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Physical Discipline

By , valley cottage, NY

Child discipline through spanking has been the most accepted and widely used form of discipline for centuries. However, it has been proven to not be efficient and only creates more issues rather than resolving them. Although some believe that physical discipline is the best form of discipline because it establishes authority, hitting children as discipline is ultimately not effective because it can lead to mental illnesses, only works short-term, and teaches the child that hitting is acceptable in daily life.


Over time, using physical punishment to implement a lesson can develop mental diseases including depression, anxiety, and anger issues in your child. The child often feels neglected from their parents. According to Bonnie Rochman, “Children who are spanked may feel depressed and devalued, and their sense of self-worth can suffer.” They may feel as if their parent does not care about them which can ultimately lead to suicide, self harm, or drug and alcohol use. A child that was physically disciplined throughout their childhood can eventually develop anger issues and possibly turn into abusers on their own children or spouses in the future (Rochman). The whole point of discipline is to teach a lesson to your child because you care about them and want them to succeed in life. It is not to create more issues that they will deal with for the rest of their life as a consequence to poor parenting. According to a study published in Current Biology, researchers used an MRI scan to see the brain activity of 43 children when they looked at pictures of angry, sad or neutral faces. These children were known to be exposed to violence at home, whose reactions to these images were compared to children from normal families. The results reflected that violence at home in fact did affect the children's overall mental health. Maia Szalavitz states, “when looking at the faces in the scanner, children who had been exposed to violence showed increased activity in the amygdala and anterior insula in response to angry faces — a finding that is similar to that seen in soldiers with combat experience.” Soldiers are meant to be responsive to threats and potential danger; not children. Hitting a child as discipline only creates more problems that can negatively affect them in the long run. Finding other alternatives to physical discipline is the best option for both an effective form of discipline and raising a child that has less of a chance of developing a mental disorder.


Additionally, physical discipline only implements a sense of fear in the child, not a lesson; making it only sufficient as short-term discipline. Ideally, the main goal of discipline is to be sure that the wrongdoings of the child are not done again. It is also to ensure that these lessons follow them to their adulthood. Discipline is meant to provide understanding and guidance to the child when they do something wrong. However, it ultimately teaches them to fear their parents and go behind their back more with things they know are wrong. Conjointly, parents know that  “physical punishment is the cheap way out. Deep down, parents (even the parents who defend spankings to the end) know that striking a child is a sign of lack of control, not authority. It is a sign of weakness, not strength” (Leahy). Parents are aware that there are other alternatives to spanking that will work better and have a long lasting impact, so why choose a form of discipline that does not do as such? Although it works in the moment to hit the child for doing something wrong, it does not ultimately teach the child that what they did is wrong.  Many parents think that physical discipline The main takeaway of the child is only that they need to be more sneaky with their whereabouts, and to fear being caught.


Siddhartha, written by Hermann Hesse, presents insightful points describing how knowledge is obtained. The main character, Siddhartha, would agree that lessons are not meant to be taught to your children through discipline. He believes wisdom is gained “by your own seeking, in your own way, through thought, through meditation, through knowledge…” (Hesse 33). Siddharta believes that wisdom is learned, not taught and that the best kind of learning is done by oneself. This can be connected to child discipline because the most effective way for a child to learn is through their own experiences and reasoning with their parents. Parents who hit their children when they do something wrong will not be teaching a lesson, they will be teaching their child to fear them.


At young ages, children learn manners from their parents. If a parent hits their child as discipline, they will think that it is acceptable to hit others. This negative behavior can be shown at school when the child is with their friends. If they learn that it is okay to hit others due to their parents hitting them, this can create problems later in life. Hitting a child can also affect that child’s children as well, “a child whose behavior is controlled by spanking is likely to carry on this mode of interaction into other relationships with siblings and peers, and eventually a spouse and offspring” (“10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Child”). Hitting leads to abuse on the child’s family members and other associates which can possibly get them in trouble with the law depending on how severe. They will believe that hitting is what is acceptable when dealing with problems. It will also be assumed that hitting is used to show dominance, which can affect a marriage. Parents want their kids to be successful throughout their lives and not get in trouble; yet they teach them bad habits that can come as an immediate response to problems in the future.


The novella Anthem, by Ayn Rand shows the acceptance of child discipline by the government. The collective government expects all citizens to abide by the rules of not excelling beyond everyone else’s abilities. When these expectations are not met, those who went against society are beat repeatedly in order to teach a lesson. Equality 7-2521 goes against the government's rules of not experimenting and learning. He goes into a tunnel to expand his intelligence when he was not supposed to. He got caught and was taken to a jail to be beat brutally for his actions. When describing the beatings, Equality 7-2521 says “the first blow of the lash felt as if our spine had been cut in two… we tried to count the blows, but we lost count” (Rand 64). Although Equality was beat terribly, this discipline clearly did not work. After this he left the jail and ventured out into the uncharted forest and never went back. This was another thing that was not allowed to the people, hence the word ‘uncharted.” However, even after being physically disciplined, Equality still went against the government because physical discipline does not work effectively.


Some parents see physical punishment as a necessity to successfully raise children. They believe that it is a way to gain respect from their children. Additionally, they believe that it is good for teaching their children to “be weary of going against your rules. It also teaches them to submit to authority regardless of whether or not they agree” (Williams). However, teaching children to be weary of their parents rules only makes them be more sneaky. If a child knows that they will be punished physically for doing something, they will take extra precautions to avoid being hit again. Children can still learn to submit to authority through punishes that do not involve hitting. There are plenty of other ways to handle a problematic child that are far more effective and leave the child better off for their future with valuable lessons learned. For example, establishing a few firm rules and rewarding the child for good behavior can drive a child to stop misbehaving. When the child is young and they get rewarded for not doing something wrong, it will then register in their brain to make the right choice for the future. Parents who use physical punishment simply do not understand that it does not work and that their are better alternatives that work. Many only use this method because that is what was used by their parents. They were never shown the better alternatives nor do they want to change their ways because of tradition. Overall, physical punishment is not the best choice because it teaches the child to be more rebellious, and resist authority by trying to avoid getting caught.


To conclude, physical punishment ironically sets the child up for failure; it causes mental illnesses such as depression, does not actually implement a long term lesson, and it teaches them that hitting is a correct response to problems in the future. While some parents think it is best to use corporal punishment because they want to establish authority, there are many more beneficial alternatives that set the child up with a successful foundation of self discipline for the future. If not, more problems are created in several aspects of their life. All a parent really wants for their children is to be successful and healthy throughout their life; so it is the best choice to stop using physical punishment.




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