Corporal Punishment: How Not To Teach A Child A Lesson

Corporal punishment has for the longest time been one of the most favored methods for disciplining children. As the famous and much quoted biblical proverb goes, “spare the rod and spoil the child”, many parents, teachers and care givers have commonly used this to teach many a childhood lessons.

In a more rights driven world today, the belief that inflicting physical harm and causing pain is an efficient form of retribution is being questioned world over. Recently Mongolia prohibited all forms of violence against children in legislation, including corporal punishment at home. However, with only 60 countries having adopted legislation that fully prohibits the use of corporal punishment against children at home, there still remain over 600 million children under the age of 5 without full legal protection.

While India legally protects its children against all forms of corporal punishment, the law is still a long way from being a ground reality. “According to a study by Plan International, an NGO, more than 65% of children in Indian schools said they had received corporal punishment. The report, which was released in 2010, found that the majority of these children attended government schools. Out of the 13 countries which were surveyed by the organisation, India was ranked third in terms of the estimated economic cost of corporal punishment. The study also found that caste and gender discrimination were high in schools.”, says an article on corporal punishment published in The Wire.

Many of the child protection studies conducted by Leher across Madhubani, Leh, J&K and Mumbai have also found that corporal punishment is still widely prevalent and is an acceptable and essential part of raising children and disciplining them.

JUST HOW COMMON IS CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN INDIA? 

This UNICEF study tells us, “Two out of three school going children in India are physically abused says the national report on child abuse by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2007. The crime is rampant in every single district of the country.

Boys are marginally more likely to face physical abuse (73 per cent) than girls (65 percent). Corporal punishment in both government as well as private schools is deeply ingrained as a tool to discipline children and as a normal action. But most children do not report or confide about the matter to anyone and suffer silently.”

WHAT DO EXPERTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT CORPORAL PUNISHMENT? WE QUOTE AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED BY CNN.

“…legislation is not sufficient when it’s not accompanied by changes in individual attitudes and social norms, and that can even become dangerous, because it can push certain things into a secret sphere.”

Many experts say that spanking is linked with an increased risk of negative outcomes for children — such as aggression, adult mental health problems, and even dating violence — while a few others warn against jumping to such conclusions.”

And, “…corporal punishment sends confusing messages to children about notions of love, control, pain and autonomy. It legitimises inflicting pain on someone you love to control or discipline them, on the grounds of it being necessary for their own well-being… Relationships thus get based on control, not on building autonomy through positive engagement and self-regulation.”

WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE? CREATING SAFE SPACES FOR CHILDREN, FREE OF VIOLENCE, THROUGH NOT ONLY CHANGE IN LAWS, BUT ALSO MINDSETS AND ATTITUDES, TOWARDS BUILDING A CULTURE OF SAFE CHILDHOODS. 

We have to find the right balance, I think. Children need love and positive parenting … but sometimes they also need effective negative consequences, especially when young children are defiant.”

Before even thinking about discipline, parents need to think about creating a warm, emotionally supportive and loving connection with your children.”

“Legislation alone is not enough to eliminate corporal punishment. It needs to be supported by building a public discourse. Particularly in context of schools, it requires investing in teachers by training them in alternative classroom management strategies and constructive solutions to challenging classroom situations. Schools must be motivated to encourage self-regulation by using student bodies to inculcate adherence to rules and manners.”

Photo Credits : Unknown

Words By : Shreeradha Mishra

Shreeradha is a child rights professional at Leher, a traveler and a cheesecake eater. You can follow her on instagram @cheesecakemunky

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