There is no study, statistic or factual data that can convince some proponents of corporal punishment that "beating" a child is senseless and should be outlawed. Many Caribbean parents use physical force to get their children to comply with rules. They have no knowledge that there are other ways to discipline their children.
A controversy concerning "beating" children has ensued since Sen. Judi Buckley has proposed creating guidelines for administering corporal punishment in our public schools. Though I am not a certified psychologist, I feel I have the authority to speak about the negative long-term effects of corporal punishment of children and hope my letter will inspire parents and teachers to use nonviolent techniques to correct bad behaviors.
The statistic compiled from over 100 studies and data obtained through personal observations are chilling. All the studies show that corporal punishment of children is associated with undesirable side-effects such as increased aggression, antisocial behavior, lower IQ, lower academic scores, learning problems and mental health issues in children. Moreover, I have personally witnessed its damaging consequences. Children that come from homes where corporal punishment is practiced tend to be bullies in school, taking their anger out on other vulnerable children. Every person that received "beatings" as child does not develop into a violent criminal, neither does every chain-smoker become a cancer patient. Nevertheless, why not avoid engaging in behaviors that are potentially harmful?
Although all the studies indicate that corporal punishment of children can pose serious risks to them, some Virgin Islanders are adamantly opposed to it being banned in school. Support for its use has its roots in local custom, religious beliefs, and the mistaken assumption that it is always effective and harmless. This ancient, barbaric practice is condoned by those who actually believe it builds character, teaches respect and is the only form of discipline children understand. They cannot produce a shred of evidence that proves their assumptions are correct, yet they persist in spreading misinformation and resist being enlightened on the subject.
In our society, hitting a spouse (domestic violence), a pet (animal abuse) or a criminal suspect (police brutality) is not tolerated; however, hitting a child is acceptable. Slapping an adult once can get someone jail time but the same act on a child is not considered a violation. Apparently, hitting a child is not viewed as a violent act unless it results in visible injuries. A so-called radio talk show host on St. Thomas has even claimed that hitting a child is painless and that no form of corporal punishment causes injury (guess this person has never heard of emotional scars). His confused brain must not make a distinction between discipline and physical punishment.
Clearly, corporal punishment distracts children from learning how to resolve conflict in a humane manner. What lessons do they learn from getting a beating or spanking? Using corporal punishment on children is the easy way out. Discipline a child requires that a teacher or parent be disciplined. Adults could easily lose control and take out their frustration on innocent children. Children emulate adults, therefore, it is important that students learn good behavior from their teachers and not get the message that is acceptable to hit another human. Children could be disciplined by adults without violence being inflicted on them. They do not need to be hit to understand what is good behavior.
Teaching good behavior means being involved, attentive, compassionate, patient and consistent with children. It means modeling good behavior, rewarding children for performing well in school. guiding children onto the righteous path, and not tolerating bad behavior in school. Let’s implement more discipline in schools and eliminate corporal punishment.
Verdel L. Petersen, St. Croix
Get Rid of Corporal Punishment in the Schools
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