Corporal Punishment and the myth of disciplined children

Corporal punishment is defined as the use of physical force with the intention of causing a child pain, not for the purpose of injury but for correction.

Myth: Sometimes it becomes necessary to punish children in order to teach them discipline. Parents and teachers have a right to discipline their children.

Fact: Spare the rod and spoil the child is what most adults have grown up believing. Adults who were beaten by their parents and teachers always feel it is their right to do so. They often forget the trauma which they had undergone when they were young and were subjected to physical and degrading forms of punishment.

Corporal punishment is often used as a measure to discipline children. Children are at the receiving end from parents, teachers and non-teaching school authorities. Almost all schools inflict corporal punishments on students for various reasons and most parents beat their children. In the name of discipline, children are known to have had their bones and teeth broken, their hair pulled out and forced into acts of humiliation.

Types of Corporal Punishment

Corporal Punishment can be broadly classified as Physical Punishments, Emotional Punishments and Negative Reinforcements.

Physical Punishments

  • Making the children stand as a wall chair.
  • Keeping the school bags on their heads.
  • Making them stand for the whole day in the sun.
  • Make the children kneel down and do the work.
  • Making them stand on a bench.
  • Making them stand with hands raised.
  • Hold a pencil in their mouth and stand.
  • Holding their ears with hands passed under the legs.
  • Tying the children’s hands.
  • Making them do sit-ups.
  • Caning and pinching.
  • Twisting the ears.

Emotional Punishments

  • Slapping by the opposite sex.
  • Scolding, abusing and humiliating.
  • Label the child according to her or his misbehaviour and send her or him around the school.
  • Make them stand at the back of the class and told to complete the work.
  • Suspending them from school for a couple of days.
  • Pinning paper on their back and labeling them “I am a fool”, “I am a donkey” etc.
  • Teacher takes the child to every class she goes and humiliates the child.
  • Removing the shirts of the boys.

Negative Reinforcement

  • Detention during the break and lunch.
  • Locking them in a dark room.
  • Call for parents or asking the children to bring explanatory letters from the parents.
  • Sending them home or keeping the children outside the school gate.
  • Making the children sit on the floor in the classroom.
  • Making the child clean the premises.
  • Making the child run around the building or in the playground.
  • Sending the children to the Principal.
  • Making them teach in the class.
  • Making them stand till the teacher comes.
  • Giving oral warnings and letters in the diary or calendar.
  • Threatening to give TC for the child.
  • Asking them to miss games or other activities.
  • Deducting marks.
  • Treating three late comings equal to one day absence from school.
  • Giving excessive imposition.
  • Make the children pay fines.
  • Not allowing them into the class.
  • Sitting on the floor for one period for a day, week or month.

How does corporal punishment harm a child?

It has a negative impact on the psyche of young minds as it usually takes the shape of hatred, terror and fear in the nascent minds. The punishment of such kind leads to creation of anger, resentment and low self-esteem. It contributes to feelings of helplessness and humiliation, robbing a child of her/his self-worth and self-respect, leading a child to withdrawal or aggression. It teaches children violence and revenge as solutions to problems.

Children might imitate what the adults are doing. Children begin to believe that it is good to use violence and there is nothing wrong with it. Children may even assault their own parents or teachers in retaliation. Victims of corporal punishment during childhood are more likely to hit their children, spouses or friends in adulthood. Many street and working children have pointed out corporal punishment at school as one of the reasons for running away from school and also from their families and homes.

It would be great to keep these proven principles in mind before you reach for the rod next.

– Discipline can never be taught, it is learnt.
– Discipline is an attitude, character, responsibility or commitment.
– Discipline is basically internal, while the attempt to impose it would be an external process.

Right to discipline children cannot be at the cost of children’s right to development and participation. In fact children’s right to participation alone can set the tone for discipline. In any case there is no religion or law that allows corporal punishment. Nobody has any legal or moral authority to physically punish children simply because they are unable to control the situation in any other way.

A teenager’s story on corporal punishment in India

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