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Spanking is the most common form of corporal punishment, yet it is an issue that causes many controversies. On the one hand, spanking may be effective because it has a sense of immediacy in achieving the desired outcome, as argued by Gershoff in the article Spanking and child development: We know enough now to stop hitting our children. On the other hand, over the time spanking loses its shocking value, thereby becoming less effective and breeding persistent anger from childhood into adulthood, as stated by New and Cochran in the article Early Childhood Education. This paper aims at analyzing the opposing views regarding the effects of spanking on infants and toddlers.
Gershoff supports the idea that spanking is just an aspect of harsh discipline without an intention of causing any harm. It is usually effective when the situation requires the immediate respond to undesirable behaviors. The author has biased views regarding the support of spanking. He argues that the use of this kind of corporal punishment is probably based on the biblical quotation in Proverbs (13:24) “spare the rod, and spoil the child”. As such, parents believe that moderate spanking is acceptable for guiding their infants into responsible adulthood (Gershoff, 2013). Furthermore, the author justifies his position by stating that spanking is an outward sign of responsible parenting, the aim of which is teaching the child to have respect for authority. In other words, it is a way of modeling social learning by ensuring that the child will desist from the behavior targeted by the punishment (Gershoff, 2013).
In supporting the view that spanking is acceptable, Gershoff indicates that it is the frequency and the severity of spanking that can lead to harmful effects. He emphasizes that when applied in moderation, spanking is effective in responding to non-compliance of well-behavior. Therefore, in this case, it can be considred one of the best strategies to accomplish behavior-changing goals. For instance, children who are spanked moderately will learn to avoid those ways of acting that will result in such type of discipline (Gershoff, 2013). Basing on the above mentioned arguments, it is evident that the author supports the idea that spanking may become a method of reacting to the child’s difficult behavior rather than causing it. However, spanking should be done with minimal intensity and severity in order to prevent other unintended harmful consequences. (Gershoff, 2013).
On a further note, spanking is effective because it adheres to the objectives of other forms of punishment. Gershoff continues to explain that spanking acts as a disciplinary method that is significant in effective punishment and should help in delivering immediate and consistent changes of the targeted behavior. In the emphasis, spanking causes physical pain and, therefore, a child will strive to avoid the unacceptable behavior in order not to be spanked. Apart from that, some toddlers are more afraid of being spanked over the other forms of punishment, such as being denied to attend a friend’s birthday party. This implies that a child will always try to behave appropriately around the person who uses this kind of punishment (Gershoff, 2013).
However, there are opposing views on this issue as well, according to which spanking is an act of violence and punishment. In their article New and Cochran take the position that in spite of being a widespread childrearing practice, spanking is harmful and should not be used for disciplining infants and toddlers. The authors focus on two undesirable behaviors that are related to spanking, which are short and long-term non-compliance and children’s aggression. They suggest that the immediacy of spanking effects leads only to short-term compliance from the child, but does not increase the compliance to commands to eliminate the targeted behavior (New & Cochran, 2007).
In further support of their position, the authors demonstrate that parents discipline their children to achieve long-term behavioral changes. These changes include obedience to commands, resistance to temptation, and taking responsibility for actions(New & Cochran, 2007). At the same time, the authors are cautious that spanking has not been found to be effective in reducing the non-compliance in the long run, and they are inclined to believe that, on the contrary, spanking is likely to elicit aggressive behaviors among the affected children (New & Cochran, 2007). It implies that as the child becomes more aggressive the parents will become stricter and will increase the intensity of spanking. This may result more in physical harm and less in effectiveness of achieving the desired goals to reduce aggression. Notably, spanking consistently predicts the increases of aggressiveness regardless of intensity (New & Cochran, 2007).
New and Cochran show that spanking has been used as a way of punishing children to achieve the desired changes. Usually, it involves hitting which is a form of violence and causes physical pain that can make children become frightened of being hit by someone on whom they are dependent. As a result, such children develop the feeling of fear, anger, or sadness when they are spanked (New & Cochran, 2007). The authors are also cautious that such feelings will eventually interfere with the infants’ ability to translate their parents’ disciplinary intentions, or may cause them to attribute hostility to others. What is more, there is the likelihood that these children will behave in an aggressive manner even in social interactions (New & Cochran, 2007).
From personal point of view, when the effects of spanking versus not spanking are put on a scale it becomes clear that this method of corporal punishment is ineffective, and most parents, are simply unaware that it is a form of harsh physical punishment that is associated more with aggressiveness than compliance. The undesirable outcomes of spanking should be used to change the societal attitude towards spanking. Although, it is a widespread practice , it should be replaced with other disciplinary alternatives. For example, the parent may forbid a child to watch their favorite cartoon channel in case of misconduct.