Tuesday, May 15, 2012

To Spank, or Not to Spank: That is the Question

Dr. Cherry Moriones- Doromal, BMC,LLB,MBA


MGIS MANILA, Philippines-- Whether to employ or not to employ spanking in disciplining the child has been a debatable issue among many parents worldwide. Of course, the amount or type of discipline in each home depends on the values and beliefs of parents.

Cherry Doromal (3rd from left) with International School MGIS students
Is it unlawful to hit your kid, in the first place? One of my blog readers asks if there is an exact law prohibiting spanking in the United States. I checked on online resources and there seems to be no prohibition, except for prohibition of corporal punishment in schools. 

In our local law in the Philippines, we have RA 7610 or the Anti-Child Abuse Law, while the much awaited Anti-Corporal Punishment Bill is underway. However, even if spanking as a method of discipline is by some means allowed, when done incorrectly, the same may lead to child abuse.

The National Child Abuse Statistics for Children in the U.S. says that over 3 million child abuse cases are reported every year. In 2011, Children’s Advocacy Centers around the country had reported to have served over 279,000 child victims of abuse. That is in the U.S. alone, and it does not include the unreported cases.

Biblical Bases of Spanking as a Form of Discipline

In the Book of Proverbs, the Bible specifically touched on the issue of spanking. Here are the verses:
“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” Proverbs 23:13
“Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” Proverbs 23:14

These verses, I believe, must not be misinterpreted as encouraging the parents to hit their kids. Take note of the word “careful” in Proverbs 13:24 and the phrases, “he will not die” in Proverbs 23:13, and “save his soul from death” in Proverbs 23:14. Contrary to these contexts, child abuse cases nowadays are brought about by careless punishment to the kids, leading to violence, rage, and sometimes, death.

Did you know that the phrase "Spare the rod and spoil the child" is not from the Bible but from Samuel Butler's "Hudibras", a 17th Century satirical poem? The poem, like his novel, “The Way of All Flesh”, was authored to depict and condemn violence against children. Paradoxically, this phrase is now used to rationalize corporal punishment and other castigatory actions against children.

About 90% of U.S. Parents Spank, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics
While studies show how a huge number of parents and pediatricians support the practice of spanking, experts explicate that effective discipline is attained through these three components:

  • A loving, supportive relationship between parent and child
When a child does something off beam, there must be a cause or some causes for that. A supportive parent has to endeavor to determine the reason behind the wrong done, and once established, the cause needs to be resolved. Furthermore, it is important to communicate the issue with your child, and let him clearly know what is wrong and what is right. Be careful, though, that your action be misconstrued as spoiling him. For instance, tell your kid that you are there to support him in doing the right thing, but let him know that you are not amenable to the wrong done.

  • Use of positive reinforcement  when children behave well
In school, we often exercise the reward system by giving awards, stars on work, and good grades. Positive reinforcement may also be used by commending the child when something good is done by saying, “Great job!”, “You are so helpful!”, or “That’s my boy!”

Just to share a bit, at the Mahatma Gandhi International School (MGIS) in Pasay City where I teach, the school employs purely positive reinforcement on kids. No punishment for not doing one’s homework, no stressful haircut policy, no spanking, no suspension, no yelling at students for not wearing the prescribed uniform— and it is a great surprise for me to see how the students grow up to be law- abiding, very respectful, responsible, loving, and simply outstanding individuals. 

But, of course, ours is international school, and it is depressing to realize that our local schools seem to find it a bit difficult to follow the same rule on account of many factors, such as crowded classrooms where the teacher-student ratio is just beyond belief. 

In an interview, Mr. Lawrence Buck, Headmaster of Mahatma Gandhi International School   (http://www.mgis.com.ph), explains that over the years, their secret  at MGIS has been the individualized approach in teaching, where each student’s needs and learning conditions are understood and dealt with by the teachers in special ways. “Unlike in other schools, we have only a few slots in each class, about only 15 students or less;   hence, we strictly, yet caringly, focus on the best ways our students can learn”, Mr. Buck added.

  • Use of punishment when children misbehave
Although in this particular area, the most common punishment being employed is spanking, there are other alternatives other than spanking which may be used in disciplining the kid, such as, not having him do his favorite thing to do. For instance, no computer games or no swimming until the child perfects his homework.

It is dreadful to note that the findings of recent researches show hitting of children influences the latter to become hitters themselves.  Authorities say children who experienced corporal abuse tend to become aggressive or violent in the teenage and adult years.  Studies also show that the most dangerous criminals were frequently threatened and chastised in childhood. 

Today, about 29 countries made it illegal for a parent, teacher, or anyone else to spank a child, and 113 countries ban corporal punishment in schools. In fact, a throng of psychiatrists, sociological researchers, and parents as well as child rights groups propose that we all earnestly reflect on prohibition of physical punishment of children in any form.

To sum up, the safest way to bring about laudable behavior in our kids is temperate instruction, supported by a tough foundation of love, understanding, and respect while inculcating inner values in them, as against ostensibly "ideal" behavior founded on fear.

 Dr. Cherry Moriones Doromal, BMB, LLB, MBA is  the Former Editor of The Manila Bulletin Online (http://www.mb.com.ph)  and now Manila Bulletin contributor and Generalist Educator at International School MGIS  (http://www.mgis.com.ph)

More Posts by this Author:
I.S.? MGIS! 
How To Strengthen Parent-Teen Relationship
How to Teach the Bible to Kids
Try This at Home
A Dozen Secrets to Enjoy your Work 
More Eats Coming Up 
Through Strong Winds 

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