod, spoil the child”. This phrase implies that children’s personal development will be at stake if they are not punished physically when they do wrong. This explains why some feel that corporal punishment as the proper way to discipline and shape the child.

Nonetheless, corporal punishment should not be tolerated as it is an ineffective discipline method, is dangerous, should be avoided at all expense even if it is time efficient or serves as the best alternative to combat problems. It robs the child of their right, contributes to psychologically associated problems, affects the child’s cognitive development and increases the risk of abuse. This will make the child to feel very degraded. Therefore, corporal punishment is unacceptable. There are many non-violent techniques to discipline the child. Some examples would include appropriate techniques of guiding and counselling, restorative justice where by you make the “victim” and “offender” reflect on their actions and praise the child when they display outstanding behaviour, as this will encourage them repeat that desired behaviour again. Lastly it would be time out, where the child is stopped from what they are doing and told to calm down. They are then sent to a corner, still under the supervision of the teacher or the parent, and are told to ponder and reflect on their conduct. Why is that with more and more information becoming available of the harm corporal punishment brings to children both in the short and long term, some countries still practice it?

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