Alternatives to Corporal Punishment

Having spent a week with my lovely grandsons and listening to them, it occurred to me that physical punishment might be an issue for them.

What is the alternative to corporal punishment in child rearing?

Whilst many of us need to instil discipline in our children, we should refuse to use physical punishment. Sanderson Beck does give some alternatives in his literature.

If disciplining is necessary in child-rearing, but we wish to avoid the harmful effects of corporal punishment, what are our alternatives? By refusing to use physical punishment, perhaps we can refine and develop those other techniques which may prove more beneficial and enduring than the easy and quick brutality. Punishment does not have to be physical; it can be social, emotional, or mental. One form of punishment is the administering of an aversive stimulus contingent upon disapproved behavior The other is the removal of a reward or positive reinforcer (Skinner, 1938). The undesirable consequences of punishment are primarily psychological, so it appears likely that non-physical psychological methods may also have negative effects psychologically. However, to avoid using any form of punishment whatsoever is probably too idealistic and impractical. The psychological methods are not as obvious in modeling. Also they are usually stimulating cognitively, and may stimulate the child to develop the mind just as much physical exercise builds muscles. The danger is that negative associations and complexes could result. This is why it is so important that the punishment not only be consistent in how and for what it is applied, but also that it be logical and clearly explained to the child before it is ever instituted and with each occurrence. Even though the child may feel the parent is wrong; if one is consistent, at least the child knows the situation and can learn to understand the psychology of the parent.

Using reasoning to accompany punishment when it is deemed necessary brings up the method of teaching and communicating as an alternative method. This is the ideal method of long-term control of behavior, because it develops the conscience, cognitive skill, and self-discipline. Wouldn’t it be the utopia if everyone took responsibility for their own actions and did not inflict on others? I believe that educators ought to use those methods that teach individual responsibility. Research shows that the development of conscience is related to parental warmth and the use of reasoning as a technique of discipline (Bandura & Walters, 1951; Baumrind, 1967; Sears, 1961). When the child has developed self-control and one’s conscience to the extent that one will no longer do what one knows is wrong even when one knows one won’t be punished, then we could say one’s character education has been successful.