Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Christian Punishment?




Elizabeth Landau’s CNN piece http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/09/16/spanking.children.parenting/index.htm examines the social implications of using corporal punishment to discipline children, especially those from low income families. Over 2,500 toddlers (12-36 month old) participated in a Duke University study that sought to provide a link between aggression and corporal punishment. The article goes on to note that “spanking is most commonly used among parents who were spanked themselves, who live in the South, and/or who identify themselves as conservative Christians”. The study found that children spanked as one year old's were more aggressive two year old's and tended to perform at lower cognitive levels than their peers. In an apposing view, Robert Larzelere, a professor of human development and family science at Oklahoma State University, finds that spanking children between the ages of 2 and 6 is the best method of discipline.




Southern Conservative Christians are identified as one of the groups most likely to use corporal punishment to discipline their children. This seems to be a generalization that may stem from that particular group’s public declarations of their dedication to use biblical theories to inspire their family, social, and political actions. Spanking children is a legal act in the United State, but abusing children is not. The Duke study infers that there is a link between a child being spanked and later perpetuating physical violence.




I don't believe that parents who choose to spank their children are necessarily motivated by their personal religious leanings. Most parents choose to discipline their children physically because they, themselves were disciplined similarly and consider spanking to be the most effective method. I am from the South, but I am neither conservative, nor particularly religious. Yet, when I begin my family, corporal punishment will be implemented at the appropriate times. Corporal Punishment sounds so harsh, and brings to mind images of a child being tied to a pole and a mother wearing an Army uniform, whipping a child senseless. Spanking should have parameters. Popping hands and bottoms with an open hand is perfectly acceptable to me. Talking to a child as if he were an adult, attempting to reason with someone who has 2 years of reasoning experience, is not acceptable. An exception would be made in a special case where a 2 year old has the reasoning of an adult thinker. I remember being spanked as a child. The few times that this occurred, I had behaved in direct defiance of my parent’s direction and a 12” wooden ruler named “Mr. Brown” promptly found the back of my legs and arms. The memory of the fear and physical pain that Mr. Brown bestowed upon me came to mind any time that mischief presented itself to me. Spanking was not related to the religion of my house, it was about establishing practical actions and respecting authority. I think of the many teens today that were only exposed to time-out and verbal warnings, many of whom treat their parents as their peers and have no concept of authority. They seem to be totally unaware of potentially disastrous effects of their various misdeeds. These kids were not referred to in the Duke study, but they should have been. “Aggressive” teens, with no fear of retribution, are nothing compared to aggressive Conservative Christian toddlers at day care.

8 comments:

Justin M said...

When it comes to corporal punishment, I believe that the Duke study puts forth some valid, if not rather commonsensical, conclusions. I agree that there appears to not be a direct tie between this form of punishment and Christianity. There is obviously a widespread demographic of individuals that use these tactics when raising their children. I personally do not believe that spanking is in any way advantageous to a child’s disposition later in life. The argument that it is right to subject a two-year-old to such punishment is troubling to me. If at such a young age the child is unable to comprehend logical reasoning, which I agree they cannot, how can these same children understand the reasons for why their parents are spanking them? Furthermore, there seems to be little, if any, evidence that corporal punishment is directly linked to whether or not a child ‘respects’ their parents authority later in life. However, in short, I agree with the author that corporal punishment most likely cannot be tied to any specific religious institution.

Alicia_W said...

I also concur with the conclusion that there is not a direct link between corporal punishment and Christianity. In my opinion, corporal punishment is more of cultural and generational aspect that is diminishing in today’s society. However, if it is currently legal for a parent to spank their child, then when the child is at daycare, are the associates working allowed to use corporal punishment to teach the children right from wrong? No, then it becomes a matter of child abuse. So if the child is, by law, “yours”, the parent is free to, within reason of course, hit their child. Then can a parent who is abusing their child use this aspect of our culture to their advantage by saying that they are just “teaching”? I believe that if a little violence is allowed, it could transpire into a perpetual situation that leads to more abuse. This is not a question of religious up brings but whether or not some violence within the household is acceptable.

nedwards13 said...

