Pillow Talk: Corporal Punishment and Discipline

It’s quite fascinating to find out what worldly issues our children ponder over when we think they’re permanently fixed in make-believe world.The other day, we were enjoying our usual pre-breakfast snuggle-up ritual and little boy asked us if we’d ever had the cane at school. 

Listen on…..

Me:   never, ever.

Dad:   lot’s of times.

Boy:  what for?

Dad:  mostly fighting.  But one time, a boy was picking on me so I pushed him into a pond.

Boy:  hearty bellows of laughter (our son loves slap-stick)

Boy:  how did the teacher cane you?  Does it hurt?

Dad:  yes, it hurts.  I got three strikes on each hand and I couldn’t eat my lunch and I couldn’t write all afternoon.

Boy:  I think that’s cruel.

Me:  I think that’s depraved!!!

Dad:  sometimes I would get the pump.

Boy:  what’s the pump?

Dad:  it’s when they use a PE pump and they make you bend right over and touch your toes while they slap you across the bum with the pump.

Boy:  more bellows

Me:  I think that’s even more depraved!!!

Dad:  my head teacher had a rack of canes, all different lengths and thicknesses.  I think he tried every one out on me.

Boy:  were you always naughty dad?

Dad:  not really.  But this one day, when me and my pal were bunking off schoo….

Me:  AHEM~ right, what’s everyone having for brekky then?

I mean, could it have been more confusing for children to be beaten with a stick by their teacher for fighting in the schoolyard?

Amazingly, the corporal punishment of children still occurs in many parts of the world.  

I just don’t get how is it right to strike a person (using what is basically a weapon by any other name) who is often half the size and weight of the adult who is carrying out the corporal punishment?

Corporal punishment or any form of violence against kids simply strips them of their dignity and their human rights.equalprotection-logo.gif  It robs them of their right to equal protection under the law of their country.  And it teaches them that violence solves problems. 

Which brings me onto another gripe.  Smacking our kids.  I consider smacking to be a form of corporal punishment too so I apply all these views to smacking our children, the little people, the defenceless and vulnerable members of our society.

Not many countries have a full ban on corporal punishment which includes smacking in the home or care-home.  

In the UK smacking is banned.  Except if it’s on children.  A few years ago there was a campaign effort to ban smacking but our dear peers at the HofL for some sordid reason, thought that the full protection of our children under the law was worth compromising.  So they rejected an outright ban and said we could smack our kids – mildly.   What?  Smacking our kids ‘mildly’ requires restraint.  Smacking is rarely carried out in a rational, controlled way.  It’s usually the manifestation of rage.  So if parents are able to control their temper and smack mildly, then they are surely able to think of a non-violent alternative way of dealing with their child’s behaviour.  So why make such a ludicrous compromise to appease the pro-smackers?  I realise that a full ban would be hard to police but folks…it’s all in the message we are giving to our kids.   

From the Children are Unbeatable Alliance:

…hitting children is wrong.

…children are the smallest and most fragile citizens.

…it is unjust and disrespectful for children to have less protection from assault than adults.

…the UK must satisfy obligations under United Nations and European human rights agreements.

…in the 21st century, we all need to move on to end the legal and social acceptability of hitting children.

So, what are the alternatives to smacking?  We need to effectively discipline our kids somehow.

Well, there’s always the good-old, dependable star-chart.  I’ve been known to start a star-chart or three.  Trouble is, I usually forget to keep up with it.  Either that, or my kids learn to exploit it.  So it usually gets dumped after a week or two. 

There’s always encouragement via the praise route.  Well yes, this is perfect when they’re doing some that is actually praiseworthy.  But how does praising work when they’ve just written their name on the wall in permanent ink (my kids either have too much integrity or they lack the ingenuity to write their siblings names on the wall instead of their own) or they’re throwing a tantrum because they can’t have any sweets?  

And what parent hasn’t used the time-out step?  Always works for my seven-year-old.  But for my eldest child… bloody hell.  It’s me who needs the time-out!   

Grounding.  That rarely works for me because I’m such a weak-willed, jelly-legs who gives in when they cry and beg me to let them go to the school disco.  And I’ll tell you what else I do which is sooo bloody stupid and immature…I make ridiculous threats that would be impossible to carry out.  For jeepers sake!  If you’re going to bribe or threaten your kids, you must make sure it’s a doable threat in case you find yourself held to it.  I mean, telling your seven-year-old that he’s not-going-to-get-any-supper-for-a-whole-year if he doesn’t do his homework is never going to be taken seriously…even by a seven-year-old!

Anyway, I’ve rambled on without providing any practical help.  I’m not a perfect parent (in case you were still wondering!!).  No-one is of course.  I’ve never smacked my kids but I often resort to shouting.  And ye gods do I feel a right twit after.  Shouting.  Smacking.  Let’s face it.  Both are out-of-control and largely ineffective responses to our children’s naughty behaviour. 

But our job as parent is to protect our children from harm at all times.  And, if we desire a world of peace, our role is to direct and guide them into adulthood in ways of non-violence.


8 responses to this post.

  1. I was cained a number of times at secondary school before they banned it. It’s not that act that would stick in my mind to be honest. Useless teacher’s discouraging comments may have more of a lasting impact. Having said that, now I have my own children I can’t at all see myself allowing a teacher to hit my children.

