Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 18th 2014 Contents A40
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, June 18, 2014
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
CAROLINE C RAVELLO
Spanking is a subjective issue in which there is no
hard-and-fast rule to determine such indistinct matters
as excesses, reasonability, and the like. There is no
scale of measurement, no universal monitoring, no
teaching-and-correcting school. Parents wing this
If you are like most parents, you ve faced sassiness,
arguing, fighting, tantrums, disobedience, meanness,
backtalking, lying, stealing, and then some. Or you will
face them soon in varying measures at every stage of
your child s development.
How do you handle problems like these? How does
one reason with a screaming one-year-old? Should I
ignore my two-year-old in the hope that she will get
tired and fall off to sleep? How should I discipline my
three-year-old s naughty conduct? Do I bribe my seven-
year-old to get the best out of him? What is the best
way to treat with disciplining at each stage?
There are parents and professionals who think spank-
ing is ineffective and who offer complete packaged
information on "positive parenting," aka non-spanking.
Others think spanking is abusive, and still others say
abuse is never an issue if the parent administers a rea-
sonable spanking without the excesses that may con-
stitute cruelty or mistreatment.
Researchers continue hypothesising that corporal
punishment does long-term injury to a child s mental
health and psyche, even concluding that spanking breeds
aggression, spitefulness, and such untoward conduct
in the growing child.
Debunking any suggested benefits of spanking, the
Web site claims, "Corporal punishment has repeatedly
been linked with nine other negative outcomes, including
increased rates of aggression, delinquency, mental health
problems, and problems in relationships with their par-
Conversely, the pro-spankers at www.goodparent.org
say, "There is a paucity of published research focusing
on ordinary, non-abusive disciplinary spanking of young
children administered by loving, well-intentioned par-
In researching the issue, there are considerably more
studies over the years to prove spanking as negative.
As one pro-spanking advocate said, it s a modern-day
campaign being waged with full artillery by those who
promote "non-violent" disciplining which cows pro-
spanking others into silence.
But there are a few well-structured, quality research
supporting the short- and long-term effectiveness of
1. The Family Research Council (FRC) based in Wash-
ington, DC, has prepared a very thoughtful analysis of
corporal punishment from a conservative Christian
perspective and although the FRC advocates spanking
as a discipline method, they recommend that its use
should be severely restricted.
They differentiate between "abusive hitting and non-
They recommend that verbal corrections, timeouts,
and logical consequences should be the disciplinary
methods of choice. Spanking should be reserved for
instances where non-compliance persists, and only if
non-physical disciplinary methods have failed.
The child should receive "at least as much encour-
agement and praise for good behaviour as correction
for problem behaviour."
Among some others, the FRC suggests that spanking
should never be done in public and, if it does not appear
to work, a parent should not increase the severity of
Children need reinforcement and punishment if they
are to learn right and wrong conduct, says the FRC.
"Pleasant consequences are called reinforcement---
such as praise, money, privileges, and a hug. Unpleasant
consequences are called punishment---such as scolding,
timeout, loss of privileges, grounding, and spanking.
"As children grow older," frc.org says, "they begin to
internalise our rules and so require less reinforcement
2. Positive Parenting Solutions suggests that, "When
we discipline in a way meant only to punish and
have the child pay for their mistake, it doesn t
help our child learn how to make the right choice
"Often, we equate the term discipline with
punishment. But the word discipline comes from
the Latin word disciplina, which means teaching,
learning. That s the key to correcting our kids
behaviours---giving them the tools they need to
learn a better behaviour. No one likes being ordered
around---punishment can lead to power struggles,
and because our kids know this poor behaviour
gets them attention, they ll keep doing it."
Kids who are physically disciplined are actually
less likely to learn lessons; less motivated to change,
according to this site. And still, regardless of the
voluble outcry against spanking and laws and con-
ventions to protect children, a 2013 US Harris poll
said that eight in ten Americans (81 per cent) say
that parents spanking their children is sometimes
appropriate, while 19 per cent believe it is never
Spanking: The jury may be out for a while
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