When is physical punishment appropriate?
Will this psychologically affect them negatively? Will they become bitter or will they learn through this experience that if you go against the rules, it hurts?
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No, children won't become better if corporal punishment is enforced. Great summary of reasons is given in the resolution against corporal punishment by American Psychological Association from 1975. Among them:
use of corporal punishment by adults having authority over children is likely to train children to use physical violence to control behavior rather than rational persuasion, education, and intelligent forms of both positive and negative reinforcement;
I believe all corporal punishment teaches is that violence is an acceptable form of getting your point over and is more of a relief to the parent, than deterrent to the child. I was punished by my father with corporal punishment, and laughed, because it was over quickly, and he would always feel bad about it afterwards. However, my mother would take my sports gear or books from me. She knew they were my escape, my real enjoyment in life. I sometimes look back at the more cerebral punishment as the crueler one, but it worked: I never did piss my mother off, if I could avoid it.
I now use the same rules on my children and they have not once been involved in any kind of violent episode. I don't know if it is right or wrong; one thing I have learned as a parent is that what works for one parent, may not for another; there are no hard and fast rules. However, if another adult hit a child, then they'd expect a trip to court, in the least and I think that says an awful lot about the morality of striking a child, however mildly, however 'lovingly' (I don't like this phrase).
This may be laughed off, or slighted as anecdotal. However, I believe is is one area of childcare that can't be linked to studies, and journals. Striking someone weaker than you, smaller than you, someone in your care, someone whom you have a duty of care towards, strikes me as being incredible unreasonable, cowardly and wrong; it can only teach them violence does have a part to play in life, in settling arguments, controlling behaviour and, as I said earlier, is more for the parents, not the children.
editting down to spooling mostikes
I'd go for the most effective punishment. Which is explaining that they did something wrong and going from 'soft' punishments to harder punishments on a 'sliding' scale.
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