Most of us remember the rod, strap, belt or palm of the hand that awaited us when we got home for our naughty deeds. Currently, popular opinion on proper parenting is mixed on the issue of spanking children as a form of discipline. Does it do more harm than good? Does spanking teach children that aggression is the solution to resolving conflicts? Or does corporal punishment instill the knowledge that actions have consequences? This is not only a significant question for parenting, but for a society that still has the death penalty as a form of punishment.
It should be noted that the brains of children are not fully developed and they are still learning how to interact within given situations. It is a given they will not always know to act or react as we would wish them to. Is a painful stimulus the necessary reinforcement for a developing intelligent being to learn how to behave?
Some parents believe that the reinforcement should equal the act or behavior. If a child seeks to bully the parent into buying a toy, then the child should never be rewarded for the attempt. The undesired behavior instantly results in denial of the reward. Continued bad behavior results in continued loss of autonomy. Ironically, grounding, imposed loss of privileges and deprivation of desired rewards are significantly more relevant to the child.
As a society, can we say the death penalty has dissuaded the propensity toward violent crimes? Whether the death penalty is just punishment for certain crimes is irrelevant. It’s important to note that the death penalty was never intended to be a reward for victims which is what it has become by proxy. Ironically, we have no sentence for placing an individual in a box with no light, no human interaction and greatly reduced external stimuli for a period of years. As opposed to the death penalty, this would be considered cruel and unusual punishment even for the crime of murder.
Remember, children are not just playing games, romping and having fun. The child is feeding a developing brain’s insatiable need for information. When we consider this as a factor the extent at which we deprive the child of new stimulus can be considered as a form of torture. Often, sensory deprivation techniques are used in interrogation of soldiers to break them down mentally and disorientate them toward a desired goal. Imagine the effect of these similar techniques on a child’s psyche that is at the mercy of their inquisitive nature.
Grounding and denial of privileges are forms of sensory deprivation and should be used sparingly. A spanking is aggressive, painful and demoralizing, but over with relatively quickly. If deprivation is used as an alternative to spanking, we should keep in mind the goal is to teach discipline and acceptable behavior, not to institute torture.