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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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    There is no one answer. If a toddler doesn't understand why you keep redirecting them away from the fire/danger, a tap through a diapered butt might be the only way for them to understand that "No". If a child was spanked and grows into healthy, happy adulthood, and doesn't spank their own child -- can anyone say it was a black/white "bad"? I happen to think that spanking is the absolute last resort and then only because the child is very persistent and is wearing a diaper. That said, I had older special needs children in diapers and I never spanked one of them. I've never spanked.
    – WRX
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 15:25
  • blog.islamiconlineuniversity.com/… This article might help you.
    – Student28
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 6:26

3 Answers 3


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;

  • 1
    +1 for citing a source, although I will point out that that source implies that corporal punishment can be employed without negative effect. However, doing so requires "precision in timing, duration, intensity, and specificity, as well as considerable sophistication in controlling a variety of relevant environmental and cognitive factors," and failure to do it exactly right "is likely to instill hostility, rage, and a sense of powerlessness without reducing the undesirable behavior."
    – user420
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 11:58
  • 1
    FYI: That link is now broken.
    – LCIII
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 12:58
  • Thanks for heads up! I'll fix the link in original post. Additionally you can dive into an overview of psychological studies on this subject: apa.org/news/press/releases/2002/06/spanking.aspx Commented May 11, 2017 at 15:13

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

  • 2
    Be careful about taking your personal situation and making a generalization based on it. One person who experienced abuse under the guise of "spanking" will have a very different view of corporal punishment than someone who was calmly and and lovingly disciplined by a parent who remained in full control of his or her emotions the entire time.
    – user808
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 14:52
  • I was 'lovingly and calmly' spanked. Sorry, but you're striking a child, one whom cannot strike back. It is not a generalisation, it is something I truly, honestly believe and adhere to as fact; striking a child is morally wrong. This is a site about explaining your POV, this is mine. If I saw someone striking their kid, I would step in; it's not too far removed from bullying, in my opinion.
    – Hairy
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 19:26
  • By the way, I was trying to be ironic with the 'lovingly and calmly' spanked line; there is no such thing.
    – Hairy
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 19:31
  • I'm curious as to your views on verbal abuse. You mentioned elsewhere that you sometimes "lose your cool" and shout. Do you consider this a preferable alternative to corporal punishment?
    – user808
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 19:38
  • It's just as bad. I have lost my cool, and I have shouted, and it is a form of abuse. However, I also, as you'll also have noted if you are being thorough, will always apologise and explain I don't actually have the right to shout at them if I have. It doesn't detract from the fact that striking a child is bullying, and I am curious as to why you're raising the shouting issue here. I am extremely proud that I have not once even touched my child in anger. I guess you believe it is possible to 'lovingly and clamly' strike a child?
    – Hairy
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 19:41

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.

For us its

  • 1 explaining that they did something wrong and should not do it again
  • 2 sitting on the punishment chair in a corner
  • 3 another explaining session + chair if needed

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