    How to deal with however the kids that like to break school building windows? How to deal with the teenager (15) who leapt a police station desk in my area yesterday and stabbed a police officer in the stomach? If an armed police officer had come through as the teenager leapt over the desk, knife out-stretched and shot the ‘child’, who’s right/wrong?

    OK, my last example is extreme but it happened and the police officer (part of a family some where) is lying in hospital.

    I agree that children are vulnerable and adults often fail in their duty to protect them. What I’m not sure about is whether the right approaches to discipline have been decided yet. It appears that many people are against smacking but, that at the same time their kids rule the roost, much to the eternal bewilderment of the parents!!

    Solutions on the back of an envelope please. 🙂


  2. I am caught in two minds on this issue.
    I fully accept children are vulnerable and needs protection.

    I went to a (Jesuit’s)school where
    caning was part of the disciplinary process.
    In my eleven years I am proud to say,
    the dreaded cane never touched me.
    Just the fear of caning
    kept me along the straight an narrow.
    I was naughty in moderation like any school kid.
    But my homeworks were always on time,
    I did my lessons and passed exams (3 per year).
    I maintained a fairly good conduct.

    But I have been beaten at home.
    Thrashing would be more appropriate description.
    By my mum, for being obnoxiously naughty.

    Inspite of her beatings I loved my mum “full upto the brim”.
    She was my friend and mentor.
    We were far from being well off,
    but she supported me in her own way
    in whatever I did or wanted to do.
    She never beat me inappropriately or unjustifiably.
    I knew I had done things which deserved punishment.

    Do I have any regrets? none at all.
    I believe, talks of beating
    causing lifelong trauma are sometimes exaggerated.
    Looking back, I am now ashamed that
    I had deliberately broken rules.
    The pain of the beating went away in a day,
    the lesson learnt has been permanent.

    I know there will be many who will disagree.
    This is purely my thoughts, and my own feeling.


  3. Hi Matty, I absolutely know what you’re saying. I think violent and aggressive attitudes are part of a vicious circle and it’s extremely hard to unlearn something that we’ve known no different from. We are largely a product of our upbringing.

    I believe in my heart, that violent punishment is not the right answer for young criminals. In all likelihood, violence or aggressiveness towards them or around them in childhood has probably always been a factor in their current anti-social behaviour.

    Non-violence needs to start right at the beginning, at birth. But that would be in an ideal world.

    And yeah, don’t kids soon learn to exploit their parents. Same with the smacking. A calm and rational smack is over in seconds and kids soon realise that a bad deed might be worth carrying out if all they’re going to get is a short, sharp smack. Discipline needs to have a deterring effect. Hit them where it really hurts (groan). Temporary withdrawal of regular treats. That sort of thing. Reward the good stuff.


    Little Indian…hi. I fully accept what you’re saying. Thing is, you got the beatings and the guidance. Many kids just get the beatings and so they often grow up knowing only aggression.

    My mum smacked me too and I loved her dearly. But I have to say, I don’t think I ever took it seriously. I certainly can’t remember ever worrying about being smacked by her whenever I’d been naughty. I think a proper beating would have totally terrified me. Now my dad was different. He would use his slipper but I never actually got hit with it because he would only ever need to reach down for it and I would immediately stop whatever naughty thing it was that I was doing. But I think it was an authoratative thing with my dad. I was always a bit scared of him, slipper or no slipper.

    I would hate you to think I’m demonising all parents who smack their kids. I’m not. And I’m not advocating that they should be criminalised. I would just like to see a culture of non-physical discipline develop because then, there’s a chance that the next generation of kids will grow up without the misguided knowledge that hitting solves problems.


  4. Maybe we are confusing smacking with cruelty, and another point is the “when” in children’s age they should be smacked.

    In my opinion not older than five, after that they have learnt to respect the superiority of their parents and their sense of reasoning is getting hold of their minds.

    Never in school, parents have the full responsiblity of their children’s moral education and nobody else should interfere unless it is to strengthen parents’ opinions.

    Divergences between school and home are in most cases the causes of hooliganism, bullying, etc. Children must be taught by their parents how to reason in the different situations they are going to find in their lives. To have children is a joy, to educate them is a slog work for life, a day-to-day task.

    But I must say that each child should be treated individually in accordance with her/his traits, physical and mental.

    Parents know their children better than the law and while they are under age parents are fully responsible for them.

    In this my opinion is that we cannot generalise.


  5. Jose, you’re right to say that parents know their kids best and that children should be treated individually.

    Thanks for your feedback kinds sirs.

    I just can’t get my head round the fact that it is illegal to smack an adult but not illegal to smack a defenceless and vulnerable little person


  6. Posted by Ray on June 28, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    I firmly believe in corporal punishment, not to be confused with ‘beating’ or ‘caining’ or other forms of real harm to the child. Using a paddle, is very effective (on the behind) and given in love. The child needs to understand the punishment for his/her actions. It’s a definate ‘No’ to an inproper behavior. Physical abuse is another whole issue, and they have laws against it. But corporal punishment used correctly, is effective and non-threating to the child.


  7. Hi Ray.

    I don’t know what you mean by a *paddle* but I don’t like the sound of it. And I’m not sure how you can administer it “with love”.

    I think a definite “No” can be just as effective when done verbally rather than physically. And it doesn’t give out the message that hitting solves problems.

    Thanks for the input but I can’t agree with you.


  8. […] 27th, 2007 by earthpal My reasons why I support a ban are here and I won’t repeat them but to summarise, why would we want to teach our children that […]


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