My family is from Honduras and here in the United States and due to the region in which we reside in there are not very many Hondurans that I can encounter on a daily basis. But in general the Latino/Hispanic families that I have encountered and befriended all share for the most part the same view of corporal punishment. I bring this point to surface because I agree with the author of the post that in my opinion the decision whether or not to spank your child does not have to do with religious views but in my experience rather with cultural norms. My mother had a friend that is Puerto Rican and she will tell you that she believes in the "Psycho-Puno" or the psychology of the fist. She does not of course mean this literally but rather she tries to make the point that there are people from other cultures that will instead take their children to the shrink rather than personally settling the problem themselves with a good old fashion spanking. I personally believe in spanking because it worked for me. Much like “Mr. Brown” I had “La Chanquleta” (The Old Sandal) that whenever I would disobey my mother would be used on my legs and arms. In this present day and age I see so many children in public that will humiliate their parents and all their parents do is yell at them for their behavior. I do not recall a specific time that my mother ever had to raise her voice to me; I knew that as soon as she walked away “La Chanquleta” was coming. I agree that is more children who behaved inappropriately would experience corporal punishment there would be more respectful adults in this world. I am proud to attend the university that I do and have worked hard to do so. My parents immigrated to this country to give me a better life and prepare me with an impeccable education and it bothers me when fellow students cannot hold a door open for a person or block pathways solely for their convenience. I know that if their parents would have administered to them Mr. Brown or La Chanquleta every now and again they very may well be more respectful and considerate human beings.

Claire said...

I believe that Justin made a good point when he said that “If at such a young age the child is unable to comprehend logical reasoning, […] how can these same children understand the reasons for why their parents are spanking them?” However, I do not think that the reasons are necessarily important at such a young age. Instead, I think that it is important for the child to understand that what they are doing is wrong. Whether a child best learns this lesson by verbal or harmless physical punishment is entirely dependent upon the child. I was never touched by my parents as a child. However, I can remember several times in which my brother and sister and I were threatened with a spanking that never came. To us, these threats were harmless compared to the verbal punishment that we suffered instead. My mom and dad had the ability to verbally lay into us in a way that made us understand that what we did was wrong and that we better not do it again. For some parents, corporal punishment may be necessary to teach their children this lesson. As long as the punishment is balanced by a loving environment and a warning that aggression and violence towards others is wrong, I think that it can be an appropriate form of punishment.

Jessica B said...

I must be redundant in saying that I must agree that spanking and religion do not seem to be directly correlated. I’d say the relationship might come from the concept of spanking being a conservative practice. I think it’s safe to say it’s a fairly outdated punishment among middle- to high-income families in the Northeast. This could be due to the fact of the results of many studies, including the one discussed, that corporal punishment in children will lead to them being more violent. Showing your child that not being listened to, even if respect is deserved, is means of hitting someone will only hinder him or her later in life. If you hit a classmate because they didn’t share, even if it was your turn, will land you in time out. I don’t believe hitting is a fundament of Christianity; nor would I want it to be fundamental in the development of my children.

David I said...

Like the other commentors, I do not see spaniking, or any form of corporal punishment as connected with religion, specifically christianity, as the article mentions. The punishment of a child falls solely into the hands of the parents. The way that punishment is applied seems to be a social issue, and one that may be different by generation, location, or other reasons.

I find it interesting however, that those children who were punished using corporal means were often more agressive as they grew up. This may be something that has religious implications, as violence down the road may be adressed differently in each religion.

LaurenL said...

I, too, agree that there is not a direct correlation between religion and corporal punishment in the sense of spanking a child. But I do think that parents' methods of punishment often times may "run in the family," and they choose to punish their children the same way that their parents punished them. While this most likely can be deduced from tradition or culture, it is possible that religion is a factor that affects tradition or culture.

E.Levy said...

I would have to agree that corporal punishment, while not supported by religious principles, is a guaranteed right of American parents. How a child is reprimanded is solely up to those responsible for him, and currently; under the law spanking is legal. The fact that the Duke study finds a link between children being spanked and later perpetual violence is irrelevant to the law. This study could overlook significant findings that are key to making a more defined and appropriate study. Spanking is a parental tradition whose roots extend far beyond the inception of this country. Who are we to take away a parents right to reprimand their child in a non threatening matter?